Thursday, November 24, 2011

With Thanksgiving

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before Him with thanksgiving
and extol Him with music and song.

  For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods. 

 In His hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to Him. 

The sea is His, for He made it,
and His hands formed the dry land. 

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker

Psalm 95:1-6

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours...
Toni :-)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Survivor: Texas (Garden Edition)

Now that the record-breaking summer of 2011 is safely behind us, I got to thinking....if gardening during a Texas summer were a TV reality show, could you bear to watch?   Oh, there would be plenty of drama, that's for sure, with lots of whining and crying and pouting.  Sadly, though, there wouldn't be much singing or dancing.  In fact, most episodes would seem rather dry.  Everything would be in need of an Extreme Makeover, and you'd end up feeling like the Biggest Loser. But one thing you could count on is that it would be very hot and steamy.   So tune in, you may even find a new Idol and a few Survivors.

Seriously, though, the reality of a Texas summer is that it is just plain HOT.   And the Summer of 2011 was the hottest of 'em all.  Yes, Dallas/Fort Worth is now officially in the record books as the summer with the most 100-degree days.  70 days.  I finally feel vindicated for all of that whining, crying, and pouting!

1980 still holds the record for the most consecutive 100-degree days (42), but 2011 missed it by just two days and a few degrees. Hopefully that torch has been extinguished, never to be lit again.

Needless to say, this hot and dry summer episode took its toll on our gardens.   Yet in spite of it all, there are SURVIVORS.

The words “water restrictions” seem to strike fear in the heart of every gardener.    Don’t spend the next summer season battling the elements.   Turn the challenges of this summer into opportunities to make your garden better by choosing more drought-tolerant plants that have proven their worth.

Let's take a look at some of the players, marooned in the seemingly desolate locale otherwise known garden.   My “tribes” of plants faced daily endurance challenges and overcame many obstacles, yet some seemed immune to elimination.

Since I am the sole member of my garden's “Tribal Council” and “jury,” here’s a list of the plants that were star performers in my garden this summer and are deserving of my vote.

Salvias are the workhorses of my garden!

'Henry’ and ‘Augusta’ Duelberg (Salvia farinacea)
Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)
Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

  Zexmenia (Wedelia hispida) is extremely drought tolerant

'Azure Skies' Heliotrope blooms all summer and attracts bees

Purple Heart
(Tradescantia or Setcreasea pallida) 
is tough as nails!

 Ornamental grasses are must-haves!

Mexican Feathergrass (Nasella tenuissima)
Hameln Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’
Lindheimer’s Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri)
Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’ (Dwarf Maiden Grass)
Black Fountain Grass (Pennisetum ‘Moudry’)
Fountain grass ‘Karley Rose’ (Pennisetum orientale 'Karely Rose')

 'Karley Rose' beat the heat with ease!

More great plants for SUN:

Pink Skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens)
Dwarf Mexican Petunia (Katie’s Ruellia)
‘Powis Castle’ Artemisia
Mexican Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)
Lantana camara
Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
Gray Creeping Germander
Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida)
Rudbeckia ‘Triloba’
Flame Acanthus (Anisacaths wrightii)
Texas Star Hibiscus
‘Bath’s Pink’ Dianthus
Four Nerve Daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa)
Variegated Liriope ‘Silvery Sunproof’ (with afternoon shade)
Pink Rain Lily (Zephyranthes grandiflora)
Yaupon Holly
Burford Holly
‘Gulfstream,’ ‘Nana,’ and ‘Harbor Dwarf’ Nandina
Yaupon Holly tree
Crape Myrtles
Redbuds: ‘Burgundy Heart,’ ‘The Rising Sun,’ and ‘Oklahoma’
Rose of Sharon (Althea)

Lots of shady characters were star performers as well

Native Turk’s Cap
(Malvaviscus arboreus) 
attracts hummingbirds

Another native, American Beautyberry 
(Callicarpa americana), 
attracts our feathered friends

Hostas absolutely fried, but Leopard Plant (Ligularia/Farfugium) survived with no special care

African Hosta
(Drimiopsis maculata) 
is not bothered by slugs, snails, or heat

 More great plants for SHADE:

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra)
Oakleaf Hydrangea
Chocolate plant (Pseuderanthemum alatum)
Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis)
Forsythia Sage (Salvia Madrensis)
Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum)
Purple Heart (green variety)
'Tropical Giant' Spider Lily (Hymenocallis)
Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis)
Ajuga ('Giant,' 'Chocolate Chip')
Cherry Laurel

Heat Loving Annuals
Vinca (periwinkles)
Angelonia ‘Serena’ series

Blue Daze (Evolvulus glomeratus) loved the heat!

Variegated Tapioca (Manihot esculenta) was still going strong in mid-August!

Caladiums can't be beat
for a shady spot.

More great annuals for sun and shade:

Salvia coccinea (red and ‘Coral Nymph’)
Malabar Spinach (vine)
Esperanza (Tecoma stans)
‘African Blue’ Basil
Holy Basil
Lemon Verbena
Sweet Potato Vine
Perilla magilla
Hyacinth Bean Vine
Ornamental peppers
Pentas (in afternoon shade)
Begonias (shade)

Some of my plants got sent to Redemption Island.   They started out strong, but then quickly burned out when the heat was intense.   After a disappointing debut, they have redeemed themselves this fall showing some recovery now that cooler temperatures and some rains have returned.

Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’)
Summer Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Black & Blue Salvia (Salvia guaranitica )
Lamb’s Ear ‘Helen von Stein’
Wood Fern (Dryopteris)
'Texas Gold' Colubmine (Aquilegia chrysantha hinckleyana)
‘Gold Dust’ Aucuba
Autumn Joy Sedum
Knock-Out Rose 'Rosa Radrazz'

Unfortunately some plants went to Dead Man’s Island:

Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’
Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum)
‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea is on its last legs

Thankfully the list of winners is much longer than the list of losers (hence this ridiculously long post).  If any plant survived the Winter and Summer of 2011, it is a keeper in my book.  If this challenging summer (and winter) has wreaked havoc in your garden, incorporate some of these well-adapted plants into your garden. Fall is a great time to get new plantings established before we have a re-run of this season’s fiery episodes next summer.   Make some changes to your garden now and you will be rewarded next year with a garden that not only survives; it thrives!

All indications are that this drought in Texas may persist for another two years. Don't let that news make you wish you could escape to Exile Island.  A few wise choices can make a drought-tolerant and heat-loving garden a beautiful reality.

If you are still reading up to this point, you deserve some bonus points!   Here is a list of some other survivors recommended by a few of my garden friends:

Duranta erecta (Brazillian Sky Flower)
Aggie Cotton
Texas Sage (Cenizo)
Day Lilies
Thai Basil
Moss rose and purselane
Gregg’s Blue Mistflower
Fall Aster (Aster oblongifolius)
Candle Tree
Purple Coneflower
Passion Vine
Woolly Stemodia (Stemodia tomentosa)
Pidgeon Berry
Inland Sea Oats (Casmanthium latifolium)

Congratulations on surviving through the Summer of 2011 and this long post!

Toni :-)

Friday, November 11, 2011


A curious date on the calendar
Month, day, and year the same
Surely a date to remember
and one to warrant fame

A similar phenomenon occurred
One year ago it's been
October of last year
the date was Ten-Ten-Ten 

It's been 100 years
since this date has come to be
I wonder if anyone born back then
is still alive to see

The Great Blue Norther blew 
one century ago
With temps of record high that day
as well as record low

They say cesarean births will rise
and wedding bells will ring
I wonder what other milestones
this unique day will bring

The end of World War I
is recognized this day
We honor all our veterans
for the price they had to pay

So is there special significance
to this 11th of November?
Will 2011 be a year
that history will remember?

I hope wherever you garden
it's a little slice of heaven
Enjoy this momentous day
of Eleven-Eleven-Eleven

Happy 11-11-11...

Toni :-)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Regal Muhly on a Misty Morning

Last week when I looked outside early one morning I was surprised to see that I couldn't really see very far at all.   It seemed a "cloud" had descended to earth.  Fog you say?  Or was it mist?   Did you know there is a technical difference between fog and mist?

Since there are no unanswered questions anymore with the invention of Google and Wikipedia, I got my head out of the clouds and learned that "fog is distinguished from mist only by its density, as expressed in the resulting decrease in visibility."   Basically you can see farther in mist than in fog.  
"Fog is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface.  While fog is a type of a cloud, the term "fog" is typically distinguished from the more generic term "cloud" in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated locally (such as from a nearby body of water, like a lake or the ocean, or from nearby moist ground or marshes)."
 Since "moist ground" has been a little scarce this summer, let's just say it has been a very long time since I have seen fog (or mist) in these parts.   And since I did not measure the visibility, I am not technically sure whether it was fog or mist that I was seeing, but it was beautiful, nonetheless.

With the drought we have had this year, resulting in the lack of moist ground, my Pink Muhly Grass is not quite as spectacular as it has been in years past.  But on this misty/foggy morning, it had a positively ethereal beauty to it.

Muhlenbergia capillaris  'Regal Mist'

The variety of pink muhly grass that I have is called 'Regal Mist.'   Quite fitting for this misty (or foggy) morning, don't you think?

Below is a shot of the pink muhly after the mist of the morning had dissipated.

Another muhly in the mist below is Lindheimer's Muhly  
(Muhlenbergia lindheimeri)

Here's another shot of it on a drier day.

Lindheimer's Muhly grows much taller than its misty pink cousin, but it has a regal beauty all its own.   It is extremely drought tolerant and pairs nicely with salvias.

These muhly grasses are just a couple of my favorite ornamental grasses.  

Fog can also mean "a state of mental vagueness or bewilderment, a state of confusion or lack of clarity."   While I must admit I can certainly relate to that state of mind at times, I have no "fog" over ornamental grasses.   I clearly have a fondness for them.  They are so easy and have so much impact in a garden  -- lots of "bang for the buck!"  I cannot imagine my garden without them.

If you're in a fog about what to add to your garden, you might try a muhly or two.

Toni :-)