Who Wears White?

There’s an old saying that one should never wear white after Labor Day. My garden is gleefully bucking that tradition; Labor Day has come and gone, but snowy blooms abound! Autumn is a rich time in Central Texas gardens: a little rain (very little) and gentler temperatures, (somewhat…), are just the ingredients for September and October floral madness. All the flowers are lovely, but cool white flowers are radiant in the autumn sun.

Once my front garden became a full sun space, Gaura, also known as Butterfly Gaura, Oenothera lindheimeri, was a plant on my must-have list.

The flowers look delicate and sweet, but this long-blooming perennial is tough and a sunshine-n-heat lover. It’s also proved a great pollinator plant. I’m hoping for a seedling (or several) for more gaura goodness in my garden.

Mexican Orchid tree, Bauhinia mexicana, is also in full-bloom mode, though like the Gaura, it’s bloomed throughout this long, hellish summer.

While I’m touting the virtues of white blooms, you’ll notice that both the Gaura and the Orchid tree sport blooms with a slight blush of pink.

The front garden Orchid tree sits among some Martha Gonzales roses and Mexican Honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera. A couple of volunteer White Tropical sage plants, Salvia coccinea, have joined the crew, adding more dollops of cream in the garden.

Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum are reliable bloomers in late summer and early fall. Typically, it’s a challenge to find a cluster without an attending honeybee–they love this plant! I’ve always wondered what honey produced exclusively from chives would taste like. Amazing, I imagine. In addition to attractive foliage and sweet, snowy blooms, the chives are also edible: bulbs, leaves, and flowers!

An old-fashioned pass-along plant, Four-o-clock, Mirabilis jalapa, is happily blooming white, dainty flowers while invading the space of a Soft-leaf Yucca.

Red flowering Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, joins the scene, top left.

The Four-o-clocks open in late afternoon, providing for nighttime pollinators, specifically Sphinx moths. By mid-morning they’ve closed up shop and new blooms will open later in the day.

I also grow a deep pink four-o-clock–a stunning color–but it’s the white flowers that are blooming beasts.

Softleaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia, are favorite evergreen ‘staple’ plants in my gardens. Most of mine have resided in areas too shady for bloom development, but I like their size, their pretty blue-green foliage, and their ability to withstand heat, drought, and cold. I also appreciate that they’re not too spiky in the garden–I don’t like plants that hurt! I was content with them as an evergreen, architectural presence, only occasionally lamenting a lack of yucca flowers.

This one, near the pond in my back garden, has never bloomed, so when I spotted its bloom stalk, I was thrilled.

I’ve long accepted that the back garden yuccas would never produce any beautiful, bell-shaped blooms. But after the February 2021 deep freeze, one of my oak trees was damaged and now doesn’t provide the shade it once did. I’m guessing that maturity, plus a tad more sunlight, allowed the yucca confidence to send up its bloom stalk and flower.

Nearly a year ago, I transplanted five small Softleaf Yuccas from my back garden to my front, newly full-sun garden, and look forward to their growth and future flower production. They’ll be quite happy in their new home: foliage and blooms–a win!

No Central Texas fall flower fawning is complete without mentioning Frostweed, Verbesina virginica. This stately perennial sometimes begins its blooming in summer (mine did) but the zenith of flowering usually occurs in October, well-timed with Monarch butterfly migration. Clusters of milky flowerets are magnets for a huge variety of pollinators.

My honeybee gals are all over the Frostweed flowers, slurping the sweet stuff and gathering rich, creamy pollen.

I like a garden with plenty of color and textural diversity. But in a colorful garden, white blooms have a place: cooling and calming, they temper brighter colors and are restful to the eye. Even in full sun, white blooms are luminous and beautiful.

Wings Spread Wide

Winging bloom to bloom, choosing different colors, various forms–flowers provide. Rest follows with open wings, accepting warm sunshine.

A pink bloom awaits.

Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae and Pam Puryear’s Pink Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus x Pam Puryear’s Pink’

Reds After the Rain

As happens every August and September, flower stalks of the perennial bulb Oxblood or Schoolhouse Lily, Rhodophiala bifida, have emerged. These bright pops of color appear, seemingly overnight, after the first few soaking late summer rains. This particular group lives among some Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima. The still green, but turning autumn-toasty feathery grass, contrasts with the deep red, dainty lilies, creating a charming scene.

So far, this is the only Schoolhouse Lily group that has awakened from its underground bed, but I’m confident that in coming weeks, other red surprises will reach up for a share of sunshine and a howdy! from pollinators. The individual blooms don’t last long, only a few days, but I’ve planted various bulbs around my garden and they appear, as they choose, at different times, allowing for a longer period in which to enjoy the pretties. Once the blooms fade, strappy foliage will stay green, disappearing in late spring as the temperatures rise. This Amaryllid was most likely introduced in Texas by a German colonist and botanist, Peter Heinrich Oberwetter (1830-1915). He imported R. bifida bulbs from Argentina and it has naturalized successfully in many parts of the state, especially here in Central Texas.

Another Amaryllis bulb making its flowery appearance after late summer rains is the Red Spider Lily, also called Guernsey Lily–Lycoris radiata. These stunning flowers, with their curled petals and spidery stamens, are showstoppers.

Like the Schoolhouse Lily, Red Spider Lily flowers emerge from buried bulbs after an August or September rain and sit atop fleshy stems . The stems of L. radiata are taller and the flower is larger than those of R. bifida. Both rock stunningly rich red accents in the garden.

This group of Red Spider Lilies produced five stems with flowers. The stems are single, with no foliage emerging until the flower has faded. Like the Schoolhouse Lily, the foliage will be evergreen through winter and spring, disappearing with warmer temperatures. The bulbs stay safe from summer’s heat in deep soil, needling little water through the summer months.

The foliage you see in both photos comes from a Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis. The Pigeonberry and Spider Lily are accompanied by a couple of Glo Coalson’s raku pigeons. I thought the Pigeonberry needed some pigeon friends. Also, these pigeons don’t poop.

Our blisteringly hot summer has somewhat abated and we’ve recently received 4-5 inches of rain. We’re still in an official drought, but the slightly cooler temperatures and the rain are most welcome by the garden and this gardener. Along with these reliable late summer bulb bloomers, everything in the garden is breathing a sigh of relief–greening up and flowering out–demonstrating their appreciating for the rain.