Texas Native Plant Week-Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata

I’m continuing to mark Texas Native Plant Week which I began on with this post on Sunday. This week, I’ve written about Rock RosePavonia lasiopetala and Turk’s CapMalvaviscus arboreus.  Today, we visit Sunflower Goldeneye or Plateau GoldeneyeViguiera dentata. Also, today is Wildflower Wednesday, so I’m joining with Gail at clay and limestone for our monthly tribute to all flowers wild.

Wildflower double prizes!

There are lots of lovely fall bloomers here in Central Texas, but none which brighten the garden more than the Sunflower Goldeneye–which I usually shorten to just plain old Goldeneye.

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There’s nothing plain about this eye-catching ray of sunshine!

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I love this blindingly cheery perennial sunflower!  Native to Central Texas, west to Arizona and southward through Mexico and Central America, this plant packs a powerhouse of wildlife goodness.  Goldeneye is the host plant for two butterflies, the Cassius Blue and the Bordered Patch (neither of which I’ve ever observed around my Goldeneye), but is also favored by bees and other butterflies.  In my gardens, my hived honeybees are so all over the Goldeneye that often the plants look like they’re  moving.

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And once the flowers are spent and seed production begins?   It’s a finch feeding fest!

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Specifically, the Lesser Finch really love the seeds of Goldeneye.  They’ve entertained me well this past week.

After the first hard freeze, the Goldeneye die to the ground.  They’ll reappear though in late spring, growing fully and rapidly.  During the course of summer, there will be a smattering of blooms, but mostly this perennial is all about its foliage in the summer, which are typical of sunflower leaves, large and rough textured. As Goldeneye fills out, it’s lush and neat in appearance. But after the first late August-September rains, Goldeneye burst forward in height and width and blossoms with masses of sunny, yellow blooms.

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Like all wildflowers, there’s always some variability and difference between individual plants.  Some Goldeneye flowers are larger, some smaller; some Goldeneye have very narrow petals,

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…and some have wider petals.

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I appreciate that each plant has its own “personality”–just a little different from its neighbor.

Goldeneye pair nicely with other fall bloomers.

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These sunflowers grow and bloom in shade, but they get tall and lanky and tend to flop over once they are bloom heavy,

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…which they will become in the fall.  In mostly sunny spots though, they tend to remain more compact and stable.

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As with other wildflowers, you should tolerate the rangy growth habit toward the end of Goldeneye’s growing season.

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As lovely as most native plants and wildflowers are to us, they didn’t evolve to look pretty for people, but to provide food and cover for wildlife. Wildflowers are beautiful in our cultivated gardens for most of their growing season, but there’s almost always a short period of time after blooming and seeding, that wildflowers look spent from their wildflower production activities.  Be patient with your native wild plants during that period of time.

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You’ll be glad you did!

Texas Native Plant Week-Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus

In keeping with my native plants manifesto, which you can read here, I’m celebrating Texas Native Plant Week by profiling some of the native plants in my own gardens.  The information reflects what I’ve learned from the transformation of my traditional maintenance heavy “yard” to a no-lawn, water-wise garden, featuring beautiful Texas native plants– which were the drivers and are the stars of that metamorphosis.

Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, is another perennial in my gardens that I consider a “staple” plant.

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Turk’s Cap was one of the first Texas natives that I loved and planted and I have it growing throughout my property–it serves an anchor perennial for most of my gardens.

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The petite, scarlet and swirled hibiscus-like flowers, blooming May through October,

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…herald the beginning of our long growing season here in Texas.  Turk’s Cap is native to Texas and other parts of the Southeast, all the way to Mexico.

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An excellent wildlife plant, it feeds bees (native and honey),

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…hummingbirds, butterflies of all sorts, and birds favor the fruits in summer, fall and early winter.

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The leaves are wide and tropical looking, giving plenty of room for bird poop to land on,

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…and the flowers are showy and prolific.

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Gosh, I love the look of this plant.  But it’s huge.  It can get so, so large, you’ll want to make room for it–so don’t squeeze it in. All of my established stands of Turk’s Cap are 8-10 feet across.  Big ole thangs.

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If you plant Turk’s Cap, you’d better like where you put it because after a few years, once it’s established, it’s hellacious (and back-breaking) to transplant.  The bulbous and massive root (system) is the reason why Turk’s Cap  is so hardy and drought tolerant. I don’t water several of my established groups of Turk’s Cap.

Turk’s Cap is best in shade, dappled shade, and part-shade.  Yay!  A beautiful perennial that is great in shade!  It’s adaptable though and works in full sun–in fact, it blooms beautifully. However, the leaves flatten and darken in a way that I find unattractive, so I generally don’t plant mine in full sun–there are much better choices for planting in the blasting Texas sun.  However, as a shade perennial? I just love it!

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Turk’s Cap is a herbaceous perennial, meaning that it dies to the ground with a hard freeze.  It will disappear in a cold winter after you’ve pruned it to the ground, so it’s a good idea to pair Turk’s Cap with evergreen growing companions.  Some examples might be Columbine, Iris, holly shrubs (for example, the native Yaupon), Rock Rose, or even some of the more shade tolerant yucca plants, like this Paleleaf Yucca.

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(Disclaimer: this particular part of my garden receives late morning to early afternoon summer sun, but is shaded for the remainder of the day.)

Don’t be dissuaded by Turk’s Cap going AWOL in winter.  It will return quickly in early spring; tough, hardy and beautiful, Turk’s Cap will bloom and bloom during the long Texas growing season.

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Texas Native Plant Week–Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala

In keeping with my native plants manifesto which you can read about here, I’m celebrating Texas Native Plant Week by profiling some of the native plants in my own gardens.  The information reflects what I’ve learned from the transformation of my traditional maintenance-heavy “yard” to a no-lawn, water-wise garden, featuring beautiful Texas native plants– which were the drivers and are the stars of that metamorphosis.

I grow lots of Rock RosePavonia lasiopetala, in my gardens.

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I say “grow”–Rock Rose grows itself and mostly, I let it.20120609_1.newThis small “evergreen” perennial  blooms late spring, throughout summer, and into fall and is a Texas tough plant.  Rock Rose flourishes in a variety of light situations, from shade, to dappled shade,

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to full sun, though it blossoms more in full sun.

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The pretty-in-pink flowers open early in the mornings and close for business by 3 or 4pm during the heat of summer.  The closing of those blooms is the plant’s response to heat and is a natural conservation measure.

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As cooler autumn months arrive, the blossoms will stay open until sundown.

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Rock Rose will seed out–really seed out, so if you don’t like that, it may not be the plant for you. I simply yank up the seedlings I don’t want and give them away, compost them, or transplant them.

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Rock Rose is one of those plants that I pop in difficult situations where I’m having problems figuring out what would work; it’s a staple plant in my gardens–good in so many situations.

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Rock Rose flowers on new wood, so after bloom cycles (which start in May) you can “deadhead” or prune the stems (6-8 inches) and the plant will flush out with new growth to start the next bloom cycle.  If you object to pruning, you can let Rock Rose continue to grow and it will bloom, but slightly less because it’s placing its energy toward seed production.  If left unpruned, the branches arch over, heavy with seeds and blooms.  Rock Rose is evergreen, though not a lush evergreen–green leaves remain on the shrub during winter; the plant is more woody than green.

When I prune my Rock Rose plants, I tidy and shape them a bit,

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…but Rock Rose is loveliest in its casual form, meaning that this is a perennial you don’t want to shape too much–let Rock Rose, be Rock Rose.

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Rock Rose attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds but isn’t a specific host plant to any particular critter.  It is moderately deer resistant and very drought resistant. Native to Central to South Texas,  I wouldn’t guarantee winter hardiness in the northern parts of Texas. It probably acts as an annual.

Don’t worry if it croaks during the winter though, I’m sure it will seed out.

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Texas Native Plant Week

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This week, October 19-25, is dedicated to celebrating home-grown native plants in geologically, topographically, and meteorologically diverse Texas.  My experience in gardening is limited mostly to urban gardens in Austin, but I also have limited knowledge about plants along the central Texas coast, owing to having grown up in that area.

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Texas is a big place–a really big place.

Natives that are completely at home in my gardens may not fare so well in the Panhandle or The Valley.  What works well in the High Desert mountains of West Texas definitely won’t like the humidity, drippy rain, and acidic soils of the East Texas Piney Woods. Native to here isn’t necessarily native to there.  Yes, there are crossover plants which thrive in vastly differing situations and there are plants which flourish worldwide.  I certainly grow some plants in my gardens whose ancestors originated halfway around the world. But when a gardener uses native plants, several valuable and aesthetic goals are accomplished.

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Native plants impart a sense of place.  My garden looks different from a garden in the Northeast or the Pacific Northwest–and it should. What grows for me should be different from what someone in Minnesota grows.  A home or commercial landscape in Arizona shouldn’t host the same plants as a garden in South Carolina.  Some natives exist only in a very specific area, while others range throughout much of North America, but all suggest a regionalism that defines a specific climate and geography–native plants identify place.

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Native plants require less irrigation and less chemical intervention.  Because native plants grow where they evolved, there’s no extra work in keeping native plants alive-except planting or seeding out the darn things, of course.  Other than some watering immediately after planting, a native perennial or annual usually survives without extra effort–extra watering, extra fertilizing, or extra babying.  The only plants I feed in my gardens are the pond plants and the roses; the entire process takes about 15 minutes, once per month.  I haven’t used any herbicide or other chemicals–well, I don’t think I’ve ever used a herbicide, and the last time I used a commercial fertilizer, excepting the aforementioned plants, was when I still had turf–and that’s some years ago. I do irrigate, sparingly, June-August, but that’s all the irrigation I give to my perennial gardens.

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For Texans who are happily riding on the native plants bandwagon, our primary gardening efforts tend to be in the winter and early spring–pruning, mulching, and readying our gardens for the long growing season.  Landscaping with native plants does require some work–they seed out (prolifically at times) and for the sake of tidiness, occasional pruning is a must. But the differential between landscaping with turf versus native plants is huge. When I observe the mowers in spring, summer, and fall, often perspiring as they pointlessly mow, edge, water and feed their grass–I’m befuddled. Why would you have grass, which requires weekly (or nearly weekly) maintenance, when there are so many beautiful, really beautiful, perennials, grasses, and annuals requiring little maintenance? What is the point of watering and fertilizing something, just so it can be mowed?  I used to have grass and only grass.  I used to mow, water, edge, fertilize–the whole absurd merry-go-round futility of turf–until I transformed my personal landscape with (primarily) native plants.

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Not everything in my garden is native–I grow plenty of native cultivars and non-native plants and they are some of my favorites.  But native plants are special–born and bred here in Texas. They are easy, lovely, and Texan and it doesn’t get better than that!  If you live elsewhere, then your native plants are easy, lovely, and…emblematic of the wonderful and special place that you live–wherever that might be.

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Native plants feed wildlife.  The synchronously of native plants with their pollinators and other wildlife partners is an established biological paradigm.  In any given area, wildlife evolved along with their plant hosts–it’s just that simple.  When you have native plants in your gardens, you will attract wildlife.  Boom!  The home gardener can play an important role in providing for wildlife by planting natives: as large swaths of land are destroyed for a variety of reasons, why not help heal the world, in a way that is very real and practical, by planting natives which will feed displaced wildlife?

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I putter in my gardens–constantly reviewing, reassesing, and replanting.  Gardening is my passion, it’s what I do.  I recognize that not everyone is a gardener and most are unlikely to do what I’ve done.  I have been called “crazy” more than once by those who don’t get what I’ve done with my “yard.”  However,  I can’t help but wonder what would happen with our beleaguered and threatened natural world if everyone who owns property, the proverbial house with yard, would take out half, just half, of their useless and wasteful turf and install native plants instead.  Think of how unique each home garden could be. Think of the water which would be conserved. Think of the fossil fuel which would not be used.  Think of the wildlife which would be fed.  Think of the locally owned nursery and landscape businesses which would boast more clients, rather than the large mowing companies and the big box stores siphoning off that work.

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I don’t see a downside to using native plants in the garden. One difficulty you might encounter is if you live where the local nurseries don’t yet provide a selection of native-to-your-area plants, you’ll need to request they do. Business axiom dictates that if customers demand products, businesses will provide those products.  It may take time and persistence, but the native plants ship is sailing and the savvy nursery owner or landscaper will climb aboard.

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This coming week, I’ll be profiling a fraction of the natives that I grow in my garden. These plants are perennials that are doing something “now”–blooming or berrying or generally looking good. Readers from elsewhere–you might be bored with this week’s posts, as I’m writing primarily for Texas viewers.  Hopefully though, you’ll be encouraged to discover what is native in your areas–many places now celebrate the use of native plants in home and commercial gardens.

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Native plants work.  They are beautiful, unique to region, and typically hardy and drought-tolerant.   There are many resources available to learn about native plants and their value; you can start by checking out the “Garden References” section on this blog’s menu.

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For more information about Texas Native Plant Week, take a look at the websites of the following organizations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

National Wildlife Federation

Native Plant Society of Texas

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

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Go natives!

 

Bloom Day, October 2014

Summer has been reluctant to release its toasty grip on us in Texas, but the cool of autumn has mostly arrived. We’ve enjoyed a couple of refreshing cold fronts, dropping our temperatures into the ’50’s, with highs in the 70’s and ’80’s. The lingering warmth of September and early October didn’t damper blooms in my gardens, though. Joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens, I’m celebrating blooming stuff on this 15th of October.

There is no shortage of blooming native Texas plants in my gardens. Let’s take a tour, shall we?

Barbados Cherry, Malpighia glabra, has blossomed its dainty, pink clusters for a month or so now.

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Soon, cherry red fruits will replace blooms, feeding a whole different crop of critters. Barbados Cherry is lovely in tandem with Turk’s CapMalvaviscus arboreus.

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A cultivar of the native red Turk’s Cap, the Pam’s Pink Turk’s CapMalvaviscus ‘Pam Puryear’, blooms as heartily as the red,

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…but with softer pink swirls perched atop the long branches.   In my gardens, the Pam’s Pink is planted with FrostweedVerbesina virginica,

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….and it’s a successful pairing.   Frostweed is an excellent wildlife plant.   Attracting butterflies, like this migrating Monarch,

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…and bees,

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…and this guy, a Tachinid fly,

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…who you can see again on Wildlife Wednesday, a fun little wildlife gardening meme I host.  The next Wildlife Wednesday is November 5th.  Frostweed a stalwart native perennial; it’s drought hardy and works well in either shade or sun.

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The GoldeneyeViguiera dentata, is photogenic in the fall garden.

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Another perennial which attracts its share of pollinators,

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…these pretty yellow flowers evoke glorious autumn sunshine.

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They work and play well with other natives in my gardens,

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…like the Rock RosePavonia lasiopetala and Barbados Cherry. And who doesn’t love the tried and true combination of yellow and blue?

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This Goldeneye’s companion is the non-native Blue Anise Sage, Salvia guaranitica.  

The roses in my gardens are awake again after the heat of summer. I grow only water–wise antique or cultivar roses in my gardens.  If a rose can’t shrug off the heat and dry of the Texas summer, it’s out!  The Martha Gonzales Rose is one such beast.

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Named after a Navasota, Texas gardener, Martha Gonzales,

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…this rose is beautiful, fragrant, and tough. Martha grows in USDA zones 7a to 10b so it it’s appropriate in a wide range of situations.  If you only grow one rose, make it the Martha!

The Belinda’s Dream Rose, which is appropriate for USDA zones 5a to 10b,

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is the quintessential elegant pink rose. Fragrant and downright luscious, Belinda isn’t quite as hardy as the Martha, but still performs well for me.  Belinda gets a little peeky in summer, but picks up again with rain and softer temperatures.  Caldwell Pink Rose,

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looks dainty, but it’s no wilting beauty.  This poor thing, I’ve moved it four times–I think I’ve finally found its forever home.

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A migrating Monarch finds this Old Gay Hill Rose delightful,

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…and so do I.  Similar to the Martha Gonzales, the shrub is larger and the petals slightly (but only slightly) more pink than the Martha’s fire engine red petals.

I’m not a grow-only-native purest and host a number of non-native perennials in my gardens, like these Four O’Clocks, Mirabilis jalapa.  Considered a staple of the Southern garden, these are new to my gardens and were gifted to me by a gardening friend, TexasDeb at austin agrodolce.

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These lovely trumpets open late in the day, bloom all night, and close in the morning. Four O’clocks are fragrant and are such lovelies–I’m tickled to make room for them in my gardens.

Jewels of OparTalinum paniculatum, are another new-to-my-gardens perennial from TexasDeb.  Jewels are also an old-fashioned flower of the Southern garden.

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I love the teesny flowers, the “jewels” seeds, and chartreuse foliage. Both Four O’Clocks and Jewels of Opar are potentially invasive, so I’ll keep them in check–ripping out uninvited extras who crash my garden party!

It’s now that my Coral Vine, Antigonon leptopus, shines,

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…or is that a sparkle?  Whatever it is, the bees love this bloomer.

After each rain, the Almond Verbena, Aloysia virgata, flowers and its fragrance graces my garden.  Shown here in partnership with Turk’s Cap blooms, the Almond Verbena is favored by honeybees.

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My Almond Verbena is the anchor plant in a group of native shrubs and perennials.

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It fits quite well, I think.

Quoting another garden blogging buddy, Debra of Under the Pecan Trees,  we enjoy a “second spring” in Texas–a  lush blooming autumn gift, after the heat, when all, including gardeners, perk up anew.

What’s blooming in your gardens this October Bloom Day?  Check out May Dreams Gardens for blooms from everywhere.