Game On, Spring

As February races toward its conclusion, this Austin garden is ready for spring.  I started pruning in late December, after the first of the freezes lay waste to the herbaceous  perennials in my gardens.  I’ve been pruning since.  Seven garbage cans full of garden detritus every week, for almost two months.

Plants like Turk’s Cap (Malavaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) are whacked.

The luscious, sunny-blooming Goldeneye (Viguiera dentata)? Nary but sticks protruding from the ground.

The Martha Gonzales Roses are reduced to a fifth of their full size.

Some Variegated Flax Lily (Dianella tasmanica),

fared better than others in my gardens.

All I pruned from the Flax Lily were the freeze damaged straps.  It’s the one plant (I have four groups of them) that I dutifully covered with each freeze forecast into the 20s.

And the  Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii) and other evergreen native shrubby plants are pruned into tidy balls,

or spindly bits of green perched on woody stems, waiting for the just right  light and breath of warm spring air to burst into new growth.

I still have more to prune, but I’m almost finished for the year.

I didn’t lose any established plants this winter and that gratifies me and validates my garden choices.  I choose natives or hardy non-natives, with the occasional splurge for the newest, cheap thrill plant that everyone (okay, just gardeners) is talking about.

I always think of the winter landscape as barren, but it isn’t, even in this winter which was colder than any of the past 19 years.   With most of the flowering perennials in my front garden temporarily gone, I’m reminded how nice my ignored-most-of-the-year evergreens are during their winter concert on this sunny February day.

And in my back garden, I like the clearly defined garden and pathways.  The iris and yucca straps dominate,

while the Heartleaf Skullcap (Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata) insinuates its soft green carpet anywhere allowed.

I have a clean pond, which will make pond maintenance easier for the rest of the year and appeals to my aesthetic sense.  I don’t think the fish care whether I clean the pond or not.

Spring is almost here.  The Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) is pruned to the ground

but life begins anew.

The Columbines (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana) are lush,

their first buds emerging.

Bring it on, Spring.

Native Texas Plant Week and Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day–October 2012

For Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and in celebration of Texas Native Plants week, I’m posting some pics of a few currently flowering beautiful native plants in my garden.  Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting–check out her site to enjoy photos of blooms from many places.

One overview look at a group of Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii),

and a close up of this great native perennial ground cover.  The Gregg’s Mistflower is native to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), is always a winner in my gardens.  Its main bloom period is spring through mid-summer, but I always have some blooms in the fall until a hard freeze ends the glory.

A larger view of another perennial, Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum),

and its closeup.

The two mistflower species are related, but they are a little different. It’s difficult to tell from my limited photographic abilities, but the Gregg’s Mistflower is a lighter blue, while the Blue Mistflower is much darker.  Also, the leaf characteristics are different in the two plants.  Both are perennial ground covers with the main blooming period occurring from September through November.  Both are also favorites of the butterflies and bees.

The Goldeneye (Viguiera dentata) brightens the roadsides and my gardens in October.

At its peak of beauty now, Goldeneye blooms in the spring and sporadically in the summer months and is an excellent wildlife plant.  It provides for pollinators and birds, alike and it’s pretty for people to enjoy too!

Fall Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) is a relatively new addition for me.

I’m glad I have a place for this hardy and sweet little aster.

A nice combination of plants:

From left to right in the photo above are Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea), some overhanging blooms from a Red Yucca (Herperaloe parviflora), at the back, some Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii), a Pale Leaf Yucca (Yucca pallida), the yellow daisy, Zexmenia (Wedelia texana) and Red Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).

Another nice mingling of native perennials:

more Coneflower, more Turk’s Cap, more Goldeneye.

The Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) is a plant with shocking yellow flowers paired with striking dark, green foliage.

Damianita blooms on and off for the growing season and is native to Central/West Texas and New Mexico.

Texas native plants fit well within the palette of a large mixed perennial garden.

Natives that are blooming are White Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), Henry Duelberg Sage (Salvia farinacea, ‘Henry Duelberg’), Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans), Big Muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri).

Wherever you live, plant natives in your gardens.  They’re easy, hardy and reliable and attract wildlife to your gardens.

For more information about native plants of North America, check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center site.

Go natives!  Go garden bloggers!

Mexican Orchid Tree Blooms–Finally!

The Mexican Orchid Tree (Bauhinia mexicana),  I planted as a tiny seedling in October 2010  bloomed recently.

Yeah, I think it was worth the wait.

A friend  gave me a 4 inch seedling while I was helping with her garden.  I knew a little about the plant and that the Mexican Orchid Tree grows well in shade, though it doesn’t get as  large, nor blooms as prolifically as in full sun.  I dutifully planted the seedling in a dappled shade spot and waited.

The seedling died back during winter.  I didn’t expect it to survive because of two very hard freezes and the seedling, while well-mulched, hadn’t much time to establish.  The Mexican Orchid Tree reemerged in late spring of 2011.  It survived the Summer from Hell (2011) and grew throughout last year, only to die to the ground again during  winter, 2012.

Planted in a shady spot, my Mexican Orchid Tree will never become a “tree” for me.  It’s  an open and airy shrub, with (for now) two main branches.  Planted  in a garden with Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior), Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and assorted shade-tolerant plants,

it adds interesting foliage,

and lovely white blooms which brighten the shady area.

If planted in full sun, the Mexican Orchid Tree grows to 8-12 feet in height with a 6-8 foot spread. Reportedly deer resistant, it’s known as a great butterfly attracting plant, although.  I haven’t observed any butterflies on my blooms. I would consider it a xeric plant.  I haven’t  given any extra water other than the two times/month that is my norm and it’s grown well.

The flowers are beautiful,

and fragrant, too.

Here in Austin, the only two nurseries which regularly carry the Mexican Orchid Tree in stock are Barton Springs Nursery and The Natural Gardener.

Patience is a virtue (so I’m told) and I’m glad that I waited for this lovely addition to my garden.