Twining Vining

As winter seems a no-show this year here in Austin, Texas, there are plenty of  greens, partial greens, as well as blooms in my garden this February.  Two of the green things twine along this swing beam, which we built long ago for a playscape, but was re-purposed into an adult weekend snoozing spot.

The vines draping the frame are Potato VineSolanum laxum on the left side, and Mexican Butterfly VineMascagnia macroptera,  on the right.

The Potato Vine is at its blooming best in fall, winter, and spring.  Our summers are too toasty and dry for the blooms to peek out, though the foliage remains green year-round.

A dainty vine, it doesn’t get too big or full and never requires pruning.

Once freezing temperatures arrive, the foliage develops a lovely burgundy blush. My garden hasn’t seen anything more than a glancing freeze this year, so the foliage coloration is more subtle this February.

The peduncle, receptacle, and calyx mirror the plum purple in the foliage.

The warm color provides a nice contrast to the winter white of the petals.

Conversely, the Mexican Butterfly Vine is vigorous grower and bloomer.   Like the Potato Vine, it is a tough and water-wise addition for any Southwest garden.

The strands of the vine grow continuously and I frequently weave them into the full parts of the plant, like errant bits of hair needing tucking behind an ear.

While not flowering now, clusters of bright yellow blooms grace this plant during summer and fall.

Once the blooms are spent, the seed pods develop into chartreuse “butterflies,”  which eventually become rich honey brown “butterflies.”

The vine appears to host multitudes butterflies, resting amongst the lush foliage.

For obvious reasons, Mexican Butterfly Vine is a fun vine to grow in the garden, real butterflies or not!

I planted the vine about 10 years ago.  The trunk shows its age and twisty nature.

Most winters, the foliage of Mexican Butterfly Vine remains green, though it freezes back completely when we endure temperatures cold enough–well into the 20’s–and for a length of time.  Even when knocked back completely by a hard freeze, it returns from its roots without fail.

Both Mexican Butterfly Vine and Potato Vine are no-fuss and low-water needs vines, and provide year-round interest and beauty.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting her celebration of blooms for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day  and also to Pam at Digging for profiling the beauty of foliage with Foliage Follow-up.  Please visit each lovely blog to see blooms-n-foliage in gardens from many places.

Foliage Day, December 2014

I’ve profiled foliage from my garden in the past, but I’m going to hang out with the Europeans today by joining with Christina and her beautiful blog,  Creating my own garden of the Hesperides, as she hostesses Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day for December 2014.

Folks who’ve relocated to Austin, Texas have complained to me (usually in  whiny voices), there’s no fall color here.  That gets my “Texan” up a bit, because we do enjoy autumn color in Central Texas, at home and all around. Lovely fall foliage.

IMGP2940.newThe color evolution happens later than in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, closer to the actual start date for winter.  Additionally, the turn of foliage is gradual, beginning in November, peaking in late November/early December, and typically finishing by New Year’s Day.  It’s not a dramatic foliage show, loud and boisterous like you’d think something in Texas would be.  Instead, the change is gradual, subtle, and gentle.

In my gardens, the two Shumard OakQuercus shumardii, trees extend their color change over many weeks.

There are several species of oak trees in Texas that are commonly referred to as “Red” oak.  I’m guilty of misnaming the two major arboreal specimens in my back garden as “Red” oaks.  In fact, both are Shumard  Oaks.

Gorgeous trees, I appreciate their many attributes: the shade they cast in summer, the cover and food provided for the many birds and other wildlife who visit or make these trees home, and the fall foliage mosaic (albeit in December) that these two trees provide.

Another tree residing in my realm, though probably not one I would have planted on my own, is the American Sycamore, Plantanus

I don’t hate this tree, but it’s a bit water thirsty for Central Texas–it’s naturally found along stream banks and bottomlands which hold moisture from floods, and that’s not where my home resides.  The tree was established when I bought my home and I wouldn’t remove a mature tree, so it’s remained as a major shade source for my gardens. Aside from its struggles during dry periods (drought-stress causes defoliation), the leaves are thick and big. Really big.

Awkward and especially messy in the garden, the leaves don’t break down in any reasonable amount of time. Here you can see a small sampling of Sycamore leaf litter. There are points during late December when all that is visible in certain parts of my gardens are those dinner plate-sized leaves. A garden is not so nice when those huge leaves obscure everything in it!  Sycamore leaves are too large and thick to leave in the garden (for this OCD gardener), or to place, as is, into the compost.  They mat together, forming a barrier against moisture, thus slowing the composting process.

But in the tree, especially during the seasonal change,  Sycamore foliage is quite lovely.

Fluttering in the breeze, in an array of colors,…the leaves are resplendent against the blue sky.

Once the leaves drop and I’ve vacuumed and shredded them, dumped them directly into my compost bin and/or onto the gardens as mulch, the spherical seed pods decorate the tree throughout winter.  In spring, the seed balls explode, releasing feathery seeds aloft in the wind.

On the ground, foliage also makes its presence known.  Floating in the bird baths,


…accompanying the bee hives,

…and blanketing the gardens and pathways.  Here, the brown oak leaves combine with the stalks of the RetamaParkinsonia aculeata.

A bit upwards from the ground sit perennials which also sport fabulous foliage this GBFD. The colorful foliage of the Ruby Red Runner, Alternanthera hybrid, which is part of the biological filtering system of my pond, is

Tiny floral gomphrena puffs accompany the plum leaves. Ruby Red Runner provides foliage interest nearly year round; a hard freeze will render this plant dormant.

The Butterfly VineMascagnia macroptera, showcases lush green foliage and fascinating chartreuse seed pods which resemble butterflies, thus the common name for this native plant to Mexico and southwards.

Currently, none of the seed pods are the rusty-brown they eventually become, but it’s quite a picture when there are differently pigmented “butterflies” resting on the vine.

Firebush, Hamelia patens. speckles after frost damage to its foliage,

…but  I like it.  No blooms remain on this heat-loving, native-to-Florida.  Once we have a killing freeze, it will be dormant until late spring.

Lastly, the Chile Pequin, Capsicum annuum (var. glabriusculum) adds major hotness to the garden.

Pepper hotness, that is.  A beautiful, shade-tolerant and deciduous (in most winters) shrub, many birds (and my husband) favor these chile peppers, the only truly native chile pepper in Texas.  Here, it’s  accompanied by Yarrow, Achillea millefolium.

Such a lovely plant for this time of year.  Who says we don’t have seasonal foliage color in Texas??

For foliage celebrations from around the world, visit Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for GBFD!