Winter Oranges

Wet, cold, and gloomy describes recent days, but after all, it is February and some winter weather is expected.  My Farmhouse Delivery of local produce came yesterday, and with it, some oranges.   The the rogue grapefruit keeping the oranges company is from last week’s delivery and became my afternoon snack.  Yum.

Hamlin oranges and Ruby-red grapefruit from Texas valley farmers.  There were originally four oranges…

Fresh fruit aside, my real appreciation of winter oranges has recently resided with butterflies and blooms, here demonstrated by the orange-winged Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, nectaring on a softer version of orange represented by a Globe mallow bloom, Sphaeralcea ambigua.  My garden has enjoyed a surplus of the fritillaries this winter because its host plant, passion flower vine, remains green and providing for fritillary caterpillars hatching from eggs.

Globe mallow is a cool season bloomer. It’s a native shrub to high altitudes in far West Texas and New Mexico, but grows well here in Central Texas–in the right conditions.  I struggled to find a place for this beautiful plant, but only have one spot where it’s grown successfully: it’s happily planted in a raised bed which is in year-round, full, west-facing sun.  The mallow has stunning grey-green, frilly foliage, paired with salmony-orange flowers.

Another orange winter beauty is the Mexican honeysuckleJusticia spicigera,  which blooms prolifically during our milder winters.  I especially like this plant because of its water-wise character in summer, its ability to thrive in shade-to-part-sun, and its role as a great pollinator attractor. During the warm months of the year, honeybees, native Carpenter bees, and a variety of butterflies all flock to these orange delights.  In recent weeks I haven’t noticed any pollinators on the tubular blooms, not even the active fritillaries, but I know the nectaring insects will be back for their “orange” juice in the near future.

The orange has brightened my garden this winter, because even with tepid temps, there aren’t many flowers abloom.  That will soon change:  I’ve spotted an iris and a columbine, each with at least one bud that should open in the next week or so.

The oranges cheer dull days, timely and welcome reminders of joy in color and life from gardens.

Thanks to Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.  Pop over to her beautiful blog and check out other February musings.

22 thoughts on “Winter Oranges

  1. I still haven’t seen a fritillary, but I’ve seen lots and lots of a butterfly I haven’t identified yet. It’s a familiar one, and I suspect once I take the time to get a name I’ll remember it. It’s taking the time that seems to be the issue. You’d think, with all the rain and fog that we’ve had, I’d put my hours in the house to good use, but I’m so upset about not being able to work that all I do is fuss, instead of settling down. And spring certainly is coming! When I got out this weekend, I realized I’d better get ready, because it won’t be long before the rush of new blooms takes off, and keeping up with them will be nearly impossible!


    • Mine are still going strong, so no complaints there. The only other butterflies I’ve seen are Admirals (which I always see in winter), and various sulphurs, but I have a hard time identifying those.

      Yes, the “Oregon” weather makes it hard for we sun-belt folk to get out and do, but it’ll end soon enough, I suppose. Yes, spring is knocking on the door!


      • Ha! I think what I’m seeing is the common checkered skipper, although the tropical checkered skipper’s reported in my area too. Since it’s called one of the most common, that explains why I’m seeing so many.


      • I think I had some of those last fall, though I’ll have to look up the tropical skippers. Have you had buckets of rain these past few days??


  2. That Justicia is fantastic! LOVE the splash of color on a rainy day. We’ve had a lot of dreary days up here too. Of course the sun came out to play yesterday, when I spent the day inside, working on beautifying an office landscape. Still, I heard it was a nice day to be outside… sigh! And yes to all things citrus this time of year. Can’t get enough of them!


    • It’s it an eye-catcher! Especially when it blooms in winter, it’s so pretty. My parents had all sorts of citrus in the garden(s) where I lived as a child. Until my dad died (2016), I regularly brought back lemons, various oranges, grapefruits when I would visit him.


  3. ‘Hamlin’ is an uncommon cultivar for us. When I grew citrus in the early 1990s, we did not grow it. Neither did the other grower in Fremont. I believe that growers in Southern California grew a few. I believe it is more of a cultivar for Florida. ‘Ruby Red’ has since become popular here. Back when I was still grown citrus, we grew no reds, and the main pink cultivar was still ‘Star Ruby’. The trees were fun to grow on the farm, but they were not so great in home gardens. What grapefruits are easier to grow. Besides, I happen to prefer the whites.


      • There is no substitute for the red or pink grapefruits. Some people compare them to the whites, but they are so distinctly different. I happen to prefer the whites, but many who prefer the pinks or reds do not even like the whites. Even the cultivars with each group are very distinct.


    • I agree with you Allison, it’s just gorgeous. I don’t always appreciate the Gulf fritillaries, they’re pretty common here. But I did miss them when they weren’t around this past year, so maybe absence does make the heart fonder. 🙂


  4. I can’t even imagine experiencing butterflies in winter, so I am hugely jealous…especially in February when I am so tired of winter. Fritillaries of all types are so beautiful and fun to watch, and of course that orange is warm, warm, warm. Enjoy your orange fruit, too!


    • I guess it’s a bit of a stretch for you, but then again, I can’t imagine your cool mornings and evenings in July and August. The orange(s) has really been so nice to see this winter.


  5. Pingback: Color Wheel | My Gardener Says…

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