Red Hot

It’s hot, hot, hot!  That’s a common, though tiresome, refrain this time of year here in Austin, Texas as we’re all incessantly whining about summer’s heat.

Or maybe it’s just me who’s whining?

Handling the heat better than I are some heat-loving perennials, currently blooming, and instead of whining, they’re shining.  The Firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis, scoffs at summer’s heat and humidity, putting on a red-hot bloom show–with no intermission–for months at a time.  This one, which is situated in my shady front garden,

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…softens a corner between a pathway and sitting area.

The red-orange tubular flowers attract tiny native metallic bees, though photos of such are hard to come by–the bees fly too fast and disappear into the floral tubes, rich in nectar and pollen.

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You can catch a glimpse of purple-foliaged Purple heart augmenting the cheery red cascade of Firecrackers.

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A different clump of Firecracker plant in my back garden adds to the tropical look around the pond.

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Like the front garden Firecracker, this one has bloomed continuously since winter, because neither specimen froze to the ground due to the mild winter of 2015-16.

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The pond Firecracker also enjoys a purple neighbor in the pond waterfall perennial called Ruby Red Runner.

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Flame acanthusAnisacanthus quadrifidus, a heat-loving native Texas shrub with petite, bright red-to-orange blooms, is in full bee and hummingbird attracting mode.

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This single bloom plays peek-a-boo through the foliage of a companion Plains goldeneye, but you can see some of its flaming partners in the background.

 

Another garden buddy, FirebushHamelia patens, in keeping with  the theme of red-hot beauties, is a real garden hot-shot.

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Like the Firecracker plant, my Firebush never froze to the ground and has grown quite tall (almost 4 feet) because of this year’s non-winter.  My parents planted one many years ago in their garden in Corpus Christi, Texas (along the Gulf of Mexico) which has a more tropical climate than Austin.  It’s rarely been pruned and is–I kid you not–nearly two stories tall and  easily 20 feet wide.  My measly little shrub  has a lot of growing to catch up with that!

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The scarlet blooms with their yellow throat make this an attractive source for hummingbirds.

 

Another blazing beauty in bloom is a surprise Spider lily, Lycoris radiata.  

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Typically, these stunning bulbs push their flowers up and out, seemingly overnight, in late August or September.  But this one decided to grace the garden a little early.

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A flamboyant, red-hot late summer treat!

As this is posted, our triple-digit heat wave is broken.  Rain is falling and is forecasted for the next few days.  For Texans, rain in early August is a gift–and tremendously appreciated. Oh, it’ll toast up again, rest assured.  But the long, dry Texas summer is being shown to the door and autumn’s second spring blooming cycle arrival is eagerly awaited.

I thank Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting this monthly bloom bonanza known as Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.  Join in, share your garden pretties, then click over to her lovely blog to see and learn about blooms from many places.

Luscious Lycoris

It’s fall!!

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I can always tell, especially when these beauties surprise me.  Even if I wanted to, there’s no way to ignore this!

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After our first decent rain in early September, the Red Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata, sends up its bloom stalk and in the following days, stunning blooms unfold.

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The long stamens give rise the the common name, spider.

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These petals and those extravagant stamens still sported rain drops on a recent morning after overnight rain.

In the Amaryllis family and native to the Far East, this bulb has naturalized in the southern part of the United States. Here in Austin, they’re easy to grow.  Plant now (in the early fall), in a part shade to shady spot and wait.  And if you’re like me, forget about them, go on with your life, your stuff, and your gardening.  Then be happily surprised each September–I never remember that I’ve planted them.  They pop out of the ground and do this:

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…and then they do this.

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Usually there are several blooms, one atop each scape, rising from the dormant-since-last winter bulbs.

After the flowers fade, the foliage will emerge–it looks similar to liriope foliage, except with a pale-yellow stripe up the middle.  The foliage will stick around until sometime in late winter–I don’t really know because I never realize that they’ve gone.

I only have three groups of L. radiata.  In this area I planted two bulbs in two different spots,

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…while here resides a single bulb.

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I planted my bulbs three years ago and this is the second year they’ve bloomed. They seem happy here.

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So you know how I’m always preaching about planting for pollinators–bees, butterflies, and other assorted wildlife?  Well, forget all that for this one post:  you plant Red Spider Lily for yourself.  Go ahead, be completely selfish and shoot for style over substance. I’m sure in its native range, there’s something that feeds on Lycoris radiata–but not here.  No sir, I haven’t seen anything so much as hover around the Spider Lily, wondering whether this is something worth sipping from or chewing on.  This plant is for looks only–it’s a total fluff plant, indulging the pretty-plant-person resident in every gardener.

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And that’s okay.

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Plant, wait. enjoy!!

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Bloom Day, September 2014

September heralds a change from the blisteringly hot to the merely hot in Austin, Texas. This gardener welcomes that subtle, but fundamental change:  the shorter days, the approaching autumn cool and if we’re lucky, some rainy days ahead.  Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this lovely blogging meme celebrating all that flower.

It’s somewhat about the Ruellia this time of year in my gardens.  I grow both a native, Drummond’s Wild PetuniaRuellia drummondiana, like these cuties peeking out through foliage,

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…and these that aren’t  quite so shy.

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I also grow a well-behaved cultivar, the Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia, Ruellia brittoniana, ‘Katie’s Dwarf’,  blossoming beautifully during the late summer and autumn months.

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Additionally, a less mannerly variety, the Chi-Chi Ruellia, Ruellia brittoniana ‘Chi-Chi’, makes its home in my gardens.  Here is it nicely co-mingling with the blooming and berrying PigeonberryRivina humilis,

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…and flowering alone.

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I love the first two Ruellia species and have a complicated relationship with the third.

The various Salvia in my gardens, like this red Autumn SageSalvia greggii,

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…really strut their stuff in the fall. Flowers that appear on and off during our hot summer, the blossoms on these woody, native shrubs will consistently impress both pollinators and gardeners throughout our productive autumn months.

A different salvia, the white Tropical SageSalvia coccinea, was knocked back this past winter with our  late freezes,

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…but are lush with snowy, bee-friendly blooms now and will bee that way until there is a killing frost.

Rock RosePavonia lasiopetala, opens its Barbie Doll Pink blooms each morning, remaining open longer as the days get shorter.

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Another perennial with pretty-in-pink blossoms, is the Purple Heart, Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart’.

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I grew up with Purple Heart rampant in my mother’s garden–I have warm memories of playing near stands of this naturalized ground cover with its dramatic purple foliage and charming blossoms.

Sweet Basil produces tiny flowers for pollinators,

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… and the native, wildlife perennial, Lindheimer’s Senna, Senna lindheimeriana, blooms from August into September for the pollinators, then sets seeds for the birds later in fall.

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I always forget that I planted these Red Spider Lily bulbs,  Lycoris radiata,

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…. until they pop up, overnight it seems.

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These are such gorgeous flowers! I don’t know why I can’t remember that the bulbs are in the ground, waiting for the first of the September rains, to grace the gardens with their exotic beauty. The strappy foliage (which emerges after blooming) disappears in the late winter/early spring.  The memory of those exquisite blossoms should stay with me, but I’m always surprised to welcome them again, each September.

Finally, a Monarch butterfly is now visiting my gardens, sipping on his preferred blooms of the Tropical MilkweedAsclepias curassavica.

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My heart lifted to see this North American beauty after all I’ve read about the very serious decline in the monarch butterfly population.

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Go Monarchs!

Here in Austin we enjoy a second, spectacular blooming season, beginning just about now.  Fall blooms abound and there’s more to come!  For today though, check out blooms from everywhere at May Dreams Gardens.