With each of this winter’s freezes and accompanying ice, I’ve assumed that the plants which create ice sculptures are done with their frosty shows until next winter. But with the latest round of mid-to-low 20s, more curling and swirling appeared, some on plants thus far unmolested by the cold, and some on plants that previously froze and were pruned.
These cut stems are all that remain of a mature Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, that I pruned in late January after an earlier hard freeze. Clearly though, there was just enough stem material left for the ice fairies to appear.
I hoped that the Mexican Honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera, would be spared a killing freeze this year and remain green. That hope was dashed Thursday and Friday as temperatures dipped to the lowest point so far this year. The wilted mush of the once bright green foliage will require pruning to the ground for each of these shrubs in my garden to make room for new growth.
On the positive side, the water-turned-ice-crystals in the stems created some lovely, if short-lived ice art.
I’m now in full winter perennial pruning mode. When I prune herbaceous perennials I typically leave 8 to 10 inches of stems, sometimes more. On the remains of a Plateau Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, the ice formed, puff pastry style.
I think the January/February 2022 plant ice capades has completed its final act. After the upcoming year of growth, it’ll be interesting to see if early freezes in November/December bring an encore performance.
In February, once the snow cleared and the ice melted from wicked winter storm, Uri, I assessed the damaged garden–and damaged it was. I guessed (correctly–yay!) that my native plants would endure. But I wondered if the plants I grow which are native to regions south of the Texas border might succumb to the way-out-of-wack deep-freeze week. Minimally, I assumed it would be autumn or even next growing season before the pollinators and gardener would once again enjoy the gorgeous blooms from Mexican and Central American plants.
I’m so glad that I was wrong!
I grow two Mexican orchid trees, Bauhinia mexicana, and both emerged from the soil in late spring and there’s been no stopping their growth. This one is my oldest tree and has been blooming since June. Here in Central Texas, the “tree” is really a large shrub.
The blooms are snowy white, but the plant loves the heat.
My other mature orchid tree receives more sun, growing a little faster and flowering more. This tree is a seedling from my original tree.
Rather than the pure white of the mother tree, this tree’s flowers are white with a subtle blush of pink.
Another Mexican perennial that I thought wouldn’t bloom until fall is the Mexican honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera. In this part of my garden, it’s paired with the South American beauty, Majestic sage, Salvia guaranitica, which grows just behind it.
Majestic sage and Mexican honeysuckle are perennials that have proven themselves reliable, even after a week of sub-freezing temperatures. The rich blue of the sage blooms complements the cheery orange honeysuckle flowers. Both plants are pollinator magnets; the sage is a favorite of various butterflies, but the bees are all about the honeysuckle blooms.
When Mexican Honeysuckle blooms, it really blooms!
Honeybees have been all over the Honeysuckle flowers. Usually, I also see plenty of native carpenter bees at these blooms, but sadly, their population is decreased this year. While the plants returned with vigor, some insect species have been slower to recover.
Native to parts of the Carribean Islands and Mexico, Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, lives up to its botanical moniker, very pretty. This one is tall and truthfully, a little past its blooming prime for the year. Still, it’s topped with dramatic orange and yellow flowers that usually have pollinator attendants.
Early in the morning, only the honeybees are at work.
One more Carribean-to-South American plant that has weathered well in my garden during both hot and cold is the Firecracker fern, Russelia equisetiformis. Not only did its ferny foliage pop up from the ground after the winter storm, but its fire-engine red blooms have popped with color all hot summer.
All of these plants are tough, beautiful perennials that return after the hardest freezes and grace the hottest summers; I’m glad they’re a part of my garden palette.
I’m happy to link with Carol and her Bloom Day for August. Check it out to see lovely blooms from many gardens! Happy gardening!
Here in Austin, Texas, zone 8b, my late season garden is more about foliage and seed heads than petals and pistils. That’s especially true this year as we’re in a moderate to severe drought–we could use some rain! Even so, I’m fortunate to enjoy a few things in their last (?) blooms of the year.
This Mexican honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera, flowers-up as it feels like it: in spring, summer, autumn, and winter, this is a plant with a mind of its own! As long as we don’t have a hard freeze, this hardy shrub is truly a perennial bloomer.
The flowers appear, bloom for a time, followed by a rest period, and the cycle repeats. When bloom time is nigh–regardless of season–I eagerly await the cheerful orange blooms nestled in lush foliage. Especially now, with limited flowering plants, I’m glad that honeybees have these blooms available.
This particular Mexican honeysuckle bush is large and growing at one part of its base peeks out Purple heart, Tradescantia pallida. The tangled green, orange, and purple medley is nice.
In another spot of my garden, the Purple heart showcases charming three-petaled pink flowers. No bees here, but these dainties are popular with the bee and small butterfly crowd.
Rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala, is past its blooming time, though three individual flowers remain in my garden, defying expectations,
…and providing for pollinators, like this Sleepy Orange, Abaeis nicippe, more hungry than sleepy, I think. It enjoyed a yummy nectar breakfast.
The small, year-old patch of Blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum, growing at my garden’s edge has performed well this year. Without missing a beat in spread and bloom, it ignored heat from the Texas sun, aided by the human-made cement driveway and asphalt street which borders the plant. Blue mistflower is a tough and lovely groundcover.
This nymph Assasin bug, Zelus longipes, patiently waited for its meal. I imagine the hungry nymph moved in for the sip after I was out of the picture.
A consistently late-blooming perennial, Forsythia sage, Salvia madrensis, brings sunshine to a shady garden.
Each August, as the stalks of the lanky plant grow ever upwards, I promise myself that I’ll prune those tall things to half their size, ensuring that the blooms–when they come in late September–don’t weight down the stalks and branches. Some years I’m better about completing this chore, some years, I forget or succumb to August’s heat. Well, this year I didn’t prune by half, indolence as my main excuse, August’s heat as my backup excuse. Forsythia sage blooms beautifully, but the flower load is too much for floppy the stalks and they’re now lying near to the ground, draped dramatically on and over one another and other perennials. Nevertheless, the flowers are available for a nectar buffet, though photography is a bit trickier. Next year, I promise to keep this wayward thing in check.
Right. We’ll see about that!
There’s always something interesting in the garden and that’s something to cheer about. Today, we celebrate blooms with Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Pop on over and enjoy blooms from many lovely places.