It’s Purple Time

My garden is graced with purple:  purple blooms, foliage, and fruits continue with a seasonal tradition of a purple-to-lavender champion performances during the long Central Texas summer. Of course other colors dot the landscape, but plants which rock the purple hue thrive after months of heat, with (typically) little rain, and rule the month of August.  It’s purple time!

Foliage recovery is in full swing for this Branched foldwing, Dicliptera brachiata,            , which appeared unannounced, but welcomed, in my garden a couple of years ago.

Munched stems are recovering their green.

This restrained and unobtrusive little native perennial hosts the Texan Crescent butterfly.

Texan Crescent nectaring in spring on Golden groundsel.

My garden enjoys a nearly year-round population of these pollinators because I grow several of its host plants in the Acanthus family, including the Branched foldwing. The caterpillars do a nibbling number on the foldwing’s leaves, but the plant rebounds with aplomb, leafing out again and again, and setting blooms in late summer.

Dainty and unpretentious, the lavender–not really purple–flowers provide for tiny pollinators.

 

Drummond’s ruellia, Ruellia drummondiana, is another native Texan that loves the heat and demonstrates that affection with daily doses of purple goodness.

Opening early in the morning and closed by late afternoon, the blooms are loved by many-a-buzzing pollinator.  I’m rather fond of them myself!

I like the foliage, too. An attractive green-gray, it’s full and lush from spring until the first hard freeze–whenever that happens.  I like to mix it with some evergreen plants, so that there’s some winter action while the ruellia plants rest up for summer.

Cast Iron Plant, Iris, and Sparkler Sedge provide some winter green structure alongside the ruellia.

 

The cultivar, Katie’s Dwarf ruellia, also called Mexican petunia by Texas AgriLife, produces similar blooms as the native ruellias, though larger and more purpley colored. The lance-like foliage structure and ground-cover growth habit allows this plant to front large plants beautifully.  Katie’s Dwarfs also fits well into a narrow garden.

A water-wise wonder,  I’ve had a couple of these tough Katie’s grow out of rocks;  that’s a plant I can get behind!

With a  bouquet-like demeanor, the Katie’s Dwarf bloom spectacularly in shade, in full sun, and everything in between.

 

Purple-luscious fruits of the American beautyberry,  Callicarpa americana, are nearly ready for the appetites of hungry Mockingbirds and Blue Jays.

Gone are the petite pink blooms which decorate this deciduous shrub in early summer. Instead, the fruits are morphing from green to garish metallic purple, preparing for the birds’ meals.

Beautyberry also has a graceful growing habit, lovely in any garden.

Beautyberry is a win for gardeners and for wildlife–and adds some purple vibe to my August garden.

The refreshing pond isn’t without its purple contribution in the form of a cleansing bog plant, Pickerel rush, Pontederia cordata.

With the ever-increasing shade thrown on my garden, these pretty blooms are less active with each passing summer.  I appreciate the foliage, but I miss the massive blooming show that was common 8-10 years ago when we first built the pond.  These blooms benefit from plenty of shining summer sun.

 

Another pond plant, this Ruby Red runner, an Alternanthera hybrid, adds a bit of purple-ish foliage fellowship to the waterfall.

I’m probably stretching the purple with this plant; I suppose it’s really more of a burgundy red, but I’ll lump Ruby Red into the purple camp.

Purple HeartSetcreasea pallida, is native to Mexico, but naturalized in many parts of Texas.  I grew up with this common groundcover; my mother planted it along with her banana plants.  No banana plants in my garden, but Purple Heart works in shade or sun as a border groundcover.

As well, I like it cascading over containers.  It brings a spot of color to a dark corner of the garden.

Reds, pinks, whites and yellows are biding their time for now, hunkering down against the blast of August heat.  Once the days are shorter and the rains more regular, the garden wheel of color will burst forward with a vivid spin.  But for the rest of August, I’ll treasure the purples for their late summer donations to garden color.

Pretty purples!

Joining with Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day to celebrate the blooms of August, please pop over to May Dreams Gardens to enjoy blooms from many gardens.

Not-Yet-Autumn-Greens

While today may be the autumnal equinox, it remains hot and humid here in Central Texas.  A wet and (for Texas) mild August lulled me into stupidly thinking that summer 2016 had breathed its last hot breath.  During this past week, summer returned with a fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk-it’s-so-hot reminder that summer is not done with us yet.  While it’s been toasty, some of my hot season blooming favorites are now showing off  their cooling foliage.

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This lush group of perennials soothes my perspiring brow.

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This group includes Garlic chives,  Allium tuberosum,  Branched foldwing, Dicliptera brachiata,   Drummond’s ruellia,  Ruellia drummondiana, Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia, Ruellia britttoniana ‘Katie’s Dwarf’, and Gulf penstemon,  Penstemon tenuis.           .

There are some blooms flowering on these perennials.

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Looking closely, you can see the small, lavender flowers of the Branched foldwing and the larger flower of Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia.

Except for the spring blooming/summer seeding Gulf penstemon, all of these plants flower prolifically in July and August, slowing, but not ending, flower production during September and October.

The green onion-like foliage of Garlic chives pairs nicely with the full-leafed Drummond’s ruellia,

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…and mixes it up well with the petite leaves of the Branched foldwing.

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This particular group of Garlic chives hasn’t bloomed this year, but I  appreciate their slender leaves mingling with other foliage nearby.

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Throughout the warm months, there are always Texas Crescent butterflies, Anthanassa texana flitting in my garden.  Host plants for this little cutey insect are those  in the Acanthus family, like this Drummond’s ruellia, whose leaf serves as a resting spot for this Texas Crescent.

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A wider view of the Drummond’s ruellia, sans butterfly.imgp9963-new

Cooler weather is on its way in the next few days–the first cool front of the season!

I’m thanking Christina and her lovely Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day.  Check out her blog for foliage from many gardens and from many places, and then share your own leafy loveliness.

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Small, Lavender and Mysterious

While I might fantasize about tall, dark and handsome, it’s this darling,P1070706.new

….small, lavender and mysterious, that has turned my head recently. This Branched foldwingDicliptera brachiata has planted itself in my garden, courtesy of I-don’t-know-who-what-or-how.

The pretty showed up late in spring, amid a cluster of Drummond’s Wild RuelliaRuellia drummondiana.

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 I grew the ruellia from seed and the group of four individual plants has been in the ground for a couple of years.  I noticed the different foliage and branching structure,

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…and wondered what bloom would appear.  In the past few weeks, small, simple  flowers have unfurled at leaf nodes along secondary shoots from the major branches.P1070747.newP1070744.new

The flowers are a soft lavender (as if lavender isn’t a soft enough color), which grows paler as the blooms age. P1070453_cropped_3161x3170..new

Not striking or boisterous as blooms go, but, they are graceful.P1070461.new

The plant itself is small, only about 1.5 feet in height and not wide; it forms  a loose growth habit.   Most of the leaves on the sub-branches are smallish, especially in comparison with the Ruellia foliage, P1070717.new

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…but the leaves from the main branches are larger.   The primary branch stalk is woody and all of the branches are somewhat square.

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This plant is aptly named in both the Latin and common forms:  Dicliptera:  diklis, Greek meaning “double-folding” and pteron, Greek meaning “wing”; brachiata refers to “branch”.  The English is equally and elegantly straightforward:  Branched Foldwing.P1070743.new

I couldn’t have named it better.  Until a couple of days ago, I had no idea what this happy garden surprise was.  I thought it was a native, though I can’t say why I thought it was native, except that it looks native-y.  I know, not very scientific.

I studied the plant, took photos, perused every plant detection search engine and book I connected to or own, but couldn’t find an exact match.   I dismissed it belonging to the native Texas plants in the Lamiaceae and Fabaceae families (thank you, Special Collections of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower website), though there are some physical characteristics of both plant families present in this plant.  Monday evening, as the temperatures cooled to a mere 100 degrees, I once again strolled into the garden and knelt beside the green and lavender gift.  I thought to myself: Do I have any plants that have similar blooms to this one?,  and realized, that yes, as a matter of fact, I do. The native to Mexico and hardy in Texas,  Mexican HoneysuckleJusticia spicigera, 

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…which is in a gorgeous, showy mood right now, also demonstrates the charming petal curl similar to that of the Branched Foldwing.P1070734.new

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Ah ha!!  So what family does Justicia belong in?  The Justicia spicigera is in the Acanthaceae family.  So I whip out my phone, log on the the Wildflower Center’s site and scroll through the Acanthus family plants. Fortunately, the Acanthus family is a smaller group than some of the others–that makes looking at the small print on the phone more acceptable–and easier. The Ruellia drummondiana plants, where the mystery plant is located, is also an Acanthus family member, so I roll the phone’s window through all of the Ruellia species, as well as others in this valuable family of plants, and then…there it is.

P1070702.new Dicliptera brachiata.  Branched Foldwing.

A native to Texas and much of the southeastern United States, and stretching into the midwest, it’s classified as a herb and an annual/perennial–I’m guessing that it will prove to grow as a herbaceous perennial in my garden.  The Branched Foldwing blooms July through October.  The WC literature mentions that it is a good moist woodland plant and can be “weedy” in a watered garden.   I only water two times/month, so “moist” is not something that my garden gets much of, except that there was a lot of rain in late spring and early summer, and the Branched Foldwing in question is near a bird bath. The areas around my bird baths tend to get more water than most of my gardens and several of them are in shady spots.  Lucky gardener, lucky plant.

Woot!

Even better?  This native is also the host plant to the Texas CrescentAnthanassa texana,  a common and pretty little butterfly that I see regularly and that were flitting prolifically in my gardens earlier this summer.

IMGP9740_cropped_2364x2511..new Well, that explains the munched-upon leaves, doesn’t it?

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Funnily enough, I was planning to profile the Texas Crescent for Anna’s Butterfly Bucket List meme on her excellent blog, The Transmutational Garden in the near future.  I’d already researched host plants and was trying to figure out which plants in my garden that the Texas Crescent butterfly larvae were eating: Ruellia drummondiana (maybe) or Flame AcanthusAnisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii.  The caterpillars might be feeding on those plants, but there’s unquestionably some foliage damage on the Branched Foldwing and the Mexican Honeysuckle too. Considering that there were a fair number of the butterflies and this is a new plant in my garden, I think I’ve figured out at least one of the food bars that Texas Crescents are eating from!

Yay for native plants!  Yay for native insects which evolved along with those plants and add to the rich diversity of life in my garden!!  Yay that I finally figured out what the heck it is!!

So where did the Branched Foldwing come from?  Maybe a passing bird planted a seed?  Or a seed was carried by the wind and found its way into my garden?   It’s not a showy enough plant to be picked up by the horticultural industry, so I doubt that it came as a stowaway from some purchased plant. More than likely, there was a seed, or maybe several, nestled in with the seeds of the Drummond’s Wild Ruellia.  The flower is small and I have yet to identify a seed, but I will keep an eye on seed development.

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The story has a happy ending.  Small, lavender and mysterious isn’t so mysterious after all and is a welcomed addition in my garden.  It’s not a dramatically blooming find, but in hot August, arguably the toughest time of year for Texas gardens, its flowers freshen the hot and tired garden,

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…along with the Ruellia drummondiana,P1070755.new

and a few others.

And that’s something to be grateful for.