The Blooms of August

I don’t want to bore, but it’s hot here, I’ve complained about the heat in earlier posts,  and I want to be done with it.  That said, the heat isn’t done with me or the garden, so I’ll stop whining and get on with raptures about the awesome, heat-loving blooms of August.

The Lemon Rose mallow, Hibiscus calyphyllus, is a perennial which grows and blooms in a fairly shady area of my garden.  There aren’t blasts of blooms each day, but always one or two lovelies brightening the garden with butter yellow petals paired with a rich maroon center.

 

Hands-down, the best summer bloomer I grow is the Texas native Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii.  A perennial shrub which grows in any condition, it’s a star in my garden. Drought tolerant, it’s also an excellent wildlife plant.  The petite hibiscus-like flowers are brilliant red and never open, but that doesn’t deter the pollinators.

A Southern Carpenter bee nectar stealing from a Turk’s cap bloom.

Though “stealing” nectar, the bee is pollinating. Check out the pollen grains on its bottom and wings. The pollen grains will be transferred to other flowers as the bee moves on to other flowers.

The sprinkling of red is a cheery greeting each sultry morning.

 

Another August-happy mallow is the Althea, or Rose of SharonHibiscus syriacus.  Some (like mine) are simple in petal formation, others are double-petaled and ruffly.  I can’t remember what cultivar I have and I’m hopeless about keeping plant tags, especially with impulse purchases–which this was.  Regardless, the Althea has proven  a nice late summer flowering shrub.

Also, my honeybees are big fans!

I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.  My mother grew a number of these lovely shrubs–pinks, whites, lavenders– in her garden and I always wanted one of my own.  The Althea is typically a great bloomer after rains, awash in sweet lavender goodness.  There hasn’t been a drop of rain since early July and I water sparingly, but the lavender ladies are open everyday for business.

 

August heralds the purples in my garden:  the turning from green to purple of the fruits of the American beautyberry and the blooming of native Drummond’s Wild Petunia, Ruellia drummondiana.

I became enamored with this perennial when I managed a garden where it grew prominently in shady areas.  I left for vacation one late July-August during the typically hottest and driest time of the year and just before I left, the automatic sprinkler system stopped working and wasn’t repaired until after I returned two weeks later. Needless to say the garden was dry with wilted, unhappy plants all around–except for the ruellia.  Not only were the ruellia fresh as daisies, but blooming their ruellia hearts out.

That’s a plant I want!

I collected some seeds and while it took a few years before I enjoyed my own wild petunia fest, they’re now a true staple in my increasingly shady garden.

 

Another excellent shade-to-part-shade bloomer which scoffs at heat and drought is the Mexican HoneysuckleJusticia spicigera.

Mexican Honeysuckle is a funny plant in that it doesn’t have particular bloom period.  I’ve seen it bloom in deep winter, early spring, late fall, and at the height of summer–it seems to do what it wants, when it wants. You have to admire a plant that blooms on its own schedule.

 

I grow Firecracker plantRusselia equisetiformis, primarily for its ferny foliage, but when the tubular crimson flowers appear, it’s a treat.  Tiny native bees also love the flowers, but are hard to catch with my camera.

                                                        

Early morning August sunshine highlights unopened firecracker blooms.

 

This is the last hurrah for the Big Red Sage, Salvia penstemonoides.  It’s a beautiful summer bloomer, but is nearing its seasonal show for the year.  I’ll leave the bloom stalks for a little longer, just in case a bird might fancy a seed snack.  I look forward to their magenta magic next summer.

 

The Big Red sage rocks a deep, dramatic color, but the blooms of  Branched foldwingDicliptera brachiata couldn’t be more different.  I have no idea where this plant came from, I’m assuming a nice bird deposited a seed or two in my garden at some point.  It took a while to identify the plant when I first noticed it growing and blooming several years ago.  I look forward to seeing the delicate little flowers each August and September.

The flowers are the opposite of ostentatious.  In fact, I have to search for the little blooms as they’re hidden among the foliage.

 

Back to the bright are the bougainvillea that I grow in containers.  I’d prefer to keep them on the patio overlooking my back garden, but shade is the name of the game there, so along the driveway they sit, soaking in sunshine and calling attention to themselves.

 

This particular bougainvillea grows in an upright form, rather than with more typical arching branches.

My mother-in-law gave me this bougainvillea 20-some years ago and I’ve kept it going since.  I root prune every few years in early spring when I remove the bougainvillea from its garage winter home.

Since it’s been so hot, I’ll finish with some cool white.  The two Mexican Orchid treesBauhina mexicana  that I grow have provided spidery beauties all summer with no breaks in blooming.

The little trees are really rangy shrubs and are drought and shade tolerant.  Large butterflies and a variety of bees are constants at the blooms.  This particular tree’s flowers are white with a subtle hint of pink, whereas its mother plant, my other orchid tree, produces pure white flowers.

August is a tough month here in Texas, but there are blooms which make the late summer heat bearable.  Please check out The Blooming Garden for profiles of monthly blooms and remember fellow Texans–autumn is just around the corner.

43 thoughts on “The Blooms of August

  1. Thank you so much for joining in Tina, I enjoyed all your fabulously exotic blooms. I wish I could grow the Firecracker plant, I wonder if it would do in the greenhouse. Would it grow in a pot? I do have a Bougainvillea in a pot but it never gets very big. I love seeing what grows in other parts of the world.

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    • Thank you for hosting this, Chloris. It’s a good exercise for me to spend time really noticing what’s in the garden–even when it’s over 100 degrees! To answer your question, yes, I’ve seen firecracker plant in pots and I’ll bet you could grow it in a greenhouse.

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  2. Drummond’s ruellia – I must hunt that one down! I’m really enjoying the native ruellias these days after the wildly aggressive Ruellia brittoniana nearly ate my entire yard a few years back. You mentioned that your garden is becoming increasingly shady, but it seems that you still have quite a feast blooming for the pollinators. I love big beautiful trees so much, but I’m worried that as my baby trees grow up I will increasingly deprive pollinators of their favorite plants. Have you been able to balance that, or do you have any words of wisdom there? Regardless, thank you for your wonderful wonderful site! I have learned so much from reading your posts.

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    • You might be able to get seeds through the Lady Bird Johnson Center. I do still have plants for pollinators, but more and more, I’m moving to foliage plants, but I’m going use as many blooming things for as long as I can! Turk’s cap, the ruellia, and many spring/fall plants are good pollinator plants in shade.

      Thank you so much for reading—that mean a lot to me!

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  3. You’ll never bore a fellow Texan, Tina. It’s been a long, hot summer. I almost hate telling you that we had flood warnings out this afternoon, and my area has received 2″ of rain since yesterday. We’re still humid, but we’re going to be in the 80s until Tuesday — such a relief! I hope it turns for you, and soon.

    Turks’ cap and Ruellia are really blooming around here, despite our relative lack of rainfall (until yesterday) and the heat. I was interested in that upright Bougainvillea. I didn’t realize there was such a thing, but if I end up in a new apartment with sun, I might consider it. The branched foldwing is interesting, too. I see it’s native here, but I don’t remember ever seeing it. I’m going to have to read up and see what kind of conditions it likes when it’s not in a garden.

    I’m surprised, too, by how closely your Mexican orchid tree resembles our native white azaleas. I’m sure they can’t be in the same family, but just by appearance, they do have some similarities. It’s a beautiful plant!

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    • Wow, I didn’t realize you guys were having rain! I’d love to have some wet stuff if you want to send some my way, go ahead.

      That bougainvillea is a funny thing and I’ve never seen one either. It’s a great bloomer too, so for several reasons, I treasure it. As for the foldwing, I really don’t know where it came from, but am happy it’s in my garden. It would never be something commercially viable because it’s not showy enough, but I love it. The little shrub is quite attractive, but somehow, I’ve never been able to capture its beauty enough to do it justice.

      The Mexican orchid is such a great little tree–I’m so happy that I have two of them!

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  4. I am intrigued to see that you grow Hibiscus calyphyllus in your Texan garden for it is a native of southern Africa, where we tend to overlook our indigenous flowers for gardening. Here it grows wild along forest and bush margins, which explains why yours enjoys the shade.

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    • Hi Anne, yes it is native to South Africa, but not invasive here in Texas (or at least in the area that I live). I’m glad to know that it is, in its endemic region, a shade to part-shade plant because that’s certainly how it’s marketed here. I’d like to add one or two more specimens of this particular mallow–it’s just such a lovely summer bloomer.

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  5. Well no wonder my Mexican honeysuckle isn’t super happy… I have it in midday-sunset direct light. My backyard doesn’t grow grass, really, it’s so shady but a few of the trees need to come out this winter (they’re short and sick.) Think it would stomach a transplant to deep shade that later becomes morning sun?

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    • Not so sure about deep shade, but definitely if we’re talking about dappled business, I’d say grab your shovel, gloves, and shears and move that sucker! I’d wait until the weather conditions soften just a bit and then mulch well for winter. I’ve transplanted bits of the honeysuckle with root and they transplant beautifully. I’ve added two section to my back garden and they’ve bloomed most of this year! Woo!

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  6. Your Hibiscus plants are incredible! Also, it looks like hummingbirds must be very happy in your garden with all the beautiful tubular blooms! Wow! The Bougainvillea is delightful, too. I’ve always wanted to grow it, and I know some people overwinter it inside (in my climate) and bring it out each spring. I might have to try that next year.

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    • Thanks, Beth! I do see hummingbirds almost daily. They love, love, love the Turk’s cap!

      Interesting about the bougainvillea, that it does well in your summers, but yeah, no way you could leave it out during winter. I actually never moved mine into the garage last winter; I covered it a few times, but that was it. I consider the bougies to be great “cheap thrill” plants. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Dorris. The Lemon mallow (from Africa) and Althea (Althea) and Bougainvillea (South America) are truly exotics. The others are native to my region (Central Texas) or from Mexico, not too far away. Still they’re all great plants and I’m glad you enjoyed seeing them–I sure enjoy all of them in my garden!

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  7. Most cultivars of bougainvillea do not want to stay confined to pots for long, and they really don’t want to be root pruned. I have been told that the shrubby types are more conducive to such confinement and root pruning, but I have never grown one. We tend to put them in the ground while they are young, and let them grow like weeds. You would think that because they grow like weeds here that they would be very popular, and that there would be many cultivars available. Weirdly, there are only a few of the most popular cultivars commonly available. These shrubby types are rather uncommon. I actually think that there are more interesting cultivars available where bougainvilleas are grown as potted plants and houseplants, even if the big voracious types that we grow are not available there.

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      • I suppose they would want more water in pots. I would not have though of that. The bougainvilleas I know are in landscape situations where they get water from what is watered around them.

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  8. Hi Tina, I’ve been reading your blogs for quite some time so I may well have commented at some time on one of them.

    I love the bright yellow Lemon Rose Mallow as well as the Althea. The Turks Cap also looks fantastic! How wonderful it must be to see Humming birds every day!!! Unfortunately we have no such bird here in the UK. 😦

    I have a sister who lives not too far from Austin, Texas but she’s not into gardening. 😦

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    • Hi King’s Garden and thanks for reading! The mallows are all such great plants and perform well here in Central Texas. I’m sorry your sister isn’t a gardener, because, while it’s a challenge to garden here, it’s also quite rewarding.

      Funnily enough, I haven’t seen any hummers in the last few days–I need to keep an eye out for them because they’ll start their migration southward in about 6 weeks–then they’re gone for winter.

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  9. Wishing you rain and cool weather asap. We have just finished a period of stonking heat (for the UK anyway), but it has been so hot that I’ve been wondering how long it will be before I can grow some of your beauties!! I always like to see your Turk’s cap, but this time I am most interested in the drought-resistant, shade-loving Ruellia drummondiana. Great post!

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    • Thanks so much. Thunderstorms in the Dallas area (about 180 miles away) leaked some cloud cover here yesterday, we only got to 94!! Woo hoo! We may be over the hump now, though it’ll remain warm for some time. August is normally hot, nothing is new there, it’s just that the temperatures are hotter than they once were.

      I knew about your awful heat and you’re not as used to it as we are here–my condolences–that’s tough. It may be that in time, you’ll be able to grow our warm-loving plants.

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  10. Hooray for Turk’s cap! I see it in the wild and also planted on properties around town. We’re not gardeners but we have some in our yard, presumably planted by a previous owner. Those plants have sustained themselves here for at least 15 years with nothing more from us than whatever watering the front lawn gets.

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  11. The flowers are beautiful. My garden is kind of between seasons – the day lilies and other summer flowers are long gone, and the chrysanthemums and other fall flowers are not yet blooming.

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