Doing Its Job

As is typical for December here in Central Texas, our roller-coaster weather has delivered a couple of light freezes, but also record warm temperatures.   Native plants and their companion critters have evolved to roll with that coaster, continuing the blooming and the pollinating actions well into late autumn.

On a windy afternoon, I watched this tiny Common Checkered Skipper, Pyrgus communis, flit near to the ground while visiting the remaining open blue blossoms of Gregg’s MistflowerConoclinium greggii, and sometimes alighting on the driveway, wings spread to catch the rays of the sun.

This particular mistflower is a relatively new addition to my garden.  Gregg’s has grown in my back garden and there are still sprigs which pop up, but with increasing shade,  those individual mistflower stems are growing less and blooming only sporadically with each passing season.  I was determined to find a place in my shady garden to grow Gregg’s Mistflower and with some rearrangement of the garden furniture, I opened a spot in my front garden for the perennial groundcover, alongside the driveway and adjacent to the street, where full sun and reflective heat will be a boon to this tough, lovely native Texas plant.

Gregg’s Mistflower is a powerhouse pollinator plant.  All sorts of butterflies, big and small, colorful and plain, love this sweet-nectared pretty.  The original Gregg’s in my back garden–a passalong plant from a friend–blooms a paler blue flower and with brighter green foliage.  This new plant–purchased from my favorite local nursery–sports deeper blue-purple blooms and a richer green foliage. I bought a new plant because I didn’t want to transplant the sprigs, with their bits of root, from the back garden so close to winter and possible killing frosts.  Those stems of plant-with-roots might have survived winter, but I didn’t want to take the chance on their succumbing to a freeze, delaying growing Gregg’s in the front garden.  The gallon pot of Gregg’s Mistflower will go dormant with a hard freeze, but its full, lush root system will allow the perennial to reemerge with strength in spring, ready for a new year of blossoms and food for bees and butterflies.

Despite the strong breezes, the Common Checkered-Skipper seemed besotted with its choice of meal.  The host plants of this skipper species are several in the Malvaceae family, but adults nectar from a wider variety of blooms, including many in the Asteraceae family–like Gregg’s Mistflower.

The mistflower produces gorgeous blue-purple blooms. Spent blooms are a warm, toasty color.

The skipper’s blue-tinged hairy topside suggests a male; female Common Checkered Skippers’ hairy parts are black. This fella spent a minute or two on the fuzzy blooms it visited, working each in full before moving on.   I was pleased (and surprised!) with these shots, as the wind was challenging to catching the skipper in something other than a blur.

Native plants and their critter companions are vital for a healthy environment.  In this garden vignette, both the bloom and the butterfly were hard at work, doing their jobs:  the blooms, providing nutrients and sustenance for the insect; the insect, partaking from a food source for its own benefit, but also, providing the impetus for the production of more mistflower by the action of pollination.  The plant and its insect continue a time-honored cycle and add beauty to the world.

And isn’t that what gardening is all about?

 

Bloom Day, November 2014–Dodged the Frozen Bullet

After a chilly week and our first real touch of winter, there are still blooms in my gardens. Lucky gardener!  Lucky pollinators!  I live in central Austin and those supposedly in the know predicted our temperature would fall to the high 20’s by early Friday morning.  Well there was no freeze for me and mine.  Outlying areas received their first freeze, but much of  Austin was spared–this time. To celebrate those lucky blooms, I’m joining with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for November Garden Blogger blooms.

The Coral Vine, Antigonon leptopus, bloomed its signature fuchsia necklace  rather late this year.

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Now with colder temperatures and shorter days, the blossoms are fading on the vine.IMGP2341.new

I think my honeybees will miss this favorite nectar source.

The native Texas CraglilyEcheandia texensis,  still blooms, IMGP1507.new

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…though it’s going to seed. One patch blossoms in tandem with the blue Henry Duelberg SageSalvia farinacea,’Henry Duelberg’.

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A freeze would have quickly ended that pretty pairing.

Rock RosePavonia lasiopetala, sports flowers this November and that’s unusual–they normally stop production by late October.IMGP2383.new

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Heavy with seed, I’ll expect more of these lovelies in seedling form next year.  Any takers?

And GoldeneyeViguiera dentata?  It just won’t quit.  This most photogenic of flowers, has bloomed since September.

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This is one of my two last blooming Goldeneye plants.

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The Goldeneye plants in the back garden bloomed first, then set seed and were followed by others throughout my gardens, each individual plant taking turn at adding cheeriness and wildlife goodness to the world.  I’m glad these hardy natives have planted themselves all over my gardens.  Bees, butterflies, birds, as well as this gardener, enjoy and appreciate a long season with these pretties.

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The last FrostweedVerbesina virginica, is in flowering mode.

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While most of that species are setting seed.

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A few Turk’s CapMalvaviscus arboreus, still bloom.

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Yellow BellsTecoma stans, ‘Esperanza’, are available for passing bees and butterflies.

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Blue MistflowerConoclinium coelestinum,

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and Gregg’s MistflowerConoclinium greggii, 

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…are toward the end of their season.  A true freeze will force the blue blooms into a tawny fluff, ready for dormancy.

Red YuccaHesperaloe parviflora, blossoms on its long bloom spike until a hard freeze.

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This hasn’t been a banner year for my salvia species.  They’ve bloomed, but not regularly nor as fully as usual.  But they aren’t quite ready to close up shop, so bloom they will until it’s just too chilly and dark.  Salvia like this red Tropical SageSalvia coccinea,

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…and this Purple Sage, S. greggii x mycrophylla,

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…and this red Autumn SageS. greggii, 

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…and another,

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…and this coral Autumn Sage.

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They’re determined, if not prolific.

The remains of Fall AsterSymphyotrichum oblongifolium, are tired of blooming and ready for seeding themselves.

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When I thought there would be freezing temperatures, I cut the last of the fall blooms of Purple ConeflowerEchinacea purpurea and Tropical Sage and did this:

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As well, I cut a few Goldeneye and basil and did this:

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I’m not much for cut flowers in the house (I much prefer a garden full of blooms), but they are nice when it’s gloomy outside. I guess November in my garden and my house is not so barren after all!

Pop on over to May Dreams Garden and enjoy a show of November blooms from all over

 

Blue Mistflower(s)

This is Blue MistflowerConoclinium coelestinum.  

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This is also a blue mistflower,

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…except that it’s Gregg’s MistflowerConoclinium greggii.  From the shared Latin name, Conoclinium, it’s obvious that these two lovelies are related.

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Both Blue Mistflower and Gregg Mistflower are in the Asteraceae, or Aster, family of plants and both are native Texas groundcovers.  Blooming in August until the first light freeze, these mistflowers are desirable pollinator plants, easy to grow, and downright pretty.

I planted the Blue Mistflower many years ago in a different spot from this,IMGP1851.new

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…and loved it.  About five years ago, as spring arrived, only about ten “sprigs” emerged from winter dormancy.  I was in major garden redo mode, so I pulled those few surviving sprigs up and replanted them.

IMGP1508.new The leaves are dark green and slightly serrated, with fuzzy, rich blue-violet flowers atop the branches.

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The color of the photos doesn’t translate well, but Blue Mistflower is quite striking in full bloom.

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The Gregg’s Mistflower is a newer addition in my gardens, though it’s more commonly planted in Austin gardens than the Blue.

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I’ve only grown the Gregg’s for about three years.  It’s an excellent attractor of pollinators–bees, butterflies, and moths are constantly working these flowers.

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The flowers are similar to the Blue, though a lighter blue with a hint of lavender,

IMGP1486.new …and the leaves bright green and deeply lobed.  Another common name for Gregg’s is Palmleaf Mistflower, because of this lobed characteristic.

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These two mistflower species are members of the autumn cast of garden performers here in Texas.  They provide nectar for pollinators,

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and visual pleasure for gardeners.