We’re Back, Baby!

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.

Foliage of Turk’s cap photo-bombs the orchid tree. Do you see it?

My other mature orchid tree receives more sun, growing a little faster and flowering more. This tree is a seedling from my original tree.

The orchid tree is partnered with a cluster of native White Salvia coccinea.

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!

November Blooms

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.

August Blooms

It’s hot August and hot-hued blooms are more than a match for the heat wave that defines recent days in Austin, Texas, USDA zone 8b. The flowers are fine as the day heats up, but the gardener becomes sweaty and grumpy.  Early morning is the best time to appreciate the heat-loving blooming bonanza.  

In my shady garden, I grow only two Pride of BarbadosCaesalpinia pulcherrima; both receive late morning to late afternoon direct sunshine.  I adore the full-of-pulchritude flowers, but each of my individual plants are, truth be told, thinner and less lush than those around town which grow in all-day sun.  

I’m not complaining, especially when an early migrating Monarch stops by for a sip of the sweet stuff that the flowers offer in abundance.  In fact, these blooms are pollinator magnets and there’s always something flitting about and alighting on the bright blooms.

 

Turk’s capMalvaviscus arboreus, is a signature plant in my gardens, as they bloom well in shade–which my garden has plenty of–as well as in full-to-part sun.  These native Texas shrubs bloom multitudes of petite fire-engine red hibiscus flowers from May until October.  Bees and hummingbirds are frequent visitors, and birds will enjoy the fruits that follow, later in autumn.  

    

More hot red blooms this hot August are found on the Firecracker plantRusselia equisetiformis.

A plant which thrives in both dappled shade and part sun, its tubular blooms attract native metallic bees and hummingbirds.   It’s a tough plant:  it requires little water, has no disease or insect problems, and is lovely in both flower and foliage.

I also grow a cousin to the R. equisetiformis, the Russelia coccinea.  My one little plant  has been in the ground for quite a few years and doesn’t bloom often.  

But, it’s blooming now–and how–and has done so for much of this summer.

I like how the arching branch full of red blooms visually bisects the purple Oxalis Triangularis.

Blooms are numerous along arching branches, bright red, but more fluted than the cigar-shaped R. equisetiformis blooms. The leaves are small, opposite and scalloped, rather than the fern-like foliage of the R. equisetiformis

The R. equisetiformis is native to Mexico and southward.  I’ve had both plants in my gardens for many years, but the R. equisetiformis is the more prolific of the two and seemingly better adapted, as mine grows in both shade and in some sun, whereas the R. coccinea seems happier in a spot protected by the Texas summer sun.

 

Mexican HoneysuckleJusticia spicigera, is back in blooming business after its June and July vacation.

The pollinators are cheering!  Well, they don’t exactly cheer, but there are few bloom clusters which don’t have attendant bees, busily working the blooms–all day, everyday.   It’s a popular place to eat!

A honeybee works the bloom,

…as does a Southern Carpenter bee,

…and a Horsefly-like Carpenter bee.

 

Another two plants which thrive in summer’s heat are the Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, and Firebush, Hamelia patens. 

Like the other hot plants in this post, both of these shrubs produce blooms that pollinators love.  Shortly before I caught this shot of the Flame Acanthus flower, it was feeding a female Black-chinned hummingbird.  The hummer buzzed away with an annoyed chirp directed at me, but the flower remained, posed for a photo.

A native metallic bee was more cooperative with the photography session as it ignored me and worked a bloom cluster of  the Firebush.

It’s hot.  It’s August.  There are still a few more weeks of oven-like temperatures–can you tell that I’m weary of the heat?  That said, my garden and its heat worshiping blooms are doing just fine.

Autumn is just around the corner.  I can’t wait.

For more awesome August blooms, check out May Dreams Gardens and its celebration of blooms galore.