September Song

With thanks to Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson for this lovely bit of poetry and to
Sarah Vaughn and Willie Nelson (as a fellow Texan, I must include his version) for interpreting the words so beautifully.
 
Oh, it’s a long, long while
from May to December,
But the days grow short
when you reach September.
 
Indeed the days have grown noticeably shorter–not cooler, though.  The cool will come, as will the wet, but patience here in Central Texas for those particular autumnal qualities is still the order of business as heat lingers and summer blooms continue, though autumn is arrived.

Toward the end of its summer show, at least in my garden, is Pride of BarbadosCaesalpinia pulcherrima.

I’ve certainly enjoyed the brash and bold blooms these past couple of months, as have a variety of pollinators.  Honeybees, several species of native bees, butterflies, moths, and wasps all partake of these gorgeous hot beauties.  In spots around town where this riot of orange and yellow grow in full sun, the plants remain in full blooming mode.  Mine has blooms, but fewer each week.

 

On a subdued side of the garden is sweet little Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis.   A small, tough native ground cover, its blooming begins mid-summer and lasts until chill sets in–whenever that may be.

This particular plant has tiny white flowerets on small bloom stalks, but typically,  Pigeonberry blooms are pink.   In the shot below the flowers, spent flowers, and ripe, red berries all share space.  An extra pretty feature of this plant are its ruffly leaves–swoon!

In October and November, there will be fewer flowers and more berries. And yes, pigeons do eat the berries, as do doves and blue jays.

Dainty comes to my mind when I look at Pigeonberry.

 

My mature individual Red YuccaHesperaloe parviflora usually send up four to eight bloom stalks, each about 5 feet high.   In the past, I’ve noticed that heavy rain during that brief window of time when the bloom stalks make their appearance limit both the number and sizes of the stalks. Just that kind of rain pattern was in place this past spring at that particular time and as a result, every Red yucca I grow sent up one–and only one–stalk.  All were shorter than normal. I’ve missed the drama of multiple stalks decorated at their terminal ends with lovely salmon-n-gold blooms, but each individual stalk fulfilled its duty and produced flowers all summer.

This is one of the last of the season, in full pinky glory and accepting visits from hummingbirds and other pollinators.

 

It took a long while before I found the right spot in my garden for a FirebushHamelia patens.  Poor thing, I must have transplanted it at least four times.  A sun-lover, this plant is happiest where it’s hottest and sunniest.

That one best Firebush spot is located at the side of my house, in a narrow strip that no one visits or sees, except for the pollinators and myself.   The tubular flowers are red, tinged orange, and borne in terminal clusters.

Horsefly-like Carpenter bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis) sipping nectar.

The occasional predator also hangs out, waiting for a meal, looking cute all the while.

 

Here you see the Hamelia paired with another hardy heat-lover, Flame AcanthusAnisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, situated at the far left and toward the back of the photo.  Both of these plants are native to Texas.

I wish my garden supported a better stage to showcase both the Firebush and the Flame Acanthus because they’re gorgeous summer-to-autumn bloomers,  water-wise shrubs, and good sources of food and cover for a variety of critters.

Like the Firebush, Flame Acanthus sports tubular blooms, but grows from a woodier shrub and is accented with small, slender leaves.    Its white bark is attractive, especially after a hard freeze with resulting dropped foliage.  It’s a winning garden addition year-round.

You can bet that hummingbirds make a bee-line for these blooms, too.

 

Dwarf Mexican Petunia, Ruellia brittoniana ‘Katie’ is yet another hot weather bloomer, most years flowering from July to October.  A tidy little plant and perfect for the front of a border, the flowers present themselves as a bouquet.  While not evergreen, the plant only dies to the ground during very hard or prolonged freezes; in our milder winters, the foliage remains.  The foliage is dark green and graceful, complementing the rich purple flowers.  In the photo, The ‘Katie’s’ striped companion is foliage from Variegated Flax Lily, Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’.

Can’t you just imagine a bride hold this as she marries her beloved?

 

Another ruellia in my garden is one in which I hold mixed feelings for.  The Pink RuelliaRuellia brittoniana ‘Chi Chi’ is another easy-to-grow, hardy plant flowering during our most difficult time of the year and I appreciate that.

The blooms are obviously similar to the ‘Katie’s’ Dwarf Ruellia, color notwithstanding.  The foliage is similar, too, but the plant is much taller.  This year, the ‘Chi Chi’ have grown nearly four feet high due to the heavy, prolonged rain of the spring months.  Pollinators, especially bees, visit the flowers constantly, making the it one of the better pollinator plants in my garden during August and September.

But ‘Chi Chi’ is invasive and I must keep the two groups of this plant in check, otherwise ‘Chi Chi’ would run rampant.  I don’t find seedlings all over the place, but they pop up close to where the main groups grow and ‘Chi Chi’ desires insidious expansion of boundaries.

Nope, not gonna happen, Ms. Chi Chi.  But you are pretty, I’ll give you that and I’ll keep you around as long as I can exercise a modicum of control over you.

 

Leadwort PlumbagoCeratostigma plumbaginoides, is a meandering cutey that I forget about, until those sky-blue flowers grab my attention.

Leadwort plumbago, with cheery blooms and lush foliage, hugs the ground closely and wends its way around other perennials.  This plant would probably like more sun, but nevertheless blooms during the latter part of summer and that’s why I grow it.

I once thought that, while the flowers were pretty, they didn’t attract any pollinators.  Happily, I’ve discovered otherwise!  I wasn’t fast enough with the camera, but just as I took this shot, a tiny native bee zoomed off from its mucking around in the middle of the bloom.  I like plants which serve a purpose other than pleasing me.

 

The next two plants I profiled in previous Monthly Blooms posts, but are well worth another visit as they’re still blooming, still providing for wildlife, and still making the garden a good place to be.  The Turk’s capMalvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii,  is chock full of hibiscus-like crimson blooms.

Pollinators love Turk’s cap.

As the season heads the end of its blooming time, Turk’s cap flowers share space with developing fruits, adored by a variety of birds like Blue Jays and Mockingbirds.

 

The Branched FoldwingDicliptera brachiata started blooming last month, but has hit its stride in September.  Sprinkled all over the diminutive shrub are elegant lavender beauties.  It’s not a showy plant and the flowers require a close-up for full appreciation.

Branch Foldwing appears delicate, but it shrugs off our heat and dry conditions, always looking its best.

Happy fall, y’all!   September has delivered some nice things for my garden and I hope to yours as well.  Hang in there Texans–it is autumn and time to kick summer to the curb.

Red Hot

It’s hot, hot, hot!  That’s a common, though tiresome, refrain this time of year here in Austin, Texas as we’re all incessantly whining about summer’s heat.

Or maybe it’s just me who’s whining?

Handling the heat better than I are some heat-loving perennials, currently blooming, and instead of whining, they’re shining.  The Firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis, scoffs at summer’s heat and humidity, putting on a red-hot bloom show–with no intermission–for months at a time.  This one, which is situated in my shady front garden,

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…softens a corner between a pathway and sitting area.

The red-orange tubular flowers attract tiny native metallic bees, though photos of such are hard to come by–the bees fly too fast and disappear into the floral tubes, rich in nectar and pollen.

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You can catch a glimpse of purple-foliaged Purple heart augmenting the cheery red cascade of Firecrackers.

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A different clump of Firecracker plant in my back garden adds to the tropical look around the pond.

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Like the front garden Firecracker, this one has bloomed continuously since winter, because neither specimen froze to the ground due to the mild winter of 2015-16.

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The pond Firecracker also enjoys a purple neighbor in the pond waterfall perennial called Ruby Red Runner.

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Flame acanthusAnisacanthus quadrifidus, a heat-loving native Texas shrub with petite, bright red-to-orange blooms, is in full bee and hummingbird attracting mode.

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This single bloom plays peek-a-boo through the foliage of a companion Plains goldeneye, but you can see some of its flaming partners in the background.

 

Another garden buddy, FirebushHamelia patens, in keeping with  the theme of red-hot beauties, is a real garden hot-shot.

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Like the Firecracker plant, my Firebush never froze to the ground and has grown quite tall (almost 4 feet) because of this year’s non-winter.  My parents planted one many years ago in their garden in Corpus Christi, Texas (along the Gulf of Mexico) which has a more tropical climate than Austin.  It’s rarely been pruned and is–I kid you not–nearly two stories tall and  easily 20 feet wide.  My measly little shrub  has a lot of growing to catch up with that!

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The scarlet blooms with their yellow throat make this an attractive source for hummingbirds.

 

Another blazing beauty in bloom is a surprise Spider lily, Lycoris radiata.  

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Typically, these stunning bulbs push their flowers up and out, seemingly overnight, in late August or September.  But this one decided to grace the garden a little early.

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A flamboyant, red-hot late summer treat!

As this is posted, our triple-digit heat wave is broken.  Rain is falling and is forecasted for the next few days.  For Texans, rain in early August is a gift–and tremendously appreciated. Oh, it’ll toast up again, rest assured.  But the long, dry Texas summer is being shown to the door and autumn’s second spring blooming cycle arrival is eagerly awaited.

I thank Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting this monthly bloom bonanza known as Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.  Join in, share your garden pretties, then click over to her lovely blog to see and learn about blooms from many places.

Foliage Day, December 2014

I’ve profiled foliage from my garden in the past, but I’m going to hang out with the Europeans today by joining with Christina and her beautiful blog,  Creating my own garden of the Hesperides, as she hostesses Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day for December 2014.

Folks who’ve relocated to Austin, Texas have complained to me (usually in  whiny voices), there’s no fall color here.  That gets my “Texan” up a bit, because we do enjoy autumn color in Central Texas, at home and all around.

IMGP2938.new Lovely fall foliage.

IMGP2940.newThe color evolution happens later than in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, closer to the actual start date for winter.  Additionally, the turn of foliage is gradual, beginning in November, peaking in late November/early December, and typically finishing by New Year’s Day.  It’s not a dramatic foliage show, loud and boisterous like you’d think something in Texas would be.  Instead, the change is gradual, subtle, and gentle.

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In my gardens, the two Shumard OakQuercus shumardii, trees extend their color change over many weeks.

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There are several species of oak trees in Texas that are commonly referred to as “Red” oak.  I’m guilty of misnaming the two major arboreal specimens in my back garden as “Red” oaks.  In fact, both are Shumard  Oaks.

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Gorgeous trees, I appreciate their many attributes: the shade they cast in summer, the cover and food provided for the many birds and other wildlife who visit or make these trees home, and the fall foliage mosaic (albeit in December) that these two trees provide.

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Another tree residing in my realm, though probably not one I would have planted on my own, is the American Sycamore, Plantanus occidentalis.IMGP3153.new

I don’t hate this tree, but it’s a bit water thirsty for Central Texas–it’s naturally found along stream banks and bottomlands which hold moisture from floods, and that’s not where my home resides.  The tree was established when I bought my home and I wouldn’t remove a mature tree, so it’s remained as a major shade source for my gardens. Aside from its struggles during dry periods (drought-stress causes defoliation), the leaves are thick and big.

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Awkward and especially messy in the garden, the leaves don’t break down in any reasonable amount of time. Here you can see a small sampling of Sycamore leaf litter.

IMGP3208.new There are points during late December when all that is visible in certain parts of my gardens are those dinner plate-sized leaves. A garden is not so nice when those huge leaves obscure everything in it!  Sycamore leaves are too large and thick to leave in the garden (for this OCD gardener), or to place, as is, into the compost.  They mat together, forming a barrier against moisture, thus slowing the composting process.

But in the tree, especially during the seasonal change,  Sycamore foliage is quite lovely.

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Fluttering in the breeze, in an array of colors,

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IMGP3044.new…the leaves are resplendent against the blue sky.

Once the leaves drop and I’ve vacuumed and shredded them, dumped them directly into my compost bin and/or onto the gardens as mulch, the spherical seed pods decorate the tree throughout winter.  In spring, the seed balls explode, releasing feathery seeds aloft in the wind.

On the ground, foliage also makes its presence known.  Floating in the bird baths, IMGP3190.new

 

…accompanying the bee hives,

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…and blanketing the gardens and pathways.  Here, the brown oak leaves combine with the stalks of the RetamaParkinsonia aculeata. 

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A bit upwards from the ground sit perennials which also sport fabulous foliage this GBFD. The colorful foliage of the Ruby Red Runner, Alternanthera hybrid, which is part of the biological filtering system of my pond, is eye-catching.IMGP3120.new

Tiny floral gomphrena puffs accompany the plum leaves. Ruby Red Runner provides foliage interest nearly year round; a hard freeze will render this plant dormant.

The Butterfly VineMascagnia macroptera, showcases lush green foliage and fascinating chartreuse seed pods which resemble butterflies, thus the common name for this native plant to Mexico and southwards.

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Currently, none of the seed pods are the rusty-brown they eventually become, but it’s quite a picture when there are differently pigmented “butterflies” resting on the vine.

Firebush, Hamelia patens. speckles after frost damage to its foliage,

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…but  I like it.  No blooms remain on this heat-loving, native-to-Florida.  Once we have a killing freeze, it will be dormant until late spring.

Lastly, the Chile Pequin, Capsicum annuum (var. glabriusculum) adds major hotness to the garden.

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Pepper hotness, that is.  A beautiful, shade-tolerant and deciduous (in most winters) shrub, many birds (and my husband) favor these chile peppers, the only truly native chile pepper in Texas.  Here, it’s  accompanied by Yarrow, Achillea millefolium.

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Such a lovely plant for this time of year.  Who says we don’t have seasonal foliage color in Texas??

For foliage celebrations from around the world, visit Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for GBFD!

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