Autumn Garden

Central Texas is deep into its second spring, the autumn blooming bonanza that occurs after summer’s heat abates and rain returns. I’m pleased with the results in my “new” front garden, primarily planted last December and January. The garden thrived in the hot summer, plants surviving and growing, valiantly withstanding heat and drought. With autumn’s arrival and October’s gentler temperatures, plus a smidge of rain–it’s exploded with color and life. Native perennials abloom with nectar and pollen keep pollinators crazy-busy, while native grasses wave their delicate panicles in the wind with grace and elegance.

Who says there’s no autumn color in Texas?

Along the lengthy driveway, bright Plateau Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, brings sunshine to its spot and contrasts with rich purple Fall Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium. .

Moving away from the street, towards the house, the Aster fronts a Barbados Cherry, Malpighia glabra, not currently in bloom, but always providing lush green cover for birds. Globe Mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua, its silver foliage a stand-out, complements both Aster and another Goldeneye.

Across the span of driveway cement, more lush Goldeneye towers over orange Mexican Honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera. Both attract various pollinators and provide cover for critters, though the Goldeneye also produces seeds beloved by finches, wrens, sparrows and mammals.

Looking toward the house, blasts of autumn yellow dominate, but there’s also plenty of white, red, blue and pink, buttressed by the large swath of cheery orange Honeysuckle.

Another pairing of Goldeneye and Fall Aster. I do like yellow and purple together!

In the center of the garden, colorful flowers surround: white from Mexican Orchid tree, Bauhinia mexicana, and Tropical Sage, Salvia coccinea; red from several ‘Martha Gonzales’ roses; pink from a ‘Caldwell Pink’ rose; blue from’ Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacea.

Observing the garden’s center from a different angle, we see the back side of the driveway Goldeneye–it’s a big plant. It’s really too big and once the flowers finish and the seeds are devoured (by critters) and sown (by the wind and gravity), I’m yanking it out. I’ll separate bits of each stalk-with-root and replant in other spots where its rangy, floppy character is less cumbersome and more appropriate. It needs space to spread.

The smeary red flower photo bombing this shot is the flower of a Turkscap, Malvaviscus arboreus.

Another dab of autumn pink comes with a cluster of native Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala, paired with a second Mexican Honeysuckle shrub and more ‘Henry Duelberg’ sage. From my shady back garden, I transplanted five individual non-native, but well-adapted Softleaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia, and a couple of smaller native Pale-leaf yucca, Yucca pallida. These plants will serve as stalwart evergreen anchors. As expected, they were hot summer champs and flourished in the Texas sun.

To the right of the yucca sits a Texas Beargrass, Nolina texana, which spent many years in a large ceramic container. I was hiking at Enchanted Rock last October and along the trails around the rock, noticed plenty of arching, shapely Beargrass clumps throughout the sun-blasted landscape. I’d always kept my potted Beargrass in shade/part shade, but inspired by the beauty of those Beargrass individuals full sun with no water, decided to pull mine out of the pot and plant it directly in the sunny garden. It was a bear (yuk!) to remove, but has settled nicely into its new home. It bloomed in the container, it’ll be interesting to see if it blooms in the ground.

The ridiculously brilliant pink-in-the-pot is a bougainvillea. It sits on the stump of the removed Arizona Ash tree. Bougainvillea love the heat, bloom magnificently from May through November, but will be safely tucked away in the garage for winter. Maybe I’ll find a garden gnome to be the winter stump care-taker.

Throughout the garden, wispy Mexican Feathergrass accompanies flowering perennials, but they’ve all gone toasty, as they do, in autumn.

I’ve always loved silver and grey foliage and with a full sun situation, now indulge this passion. I planted several Globe Mallows and a couple of native Wooly Butterflybush, Buddleja marrubiifolia. The mallows develop in a tidy, round form while the Wooly Butterfly bushes grow vertically, often in a wonky, decidedly non-tidy, shape. That’s fine with me, I rarely turn wonky away.

I’m thrilled with the six gorgeous Gulf Muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaris, I can now grow, thanks to the blasting sun. A pretty, tough green-foliaged thing in spring and summer, autumn sees the plants’ flower spikes become feathery and frothy in stunning pink/purple hue.

I’ve had a few Lindheimer’s Muhly, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, grasses for several years, but was able to add a couple more. I mean, why wouldn’t I?

This garden is a beacon for bees (native and honey), butterflies and moths, and birds, many and active. I love my shadier, sedate back garden, but the colors, forms, and textures in this sun-drenched space are worth the end of a dying tree and the efforts involved in re-imagining this area. I’ve made some mistakes (duh!) and will move a few things this winter, but I’m happy with the garden’s progress.

In this garden, second spring equals autumn color!