Gardens are for Critters

On a recent late summer pruning foray into the garden, I was reminded of the importance of looking before cutting.  Spring-blooming Gulf Coast PenstemonPenstemon tenuis, well beyond its flowering and even its seed production time, annoyed me with its messiness. With tidying in mind and Felco pruners in hand, I prepared to snip off the offending bloom stalks, when  I saw this stunning creature, a just emerged Black SwallowtailPapilio polyxenes, drying its wings.

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I often–though not always–look before cutting, so that I don’t destroy the home or nursery of some wild thing which has decided to rest or raise a family in the garden.  It seems an easy thing to do, this business of  wildlife awareness, but pressed for time, or hot and sweaty, the goal of garden clean-up easily becomes an obsessive one.  The beauty of the new pollinator,

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…transformed from the formerly green, yellow, and black caterpillar which slinks amongst the foliage,  to its winged and adult stage ready to take on the flowering world, focused my attention on the why that I garden, not the gardening itself.

A  transformational home, newly abandoned,

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… and the knowledge that the “messy” plant provided a safe refuge for the morphing, are the  only reasons I require to continue gardening for wildlife.

 

Between Drops

The rare August cool fronts which have stalled over Central Texas in the past week or so have brought welcomed rain to the hot August days…and nights, (with apologies to 1972 Neil Diamond). Between the drips, drops, and gushes of rain, coupled with sparkles of Texas sun which has filtered through from time-to-time, foliage in my Austin, Texas garden is washed clean of summer’s dust and birds’ poop.

Purple heart plantSetcreasea pallida, is a native to Mexico, but a naturalized plant throughout much of the southern United States.

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The foliage is of this shade and sun groundcover is purple, but other subtle coloring imbues the plant with opalescence.

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It’s a great ground cover for this area, one that withstands the capriciousness of our climate–drought, heat, flood, and freeze.  Once established, it spreads with glee and requires reining in on a seasonal basis.  It seeds out sometimes, like in this container of Texas beargrassNolina texana.  

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I’m pleased that the Purple heart chose a purple pot to settle in.

Purple heart is one of the few non-spiky, non-green, hardy perennial choices available for this region and adds purple pizzazz to any garden.

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Tasmanian Flax Lily ‘Variegata’, or DianellaDianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’ is another non-native plant flourishing in my garden.

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Dianella pairs nicely with Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia

Dianella’s snazzy green and white foliage stripes cheer several spots in my garden and bring needed structure to predominately shrubby plant combinations.  I usually plant three or four together for a dramatic effect.

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Dianella is water-wise and low-maintenance during our hot summers, though it needs covering during winter freezes.  I find this plant well-worth winter babying because it’s light and bright and complements other plants. Dianella also produces flower stalks with tiny blooms atop, though most gardeners plant it for its foliage.

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My honeybees visit the dainty blooms and I’ve also seen small native bees show an interest.  It’s a win-win for critters and gardeners alike.

A native member of the Liliaceae family, Texas CraglilyEcheandia texensis, is about to begin its blooming cycle, but the foliage is lush from late spring until frost.

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I’ve planted a number of these over the years and enjoy their contribution to my garden.

One group of Texas craglily is situated with the also fall-blooming Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, whose foliage inspires common names such as Palm-leaf mistflower and Palm-leaf thoroughwort because of the palmate shaped leaves.

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Deeply lobed and vivid green, Gregg’s mistflower foliage is attractive for the whole growing season.

Pink-n-green-n-white is always a winning color combo, but especially so  in this recent impulse-purchased and potted Sedum spurium ‘Tricolor’.

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I’m hoping for a glorious draping here and to not over-water the pot.

Finally, a capture of the harbinger of November’s autumn leaf change floating in a bird and bee bath.

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In November, foliage change in my garden will be about the less direct sunlight and cool temperatures. But this American sycamorePlatanus occidentalis leaf is probably a victim of the pre-rain Texas summer sun and heat.

Thanking Christina and her lovely Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for hosting, check out her Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day post for a look at foliage in many gardens , from many places, and then share your leafy loveliness.

 

Red Hot

It’s hot, hot, hot!  That’s a common, though tiresome, refrain this time of year here in Austin, Texas as we’re all incessantly whining about summer’s heat.

Or maybe it’s just me who’s whining?

Handling the heat better than I are some heat-loving perennials, currently blooming, and instead of whining, they’re shining.  The Firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis, scoffs at summer’s heat and humidity, putting on a red-hot bloom show–with no intermission–for months at a time.  This one, which is situated in my shady front garden,

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…softens a corner between a pathway and sitting area.

The red-orange tubular flowers attract tiny native metallic bees, though photos of such are hard to come by–the bees fly too fast and disappear into the floral tubes, rich in nectar and pollen.

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You can catch a glimpse of purple-foliaged Purple heart augmenting the cheery red cascade of Firecrackers.

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A different clump of Firecracker plant in my back garden adds to the tropical look around the pond.

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Like the front garden Firecracker, this one has bloomed continuously since winter, because neither specimen froze to the ground due to the mild winter of 2015-16.

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The pond Firecracker also enjoys a purple neighbor in the pond waterfall perennial called Ruby Red Runner.

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Flame acanthusAnisacanthus quadrifidus, a heat-loving native Texas shrub with petite, bright red-to-orange blooms, is in full bee and hummingbird attracting mode.

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This single bloom plays peek-a-boo through the foliage of a companion Plains goldeneye, but you can see some of its flaming partners in the background.

 

Another garden buddy, FirebushHamelia patens, in keeping with  the theme of red-hot beauties, is a real garden hot-shot.

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Like the Firecracker plant, my Firebush never froze to the ground and has grown quite tall (almost 4 feet) because of this year’s non-winter.  My parents planted one many years ago in their garden in Corpus Christi, Texas (along the Gulf of Mexico) which has a more tropical climate than Austin.  It’s rarely been pruned and is–I kid you not–nearly two stories tall and  easily 20 feet wide.  My measly little shrub  has a lot of growing to catch up with that!

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The scarlet blooms with their yellow throat make this an attractive source for hummingbirds.

 

Another blazing beauty in bloom is a surprise Spider lily, Lycoris radiata.  

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Typically, these stunning bulbs push their flowers up and out, seemingly overnight, in late August or September.  But this one decided to grace the garden a little early.

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A flamboyant, red-hot late summer treat!

As this is posted, our triple-digit heat wave is broken.  Rain is falling and is forecasted for the next few days.  For Texans, rain in early August is a gift–and tremendously appreciated. Oh, it’ll toast up again, rest assured.  But the long, dry Texas summer is being shown to the door and autumn’s second spring blooming cycle arrival is eagerly awaited.

I thank Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting this monthly bloom bonanza known as Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.  Join in, share your garden pretties, then click over to her lovely blog to see and learn about blooms from many places.