October Blooms

Spring has sprung!

Oh, that’s not right. But it is. Sort of.

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.

Doing Its Job

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 MistflowerConoclinium 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.

And isn’t that what gardening is all about?

 

Between Drops

The rare August cool fronts which have stalled over Central Texas in the past week or so have brought welcomed rain to the hot August days…and nights, (with apologies to 1972 Neil Diamond). Between the drips, drops, and gushes of rain, coupled with sparkles of Texas sun which has filtered through from time-to-time, foliage in my Austin, Texas garden is washed clean of summer’s dust and birds’ poop.

Purple heart plantSetcreasea pallida, is a native to Mexico, but a naturalized plant throughout much of the southern United States.

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The foliage is of this shade and sun groundcover is purple, but other subtle coloring imbues the plant with opalescence.

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It’s a great ground cover for this area, one that withstands the capriciousness of our climate–drought, heat, flood, and freeze.  Once established, it spreads with glee and requires reining in on a seasonal basis.  It seeds out sometimes, like in this container of Texas beargrassNolina texana.  

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I’m pleased that the Purple heart chose a purple pot to settle in.

Purple heart is one of the few non-spiky, non-green, hardy perennial choices available for this region and adds purple pizzazz to any garden.

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Tasmanian Flax Lily ‘Variegata’, or DianellaDianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’ is another non-native plant flourishing in my garden.

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Dianella pairs nicely with Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia

Dianella’s snazzy green and white foliage stripes cheer several spots in my garden and bring needed structure to predominately shrubby plant combinations.  I usually plant three or four together for a dramatic effect.

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Dianella is water-wise and low-maintenance during our hot summers, though it needs covering during winter freezes.  I find this plant well-worth winter babying because it’s light and bright and complements other plants. Dianella also produces flower stalks with tiny blooms atop, though most gardeners plant it for its foliage.

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My honeybees visit the dainty blooms and I’ve also seen small native bees show an interest.  It’s a win-win for critters and gardeners alike.

A native member of the Liliaceae family, Texas CraglilyEcheandia texensis, is about to begin its blooming cycle, but the foliage is lush from late spring until frost.

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I’ve planted a number of these over the years and enjoy their contribution to my garden.

One group of Texas craglily is situated with the also fall-blooming Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, whose foliage inspires common names such as Palm-leaf mistflower and Palm-leaf thoroughwort because of the palmate shaped leaves.

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Deeply lobed and vivid green, Gregg’s mistflower foliage is attractive for the whole growing season.

Pink-n-green-n-white is always a winning color combo, but especially so  in this recent impulse-purchased and potted Sedum spurium ‘Tricolor’.

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I’m hoping for a glorious draping here and to not over-water the pot.

Finally, a capture of the harbinger of November’s autumn leaf change floating in a bird and bee bath.

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In November, foliage change in my garden will be about the less direct sunlight and cool temperatures. But this American sycamorePlatanus occidentalis leaf is probably a victim of the pre-rain Texas summer sun and heat.

Thanking Christina and her lovely Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for hosting, check out her Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day post for a look at foliage in many gardens , from many places, and then share your leafy loveliness.