Jungle-ish? Jungle-esque?

Any way you type it, that’s what it’s like here in Central Texas. Above you see my little corner of the patio, where I like to sit and talk on the phone with Mary. Of course I can’t do that without the electric fan, a scented candle, and a smoking insect repellent stick going because a jungle-esque world is made of mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes and flowers.

It is an unusually cool, wet summer so far; the lower temperatures mean the flowers last longer. And even if the rain knocks crepe myrtle flowers down, what we have then is a carpet of red, pink, purple or white. Still pretty. To the right of that old wheelbarrow is the magnolia corner, which has had to serve as a refuge for my potted plants, almost all of whom need shade. The night-blooming cereus (of which I seem to have many somehow) is planted in a normal-sized galvanized garbage can, and I have no earthly idea what I shall do with it come November.

You can just see a blossom on the left, hanging almost to the ground.

When I am on said phone speaking with said Mary, I am facing in this general direction, which is also the view from my kitchen window. The hummingbird feeder has been a battleground lately. I’d put up a second feeder, but I’ve never found that to reduce combat levels.

Starting from the far left, we have passionflower in a huge pot with a trellis. They are blooming one by one. You can just barely see a Pride of Barbados volunteer (more about volunteers later). The shrubby thing between that and the hummingbird feeder is blue plumbago, which will be beautiful in a few weeks. It sits beneath a maple tree that was a baby when we moved in eleven years ago. Then we have the attention-grabbing American Beautyberry that planted itself in the steel planter. It’s obscuring the basil a bit. And in the right foreground is a pomegranate that froze to the ground during Snowpocalypse.

This is facing a westerly direction. I waited for years for the oaks outside the fence to grow enough so that I’d be sheltered from the afternoon sun when I sit in my designated corner of the patio, and at last it has come to pass.

Just on the other side of that corner is the end of our side yard. When we moved in it was literally a moonscape: a huge evergreen had just been cut down, and the family before us had come upon hard times and couldn’t afford to water. I mean, it was four inches of ash-looking stuff.

Not no more, it ain’t.

It would be a very pleasant place to sit, if only you could go abroad and come home with a few gallons of DDT to deliver with your crop-dusting drone. I am facing the task of removing the huge hedge on the right in time for large brush collection in a couple of weeks (it is deader than it looks), and I am now stockpiling mosquito repellant.

I’m thinking it might not be a lot of fun.

Oddly enough, since no one in suburbia can usually be found sitting in their front yard, the early evenings often find us in our front yard, where I recently carved out a sitting space under the old live oak. Cold watermelon figures heavily in the scenario. There is almost always a breeze. I think when people wax nostalgic about Texas summers, this is the kind of thing they are dreaming about.

That, and swimming in swimming holes that are either spring-fed and therefore icy cold, or snake-infested. Or both. No thanks to that.

Here’s Floyd doing the honors. The sling is a result of shoulder repair surgery last week. He is still a little miffed that they never told him about the shoulder separation after his catastrophic bike crash in April, but I think with seven broken ribs, a broken clavicle, and two collapsed lungs they were a little busy. Besides, I told him, no anesthesiologist in the world would welcome a patient with oozy lungs, so you would have had to wait for the repair anyway.

Please, Universe, can we please have two uneventful weeks around here?

The table is a lovely design, made to go with the bench in the background. Crafted of steel and ipe by the watermelon cutter himself.

It’s a little difficult to capture, but those legs are not touching one another in real life. They’re kind of a square spiral, if you get my drift. I thought the design was so dynamic, I suggested he make the top on the diagonal. I always like things done the hard way. Nevertheless, the result is very pleasing. As you know, I prefer the look of bare steel with just a clear coat. (Note that in the photo with Floyd, you can just see yellow and turquoise shrub-stumps I painted because I am after all unruly.)

I believe it is helpful to think of your yard as a series of rooms, each one of which can have their own personality just as they do in the house. New gardeners often don’t know where to begin with a whole landscape, and breaking it down into small spaces is much easier.

The sidewalk garden is its usual self, providing me with some new thing blooming nearly every day.

I have been delighted by my first zinnias; my daughter gave me a bag of seeds and I just threw them around as directed. They are so pretty!

All those colors everywhere! And individually they are amazing.

Also brought to me by seed (!) strawflowers. Sturdy and so beautiful.

Remind me to grow way many more strawflowers next year. I always have a hard time believing that I can even get fine nursery plants to grow, so the thought that I can turn seeds into something alive and gorgeous is way past my level of comprehension.

I’ve even dried a few.

Don’t they make you want to sing “I’m Old Fashioned?”

Before I forget, let us turn our attention to the topic of volunteers in the garden.

I once went to a meet-up of an Austin gardening bloggers’ group. They have a Facebook page but you are not allowed to share your gardening blog posts on it. Since I only have a PhD there are many things I do not understand, and that is one of them. Why have a Facebook group if you can’t share the point of your Facebook group with one another? But I digress.

They were talking about the curse of Jewels-of-Opar (Talinium paniculatum). Naturally I cannot find a photo of one, nor are mine in bloom yet. But if you imagine a flat-leaf succulent with sprays of tiny pink flowers (it is also known as pink baby’s breath), you’ll get the idea.

Anyway, Jewels-of-Opar is unbelievably prolific, so the garden bloggers who don’t allow the sharing of their blog posts on their Facebook page were complaining how hard it is to get rid of.

Why? I was thinking. It’s so lovely and delicate! It’s edible and you can make a healthy tea with it! I figured that if you really wanted to get rid of it, all you’d have to do is start a Jewels-of-Opar tea business, buy some business cards and a website, do some marketing, and it would be dead in your yard within a week.

Sometimes I can be very skeptical in groups I don’t understand. Must be a defense mechanism of some kind.

But volunteers!

I figure if you really want to live in my landscape, and you won’t even hurt me every time I go near you, you are more than welcome here. We live a block from the greenbelt, an amazing natural preserve, and if my yard wants to go back to its true nature, who am I to stop it?

Case in point: in that front yard space under the big live oak, there have been several iterations of ground cover. when we first moved in it was 18 inches of some kind of stupid jasmine that didn’t even flower. It took me two years to dig it out. I put down crushed granite, but that did not make me happy. Then I did this: https://unrulygardener.me/2013/08/06/a-math-problem/

All those rocks were – and still are- beautiful in my eyes. A few years ago I had a burst of winter boredom and did this:https://unrulygardener.me/2018/02/05/oh-damn-ive-done-it-again/

It is not a good thing for me to be bored.

Since then, a number of plants have volunteered/emerged/been started by birds.

Marco Polo would like me to make it clear that he does not volunteer for anything but cookies and catnip.

So we have native lantana, flame acanthus, Pride of Barbados, a little Texas sage, and who knows what-all else claiming their space and growing with no intervention on my part. Next time I’m bored I’ll probably do a little grooming of plants, a little rock-arranging; but if the hummingbirds and bees are happy, who am I to interfere?

Volunteers took over the little front patio area too.

Oh, well.

Despite the jungle-esque humidity, I am way past happy to be back on my bike. It’s been four years since I wasn’t recovering from wrist surgery #1 or wrist surgery #2, and it’s nice to be able to tolerate being on handlebars again. The mornings are absolutely beautiful, with their mild air and growing things to see in all the front yards.

The other day I was headed up a little street when I saw several people standing, looking, taking photos. When I turned to look, I saw a mom and her two little offspring resting on someone’s lawn. Sorry I couldn’t get the three of them to scootch a little closer together, but deer don’t necessarily take direction. These are the young’uns:

Bonne chance, little ones! And be careful in the streets in case you want to come to my house for roses and day lilies. You are welcome, too.

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