Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fall flowers spring forth!

Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by Gail at clay and limestone, gives me the opportunity to showcase a few blooms on the hill today. Thanks to September rains, we do have some wildflowers in bloom.

All the wildflowers I found today have very small flowers. None are showy, except perhaps in masses. These are the hardy survivors. They have persevered through the heat and through the drought.  Now, in their quiet, understated fashion, they lend subdued color to the fall season.

One of our favorite fall wildflowers has poked its blooms above the mulch – the wood-sorrel (Oxalis drummondii).  This beauty likes dry or moist soil, grows in sun or part shade, and forms small colonies in open grassy areas, open woodlands, and brushy areas on calcareous or sandy soils. It is native to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  Its leaves resemble clover, and the flowers fold down at dusk and in cloudy weather. While its color is bright, its habit and size mean one must look closely to find it among dried grasses and leaf litter.

White heliotrope is an understory plant here to the broomweed
Of course, the white heliotrope (Heliotropium tenellum) continues to bloom, as it has for most of the summer.

The broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides) has begun blooming. These are about three feet tall, with a bushy habit. These are not at all specific to Texas, but are plentiful here. According to Wildflowers of Texas (Ajilvsgi), early settlers tied the plants to sticks and used them as brooms. Hmm, sounds like a fun thing to try with my daughter . . . 

I also found a mystery flower. The plant is small, with insignificant flowers. Upon closer inspection, and with the use of a camera, one discovers the beauty of those insignificant flowers, which feature sky blue anthers. I cannot find it in my books, so if anyone has a clue what this is – share it with me!

Favorite spot in the garden:

Everything across the front of this bed is blooming at one time! (Don’t look at the stuff behind, none of which is blooming.) From left to right, Gomphrena globosa ‘Fireworks’, remains of some oxblood lily blooms (Rhodophiala bifida), white and purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis), bachelor buttons (Gomphrena globosa), and some stray purple morning glories and tropical sages (Salvia coccinea).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Oxblood lilies arise

Hear ye, hear ye, the first rain of fall has . . . fallen. After that first rain (in late August or September) the loveliest thing happens in my garden – the oxblood lilies arise from the mud! Of course the rain lilies bloom, also – though sparsely this time, perhaps due to tough summer conditions.

Inspired by these lovelies, I chose to write a lily post. Perhaps I could wax poetic about the graceful, nodding flowers atop long slender stalks, and refer to lily lore – such as how lilies have symbolized “purity, innocence and goodness” (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 18, 1988) from the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and continuing to this day in Christianity. Perhaps I would mention famous people named Lily, though I could only come up with Lily Tomlin. I could trot out famous expressions, such as “gilding the lily.”

I googled oxblood lilies, to begin learning about this beautiful flower, and made a crushing discovery.

Oxblood lilies are not lilies. (Rain lilies are, however.)

What cruel trick is this? This derails the whole theme of my post! Who can I complain to? Who is responsible for this travesty in plant taxonomy!

Oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida), also called schoolhouse lilies, are members of the Amaryllis family.  According to The Southern Bulb Company, German settlers introduced this Argentinean native to central Texas.

My mother-in-law dug these bulbs from the front yard of her grandparents’ house, and years later passed some along to me. Her grandparents, Emil and Laura Brune, ran Pearfield Nursery in Colorado County. Laura’s father, German immigrant J.F. Leyendecker, established Pearfield in 1876.  According to my mother-in-law, Peter Heinrich Oberwetter, a German Texan who studied bulbs, introduced oxblood lilies to Texas about 1900.

“Whether or not J.F. Leyendecker had them, I can't say for sure, but Grandma always had them,” says Mary Anne. “They used to line her front walk, which is why I planted mine out in the front.”
This group of lilies is by my front step.

I love how these lilies surprise me each fall. After they bloom, the foliage grows during the winter, and then dies back with the heat. By the time they bloom in the fall, I have forgotten they even exist. These babies are tough - drought tolerant, soil tolerant, preferring part shade to full sun. Apparently they don’t require dividing, but can be after the foliage dies back. The blooms proliferate over the years.

This is probably an evening star rain lily (Cooperia 
drummondii). You may remember my earlier post
about rain lily identification issues.

They did not bloom at all during last year’s drought. Perhaps a gardener could be forgiven for thinking they had died.  But the fall rain resurrected them, and they are more beautiful this year than ever before.

Here’s to oxblood not-lilies!

Favorite spot in the garden:

See above!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Full disclosure ahead . . .

We bloggers have the luxury of showing the best points of our garden on any given day. A reader might think that my garden looks great year round, if she were to judge by blog pictures alone. 

Inspired by the need for full disclosures during this heated political season, I will offer full disclosure of my garden during this heated gardening season.

My lawn!

Wonderful pomegranate (Punica 
granatum 'Wonderful') - yes, I've watered it.
Tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) - not irrigated.

As I bare my garden, let me enumerate the gardening conditions.

Artemisia (Artemisia 'Powis Castle" and
Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides) - poor babies!

One:  Most of my yard is in full sun. Related to that, it’s been in the upper 90s for most of the last two months.

Two:  Our water comes from a well, so watering plants is low on the priority list. I do water; however, it is done on an emergency basis.  As in, “Yikes, that’s about to bite the dust!!” Our last good rain was almost two months ago.

Emaciated giant spineless prickly pear.
Three:  Central Texas.

Oh, you want more on that last one? Here in Hays County, we subsist from drought to flood and back to drought again. The plants had better be able to live with that cycle. As you can see on the right, we are in moderate drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and we just turned red on the Texas A&M drought monitor (which measures forest fire potential).

The weathermen are forecasting rain for the next few days.  My little plants surely need it, as you can see.

Favorite spot in the garden:

Well, I’ve already told you how the garden looks. So my favorite spot today is a hardscape area. In an effort to spiff up the front entry, I bought some tumbled glass and tumbled it among the paving stones already in place. I love it and plan to obtain more. The grass is native volunteer, suffering from the heat like everything else.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

You just can't rush these things . . .

This weekend, thanks to my husband, we finished a long-term project.

Several years ago, Dan bought a fountain pump and peripheral equipment for my birthday. However, my original plan for its placement required still more peripheral equipment – a longer cord. Six months passed before I obtained said cord.

Before . . .
Now the job had turned into a big, complicated electrical one. These types of jobs require lots of planning, perhaps an environmental study or permit.  Maybe it would require the blessing of a uniformed officer of the electrical code.

Six more months went by, with the equipment residing on the laundry room counter.

Then came a Eureka moment:  I should put a pond right outside my living room window in a bed still to be developed! This would be much closer to the house, ergo closer to the electrical outlet thereby simplifying the job.  I rushed out to buy the pond, lugged it home and set it in place.

Six months passed. The pond collected water from roof run-off and became home to some minnows, dead bugs, an occasional waterlogged toad and green pond sediment.

Look, I even used tools!
In early spring, something moved inside my soul. I knew it was time for the next step in this project. My husband finished moving rocks. I moved dirt and plants to surround the pond. Now, it was a flowerbed! A flowerbed with a pond! Maybe now . . .

No. Six more months elapsed. The plants grew, the minnows swam, but alas, the sound of tinkling water did not fill the air.

Sometime during this period, I saw a cool idea on Pam Penick's Digging. She had visited another gardener and seen her fountain, and then copied the idea for her own garden. These two gardeners had rigged a fountain to run water through a hose bib. I found a discarded hose bib and decided to follow in their footsteps (the sincerest form of flattery, right?).

Labor Day weekend arrived. While discussing what projects we could undertake, I suggested that perhaps my dear husband could get the fountain up and running. I pulled up Pam’s page to show him how her husband had managed this engineering feat.

My husband hemmed and hawed, then struck out for the hardware store. Like Pam and Cat, he bought metal plumbing pipe and elbow joints. He assembled the pieces of pipe and set the unit in a one-gallon plastic plant pot, then mixed some concrete and poured it in. The bottom of the pipe stuck out the side of the pot/concrete. When the concrete was dry, he cut off the pot, connected plastic tubing from the pump to the bottom of the pipe, and set all in the pond. He did a little hocus pocus electrical work, and then plugged in the whole apparatus. Water began splashing gaily into the pond! Hurrah!

This little fella was in the
pot I moved - the first new
resident of our revamped pond!

I placed a sad little water plant from the other pond beside the concrete block – I’m hoping the cooler water and shade will provide it a better home. Four big beautiful goldfish now populate this more upscale pond.  

Now we are eager for cooler weather so we can open the windows and hear the soothing sound of water splashing right outside.

. . . and after! The bed is home to Turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii),
heart-leaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) and a white potato vine (Solanum jasminoides).