The Spring Garden

Despite late freezes, drought, and earlier-than-normal warm temperatures, it’s been a lovely, affirming spring in my garden. Plants are growing, leafing out, and blooming in their typical order and roughly on their same schedule. Some, like the multitudes of Tradescantia, Spiderwort, were so eager for spring to happen that they’re over-performing. Of course that has nothing to do with the fact that I routinely fail to control them by weeding during fall and winter. Ahem.

My Spiderwort are pass-alongs varieties and they’ve mix-n-matched for years, so I don’t have a definitive species. Because of their height, I suspect T. gigantea, but regardless of species, the flowers are stunning in shades of purples with a few pinky hues. Some are pure lavender, with rounded petals,

…and some are deeper lavender with or triangulated petals

Certain individuals bloom in shades trending pink. These below sport ruffly petals.

No matter their color or form, Spiderworts are favorites of the honeybees. Flowering early and for most of the spring season, bees are keeping busy with the nectar sipping and the pollen collecting.

The first yellow in my garden is typically Golden Groundsel, Packera obovata. The little group I have brightens a shady spot.

The groundsel echos the Adirondack chairs: cheery blooms, comfortable chairs.

Last year’s deep, destructive freeze ended 2021 hopes for the luscious clusters of blooms from Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora. This year, both of my Mountain Laurels flowered beautifully, if too briefly. These blooms are known for their grape juice fragrance. Weirdly, I can’t detect their very sweet fragrance unless my nose is right up in the flowers or at night, with whiffs of the grape scent on the wind.

The irises I grow, all pass-along plants, have bloomed prolifically this spring, more so than in many years.

I think every single bulb, even those that I separated and replanted in the fall, have pushed up stalks and adorned those stalks with flowers. The irises are still going strong and are now joined by European poppies. Tall, leafy American Basket flower stalks await their turn to shine in the sun, while a couple of Martha Gonzalez rose bushes add pops of rich red and burgundy-tinged foliage.

Spiderworts, irises, and poppies are all plants-gone-wild this spring, but the heat and drought have sadly rendered the columbines less floriferous. As well, given my now full-sun front garden, columbines won’t grow there–they fry in Texas sun.

This one, as well as a couple of others, still have a place in the back garden. I plan to add more in the shadier areas because I can’t resist these graceful additions to the garden.

Hill Country Penstemon, Penstemon triflorus, are in top form this year. Hummingbird moths and Horsefly-like carpenter bees are regular visitors.

I wonder if pollinators have a hard time deciding? Hmmm. Penstemons or Spiderworts? What am I in the mood for??

Of course, it’s not only gorgeous bloom time, but foliage presents a worthy rival in beauty and form during verdant spring. This silvery-green Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima, waves, adding movement and action in the garden. In the past, I’ve witnessed migrating Painted Buntings nibbling at the tiny seeds that feathergrass produces. I wonder if those colorful birds will find this patch as they move through my garden this spring?

The drought continues and summer will be a bear, but I’m grateful for the gentle artistry and renewal of life that is spring.

What’s in your spring garden this year? I hope it’s colorful and ever-changing and provides a respite from the world’s troubles.

Happy spring gardening!

The Natives are Restless

Native Texas plants are back in action!  March always heralds the time of the natives, and many are eager for the season to begin.  They’re  budding up and blooming out!  It’s true that several of my non-native plants are, or have been, blooming:  irises, poppies, and Mexican honeysuckle.  But this native Texan  appreciates native Texas plants which are lovely and posses the evolutionary chops to weather the weird–no matter the confusion of seasons or the Texas weather patterns.

 

This sweet thing is a hybrid columbine, a cross between the native Aquilegia chrysantha and another native, Aquilegia canadensis.

I grow the two different columbine species in my garden and the plants hybridize with ease, creating a third alternative, with varying color schemes–sometimes more yellow, sometimes more red.  On this particular hybrid, the butter yellow petals and the blushed spurs show off qualities of both types of columbines.

The sunshine-cheery Golden groundselPackera obovata, is modeling its spring wears, though with less oomph than in years past.

There’s still plenty of pop with these diminutive blooms; there’s no denying that yellow is bright.  But last summer, most of the individual plants in my small patch of groundsels succumbed to the heat and drought.  I didn’t realize that the soaker hose buried in this  garden had developed a leak. While a couple of plants not far from the groundsels received good soaks when during their twice per month drink, these poor little things got none of the wet stuff.  That garden boo-boo occurred during an especially hot and dry spell in August and September, and it wasn’t until the rains returned and the temperatures softened that I discovered that there were few remaining groundsels.

I don’t know if these other rosettes will produce bloom stalks this spring–time will tell–but I’ll certainly keep a better eye on things next summer.  Golden groundsel is a tough native plant which doesn’t need babying,  but two months with no water and hot temperatures is a bit too much to ask of them.  It’s a wonder there are any left!

 

This terra-cotta beauty is the bloom of the CrossvineBignonia capreolata.  

This individual vine grows in shade, up a fence, only producing a few blooms each spring.  Directly across from this vine, at the opposite end of my garden, grows a second Crossvine, also along a fence.  That second Crossvine receives much more sunshine, making many more blooms.  For now, all of its blooms are growing over the fence, where my sister-in-law enjoys them.

Oh, well, I’m sure she won’t mind if I walk over to say ‘hi’ to the wayward flowers.

 

Giant spiderwort, Tradescantia giganteaare solid, reliable spring blooming natives, dotting gardens and roadsides with purple-to-pink clusters.  Each new day as I walk my garden, ever more of these purple clusters appear, petals open for whatever pollinators happen by.  Spiderwort can be aggressive, filling a garden with bright color and fleshy green stalks and foliage.  But its pollinator power and luscious color are well-worth tolerating its bullying behavior.  The thuggy individual plants are easy to yank up and give away!

The first blooms of these plants show up on short bloom stalks, but as the days lengthen, the bloom stalks grow taller, in kind.  Many spiderwort plants in my garden reach up to two feet tall.

And, the bloom clusters are stunning.

As Texas ramps up for the new growing season, the natives are restless.  Native plants provide sustenance for wildlife and beauty for gardeners and wildflower watchers.  Native Texas plants–and there are many for every season and every growing situation–are ready to strut their stuff.

Not only do I celebrate blooming native Texas plants, today is Texas Independence Day!   Hats off to the Lone Star State!

Good Morning, Sunshine

Golden groundsel, Packera obovata,  is a yellow-flowered perennial.

Its blooms are not orange-yellow, nor are they yellow-green.

Golden groundsel flowers are yellow.

There’s no ambiguity or ambivalence with these blooms: they are yellow, yellow, yellow.

One of the earliest of the spring bloomers here in the Austin area, this perennial pretty delivers a dab of sunshine to shady spots, and for the remainder of the year, carpets those same shady spots as a hardy ground cover.

I like the foliage.  The base foliage–the leaves that you see for 10 months of the year–are composed of oval, serrated-edged leaves which form a dense mat along the ground.  In late January, early February, the plant sends up slender stems along which grow more deeply lobed leaves.    In essence, the plant produces two styles of foliage.

It’s a plant with a two-for-one set of leaves!

As groundsel gears up for its spring show,  the slender flower stems develop clusters of buds which eventually open with radiant yellow blooms.  Viewing these beauties first thing in the morning is as good a wake-up as any strong cup of coffee.  In a garden or along a trail, you can’t miss these shards of sunshine–they demand attention.  Even before my own little patch of groundsel flowered-up, I’d spied a number of groundsels blooming along some urban trails where I hike.

These flowers are not shy and will not be ignored.

While Golden groundsel isn’t host to any particular insect, the flowers are good nectar sources for native bees and butterflies.  Somehow, I didn’t get any photos of the pollinators on my groundsel blooms, though I observed some tiny native Perdita bees.  In early March, I spotted this hairstreak on a groundsel flower at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

On a petal of the flower just below where  the hairstreak nectars, sits another insect. Bee, beetle, or bug, I can’t discern.

The patch of groundsel was growing in full sun and bloomed much earlier than mine.  On that early March day, the blooms appeared to be nearing the end of their cycle.

Just this week, some of my groundsel flowers have begun to seed out.

Snowy, fuzzy seedheads, clearly designed for wind dispersal, have replaced some of the sunny flowers, and many more will follow in similar fashion.  Golden groundsels are in the Asteraceae family of plants and demonstrate the pappus structure of seed development.  The delicate, hairy attachments carry the actual seed aloft on wind, planting themselves in other places and other gardens for future groundsel goodness.

Many of the native Texas plants that I grow seed out prolifically, but not the Golden groundsel.  Even though I allow mine to seed out, I’ve never found any groundsel seedlings in other parts of my garden.  What I have noticed is that my patch is leaning toward its neighbor, a group of iris, as the groundcover part of the plant is steadily creeping into their space.

Or perhaps, it’s the iris which are marching toward the groundsel.  Either way, I plan to expand the range of my groundsel. The groundsel leaves, presumably with roots attached, are outgrowing the original area that I devoted to it.  In late summer or early fall–once we’re out of our tough Texas summer–I’ll remove several of the abutting iris to make room for the groundsel plants.  I love my iris and they bloom for a longer time, but I have plenty of iris in my garden and not nearly enough Golden groundsel.  By transplanting a few more groundsel plants, I’ll welcome to more in my garden.

Native to Central Texas, Golden groundsel enjoys a wide distribution throughout North America.  As long as you can find seeds or plants, there’s no reason not to enjoy this lovely plant.  It’s a tough, easy-to-grow perennial with a bright disposition.

Just remember to don your sunglasses when they start blooming.