Tuesday, October 3, 2023

New Natives

 Black Dalea - Thornless shrub up to 3 feet tall; stems gray to light brown, leaf bearing twigs thin, reddish brown. Occasional on shallow soil over limestone in unshaded upland situations. Leaves up to 1 inch long, divided into as many as 8 pairs of small leaflets and a terminal one on a central axis, leaflets 5 1/16 inch or less long, gland dotted on the lower surface. Glands visible under a 10x hand lens. Flowers in dense heads or spikes at the ends of branches, small, purple, opening from July to October. Fruit an inconspicuous capsule.

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes

Soil Description: Moist, rich, slightly acid soils. Dry, limestone soils. Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay

Conditions Comments: The fine ferny texture of Black dalea foliage contrasts well with other plants such as Prickly pear and grasses. Use this fast growing, mounding shrub in any dry garden that calls for both flowers and a defined form. Overwatering and fertilization can cause legginess, weak growth, and reduced flowering. Drought-resistant. Once established, this plant requires little or no maintenance.

Fragrant Mimosa The long, slender, intricately-branched stems of this 2-6 ft. deciduous shrub are curving or straight, with small thorns scattered along the branches. Leaves are delicately bipinnate. Sprawling, long-branched thorny shrub with clusters of aromatic flowers. The fragrant, pink flowers occur in soft, dense ball-shaped clusters about 1/2 in. in diameter.

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky soils. Limestone-based, Caliche type, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam Clay

Conditions Comments: This thorny shrub is covered with small, very fragrant pink puffballs in the spring. It is a good nectar source for bees and butterflies. Great for the xeric garden. Plant away from high traffic areas. Can take extreme heat and harsh conditions once established.

Texas kidneywood is an unarmed, much-branched shrub, 3-10 ft. tall, with an open, airy structure and gland-dotted, aromatic, resinous leaves and flowers. Its spikes of white flowers are fragrant, as are the deciduous, finely divided leaves. Leaves up to 3-1/2 inches long, consisting of a central axis and as many as 40 small leaflets, each from about 1/4 - 1/2 inch long, pungent when crushed. Flowers white, small, with a delicate fragrance, arranged in spikes up to 4-1/2 inches long at the ends of branchlets, appearing intermittently from May to October, especially after rains. Fruit a pod about 3/8 inch long, often with a threadlike tip. Seed pods are somewhat persistent.

Leaves and leaflets vary considerably in size, from plant to plant and sometimes on the same plant. Leaflets may vary from under 1/4 inch long on branches in full sun, to more than 1/2 inch long in shaded situations. (PERS.OBS)

This tree and its relative, the more westerly E. orthocarpa, were once used in remedies for kidney and bladder ailments, hence the name.

Water Use: Low

Light Requirement: Sun

Soil Moisture: Dry

Cold Tolerant: yes

Heat Tolerant: yes

Soil Description: Dry, rocky, calcareous soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Limestone-based, Caliche type

Conditions Comments: Kidneywood foliage has a pungent, citrusy smell. Bees flock to the ambrosial flowers, which bloom at intervals through the warm months. The Dogface butterfly also eats kidneywood as larval food. Can create a small tree with proper pruning. May temporarily lose leaves during a dry spell. Drought-tolerant.

Pearl Milkweed Vine

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes

Conditions Comments: Green milkweed vine is not a bold plant but the green star-shaped flowers with a pearly irridescent center are lovely and curious. Use as a novel woodland-edge garden feature. Blooms best with plenty of sun, but does well in some shade also. The Large interesting seed pod open up to release silky seed threads and many seeds. Members of the Milkweed family are host to Queen and Monarch butterflies.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Back corner garden

I converted the back corner of our yard to native plants this April.  It is something I have been wanting to do for a while, but hesitant, as it is such a large plot of land.  But my twin brother came to visit, and encouraged me (and helped me) to dive in.  

So while he was here, we dug up all the grass. We also moved the bench that sat unused in the front yeard to be posited in the backyard.  Beofre I even started landscape, when the area was just dirt, it was already a new favorite place to sit.  For some reason, the birds do not seem to be as wary of me when I sit there, as compared to the front porch, and it is in full view of all the bird feeders.

So after all the hard work was done, I purchased a bunch of native plants and purchased some flagstone, and started to have fun. :)

When I originally planned the garden, I went to Natural Gardener and picked a bunch of plants and did a rough sketch of what I wanted where... but when I went back a week later, none of those plants were still there, so I had to improvise.

Last weekend, I also went down to the Valley's National Butterfly Center, where they have a whole collection of native plants.  Including a bunch of natives that are hard to get, or that I was not familiar with.  Unfortunately, I realized that at least three of

Coralberry - 4ft.  Shade or Part shade. Water usage: Low This small, mound-shaped, deciduous shrub with shredding bark on older wood and brown to purplish branchlets covered with short hairs visible under a 10x hand lens, usually grows to 4 ft. but can reach 6 ft. Its smooth, dull green leaves are opposite and roughly oval, tapering about equally to tip and base, up to 2 inches long but often less than 1 inch, with smooth, turned down margins and a rounded or broadly pointed tip. The greenish-white flower clusters are not as showy as the clusters of coral-pink to purple fruit up to 1/4 inch in diameter which remain on the plant through winter. Songbirds, ground birds, small mammals, and browsers use this plant for food, cover, and nesting sites.

I have been wanting to try this Texas Native for awhile, and the mostly shade portion of the garden seems like a good place to give it a go.  I bought two of the larger sized shrubs.  So it is nice to give the beginning garden a little dimension to start

Frost Weed Verbesina virginica Up to 8 feet tall Low water usage This easy-to-grow Verbesina lends stately, dark green leaves and white, autumn flowers to the dappled shade found at the edges of woodlands, where it can form sizable colonies with its spreading rhizomes. Each stem has soft, fleshy green flanges running longitudinally down its length. When winter weather brings ice, the stems exude water that freezes into fascinating shapes, hence its common name Frostweed. This plant is best suited for naturalizing rather than formal landscapes.  Attracts butterflies

Another new native plant for me that I have been wanting to try. I saw these at the Butterfly center, and they are sort of weed-like, but apparently good for butterflies and do well in shade, so I thought the shade portion might be a good place for them.  I  am hoping they live and spread, because I'd love to try some also in my opposite corner garden.  With "weed" in its name, I am hoping this is a new tough and easy plant for me to introduce.

Lyre Leaf Sage  Salvia lyrata 12 x 12”. Part shade to shade. Compact reseeding perennial with low purple tinged foliage and taller spikes of lavender flowers from Feb to April. Can form a solid cover with regular watering.  It even takes mowing and can be walked on. Flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

A new native for me as well.  Wildflower.org says it is a ajuga-like ground cover, which is good, since all of my ajuga died in the drought last year.  Hopefully this will be tougher, and fill in theis shade area with butterfly attracting flowers!

Crucita aka Blue Mistflower: Chromolaena odorata is a deciduous sub-shrub in North America. (It is a shrub in the tropics.) Branched stems curve upward and are usually 2-6 ft. in height. Somewhat triangular-shaped leaves are virtually evergreen in extreme s. TX. Lilac to bright purplish-blue flowers cluster together into showy, ageratum-like flower heads. Dies back to the roots in hard winters.

On the strong recommendation of the Austinite who worked there, I purchased two plants called Crucita.  She said she had it growing in her home garden in Austin, and it did great.  When I came back home, and looked it up, it turns out Crucita is Blue Mistflower.  I purchased one last year for the front garden, and it did not make it through this last winter... so we will see how these two do.  I put one in this garden, and one in a different garden.

Low Croton - Berlandier croton or croton humilis Pepperbush Part shade.  Wildflower.org has almost no information on this plant. Texas A&M has more information.  A strong-scented, small shrub with oval leaves and light brown to pale gray bark, Berlandier croton grows in dry sandy soils in clearings in thickets and chaparrals in the Rio Grande Plains, usually found coming up through other shrubs. Small clusters of white flowers appear throughout the year following rains. Male and female flowers can be on the same plant or on separate plants. Seeds, enclosed in a 3-lobed capsule, are eaten by many birds, and the leaves and flowers provide food for butterflies and caterpillars. It needs well-drained soil and part shade to do its best, but otherwise it is an adaptable and very drought-tolerant plant.

This says it is hard to Zone 9, so I shouldn't get too attached to this plant.  I might dig it up and pot it.    I bought it at the Butterfly center, after seeing one there, and having someone say it was great for butterflies.  

Friday, April 14, 2023

A new garden

 Big red sage. (Native)Salvia penstemonoides 2’x2’  Sun to part shade.  Uncommon Texas native with glossy evergreen foliage and magenta flowers on tall spikes for 3-4 months in summer.  Prefers well drained soil. Very drought tolerant once established.  Attracts hummingbirds

Lewis Blue flax. Linux Lewisii  12” x 12” Sun or part shadeAiry perennial with very vertical, delicate green foliage topped with sky blue, cup shaped blooms with bright yellow centers mostly in the spring.  Often reseeds

Pink Gaura (Native) Guara lindheimer 2 x 2 Sun or Part Shade. Lovely reseeding native perennial

Lyre leaf sage. (Native) 

Autumn sage white

Pot. 2 Citharexylum berlandieri (Berlandier's fiddlewood) - 

part shade Up to 18 feet tall grows in well drained clay and clay-loam soil. It is found in thickets, flats, hillsides, and semi-desert roadsides in the Rio Grande Plains.

2 Verbesina virginica  Frost weed - National Butterfly center Up to 4 feet tall part shade to shade  Good as understory in landscape restorations within its range. Also useful as a transitional plant between manicured and wild areas.

Pot Mexican Olive Cordia boissieri - Sun, part shade    It is native no farther north than south Texas because it can't tolerate cold winters, but it has been successfully tried as far north as Austin, where cold winters are likely to cause some die-back

Tree front yard 1 Western Soapberry Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii   Sun, part shade  High drough tolderance 10 foot tree An attractive and hardy tree, useful as a specimen or in groves. Can become a large tree in deep soil. In shallow soil it often remains a small tree. The fruits are considered to be poisonous to humans although they produce a good lather in water and are used in Mexico as a laundry soap. Soapberry often suckers and form groves. Tolerant of drought, wind, heat, poor soil, air pollution and other city conditions. Not affected by disease or insects. Currently difficult to find in the nursery trade.

2 crucita Blue mist flower - part shade

1 pigeon berry soil moisture:  moist

1 huisache - A 15-20 ft., multi-trunked tree or shrub  Full sun high drought tolerance  This beautiful tree casts a soft filtered light but be careful when planting it, because it has sharp, needle-like thorns on the trunk and branches.


1 low croton  Not sure which one  Berlandieri? It needs well-drained soil and part shade to do its best, but otherwise it is an adaptable and very drought-tolerant plant.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Spring is so close I can smell it!!

We are still getting freezing nights, but the days are frequently warming up to the 60s or 70s.  Not much is budding, but I can almost feel the anticipation in the air.  The only green things right now are those that are evergreen.  

Some plants look like they are barely hanging on: 
The Heartleaf Skullcap, Rubeckia and Engelmann Daisies still only have a few leaves, the Oak Leaf Hydrangea is holding one or two sad looking red leaves. The Creeping Germander is healthy, though covered with fallen Oak leaves and the Pittosporum are looking tired but green.  

Other plants hold their own through the winter, like the Jerusalem sage, the newly planted Pineapple Guava and, of course, the bluebonnets are a bright splash of green in the yard.  

And some you can almost feel them getting ready to leap: the foxglove penstemon still is small, but somehow it just feels like it is ready to leap and the irises are half brown, but you can feel them reaching upward.

But the gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), planted just this fall, is showing just  a tip of yellow that seems to indicate that the first flower of spring is almost here.

And the tiny Crocus tips are starting to show as well!

The standing cypress that showed up for the first time last year is looking healthy and green, and another first year standing cypress has popped up a couple fee to the left of the original!

The transplanted agarita is looking happy and green, no sign of yellow flowers, though, as is the Blue Weeping Yucca.  This plant has really turned into a show stopper, in my opinion.  I did take some time to cut back the solar garden, cutting down the dead Obedient plant and pulling up those that were encroaching on other plants.  Cut back the Bee Balm and grasses as well.

Nicely trimmed up, just waiting to grow!

The two Western Rough Golden Rods I planted last year are looking withered,
but all around it, small green leaves have popped up that look like they might be new golden rods.  I guess they established enough last year to spread by rhizomes.  I am somewhat fearful seeing how quickly this plant has spread in just a few months, but everything I read says that they are wonderful for native insects... And fortunately they are all by themselves, mostly.

The Twist of Lime Abelia is looking really pretty, as one of the fresh green colors in the front garden. It has not grown much, but I wouldn't really expect it to in its first few months :)

Birds seen in the yard this week:  We saw our first ever Eastern Blue Birds.  The pair showed up while I was doing the Annual Backyard Bird count.  It hung around in the Chinaberry; the female ate sumac seeds, and the male came twice to take a sip from the fountain.  And then they flew off.  Hopefully they will remember our home as a place to return to :)

Sunday, October 10, 2021

My new water garden

 My mom and I always connected through gardening.  

Even in her foggiest hours, she could remember the names of plants and the calls of birds.  

She always wanted me to put in a water garden, but the 2 feet of limestone and months of drought always daunted me. 

Finally last year, the boys and I started digging. Unfortunately, she passed before she could see the finished product, but every morning I sit and enjoy the pond and think of her.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

American Beautyberry Nature Journal

When the berries on this gorgeous plant start to darken, you know summer's intense heat only has a bit more time to go!

This is one of the most draught tolerant, no hassle plants I own.  After a long number of incredibly hot days with no water, it will start to wilt, but give it some water and it pops right back up again!

I learned today that its leaves contain three chemicals (callicarpenal, intermedeol and spathulenol) which repel mosquitos (link).  Crush the leaves up, and place them around you to naturally be mosquito free.  

Historically, people used to crush up the leaves and put them under the harness of horses. Root tea was used for dysentery and stomach aches.  The root and berries were used for colic and as a treatment for a wide variety of common ailments. 

Deer are apparently very fond of the berries, and I know that chickens are as well. 

These beauty berries all died back during the 5 day freeze this winter, but have come back as strong and lush as previously!

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