Cooler temperatures and regular rainfall herald autumn in Central Texas–and we all breathe a sigh of relief that the broil of summer has passed. Perennials awake from their summer siesta, ushering in a second spring of blooms. From September until first frost, there are easily as many blooming beauties, especially of the native kind, as in spring.
Our native grasses, soft and elegant throughout the summer, acquire a warmth of color and rock dramatic plumage in autumn, challenging the beauty of accompanying blooms.
I’ve had mixed results with Big muhly, as my front garden has historically been too shady for this sun worshipper, while my back garden offered only a few spots of sun, coupled with heavier soil, so muhlies were typically short-lived. With more opportunity for the sun to blast my front garden, the four Texas native Big muhlies planted have found a home.
Common yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a native North American plant which grows throughout the continent.
A beautiful ground cover for most of the year–especially in winter–yarrow blooms white clusters atop 2-3 foot stems in June and July, the florets turning toasty in August. Mine haven’t bloomed particularly well in the last 2 years, but I don’t mind, since it’s the lacy foliage that I prize.
For wildlife, autumn provides a boon of berries, and Texas native plants oblige in spades. Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis, is a favorite of birds, especially–you guessed it–of pigeons and doves.
Leaves are ruffly and bright green, complementing both the tiny pink-to-white blooms and the cherry-red berries. Once a light freeze happens, the foliage will blush burgundy, until a hard freeze renders this small ground cover dormant until late spring.
For now, the leaves remain a cheery green.
Another native plant, the deciduous herb, Chili pequin, Capsicum annuum, provides fruits for birds and mammals. Birds are frequent visitors, so much so that another common name for this plant is Bird pepper. Texas’ only true native chili pepper, the fruits are hot, but birds (and husbands) love the taste.
The leaves are small and dainty, and the form of the shrub, elegant. I love them planted as a mass, with 3 or 4 together.
Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima–for obvious reasons that you can observe, has become a popular landscape plant throughout North America.
Native to Texas and New Mexico, southward into Mexico, and with a separate native population in Argentina and Chili, the Mexican Feathergrass is a tough, drought-hardy perennial grass prized by gardeners and easy to grow.
I’ve grown Feathergrass in both shade (not deep, but dappled) and sun. It’s been the native grass that has performed best for me and seems a go-to grass for both home and commercial landscapes in these parts. It seeds out, not obnoxiously, but just enough that I can transplant and use in different situations.
Thanking Christina of Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for hosting this monthly tribute to foliage; please check out her lovely blog for more fall foliage fanfare.