Foliage Follow-up, April 2014

Spring has definitely sprung here in Austin and though blooms may be foremost for most garden lovers, foliage loveliness deserves a shout-out.   Here are my foliage favorites for April.

The summer and fall blooming Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinium greggiisports deeply lobed foliage, giving rise to one of the common names for this hardy ground cover, Palmleaf Mistflower.


Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has beautiful foliage year-round.  It’s delicate, fern-like and spreads well (sometimes too well).  Yarrow is evergreen, hardy and drought tolerant.

It brightens this shady spot.

A perennial favorite of mine and one I’ve profiled before, Mexican Feathergrass (Nassella tenuisima) is at the zenith of beauty in the spring.

The lone green Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)  in my back gardens apparently wasn’t decimated by butterfly larva last year.

With soft, graceful foliage, it’s a wonderful addition to the mixed perennial garden.

Globe Mallow (Spaeralcea ambigua)  is such a show-stopper with its combination of orange blooms and arresting, pale gray-green, fuzzy leaves.

I like this combination of  Pale-leaf Yucca (Yucca pallida), Heartleaf Skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) and the bright green Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).

The Pale-leaf Yucca appears blue against the backdrop of the greener Skullcap ground cover  and the Autumn Sage’s is a bright green punctuation situated further in that same ground cover.

The Wild Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) not only has beautiful blooms in spring, but interesting foliage year-round.

New growth from a young American Smoke Tree (Cotinus obovatus), promises more beauty as it matures.

Lastly, I can’t resist the photo of the Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea, who has visited my garden this past week as he rests on the green branch of Retama (Parkinsonia aculeata).  Plumage and foliage–you can’t beat that!

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-up for April.


Native Texas Plant Week and Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day–October 2012

For Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and in celebration of Texas Native Plants week, I’m posting some pics of a few currently flowering beautiful native plants in my garden.  Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting–check out her site to enjoy photos of blooms from many places.

One overview look at a group of Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii),

and a close up of this great native perennial ground cover.  The Gregg’s Mistflower is native to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), is always a winner in my gardens.  Its main bloom period is spring through mid-summer, but I always have some blooms in the fall until a hard freeze ends the glory.

A larger view of another perennial, Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum),

and its closeup.

The two mistflower species are related, but they are a little different. It’s difficult to tell from my limited photographic abilities, but the Gregg’s Mistflower is a lighter blue, while the Blue Mistflower is much darker.  Also, the leaf characteristics are different in the two plants.  Both are perennial ground covers with the main blooming period occurring from September through November.  Both are also favorites of the butterflies and bees.

The Goldeneye (Viguiera dentata) brightens the roadsides and my gardens in October.

At its peak of beauty now, Goldeneye blooms in the spring and sporadically in the summer months and is an excellent wildlife plant.  It provides for pollinators and birds, alike and it’s pretty for people to enjoy too!

Fall Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) is a relatively new addition for me.

I’m glad I have a place for this hardy and sweet little aster.

A nice combination of plants:

From left to right in the photo above are Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea), some overhanging blooms from a Red Yucca (Herperaloe parviflora), at the back, some Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii), a Pale Leaf Yucca (Yucca pallida), the yellow daisy, Zexmenia (Wedelia texana) and Red Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).

Another nice mingling of native perennials:

more Coneflower, more Turk’s Cap, more Goldeneye.

The Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) is a plant with shocking yellow flowers paired with striking dark, green foliage.

Damianita blooms on and off for the growing season and is native to Central/West Texas and New Mexico.

Texas native plants fit well within the palette of a large mixed perennial garden.

Natives that are blooming are White Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), Henry Duelberg Sage (Salvia farinacea, ‘Henry Duelberg’), Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans), Big Muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri).

Wherever you live, plant natives in your gardens.  They’re easy, hardy and reliable and attract wildlife to your gardens.

For more information about native plants of North America, check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center site.

Go natives!  Go garden bloggers!

Mistflower Palooza

Aah, fall!  We glory in cool breezes, soft light (well, okay, light in Texas is rarely “soft”), and  the resurgence of the perennial bloom cycle.  Additionally, fall blooming plants burst out dramatically, a reminder of our two temperate growing seasons in Central Texas.  One of the best of the bloomers in late summer/fall is the in the Aster family.  Conoclinium  boasts three great plants which  are readily available at  independent nurseries and for the first time ever, I have all three mistflowers residing in my gardens.  Two of these perennials are ground covers, one is a shrub.

For years, I’ve grown the Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum).

I adore blue flowers and this has long been a favorite of mine.  I bought a four-inch pot twelve or thirteen years ago and planted it in a back corner of my gardens. About three  years ago, it didn’t come back from winter with the vigor usually displayed. For various reasons,  I decided to move the remaining sprigs-with-root to a new perennial bed so that this  mistflower would border a walkway.  The color doesn’t translate well in these photos, but it’s a beautiful deep blue-purple,

All mistflower blooms are fuzzy, puffy and unusual looking.

Blue Mistflower begins blooming in August-September, depending upon rainfall. But, it is at its zenith of beauty in October.

After the first hard freeze, the blooms turn a warm, toasty brown. I’ll usually prune the remains to the ground in late winter and new green sprouts emerge in late spring.  It can be spready, so it’s a great pass-a-long plant–just yank a sprig out of the ground, with some root and share.

Personally, I’ve always found this mistflower easy to transplant.  A year ago, as I was expanding an existing bed, I pulled up five sprigs-with-roots and planted them.

These three survived the Summer From Hell and I expect this area to be lush with mistflower by this time next year.

The newest mistflower addition to my gardens is the White Mistflower (Ageratina havanensis).  The blooms are fragrant–they smell like vanilla to me. This plant is more shrub-like, rather than the Blue Mistflower ground cover.

I planted this one about a year and a half ago, it bloomed last year and is even lovelier this year, especially as it happily mingles with Rock Rose (Pavonia laseopetala). The white blooms are especially pretty when contrasted with other bright colors.

Another mistflower common in Austin area gardens is the Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii). Like the Blue Mistflower, it’s a ground cover that dies after a freeze and returns in the spring.  Also like the Blue, it spreads and (at least for most gardeners), is easy to transplant. The color is a lighter blue than the Blue Mistflower and the leaves are bright green and palmated.

Unlike every other gardener in Austin, I’ve never had much luck with these guys.  Years ago, I planted a four-inch pot–it died.  Last fall, I bought two, four-inch pots–both died in the freezes of January/February.  Sigh.   A nice friend gave me  some sprigs-with-root this summer, so, ever the optimist, I planted.

The sprigs are blooming and doing well.  I’ll see how this little group fares over the coming winter–I dearly hope each sprig survives.  The Gregg’s Mistflower isn’t my favorite, but it is favored by the butterflies, (especially the Queen), when we have them.

All three mistflower species are deciduous in the winter and have low to moderate water needs. These plants attract butterflies and bees and are beautiful additions to any perennial garden.

Mistlfowers are also very tough plants.  I hiked at Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve in early September and of the two plants that I saw blooming, one was a Gregg’s Mistflower.  After the Summer From Hell and the exceptional drought that Central Texas is experiencing, to see a plant bloom without rainfall or irrigation is a testament to its durability.

The beauty of mistflower speaks for itself.