Native Season

This week, Texas gardeners recognize the value of native plants in our gardens during Native Texas Plant Week.  Native Texas plants belong here, where they’ve evolved alongside endemic wildlife, enduring capricious weather patterns, varied soils, and wide-ranging topography.  While not indestructible, native plants (once established) tend to withstand drought and periodic flooding better than most introduced plants.  There are exceptions of course, but when a garden is primarily natives, it reflects a strength of purpose which translates to less fuss and work for the gardener, as well as unique, regional loveliness in both flower and foliage  all year round.   

Spring flower cluster, with Black Swallowtail butterfly attached, of the Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora). The foliage is evergreen and attractive year-round.

The native plants thriving in my modest, urban garden array from those which bloom nearly year-round, to those that show-off seasonal glory.  When I evaluate my garden, I reflect that most of my native plants (and some of my non-natives) were gifted to me, either as seedlings or seeds.   Yes, I’ve purchased plants, mostly trees and a few shrubs, but gardening with natives doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor if you connect with local native plant enthusiasts, native/wildlife gardening organizations, or the wacky gardening neighbor down the street.  Increasingly, local urban nurseries offer an assortment of native plants for affordable prices.

Golden groundsel (Packera obovata), spring flowers feeding Texan Crescent butterfly.

It takes time and requires more knowledge and creative energy to plant with natives, rather than simply sodding your “yard” with mono-culture turf.  But the rewards in enjoying seasonal interest, in providing a respite for wildlife, and lessening regular maintenance (especially in the heat of summer) makes the effort worthwhile for home and commercial landscapes.

Gulf Coast Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis), blooming in spring.

Gulf Coast Penstemon with seed heads in late summer.

In this post you’ll see a few of the plants that grow happily in my garden, most of which I’ve profiled previously.  Some are spring-only actors, while some blaze the garden stage primarily in autumn.  Many bloom repeatedly throughout the long growing season, or morph from beautiful spring-summer blooms to spectacular fall-winter seedheads–alluring for the gardener, sustaining for wildlife.

This spring bloomer is a hybrid between my Yellow columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha) and my Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).  Check out my ‘Seasonal Look’ for Columbine.

In all cases, these plants are easy to grow–with the right light and soil requirements– and are appealing throughout the year.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) flowers in late spring and summer; rests during the heat of mid-to-late summer, then enjoys a second flowering again in autumn.

Red tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) is a small perennial, dormant in winter if there is a hard freeze. It emerges in spring and blooms through autumn, until winter, in earnest,  arrives.

White tropical sage is a natural hybrid of the red tropical sage. Some of my tropical sage are red, most are white–all are gorgeous!

For information about North American native plants, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.   Even better, if you live in or near Austin, go for a visit–it’s a stunning native garden dedicated to the education and preservation of native plants in North America.  Additionally for those in or near Austin, the LBJWC will hold its fall plant sale this Friday and Saturday, October 20-21–check out the website for more information.

Rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is a long-blooming perennial shrub and a huge favorite of the pollinator crowd.

When someone visits my garden, a common comment is: You have such a green thumb.  My reply is always the same:  I don’t really have a green thumb, other than that I pick great plants that don’t need much care.  

Sunny Engelmann’s daisy (Engelmannia peristenia),  paired with Henry Duelberg sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’).  Buzzily nectaring native Carpenter bee–bonus treat!

And it’s absolutely true, since native plants are hardy enough to thrive, even for the most black-thumbed amongst us.

Shrubby blue sage (Salvia ballotiflora) hosting a Long-Tailed Skipper.  This West Texas native blooms repeatedly throughout the growing season.

The same sage photobombing a containerized American century plant (Agave americana)

 

Native plants are necessary for the health of wildlife and are vital sources of food for migrating insects and birds.  With native plants in the ground, your garden will be alive with wildlife, and after all, isn’t that what plants are for?

Male Monarch butterfly nectaring on Turkscap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii), another long-flowering perennial native.

 

Some native plants are endemic to a specific area, like this Big red sageSalvia penstemonoides.  The Big red sage was believed extinct, but in the 1980’s several groups were found in the Austin area, its only native habitat (as I recall, under one of the MoPac overpasses).  Since then, the seeds collected have been nurtured and plants are grown for nursery trade.  This stunning summer bloomer (and great hummingbird flower) is found in some locally owned nurseries.  I purchased mine at Barton Springs Nursery.

I’ve planted four of these perennials in my back garden; this one overlooks the pond and receives the most sunlight. Recently, with the downing of part of a non-native tree in my front garden, I’ve transplanted the three remaining to that garden, with hopes that they will get more sun and the pollinators (and the gardener!) will enjoy more of these deep, crimson flowers.

Other native plants are found in a larger geographical area, some spanning the whole of North America.

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) has a native range from Virginia to Arkansas, Texas and Florida.

 

Natives are lovely planted together.

Plateau goldeneye (Viguiera dentata), Turkscap, and in the bottom, right corner, the subdued, pink-blossomed Barbados Cherry (Malpighia glabra)

 

While blooms are boss (at least, I think so!), don’t forget about our native grasses, appropriate for shade and sun situations, lending softness and grace to the garden.

Big muhly (Lindheimer’s muhly) in autumn plume

 

Plant natives.

Pipevine Swallowtail, feeding on Frostweed (Verbesina virginica)

Painted Lady butterfly on Frostweed

Migrating Monarch on White mistflower (Ageratina havanensis)

Big muhly, Shrubby blue sage, Turkscap, non-native, containerized bougainvillea

Texas craglily (Echeandia texensis)–blooming in fall

Wild blue aster, Fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), turning happy, autumn-aster faces. imploring you to plant natives!

You’ll be amazed at the transformation of your once-boring swath of grass as it becomes enlivened with blooms-n-berries, foliage-n-flowers, and critters galore–all with less effort from you.

Go native plants!

Happy Texas Native Plant Week!

16 thoughts on “Native Season

  1. Texas mountain laurel! That is something I grew here in California. We have nothing like it. I gave them to neighbors in my old neighborhood. I would like to grow them again. They do not get very big here, so they fit into small garden spaces. Penstemon are popular here, along with the native penstemons, because they do not need much water. For a while, I had Texas bluebonnet. Something ate them. The native lupines do not get eaten.

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    • Wow–I didn’t know it would grow there, but I sure agree that it’s a great plant! I would love it if it was smaller, more shrub-like, though the tree is gorgeous. Penstemons–there are so many kinds–are lovely perennials; I have several that I really like.

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  2. Stunning! Beautiful! What a great collection you have. Would love to try that Big Red Sage (Salvia Penstemonoids). When do you plant your perrenials… in the fall before freeze, or in spring after the freeze is over?

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    • Thanks, Dana! I’ve been gardening in this plot of the Earth for a while–seeds happen! I guess what I’d say about planting here in Austin is that the only time I don’t plant is in the heat of summer. Fall is the absolute best time to plant trees and most shrubs and perennails. There are some more tender perennials which I would wait until spring to plant, but yes, fall is a good time. Mulch well, and earlier in fall is better.

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    • The Black Swallowtail is a beauty and fortunately for us, very common. There are two other swallowtails in this area, the Tiger and the Giant, but they’ve been rather scarce this year.

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  3. Some of the white flowers blooming now still confuse me. I have frostweed sorted out, but I still confuse white mistflower and shrubby boneset. Time and observation will take care of that, as it has with some of the darned yellow composites!

    That craglily is a real attention grabber. And I’ve found something that looks like your white tropical sage down at the Brazoria refuge — except it isn’t. I swear, for every mystery solved, there are a dozen that pop up. It could be frustrating if it weren’t so much fun!

    At least we’re cooling now, and I just saw one of “my” forecasters say that there’s a possibility of the 40s down here next weekend. I presume that means the northern suburbs, but it certainly does mean that there will be frost on your pumpkin!

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    • I believe shrubby boneset and white mistflower are the same–https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=agha4 Like botanists, regular folk like to confuse the rest of us with mulitple names for the same plant. I just call the many yellow composites ‘that yellow flower, whatever its name is’. Yes it’s cooling off beautifully and not too soon!

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