October is the month for mistflowers in my garden. I grow three different ones, two of them closely related.My original mistflower is the Blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum.
My first experience with this plant was a four-inch pot, purchase 20-ish years ago. It spread with joy and bloomed gorgeously many an October, until deep shade forced its move to a different spot along this pathway. As this second area has become shadier, it’s time for another move. Soon, I’ll pull the strands up by their roots and transplant the lot to my SIL’s garden. That said, the Blue mistflower has grown and bloomed in this less than ideal situation, perhaps not like it should, but enough to satisfy.
Blue mistflower blooms are a rich purple-blue, its leaves slightly scalloped and triangular shaped.
My other Conoclinium is Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, happily grows in one of my rare full sun spots. I planted this group from a one gallon pot a year ago and it has thrived.
The Gregg’s blooms boast a lighter shade of lavender-blue–more lavender than blue, I think. The foliage is bright green with a pinnate leaf structure. I admire the foliage and even when not blooming, this mistflower is an attractive groundcover.
The spent blooms turn to toasty puffs as they mature, or once a freeze ends the blooming.
Mistflower blooms are fuzzy and feathery.
The lighter Gregg’s,
…the darker Blue.
Mistflowers bloom primarily in autumn, but pop out a few flowers throughout spring and summer. These plants are groundcovers, drought tolerant (Gregg’s more than Blue) and dormant in winter. I prefer the Blue mistflower–the color is divine–but pollinators prefer the Gregg’s.
There are other “mistflower” plants, several in shrub form, but these two blue-hued mists are well-worth growing. Gregg’s mistflower grows in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Blue mistflower enjoys a much wider range throughout the United States.
You won’t tell a sad tale with either of these mistflowers!
Here in Central Texas, zone 8b, we’re enjoying our second spring, so called because the native annuals and perennials burst out with a bevy of blooms, celebrating the end of the hot season and the return of the cool.
And how cool are these lovelies? Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, are native to the southwest–Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. A mostly autumn blooming groundcover, established plants produce a smattering of blooms during spring and summer. During months when the fuzzy blooms are on hiatus, the stars of this plant are the palmate, light green leaves. The combination of the lavender-blue blooms and the cheery green leaves gladdens this gardener’s heart.
This time of year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a mistflower group who doesn’t host a remarkable variety of pollinators, they’re all over these pretty blooms. That also gladdens this gardener’s heart.
Coral vine, Mexican creeper, Antigonon leptopus, is an old-fashioned vine, resplendent in dripping pink in the latter part of summer and well into the fall months.
I’ve grown this vine in my garden for many years. It resided in the back garden. It returned after winter each spring, climbing up and over a trellis during during the growing season, until that spot became too shady. About 3 years ago, I moved the hefty root to my front garden, where the vine receives ample sun. The vine is happy here, as are the honeybees, small native Perdita bees, and various butterfly types.
I love this vine and am comfortable with it where I garden, but Coral vine is designated as an invasive species here in Texas (click on the link above for more information) and so should be grown with caution and attention to nearby areas. I wouldn’t plant Coral vine if I lived near a greenbelt or natural area, because it’s known to seed out and once it is in a uncontrolled area, it can spread and displace native plants, which is never a good thing. In my years of hosting this vine, I’ve only seen 2 or 3 seedlings that germinated at the base of the plant. I’ve never seen birds nibble at any seeds, so I plan to keep it where it is–pink and pretty and full of the good stuff for bees and other pollinators.
The happy faces of Fall aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, arrive along with cooler temperatures–which makes everyone happy. These cheery, lavender asters don’t bloom for long, maybe 2 weeks in total. I have several groups of them, each of which bloom with slightly different times, so in my garden, the aster show lasts through much of October. For the rest of the growing season, the plant grows as a low shrub/ground cover with attractive, diminutive leaves. In winter, a hard freeze will knock back most of the foliage, leaving an evergreen rosette until new spring growth.
Another pollinator magnet, the asters always have plenty of nectaring business and often host rarely seen winged things. This Syrphid fly (?) is unknown to me; the closest ID I could find is Hoplitimyia constans. I’ll continue looking for an identification and update if I find a match. It’s a handsome critter, no doubt.
Sunshiny Plateau goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, is another native perennial, seeding out with abandon and rocking its yellow vibe with verve. Bees, butterflies, and gardeners all love this member of the Asteraceae family. I just realized that 3 of the 4 plants profiled for this post belong to this prolific family. Aster plants are garden stars!
Goldeneye volunteers pop up in my garden and depending upon where they land, I keep–or not. There are so many, I don’t mind tossing out a few. Well, I don’t mind too much. Goldeneye individuals grow tall, so I make some (rather) lame attempts at control, pruning it back a couple of times during summer. But once the fall rains arrive and Goldeneye send forth their end-of-season stems, gloriously topped with dabs of sunny delight, I don’t mess with them.
I stand, admire, and don some sunglasses.
In a work/storage area, I let these seed out, grow up, and have at it! The bees and butterflies love this buffet of pollen-n-nectar. The fun doesn’t end when the blooms end, because wrens and finches of various sorts swoop in for the seeds, assuring a good crop of Goldeneye for the next year.
There are always more Goldeneye.
Happy spring! Happy autumn! Happy blooms! Join in celebrating blooms along with Carol at May Dreams Garden and gardening friends. Pop over to appreciate blooms from many places.
As is typical for December here in Central Texas, our roller-coaster weather has delivered a couple of light freezes, but also record warm temperatures. Native plants and their companion critters have evolved to roll with that coaster, continuing the blooming and the pollinating actions well into late autumn.
On a windy afternoon, I watched this tiny Common Checkered Skipper, Pyrgus communis, flit near to the ground while visiting the remaining open blue blossoms of Gregg’s Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, and sometimes alighting on the driveway, wings spread to catch the rays of the sun.
This particular mistflower is a relatively new addition to my garden. Gregg’s has grown in my back garden and there are still sprigs which pop up, but with increasing shade, those individual mistflower stems are growing less and blooming only sporadically with each passing season. I was determined to find a place in my shady garden to grow Gregg’s Mistflower and with some rearrangement of the garden furniture, I opened a spot in my front garden for the perennial groundcover, alongside the driveway and adjacent to the street, where full sun and reflective heat will be a boon to this tough, lovely native Texas plant.
Gregg’s Mistflower is a powerhouse pollinator plant. All sorts of butterflies, big and small, colorful and plain, love this sweet-nectared pretty. The original Gregg’s in my back garden–a passalong plant from a friend–blooms a paler blue flower and with brighter green foliage. This new plant–purchased from my favorite local nursery–sports deeper blue-purple blooms and a richer green foliage. I bought a new plant because I didn’t want to transplant the sprigs, with their bits of root, from the back garden so close to winter and possible killing frosts. Those stems of plant-with-roots might have survived winter, but I didn’t want to take the chance on their succumbing to a freeze, delaying growing Gregg’s in the front garden. The gallon pot of Gregg’s Mistflower will go dormant with a hard freeze, but its full, lush root system will allow the perennial to reemerge with strength in spring, ready for a new year of blossoms and food for bees and butterflies.
Despite the strong breezes, the Common Checkered-Skipper seemed besotted with its choice of meal. The host plants of this skipper species are several in the Malvaceae family, but adults nectar from a wider variety of blooms, including many in the Asteraceae family–like Gregg’s Mistflower.
The mistflower produces gorgeous blue-purple blooms. Spent blooms are a warm, toasty color.
The skipper’s blue-tinged hairy topside suggests a male; female Common Checkered Skippers’ hairy parts are black. This fella spent a minute or two on the fuzzy blooms it visited, working each in full before moving on. I was pleased (and surprised!) with these shots, as the wind was challenging to catching the skipper in something other than a blur.
Native plants and their critter companions are vital for a healthy environment. In this garden vignette, both the bloom and the butterfly were hard at work, doing their jobs: the blooms, providing nutrients and sustenance for the insect; the insect, partaking from a food source for its own benefit, but also, providing the impetus for the production of more mistflower by the action of pollination. The plant and its insect continue a time-honored cycle and add beauty to the world.