Saturday, October 24, 2020

Toad Lily

This was a plant I picked up on clearance this spring.  I honestly didn't even know what it was, but I really loved its variegated leaves.  How awesome it is, when a plant you pick up for its foliage, also turns out to have a beautiful flower!

Friday, October 23, 2020


Leaf in North Austin was having a plant sale.  It is a pretty far drive away, but with no traffic due to coronavirus, I thought I'd take a chance.  I must admit, i was also looking forward to an opportunity to get out of the house and oogle some plants.

They had a number of 1 gallon plants for $2. And then they had a bunch of plants needing a little love for just a buck for a gallon. 

Artemisia Poweis Castle
I had seen in the picture from the store that the had Artemisia powis castle for $2.  I had one of my plants die last year, and have been needing to fill the hole back in. So I picked up one.

Creeping Germander
I love my creeping germander purchased last year. I am not sure why, but I just love it.  And I have been wanting some smaller plants to fill out gaps in the flower bed.  In particular, I have been wanting some small ground cover to go around my Macho Mocha Mangave in the front bed.  A neighbor has given me some ghost plants, that I put around it, but it really needs something with a different texture.  So I picked up 5 small four inch pots.  These were full price, but something I have been wanting.

But now that I am home, I am unsure if I am going to put the creeping germander around the Mangave, or the Myoporum.  I kinda think the Myoporum might look better with its texture

MyoporumMyoporum parvifolium
This $2 plant didn't even have a name on it. The store keeper looked it up and told me its name.  i really liked the look of it.

A 2009 version of City of Austin's native plants says the following about it:

Height: 3 - 12 inches           Spread:  6 feet (whoa!)
Sun / shade         Evergreen
Spring white flowers
Low water          Trim to contain
Easy to grow; good substitute for turf; avoid planting near preserves since it may spread

Dwarf PlumbagoCeratostigma plumbaginoides
I have never tried to grow dwarf plumbago.  But at $2 per gallon, I thought now was a good time to give it a try.  i also don't know where I am going to put this one.  Its height is 6 - 12 inches and spread is 3 feet. It grows in sun or part shade and has blue flowers in the summer.

Creeping Phlox Paparazzi Jagger
Height:  5 to 10 inches (Okay, I am a little suspicious, as the plant is currently over 12 inches tall?
Another new one to me.  Found this online:  A garden celebrity with blooms of vibrant lavender dotted with a fuchsia eye. Burgundy stems and burgundy-tinted foliage are noticeable in spring. Early flowering with excellent heat and humidity tolerance. Fragrant and colorful too; we claim no responsibility for shutterbugs sneaking photo ops of these garden stars.

The Hybrid Phlox in the Paparazzi™ Series are noted for having vigorous growth, early and long flowering with good mildew resistance. This hybrid Phlox is a cross of two favorites, P. subulata and P. stonlonifera. Phlox Jagger is an invaluable addition to any rock garden, border or woodland garden.

I am considering putting this where the white mist flower used to be.  Not sure though

Blackfoot daisy
Having just spent $16 for two of these, I couldn't resist spending $2 more for two more of them. No idea where I am going to put these, but I might use them to fill in some holes in the front garden, I love the way they drape over the wall.

Plumbago - 
This is jsut the regular plumbago, and I know I am going to put it in the same place I put the one that died last year.  I will just treat it as an annual.  At $1, that's okay :)

Firecracker Plant -
I would not have bought this if it weren't a dollar, having already killed one, and the one I have sure hasn't done much.  But again, I will treat it like an annual, and put it in the same place as the last, drooping over the wall.

Japanese yew
Okay, this was a total stretch for me, but it looked like a nice plant, was pretty tall and only $5.  Online, it says it gets between 10 and 20 feet and can go in sun or part shade.  I have been wanting a tree to put at the back of my new solar garden. So, maybe there? It is poisonous, I am reading :(  Guess I won't be eating it.

Second set of purchased plants
Dwarf pittosporum

Yucca linearifolio
Dianella - Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata
Dianella Cassa blue
Two very small leopard plants
1 gaura
3 orange bulbine
1 yucca brakelights
2 russian sages
3 compact calylophus
1 Toad lily samurai
1 silver pony foot
1 Mexican Bush sage
1 Upright rosemary
5 creeping Germanders

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Glorious Fall

Fall is certainly a wonderful time for a Texas gardener.  And this Fall seems even better than  most. 

The heat left earlier than normal; we had a September full of rain, and while October proposes to be dry and clear with the cooler temps, watering is a manageable feat.  

And *everything* is in bloom!

When we first moved here, Dave threw a bunch of wildflower seeds on the ground. I honestly don't remember much coming up that first year, but now, every fall, for about two weeks, the whole area outside the fence explodes in yellow. I believe these are Maximilian Sunflowers.  For most fo the year, they are a sort of ugly weed, but ahhhh come October...

And the roses which have valiantly fought the heat all summer, are now showing their glory in the cooler temps!  Three weeks ago, this rose looks 95% dead, with only a few leaves left. 

Last fall, I planted this small little Lantana.  I honestly don't even remember where I got it from. It may have been the one that popped up in my asparagus bed that I transplanted.  It might have been one that I bought on clearance at Lowe's.  Where ever I got it from,  I know it was only a couple of inches tall.  

I planted it in an attempt to cover up a dead grass patch.  I added some Mexican feather grass and an Esperanza and then this spring added some Russian sage I had gotten on clearance.  Well, this Lantana has gotten *gigantic*.  It has swallowed the Esperanza and Feathergrass (I will need to transplant them further away next spring).  And it adds this great pop of color to what was a brown patch of dead grass.  Not to mention a wonderful home for lizards and feast for pollinators.

One of my favorite flowers this time of year is the Lion's Tail, they burst forth with firework-like orange bursts in the mid-fall. I have been working on this area for awhile.  I started with one bush, realized I wanted more for an impact, and have since purchased a number of others... that have all died.  Now, the one on the left is in its second (maybe third) year, and seems pretty established.  Last year, however, I had a white mist flower in front of it, and you couldn't even see the Lion Tail blooms.  So this spring, I moved the mist flower to a different bed, which gives these a lot more visibility.  Now I want to add some low flowers in front, to hide the stalky bottoms of this gorgeous bush... and I still want to add one more Lion's Tail next spring.  But for now, I am just happy to see the orange blooms!

View from my porch

Okay, so it is true, the morning glory has taken over, and i seriously need to get it under control, and ideally move it away from the garden.  But for now, i really love how it is climbing the light post.  The back porch has a very verdant feel, with the huge fire bush, even larger Esperanza and wall of leaning morning glory. A great place to enjoy the cool mornings!

And then there is, of course, my plumbago.  This is my all-time favorite plant. The one I have only been able to grow in this one spot. The dozen or so other plumbagos planted elsewhere have either perished in the hot summers, or frozen over the winter. But every fall, this guy shows his stuff.  My heart...

New Garden Bed

I planted a new garden bed where the old sandbox used to be.  I had some extra plants, and this area was another eye sore in the back yard. It isn't much to look at now, but I put the photo in, so I can compare how it grows over time.

It has some New Zealand flax, a Dwarf Pomegranate that I grew from a cutting, a Coralberry that I bought from Natural Gardener... a plant I have been wanting for awhile, some ruellia that had seeded in my asparagus garden, a Mexican bush sage cutting, a Rock Rose that I found on clearance and some lantana cuttings.  Not much to look at now, but all things start small :) I have the tomato cage on the Coralberry, because this sandy area was a favorite place for Domino to dig, and since the Coralberry is the one full price plant in the bed, I didn't want it to be dug up.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Obedient plant

Obedient Plant is this year's new love for me. I am not sure exactly when I bought this plant, but I know that it was prior to 2012.  So I have had it for a good long while.  And I must admit, I have never loved it. Or even really liked it, if I am to be honest.

The first year, I am sure, I had only one of them. And this is a plant that really needs a mass planting.  One Obedient Plant looks ridiculous - standing tall and alone with one little bloom on top. But, after the first year, I had many more. This plant seems to take over where ever I plant it, sometimes killing the nearby plants. Its roots are insidious,  lurking an inch below the ground, and spiraling out everywhere.

It looks stalky and ugly until late summer when it blooms.  But usually by that time, I am so exasperated by it that I have quit watering it, so it doesn't even really bloom.

Okay, and this is a bit absurd, but its full name is "Fall Obedient Plant"... and so when it starts blooming in August, I have always felt a little nervous:  but wait, you shouldn't be blooming now.  Silly, I know.

I remember telling my mom that I bought this new plant and her one comment was, "That plant is not very obedient."  And I quickly learned what she meant.

I have moved it from my front porch bed, to my backyard shade bed (where it never did well - apparently its one requirement is sun), and then I put some in my front bed.  And I have always regretted planting it in its new location.

Well, this year, when I planted my solar garden, I filled it with the plants I knew I couldn't kill, the ones that lived despite my mistakes. To be honest, I was sort of filling up holes with plants I already had.

So, I dug up a bunch of these and planted them in this bed.  Since I was just starting this bed, the plants in it have received a lot of care and water... and this plant has just flourished.  We are now in mid-July, and I have fallen in love with its tall purple spires.  I have a number of yellow summer heat-loving plants, but not a whole lot of other colors, and I find this plant as a color contrast to what I already have.

Now, truly, in a year, I may be writing that I regret putting this plant in the solar bed, as it has taken over the whole bed... But for now, I will enjoy its beauty :)

Monday, July 6, 2020

July Flowers

The start of hell season in Texas, I thought I'd capture some of the flowers that are glowing this morning, before the 100 degree temps really hit.

The South back side of my front garden always shines this time of year.  Both the Brazilian and regular Rock Roses are in full bloom, as is the purple skullcap.

And nothing says summer quite as well as a Pride of Barbados in bloom!

Gregg's Mist flower has its misty little flower in bloom as well.

My coneflowers are always late to bloom, for some reason.  But that just means they look fantastic up against the blooming Esperanza :)

And this little verbena that I transplanted from the nearby grass also adds some color.

And the Englemann daisies that were also late to bloom, are still adding their pop of yellow.

My new Mutablis rose is still small, and somewhat overshadowed by the wild Evening Primrose that I decided to keep in the bed.  But I know this beautiful rose will soon grow much larger, leaving the primroses to glow it its feet :)

Of all the gardens I have built, this new solar garden has grown up and given me joy earlier than any other bed.  I am not sure why, but this garden is filled with flowers in just the first few months.  i love looking over the yard, to an area that was always a brown eyesore, and instead seeing all of these glowing colors!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars!

While wandering through the garden this morning, this bright red, spiky caterpillar on my Dutchman's pipevine caught my eye. Very excitedly, I looked him up to confirm that, YES, it was a pipevine swallowtail caterpillar.

The Dutchman's Pipevine is a host for the swallowtail butterflies.

When I went out in the afternoon to get a photo of the caterpillar, we discovered there were a total of SIX caterpillars on the pipevine.  Super cool....

Except these guys are decimating the pipevine, with many of its leaves already half eaten, and these guys are still small.  Now the dilemma.  I am very excited to be hosting these butterflies, but I don't want my pipevine to die.

I guess I will wait and see how nature takes its course.  I can always purchase a new plant in the fall, I guess.

"In the mid-Atlantic, the only species that Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars can eat are Dutchman’s Pipevine and Virginia Snakeroot.  In the southwestern part of its range, there are other native Pipevine species that this butterfly uses as its caterpillar food plants."

"Some butterflies have evolved a survival strategy that enables their caterpillars to feed on a wide variety of plants, but others, like the Pipevine Swallowtail, have chosen to specialize on a small number of plants that give them a particular advantage.  To protect itself from being eaten, Dutchman’s Pipevine has evolved with chemicals that are at minimum distasteful to those who would eat it, and if a sufficient amount is ingested, they are toxic.  Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars are among the few creatures who are able to process these chemicals without harm to themselves, then store them in their bodies in such a way that they are toxic to their potential predators.  This chemical protection even survives metamorphosis and extends to the adult butterfly.  It is so effective that other butterflies mimic the appearance of the Pipevine Swallowtail, since this is often enough to warn off predators."  link

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Things to love in Late Spring

In late Spring, the Peter's Purple Bee Balm explodes into color and it is a sight to behold. In the front garden, the Calylophus are still blooming, and provide a striking contrast.

I love their fire cracker like flower

Of all my plants, this is the one that stops the most people on the street. And it filled this whole space in three years from one small plant!

Also in late Spring, the Day Lilies put up their tall stalks, and slowly unfurl their beauty!

The day lily in the back garden has some native milkweed blooming behind it. I had actually forgotten the milkweed was there until it put forth its bloom :)

The Engelmann Daisies that I transplanted this spring have been gorgeous in their new bed, bright and sunshiney.

Last year, a small fern like plant popped up in the back side garden. I truly don't know why I didn't pull it for a weed. I guess because I really liked its feathery foliage.  It did nothing the whole year.  This year, it popped up again, and again, I decided to keep it. Only this year, it grew very tall, and now has put out the beautiful red flowers. 

Turns out is is a biennial Standing Cypress (aka Texas Plume). It is kind of in an awkward place, so tall at the front of the bed, but I love it anyway. When it starts going to seed, i am going to see if I can direct the seeds toward the back of the bed.

This year, my twist-leaf yucca has put up its stalks and blooms. The bamboo muhly shows its feathery green.

A close up of the top of the bloom, where not all have opened up yet.

A new favorite of mine is the Creeping Germander. I bought some last year, and love it as a textured, low lying ground cover.  But then, once a year, it burst forth with a ton of small purple blooms, which makes it even more awesome.

I like this plant so much, that I bought 5 more to put in the back side garden bed. It is in partial shade, so it may not bloom in that location, but I really got it for its foliage texture.

I am so pleased with the new solar garden.  For just being a few months old, it looks really great.  The lantana, snake herb and Bee Balm are all blooming in the left side, and the Englemann daisies look great on the right side.  

Here is a close up up the lantana, with Bee Balm in the back.  I wasn't able to get the snake herb in there as well, but it is gorgeous all together.

One other beauty in late Spring in the Gregg's Mistflower. I believe this is mostly a fall bloomer, but I have gotten a bunch of blooms this spring. This is supposed to be a huge pollinator attracter, thought I have honestly not seen much on it this month.

I bought one new plant this month (I bought a lot of new plants, but this one was unfamiliar to me) A Flax Lily Diaella.  I love its variegated foliage.  I have know idea how it will do, but it was a clearance plant for a dollar, so I figure I don't have much to lose :)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Mid April Flowers

I coerced Dave into taking a few photos of my front garden bed!

Guara in the foreground, Jerusalem sage mid way and Knock Out rose in the back.  I could spend all day enjoying the colors!

I am not sure what type of rose this is, as I was given it.  But it blooms once per year in the spring, and it looks and smells gorgeous!

 I now know why they call these Butterfly Blue Pincushion.  A this time of year, I have seen multiple butterflies feasting on its nectar.  THis appears to be a Gray Hairstreak butterfly.

And here is a backward glance at the south portion of my front garden.

Mr Blue Jay

Last summer, the boys made and bought me some bird feeders to add to the back yard.  We have been enjoying lots of cardinals, goldfinches, titmice, chickadees and morning doves.  But until this month, we had not yet seen Kyle's favorite bird, the blue jay.

This month, one finally discovered the peanuts in our feeder!  He/She now comes multiple times a day, steals a nut from the feeder, and then flies to the Bur Oak to enjoy it.

Here he/she is getting ready to grab a nut!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Black Foot Daisies and Cream de Mint Pittosporum

I have been looking at a hole in my front garden bed, and knew I wanted to fill it in with something... I just didn't know what.

Then I saw a video from Robin Mayfield on Facebook, where she glowed about her Creme De Menthe Pittosporum.  I loved their look, and knew they'd be perfect in my empty hole.  

The next day, I happened to dee Cream de Min Pittosporum at Lowe's, of all places.  Which is good, because with the pandemic, no other nurseries are open.

I picked up two shrubs (I may go back and get one more).  

Now fingers crossed I can keep them alive.  I did try root washing them, but their roots were very fin, so I hope I did not do more harm then good.

I also picked up two Blackfoot Daisies.  I love the cheery white of Blackfoot daisies.  Mine all seem to die after three to four years, but I decided I wanted them any way.  I really love the look of this part of the garden, which was always a bit of an eye ore (to me).

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Week 2 of Flowers

April is a wonderful time in Texas!  Every week, my garden has something new to celebrate.

My front bed, that was full of blues and purple last week from my bluebonnets and verbena, has now added a pop of yellow from the Jerusalem sage and Calyolophus.

Jerusalem Sage is now one of my go-to plants.  It is as tough as nails, gorgeous in the spring, and adds a nice bit of fuzzy grey-green the rest of the year.  Plus it is a very fast grower.  The one above is the first one I planted four years ago.  The one in the front bed is two or three years old, and I have just planted two more in my new beds.  

In the back bed, a brand new climbing Blaze rose is in bloom.  Dave found this guy sitting forlornly in the clearance section of Lowes, and picked it up for. A great example of why I always prefer a potted plant to a bouquet of flowers.  A year later and his gift is still bringing me smiles :)

Whirling Guara used to not be a favorite of mine, until I learned that it looks way better planted en masse, than as a single flower.  So now I have two different lines of them in my front bed.  Another tough-as-nails plant!

And below is another look at my little roadrunner statue.  last week he was surrounded by blue and purple.  Today there is a pop of yellow to light his back!  You can hardly even seem him, in the middle of this photo.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Spring 2020 Flowers

My front garden bed has really filled in, and is full of color this spring!  In another week, the jerusalem sage and calylophus will be in bloom, adding lots of yellow to the mix!

Two years ago, I dug up a bunch of irises from my my mother-in-laws garden. Her backyard is almost in complete shade, so they did not bloom for her.  last year, I didn't get any blooms.  This year, they are full of blooms!

A new plant for me, Leopard's Plant (Ligularia), it is a full shade plant, that requires a lot of water its first year.  We will see if I can keep it alive!

 Foxglove Penstemon in my backyard side garden. Dave threw a bunch of wildflower seeds down when we first moved here.  These are the only flowers that grew.  I have since transplanted many of them to be in my garden

The little roadrunner my mom gave me a few years ago is almost invisible among the blue bonnets and verbena!

i love these little flowers, they get almost no attention and are pretty much bulletproof!  Always bringing a sweet dancing yellow to my garden!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Installing a new shade garden


This year, I am putting in two new gardens.  One (the solar garden) is in the hottest, driest part of the yard.  With little to no shade in our yard, this environment I am very familiar with.  However, there is also a small sliver of the back yard that is pretty shaded.  Some parts are completely shade, some gets some morning light, and some parts get afternoon light.  I am less familiar (or successful) with this area.  But, in my quest to convert our water-hungry lawn into native plants, I thought I'd try to convert a portion of the side fence.
Three columbines and a (now) blooming mock orange.
One of the things I have never really liked about the back yard is that it is, in essence, one big square, with shrubs and flowers around the edges.  When the kids were younger, I couldn't even do an Easter Egg hunt or play hide and seek, because there was nowhere to hide!

So, with this garden, I decided to enclose a large area, and put a small path through it, that would lead to chairs.  Kyle and I love to bird watch, and we have found that this area works well to see the birds, but not disturb them.  So I dug up lots of grass and weeds, added lots of compost and put down ten flagstones to make a path through it all.  I have been slowly collecting plants to put in this area, and this week, I finally got them in the ground.  Some are new to me, some are old favorites.
A new, large leopard plant, alongside my oak leaf hydrangea

Leopard Plant: Farfugium japonicum  (previiously know as Ligularia)
I saw this plant at a local elementary last year, and fell in love with it,  I am not sure why, but it reminds me of an Alice in Wonderland plant.  It is a full shade plant that requires a bit of water to get established.  I have seen how it droops when it gets direct sun in the mid day.  

Abelia 'Edward Goucher':  This is the first shrub in the garden, and I wanted a largish evergreen bush to shade the chairs from the road.  I know absolutely nothing about Abelia.  Well, I am not sure if I do.  I have some plants that came with the original landscaping... they may be abelias. (Edited to add:  Yep, same plant as in the landscaper built garden in front of the garage.  I feel alittle silly, as I now realize this is the what the oldest shrubs that came with the lot are!)  This is the the plant info sticker says:  Size:  5' x 5'  Growth Medium  Exposure:  Sun to Part shade.  Semi evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves and  little pale pink flowers in spring.  Very adaptable, but more sun means denser foliage and more blooms.  Also performs better in amended garden soil.
A new abelia, youpon holly, near an existing Beauty Berry

Sweet Mock Orange - Philadelphus Coronarius
Size:  10' x 8'  Growth:  Medium
Exposure:  AM Sun / Part Shade
Lovely deciduous shrub with fragrant white blooms in late spring.  Adaptable to any well-drained soil but best if given rich, organically amended, moist soil.  Blooms on previous year's growth so pruning advised after blooming.  Native to southeastern Europe.

Texas Gold Columbine - Aquilegia chrysantha "Texas Gold"
24 - 30" x 15"  Growth:  Fast
Exposure:  Sun to part shade
Tough and showy perennial with soft, grey-green foliage and taller stems of big three inch golden yellow blooms in the late spring.  Deadhead for more blooms.
A new large Japanese Aralia with some transplanted
Heartleaft Skullcap

I really, really want to grow some columbine.  I have killed at least three years worth of this plant. But as I learn more and become more experienced, I keep hoping I will be able to get this guy to grow.  It calls itself a 'tough and showy perennial'.  The only thing about this plant that is tough (for me), is the ability for it to live!  But, I am trying three more.  I got large ones this time, hoping that they have a better root system to make it through.

Tropical Sage 'Red' Native - Savlia Coccinea 'Red'
Size:  2-3' x 2-3'  Growth:  Fast
Exposure:  Sun to Bright shade
Shrubby perennial with scented foliage and bright red tubular flowers spring to fall.  Deer and drought resistant once established.  Prune back periodically to keep more dense and tidy.  Often reseeds for a few volunteers but not aggressive.  Attracts hummingbirds
A new Tropical sage and Jerusalem sage with an
existing fig tree behind it

I believe this is the same plant I was gifted with by a neighbor that is in the front year.  I picked it because it is a red bloomer in shade, and the place I put it in sometimes is shaded, but I believe in the summer it will get more sun, so I thought this plant would do well in all seasons, given the mixture of light.  I bought two plants.

Texas Betony - Stachys coccinea
I bought three small pots of this plant on a whim.  I bought one small plant from the clearance rack at Lowe's last year, and it got through the incredible drought of last year.  And is already springing back this year. Seems like a winner to me, so I thought I'd
An existing crepe myrtle with some new Betony plants
give it another shot...  This will be more shaded than the front, so we will see how it does.

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