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.
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 honeysuckle, Justicia 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.