Frost Again

A few weeks ago I wrote about the whimsical ice art produced by FrostweedVerbesina virginica, typically revealed by the season’s first hard freeze; you can read about this winter’s ice art unveiling in my garden here.  I was coldly, but pleasantly surprised this past weekend to see more Frostweed ice sculptures after Central Texas–and my garden–plummeted to 20ºF (-6ºC).

Curled and swirled outwardly from the fractured and frayed epidermis of the stems, the ice is fragile, usually melting within a few hours as the Texas sun warms.

In the shady parts of my garden, the ribbons of frost remained a testament to the chilly weekend.

Even in sun-warmed spots, the ice art endured through Sunday, mid-day.

Some years, the Frostweed ice capades never materialize because temperatures don’t reach the freezing point. In other years when temperatures have fallen just to freezing, but no lower, and then later a deeper freeze occurs, the sap in the Frostweed acclimatizes so that the immediate and dramatic burst-freeze-ice curl doesn’t happen. In those years, it’s just plain old un-frosty Frostweed sticks amongst the downed, brown discarded leaves until it’s time to prune the sticks and rake the leaves.

This year, with temperatures swinging wildly from 80ºF to 20ºF and back again, the Frostweed proved its worth for the winter garden–at its base,

…and at its crown.

…and in a vase.

Frosty Frostweed

This past  week, winter entered the Central Texas picture with temperatures dipping to the mid 20s F/below 0 C, for several nights and mornings.  I realize that’s nothing to what the mid-west and elsewhere regularly endures, but it is a definitive so long to the blooming southwest garden!  and hello! to wilted and freeze-crisped plants.  I miss flowers in winter, but I welcome the cold(er) season exit of herbaceous perennials.  I like the bare-bones of a garden revealed, to better assess needed garden changes.

Fun to see after a hard freeze are the ice sculptured stems of FrostweedVerbesina virginica. 

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Elegant ice ribbons form when water in the stems expands rapidly during the first hard freeze of the season, exuding sap which freezes quickly and into delicate, fantastical shapes along the length of the stems.

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Wavy and curvy, the ice sheets are delicate and fragile.

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This one rocks a fungal look reminiscent of an earlier, warmer time.

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The ice ribbons usually appear near the base of the plant, but can develop along any stem–the key is plenty of sap within those epidural walls. My Frostweeds weren’t yet dormant, allowing for plenty of moisture to freeze.

I’d trimmed this Frostweed ahead of a soon-to-begin fence project.

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…and ice ribbons hug the 5 or 6 inches of remaining stems, looking like a scroll which needs unrolling.

Frostweed isn’t the only plant which produces these types of frozen sculptures, but it is a reliable ice artist in my garden.

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The ice is fragile, the sculpture ephemeral. Once the temperature rises above freezing, the natural sculpture is finished for another year.

Frostweed is an excellent plant for pollinators and birds, which is the primary reason I grow it,

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…but the ice sculptures are well-worth the winter show for the gardener.

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Bees in Bloom

I suppose the title should read:  Bees in Blooms.

Bees of all stripes and wings are active in the late summer garden, sticking their probosces into the depths of flowers and reveling in pollen. This week, I’m crowning the honeybees as the winners of the bee beauty pageant. From a purely self-interested standpoint, honeybees are significantly easier to photograph, as they’re not speed fliers, nor teeny-tiny, like most of the native bees.

A preferred nectar source for honeybees are the charming blooms of the Coral Vine, Antigonon leptopus.

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I grow one small bit of this vine and from late summer into fall, the bees are all over it, all the time.  Tagged as an invasive plant here in Texas, as well as some other southern states, in all the years I’ve grown my vine I’ve only seen two or three seedlings develop. That said, I probably wouldn’t grow it if I live in a rural area and not smack-dab in the middle of a city, at some distance from a green belt.  Rural gardeners should steer clear of this plant and choose native-to-region plants instead.

Honeybees enjoy the flowerets of FrostweedVerbesina virginica, a native perennial best known as a migrating Monarch butterfly favorite and a post hard-freeze ice-sculpture plant.

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Majestic sageSalvia guaranitica, is lush with its royal blooms this wetter-than-normal summer.   Typically, I see one or two native bee species at this plant, but honeybees have shown interest in stealing nectar.

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ZexmeniaWedelia texensis, always hosts a variety of  native pollinators who work its cheery yellow blooms;  honeybees are included in that mix.

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Garlic chivesAllium tuberosum, recently began their short bloom cycle in my garden, but it didn’t take long for the honeys to find them.

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I wonder what garlic honey might taste like?  Mmmm!

 

Another perennial preference of honeybees and many other pollinators is the Rock rosePavonia lasiopetala.  I like this back-lit shot with the early morning sun, setting bee and bloom aglow.

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As well as this shot, which simply highlights both–and the foliage, as well.

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An impulse buy from a nursery a couple of years ago as I observed honeybees clamoring for nectar from its blooms, is this Shrubby blue sageSalvia ballotiflora.

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I’d say that the bee is busy and content with its bounty.  The Shrubby blue sage also attracts several species of native carpenter bees, as well as a variety of butterflies.

 

The native-to-South Texas, Yellow bellsTacoma stans, always has bee visitors, but rarely (or so it seems)  at the angle that I can easily photograph.  No bees at this bloom cluster, but these flowers always please.

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A bee-less photo, but of a great bloomer and nectar source for many different pollinators.

 

Another bee-less photo is of blooming Garlic chives and in the background, a purple blooming Autumn sageSalvia greggii.

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 Both typically have pollinators in attendance; I happened to catch the combo in a quiet moment.

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.