Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holly With Berries

Despite the fact it is almost April, holly plants around Houston still have their bright red berries. This type of holly does not have those murderously prickly leaves, instead having one sharp spine at the very tip. I believe this type of holly is called Carissa Holly and makes a nice hedge.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Century Plant - Agave americana

This Century Plant grows in a garden on my street. It is the only one I have seen in Houston, but Houston is a very big city and there are undoubtedly others. These plants are common in more desert climates, such as Arizona; however, they are now found in Europe, Australia, South Africa and India. These agaves were a very important part of Pre-Columbian culture in Mexico, having been harvested for their sap to make a fermented drink called pulque and for their leaves to make a kind of twine for rope and leatherwork. The average life span is ten years, dying after it blooms. Unfortunately, Palo Verde beetles can hasten its early demise by eating its roots.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday in Christendom

Today is one of the Holiest Days of the Christian Faith, known as Palm Sunday, the day that commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Where I grew up, the Easter season was fairly universally and solemnly observed. Sunday School children would be part of a procession, waving palm fronds, as imagined happened thousands of years ago as Jesus and his disciples prepared to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. The story of people shouting "Hosanna" and waving palm branches, laying down their robes, as he rode a donkey into the town was told and retold in Sunday Schools and in churches until it became part of the familiar Easter Story.
In the Jewish tradition, Passover begins at sundown tomorrow evening.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ramblin' Rose

Yesterday I went out walking in the neighborhood with my camera. I happened upon this one lonely rose bloom. Isn't it a beauty? We don't see many roses in Houston, or at least in my neighborhood. Perhaps they don't grow as well here as some other types of flowers. I'm sure you remember what Shakepeare said about roses: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Always a fresh turn of the phrase with The Bard. There was a movie by the title, "Rambling Rose," starring Laura Dern and Robert Duval, a somewhat sterotypical movie about Southern characters, typical Hollywood styling. Laura's real mother, Diane Ladd, played the part of her mother. Both were nominated for Oscars. And then there was the classic Nat King Cole song, "Rambling Rose." "...Ramblin' rose, ramblin' rose, why you ramble, no one knows. Wild and wind blown, that's how you've grown.
who can cling to, a ramblin rose?..."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Downtown Houston Aquarium

These pansies are one of many plantings of pansies at the downtown Houston Aquarium on Bagby Street. The white ones have the dark purple inset and the periwinkle blue are just a solid color. Either type is gorgeous and adds a lot to any landscape. The periwinkle blue-colored pansies are often planted with complementary orangy-gold pansies. They make a beautiful pairing. Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy pansies in your neighborhood, too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Peach Geraniums

The sun is setting on these peach-colored geraniums. These flowers/plants are not as prevalent in the neighborhood as some others. Yet, I believe they grow well in the typical clay dirt if the soil is properly amended with the right nutrients. Someone made a little island of colorful flowers in their front yard for all to enjoy, so please enjoy!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Springtime Purples

These pretty flowers are growing in the neighborhood. I believe these are dahlias. We had rain and a cold snap on Saturday with temps dipping down into the low 30s. Today the sun was out and the plants were loving the great weather. Spring is almost here to stay.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dandelion Blooms

Dandelions are not without their redeeming qualities. They have pretty yellow blossoms at one stage of their life-cycle. They are also preferred by ailing desert tortoises for sustenance. These dandelions are growing among the nandina bushes.

World's Largest Dandelion?

It appears I have growing in my yard one of the largest dandelions I have ever seen. Perhaps it will make some sort of world record, at the rate it is growing. Due to a very dry summer and fall and a very wet winter, we are experiencing a bumper crop of weeds. Dandelions abound in the yard. I must have weeded thousands of volunteer elm seedlings. It reminds me of that old adage: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. And so it goes with the battle of the weeds.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Petunias Grace Some Public Buildings

Large plantings of petunias grace some of the public buildings in the neighborhood. These red ones are particularly noticeable. Gardeners know that deadheading petunias make them bloom again and again. What is deadheading? It is pinching off the dead blooms as necessary.
The best technique for deadheading is to use your thumb and forefinger or thumb and middle finger to pinch off each spent blossom. The essential part of this process is also to take off the green part from which the petals were growing. You might want to use pruning shears for this task, and that is fine. Just be sure to remove the dead blooms and their seed pods three times a week.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Time for Herbs

Houston gardeners are planting herbs and lots of retail outlets are selling them at this time. It is really satisfying to be able to harvest some of your own food, and growing herbs is one of the easiest ways to grow something edible.
I once had a basil plant in a large pot that grew into a very large bush. ...A very savory addition to many dishes.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day - Irish Prayer & Songs

Tis the day for the "wearin' O the green," and a Happy St. Patrick's Day to ye!

An Irish Prayer

May God give you...

For every storm, a rainbow,

For every tear, a smile,

For every care, a promise,

And a blessing in each trial,

For every problem life sends,

A faithful friend to share,

For every sigh a sweet song,

And an answer for each prayer.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and Danny Boy are two of my all-time favorite songs and both happen to be Irish. When I was a child, I would sing the former at the top of my lungs as I walked in the wind up an old, untraveled road. It was great therapy for the soul.

Here's the chorus to When Irish Eyes Are Smiling... written by George Graff, Jr. and Chauncy Olcott, music by Ernest R. Ball

When Irish eyes are smiling, Sure tis like a morn in spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter,

You can hear the angels sing. When Irish hearts are happy, All the world seems bright and gay,

And when Irish eyes are smiling, Sure they'll steal your heart away!

The most beautiful recording I have ever heard of Danny Boy was made by the late Eva Cassidy. Although considered a traditional Irish ballad, it was written by an English lawyer. The story of the song is quite interesting and you might want to look it up on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Purple Pansies' Happy Faces

Pansies are the Houston gardener's choice for adding color to gardens at this time of year. They come in every conceivable color and are beloved by many. Today was cold and rainy, yet I ventured out and found these little beauties growing in someone's garden. The other day, someone remarked that pansies were a favorite flower. One of my favorites, too.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Feelin' Green ... almost St. Patrick's Day

It's green, even if it's not a shamrock plant! Lots of wild clover is overtaking my yard. There are many shamrocks blooming in the neighborhood but I haven't been out with my camera in the last couple of days. I've been working inside the house to ready it for company. The weather has been beautiful!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Beautiful Plants Stolen in the Night

This beautiful combination of plants, Compact Yellow Bidens, mini petunas, and Sutera Big Pearls Falls Bacopa, were newly purchased and really brightened up the front of the house. In the middle of the night, someone stole them and the newly purchased Irish Moss from my front entry way. What a shock to wake up and find all my new flowers gone! And to think someone came right up to the front door to take them. Very disheartening and very alarming.

Catchfly (Silene) Plant

This plant, with it's open pink petals, is another sun-loving plant. It is just a little wisp of a plant now but is said to be fast-growing and will reach 24" wide and 12" tall. The flowers resemble a mallow plant and is indigenous to Central Europe. It is not as cold-tolerant as some other plants in the garden and therefore is considered an annual in Houston, unable to withstand the below-freezing temperatures of the winters here. The leaves are "furry" like an African Violet and downy little hairs run up and down the stem and the bracts. Unlike the African Violet, however, this showy little plant doesn't mind getting wet. In the wild, this type of plant grows in rock gardens and often amid old ruins, giving many photographers a chance to shoot a calendar-worthy photo.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Speedwell "Georgia Blue"

Growing in a crack in the wall are some little blue flowers with the odd name of "Speedwell" and they require 8 hours of sun and drained soil. Thus, I suppose, is the reason they are doing fine in the crack in the wall. I think these little beauties are something special. They make an ideal ground cover and attract butterflies and hummingbirds, although I have yet to see either.

Trying Again!

A pair of cute little house wrens think our mailbox is the perfect place to make a nest. They have repeatedly tried, year after year, to build their nest in this box. They eventually give up because there is too much activity in the area of the box for their comfort. Last year or perhaps it was the year before, I bought a real wren house, just perfect for them, hung it out for them, following all the prescribed dos and don'ts... to no avail. Where they eventually build their nest is still a mystery but after all their efforts yesterday, they are looking for a more suitable place. I hope they find it and are safe there.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Survivor - Snapdragon

Snapdragons have somehow survived the unusually cold Houston winter. Hooray for them! It seems the worst of the winter is finally over, although we had heavy rain yesterday. The garden snapdragons are rather spindly, having continued to grow at every opportunity. Isn't this a gorgeous one, with buds just bursting to bloom? If you look closely, you'll see a little insect on the center petal. Many gardeners have put out colorful pansies. Pansies... sweet little faces. More on pansies, later...

Monday, March 8, 2010

African Sun Daisy

This Euryops chrysanthemoides is nicknamed, The African Sun Daisy. The leaves are very characteristic of daisy leaves, and the flowers also resemble daisies... thus the name African Sun Daisy (sun, because it thrives in the full sun.)
Because this plant can grow to 4'x4', it is really a shrub, but takes well to pruning. To encourage repeat blooms, it is a good idea to remove dead flowers. This plant must be tended or it will die. Proper TLC is required for the best showing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Lily-like Plant - Name Unknown

This little plant resembles of lily of some kind but I do not know the name of it. The blue-purple flowers are very dainty and add a spot of color to a garden. I wonder how they will survive the Houston heat in the summer? If anyone knows the name of this plant, please make a comment on the blog.

Red Bud Trees

Red Bud trees are just beginning to blossom in Houston. We had a few days of warmish weather, meaning in the high 60s, and the trees and other plants loved it. This isn't a great photograph, but I think the composition is very appealing, with the pink buds framed by other trees, set against a blue sky background. The weather has turned very cool again, which means that Spring has yet to really arrive.

Hot Chocolate Calla Lily

This is a new variety of calla lily, called a Hot Chocolate Calla Lily, and I am going to try my hand at growing some.
I also have a Blackjack Calla Lily.
They require moist soil and morning sunlight only. According to the care and maintenance card that came with them, they should grow fast to 3'x 2'. The leaves are lovely to behold, too.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tulip Tree - Correction to Jane Magnolia

I posted the name of this tree as The Tulip Tree and have found out that it is really called "Jane Magnolia." I have always known them by the name of "tulip tree"; however, that name refers to a yellow poplar tree. So, let me correct myself and say the Jane Magnolia trees are in bloom in Houston gardens right now. They are showy and pretty. It's true, they are a cousin of the magnolia. One could be walking down a street and stop dead in his/her tracks when seeing a Jane Magnolia tree. Que bonita!