Sunday, October 4, 2009

There were bells...

[Headnote: This is a bit of a shout out to the lovely Iris of Society Garlic. She posted recently about Reliable Ruellia and it got me nodding my head as I was surveying with satisfaction the ruellia in my own yard. Appreciating them got me to looking around and noticing with new eyes some of the other heat/drought hardy performers around here. I wanted to shine a bit of blog light on them in case I get all rain reliant and distracted when it comes time to buying new plants next year. Under the kindler gentler conditions of Spring some years my gardener's memory seems to get pretty short.]

In the hills,
but I never heard them ringing.
No I never heard them at all,
'til there was you.

Substitute "guitars" for "bells" and that is what its like around the Agrodolce this weekend. Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker is in full swing which naturally, means a lot of different things to different people.
Photo of Bright Light Social Hourby Matthew Taplinger,courtesy ACL photo stream for Friday

For some it means they can't get to here from there. The Bee Cave Road on ramp to MoPac is closed for the duration. Others won't get their walks around the river due to parking snarls and competing foot traffic. Some of us, living just west of the park area, will be treated all weekend long to a muffled version of the music as the sounds float to us over the intervening hills. Especially with windows opened to welcome cooler air.

I've heard a few complain of this but it mostly reminds me of when my kids were younger, living at home (insert deep, slightly pathetic, old geezer sigh). Hearing slightly muffled music emanating from their rooms or their vehicles as they pulled briefly into the drive for a pit stop at home, was not all that different from overhearing the music in the park this weekend. My kids' music wasn't playing specifically for me either, my hearing it was only an indicator of their proximity, an instance of somebody enjoying their tunes, a prospect I generally encourage.

This is the first time since the introduction of Fest that no part of our family will be part of the milling throng. With LawSchoolGirl away at school, and ChefSon scheduled to work all weekend, our two likeliest candidates are well out of the fray. As the Hub is not a fan of musical experiences featuring the inability to control volume, ambient temperature or comfortable seating options, ACL is not his style. As for me, I won't go alone. I don't enjoy huge crowds so only ever tolerated Fest in the company of 1-3 others so I could hunker down, enjoy the music, and watch the crowd flowing by like they were on some sort of (really!) big screen.

That said, Friday's weather must be taking a prize for all time Fest Perfection, yeah? Cool temperatures, slightly overcast most of the day then clearing for a great sunset and an awesome nearly full moon. Won't ever get much better than that around here.

And Saturday's weather certainly started well. Cool, overcast, and I was out the door figuring to get to Wheatsville early so I could do my grocery shopping and get back home before most of the fest traffic and hooraw was underway. That's when I got stopped dead in my tracks and had to go back in the house to fetch my camera.

A volunteer Datura bloom had opened and was just begging me to take its picture. I am captivated by these flowers, in form so close to a morning glory but with enhancements of larger size and those curlicued flourishes to recommend them. I cannot begin to describe to you how enchanting I find these. They look to me like piped icing confections.I'll grant you my admiration for this plant was first attracted by their appearance on canvas by Georgia O'Keefe. She didn't pull any punches, calling her work "Jimson Weed".

Yes, the plant is Jimson Weed, but Datura is a better match nominally for how I react when I see these spectacular flowers. I don't have livestock to worry over and if a careless deer suffers from unwisely gnoshing on this plant my sympathies will extend only to offering them the advice to keep their teeth off my landscaping. Ahem!Exotic? In appearance only as it turns out, proving to me for all time that "weed" is ever only in the mind of the beholder.

Predictably enough, once I got out there with my camera I slowed down, took a look around, and was struck by several other beauties that had patiently waited out the summer's heat only to bounce back with an assist from the rain and cooler temperatures of the past two weeks. I'd been taking them mostly for granted.

Once recognized, that sort of callous approach didn't sit well. I wanted to document the sterling performers for the stars they truly are and I needed to do it immediata!

There is the majestically exuberant Queen's Wreath, called Coral Vine by some. Antigonon Leptopus for long.The bees just love this, and I love that it bloomed through the heat, through the drought, with little indication that it heeded either.

Then there are the Four O'Clocks, Marvel-of-Peru, or Mirabilis. These beauties kept it low and slow this year and I thought I'd lost many of them but once the rains started back up and the heat index dropped back down properly into two digits they were all about making up for lost time.

Many consider these weeds because they crop up in ditches and along fencerows locally, but I remember them as one of the first flowering plants I ever successfully raised from seed when we lived in Salt Lake City. I held on to that, my first seed packet, for quite a while before I could bear to part with it. The ones in my yard at the moment are from seeds I gathered on walks in my neighborhood. They set seed profusely and I simply pull out the ones that grow where I don't want them, tossing the plant into a spot where they'd be more welcome. As often as not, next season, they'll reappear where I tossed them. Mirabilis, indeed.

Finally for today, my sweet little Potato Vine, Solanum laxum. This plant, growing in fairly deep shade, is not nearly as bloomtastic as the Queen's Wreath but it is evergreen throughout the winters (so far) and does keep offering a few flowers nearly year 'round.The small blooms hang in clusters, starting out a light purple then brightening to white. Tiny beacons of light in the shade of the oak trees and welcome there no matter how few in number they might be. I've seen photos of these loaded with flowers when grown in sunnier spots which makes me even more grateful for the persistence of the smattering of blooms mine gives me in lower light.

And there you have it. A Fabulous Four of bloomers that have hung tough through what was certainly the worst Texas summer I've gardened through. Add in shared admiration with Iris for Ruellia, and you have yourself the start of a nice hardy, well adapted to the area plant list to give you ideas for addition to your own spaces should you have some gaps or a need to replace more persnickety species.

Texas, bring your worst. Deer, drought, heat, ice storms or flooding rains, these potentially lesser appreciated plants have survived it all like the tough Lone Star Ladies they are, with beauty and grace.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out! That datura is absolutely stunning. I don't think I'm familiar with Mirabilis but think I better get myself familiar with it tout de suite!

  2. Those are a fabulous four, TexasDeb. Actually, I've never grown four o'clock or Queen's wreath, but I have admired them many a time, and the others have been tried and true for me as well. Lovely photos too.

  3. Iris you are quite welcome. Happy to share the bloggy love. Pam, thanks for dropping in. It is all part of the fun to hear about what other folks in our area are having success with. 4 O'Clocks and Queen's Wreath are old timers around here - not nearly as sexy as a lot of newer varieties but as I get older it seems my fondness for the old plants quickens.

    If I'm not careful, next thing you know I'll be blogging about 'back in the day when bread was baked at home and milk came in glass bottles. That would be back in somebody else's day, really, but I'll still need to watch it.

  4. Oh Deb, I hope you can help me. I've been looking everywhere for the old white potato vine and most ppl don't even know what I'm talking about. Do you know where I could where I could might get it? Please help.

  5. Lauren - thanks for dropping in! I usually find potato vine locally at Barton Springs Nursery in west Austin. I am fairly certain the plants are also available elsewhere - maybe even online but they may be easier to find if you use the botanic calling card, solanum laxum.

    Good luck with your quest!


About Me

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Rollingwood, Central Texas
Family historian by default. Oldest surviving matriarch on my branch of the Family Tree. Story teller, photo taker, gardener, cook, blabbermouth.