I’ve been playing in the dirt a lot lately. There’s nothing that brings me satisfaction and peace like digging and planting. Until recently I’ve never been great at keeping plants alive, unfortunately, with the exception of vegetable gardens planted in rainy years.
Living in North Texas near the Oklahoma border has put our town dead-smack in the center of what’s called an “exceptional drought”. The past 5 years have been horribly dry to the point that our combined lake level was barely hitting the 20% mark. Our city became the first to recycle waste water to use as drinking water. The land shows the damage. In our front yard, we had to cut down 3 of our massive (for North Texas) shade trees that died from lack of water.
It’s been depressing as hell. I mean, I remember fishing in this lake as a kid.
This spring is proving to be very wet. We’ve had something like 9 inches of rain in the last week or two and there’s plenty more in the forecast. I think our whole county thinks we’ve died and gone to heaven. Tornado warnings every night? Mosquitos the size of my fist? Who cares?! We’re getting rain!
The idea of another long, dry summer haunts us, though, so we’re collecting rain water as much as we can (don’t have much storage). We’re planting plants that put on a good show for spring, but are hardy enough to handle the heat and drought if our summer decides not to play nice this year. A few sips of saved rain water should be enough to get them through the toughest summer heat.
Through a lot of reading and question-asking (and some trial and error over the past few years), I’ve found what seems to be a magic combination of plants to make our yard more attractive to both people and pollinators. If I can’t kill these things, chances are that you can keep them alive, too.
First, we have to talk about stringy stonecrop. This stuff is frikkin’ magical! Sun? Shade? Water? No water? This stuff not only survives, but thrives! It spreads like wildfire and it looks gorgeous trailing over the edges of pots, between rocks, and acting as ground cover. It blooms tiny little yellow flowers in early summer and the bees and butterflies just can’t get enough.
It all started late last summer when my mother-in-law ripped a few handfuls of it out of her flower bed and sent me home with the instructions, “Just drop it where you want it to grow. It will root and spread on its own with little care.”
I took this with a grain of salt because I’m fully capable of killing anything with leaves.
It did spread nicely! Then it shriveled back and mostly disappeared over winter. This spring it came back in droves! It’s in places I don’t remember placing it and, boy is it making me happy. I love grabbing a handful and passing it on to friends. I can’t find a single place that sells it, so I’m extra thankful to have it.
When you’re trying to create these huge, lush planters like you see on Pinterest and you need your “spiller” plant, this is the one! I put it in with some sweet potato vine, purple jew, and polka-dot plants. I think these will fill up over the new few weeks and be amazing!
Oh, and I’ve got some ranunculus plants going in this planter with tons of string stonecrop spilling out. I just cannot wait for those ranunculus to bloom!
Editing to add that I’m not the only one who loves this stuff. Bees and butterflies are all over it!! So if you’re trying to help feed/save the bees, getcha some of this and they’ll be glad you did!
Secondly, let’s talk about coleus. Coleus, coleus, coleus. Gah, I love it. It comes in so many colors and can work as your thriller and your filler. Heck, put it anywhere, in any container! Just make sure it gets lots of shade. They get large and bushy and, oh, I could just hug ’em!
I love my Kong Lime Sprite Coleus. This one will get really lush. Maybe 2′ tall and very full.
I’ve got other types of coleus going all through the yard in large pots and hanging baskets.
The Black Dragon Coleus is so cool!
Festive Dance Coleus puts on a beautiful show and may be my favorite. Nah…my favorite changes every day.
But yeah….look at it!
You can plant multiple types of coleus together to put a lot of color in your yard without having to depend on flowers that may or may not survive the summer. I’ve got several of these pots planted with a variety of coleus, polka-dot plants, and stringy stonecrop. In the week since I took these pics, they have grown leaps and bounds. Can’t wait to see what they look like in another month!
Rock garden. The pretty little back-up plan for if summer really gets ugly. Again, in the days since I took these photos, we’ve had lots of rain and these suckers have spread! Yay! The kids and I picked up rocks from family land and hauled them to the house. I’ve got Red Creeping Thyme, Hen and Chicks, Dragon’s Blood, Stringy Stonecrop, and miscellaneous succulents planted between rocks. This spot gets sun until mid-afternoon.
Random…I just have to share my Donkey Tail succulent (aka burrow’s tail). I frikkin’ love this thing. It started out small and I swear it grows so quickly, you can just almost see it growing!
In our backyard, I’ve got some more stuff going on. Mostly repeats of what we’ve already discussed. Hey, I’m cheap and I propagate my plants like crazy!
Here’s some more stringy stonecrop! Hey, imagine that! Ha. This batch is planted into the side of the house which is made of fossils, shells, and random rocks of all kinds.
And in the stump of a tree that didn’t survive the drought….stringy stonecrop! Okay, yeah, and a few succulents, too.
Last month, the kids, in-laws, and I build this raised flower bed as a surprise for Shayne while he was out of town. While I’m thrilled with the rock work itself, I don’t love how I’ve planted things in it this year. Live and learn. Next year, it will be the highlight of the yard. Yeah! Anyway…in there, I’ve got full-sun stuff because it’s a hotspot. It cooks in the summer afternoons. Purple salvia, petunias, purslane, red creeping thyme, purple jew…seems like something else maybe. I don’t know.
And then…there’s my spot. Oh, I love this spot. It’s my shady hideaway where I can sit and knit, eat Sonic ice, and watch the kids play.
See the empty pond? We’ve always had it empty and it makes me sad. I want to have a little turtle pond. Fish. Ducks. But man, do the neighborhood cats love our back yard as it is. And the giant owls…and the coyotes from the nearby golf course, and….yeah. Anywho–I’m open to suggestions on what we should do with that thing!
The table came used from our late neighbor. It had no top, so we cut down some old fence boards and created a new one. LOVE. And what’s that in the center? Oh, just more coleus and stringy stonecrop. Since I took the photos, I’ve added hanging baskets of Impatiens in white (excellent shade flower that does well in these here parts) and…coleus. Ha. I intend to drape some lights around soon, too.
Behind the table is this stair-stepped bed where I’ve planted red coleus, pink polka-dot plants, pink impatiens, and purple jew. The back side stair-steps back down and gets more sun, so I’ve got some gorgeous red celosia back there.