Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Are you Cereus?

My Night Blooming Cereus produced its first bloom of the season last night. The large flowers open after dark, usually around 11:00 PM, and are very fragrant. Unfortunately, the flowers do not last long. They are usually wilted within a few hours of sunrise the next morning.

This is one of my few potted tropical plants. It is very easy to care for. I keep it watered and shaded from the hot afternoon sun during the summer. During the winter, I bring it into the garage and forget it.

The Night Blooming Cereus will bloom off an on throughout the summer and fall. It often has several flowers blooming at one time. I have another plant that appears to be a different variety. It had its first bloom last year, but I did not notice it until it was wilted. I am looking forward to to seeing this plant bloom this year too.

The garden is looking reasonably well in late July. The temperature has been fairly moderate and it has rained a few times. Even with the rain, we are several inches below normal rainfall amounts and experiencing Stage 3 (sprinklers once every other week) watering restrictions. So far, I have not watered any plants other than those in pots, the vegetables and new transplants.

I was a little surprised when I received a call last week from a member of the Plano Garden Club. The group's garden tour committee wanted to come by to see my garden and talk to me about having it on their tour next April. I knew I would be hearing from the group at some point because another member of the group asked if I would consider it when she visited my garden during the Plano Water Wise Landscape tour last month.

I explained to the caller that my garden it was not looking all that great right now because my native plants were going dormant for the summer. (These photos make the colors look more vibrant than they really are.) I said I would have plants blooming again in September once the temperature begins to cool and we receive a little rain. She said she already drove by my house and thought the garden looked great.

She explained that it is necessary to line up gardens and prepare publicity well in advance of the tour date. So the committee of three came out two days later and saw my garden in a rather unkempt state.

I had not done much maintenance in the last month. The weekend before this photo was taken, I started removing some spent spring wildflowers and that left patches of bare soil. I still had several patches of wildflowers that were brown and were going to seed. I also have late summer blooming Eryngo (to the left of the pathway)that are growing taller than me. Even so, the committee was impressed and very interested in including my garden on their tour. Being susceptible to believable flattery, I agreed.

The next step? A photographer is coming out this week to take photos for a tour feature in a community magazine. I was thinking, "Are you serious? It is almost August! Can't it wait a couple of months? Can I submit my own photos?" Nope. But I am not quite as concerned about having the garden photographed at this time of years as I was. Most of my above photos turned out better than I expected so I am expecting a professional photographer can make the garden look even better. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Heat is On

After an extended winter and coolish spring, summer is finally upon us. High temperatures have hovered just under 100 this week and are expect to pass the century mark by the weekend. With temperatures at this level, it will not take long for any moisture still in the soil to be sapped away.

I have noticed that plants in the garden are beginning to go dormant to prepare for the long summer months. There are fewer blooming plants than there were a month ago and the cactus and yuccas are becoming the prominent features of the garden.

Looking across the front garden, another prominent feature would be all of the feathery stalks of the Liatris. They will look a little weedy until they are covered in purple blooms in September.

Here is a look from the opposite direction. The grass with the white flowers is Mexican Feathergrass.

The Pine Muhly,  Muhlenbergia dubia
growing around this cactus are beginning to show their spiky blooms. Even though it is getting hotter and drier, there are other flowers still blooming in the garden.

Datura wrightii thrives in the heat. The large, fragrant flowers open at dusk and stay open until morning. The flowers are always swarming with bees when they are open.

Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstonne' has bright yellow flowers at the top of its four foot tall stems. This plant is native to the south eastern United States and prefers a little more moisture than most of the plants in my garden receive. It is planted at the edge of the front yard rain garden so its roots can take advantage of any rain we may receive during the summer.

Nearby, Rudbeckia fulgida bloom under the False Indigo.

Big Red Sage, Salvia pentstemonoides
as the name implies, is another large perennial. The purplish red flowers normally attract a number of hummingbirds, but I have not seen many this year.

Here is a closer look at the flowers.

The flowers of Red Yucca are another great hummingbird nectar source.

Zexmenia is tough summer bloomer. I cut mine back a couple of times during the growing season to reduce the size, remove the spent flowerheads, and force more blooms.

This Purple Coneflower blooms in the shade of my red oak tree.

Several of the photos in this post were taken for an Independence Day post that never materialized. The plan was to simulate a fireworks display with plants and flowers. This explains why I took pictures of yuccas from above. The yucca above is variegated Yucca gloriosa. Ooh!

This yucca is Pale-leaf Yucca, Yucca pallida. Ahh!

This one is Soapweed Yucca, Yucca glauca. Wow!

Another picture from above shows the fruits of the spineless prickly pear.

Little Bluestem with Blackeyed Susans and Rock Penstemon in the background.

Horsetail Reed looks good in the stock tank. I never got around to moving the stock tank this spring. Maybe because it would be such a chore. I considered moving it because it is a little too close to the Possumhaw Holly just outside of this photo to the left of the tank. In time, I suspect the holly will shade the tank.

This Pineapple Lily, Eucomis comosa 'Sparkling Burgundy', is one of the few non-native plants in the garden. It looks like I finally moved it to a spot that has just the right amount of sun and shade. It is close to a faucet too so I can give it a squirt of water when needed.

This Mexican Milkweed only hosted aphids so far this year. Maybe there will be some monarch caterpillars later in the summer. This one planted itself next to the vegetable garden.

This is a tatume squash flower. This was my first time to plant this variety. I harvested the first one yesterday and sliced and grilled it. It was pretty good. It is supposed to be more resistant to squash vine bores so it may replace yellow squash in my garden in the future.

Chocolate Daisy flowers open in the mornings and close by noon on hot days. This is another plant that I cut back a couple of times during the summer to control the size of the plant and produce more flowers.

Mexican Hat is still in bloom and several other buds are forming.

The Horsemint is wrapping up its blooming season. I carefully remove the dried flowers to control where the hundreds of seeds fall. The numerous seedlings are a pain to remove from decomposed granite pathways.

This parting shot is of the backyard rain garden. The little white flowers are Frogfruit and a great nectar source for small native bees.

Well this is a nice surprise. I just watched the weather forecast and a "cold" front is supposed to come through next week and drop high temperatures into the low 80s. I may need to plan a day off from work.