An Easy Task

It’s a simple chore, this business of observing the growing season’s debut, a chore that requires only looking out the window or strolling along the pathway. Each day brings new life in the form of opening blooms, wafting tree catkins, and emerging wildlife ready for their pollinating, nesting, and procreating work.

Golden groundselPackera obovata, brightens March with full-of-sunshine-beauty.

A variety of small pollinators are attracted to these sweet flowers.  A tiny Miner(?) bee and her bee buddies are all over the shocking yellow blooms each day, this spring.

It looks like there might be a spider nearby–watch out little bees!

 

Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata, flush with terra cotta petals, beckon swiftly flying native metallic bees into alluring yellow throats.

The bees were  too fast for me to photograph competently, but the blooms held their position. Crossvine is one of Central Texas’ earliest blossoming vines.

Thanks to spring breezes, the Crimson flowers of the Old Gay Hill rose are accompanied by the downed catkins of a neighboring Red Oak tree.

 

Pink is the true color of the Purple coneflowerEchinacea purpurea,  just entering a long, glorious bloom cycle.

 

Another spring pink is the native to Central Texas, Hill Country penstemonPenstemon triflorus.

The tubular flowers typically align along tall bloom spikes, though this spring, the whole apparatus of this particular specimen nestles close to the ground.  The one currently in bloom waits for action from native bees, its stripes serving as a runway to a luscious nectar and pollen-filled destination.

Autumn sageSalvia greggii, blooms in a variety of colors.

This coral beauty is a reliable spring and fall bloomer, taking a break during our toasty summers, though it maintains a tidy, evergreen form in the heat.  Like so many other plants in my garden, the shrub is currently decorated with Red Oak.  The troop of Horsefly-like Carpenter bees, Xylocopa tabaniformis, who reside in my garden have no trouble finding the sweet spot(s) of these lovely blooms.

 

Another blooming vine, the Coral honeysuckle,  Lonicera sempervirens, is also a bee magnet.

Fortunately, this gorgeous bee (Sweat bee, Augochloropsis metallica ?)  rested between forays into the flowers, allowing for its capture in photo form.

Blooms are boss and for a look at a spring-flowering festival, check out Carol’s May Dreams Gardens celebrating all things blooming this March.

 

Foliage Follow-up, August 2014

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-up, the monthly fanfare of foliage in the garden. As much as I love flowers, a plant’s foliage is often a deal-breaker when choosing for my gardens.  Especially in August when Austin blooms are a little scarce, the plant parts that are not flowers can lend beauty and definition to a garden space.

While not exactly foliage, seed heads certainly aren’t  blooms either.  Ex-flowers, I guess, but I’m including them because in mid-to-late summer, seed pods produced by former blooms impart interest to perennial gardens.  This group of seed heads of the Gulf Penstemon, Penstemon tenuis, are just about to POP open and spread their glory!

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The Gulf Penstemon is a lovely lavender spring-blooming perennial.   I keep the seed heads as long as possible to give the seeds time to develop for propagation of new specimens for this short-lived perennial and also because I find them attractive.

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Little, tawny turban-hats, the hard shell will burst open, spreading the seeds to nearby areas.  Or, the gardener (that’s me, folks) can prune the stems, crack open those turbans, shake out the seeds and in doing so, appear to evoke some pagan ritual while waving the stalks over the gardens.  I wonder what the neighbors think?

The Hill Country Penstemon, Penstemon triflorus, sports a larger, darker turban-capped seed head.

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This year marks the latest I’ve ever left these seed pods on their bloom spikes. Usually, this plant topples over by early summer, I lose patience with the mess and cut it to the ground.

This seed pod of the RetamaParkinsonia aculeata, hangs from the tree’s slender branch like a pea ready for pickin’.

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Retama is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae), so the pea analogy works.

This combination of varying foliage pleases me:  Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima, Globe MallowSphaeralcea ambigua, and GoldeneyeViguiera dentata.  

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This trio includes some of the premier hardy perennials easily available for the Austin gardener.

If you have, have had or have ever seen a teenage boy of that certain age when the hair is long and a bit shaggy, close your eyes and visualize that in this DamianitaChrysactinia mexicana.

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I love the swoosh of the “bangs” framed over the decorative stone.  Just imagine the teenage boy-head, constantly swooping his hair back to keep those bangs out of the eyes, in that annoyingly cute, but insolent way.

The wide, heart-shaped and deeply veined foliage of Coral VineAntigonon leptopus,

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suggests a tropical lushness that is welcome this time of year.

I’m enamored with strappy, striped foliage, like that of this Dianella or Variegated Flax Lily, Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’,

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…and this Color Guard YuccaYucca filamentosa, ‘Color Guard’.

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Those banded beauties work nicely in concert with each other and with another pairing I like, the native ColumbineAquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana, mixed with the cultivar  Katie’s Dwarf RuelliaRuellia brittoniana, ‘Katie’s Dwarf’.

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The evergreen Columbine, with its soft form and graceful foliage, blooms yellow in spring. Conversely, the deciduous Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia has dark, lance-like leaves and sports sprays of deep purple from July through October.  Opposites attract and work well together–at least that’s true of these two plants.

Head over to Digging to check out other accolades to the leafy among us.

 

Wildflower Wednesday, May 2014

Here in Austin, Texas, May is quite pleasant and we’ve enjoyed some rain.  Yipppy!  Even better, our lakes have received some of that rain.  Double yippy!  We’re still in drought and the lakes are low, but at least we’ve had some relief.  Central Texas wildflowers continue their seasonal segue into summer bloom.  Thanks to Gail at clay and limestone for hosting Wildflower Wednesday to encourage and celebrate gardeners utilizing regional wildflowers in their home gardens.

My Yarrow, Achilliea millefolium, is especially beautiful this year.

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Yarrow is an excellent perennial for Central Texas.  It sports pretty white flowers which will fade to an attractive tawny brown as summer progresses.

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PigeonberryRivina humilis, is a small, delicate looking ground cover with sweet flower spikes at the top of the stems.

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Luscious red berries will develop after the blooms fade and those berries are favorites with many birds, including their namesake pigeons.

The combination of  pink Hill Country Penstemon, Penstemon triflorus,  sunny Engelmann’s (or Cutleaf) Daisy, Engelmannia peristenia, and deep blue ‘Henry Duelburg’ SageSalvia farinacea, continues its happy riot of color this spring.

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Heartleaf Skullcap, Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata,

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is a gorgeous, cool season ground cover.   It spreads prolifically, but is easily controlled by pulling up individual plants as needed.  With beautiful blue blooms and soft, grey-green leaves,

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it fills in the late spring/early summer garden.  By mid-to-late July, Heartleaf Skullcap will be dormant, reappearing with cooler fall temperatures.

And always in my gardens: Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea.

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I don’t think a garden is complete without some variety of this endemic American perennial.

Planted with Engelmann’s Daisy,

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or Heartleaf Skullcap,

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or Zexmenia, it is a perfect companion plant in full-to-part sun conditions.

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It’s a favorite flower for pollinators.

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Purple Coneflower is the bomb.

The xeric  Zexmenia, Wedelia texana,  begins its long bloom cycle in May.

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It’s another wildflower that pollinators prefer.

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Even without a dinner companion, Zexmenia are lovely and tough perennials.

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Planting native plants and wildflowers is the easiest and a beautiful way to a fabulous, regionally appropriate perennial garden.  Rip out your grass, plant native wildflowers and perennials and celebrate your sense of place in our world.

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Happy Wildflower Wednesday!