Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day, May 2015

Joining with Christina and  Creating my own garden of the Hesperides, I’m pleased  to showcase fab foliage for May from my garden today.  We’re water-logged here in Central Texas and while I’m appreciative of the rain, I wish it would stop.  Or at the very least, slow down a bit.  My soil is heavy and wet, but my plants are happy.  What I grow in my garden  can take the extremes of Texas weather: from scorching hot, bone-dry summers to frog-drowning floods.  Texas gardeners live with anything and everything.

The late May star of my back garden is the Heartleaf Skullcap, Scutellaria  ovata ssp. bracteata,  a cool season perennial which does spread.IMGP7787_cropped_3259x3268..new

A lot.  But I love this groundcover.  The flowers are a stunning violet-blue, appreciated by pollinators, especially bees. Its foliage is soft and beautiful–to view and to feel.  An attractive gray-green, the leaves are thick, soft, and scalloped, while set opposite one another along a hairy stem.

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Heartleaf Skullcap foliage is nice to touch, but imparts a slightly sticky residue and this trait is (supposedly) what makes it unappealing to deer. The bit of icky-sticky left on my skin when I pull up the plants at the end of Skullcap’s growing season is its most objectionable quality to me.

Skullcap is a favorite of mine: it waves a fetching blue/gray throughout spring and early summer and combines beautifully with many other perennials, each with their own interesting foliage.

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Below, it contrasts with  Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, and its bright green foliage,

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…and here, it’s planted with tiny-leafed Pink Texas Skullcap, Scutellaria suffrutescens,IMGP8228.new

…and the maidengrassy Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’. Hiding underneath the Skullcap is a clump of Kelly green, aromatic, and fleshy Garlic ChivesAllium tuberosum.

A brighter, lacy green is found with Common YarrowAchillea millefolium.   IMGP8165.new

This stand provides a nice backdrop for the Protector-In-Chief.  Doesn’t he look happy and content?

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This fun grouping fills in the northern, shady border of a little back garden bed.IMGP8167.new

It’s a  mixed-bag of foliage characters, including white-stripey Dianella/Variegated Flax LilyDianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’, Katie’s Dwarf RuelliaRuellia ‘Katie’, and ColumbineAquilegia. This particular Columbine is one of the natural hybrids of my A. canadensis and A. chrysantha.  Photobombing on the far left is a containerized Yucca filamentosa, ‘Color Guard’ and some Iris straps, and spreading its succulence in the remainder of the bed is a creeping Sedum, probably Sedum diffusum ‘Potosinum’, though it’s a passalong to me from a friend, so I’m not positive of its identification.

And a bird’s-eye view….

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Isn’t Columbine foliage  pretty?  Especially so, when adorned with raindrops.

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This young Goldenball LeadtreeLeucaena retusa, glows in the late afternoon west sun.

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Its fragrant, powder-puff flowers are done for the year, but the foliage will flutter in the breeze until the first hard freeze.

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The happy pairing of the structural and evergreen Sparkler SedgeCarex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’ and white-blooming, herbaceous Four O’Clock, Mirabilis jalapa, is garden serendipity. IMGP8226.new

The ‘Sparkler’ sports jazzy stripes in the razor-thin leaves and paired with the Four O’Clock’s lush, smooth leaves–it’s a handsome combination.

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There are many shapes, sizes, and colors of gorgeous leaves in gardens–mine and others. Take a look at the lovely Creating my own garden of the Hesperides and see interesting foliage from all over the world–and Happy Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day!

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Butterfly Conclave

With the sun’s penchant for playing hide-n-seek in recent weeks, it’s been a slow-go for butterfly watching.  If it’s not vomiting rain, it’s cloudy, and neither scenario is conducive for butterfly activity.   But during the increasingly common moments of sunshine, the winged jewels are out and about, nectaring, mating and laying eggs–and posing for garden paparazzi.

This Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, enjoyed a treat at the flowers of my Mexican Orchid Tree.

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Black Swallowtail,  Papilio polyxenes, like this gorgeous specimen,

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…are common visitors.  I’ve invited them by having their host plant, fennel, in my gardens.  They lay their eggs on it for the hatched caterpillars to eat.  This adult  is nectaring on a Henry Duelberg Sage,  Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’. He fluttered still long enough for the wildlife gardener to snap a couple of shots.

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There was one, ONE, Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, who visited my gardens this spring, but she was a late-comer.IMGP7970.new

Given her good condition, I’m sure she was one that hatched from a parent who overwintered in Mexico, migrated north, mated, laid eggs and died here in Austin, or nearby.

IMGP7971_cropped_2170x2783..new I’m certain that she’s on her way north now, ready to continue the generations that will eventually summer in Canada, before the autumn migration south to Mexico.

In this post I’m going for the big, gorgeous, cheap-thrill butterflies that alight on flowers, remain relatively still and that anyone can take photos of.  There have been plenty fast-flying skippers and smaller butterflies/moths that I haven’t captured in digital form for posterity, but there are some nice shots of this little moth.IMGP8177.new

The Small Pink MothPyrausta inornatalis, is another regular in my garden and so pretty in its pink scales.

IMGP8178_cropped_2710x2728..new The generous rainfall and soft spring have encouraged an abundance of life in the garden and after years of moderate to severe drought here in Central Texas, that life is welcome.  I hope the insects in your garden are enjoying spring and playing their important pollinator roles–ensuring the balance that is challenged on so many fronts.

A Little Night Blooming

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A little morning blooming, too.

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My white and pink Four O’Clock, Mirabilis jalapa, are joyously flowering this spring. These are passalong plants from gardening buddy, TexasDeb, who blogs at the most excellent austin agrodolce.IMGP8014_cropped_3359x2973..new

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For years I’ve coveted Four O’Clocks, also known as Marvel of Peru, for my gardens. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to snag some, but they’re merrily floriferous in my garden now.

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They are called “Four O’Clocks” because single blooms open in late afternoon, bloom all night and into the morning hours, then close, ready to set seed.

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IMGP0856.new I’ve always thought Four O’Clocks would be great companion plants to the native Texas Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala.

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Pavonia flowers open early in the morning and close with the heat of the afternoon, especially during summer.  Four O’Clocks throw open their windows for the pollinators at roughly the same time that the Rock Rose blooms shutter their petals for their night-time rest.  Nice time-sharing for pollination, am I right?

Somehow, I managed  to NOT plant any of TexasDeb’s Four O’Clock gifts alongside the multitudes of Rock Rose plants in my gardens.  Despite that planting blunder, I’m still enjoying their fragrance and beauty. At night,

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….and at morning’s’ first light.

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Late afternoons in spring, summer, and autumn, the tubular flowers are full-to-bursting, waiting for the sun to set so they can open for business, providing nectar and pollen for (primarily) moths.IMGP8224.new

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Originally from the Peruvian Andes, the Four O’Clock plant is thought to have been transported back to Europe and cultivated there.  There are native forms of this genus in Central and North America, though it’s likely that most M. jalapa found in home gardens  are common, long-established cultivars.

They do seed out,

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…and this spring, I’ve already plucked seedlings gifted by the mother plants.  I wish I had room for more of these lovelies.  Alas, my gardens are stuffed.

The tuberous roots may grow quite large, which is probably why Four O’Clocks are hardy, water-wise plants which snicker at our hot summers, blooming all the while. They die back with winter chill, to their bulbous roots, returning quickly with the warmer, longer days of spring.

Four O’Clocks are a mainstay of the traditional southern garden and going forward, mine as well.

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