Sunday, February 28, 2010

Garden Scene

I can imagine a gardener having just put the wheelbarrow against the fence after a long day of gardening. See the shadows... There is much to be discovered in the gardens of Houston.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

So Pretty

These plants were once perfectly beautiful but wind storms have torn the ends of their leaves to shreds. Still, aren't they lovely, anyway?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Street Repair - Thank You City of Houston!

Love our new street!

Thank you, all!

It's hot work!

I'll let the images speak for themselves... at long last, we have a new surface on our street. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mossy Rock

The local television news broadcast had a piece on farmers in a nearby county the other night, saying that they could not plant their crops because the ground was too soggy. No doubt. We had an unusually dry summer; however, this winter has more than made up for the lack of precipitation in the summer months. To wit, see the moss growing on this rock. Some of the ground is so saturated that it never seems to dry out.
I really like the moss. I once heard that if you want moss to grow, just use a paint brush and some plain yogurt and paint the yogurt onto whatever you want to grow moss. This moss grew all by itself, with no help from yogurt.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Delightful Dianthus

Dianthus come in many colors. In my yard, they have survived many nights of freezing or below freezing temperatures. This photo was taken just a few days ago, as testament to their winter hardiness.

They are a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster garden of mostly evergreens and frozen-back plants.

Another dianthus plant, this one bright pink.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mysterious Destination

Imagine a gate through which you might pass and be transported to a magical garden...

See the age of the bricks, the moss growing on mortar, the iron rusting away... all leading to that mystical garden that beckons you to come this way.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Air Plant

All kinds of parasitic plants grow on trees and bushes in Houston gardens. Even when trees have lost all their leaves and look as if dead, one can see Spanish Moss hanging from the limbs. Our cold temperatures have not adversely affected these air plants that hang from the branches of large trees. Lots and lots of air plants!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Old Flagstones

These old flagstones are part of my backyard landscape. I guess they are more than fifty years old. Imagine how many people have walked over these stones. And then again imagine that many of those people who walked on these stones are no longer on this earth. Over the decades, they have cracked and broken into even smaller pieces. Like all flagstones, they have odd sizes and shapes yet construct an almost puzzle-like appearance. When the rains come, the ground cover sprouts new greenery and an occasional small yellow flower.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Volunteer with Pretty Flowers

When Hurricane Ike & an accompanying tornado blew through town, it toppled my neighbor's fence which came crashing down on an old bird bath, the remnants you see in this photo. Over the past two and a half years, the old bird bath has developed enough soil to entice a pretty weed to grow there. The plant has lovely purple flowers and long, slender green leaves. A friend of mine has a whole grouping of them in her front yard and when asked, she cannot name the plant. So, it remains a "weed."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elephant Ears

Sometimes called "Elephant Ears," these caladiums were nurtured along by me for months. I made sure they were protected from the sometimes indescriminate lawn service. Still, I was no match for the snows and below-freezing temperatures we have had this winter. Will they grow again? I wonder...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

O Pine Tree, O Pine Tree

The ubiquitous Pine Tree has seemed to grow in every place I have ever lived and they provide shelter for little critters. The pines are part of my family's heritage, as well, and my forbearers tapped pine trees in South Carolina in 1800 for turpentine used as a component of varnish for ships as well as other uses.

Some experts estimate 125 species of pine. My brother once fell out of a 40 ft. Australian pine, landed on a pipe line and didn't seem the worse for it. Although, it did scare the p-jammers out of my mother.

The squirrels like to run up and down the rough bark and compete with birds for the seeds in the bird feeder. Around here, the squirrels are relatively small and skinny, with their characteristic bushy tails. Of course they love the oaks across the street, with their rich acorns, that abound in the Houston area. Not too far from here, feral parrots glide from pine top to pine top.

My son once tossed a brick up into our pine tree to try to dislodge his football and the brick came down on his head!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The Nandina bush has been a perennial in my yards, whether Arizona, Hawaii or Texas. What a hardy little bush! Throughout the year, it goes through several stages and in the winter, it produces lovely red berries, somewhat similar to those of the pyracantha bush. The sun was hitting the plant at just the right angle to bring out some pretty colors and tones but the wind was blowing so hard, I could not get a steady photo. "Real" photographers wait for optimum conditions, which may mean they get up at 4 in the morning to catch the right light! And they will more often than not, use a tripod to avoid that inevitable minute shaking.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sweet Gum Branches

For those of you familiar with the Sweet Gum tree, you know that it produces little spike-y balls. My mother gathered a large number in her basket and brought them onto her porch to spray paint them silver and gold for Christmas tree ornaments. More recently, during a tornado, my neighbor's sweet gum tree ended up as a projectile in my yard, crashing through the glass patio louvers and landing on top of my electric lines that run from the pole into the house. I thought the branches were quite wonderful looking and gathered a few for an arrangement.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yew Tree

There are so many different kinds of yew trees that I admit I do not know which kind grows here at the side of my little patio. On the other hand, I may have mislabeled this tree. In some cultures, the yew leaves are used for medicinal purposes; however, the yew tree is toxic, so don't try this at home! In the fall, it grows beautiful gray-blue berries just about the size of a blueberry. The birds in my yard don't seem to pay much attention to it, perferring pine trees and yupon bushes; however a large hummingbird feeder hung in the tree was drained of every drop of artificial nectar without my having seen a single hummingbird.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Crepe Myrtles

Crepe Myrtles are a favorite of Houston gardeners and public works. They are found in all sorts of places from personal yards to public parks to common open areas. The trees are favored because they grow quickly and produce lovely colored blossoms ranging from white to bright red. These beauties are often planted in the medians, which adds more to the landscape than just grass and a few annuals. If you ever have a chance to see a crepe myrtle up close, be sure to run your hand along the smooth bark. It has a very human feel, almost like a bone or a very fit leg. The bark has a habit of shedding, too, and comes off in all sorts of sizes and shapes. A clever crafts person could find an artistic use for the bark, I'm sure. When the blossoms start to fall, if you are lucky enough to be near a white-blooming crepe myrtle, you could easily imagine you are standing in a gently-falling snow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Old Place and Cotton

There is a park near downtown Houston called "Sam Houston Park" and sometimes interchangeably called "Heritage Park" which covers about 10 acres. The Heritage Society does maintain a building and museum on the grounds, so the combination name is not surprising. Besides the old trees providing shade and the bucolic feel of the place, the Heritage Society has moved several old, historic Houston houses to the grounds. The oldest structure is a hand-crafted cabin with meager amenities, and outside the cabin growing in a kettle is a little cotton plant. The cabin, fewer than two hundred years ago, was considered a "plantation house" and was moved from Clear Creek to it's present site around 1973. Sam Houston Park/The Heritage Society is a great place to take out-of-town guests.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Azaleas Bloom At Last

I grew up on a desert island, so I never paid much attention to the lush plants that proliferate in the American Southeast until I went to college. That's when I first took notice of an azalea plant. They grow very well in Georgia and Tennessee, and my mother had great banks of azaleas planted around my parents' home in north Georgia. So, it was curious to me when I moved to Houston that I had azalea plants that never bloomed. Then to my surprise and delight, after several years, I saw the plants covered in bright pink blooms.

Wild Berries

This wild berry vine has wrapped itself around my Nandina bush, which itself has beautiful berries. The wild berries seem lush and ready to pop, with their heart-shaped leaves, so apropos to this Valentine season; however, now in mid-February, the berries are gone... gone to the frost? to the snow? to the birds? Not sure. Today the high was in the 20s with lots of wind and constant chilly rain. The forecast is for more snow and bad weather in the north of Houston. At least it is nothing like the snows on the east coast.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Esperanza, Plumbago, and Ginger ...All Dead

In the fall, I had some lovely new plants added to my garden: (yellow)Esperanza, (purply-blue)Plumbago, and two kinds of ornamental
(variegated) ginger plants. They all died from the snow and frost. Ironically, some of the annuals such as salvia, dianthus, silver dust (Dusty Miller) and snapdragons, have all survived repeated nights of below freezing temperatures, while the perennials have not.

Houston Public Works

The Houston Public Works Department is resurfacing the streets in our neighborhood. They parked their big machines right in front of my house. Each day, I hear big trucks rumbling through the neighborhood. One of these days, I am going to check out South Braeswood between Stella Link and Kirby which must be the worst stretch of road in the entire city. I imagine the residents like it that way so that people who drive in front of their homes are forced to slow down to at least 20 mph or face the consequences. Unfortunately, the street by my house is a "speedway" in need of speedbumps as it leads straight to the 610 loop.

Most of the curbs are broken now, from the scraping and sweeping and gouging machines. Let's hope the city refurbishes the curbs, too.

The Sago Palm

The Sago Palm is not one of my favorite plants because it has stiff, pointed "spears" (sharp pinnate) for leaves and if I brush too near, they pierce my skin. Sago Palms are hard to trim and they have a habit of populating right at their base. I've tried to dig up a few of little shoots, and they are really tough to get out of the ground. I first encountered the Sago when I lived in Hawaii. Now they abound in my Houston side yard.

Sago Palms originated in South Asia and are often eaten as a starch, somewhat like pearl tapioca by populations in the far South Pacific island chains, although it is a toxic plant and must be processed in order to make it safe to eat. (Please don't try this at home!)

A botanist once visited me in Hawaii where she saw my Sago Palms in the yard, and she declared that the Sago Palm is the oldest living plant left on this planet we call home. Indeed, it is known in botanty circles as a living fossil.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chinese Pink Fringe Plant

The other day I was browsing Home Depot's plant department when I came upon a plant I had seen before, in fact, it was newly planted in my front yard; however, I had never seen its flowers. Only in the last few weeks has it blossomed with its signature pink "fringe-y" flowers, thus the name "Pink Fringe." When I got home, I went to investigate and there they were, a wonderful showing of the slender "fire cracker-like" flowers!

Luscious Berries

Yupon Berries

I enjoy taking photos of berries of all kinds. Not too long ago, I had to cut down a big tree that was rubbing against the rain gutter on my roof. The problem was that wild critters enjoyed the berries that were hanging in luscious clusters from the tree, right over the roof. At night I would hear scratching in the walls... most likely from rats. The pest control expert said that other critters were on the roof, too. Other times I would hear nocturnal thunderous galloping across the roof. Most likely opossums, as evidenced by their droppings.


Kumquats grow in my Houston backyard without any tending. Recently, I noticed they have developed a fungus that must be treated. "As soon as the weather clears," I think. We had a big rainstorm and the forecast is for much cooler weather. Someday, these plants may bear fruit. For now I enjoy the metamorphosis from light fuzzy leaves to the long, slender green ones, as they mature. A question: Do you know where kumquats originated?