A Walk Around the ‘Hood

IMG_0910From the deep-green waxy-leafed magnolias to the first pink inklings of crape myrtle, my part of Central Texas is currently covered in flowers. It’s almost enough to compensate for an untold number of sunless, wet days.

Not that any one of us would complain about the rain – four inches in my rain gauge over the past week, and nothing but rain in the forecast. We are in fact celebrating because a couple of storms stood solidly over the Highland Lakes long enough to bring the water levels up for the first time in years. Imagine being thrilled to see your local water supply at an astonishing 41% of normal.

Floyd was out of town last week on a motorcycle adventure (in the aftermath of which he is at this moment going from one doctor’s office to another in order to nail down a diagnosis of Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever* – that man surely knows how to have fun), and it seemed like every time Travis and I stepped out the door, a clap of thunder would send him immediately back into the house in search of a closet. But with temperatures holding steady in a very unseasonable 60-70 degree range, the atmospheric excitement has abated and we’ve taken advantage of the relative calm to go on some good walks.

Since it’s so very drippy out, I decided to see what I could photograph with my phone, playing with the Luff app. (There are a few photos today taken with the real camera, too.)

It’s that time of year for us to savor cactus flowers. I think they are very fetching when covered with raindrops.


One of my big spineless prickly pears toppled over last week, having drunk too much water, I suppose. I broke it up and sent it packing with astonishing dispassion, knowing perfectly well that it will rise again with an array of new paddles. I didn’t even hang onto any pieces with the thought of starting new plants – kind of a record for me. If I’ll be giving any plants away in the next few weeks, it will be some of the agave that have sprouted up too close to the sidewalk. If you’re in the area, stop by and pick up a few.

All over the region, yuccas of every imaginable variety are pushing forth tall thick stalks of flowers. This one looks like a Texas-sized lily of the valley; alas, without the fragrance.


Here and there in our yard we have young red yuccas that just put out one or two flower stalks, but senior plants around town erupt with masses of them. The flowers, as with all succulents, are elaborate and arresting. The leaves are merely treacherous.


Everybody’s day lilies are coming into bloom, too many varieties in too many colors to count. I may do a strictly-day-lily post here soon.


There are still a great many poppies to be seen. I saw one this morning that looked like its own umbrella.

IMG_0883The standing cypress are also coming into flower now, great favorites of the hummingbirds. Their stalks are as tall as I am, with feathery leaves that shiver in the faintest breeze.


You’re not supposed to like the flowering varieties of nandina, but being as I am an Unruly Gardener, I love them. Who cares that you occasionally have to go after them with a flame-thrower lest they break your house’s foundation into pebbles? These clusters of flowers will become splendid red berries to keep next winter from becoming too stark.


It’s the time of year when I welcome vitex back in its lilac-looking beauty. Hello, Vi, I’ll say when I walk past the one that hides the side-yard bench.

DSC_0148Not much fragrance unless you press your nose right up against the purple blossoms, but the honeybees absolutely love Vi. Close-up, the blooms are impressive collections of tiny purple flowers.


One of the most fun things to plant in shady or semi-shady or sunny spots or back alleys or anywhere you want to is Turks’ Cap. I have three or four here and there around the yard, and they are abundant in the whole area. They produce deep red flowers throughout the summer, a truly superior trait when so many plants are long past flowering.

The other day I decided that one empty spot in the bed beneath the pistachio tree needed a Turks’ Cap, too. A pink one.


Lots of people in my neighborhood have a cluster or two of skullcap. There’s something about those tiny pink flowers among the green foliage that is very fetching. It’s like someone has sprinkled flower dust around.


Speaking of flower dust, it is a great wildflower season around here. Even the noxious weeds are beautiful.


All the usuals: Mexican blankets, Mexican hats, bee balm, coreopsis, black-eyed Susans, you name it, they are everywhere.


They make the slow trip up an entrance ramp onto MoPac almost enjoyable, just scanning yards and yards and acres of wildflowers.


There’s nothing like flowers that thrive on neglect and go on to replicate themselves a million times.


Wherever you may live, make this the year you get hold of a sack of wildflower seeds and let them loose upon the landscape. The world is kind of a mess and I think we need all the self-fulfilling flowers we can get.


*Well, the second dermatologist doesn’t think it was Spotted Tick Fever. Neither doctor knows what it is. Fortunately, healing proceeds apace.

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