Garden Preferences

What kind of garden makes you smile?  When I see very formal gardens, like those in European castle gardens, I feel intimidated.  Of course, they’re beautiful with perfect, precise lines with lots of clipped topiaries.  But all I can think of is the maintenance and how restricted they make me feel.

The type of garden that makes me happy is one with lots of different types of plants.  I lean towards ones with cluttered flowerbeds – not messy, but full of beautiful plants.  I would consider myself to be an eclectic gardener because I love so many different types of plants.

Natives, like Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), would definitely have a place in my garden.  First, they are extremely hardy and dependable.  Second, they require less water than many other plants.  Third, the pollinators need them.

Turk’s Cap has such intricate flowers.  Absolutely love them.

A must-have native for me is Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea).  There are so many others that I could name, like Caryopteris, Columbine, Gaura, Hollyhock, and Zinnias.  Just think of the flowers in your grandmother’s flowerbeds and the memories they evoke.

John Fanick Phlox (Phlox paniculata) is another Texas Native.

I would also throw in some wildflowers.  Iron Weed (Vernonia gigantea) blooms in the hottest part of the summer.  I especially like American Basket Flower and Texas Blue Bells.  The early spring ones like Bluebonnets, Indian Blankets, and Paint Brushes are well known and loved.

Clammy Weed (Iltis Capparaceae) is less known.  They bloom in the summer. The seed pods burst and the wind scatters them all over, so they are surprises the next year, like Larkspurs.

Flowering bushes add a special treat.  Crepe Myrtles add so much color and beauty.

 

Look at those big, full clusters.  How could anyone not like them?

These Dynamite Crepe Myrtles needed some serious pruning after the freeze.  We cut off lots of dead, thick branches.  But they look gorgeous now.

The color of the flowers used to be a darker red, but they are fuller this year in this lighter color.  Other flowering small trees that I really like are Golden Lead Ball, Rose pf Sharon and Eve’s Necklace.

 

And I will always have some tropical plants in pots.  That is, as long as we are physically able to haul them into the shed for the winter.  African Bulbine (Bulbine natalensis), with its long stems blowing in the wind are fascinating.  It’s a succulent from South Africa.

Ixora is native to the Philippians and the surrounding area of Asia.

Rhizomes, like this Bearded Iris, will always be an important part of my garden.  Daylilies and Cannas are good old southern staples in warm climates.

Daylilies are tuberous roots.  Love all kinds of daylilies.  They can be tucked into any small empty space.

Let’s not forget bulbs, like Crinums, Daffodils and Giant Spider Lilies.  The choices are endless.

Some plants have sentimental importance to me.  This Kolanchoe was given to me by my mother.  A plant given to me always reminds me of that person.

Kolanchoe is native to Madagascar and parts of western Africa.  It was also the first plant sent into space to the Soviet Salyut 1 space station in 1979.

This has been long, but I hope it brings to mind what you like in a garden.  Just embrace those choices and don’t worry about what is “correct” according to landscapers.

“The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden.”  Ray D. Everson

House Plants

There are some exotic, very pretty, and expensive house plants on the market.  What I have is not that.  Most of mine were pass-a-long plants from friends or garden club sales.

I do much better with succulents because they don’t need as much attention and watering as some other types of plants.  For some reason, I tend to neglect house plants more than those in the yard.

Many succulents are hard to identify.  I don’t know the name of this one.

I have bought a few plants, like this Petra Croton (Codiaeum variegata).  I’ve had it for years.  It looks better when watered frequently.   Not my forte.  It tends to flop over, so there are stakes holding up the larger stems.

When the Croton flowers die, a mess falls to the floor.  The flowers are sticky.

Aluminum Plant (Pilea Cadierei) came from a garden club member.  The leaves have a silvery cast that doesn’t show up in this picture.  It’s in the begonia family.

Our house has tons of light from tall windows.  That’s good for plants if they are put in the right places.  But it’s terrible for pictures.  As I move the plants around trying to find a spot to photograph them, they end up with undesirable backgrounds.

One good trait about succulents is that it’s easy to break off a stem and put into soil to root.

During the winter I root lots of plants for club plant sales and as pass-a-long gifts.  These Angel Wing Begonias are for two different plant sales.

I also use window sills where there is no direct sunlight to root roses.  Just cut a short tender end of a stem, dip in rooting compound, moisten the soil well, create a  sealed terrarium with a clear plastic bag. and wait 6 weeks before opening the plastic bag.

This cutting for an old fashioned rose came from a friend.  A tiny little bush can be seen inside.

As you can see, this one has not been watered enough.  Since this picture was taken, the plant was upgraded to a larger pot and a smaller plant was put into this pot.  The pot was a gift; it’s really pretty, so I constantly replace the plants with smaller ones.

The plant is a Dutchman’s Pipe.  Don’t think that’s the true name – just what I was told.  The mother plant is in the greenhouse and is about 3 ft. tall.  Shoots grow from the plant with new small plants at the tips.

Another unknown succulent from a friend.  The stems just keep growing, so these are snipped off and rooted.

Peanut Cactus (Echinopsis chamaecerus) has never bloomed for me, but the friend who gave it to me says her plant blooms.

This was a hostess gift for those helping with a bridal shower 4 years ago.  This is evidence that succulents can grow in shallow soil.

This cactus was bought at a big box store.  Someone told me that it’s actually two cacti.  The red one was graphed on top of the green one.  In the background is another Dutchman’s Pipe.

More Angel Wing Begonias.  I put plastic pots inside ceramic ones without a hole.  That way, extra water can drain into the larger pot and be poured out.  The larger pots protect the floor and tables where they sit.

A Hoya is pretty blah until it is put in light shade outside.  Then it will bloom when the plant is several years old.

Another garden club plant sale buy.  Sansevieria or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue has been divided two times.  As it multiples, it breaks the  plastic pot inside the ceramic one.

This Jade plant came from a club sale years ago.  Watering succulents can be tricky.  When the fat leaves just start to show signs it is wilting is the right time.

Kalanchoe are an easy plant to grown inside and outside during warmer months.  Just needs filtered light and warm temperatures.  This one has yellow flowers.

Very small pots with no holes can be used for plantings.  Put small pebbles in the bottom and plant in moist soil.  Soil for house plants needs to be very loose with Vermiculite or Perlite and Sorgham Peat Moss added or included in purchased soil.

Water lightly when soil feels dry an inch or so down.

Sweetheart Hoya, also know as Valentine Plant or Sweetheart Wax Plant (Hoya kerri) was bought at a native nursery in west Texas.  The heart leaves are intriguing.

Happy inside gardening.

“According to an ancient Japanese legend, when you cannot sleep at night, it is because you are awake.”

Critters in the Yard

When critters that we love and the ones that we don’t like, enter into our space, it makes life interesting.

Butterflies are my all favorite critter in the yard.  This Queen is feasting on Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Snakes terrify me.  This one scaled a six foot pole.  It went inside the hole of the birdhouse and slithered back out.  Don’t know if it was hoping for bird eggs or just bored.

This is a bluebird house and since we haven’t had any bird birds nest there, it’s just ornamental.

This snake may be harmless, but that doesn’t matter to me.  Makes me cringe.

Occasionally, a wild turkey wanders around the yard.  They are skittish and react to the slightest noise.

Pretty feathers, but it looks like it was designed by a committee.

A small bird kept flying out of this flowerpot on the back porch.  It looked like a Tufted Titmouse but moved too quickly for a photo.

Finally, when I was watering this old Kalanchoe, I spotted the reason.  Twigs had been brought into the pot and sort of a tunnel built to where the eggs were laid.

Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), a Texas native, draws lots of pollinators.

As the wind sways the tall stems, bees and other pollinators hang on.

Purple Heart (Setcreasea pallida) loves this shaded spot and covers this plot quickly each spring.

Remnants of a spider web can be seen on the top of the wheel.

This ruffled Coleus was recently propagated from a large one.  The stems grow quickly.  Very attractive.

Sizzling

In the middle of August the temperatures are consistently above 100.  So far, the hottest day reached 107 degrees.  So, as the saying goes, “It’s not fit for man or beast outside”, although that’s usually applied to freezing winter days.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) survives in extreme heat.  It’s twice this size now, but the bright sun washes out pictures, even early in the morning. So I’m using an earlier picture.

Turk’s Cap is a native of southern US and Mexico, so it’s no wonder that it does well here.

Just can’t praise this perennial enough.  Pollinators love it.  It grows in sun or shade.

The flowers are unique and interesting.

This picture of Dynamite Red Crape Myrtles was also taken earlier in the summer.  But, to me, red epitomizes the heat of summer.  The bushes still have some flowers on them.

Dynamite Red Crape Myrtle, a result of Carl Whitcom’s breeding that hybridized it for mildew resistance, cold hardiness and drought.  Also, it falls into the medium size crape myrtle group.  It’s a winner.

The small flowers of Strawberry Gomphrena pop because they’re so bright.

This picture is from the internet, but its details are excellent.   Each flower contains about 100 seeds, so it’s a great re-seeder plant.

This picture was also taken earlier in the summer.  I promise that the weeds and rocks have been cleared out.  The brilliant red of Showbiz Rose makes it a stunner.

Kolanchoe is a dependable bloomer in the heat as long it is not in the direct sun.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) likes the heat but not direct sunlight.  Another plus is that the flowers last for months.

The wicked thorns makes it a little difficult to haul the pot indoors for the winter.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a wonderful drought tolerant plant that holds its blooms until the first freeze.

Up close, its aroma is divine.  Just rub your hand along the foliage to carry that scent around for a little while.

Natives are always reliable in this heat.  Insects on the leaves of this Clammy Weed or Red Whisker Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) has given it a ragged look, but it survives and blooms all summer long.  It is not one of those plants you want to touch because your hands will feel sticky until you can scrub them with soap and water.

South African Bulbine is unconcerned with the heat.  The spiky leaves are actually soft.  The leaves and tall thin stems lose little moisture, so they do really well here.

It’s really quite amazing how many plants, including many others not pictured, can endure this heat.  Of course, they are all getting some extra water in this heat.

“Too hot to change board.  Sin, bad.  Jesus, good.  More details inside.”                       On a church changeable letters board.

Shade Lovers

Finding shady areas for plants can be a challenge if you live where the sun glares down with full force for months at a time.  Shade doesn’t have to be a totally dark area, but one where there is no direct sunlight.

In my case, that means covered porches or close to the trunks of large trees.  My porch areas can look messy because I also root many plants there.  Here are Coleuses, Old fashioned Geraniums, and an Aloe Vera.

Coleus may seem like an old lady plant; since I’m an old lady and it’s only been a favorite the last couple of years, that fits.  But it brings color in areas where flowers won’t bloom.

This one came from a cutting about four years ago.  Coleuses root easily in water and are great pass-along plants.

The lime green ones really brighten up a shady place.

This is an attempt at a fairy garden.  Problem is:  when you water, pebbles and other small articles tend to wash away or fall over.  Variegated Ice Plant has grown like wildfire.

A professional gardener for a public garden made the statement that neatness is more important than what you plant.  I disagree wholeheartedly.  And, let’s face it, it’s difficult to keep a garden weeded and cleared of debris when you don’t have a staff.  That’s my excuse.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) branches bend over and grow crookedly.  This one will definitely have to be cut back before carrying it into the shed for winter.  Maybe some friends would like a cutting?

The thorns are vicious.  This one came from a cutting about six or seven years ago.  Several cuttings have been made from the original planting and propagated and given away.

This was bought at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.  It can’t take our cold winters, like many of the other plants shown in this post.  It also has sharp thorns.  I keep telling myself to toss it, but here it is after two years.

These three pots of plants have been here for years and years.  The Red Apple Ice Plant (Aptenia cordifolia) on the left and the Autumn Joy Sedum are perennial, and thankfully do not have to be toted into the shed for the winter.  These are succulents, so broken stems can be planted directly into potting soil.

The Purple Oxalis  is not cold hardy.

The Sedum will put on a show with pink flower clusters soon.

Pale pink flowers contrast nicely with the purple leaves of Oxalis, which is in the wood-sorrel family Oxalidaceae.

African Blue Basil  (Ocimum kilimandscharicum) is another new favorite.  The smell is wonderful.  It does not reseed but can be propagated with cuttings rooted in water.

To the left is another Autumn Joy Sedum, Kalanche on the right, and Asparagus Fern in the back.

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) is an extremely hardy perennial ground cover.  As demonstrated by this picture, it spreads rapidly and should be contained.  This flowerbed is surrounded by a porch and a sidewalk on two sides.

The light pink flowers always show up white in my pictures.  The stems can be broken or cut and rooted in water.  Another good pass-along plant.

“You can lead a man to congress, but you can’t make him think.”  Milton Berle

Looking for Color

Winter conjures up a dull, drab, gray picture in my head.  So I’ve been searching for some color.

But, first, I want to sound a horn and shout hallelujah.  Today it rained.

That’s a major event for us.  Before today, we’ve received less than an inch of rain, all in small increments since September.

This Kalanchoe has been propagated so many times that I’ve lost count.  It originally came from my mother.  I plan to always keep one as a special memory of her.  This particular one I started in the fall, so it’s been inside for several months.

Oops.  My husband notice that I had the same picture twice, so I’m changing that, although it is the same plant.  Sorry.

During the darker days of winter inside, it tends to get leggy and flop over.  It’s propped up now.  It will go with many others for our Garden Club plant sale.

A Christmas Poinsettia still has some bright red.  I keep them inside until it’s warm enough to put them outside in the shade.  I had two ready to bring inside last year.  The first cold snap got them.

Although the grass is dead, this evergreen Cherry Laurel is covered in green leaves.  Love this tree.

Live Oaks are an important tree for central Texas.  This one is over a hundred years old.  In fact, it’s the reason we chose to build in this spot.

Live Oaks tend to grow out and the branches point to the ground.  So they need to be trimmed on the bottom branches every few years in order to walk under them.

This native Yarrow has white flowers and is evergreen.  The foliage on it is softer than many other Yarrows.

First signs of spring here are Daffodils and Texas Scarlett Quince.  The first Daffodil has opened with many others in the wings with flower buds.

The Quince buds are beginning to open.  Such a vivid red.  Spring is on its way.  Hooray.

There is color on many winter mornings if one gets up early enough, steps out into the cold air, and looks up.  Wow.

Thank you for stopping by to read this blog.  I appreciate comments and suggestions.

“Never do something permanently foolish just because you are temporarily upset.”  unknown

 

Counting the Days


Container gardening has become quite rage – with good reason.  Pots provide lots of options.

For those plants that don’t like the cold at all, pots are the perfect solution.  I enjoy tropical plants when it’s warm and carry them into a heated shed when the weather gets cold.

Sure, I like natives, but tropical Hibiscus is just so darn pretty.

The color of this tropical Hibiscus is dreamy.

And who can live without Bougainvillea?  They will live indefinitely in a container, if they are protected inside during the winter and watered frequently in the summer.

Flame of the woods, jungle flame, or Ixora (Ixora coccinia), a delicate looking tropical flower, has proven to be quite hardly as long as it gets taken inside for the winter.  All of these tropical plants love summer heat, which we have in abundance.

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) can’t survive below 50 degrees and certainly not our unpredictable winters.

Orange Marmalade Crossandra’s bright flowers make it a scene stealer.

Plumbago (Plumbago Auriculata Escapade White) isn’t considered particularly tropical, but it can’t survive our usual low teens in the winter.  It does fine a little further south, but not here.

Some plants that need winter protection can be tricky to carry inside, like this prickly Elkhorn (Euphorbia Lactea Forma Cristate).  But trimming keeps them manageable to handle and creates passalong plants to share.

Another plus for containers is how versatile they are in the yard.  Move them around as needed for color in certain spots.  I’ve had this pot of Kalanchoe for more than 20 years.  As it grows, I just break off branches and root them.

I also use flowerpots for annuals that I don’t want to plant in the ground.  Petunias will live just as long in pots, if they’re watered enough.  They, too, can be placed around the yard for color and variety.

I’m getting antsy for spring, although it’s a month or so before any yard work can be done.   It will be even longer before pots can be taken outside.  But I’m still on a countdown for glorious spring.

“To find someone who will love you for no reason, and to shower that person with reasons, that is the ultimate happiness.”  Robert Brault

Pops of Color

As summer drags on with no rain, the field grasses are drying, so that’s a drab sight.   Some brightness in the yard is definitely needed.

Old fashioned Geraniums ignore the heat and keep on blooming, but they can’t handle full sun.

I got a start of these several years ago at a club plant sale and have kept several pots since then.  They’re easy to propagate by cutting off a stem and sticking it into soil.  Sometimes I remember to dip the stem in a rooting compound and sometimes I don’t.

Rose Moss(Portulaca grandiflorais) is another good old reliable.  This pot has been on my porch for about six years.  Every spring I question whether or not it survived the winter cold.  Then, just when I’m about to give up, they sprout and bloom.

When I think about how long some of these plants have been in the same pot, it surprises me.  This Oxalis Triangularis or Purple Shamrock (Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis) is probably 11 years old.

Every winter, it goes into the heated shed, so I don’t know if it would recover otherwise. Cold hardiness is zone 7 – 11, but I don’t trust the new 8 zone listed for us.

I think this is Antimima concinna, a type of Ice Plant, that is in the Aizoaceae family.  The Aizoaceae family is huge with over 1800 species and is mostly endemic to Southern Africa.

This has been in this pot so long that I don’t even remember where it came from.  This lovely small flower is another one that will return after a severe winter.

http://www.succulent-plant.com/families/aizoaceae.html is a good source for all these succulents that look so much alike.

Tropical Ixora (Ixora coccinea) grows in most tropical areas but is prominent in Asian tropical countries.  The leaves feel stiff.  The clusters of tangerine colored flowers last a long time on the stems.

Mine is in mostly shade but gets a shot of late afternoon sun.  About 12 years old, this plant is a winner in my book.

Gorgeous.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) is truly thorny, so it’s difficult to re-pot.  Mostly, I keep cutting off the long stems and starting new plants for plant sales or passalongs.  The stems need to harden a couple of days before planting.

About six years ago, I got a cutting from a friend.  The flowers last for months and are in a lovely color.  Native to Madagascar, they are tropical.

This spring I found a Thornless Crown of Thorns or Gerold’s Spurge (Euphorbia geroldii) at a nursery near Kerrville.  Whoopee.  It’s great to not dodge the thorns.

It is hardly to 30 degrees and likes semi-shade.  Mine gets morning sun and afternoon shade.  It will bloom just about year round, if brought inside during the winter.

Love it.

Finally, my Bougainvilla (Bougainvillea spectabilis)  is blooming.  Every year, I get impatient for this beauty to strut its stuff.

It needs lots of hot sun, lots of water, and some fertilizer to get it going.  The first time I saw this plant years ago on Turks and Caicos, I was smitten.  Even on those wind swept islands, it bloomed and flourished.

Such a beauty.

Hope some color is brightening your summertime.

“Credit is what keeps you from knowing how far past broke you are.  Debt is slavery of the free.”  unknown

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Surviving the Heat

The unrelenting sun is taking its toll.  Some things, like the Cone Flowers, are wilting faster than usual.  This is my fault because I haven’t done a good job of watering flowerbeds this year.

I read that the heavy rains in the spring work as a detriment when the inferno of summer comes because our plants are not accustomed to going from wet soil to dry.

surviving1Potted plants, like this Kalanchoe, that have the advantage of mostly shade survive fine.  They don’t mind the heat, just the sun.

surviving9A different Kalanchoe thrives outside in the shade.

surviving7Orange Marmalade Crossandra (Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade’) or Firecracker Flower has done surprisingly well in mostly shade.  It, too, likes the heat and humidity, but not the sun.  No humidity here, so it must not be absolutely necessary for this plant.

survivingbIt definitely is an attention getter on the front porch.  Looks goods against the pot of Dusty Miller succulent.  This pot goes into the heated shed for the winter.

survivingcThe part of the stem just below the flower is the seed pods.  Each little point contains a seed of roughly the same shape.

survivingThis Desert Rose (Adenium obesumlso) needs winter protection.  Mine only seems to bloom right after it comes out of the shed in early spring.  They are known more for their trunks that are bulbous at the bottom than their flowers.survivingaMore pot plants:  pepper plant and Boston Fern to the back left.  The Woodland Fern on the right is in the ground.

surviving5Out by a shed is a Plumbago with white flowers, a Scented Geranium, a Crepe Myrtle with black leaves and a Mexican Oregano.

surviving6Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) with pink tubular flowers.

survivingbbAn Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) from South Africa in a large pot with Purple Heart behind it.  In its native land, it grows in grasslands with well drained soil.  Further south in Texas, it does well directly in the ground.  Here it is an annual that must be protected in the winter.

survivingccThis rose, The Showbiz Rose, is in a pot because right now I don’t have a place available in a flowerbed.  It is a heavy blooming floribunda.

It was purchased at the nursery at Biltmore.  Really, I should never be allowed to walk through a nursery just to look.

survivingdBut who could resist this beauty?

Now that you’ve seen some of my plants in pots, is it any wonder that my husband dreads the end of fall and the beginning of spring?

surviving3Now to some easy care plants, like this New Gold Lantana.  Basically, put it in the ground and forget about it.

surviving4Mexican Petunias have finally become aggressive after about 10 years.  Easy as pie if you have enough space for them.

survivingeA skittish Cardinal enjoying seeds in the grass.  Usually, they bolt at the slightest movement.

surviving2I was rather late coming to the fad of grasses as yard plants.  But I do like Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella or Stipa tenuissima).  I’ve read that it can be invasive, but so far, that hasn’t been the case here.

“Misers are not fun to live with, but they are great ancestors.”  Tom Snyder

Easy, Breezy Plants

It rained off and on very slowly for the first three days this week.  We’ve received an inch and a third.  The bulk of the rainfall will be east of I 35 corridor.  Weather reports for us always includes that dividing line.  Just reminds us that we’re part of dry West Texas.

Monday night lightning and thunder storms with strong winds blew over a wrought iron cafe table, chairs, and bench.  But around the metroplex, serious damages to buildings, cars, and people occurred.

nearspring1Beautiful clouds and soft rain.  Sure glad I got some work done last week cleaning out flowerbeds.  Still a ton to do, but this is a nice respite.

nearspringeInside, this Kalanchoe is looking good.  This is a fail proof plant for just about anyone.  This particular one came from a friend a couple of years ago and started out as a tiny stem broken from the plant she had.

nearspringdGorgeous clusters of flowers.  When the weather warms up, it will go outside in a spot with indirect light.

nearspringcThis Kalanchoe I actually bought because its flowers have more layers of petals. I also bought one with white flowers.  A friend had told me that she bought flowers from this particular grocery store – Aldi’s.  So I checked it out and these were on sale.

Of course, they were dry and needed some TLC.  But they perked right up with larger pots and some much needed water.

nearspringfI keep snipping off stems of a Coleus and starting new plants for our garden club plant sale next month.  The original one came from a friend who is keeping an old heirloom plant from her mother-in-law’s family.

She has brought it inside during the winter for years and years and keeps potting new starts.  The cuttings are put into water to root.

nearspringgThis is another one from the original plant she gave me.  It’s looking leggy and needs to to be trimmed.  That makes the stems branch and be fuller as well as creating a new plant.

nearspringhThis came from the friend who told me about the grocery store plants.  It’s a Polka Dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya).  Whenever I can get out to the shed, I’ll repot it into a larger pot, so maybe it won’t needing watering so much.

It’s fun to have some really easy plants and some to share with others.

“Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the Government take care of him, better take a closer look at the American Indian.” Henry Ford