Some Hardy Beauties

One of the garden tasks that I usually avoid is planting annuals.  To me, a few annuals in pots is all that’s needed to bring something different into the garden.  I love the work horses of the garden – the hardy, reliable perennials.

Purple Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) have been returning for years.  They are native to North America and were probably used by the Plains Indians for medicinal purposes.

Plus, pollinators love them because of their shape.  The flat landing strip makes it easy for butterflies and others to land and drink nectar.  The same thing is true for Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum).

Plants don’t have to be expensive.  Several years ago I scattered Larkspur seeds and voila, they appear every year in the spring.  They don’t necessarily come up where they were originally planted.  In fact, this flowerbed didn’t exist when I first put out the seeds.  Wherever the wind carries their seeds is where they will germinate.

Some of my plants remind me each year of the friend who gave me the start of a new plants or seeds.

Bulbs are another source of hardy plants because bulbs in the ground don’t freeze and produce each year.  This Pudgie Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Pudgie’) was ordered from Breck’s.  Since I live in a hot, dry spot, I used to be concerned about ordering from a company based in northern Europe.  But have learned that daylilies do very well here even though they originated in the Far East.

One of the cheapest flowers is also one of the most reliable ones.  The common Zinnia has pretty flowers that return if the seeds aren’t disturbed.  Pollinators visit them frequently.

Hardy Hibiscus have become a favorite because of their size and color.  The morning I took this picture, the humility kept fogging up my lens.

The small purple flowers on the left, French Hollyhocks (Malva Sylvestris Mauritiana), are another gift from a friend.  They can easily be grown from seeds.

New plants appear on the market all the time.  Before I buy, I try to do a little research.  But sometimes, the tag gives you a lot of information.

This Blue Frills Stokes Aster (Stokesia Blue Frills) tag stated that it is hardy down to minus 10 degrees.  It was planted last autumn and truly lived up to that claim.  It made it through our deep freeze.

We all have our favorite places to shop.  I prefer locale nurseries where they are knowledgeable about what grows well in your area.

However, I’ve found that the Lowe’s chain does carry some native plants that do well here.  In fact, they were the first stores to carry Texas Super Star plants.  But that may be changing because I was recently told that the stores are no longer allowed to do their ordering.  A central ordering system will decide on the plants offered.

Wherever I shop, I always ask for local plants.  If they hear it often enough, maybe it will filter up to the bigwigs.

Another pass-a-long that I received years ago is Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum (Sedum reflexum).  It multiples like crazy and has yellow blooms in the spring.

This sedum is also easy to dig up and share.

Viette’s Little Suzy Dwarf Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa ‘Viette’s Little Suzy’) is a modern version of old Black-Eyed Susans.  The flowers are large and lots of stems from one plant.  Can’t help but notice it.

“Friends are “annuals” that need seasonal nurturing to bear blossoms. Family is a “perennial” that comes up year after year, enduring the droughts of absence and neglect.”  unknown

Simple Small Surprises

Some people think that the big moments – like a once-in-a-lifetime trip, attending an spectacular event, or a wedding with all the bells and whistles – are the most important part of life. Those major events are memorable and photographs can be enjoyed for years.

But the majority of life is made up of life as usual; just earning a living and doing the daily tasks that need to be done.  So, the old saying “take time to smell the roses” is truly excellent advice for enjoying everyday life.

About three months ago, we bought a trailer load of compost.  With everything that has been happening, we just finished distributing it around the flower beds.  So as we slowly finished that and some other projects this week, I noticed some small sweet things that  brightened my day.

The Pincushion (Scabiosa pincushion) flowers stopped blooming when summer heat hit.  The cooler weather has brought a few flowers.

Pincushion Flowers get their name from how the center of the flower looks like pins (stamens) stuck into a cushion.  Pincushions were in common use when more people sewed their clothes.  Some of us old fogies still have them.

Growing low to the ground, a Scentimental rose catches my eye.  I love the stripped petals.

Early in the mornings, flocks of robins spread out in the yard.  Then, the usual residents join them for breakfast.  When I crack the door just a little to get a picture, they all scatter.  Someone must yell, “Hurry, everyone return to your hiding place.”  So they fly into trees and bushes.

This Mockingbird flew to the top of a Chinese Pistache tree.

A couple of pairs of Cardinals live in the bushes but are very shy about getting their picture taken.

It surprised me to see a Gulf Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) flowering.

Indian Summer Rudbeckia or Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) were planted in September.  They both had flowers.  But a day later, the flowers were gone.  Probably bitten off by a jackrabbit.  So I caged them.  This week I noticed one had a new flower.

This might be Mystic Blue Spirals, but I doubt it because the foliage isn’t shiny.  The plant has been in this pot for years and looks about like this from spring through fall. This group of Reblooming Irises has bloomed off and on since spring.  Not all Reblooming Irises perform this well.  The color is spectacular.

Appreciation and gratitude define how we experience life and react to the good and the difficult parts of life. They also make life infinitely sweeter.

“The best part of life’s journey is who you get to share it with.”  unknown

Passalong Plants

Winter is the perfect time to read gardening books.  Someone at a gardening conference recommended the following book to me.

This one was definitely worth the read.  It’s informative and humorous.  Two authors alternate writing the chapters.  If you read ‘Southern Living’, you’re familiar with Steve Bender’s gardening column.  The other author is Felder Rushing who has written numerous books and speaks frequently on the garden conference circuit.

Old plants that have been grown in the south for generations and passed along to family and friends is the subject of the book.  They explain growing conditions and how to propagate each plant.  This Spider Flower, or Cat’s Whiskers (Cleome hasselrana) reseeds freely.  So it’s easy to passalong either seeds or new plants.

“A word of advice to the novice – Cleome, particularly early in the season before flowering, looks suspiciously like marijuana.  Expect quizzical looks, and be prepared to explain.”  F. Rushing

“People give plants the dumbest names.  Just because individual flowers on the long stems of Physostegia have hinged joints and remain pointing in whatever position they’re bullied into by your finger, the plant has come to be called Obedience.  Well, don’t be fooled by this tame title…In moist soil, it’s so invasive that it actually seems to thrive on being brutally rogued.”  F. Rushing

That’s probably true, but I don’t have moist soil, so it spreads very slowly here.

“For all you fern aficionados out there who fancy yourselves experts on the subject, here’s a litmus test for you – are you familiar with Southern  Shield fern (Thelypteris kunthi)?”  S. Bender

It’s also sold as Wood Fern.  I am very happy with mine.  But, with our clay soil and dry climate, it doesn’t spread easily.

“I looked out my window the other morning and saw a troop of naked Ladies gracing my garden.  Don’t get excited – these weren’t dedicated sun worshipers or buxom starlets filming a B movie on location.  Instead, they were the surprising flowers of Lycoris.”     S. Bender

They’re also called magic lilies.  The most popular naked ladies here are Red Spider Lilies (Lycpros radiata).

“All of these Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckias) are easy to pass along.  Save seed or let them self-sow and transplant seedlings.  I always propagate it by dividing clumps in late winter or early spring.  Just lift a clump with a garden fork and pull the roots apart.”      S. Bender

The last chapter in the book focuses on the Southern habit of using yard art.  It’s titled “Well, I Think it’s Pretty.”

“Of course, most educated people consider such displays to be tacky.  But there are a couple of things wrong with this generalization.  First, you don’t have to be Southern to enjoy classic yard art.  Second, art is in the eye of the artist.  Who’s to judge what is good taste and what is bad?”

Although, I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess that F. Rushing wrote that.  He presented at a conference I attended in the fall and showed his own yard.  He’s a zany comic and his yard art supports that.

“Painted crown tires benefit society beyond just being vernacular art.  For one thing, they recycle old rubber and are good for the environment.  And they’re funny – they give us a good laugh.”  F. Rushing

In their travels across the south, each author has visited many gardens, public and private, and collected many pictures of plants and yard art.  They are knowledgeable about their subject.

This is a fun book that is easy to read and provides helpful information.

“You don’t need a Ph.D., horticultural library, or yardman to belong to the Passalong Club.  All that’s required is a piece of earth and a generous heart.  In fact, you’ve probably been a charter member for years without realizing it.”  Passalong Plants