Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mandeville or Mandevilla Vine

One of the prettiest vines you can select for your garden is the Mandeville vine. It produces beautiful flowers that almost resemble a gardenia, if white; however, the plant does produce other colored flowers, such as deep pink and ruby red.

The vine must be supported by a trellis or fence, and it is important to aid the climbing shoots as the plant grows. It needs full sun and careful, slow watering.

The Mandeville vine requires grooming in the winter months, too, to ensure a good spring showing. This is a vine that will reward you with wonderful flowers if you give it the tender, loving care it requires.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Arrowhead Plants

Arrowhead plants love to grow in moist areas and these particular plants are growing near rain downspouts. They are neglected volunteers and therefore, they tend to come and go as the weather changes. During times of drought, I don't see much of them, but when the rains come, they pop up in many places and latch onto something to climb.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair fern is a pretty little fern but it has the nasty habit of strangling everything in its clutches.

It tends to grow on the glass louvers of the patio and has finally won the battle. There is another fern that grows along side of it, but I do not know the name of that fern. Photo below.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fig Tree

This is a fig tree, growing, spreading, producing fruit in the Houston neighborhood. Figs are mentioned in the Bible all the way back to Genesis, when they "sewed fig leaves together to make an apron" to cover themselves. The interesting role that fig trees played in the Old and New Testament is that the custom was to plant a fig tree by the "front" door. It would grow to great proportions eventually becoming similar to an outdoor room. Often members of the household would go there for a quiet time or to study the Torah. It was just such a revelation that Jesus made to Nathanel, who eventually became an Apostle. Jesus said, "I saw you under the fig tree." The implication being that Nathanel was studying the Torah there.
Figs make a good jam or jelly. And who doesn't remember eating a Fig Newton, with the tiny, crunchy seeds?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thunder and Lightning

The rain is coming down in torrents.
Raindrops on concrete.

Today was a day filled with heavy rain showers, loud claps of thunder and the occasional too-close lightning strike.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sweet Gum Trees in Meyerland

There is an area in SW Houston called Meyerland. Along one street, sweet gum trees with their distinctive fruit are thriving.
The bark of the sweet gum is sometimes called alligator wood, which is easily understood upon inspection.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Zucchini Draped Over Fence

What a wonderful find when I was walking along a street today. At first, I wondered about the yellow star-shaped flowers and then in an instant, I realized, it was zucchini growing on a fence!
Here you see two zucchinis in various stages of growth. See the tendrils to the left of the Italian squash. Zucchini are exceptionally delicious when paired with chopped fresh tomatoes, onions and a sprinkling of Italian herbs.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Flags in Texas

The wind was not blowing and so we don't have that wonderful billowing effect on the flags.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunny Lantana

After taking a long gaze at the flowers, can you guess why this plant has the nick-name "Ham and Eggs?" Answer at the end of this post...
When I was a child, my friend and I would hunt around outside for some old cast-off can, like a soup or bean can. We'd gather lantana and add some water, stir it with a stick and pretend it was soup fit to eat. Thank goodness our mothers' generalized warnings about rusty cans and not eating this or that from the wild over-rode our play. We never drank our concoction.
I must admit, however, that I was not as careful about other berries and twigs I would find in the wild. All along the way from school to my house I would search out sea grape trees and would stuff myself with the dark purply ripe ones. Now I won't even eat a wild apple without washing it! I confess to eating unwashed thumbleberries that grew wild in Hawaii, though.
Back to Lantana: Lantana is a hardy plant that has, at times, the smell of sage. Best not to get too close, though, as the Lantana leaves are poisonous. The lantana is appreciated by gardeners for its drought-tolerant qualities and brightly colored flowers. The flowers are not poisonous to birds and are used by some male species to decorate their nest in order to attract a female. Many species of butterflies love the lantana. If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, you might try lantana. In many regions of the world, lantana is considered a noxious weed and is not desirable; however, its woody stems are used by some artisans in India in their wicker crafts. Although the ripe berries of the lantana are supposedly non-toxic, again, if ripe, I recommend not putting any part of the lantana plant in one's mouth. Stay safe!
Answer: The reason some people call this plant "Ham and Eggs" is because of the pink flowers (ham) that surround the yellow flowers (eggs.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lily of the Nile Or Agapanthus

From the first time I laid eyes on this flower, I was enchanted. I'm not certain when that might have been but when I lived in Hawaii, they were a familiar flower in gardens and public landscapes. These delicate tubular flowers are blooming now in Houston. The pre-bloom stage is especially pretty, and they are most spectacular when planted in masses. Despite the name "lily," it is not a lily. Originally from South Africa, the plant has been adopted by numerous tropical and subtropical locales all around the world.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Black-Eyed Susan

These wild flowers are growing at the end of my street, having somehow seeded themselves for another summer. Yes, near the Bayou that I wrote about in an earlier post. In all, there are not too many of these plants, but they seem vigorous and healthy. I've seen these same wild flowers in a few other places, but they do not populate many areas. Perhaps that is because they tend to grow near the roadside where the county comes along with their huge mowers and mows them down before they can even get started. I love the composition of the bright yellow petals, brilliant green leaves and the cloudy blue sky. I took these photos yesterday, and the wind was blowing hard. You can see the effect of the wind in the bent shape of the plants. For a while, I didn't think I could capture the flowers because of the constant swaying back and forth. In a split second, I was able to release the shutter. How divine!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


When I was a young child, we lived in what today would be considered a small bungalow: 3 bedrooms with a jack-and-jill bathroom between two bedrooms on one side and another bedroom with a small bathroom attached on the other side. But my favorite place was outside. My mother created a rock garden full of caladiums, crotons, and coleus with interesting rocks, various kinds of coral and brain coral. I would stand at a distance and watch her work in the garden in the early morning sun. I was quiet, but in my heart I loved that garden and believed it to be the most beautiful in the world. When we left that house for "a more prestigious location," I was heart-broken. Mostly, I didn't want to leave my friends and I especially didn't want to leave the rock garden that meant so much to me! Pink caladium hearts, always in my heart!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wild Roses

Wild roses don't grow very big or require much maintenance, like the roses grown by serious rose-growers. They are left to roam and ramble as they will. Wild roses have only five petals. Many of the flowers resemble apple blossoms with a pale center and pink petals. Aren't we fortunate to have these wonderful wild roses to add color to a meadow or a casual garden?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Crepe Myrtles Hanging Low with Heavy Blossoms

A feast for the eyes!

Crepe myrtles have busted out all over Houston - full of blossoms: Some are pink, some are white, and many are this raspberry color. Beautiful trees. I hope you get to see some this year.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Colorful Bedding Plants

Pink and white flowers, the names of which I do not know. The stems look like carnation stems. Long, slender leaves covered in raindrops... just for your enjoyment, dear reader.

Here are the colorful bedding plants that grace a public building in the neighborhood. The bright pink and the orange look stunning together.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Flores Silvestres/Wild Flowers

I was fortunate enough to capture these wildflowers along an area of W. Belfort in Houston before the county came along with their mowers and mowed them all down. I felt so sad when I saw that they had been cut down to the ground. Scalped, indeed. Their name escapes me, but I will research it and see if I can find out. They look a little like a daisy, a little like a black-eyed susan.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wild Mushrooms

As gourmands ("foodies" to today's generation) know, mushrooms are a fungus/fungi. I try very hard to put that thought out of my mind when I am enjoying grilled mushrooms with a steak or some other dish. I found these wild mushrooms growing in my neighbor's yard, under a mostly dead bush, but with lots of shade and protection... which probably accounts for their vigorous growth. That, and the recent rains we have had. I am impressed with their petal-like shape, rendering them like a lovely white flower.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Gaillardia Grandiflora

What a fancy name for such an ordinary seeming flower that grows both as a cultivated plant and as a wildflower. These photos were taken of wildflowers in a field. The common name for this flower is "Arizona Sun" or "Blanket Flower." As you can see, there is some clover interspersed with the blanket flowers.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lovely But Poisonous Oleander

Oleanders were always part of the gardens of my childhood. They make great hedges and many afternoons of my childhood were spent standing by my mother as she watered the oleander hedge. As part of my education, I was warned about the poisonous qualities of oleanders. I was even told not to stand under an oleander during a rain storm or allow it to drip on me.

The largest oleander I have ever seen was in my own backyard in Tucson, AZ. I would often cut it back but it would continue to grow, despite the arid conditions.

Oleanders come in several colors and there is even a dwarf variety. The small or dwarf oleanders remind me of my neighbors in Tucson, who had their backyard professionally landscaped. Dwarf oleanders were planted along one side of the house and in a few sporadic plantings. Their flowers were peachy-colored. Very pretty.

These oleanders are planted in a median in southwest Houston. They require little care and make the landscape quite graceful.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Golden Liriope

Lavender or purple is the usual color of Liriope but it occasionally presents itself in a golden or silver color, as above and below. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Liriope is a popular ground cover or an edging plant on the perimeter of flower beds. For most of the year, they are just a mounding, evergreen plant. But then the violet flowers come alive here in Houston in June, with just the right touch of rain and sun. Today it was raining and I took the opportunity to photograph some of the blooming liriope.
In recent years, a new variety has appeared with silver and golden flowers in place of the lavender color of multiple flowers on a small stalk. I have a few that are of the golden variety and will post those later.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What Is It?

This will be impossible to guess... I'll explain it tomorrow...

AND THE ANSWER IS... I drink a kind of tea that comes in a cylindrical tin from The Republic of Tea, and the tea bags are shaped in a circle or round, packed 50 to a tin. On this day, the tin was empty, and I noticed some very fine tea remnants in the bottom of the tin; I tapped the edge of the tin against my sink. Because the the sink was wet, the fine grains of tea formed a sort of geological, interesting shape. I just had to take a photo of it. If you look very carefully at the bottom right hand corner, I think you will see the faint edge of the drain strainer basket.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Canna Lily

The canna lily is a beautiful, showy plant that produces spectacular blooms and large, broad leaves. This plant is indigenous to Central and South America and has now spread to many tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Cannas are one of the most popular plants in gardens throughout the world and professional growers who offer these plants for sale are easy to find.

This plant comes in a wide variety of colors and the leaves can be variegated as well. Many beautiful canna lilies are a product of hybridization. They require about 6-8 hours of sun for healthy growth and they do need to be protected from the cold in winter.

Canna leaves are in themselves quite beautiful and come in a wide variety of colors and shapes - curved, curly. In India, the leaves are processed to make paper. In other instances, the seeds are made into jewelry, or become part of a musical instrument or may be added to a gourd to make the rattling sound.

In Thailand, the Canna is given as a traditional gift on Father's Day. In South America, cannas were grown as a starchy food source derived from the rootsource, particularly in Ecuador and Peru. For information about how to grow canna lilies or to purchase a canna lily, go to