Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Point of view - September edition

I looked at the calendar today and realized that September was ending and I had failed to give you my monthly "point of view" shots. I've been doing this series since January, with the exception of June when I was out of town, by pointing my camera in the same direction from basically the same spot each month, just to document how the garden changes through the year.

To see the views from previous months, just click on the links:






June (skipped)



And finally, here's what September looks like.

 Things still look fairly green here at the end of September.

 Just a slightly different angle, looking straight down the path.

 And walking a little ways down the path. By this time next month the Copper Canyon daisy on the left should be in bloom.

 A little farther down the path, you can see that the Hamelia patens in the distance is still in full bloom and that there are a few leaves on the ground that have fallen from the sycamore tree on the right.

Pointing the camera toward the right, you can see that the flame acanthus hedge has completely regenerated from the shearing I gave it a couple of months ago and it is in full bloom again. The lemon grass dominates the plantings by the little pond, and the leaves of the magnolia tree and the redbud tree obscure the view of the house.

Walking closer to the patio, you can see the Hamelia more clearly and also that the 'Tropicannas' are still in bloom.

The leaves on the deciduous trees are beginning to turn yellow and brown and a few have fallen. We usually don't get intense fall colors here. We just look up one day and the leaves have turned brown and fallen to the ground.

The next few weeks will see more noticeable changes in the garden as autumn's grip becomes firmer and as we get ready for what passes for winter here.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dude, where are my naked ladies?

September always surprises me with its unexpected blooms. The oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida), for example. I tend to forget about their existence throughout at least ten months of the year. But then August breathes its last, the calendar leaf turns over to September, and one day I look up and there they are! Blooming their little hearts out.

The oxbloods have continued to bloom profusely throughout the month, but as I was gazing at them earlier this week, it occurred to me that there was something that I was missing. Something I had forgotten in my life or in my garden.

Then, suddenly, it hit me. Where are my naked ladies?

I rushed to the bed where the Lycoris radiata live. You may call them "surprise lilies," "red spider lilies," "resurrection lilies," or even "hurricane lilies," but for me they will always be "naked ladies." That was the evocative name by which I first learned about them and it's the one that sticks with me.

  Some of my naked ladies photographed in September, 2012.

These members of the amaryllis family, native to China, send their bloom stalks up before the leaves develop, thus they are naked. Here, those blooms normally appear as if by magic in early September, often in response to heavy rains. 

Well, we haven't had too many heavy rains this year, but then we didn't have a whole lot of rain last year either but my naked ladies bloomed beautifully. This year, not so much. Not a peep from them, not a single blossom.

This is not the first year that I've had a naked lady failure. In fact, in recent years, failure has been more the norm. I was a bit surprised when they bloomed so prolifically last year. But that spoiled me and I was hoping for a repeat performance this year. Here we are almost at the end of September, though, and I have to concede that it probably just isn't going to happen.

Oh, well, just like with the Astros, it'll be "wait'll next year and hope."     

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Landscaping with Native Texas Plants by George Oxford Miller: A review

(Reposted from The Nature of Things.)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was shopping at Lowe's the other day when I happened to spy this book on a rack near the garden gloves that I was trying on. The title was appealing so I picked it up and thumbed through it and then dropped it in my shopping basket. One more success for the art of product placement. One more impulse buy.

As impulse buys go, this turned out to be quite a useful one. I'm always looking for more information to help me with the establishment and improvement of my Southeast Texas habitat garden, and this book is quite chock full of such information.

The author, George Oxford Miller, is an environmental photojournalist and the book features his pictures of the plants which he discusses in the text. There is an amazing variety of them - wildflowers, shrubs, trees, vines, cacti, and groundcovers. These are all native plants that are adapted to the ecosystems where they thrive, and, thus, a gardener within one of those ecosystems can be pretty well assured that the recommended plant is going to do well for him or her. There are few things more deflating to a gardener than placing a beautiful, healthy plant in the garden only to watch it decline and wither. Not much chance of that with these tough plants.

The trend toward using native plants in landscaping has been one of the more heartening occurrences in gardening practices in recent years. It is easy to understand their appeal. Native plants meet many of the needs of the home gardener. They can provide year-round beauty with virtually no maintenance. Moreover, using native plants contributes to the repair of the natural ecosystem and makes our gardens a more integrated part of the environment.

The vast diversity and spectacular array of native plants in Texas provides species that can combine ornamental qualities, beauty, adaptability, growth habit, and low maintenance for the maximum value to the landscape. That diversity is very much on display in this book in which the author provides in-depth plant profiles that describe the habitat requirements of the each plant and help the gardener select the ones that meet his/her needs.

In an early section of the book, George Miller provides drawings which illustrate Texas' landscape zones. These illustrations include information about the mean annual precipitation in the various zones, as well as the cold hardiness of the area.

There is also a map which shows the ten vegetative zones of the state and the descriptions of those zones detail the prime geological features and the type of vegetation that is native to them.

Overall, I found the book well-written, devoid of jargon, and presented in a way that was very practical and useful to me as a gardener. In addition, the pictures of and descriptive text about the native plants will be helpful in clearing up questions of identification of plants. I do have useful field guides, but many species are very similar to each other and sometimes it helps to have just one more perspective from one more picture.

So, this is not one of my impulse buys that is destined to be thrown out with next week's trash. This one is a keeper.  

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

This week in the garden - #78

Rain! Lovely rain at last.

Not only have we had rain today but it looks like we have a rainy weekend ahead of us. As far as I am concerned, that is the perfect kind of weekend for this time.

And, to make matters even more perfect, in addition to looking like a wet weekend ahead, it is the weekend when we finally get to say a formal goodbye to summer, for on Sunday afternoon at 3:44 P.M. Central Time, the Autumnal Equinox occurs and fall will have officially arrived.

Earlier this week, Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, we got to enjoy the beautiful Harvest Moon, which is the full moon that occurs closest to the time of the Autumnal Equinox.

So, all in all, we've had several days of happy events in the garden this week, even as the plants themselves begin to wind down and show the effects of the stress of the long, hot, and dry summer.


One of my Esperanzas, the one planted next to the inner southwest corner of the house, has grown to gigantic proportions this summer and it is full of its yellow bell blooms.

 Butterflies have been a little more apparent in the garden this week. I've seen a couple of migrating Monarchs and a couple of Pipevine Swallowtails, as well as the usual Gulf Fritillaries. And then there was this Giant Swallowtail visiting the Texas 'Silverado' sage. There were also lots of the smaller butterflies, like skippers, around.

 This celosia has been a consistent bloomer all summer.

The cardinal flowers have had buds for quite some time but finally this week some of those buds started opening.

But my favorite blooms of the week came from the butterfly gingers. They are fragile and fragrant and the individual flowers don't last for long, but while they last, they are glorious.

I hope your week in the garden has gone well and that your weekend will be everything you hope for.

Happy gardening and happy autumn!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Yard Crashers" comes to town

Do you watch the show "Yard Crashers" on HGTV? I confess I've never actually seen it because I swore off watching shows like it some time ago. You know the type - the cameras and crew, featuring at least one hunky landscaper, descend on a yard that looks like a total disaster area and overnight, or over a period of a few days, they turn it into a dreamscape, a garden that lives up to all the owner's most dearly held garden fantasies.

Now, goodness knows, my garden could surely use some dreamscaping, so even though I'm not a fan of such shows, when the September newsletter from The Arbor Gate announced that the show was coming to town and would be at their nursery today, I briefly considered attending. They were going to select one lucky customer to receive one of their patented garden makeovers. Maybe I would get lucky. Stranger things have been known to happen.

The "Yard Crashers" hunk.

Then I looked again at the date they would be there and realized that I had to be in Houston at that time. So much for that short-lived fantasy.

This morning as we went into town, we traveled down FM 2920 which runs by The Arbor Gate, and it quickly became apparent that I was probably the only owner of a garden in the area who hadn't shown up for the "Yard Crashers" event. It was still early but already the nursery's two parking lots had overflowed and cars were parked on either side of the road for at least a mile along the way. Who knows how far the line of cars reached by the time the event was under way? Obviously, the show had plenty of customers to choose from to select the lucky winner of their makeover.

I assume that at some point in the future that local garden and gardener will be featured on one of their episodes. If I know about it in advance, I might even break down and watch it. And as I watch it, I can only dream about what might have been if only I had been able to present the sad tale of my garden to the judges. I'm sure I could have been a winner.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2013

September Bloom Day. One week away from the beginning of autumn. Let's see some of the things blooming in my Southeastern Texas garden here in mid-September.

 Crape myrtles, of course - the queen of the summer southern garden.

Nearby, the 'Coral Nymph' salvia has also been a faithful summer bloomer.

 As has its cousin, 'Mystic Spires.'

 This little red ruellia has done well for me.

And, of course, 'Katie' ruellia is downright incorrigible, which makes some gardeners hate it, but I quite like it.

 Speaking of incorrigible, Turk's Cap blooms twelve months of the year in my garden.

 This "volunteer" wildflower is either marsh fleabane or camphor weed - I think. I'm leaning toward marsh fleabane.

 Justicia 'Orange Flame' has been in bloom for a long time and continues to put out a fresh blossom or two each week.

 The little Blackfoot daisies are not at their best just now but they continue to give me blooms.

A single bloom from the shrimp plant. I find these blooms fascinating and hummingbirds love them.

 The Lobelia 'Cardinal Flower' is almost blooming - close enough to count for Bloom Day.

 Some of the roses, such as this old 'Caldwell Pink,' are beginning their autumn flush of blooms.

 'Graham Thomas' is always at his best in autumn.

 I have several varieties of lantana in my garden and they are all blooming now. We'll let this golden yellow one stand in for them all.

 The oxblood lilies, or schoolhouse lilies, continue their September bloom.

 And the datura continues to attract the nighttime pollinators with its beautifully scented blossoms.

 The 'Tropicannas' have bloomed prolifically for me this summer and they continue to do so.

But the star of my garden this summer has to be Cape Plumbago, sometimes called Blue Plumbago. My plants have been in bloom without a break since spring and, here in mid-September, they continue to be covered in these lovely blue, butterfly-attracting blossoms.

It's still quite warm in my garden, but the temperatures are moderating - low 90s Fahrenheit instead of high 90s - and in just one week my favorite season of the year begins. Hold on - autumn is coming!

Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for again hosting Bloom Day for us. Thank you for visiting my garden this month and happy gardening!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More about beautyberries

(Reposted from The Nature of Things.)

The berries which give beautyberry its name, photographed in my garden this week.

Beautyberry is well-named. Those shiny berries that develop in late summer and early fall on the 3-5 foot tall shrubs are indeed very attractive, both to humans and to birds which love to feast on them.

In fact, I am sure that all the purple-berried beautyberries in my yard were planted by birds - birds who either pooped out the seeds from the berries or dropped them in flight. I do have several of these native shrubs from the verbena family, because, generally, if possible, I just leave them alone and let them grow where they are planted.

Historically, Native Americans made a tea from the leaves and roots of American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), sometimes called French mulberry, which they used for sweat baths for rheumatism, fevers, and malaria. A root tea was used for dysentery and stomach aches. Root and berry teas were used for colic.

The plant is very valuable in a native plant landscape because it attracts birds and butterflies. In areas where deer are a nuisance, unfortunately, it also attracts them.

For gardeners looking for a carefree shrub to add to their gardens, this could be the answer to their dreams. Once established, it requires virtually no maintenance. The only thing I ever do for mine is to prune them back when they get too big for their space. They can be pruned severely before new growth starts in the spring to control the plant's size, and they can be pruned throughout the growing season if they need to be shaped or the size further controlled.

In addition to the more familiar purple-berried plant, there is a white-berried variety which I also have in my garden. The white berries, for whatever reason, seem to be even more attractive to the birds in my yard. They will strip this shrub of its berries before moving on to the purple berries.

The shrubs are deciduous and so are not especially attractive in winter and sometimes during prolonged droughts, as we are prone to have in Texas, they will lose some leaves and the fruit may not develop properly. But, in my backyard, for three seasons of the year, they are an attractive and valuable addition to my habitat garden.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

This week in the garden - #77

Sometimes you just have to get away from the garden for a bit, and this week I did that. On Wednesday, we took the day off and traveled to Brazos Bend State Park, one of my favorite day trips for birding.

We found the water in the lakes at the park to be quite low, but, after all, we are in the midst of a drought. That drought did not seem to have affected the vegetation though. Things were lush and overgrown. The lakes were covered in lily pads, duckweed, and other water plants. The live oak trees, as always, were covered in Spanish moss. Birds were not as plentiful as they sometimes are, but the park was teeming with life, both animal and vegetable.

The best thing was, since school had just started and summer vacations were over, we had the park almost to ourselves. It was very quiet.  I think we only saw five other visitors while we were there. This in a place that is usually crowded with people.

Both hubby and I carried cameras and we took lots of pictures, so instead of taking you on a walk through my garden this week, here is a walk through the park.

If you need a day's vacation from your garden, I highly recommend Brazos Bend State Park.

Happy gardening!