Category: Flora

Thank You Bees and Lady Bird Johnson

A couple weeks ago, my neighbor discovered a bee swarm on one of our fence posts. (When I first saw it, the swarm was twice the size of the one pictured.) Being a conservationist, I was concerned the swarm was honeybees. Being a paranoid dog owner/foster, I was worried what could happen if dogs and bees met. Thankfully, my ever-calm hubby hopped on the Internet and called Little Giant Beekeepers.

The woman he spoke with said the swarm was probably resting after their hive had been disturbed. They’d send out scouts, find a new home and move in a day or two. But, if we wanted, they could send a beekeeper. With me imagining one or more dogs not having the sense to leave the bees alone, getting stung, and having an allergic reaction, we opted for the beekeeper.

Turned out the bees were honeybees. When Miguel came, he suited up, and with an Amazon box and brush in hand, he swept them into the box! He accomplished the task amazingly fast. (Miguel later told us once the queen is in the box, the remaining bees pretty much follow.) Then he taped the box shut and said the bees would be relocated.

The bee incident made me thinking about Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy. This time of year, wildflowers, particularly Texas’ state flower bluebonnets, bloom along highways and in medians, continuing the conservation efforts she started decades ago. According to http://www.pbs.org/ladybird, on January 27, 1965, Lady Bird wrote in her diary, “Getting on the subject of beautification is like picking up a tangled skein of wool. All the threads are interwoven—recreation and pollution and mental health, and the crime rate, and rapid transit, and highway beautification, and the war on poverty, and parks—national, state and local.”

I’ve always felt passionately about issues. Rarely am I on the fence. These days, two of my soap box issues are conservation and saving honeybees. I keep thinking about planting bee friendly plants–sage, salvia, lavender, clover and native wildflowers. Honeybees are struggling to survive. I believe we all need to do our part to help. After all, as Lady Bird said, everything is interwoven, and honeybees pollinate most plants, including our food. No bees? Life will get tough for other animals. Humans included.

I think the bee swarm was the universe telling me to quit talking about it and improve my garden. This weekend I intend to take a tip from Lady Bird Johnson and plant flowers, because like she believed, “beauty can improve the mental health of a society,” and of course, I’ll choose bee friendly plants. We should be kind to our planet and its inhabitants, honeybees included. We’re in this together, and we should keep the Earth healthy. As French president Macron said, there is no Planet B. 

Tonight I’ll select one reader who leaves a comment to receive a Book Club wine glass and a copy of To Catch a Texas Cowboy, where my heroine runs a B&B, The Bluebonnet Inn.

Updated: May 2, 2018 — 7:22 am

The Capitals of Texas

Kathleen Rice Adams, author

I spend a lot of time talking and writing about Texas history—all the people, places, and things that have made Texas a larger-than-life state. Every once in a while it’s interesting to reflect on what modern-day Texans have done with the legacy of ancestors who sacrificed, struggled, and bled .

Texas FlagIt’s true what they say, you know: “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” Texans take a great deal of pride in that statement, having been devoted to “big” since the state was an independent republic. From its admission to the Union in 1845 until someone exhibited extremely poor judgment and granted statehood to Alaska in 1959, Texas was the biggest U.S. state by far. Ever since that unfortunate dethroning, Texans have felt compelled to prove we can out-big the best of ’em by conspicuously displaying big houses, big vehicles, big fortunes, and big hair.

Sometimes, though, even Texans think this “big” thing has gotten out of hand. Take, for example, the list of Official State Capital Designations. Who in their right mind thinks any state needs sixty-nine official state capitals? Texas has seventy, actually, if one counts Austin.

Texas Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnets outside Ennis. (photo by Jeffrey Pang)

Austin, as it turns out, lies at the heart of the ridiculously big list. In 1981, probably in an effort to head off a county-line war, the legislature passed a joint resolution naming Burnet County and Llano County the Bluebonnet Co-capitals of Texas. The Bluebonnet City is Ennis, which is in neither county but probably got its feelings hurt because it does put on quite a show during bluebonnet season.

From there, the legislature got the bit in its teeth and went hog wild. The official representatives in the official Official State Capital in Austin went on a designating binge from which the state has yet to emerge.

Texas crape myrtle

Yes, crape myrtles are pretty. Evidently, they’re pretty enough to fight over in Texas. (photo by Atamari)

Evidently another botanical fight erupted in 1997, this one over crape myrtles. Waxahachie, Paris, and Lamar County all got a part of that designation, as Crape Myrtle Capital, Crape Myrtle City, and Crape Myrtle County, respectively. It should be noted that the Crape Myrtle City is in the Crape Myrtle County, about as far north and east as one can go in Texas. Why Waxahachie, which is south of Dallas, insisted on a piece of the action is anybody’s guess.

Wildflowers evidently caused yet another set-to, because the legislature named both the City of Temple and DeWitt County, about 162 miles apart, the Official Wildflower Capital of Texas. Both probably remain dismayed they have to share the honor.

Resistol Hat

“King George” Strait is a Resistol fan.

The legislature named Garland the Cowboy Hat Capital of Texas in 2013, which makes sense because that’s where Resistol Hats got their start. The designation Dinosaur Capital of Texas also makes sense for Glen Rose, since a plethora of dinosaur tracks—including some that had never been seen before—were discovered in the area at the turn of the 20th Century. But the Hippo Capital of Texas (Hutto)? The Jackrabbit-Roping Capital of Texas (Odessa)? Even Texans wonder who had gotten into the mescal when those ideas were trotted out.

Texas horned lizard

A Texas horny toad. Cute li’l feller, ain’t he? (photo by Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Since the Official Texas State Reptile is the horned lizard—horny toad to Texans, and found only in our state—it’s only right the little critter have its own capital. The legislature went wild on this one, in 2001 designating Kenedy the Texas Horned Lizard Capital of the World. That may be justified, though, because Kenedy’s human population of about 3,000 is probably outnumbered by the reptiles.

Caldwell is the Kolache Capital of Texas, but the Official Kolache of the Texas Legislature resides 100 miles away in West. Yep—must’ve been another fight.

Quite a few of Texas’s Official Capitals are associated with food:

  • Texas crawfish

    In Texas, we call crawfish “crawdads.” They look like miniature lobsters, and they’re the only thing in Texas that looks miniature. (photo by Jon Sullivan)

    Elgin is the Sausage Capital.

  • Floydada is the Pumpkin Capital.
  • Friona is the Cheeseburger Capital.
  • Hawkins is the Pancake Capital.
  • Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital.
  • Madisonville is the Mushroom Capital.
  • Mansfield is the Pickle Capital.
  • Mauriceville is the Crawfish Capital.
  • Parker County is the Peach Capital.
  • Weslaco is the Citrus Capital.
  • West Tawakoni is the Catfish Capital.
  • Knox City is the Seedless Watermelon Capital. (There appears to be no Seeded Watermelon Capital, but I’m sure the legislature will remedy that oversight soon.)

In case anyone isn’t completely fed up by now with Texas’s determination to out-big everyone else (Sixty-nine official state capitals? Seriously?), the complete list of Texas Official State Capital Designations is here.

 

Burpee Seeds – A Short History

wg-logo-picHi, Winnie Griggs here.  With the start of the new year I’ve been in a cleaning out and de-cluttering mood.  And I’ve been surprised by the number of things I’ve come across that I’d forgotten I had.  One of the items is a pretty little tray, with a picture on front that is a reproduction of a picture that was featured in a 1913 Burpee seed catalog.  Which got me to wondering, since I know Burpee Seeds are still around, just how long the Burpee Seed Company has been in business.  Which naturally gave me an excellent excuse to stop cleaning out my spare room and start in on a little research.

 

W. Atlee Burpee was born in 1858 into an established Philadelphia family that was descended from French Canadian Huguenots.  Both his father and grandfather were physicians and it was expected that Atlee would follow in their footsteps.  But Atlee himself had different ideas.

From an early age he had an interest in animals and plants.   He started with poultry Atleebreeding (chickens, geese, turkeys) but it wasn’t long before he was also working with livestock, dogs and plants.  Atlee was fascinated with the still-new and little-respected science of genetics.  A man who loved research, Atlee conducted his own experiments, and met with a great deal of success.   He corresponded with poultry experts across the world and contributed articles to poultry journals as well.

In 1876, when Atlee was eighteen, he took a loan of $1000, most of which was provided by his mother, and started a mail-order chicken business out of the family home.  Because of the success of his breeding experiments and the numerous articles he’d written, many poultry farmers already knew his name and expertise.  His business became so successful that he was soon able to open a poultry and feed store in Philadelphia.  Because of a growing demand from his customer for quality vegetable seed, by 1878 Burpee had formed W. Atlee Burpee & Company.

But Atlee had a near-obsession with innovation and improvement.  And he had the intellect and skills to follow through on this keen interest.  In 1877 he was able to introduce a new variety of cabbage he called Surehead, in 1881 he produced an improved carrot, in 1884 it was both an improved celery and a better pepper and in 1887 he produced an improved radish..

ICatalogn 1888 the company established Foodhook Farms in Doylston, PA to test new flowers and vegetables.    This was before the US government had a seed testing or research station of their on.

Atlee traveled extensively through Europe and the US every summer.  And much of his travel time was spent visiting farms.  When he found flowers or vegetables he thought of as exceptional, he would ship these to Fordhook Farms where they could be tested and crossed with other seed stock to produce hybrids – in fact Foodhook Farms was on the leading edge of this type of seed production.

Although garden seed production became the company’s primary business, Atlee and his successors never forgot the company’s beginnings and it wasn’t until 1940 that live poultry disappeared entirely from the Burpee catalog.

At the time W. Atlee Burpee died in 1915, the company he founded was the largest seed company in the world and was receiving approximately 10,000 orders a day.  Burpee’s employed 300 people and was sending out a million catalogs a year.

Atlee was succeeded as head of the firm by his 22 year old son David.  It was shortly after David took over the company that World War I began taking a toll on seed production in Europe which pushed America to the forefront of world seed production.  David Burpee was one of the forces behind the ‘War Gardens’ movement of WW I.  This is what he had to say about it:

Food will win the war , we were told by Washington and I decided the best way I could help our country’s war effort was by showing people how to grow a good share of their food right in their own back yards. To dramatize this, I set up what we called War Gardens in a number of cities. The biggest attention-getter was the one in New York. It was in Union Square, directly opposite an imitation battleship bristling with wooden guns aimed at the tomatoes and cabbages. It was a huge success. I would guess that that garden alone must have started thousands of people gardening.

So, do you have any experience with Burpee’s seeds or their catalog?  And was any of this information a surprise to you.

And since, as I said, I’m trying to de-clutter my home, but would like to give some of my ‘treasures’ to folks who will appreciate them, I’m going to give the tray pictured here to one of today’s commenters.Tray

Updated: January 12, 2015 — 2:21 pm

Seeing Daylight through Aspen Trees…and a giveaway ~Tanya Hanson

MarryingMinda Crop to UseToday I’m giving away “book-ends”–the first e-book in my contemporary, inspirational ranch series, Hearts Crossing Ranch, as well as the latest, book seven, Seeing Daylight~so please leave a comment after you endure my lecture on Aspen Trees!

You see, Seeing Daylight takes place in autumn in Colorado, and last fall, Hubs and I witnessed the aspen trees in all their fiery glory, mostly yellow and gold, occasionally red. I still get goosebumps.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Aspen are found throughout North America, from New England to Alaska, even down into California and Arizona. But the best, the most, and brightest are found in Colorado and Utah. (Aspen, Colorado was named that for a reason!)

???????????????????????????????

Petiole–the stalk attaching the leaf to the stem–are long and flat, giving the leaves the chance to flutter or “quake” in the slightest breeze. Depending on their location, aspen endure temperatures as low as -78 F, and as high as 110 F. While they prefer moist soil, they can grow in desert climes that get a half a foot of rain a year. Their absolutely only requirement for survival is abundant sunlight.

With white bark and black scars, the aspen is often confused with the birch. However, birch bark easily peels like paper and aspen bark does not. And…an aspen isn’t really one tree at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A stand of aspen is actually one huge organism, a large system–up to twenty acres–of underground roots. When there is finally enough sunlight, roots sprout up into the famed white trunks which eventually shoot off leaves.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is called vegetative, or asexual, reproduction. These root systems are called “clones” and can live for thousands of of years. The oldest known clone at 80,000 years old is the “Pando” north of Bryce Canyon in central Utah. Five-to-ten thousand year old clones are more common,

Aspen are unique in another way…beneath that lovely white back is an inner green layer necessary for photosynthesis. Making sugars keeps the aspen growing all through the winter when other trees go dormant.

This green layer also becomes survival food for deer and elk when winters are long.

In the fall, the trees of each aspen “clone” structure will have the same color turning from green to gold or red at the same time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The intensive root systems appear immune to plant diseases. The aspen is not endangered and never will be. Even dormant root systems come back to life…especially after a forest fire clears out other growth and brings back the sun.

The only natural enemy of the aspen are pocket gophers who, in abundance, can gnaw through root systems. But chopped up roots can still grow.

The aspen turn gold earlier in the mountains than say, Denver, and we sure timed it right during our vacation in Vail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

(view from our condo…pretty swell!)

Have you ever seen aspen? Did you find any interesting facts today? Please leave a comment to win either kindle or PDF copies of my “book-end” books.

SeeingDaylight_w4964_680 (2) HeartsCrossingRanch_w4841_300[1]

 

 

…a beautiful attorney widowed by a foolhardy man…a successful builder vanquishing guilt over his wife’s death. Can they rebuild faith and find love enough to give each other and their kids a happy home together? 

….Sixteen months since the foolish death of her husband, attorney Rachel Martin aches to move on as much as she fears the future. Cutting back on her practice and moving back to her childhood ranch means her three-year old son has all the attention he needs. Finding love again is the last thing on her mind…until she meets Brayton Metcalf.

 After ten year’s of self-blame for his wife’s death in a plane crash, successful businessman Brayton Metcalf is instantly drawn to Rachel when he brings his his daughter to Hearts Crossing Ranch for therapy riding lessons. But Rachel backs off at his impetuous personality. He whittles away at her doubts…until he jumps head-fist into a business decision that will affect her family. Rachel, her trust in Brayton endangered, turns to trusting in God. Can the couple’s shared grief and guilt permit them to see daylight once again?

 

 

 

Updated: July 9, 2014 — 10:33 am

State Trivia Week – Louisiana

Photo WG2 smallHi.  Winnie Griggs here, and I’m pleased to be sharing some fun facts about my home state of Louisiana with you.  Though I’ve moved around within its borders, I’ve been proud to call the Pelican State home for my entire lifetime.

Here are just a few things you may not know about my home state:

 

Structures:

  • Louisiana’s state capitol building is the tallest in the United States.  The building is 450 feet tall and has 34 floors.  The Capitol is surrounded by 27 acres of formally landscaped gardens.
  • Louisiana is home to the longest bridge over water in the world.  The Lake Pontchartrain causeway is 24 miles long and connects the city of Metairie with St. Tammany Parish.
  • The Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans is the world’s largest enclosed stadium.
  • Morgan City, La is home to the world’s largest heliport.

Entertainment:

  • The first Tarzan movie, Tarzan of the Apes , was filmed in St. Mary Parish .
  • The staircase at Chretien Point, in Sunset, was copied for Tara in Gone With the Wind
  • The nation’s first opera was performed in New Orleans in 1796.
  • The name “jazz” was first given to the music of New Orleans about 100 years ago.
  • Elvis got his start playing at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.
  • The first opera performed in America was in 1796 in New Orleans
  • Grand Isle’s Tarpon Rodeo, established in 1928, is the oldest fishing tournament in the U.S.
  • Grambling’s Eddie Robinson is the “winningest” football coach in college history.
  • The nation’s oldest community theater, is Le Petit Theatre de Vieux Carre, is in New Orleans and  dates from 1919.

 

Natural Resources and Flora:

  • Louisiana is the number one producer of crawfish, alligators and shallots in the nation.
  • Louisiana produces 24% of the nation’s salt, the most in the country.
  • There are 117,518 oyster reefs in Louisiana waters.
  • The salt mine at AveryIsland, the oldest salt mine in the Western Hemisphere, was discovered in 1862.
  • Toledo Bend Reservoir offers 185,000 acres of bass fishing paradise.
  • The oldest salt dome in the Western Hemisphere was discovered in AveryIsland in 1862
  • Saint Martin Parish is home to the world’s largest freshwater river basin, the AtchafalayaBasin; the basin provides nearly every type of outdoor recreational activity imaginable.
  • The TunicaSwamp, near St. Francisville, boasts the nation’s largest bald cypress.
  • Louisiana has the largest variety of plant and animal species of any of the Gulf states.
  • Louisiana’s 6.5 million acres of wetlands are the greatest in the nation.
  • Steen’s Syrup Mill is the world’s largest syrup plant, producing sugarcane syrup.
  • The AmericanRoseCenter, located in Shreveport, boasts 20,000 rose bushes.
  • The world’s most complete collection of camellias is at the JungleGardens in AveryIsland.
  • Redwing, La, has a cherry tree that sprouts from a cedar tree trunk.
  • Louisiana has 15 State Historic Sites, 17 State Parks, and 1 State Preservation Area.

Historical Trivia:

  • The oldest city in the entire Louisiana Purchase Territory is Natchitoches, founded in 1714. Which Street Carmeans Natchitoches (a beautiful city where I spent my 4 college years) is celebrating its tri-centennial.
  • Baton Rouge was the site of the only American Revolution battle outside the 13 Colonies.
  • The first commemorative railroad spike to be driven by a woman was the golden spike commemorating the completion of the east-west Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad.  It was driven at Bossier City on July 12, 1884, by Julia “Pansy” Rule.
  • The St. Charles Avenue streetcar in New Orleans has been operating since 1835, which makes it the oldest line in the world.  It is also one of the two only mobile national monuments in the nation.

 

There you have it, some of the lesser known facts about Louisiana.  I hope I brought you something new.  Let me know what surprised you in this list or caught your fancy.

Updated: January 5, 2018 — 2:11 am

Almost Heaven–Shenandoah Valley in the Fall ~Tanya Hanson

I live along the California coast where the weather is unusually mild. We broil when the temperature reaches 80 degrees, a rarity, and we drag out the woolies in the low fifties. Therefore, witnessing the change of seasons is always a true treat. A year ago, my husband and I took a historical tour of the East Coast at the perfect time: the leaves were turning.

Perhaps the most dramatic experience of visual delight came in the Shenandoah Valley, named for the river that lines much of its length. The valley consists of nine counties in Virginia and two in West Virginia. Famed for autumn displays like the picture below, (courtesy of Dreamstime), our group looked forward to our stay at Big Meadows Lodge, located in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, at 3,510 feet above sea level. Every balcony of the original building overlooks the valley.

 

The historic lodge was built in the late 1930’s with stones cut from Massanutten Mountain, which bisects the valley. Sadly, rain and fog obscured much of our views, but we still managed to enjoy plenty of local and fall color. The following pictures are mine.

 

The Shenandoah Valley is gorgeous any time, bordered on the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, to the north by the Potomac River and south by the James River. Kind of the confluence of many of the places and rivers we’d visited.

Many legends abound as to how the valley got its name. The one I like best comes from the Iroquois, one of my favorite tribes. It is said Chief Sherando (also the name of his people) fought against the ruler of the Powhatan Confederacy–the Algonquian chief Opechancanough, (1618-1644), and was driven back to his original territory at the Great Lakes by Opechancanough’s son, Sheeva-a-nee, whose descendants became the Shawnee. I like how several tribes kind of mashed together in this account.

After this, colonial settlement of the farm-rich valley was delayed by the barrier of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1671, they were finally crossed by explorer John Lederer at Manassas Gap, and Cadwallader Jones in 1682.

The first permanent white settler in the valley was Adam Miller, or Mueller, who staked out a claim in 1727 on the south fork of the river near today’s division of Rockingham and Page Counties. A Native road through common tribal hunting grounds soon became the Great Wagon Road. This road, later called the Valley Turnpike, soon brought more settlers in from Pennsylvania and northern Virginia, including Quakers and Mennonites who apparently were fairly well received by the natives. The German settlers became known as “Shenandoah Deitsch” and may Scots-Irish immigrated into the valley via the Potomac River.

During the Civil War, the valley was known as the “breadbasket of the Confederacy” and became a back door for Confederate raids on Maryland, Washington, and Pennsylvania. In the 20th century, the valley’s vineyards reached maturity and the new industry of viticulture began.

Whenever you get there, the Shenandoah Valley is a terrific place to visit.

 

As John Denver (one of my favorites)sings:

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains
Shenandoah River

SOUL FOOD available now. ANGEL CHILD early 2013

 

Updated: August 10, 2015 — 12:26 pm

Wildflowers of Texas

I had the opportunity to spend a few quiet days at a writer friend’s ranch established in 1895 here in the Texas Panhandle.  We began the day drinking coffee and watching the sunrise from the back porch and ended each day sitting on the front porch taking in the fantastic sunsets. We’ve had a lot of rain, so the wildflowers are really pretty right now.

In 1971 the bluebonnet of Texas was declared our official flower.  They aren’t native to our region of Texas, but I couldn’t start to describe any wildflower of Texas without beginning with the bluebonnet. They grow extensively over the state, primarily from the northeast to the southwest, but their greatest displays are on the limestone hillsides of Central Texas, creating large fields resembling a sea of blue. 

It’s not uncommon to see bluebonnets in fields of  impressive Indian blanket. To me they are one of the most beautiful wild flowers of Texas, especially mixed with bluebonnets.  Each has ten to twenty ray flowers, sometimes all red but usually marked with brilliant yellow on the ends of the rays, forming a yellow band along the outside.

A flower that typically gets confused with Indian blanket is Scarlet Paintbrush or Indian Paintbrush, as it’s more commonly known.  They represent one of  Texas’ most beautiful landscape displays. In the Hill Country around Austin and San Antonio large fields of red and blue, sometimes sprinkled with white prickly poppy are impressive sights.  The paintbrush plant grows between six and fifteen inches tall. Flowers with the attending floral leaves, called bracts, grow around the upper three or four inches of the stem.  The intense red-orange color is due to the bracts, which almost hide the inconspicuous cream-colored flowers. 

But the Whole Leaf Indian Paintbrush typically found in the Panhandle is about the same size as the Scarlet Paintbrush but it bears several leafy stems from a woody root.  The leaves are narrow, unlobed, and undivided.  The bracts are usually scarlet or cerise, sometimes yellow, mostly rounded on the outer edge.  Mixed with other wild flowers, it is easy to mix up the Indian blanket and the Indian Paintbrush because of the similarity in color.

To me one of the prettiest, yet oddest and deadly, plants found in Texas is the Jimsonweed.  You’ve probably heard it called devil’s trumpet, devil’s weed, thorn apple, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, pricklyburr, devil’s cucumber, Hell’s Bells, or moonflower, just to name a few.  The large, white, trumpet-shaped flower can be found from one end of the state to the other and is always a refreshing surprise. It is a spreading, busy plant, often three feet tall and between five and eight feet across.  The branches are mainly on the upper half.  The board leaves are four to ten inches long with fine hair, especially along the vein.  The flowers somestimes have a pale pinkish cast.  The petals are united to form a funnel.  But the surprise … they open in the evening and close by mid-morning.  On still evenings, hawk moths are apt to dart from flower to flower.  The plant is poisonous, but because of its bad odor and taste, thank goodness, livestock seldom eat it.

What is your favorite wildflower?

Updated: August 5, 2012 — 2:42 pm

Cheryl St.John: Bleeding Hearts and a Drawing

It’s always a delight to share my garden photos! Spring has come early to the Midwest. Trees and perennials are already flowering. My bleeding heart, which is on the north side of the house beside ferns that have been moved from yard to yard since I got them from my grandfather thirty years ago, is not quite blooming, so I’m sharing last year’s photos.

 

The Royal Horticultural Society is an old group of plant lovers who sought out new and unusual flora. In the 18th century, rare and unique plants were being shipped to the UK from China and Japan. Robert Fortune was sent  to find and bring back Asian specimens. He is credited with introducing bleeding heart in 1847. The plant name for what is commonly known as bleeding heart is Dicentras

The informal herbal and perennial gardens of the Victorian era were perfect places for bleeding heart. The beauties flourished beneath the branches of elms, alders, maples or other shade trees. The traditional English cottage garden has also been a favorite planting place for the bleeding heart. The plant’s habit of blooming all summer with fall and winter dormancy, make it an important part of both spring and early summer gardens.

 

Native Americans used the wild bleeding heart medicinally. Wild Dicentras carpeted forest floors in the Pacific Northwest. It was used as a tincture or compress to relieve pain. The wild plants are lower growing and smaller than Dicentras spectabilis, but are identical in foliage type and have the classic heart-shaped flowers.

 

I hope you enjoy my photos today!

 

My April book The Wedding Journey is now available for order on amazon and the Kindle release will be available on the first.

 

Drumroll please…..

I’m giving away ALL THREE SIGNED BOOKS IN THE TRILOGY to one person who leaves a comment today.

Happy Spring!

The Desert in Bloom

My new book Dawn Comes Early takes place in Arizona Territory.  When Kate Tenney first arrives she hates the dry, barren land, but nothing is what it seems at first glance. Beauty—whether we’re talking about the desert or people—often reveals itself slowly and only when we look for it.   Today, I want to take you on a desert tour through Kate’s eyes.

 

Arizona State Flower: Saguaro

The tallest cactus  in the world, the saguaro can grow to almost seventy feet.  It also has a long life and doesn’t sprout arms until seventy-five years or older.  Night blooming white and yellow flowers appear April through June. Pollinated by bats, the blossoms have a waxy feel, fragrant aroma and are sturdy enough to hold a bat’s weight.  The flowers will turn into ruby fruit by summer.

 

 

 

If you fall in a cactus patch, you kin expect

 to pick stickers.

 

Prickly Pear

This cactus grows red, yellow or purple flowers.  The plant spreads along the ground and ranchers often used them as living fences.  The plant kept man and livestock from crossing over.

 

Ranchers also burned off the spines during droughts and fed the water-filled pads to livestock. Flowers bloom April through June and produce edible fruit.

 

 

Fishhook Barrel Cactus

  

The last cactus to bloom in the calendar year, orange, red or yellow-green flowers appear in July or August.  Indians used the spines as fishhooks .  

 

It’s commonly believed that the Barrel Cactus holds water and can save stranded travelers from dying of thirst. This is a myth.  It actually contains alkaline  juice; drinking it could give you the trots and possibly hypothermia.

 

 

 

 

 Surprise is a near-sighted porcupine

fallin’ in love with a cactus.

 

Ocotillo

This spiny plant grows red tubular flowers  and its honey-scented nectar attracts hummingbirds.  The plant sheds leaves during dry spells to preserve water and grows leaves during rain.

 

This cactus was also used as living fences by ranchers to keep out man and beast.

 

 

Century Plant (agave)

 

 

Consider yourself lucky if you come across one of these in bloom.  So called because they bloom “once a century” the plant actually lives for about twenty-five years. 

 

It blooms only once but the flowering spike grows so large and so fast it saps the energy from the plant, which then dies. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the book Kate has an unfortunate run-in with cactus.  Anyone have a cactus tale to share?

 

Available in Print and Ebook 

 

Updated: March 27, 2012 — 7:16 am

Texas Bluebonnets

 

Nothing steals my breath more than a field covered with Texas Bluebonnets. It’s simply too gorgeous for words. Each spring folks load into cars and tour buses to see the bluebonnets just like the people in the northeastern states take tours to view the spectacular fall foliage

But although I’ve lived in Texas most of my life I found out some things I never knew that I’d like to share with you.

Bluebonnets are only found growing in their natural state in Texas and no other location in the world. That means they weren’t brought in from somewhere else by the early settlers. Bluebonnets are as well known as the shamrock is to Ireland and the cherry blossoms of Japan.

Many of you may know that the bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas and has been since 1901. But did you know there are five different kinds and that choosing the state flower started a bitter dispute that wasn’t finally settled until 1971? Arguments ensued over which variety was going to be declared the proper state flower. The Texas Legislature finally settled the dispute by declaring that any and all varieties of the bluebonnet are the state flower.

The “lupinus texensis” variety is the most common and the one most visitors see when they come to Texas. It has pointed leaflets and the flowering stalk is a breathtaking blue with a white tip. But less common ones grow in pink, rosy purple and royal blue and there’s even a solid white bluebonnet.

Bluebonnets typically bloom in the spring from March through April and sometimes into early May. The profusion is dictated by the amount of rain and germination in the fall, long before they pop their heads out of the soil. In times of drought the amount of bluebonnets is considerably less. Although bluebonnets need heat to germinate the seed, cool weather is crucial to develop the complicated root structure.

Bluebonnets are very difficult to grow in gardens and pots. They cannot tolerate poorly drained, clay based soils. And they need lots of direct sunlight. Guess that’s one reason they grow so well here in Texas. We have oodles of sunshine.

Other common names for the flowers are buffalo clover, wolf flower and el conejo (Spanish for “the rabbit”.)

Usually found blooming amid patches of bluebonnets are Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, and coreopsis.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not illegal to pick them.

In 1982 the state legislature named Burnet (SW of Austin) the official Bluebonnet Capital of Texas. Each April the town holds a Bluebonnet Festival which includes street dancing, concerts, a carnival, 5K run, pet parade and wiener dog races. Sounds like fun.

So, I hope you enjoyed this look at the bluebonnet. We’re very proud it chose this state in which to shower us with its beauty.

Updated: April 13, 2012 — 12:52 pm
Petticoats & Pistols © 2015