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Showing posts from 2019

The Welcome Mat

Each year as the Monarchs funnel through Central Texas on their way to Mexico's oyamel forests for the winter, I hope they see my welcome mat.  It's a small multi-colored spot in the midst of the green  suburban lawns and brown pastures surrounding me.  Nectar producing plants are planted in clumps at least 3 feet wide to increase visibility for my anticipated guests, and offered in a variety of colors to appeal to many eyes - both single and compound.
At the beginning of this 2019 fall migration, the mistflowers were the big draw.  They create a long early swath of blue in the front yard that gives way beyond the Turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) to a tall blue mistflower that threatens to climb the six foot tall fence in the back.  The blue in front is Gregg's blue (Conoclinium greggii) and the tall one remains a mystery that was sold to me as "fragrant mistflower".  Just as they fade, the shrubby boneset (Eupatorium havanense) fires up on the opposite sid…

Gardening in Air Soup

This morning I stepped outside and was met with a solid wall of hot air, stifling enough to convince me to go right back inside to complain about it.  Motivated by the sight of a gasping oak leaf hydrangea, a bit later I headed out again.  Honestly the air was so thick, I wondered why no Texan had yet developed something like diving apparatus to allow us to breathe in the summer heat.  Oh right, I remember, it's called air conditioning, but I've yet to figure out how to take it outside with me.
This is summer gardening in Central Texas - a little time snatched from the crack of dawn,  short mid-day forays faster than an anole's tongue out and back again,  then a final exhaustive push to finish in the afternoon when the heat has built up but you do it anyway before collapsing in a soggy heap.  It's when 90 degrees is considered a cold front.
So you've probably already figured out there won't be any pictures of cheerful, healthy posies in this post.  There IS a …

The Long View

When I first started gardening, it was great fun seeing what would or wouldn't grow.  I collected cacti and scented geraniums (pelargoniums), and had a wide assortment of culinary herbs.   Little forethought went into any design or view of the yard as a whole, and you would have been hard pressed to call it a garden.  Playin' outside is exactly what I've always done, with little attention paid to the longer view of gardening - design.
Gaining proficiency in propagation and some skill in keeping plants alive did not lend cohesion to my chaos.  Local garden centers never talked about design but were always happy to feed my addiction to the new and unusual.  Being a master gardener put me in the company of others who shared my fascination, but who also rarely if ever discussed design.  So I gathered more plants but it's fair to say my yard looked MUCH better in close ups.   Chaos continued to reign. A gardening friend calls it "cramscaping".
It's not until I …

A Plant with Purple Leaves

There are a couple of groups on Facebook where I lurk and occasionally dip my opinion into the fray.  They're places where people with knowledge of unbelievable scope can be observed, deftly identifying this obscure native plant or that scraggly left-behind orphan found in the backyard of a newly purchased home.  
One such backyard orphan recently was posted in need of identification.   If it were a native plant, two people on "Texas Flora" would've named it within minutes.  Even the taxonomy of those impossible grasses is typically put to rest in seconds.  Not so with this poor guy. 



 At first I was fairly certain it was one of the purple leafed basils, maybe 'African Blue'.  It's fairly impossible to find it still thriving in a Texas January, but two plants in my yard are still hanging in there.  They even look like they'll come back if we don't have a deep freeze before spring.  BTW, this basil has one heck of a botanical moniker - Ocimum kili…