Weird Image Wednesday [160615]

Cousin Compost

Sometimes I feel like I'm going to break down.

Sometimes I feel like I’m going to break down.

Around here everyone (thing) is part of the family!

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It’s Alive!

This artichoke plant is taking over the whole bed in which it was planted.

This artichoke plant is taking over the whole bed in which it was planted.

I planted a tiny artichoke plant last fall and now I’m starting to wish I had planted it somewhere else. It’s only mid March and the plant is already huge. Shooting this plant from above led to some fun working with the shadows.

Cabbage, cabbage where's my cabbage?

Cabbage, cabbage where’s my cabbage?

Can you find the tiny cabbage in the shadow of the out of bounds artichoke? This plant might be shading the whole house by the time summer rolls around.

Who dares to venture into the ancient dark forest of artichoke?

Who dares to venture into the ancient dark forest of artichoke?

Up close it makes me think of some kind of prehistoric plant.

Results are in, Spring still my favorite season

I was thinking of putting "Your Ad Here" on the stone next to my rain gauge.

I was thinking of putting “Your Ad Here” on the stone next to my rain gauge.

Much of what I think about water these days has to do with rain. When I grew up in south Louisiana, I took water for granted. It rained a lot, we lived right next to a bayou and there was water nearby in every direction.

Now I appreciate every drop. Gardening viability, tree health, drinking water supplies — these things are on my mind frequently. The first real post on this blog was about rain.

This is a rain gauge that Julie gave me for our anniversary. Who knew that 21 years is frog yard art! So far I’ve been very glad to see this little garden helper get plenty of action. The frog seems okay with it too.

This frog and I love the same things - being in the garden and rain.

This always ready frog and I love the same things – being in the garden and rain.

Hot Peppers Fend Off Approaching Cool Nights

Three varieties of peppers (banana, serrano and my very spicy surprise guest) and many more beautiful colors.

Three varieties of peppers (banana, serrano and my very spicy surprise guest) and many more beautiful colors.

This was a great year for my pepper plants. Of course, here in Texas, I’m not about to claim that statement actually means very much considering how well the darn things grow. But this year brought a crop that I was particularly pleased with.

I grow my peppers in pots and have done so for a number of years. They don’t need to be in the ground and it is a ready way to save the valuable real estate of my raised beds for other plants that appreciate the space more.

This year I chose four varieties (and ended up with five): jalepeños, serranos, banana and cayenne. I planted two serrano plants but one of them was mislabeled and turned out to be something else and very hot.

One of these things is not like the other - serrano on the right and something labeled serrano on the left that turned out to be much hotter.

One of these things is not like the other – serrano on the right and something labeled serrano on the left that turned out to be much hotter.

One thing  I did differently this year was leave some banana peppers on the plant for longer and let them turn red. I always like growing these because they are are a good substitute for bell peppers (which I also grow sometimes). They mature faster, require less nutrients and care, and are more productive than bell peppers usually are around here. The taste is similar and they are good raw in salads or cooked in pasta sauce and stir fry.

This year, due to the abundance of banana peppers on the two plants I grew, I let some stay on the bush longer than I normally would. The first thing I noticed was the beautiful series of colors the peppers turned. In addition to the shot below, the first image in this post shows some of the deep yellows, oranges and reds that were part of the ripening process.

Banana peppers left on the bush until they turned red - beautiful and great tasting too.

Banana peppers left on the bush until they turned red – beautiful and great tasting too.

The other thing I noticed about these well ripened peppers is the way the flavor evolved. I still enjoy the green ones but the red ones had a fuller, more mellow flavor with a nice hint of peppery bite — somewhat like a red bell pepper.

Today is the first day of November and I shouldn’t be talking about this in the past tense. All my plants are still producing and until we have a hard freeze, they should be able to keep going. It’s not unusual for me to have peppers until just before Christmas. With a little effort I could probably protect them and keep them going even longer, but I just let them go when the weather gets colder.

It seems that every year there is one particular crop that stands out and this year it was these beautiful and delicious peppers, although  I never did catch the name of the blazing hot uninvited guest.

Not to be outdone by the banana peppers, some members of this year's serrano crop turned a brilliant vivid red.

Not to be outdone by the banana peppers, some members of this year’s serrano crop turned a brilliant vivid red.

Letting go of this summer’s garden

The year of the Turk’s Cap

Turk's Cap

Turk’s Cap

I shudder to think how many of these things we have planted this year. The problem is, they will not allow me to ignore them. These plants smugly offer so much that I am unable to resist planting them all over the yard.

Here is the quick rundown:

  1. They are drought tolerant
  2. and they aren’t very picky about the kind of soil you plant them in
  3. and they grow well and bloom profusely in the shade
  4. and as if that wasn’t enough — they attract hummingbirds and other pollinators
  5. and they are beautiful plants with dark green foliage and brightly colored blooms.
The Turk's Cap have been blooming in my backyard for months - with no sign of letting up.

The Turk’s Cap has been blooming in my backyard for months – with no sign of letting up.

We planted our first ones about three years ago. Once they were established (one season), they have not required any water. I do water them occasionally, but none of plants appear to suffer much from lack of water.

Turk’s Cap will die back during the winter and trimming them down to the ground has worked because most of the new growth comes from very low on the old stems or from new shoots that spring up. They do spread somewhat, but are easy to control and haven’t been invasive. On the contrary, I usually encourage the spreading in areas where I have planted them and enjoy having the plants fill out and make a nice stand.

Every year we see hummingbirds, bees and wasps on the blooms. We have hummingbird feeders and the Turk’s Cap is one thing that attracts them to our  yard. They also enjoy our salvia and Trumpet Vine.

Turk’s Cap is one plant that I recommend heartily for those in my area (Fort Worth, TX) who are looking for something to plant in shaded areas. Sometimes it seems very hard to find natives that both grow in the shade and bloom and these plants are proving to be virtually indestructible.

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The petals of Turk’s cap make an interesting spiral.