Texas Native Plant Week-Autumn Stuff

For this weeklong recognition and appreciation of native Texas plants, I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences with using favorite perennial bloomers, trees and shrubs.  Because it’s October and not March or April, I’ve focused on plants which are doing something now.  Like other places, we in Texas enjoy our beautiful spring blooming plants, but we also admire those plants that take over the blooming work in the long, hot summer, and we glory in  our “second spring,” also known as autumn.  Many Texas native shrubs and perennials blossom throughout our long growing season, with resting periods between bloom cycles. Plus, our Texas plants take a well-deserved hiatus during the height and heat of summer–late July through August.  Hunkering down is often the phrase used to describe that 8-10 week period of relentless heat and little, if any, rainfall.

And that’s during a “normal” year.

As we’re now enjoying our autumn blooms, today’s post is about the plants that are known specifically as fall performers.  These plants are attractive during the other times of the year, but it’s in the autumn, September through November, that they are the stars, the divas, the lead actors on the garden stage.  So enjoy the photo tour and remember–you too can plant and successfully grow these and many others in your gardens!  All of these plants are carefree and low maintenance.

Check out your local nursery, online native seed sources like Wildseed Farms and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for more information.

 

Frostweed, Verbesina virginicaIMGP0842_cropped_3461x2848..new

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Fall Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

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Big Muhly, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

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Gregg’s MistflowerConoclinium greggii

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Blue MistflowerConoclinium coelestinum

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Texas CraglilyEcheandia texensis

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White MistflowerAgeratina havanensis

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GoldeneyeViguiera dentata

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Cenizo, Leucophyllum frutescens

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Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria

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Possumhaw HollyIlex decidua 

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American BeautyberryCallicarpa americanaP1070184.new

These are the “fall” plants in my garden.  By no means is this a complete invoice of plants whose performance peaks in the autumn months–it’s simply what I grow and have room for in my gardens.  As with the rest of the calendar year in Texas, there are many more beauties for the gardener to choose from.

Go forth, Texas gardeners–plant natives!

 

Texas Native Plant Week-Seeds-n-Berries

It’s Texas Native Plant Week and to celebrate, I’m profiling some of the native plants in my gardens.

Mostly, I’m about blooms–flowers are what I love about a garden.  Angiosperms are boss.

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Flowers are pretty.

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They’re bright and showy and are what initially attracts most people to a garden.  But more importantly, flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other assorted pollinators. Flowers and pollinators work and play well together.   Flowers are one stage in the reproduction cycle of a diverse array of plants.  Once plants grow,  bloom and have been pollinated, they become seeds.  Or berries.  Or some form of plant DNA transport mechanism, ready to spread their genetic material to the next generation.  Then, they attract a different crew of critters to eat them, poop them, and that glorious botanical cycle begins anew.

Obviously, all of my flowering natives produce seeds and often, the “fruits” are quite attractive.  But for today, I’m focusing on the native plants in my gardens which showcase especially lovely or interesting berries or seeds desired by gardeners, especially gardeners who want to attract wildlife to their gardens and who doesn’t want to do that?

Texas in known for its spicy Tex-Mex food and there are many hot chile peppers used in the preparation of salsa, enchilada sauce, and other delectable yummies. However, the only native chile pepper in Texas is the Chile Pequin, Capsicum annuum.

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This beautiful plant grows wild, in sun or shade ( it’s best in shade, I think), and is great for birds and husbands who love hot peppers.

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I wrote recently about the American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana.  It’s a beautiful, deciduous, arching shrub with striking purple berries in late summer and fall.

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Like the Chile Pequin, Beautyberry is a plant that works well in either sun or shade, though I prefer it in shade.  In mass plantings, it’s stunning.  It’s also a plant that attracts birds; sometimes those birds eat the berries almost as soon as they ripen and in other years, the gardener will be allowed to enjoy the beauty of those berries for a longer time.

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Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis, is a small, ground-cover type perennial,

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…with bright red, apparently delicious, berries. Producing berries during summer and fall, Pigeonberry supplies birds with a long season of nibbling.  Another shade-appropriate plant, in my gardens the doves dine on those luscious berries.

Inland Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, is a hardy and resilient, but graceful grass which lends softness to any garden.

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It has a wide native distribution and grows best in shade and dappled shade.

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It will seed out profusely, but can be controlled with moderate weeding.

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Possumhaw HollyIlex decidua, grows native in a large swath of the central to southern part of the United States, including Central Texas.   It’s a small, usually multi-trunked tree with beautiful red-orange berries in the winter. The berries on my tree are just beginning their color turn, from green to red.

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By late fall, the berries will be ready for eating by the many birds who enjoy them.  On my Possumhaw, the berries generally remain on the tree through most of winter, well after Possumhaw loses its leaves (“decidua”, deciduous).  It’s quite a lovely winter plant. Sometime in late winter, the Cedar Waxwings will swoop through and within a day, relieve the Possumhaw of its cheery berries.

Its kin, the evergreen Yaupon HollyIlex vomitoria, (one of my all-time favorite botanical names), is also  a small tree with gorgeous and desirable berries,

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…which have already turned red.  The berries of the Yaupon are redder and shinier than the Possumhaw berries.  Mockingbirds are always in this tree hopping and munching and tweeting warnings to others to stay away from their food source.

This is a small sampling of native plants with attractive-to-gardeners and valuable-to-wildlife food sources.   There are other shrubs, trees, and perennials which produce lovely seeds, seed pods, and berries–I wish I had room for them all!

 

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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