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.

 

Wildflower Wednesday, July 2014

Given the seemingly intractable problems our world faces, sometimes it’s hard for me to take garden blogging seriously.  But encouraging beauty and sustainability through practical gardening choices is one ingredient toward healing a troubled world–even if it’s only on the trifling scale of our own back yards.  Celebrating native plants and wildflowers, I’m joining with Gail at clay and limestone for July’s Wildflower Wednesday.  Native plants and wildflowers provide year-round pleasure and sustenance–for gardeners and wildlife.  There are so many reasons to use wildflowers in the home garden: they are beautiful, they require little irrigation and no chemicals and wildflowers evoke a sense of regional location.  Using wildflowers in the home garden is one way to honor the natural, local beauty inherent in all places and to affirm a positive future, wherever one lives and grows.

In my gardens, FrostweedVerbesina virginica, is just beginning its bloom period.  I captured the very first tiny florets recently.

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The flowers will expand in summer and early fall, then form into attractive seed heads. A mature Frostweed is multi-trunked,

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and tall. This deciduous plant fits nicely into a shade or part shade garden.

One of this year’s first GoldeneyeViguiera dentata, flowers was hiding behind some large leaves.

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Another primarily fall bloomer, this happy native will burst forth with masses of blooms in October, so Texas-bright that you’ll almost need sunglasses to look at them!    For now, the perennial sunflower is growing and producing a smattering of blooms.

The Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, is common in Central Texas. The clusters of pink-to-coral blooms,

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are favored by hummingbirds, bees and people.   Red Yucca is quite dramatic when viewed in its full form.

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The tall, arching branches hold aloft those bloom clusters high above other perennials.

Closer to the ground, Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis,  is a low-growing ground-cover that is beautiful and cooling in shade.

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It produces many small, pink flower spikes which form luscious red berries which grateful birds enjoy.

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In my gardens, a variety of doves snack on these berries.

Another strong hummingbird attractor is the Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii.  A deciduous shrub, the Fame Acanthus grows red-to-orange tubular flowers.

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These striking blossoms bloom profusely during the summer and fall months and without efforts from this gardener.

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That’s my kind of wildflower plant!

Here it is in full shrub mode, photo-bombed by a hardy Turk’s Cap!P1050985.new

There are many native Ruellia Texas.  The one I grow is called Drummond’s Wild Petunia or Ruellia drummondiana and is another wildflower at the start of its summer/fall bloom cycle.  A very tough plant which doesn’t require work from me, it displays small, purple blooms. Fresh blooms open each morning, then drop at the end of the day.

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A versatile perennial, it performs well in either shade or sun and isn’t large.  Ruellia dies to the ground in the winter, so  I like to plant it between evergreens, like this group which is sandwiched between native Columbine on its left and native Yarrow to its right.

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To me,  Turk’s CapMalvaviscus arboreus,  is the quintessential Texas wildflower.  Thriving in the hottest and toughest conditions, it blooms, blooms, blooms.

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It provides all sorts of good things for wildlife: cover, nectar, pollen and fruit.  What’s not to love about that plant for Texas birds, bees and butterflies?  And for two-legged Texans, Turk’s Cap form lovely perennial shrubs for their gardens that are easily maintained and make the statement: I’m from here!

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Beauty matters.

Wildflowers matter.

Grow what belongs where you are: for ease, for wildlife, and because wildflowers work in the garden–in all sorts of ways.

Grow wildflowers because they give joy.  And joy matters.