Bloom Day, August 2014

Celebrating August blooms,  I’m thanking Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this fun flower meme.   With sporadic rains and relatively mild temperatures this summer, there are fewer burnt-toast blossoms in Austin’s August.

My Mexican Orchid Tree, Bauhinia mexicana, has bloomed on and off all summer.

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Elegant, snowy blossoms cool a shady spot on hot Texas afternoons. These flowers are  a favorite of Black Swallowtail Butterflies.

In stark contrast with the white Mexican Orchid, but also favored by butterflies, is the Pride of BarbadosCaesalpinia pulcherrima.  Tropical-hot orange and yellow,

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… these drama queens thrive in the heat.

Royal SageSalvia guaranitica, blooms stunningly in early and mid-spring, but not as commonly though summer.

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This year though,  a smattering of midnight blue gorgeousness has graced the two royal specimens in my gardens.

With multiple flowers opening everyday, the Lemon Rose MallowHibiscus calyphyllus dances through August.

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Flouncing her petals open in the mornings, sashaying during afternoon breezes and bowing to heat at the end of the day, this mallow is a consummate performer.

The  blooms of Coral VineAntigonon leptopus, form on lacy loops along climbing tendrils.

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I’ll replace its trellis next winter when this tropical, but hardy-for-the-Austin area herbaceous perennial freezes to the ground.

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The trellis is a bit wonky, even for me.  The honeybees and I eagerly await the apex of Coral Vine’s blossoming period–soon, very soon!!

A close-up of a coral  Autumn SageSalvia greggii, flower,

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…it belongs to a woody shrub native to Texas which produces a variety of colors.  I like this soft coral pink–it’s the best blooming salvia in my gardens this year.

The bright red Martha Gonzales Rose, Rosa ‘Martha Gonzales’, flowers throughout summer.

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I wish mine received a little more sun–it would bloom even more.  This is a terrifically tough antique rose for Central Texas.

The Mexican HoneysuckleJusticia spicigera, returned full-force after our hard winter.

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It’s orange clusters await early fall visits by butterflies and the occasional hummingbird.

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The shrub is covered in tubular goodness now and that’s likely to continue into the fall months.

This pairing of pink and blue is too sweet!

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The creeping groundcover, Leadwort Plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, produces sky blue florets,

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…which beautifully complement the small periscope blooms atop the stems of Pink Skullcap, Scutellaria suffrutescens.

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And still screaming: Summer! Summer! Summer!–is the sunflower de jour.

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Or rather, sunflower de l’ete.

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While new flowers open daily,

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…those spent blossoms that have gone to seed are providing yummy munchies for the local finches.

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Happy finch!

Visit May Dreams Gardens for more blooming beauties this Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

Foliage Follow-up, June 2014

As The Warm settles in for the duration here in Austin, Texas, interesting and lush foliage positions well alongside flowers in our early summer gardens.

Yes, summer in Texas is hot.  But here in Texas reside tough, tough plants that shrug off the heat and the dry and are magnificent to behold.  One such is the Retama, Parkinsonia aculeata.  Retama is a small, airy tree which grows along highways receiving no care and yet is stunning: in form, bloom and  foliage.

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The leaves are tiny, delicate and bright green. They form on a long leaf stalk and are paired opposite one another.

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The Retama is a Texas beauty.  I’m glad it graces my garden.

The pairing of a not-in-bloom Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata and Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, provides lots of lushness.

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The Mexican Orchid TreeBauhinia mexicana, returned after our cold winter.  It hasn’t bloomed yet, but the leaves on this little tree have always reminded me of ungulate hooves.

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Really, how often does one have an excuse to use that word??  Ungulate

The American Agave, Agave americana, in the container  provides a striking contrast with the Cast Iron Plant, Aspidistra elatior.

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If you look closely at the photo, top right, you can see The Husband’s bicycle, wheel a whirl, as he pedals to work. That’s a brave man in Austin’s traffic.

The unfurling of new Agave growth.

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Beautiful.

The Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima, is lovely with the YarrowAchillea millefolium, in the background.

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Both plants have delicate-looking foliage, but are hardy choices for our challenging soil and climate.

Another look at the Yarrow,  a summertime favorite of mine.

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I love this shot of the Sparkler SedgeCarex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’, behind (and above!) the Uruguayan Firecracker Plant, Dicliptera suberecta.

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The spiky, variegated ‘Sparkler’ looms over the soft, gray-green Firecracker Plant–they are opposite in  the foliage spectrum, but a nice combination.  The Firecracker doesn’t  bloom often, though it’s pretty when it happens.  I chose this plant primarily for its lovely foliage.  The ‘Sparkler’ is relatively new for me and so far, I love it.  It was evergreen during the winter and seems like a winner for summer as well.

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting this festival of June foliage!

 

 

Fire!

In late February 2013, on a windy, dry Monday afternoon, I walked into my backyard to assess damage from the gales of the day.  I noticed the fence bordering the north side of my property pulled out from the four-by-four post in the ground and  in danger of falling.  As I contemplated repairing the fence, I was hearing a tssst, tssst, tssst sound.  I finally  realized that a neighbor’s large elm tree branch was being blown against the live electric wires over the boundary of my northern neighbor’s back property line.  Each time the branch hit the wire, there were sparks, a small fire which almost immediately blew out, and smoke.  I immediately called 911 and was transferred to the Austin Fire Department.  Because there were other fires that afternoon, as well as downed electric wires, the dispatcher told me that a crew would be there as soon as possible, but not immediately.  I nervously observed the increasingly scorched branch for the next hour.  Within that hour, a group of firefighters arrived and viewed the branch, but by that time, the branch had apparently burned through and fallen to the ground. It probably fell onto the neighbor’s property directly behind my north-most neighbor.  The firefighters left–I assumed they were going to check out property where the limb most likely landed, but didn’t (and don’t) know that.

Not long afterward, another neighbor called me and asked what was “going on” in my backyard.  I walked to my back door and was shocked to see the backyard filled with smoke, flames whipping along the fence line.  I called 911 and reported the fire.  In those few minutes, as I watched the fire spread, not only along the fence, but into a garden IN my backyard, all I could think of was the devastating 2011 fire in Bastrop, Texas. For the first time in my life, I witnessed how quickly fire spreads and I feared that if the fire fighters couldn’t contain it, the wind would spread the flames throughout my property and the entire neighborhood.  My (much calmer than I)  teenage son helped me leash the dog, then he grabbed my arm and ushered me out of the house, to the front garden.  There was still no fire truck screaming to my house, so I called 911 again.  The dispatcher insisted that there was a fire truck at the address of the fire.  I looked into my backyard and saw that firefighters were fighting the fire from the house directly behind mine. As it was late afternoon when the fire started, there were numerous calls about the fire. Eventually, another truck came to my house and firefighters tramped through with a long hose and were able to extinguish  the fire.   Later that evening, a captain told us that the fire department was shutting off electricity for the entire area because the tree was “electrified” and they had to wait for a City of Austin tree trimming crew to prune the offending tree far from the wires.  As the crews were also overloaded with damaged trees, our electricity would be off until the crews arrived.  By 2 am, our electricity was back on and the tree no longer a danger.

This is how my little garden was left:

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The Feline Fire Inspection Crew, checking out the damage:

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What a mess!  But, my OCGD (Obsessive Compulsive Gardening Disorder) kicked in at full force and I got to work re-vamping that area over the next few weeks.  Truthfully, the garden needed updating. It had always been a very shady garden (in the shade of both a Red Oak and  Eastern Sycamore), but we drastically pruned the Sycamore when we installed solar panels in November 2012.  The garden would now receive more western sun and I realized before the fire happened that I could add more sun-loving plants.  Yippy!  Who doesn’t love  a challenge?  So, the fire damage proved the impetus of change.

My poor Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides),  planted along the ugly chain link fence, was ruined.

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I long regretted that we hadn’t remove that nasty fence.  It spans the entire length of my property at the back, abutting two different neighbors’ back yards.  I’ve always had a  congenial relationship with one of the neighbors in particular and never wanted to limit that physical connection.  So I planted shorter screen plants along the fence line to obscure the chain link monstrosity.  The Star Jasmine vines planted in this area matured very slowly and this  this was the year that the vines would finally cover the fence.  However, fire and heat wrecked havoc and I was left with the chain link exposed, as well as the unsightly back neighbor’s fire damaged wood fence.  I hired a fence builder to replace the wind/fire damaged northern section and add a corner where the original wood fence and the chain link fence meet.

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Then, The Nice Husband build a lattice screen in front of the chain link fence.  It is opposite  another screen he’d built earlier to separate the garden from the compost area. The space now evokes an enclosed, secret garden.  And, the screen hides (not completely, though) the unattractive chain link and fire damaged wood fence that the neighbor still has not replaced. Later, I  planted two more Star Jasmine vines to trail up the lattice. Remarkably, in late summer, I noticed that at either end of the lattice screen, two of the original Star Jasmine vines reappeared–I was amazed that they returned from the roots so long after the fire.

My Mexican Orchid Tree (Bauhinia mexicana) also suffered heat and some direct fire damage:

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While most other plants returned quickly, it was late spring before the Orchid Tree grew from its roots.

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I don’t have photos of this past growing season, but the Orchid Tree enjoyed several bloom cycles.

The heat damage to the Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) occurred  primarily on the right side of the tree.

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Eventually, that side of the tree defoliated, though it  recovered and there is new growth.

I had pruned the Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) to the ground prior to the fire, but the early new growth was damaged.

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I re-laid my soaker hoses, composted and mulched, plus we experienced good rainfall, so they recovered nicely.

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The Shoshana’s Iris wasn’t damaged by the fire, but were on the receiving end of firefighter boots,

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and didn’t bloom in the spring.  They have recovered well and I hope to enjoy blooms this spring.

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I planted a Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) on the new corner fence, flanked by four Goldeneye (Viguiera dentata) and they grew and bloomed magnificently.  So much so, that I’ve recently removed two of the Goldeneye–they  grow too large for that area.  I also added some Mexican Feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), White Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea) and some Crinum Lily. By early summer, this is what the fire garden looked like:

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For now, with the “cold” winter we’ve had, the garden is barren, except for the evergreens.

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The discoloration between the new and old fence sections annoys me.  I added bottles across the top of the lattice screen, in the hopes of distracting from the fire damaged neighbor’s fence and the little bit of the chain link that is visible.  Also, as I age, kitsch  appeals to me.

Still, I’m grateful that our damage was  minor, appreciative for the quick response of the Austin Fire Department and glad to have successfully re-gardened this area.