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 Follow-up, September 2014

As with our blooms, the Central Texas foliage perks up with September rains, shorter days, and the suggestion of cooler temperature ahead.  I join with Pam at Digging to celebrate the end of summer, new beginnings for autumn, and all things leafy.

The pond garden is a riot of fascinating foliage.  Just take a look! P1070046.new

Lots of foliage action in this shot!  Clockwise from the bottom, the actual water plants include the lily pads of the two lilies I grow (Colorado and Claude Ikins), the Ruby Red Runner, and the showy leaves of the Pickerel RushPontederia cordata.   All three pond plants contribute to the biological filtration of my pond, though I also have a mechanical filter.

Continuing with the tour d’ foliage, the plants adjacent to the pond include tropical Yellow Bells, Tecoma stans, Soft-leaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia, Firecracker Plant, Russelia equisetiformis, Martha Gonzales Roses, Iris, Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii, and Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima.  All of these perennials sport differing widths, textures, and colors of leaves.

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Ruby Red Runner dies back in the winter, but by late summer into fall it’s full-on lovely and spreading.

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It’s seeded out in several places around the pond. This plant, usually used as a waterfall biological filter and prized for its attractive foliage, produces teensy puff-ball flowers,

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…which go to seed, thus, the spread.

Another view of the plants near the pond…

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Not much blooming in those photos, but a variety of leaf beauty.

I particularly like these water shots with the creeping roots of the Ruby Red Runner, spreading its spidery fingers toward the lily pads,

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…as if the roots are creeping outward to grab the pads.  Or maybe they’re just reaching out for a watery hug!

The soft, elegant foliage of Lindheimer’s Senna, Senna lindheimeriana,

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lends structure to, but also softens the back of my garden.  Combined with the bright green leaves of the Yellow Bells and spiky, but matching-in-color American Century Plant, Agave americana,

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…the Senna fits well in this spot.

The morning after a recent rain,  the foliage of the Purple Heart, Setcreasea pallida, retained droplets along its edges.

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With “traditional” autumn coloring, (which doesn’t happen for Central Texas on a large-scale until late November/December), the plumes of the Maiden Grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’, beautifully complement the flowers of Turk’s CapMalvaviscus arboreus, and the orange blossoms of Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii.

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Here’s a closer look at the inflorescence of the Maiden Grass.IMGP0268.new

Along with the orange-y and autumn-y color theme, this new ceramic container is planted with the ‘Color Guard’ YuccaYucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’, accompanied by Woolly Stemodia, Stemodia lanata.

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The container sits amidst a nest of blooming and berrying Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis.

What interesting foliage is gracing your garden space now?  Celebrate foliage in your gardens and learn about other foliage by visiting Digging for September Foliage Follow-up.