A Few Old Standbys

This summer hasn’t been as hot as most, but it’s definitely dry here.  It feels like we’re the only spot in Texas that hasn’t received much rain.  So things are beginning to look bedraggled.

But some things just keep on going.  Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) has performed for many years in this spot.

And the aroma.  It just perfumes the whole area.

Only drawback to this vine is that it must be cut down to the ground in late fall or winter.  Otherwise it will fall over, trellis and all.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) doesn’t even begin to flower until mid or late August.  Makes for strong anticipation.

The tiny flowers remind me of a nosegay.

Good old pink and white Gauras (Gaura lindheimeri) just keeps on blooming from spring to freeze.

I was watching all the bees zooming from one flower to another, only stopping a second on each one.  You can see one in motion in the picture.

Old fashioned Geraniums bloom all summer.  These came from a friend years ago.  I usually propagate some in late fall when everything goes in the green house.

Sorry, I should have pulled off the spent blooms before taking the picture.

An absolute must for gardeners who want butterflies in their yards.  Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) guarantees Queen butterflies.

According to the Texas Butterfly Ranch, “The bloom of the mistflower contains a special alkaloid that male Queens ingest, sequester, and later release as an aphrodisiac to attract females.”

Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex) has been in this spot at least 15 years.   It spreads by underground rhizomes, so I have to watch carefully to keep it within bounds.

I don’t think it’s even possible to kill this stuff.

There is a hybrid that grows low to the ground and is well behaved.  It doesn’t spread like crazy.

Passion Vine is surprisingly hardy.  If you look closely, you’ll see my nemesis – a native Morning Glory vine that takes over.  It has heart shaped leaves.  I don’t know how fast it grows, but I can’t keep ahead of it, especially when it gets hot.

A few flowers still appear on the Crinums.  Their star time is in late spring.

There’s that vine again.  Bah, humbug.

Every year Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads out a little more.  Now the invasive morning glories are trying to cover it all.  I doubt if I could even find where the vine is growing in the ground.  So I pull it off, trying not to yank out the bushes under it.

Love this hardy bush and the bright red turban-shaped flowers.

“Gardening will break your heart, but each time you fail, you learn something about yourself and the plants you’re trying to nurture.                                                                Gardening will break your heart, but don’t give up. Also, try not to make the same mistakes. Learn from them instead.”                       Dee Nash

Most Unusual Spring

Usually, by this time in May, warm or even hot days are the norm.  This year, we seem to be stuck in some colder days and some warmer days pattern.  It’s been hard to force myself to weed and do other chores outside on those colder overcast days.

However, I must admit that many of the plants have thrived in this cooler weather.  These Coral Drift Roses are full of flowers.  Drift roses only grow to a height of 3 to 3 and a half feet tall.

They are extremely tough and obviously survived our harsh winter.  Our hot, dry summers don’t phase them, either.  They bloom over and over throughout the summer and fall.  They are a cross between full-size groundcover roses and miniature roses.

These roses are the best for blooming and have not had any diseases in the six years they’ve been in the ground.

Love them and highly recommend them.

The camera doesn’t do justice to the color of the flowers.   They are between a deep rose and a coral color.

Another really hardy plant is Dwarf Stella D’Oro Daylily.  I like that it grows low and is a repeat bloomer.

I lost everything in these pots in February.  Replanted a Rosemary and added some annuals in the other pots.

Etoile Violette Clematis was not bothered by the cold, even in a container.  The original label stated that it is cold hardy down to minus 20.  Hope that is never tested.

Even though it’s listed as a summer bloomer, it’s a rebloomer from late spring to late fall. This vine is seven years old.

An old pot of Dianthus also is looking good.  It’s amazing how cold and heat hardy they are.

Last year, I added some Ox-Eye Daisies to this trough, mainly to keep down the weeds.  They weren’t watered much, so the ones on the left died.

I do like this bottle bush my husband made for me several years ago.

I’ve had Yellow Columbine for years, so I’m giving these red ones a try.  The label indicated that they are cold hardy down to below 0 degrees.  Nice, bright two-toned flowers.

Our recent rains have brought lots of flowers on these climbing roses.  Now I just need to deadhead them for more blooms.

Hollyhocks are starting to bloom.  Several years ago, an abundance of rain brought rust disease.  Internet information said to dig them up, roots and all and destroy.  I tried to dig them up, but must not have succeeded because they keep popping up.

Hooray, Larkspurs blooms are scattered across the back yard.  I always look forward to them.  Very cheery.

Hope your late spring is bringing lot of flowers to your space.

“As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind – every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.”  John Glenn

The Ordinary and the Extraordinary

It’s been about six weeks since our extraordinary cold weather event and nature is recovering.  We did not lose as many plants as I feared, and those in pots in the shed mostly look great.

Everything is leafing out and blooming later than usual, but that’s to be expected.  Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is looking good and loaded with flowers.  All of our efforts to kill the native Bermuda grass in this raised bed has failed.  So I guess it’s there to stay.

Before the flowers open completely, they look almost artificial.

Their thin red petals are perfect for hummingbirds.

Purple Bearded Iris are my favorite color of iris.  These are rebloomers and actually do rebloom often.

Behind these beautiful Irises is a native ‘found’ rose bush.  Martha Gonzales rose was found in San Antonio.  It is considered to be very hardy.  But, alas, it certainly looks dead.

At the bottom of what looks like a dead Martha Gonzales are these leaves and a rose.  I’ve trimmed the bush but am uncertain what to do now.  It’s one of those wait and see times.

Four Nerve Daisies (Tetraneuris scaposa) are all aglow.  This native needs full sun and well-drained soil.  Since we have clay, it’s in a raised bed with amended soil.

Now:  get ready for the Extraordinary-

Last week I saw this stunning plant in a town south of here.  It’s called Parrot Beak Plant (Lotus Berthelotii).  With such bright flower color, of course it’s tropical.

It is so striking and gorgeous that I’m patting myself on the back for not buying one.  I’m trying to stay away from tropical plants that my poor, sweet husband has to carry into the shed.

Also, I read that it needs lots of water and cool weather to bloom.  With summer on the horizon, that’s not going to happen.  So I’ll just enjoy the pictures.

The plants that do well in our area, while some may be considered ordinary, are a blessing and certainly make gardening easier.

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy plants.  And that’s pretty much the same thing.”  unknown

Ain’t Autumn Grand

Cool temps in autumn don’t bring the orange and yellow of fall foliage here, but they do bring the bright colors of flowers.  Roses rebloom, other flowers increase in number, and some newcomers shine this time of the year.

Intricate flowers of the Purple Passion Vine or Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) deserve a close inspection to see their uniqueness and beauty.  Zebra Longwing caterpillars and Gulf Fritillary caterpillars feed on passion vines.

Notice the other little flower intruding in this space.  It’s the native Morning Glory vine, which pops up everywhere and covers any surface where it’s tendrils can cling.  This vine is an aggravating, aggressive irritant in the yard.  Okay, it’s quaint growing on barbed wire out in the field, but mostly it grows in cultivated areas.

Cooler weather brings flowers galore on Turk’s Cap (malvaviscus-arboreus-var-drummondii).  What a wonderful Texas native perennial with its bright red unusual flowers and hardy in clay, rocky soil.  Glorious.

After other sunflowers have shriveled up, Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) wave their bright yellow faces in the air.  I don’t know if this actually grows in swampy areas, but it’s very drought tolerant here in our clay soil.

Jackmanii Clematis (Clematis x jackmani) is named after an English nurseryman who introduced this cultivar in 1862.  Great performer here in dry upper Central Texas.

Last year a small bush with spiky stems appeared in this bed.  I thought it was interesting and decided to leave it.  Boy, am I glad I did.

That little bush grew up into this Gayfeather.  This is not the type of Gayfeather seen in the fields in this area.  The local Gayfeather is one stem standing in a group of other single stems.  So I’m not sure of its variety or how it got here.

Bees are enjoying it.

A migrating Monarch stopped by for a snack.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this blog.  Hope you’re having a wonderful fall.

“Religion is what you are left with after the Holy Spirit has left the building.”   Bono

Still Blooming

Even the plants are tired and weary after a blazing hot summer.  But some hardy souls are still blooming.

Love Henry Duelberg Sage.  The white in the front is actually his wife, Augusta Duelberg (Salvia farinacea ‘Augusta Duelberg’).  The deep purple one is his namesake.  Found on two grave sites, the plant names honor them.

These perennials bloom from spring to winter.  I have them in pots and in the ground scattered around the yard.  Can’t have too much of a good thing.  They are a Texas native and a treasure.

Even though Rock Rose (Cistus x canescens) is native to the Mediterranean area, we Texans like to claim it as our own.  It is a great dependable perennial.  I love to look out in the morning and see those little pink flowers greeting me with a new day.

In a new flower bed, we planted three rose bushes, some small plants, and some bulbs.  Immediately, armadillos began to dig up the bulbs.  So we put up wire barriers, which have now been removed, and some large stones around the bed to discourage those little buggers.

Then I planted a few small annual Potato Vines (Ipomoea batatas) hoping to make it more difficult to get into the soil.  Boy, did they grow and cover everything.  Now I hope the few small plants will survive with no sun.  At least, gardening is a learning experience and an adventure.

It seems to take Bougainvillea forever to start blooming.  The gorgeous fuchsia-colored brackets aren’t the flowers.  The tiny white centers are the flowers.  In its own good time, it decides to put on a fantastic show.  Some fertilizer specifically for Bougainvillea helps.

This is definitely a zone 9 or hotter plant, so it has to go inside when the temperatures drop below 50.  Cut off all the long branches.  This makes it easier to carry and will help with new growth and blooming in the spring.

One of the few annuals I replace every year is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’).  It doesn’t reseed and even our mild winters are too cold.  But it adds movement and grace to the landscape.

“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some fresh air, and remind yourself of who you are and where you want to be.”  unknown

Surprise, Surprise

Not only have we had rains, but cool, crisp temperatures have been welcomed.  It’s way earlier than usual for below 80’s temps.  Gone were shorts and tee shirts.  Low 50 degrees brought out jackets and jeans.

Of course, that didn’t last.  Today, it’s 85.  There still some flowers to enjoy in late summer.

Appropriately named Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) is in full bloom.  This vine was brought to the US in the late 1800’s from Asia.  It has naturalized in the eastern states and is considered invasive in places that get lots of rain.  Not here.

The foliage is looking chloric this year.  Maybe some iron should be added in the spring.

One of its characteristics is the strong, sweet aroma that permeates a large area.

To be manageable, it must be cut back to the ground in the winter.  Growing quickly in the spring, the foliage will soon cover the trellis again.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) blooms in late August.  It’s considered a tropical plant but does well here if planted in a protected area.  Beautiful petite flowers cluster on arching branches.

Schoolhouse Lily or Oxblood Lily (Rhodophiala bifida) has never done really well for me.  Their bold red color exists for about a week.  One of those “it’s here – it’s gone” experiences.

South African Bulbine (Bulbine natalensis) thrive in our heat, but are only cold hardy done to 20 degrees.  So we transfer it to the shed for the winter.  It’s a succulent with the grass like structure storing water.

Rose Moss or purslane (Rhodobryum roseum) is an underused plant.  An inexpensive plant that can be put directly in the ground here.  It dies back when it freezes and will grow back in the spring.  There are lots of colors available.

It’s a super easy plant that doesn’t need much water.  In fact, it doesn’t do well in standing water, so the soil needs to drain well.

Since autumn is almost here, it’s time to start planting.   Autumn is the optimal time because plants’ roots will grow all winter and be somewhat established before summer temperatures arrive.

“Fall is summer’s flamboyant farewell.”  A.A. Fitzwilliam

Native and Adapted Plants

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and Texas A&M Extension Agents have been on a mission for years.  They have been preaching about the benefits of native plants.  They also add that many plants have adapted well to our climate.

Native plants are winter hardy, evergreen, or spread seeds.  So that means they survive to grow and bloom in season.  Native also means that it grows naturally in your area.  However, many natives that are not in your immediate vicinity do well in your climate.

Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum) can be seen occasionally in our pastures.  But they are much more prolific further south.  But they survive our winters.

These look like tulips, but they open up more later in the morning.

Both of these plants were bought at the same time, but one flower is a deeper purple than the other one.  I’ve had both of these for several years.  Their seeds have not produced other plants.  Mystery.

There are vastly different regions in Texas.  Rainfall varies from 54 inches annual average in the east to 10 inches in the west.  Soils range from acidic to alkaline and from sand to clay to caliche to loam.  Winter temperatures, plus rainfall, and soils make native plants area specific.  Sometimes, I try to stretch it, but end up having too many pot plants to carry inside.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia dudecandra) is one of those natives that pops up all over the yard.

A friend gave me seeds years ago.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads by underground rhizomes, but it’s fairly slow.  This has been here 10 or more years.

It’s surprising how well this thin leafed plant does in full sun or shade.

Love the turban flowers.

Iron Weed ((Veronia baldwinii fasciculata) seeds were given to me about 5 years ago.  So it also spreads slowly.

The blooms don’t last a long time.  They do grow in the ditches not too far away.

Sages are great performers in our area.  I have a flower bed full of Henry Duelburg Salvia or Mealycup Sage (Saliva farinacea).  The wind blew some seeds into a field nearby, so I dug them up and put them in several pots.  Some were taken to a club plant sale.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a Texas native.  However, the ones I’ve noticed around here are not as large as the ones I have bought.  Pollinators love this plant.

Passion Vine is also a Texas native.  Don’t think they grow naturally in our area but are well-adapted.

It actually has a tropical look.

Gregg’ Mistflower, more commonly known as Blue Mistflower, (Conoclinium greggii) is a Texas native that grows gangbusters here.  To the left is Mexican Petunia that is so well adapted that it’s invasive.

One of the best plants to attract butterflies is Bluemist Flower.

There are many, many more Texas natives that do well in a home landscape.  If chosen carefully, they can be successful and bring beauty to the yard.

”When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”  Chief Tecumseh

Blackberry Winter Over?

Hopefully, last week was the final throes of “Blackberry Winter”, the late cold snap that comes at the time when blackberries are blooming.

The Catalpa or Catawba tree has a very short window of looking good.  Its thin leaves are torn by wind and turn crisp on the edges from summer sun.

This tree is one of my bad choices that I’m living with.  But I don’t have the heart to chop it down.  It would probably survive better as an under story tree in our area.

Privet gets a bad rap in my opinion.  I know that it spreads easily in places that have much more rain than here and more fertile soil.  But that’s not a worry here.  The butterflies love the blooms, and I like the aroma and the arching branches.

Clematis ‘Jackmanii” vine has large purple blooms.  It comes from a grower in Surrey England in 1862.  He crossed two vines to produce this hardy version.

I took this picture because I like the elongated shape of Bur Oak leaves.  The huge acorns are another characteristic of this oak variety.

Bright Red Yucca’s towering stalks of blooms stand out in a landscape.  I think I went overboard on the size of the sign, but I still like it.

Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) grows well in semi dry soil and full sun.  It’s an evergreen that spreads.

This hardy yarrow was bought at a garden club plant sale.  The tight cluster of flowers top a stem full of lacy leaves.  The blooms also last a long time.

Summer is coming, so it’s time to enjoy these mild days of spring.

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”  C.S. Lewis

Chilly Days

The weather has reverted back to winter-like days with overcast skies and cooler temperatures.  This hasn’t stopped the plants from springtime mode.  In fact, they seem to like it.

For the first time in three years, the two Texas Mahonias (Mahonia swaseyi) are blooming.  These were purchased at the Native Plant Nursery in Medina.

The yellow balls open into pretty petite flowers. The shrub looks somewhat like Agarita, that grows in the fields.  The leaves have the same shape but aren’t as prickly.  It grows well in limestone soil.

Normally, I wouldn’t buy a plant from a nursery in Houston because their climate is radically different than ours.  But since this would be a pot plant, I knew I could find a good spot for it.

Purple Ground Orchid or Hardy Orchid (Bletilla striata) needs a shady area with indirect light but no direct sunlight.  It is delicate looking but is a perennial.

The details of its petals make it an exceptional flower that definitely looks like an orchid.

The Columbines (Aquilegia flavescens) are at the height of their bloom period.  Love this perennial.

Such zany flower shapes.

Dianthus or Pinks look so bright and cheerful.  The long stems came with this plant.  I think it’s some kind of Sedge.  I like the way it looks in the pot.

So many different varieties of Dianthus to choose from, but this one is my favorite because the amazing color is so varied.

Flowers on Eve’s Necklace or Texas Sophora (Sophora affinis) will become the string of black pearls necklace that make it unique.  The seed pods are poisonous.  The small tree Eve’s Necklace grows well in the center of the state and makes a great ornamental tree in the yard.

Gulf Coast or Brazos Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) blooms before the harsh heat of summer takes over.  It is a native in southeast Texas and requires more moisture than most of the plants grown here.  Fortunately, it’s usually receives rainfall here at its bloom time.

Ox Eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) are show stoppers and reliable perennials.  They can be invasive but are easy to dig up.

Crossvine (Bignonia capreolate) is blooming.  I had great hopes that this vine would cover this arbor.  But it’s been a slow grower.  Maybe someday.

Now a fond farewell to the Dutch Irises.  Your spring visit was short and sweet.  Thanks for coming.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”              Ecclesiastes 3:11

Dreams of Spring

So much work to do to prepare the flowerbeds for the arrival of spring.  As we get older, short periods of outdoor work is needed to build up strength and endurance.

Thankfully, there are a few plants that don’t require any backbreaking labor.

Native Coral Honeysuckle, also called Trumpet Honeysuckle or Woodbine (Lonicera Sempervirens L.) is one such vine.

Each individual flower will open up and provide nectar for hummingbirds.

Eventually, this vine will probably outgrow this tripod.  After two years, it’s already extending out.

Coral Honeysuckle is semi-evergreen.  Natives really are the best.  But I constantly get suckered in by other plants at the nursery.

So glad to see that the Pincushion Flowers (Scabiosa caucasica) have returned.  By the end of summer, they were looking pretty pathetic.  There is an annual called Pincushion, but this one is the perennial type.

I love, love bulbs, rhizomes, and corms.  Each year I’m surprised by the different beauties.  The expression “dig, drop, done” is so true.  But every few years, they should be divided.

New growth of perennials, like Shasta Daisy, is such a welcome sight.  The promise of beautiful flowers makes me so happy.

“Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?”  unknown