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!

July Blooms

It’s hot.  Really hot.  It’s the kind of hot where all you want to do is pull up a hammock and nap in the shade, not unlike this Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis.  I observed this sleepy-head as I worked in the garden, pruning a bit of spring’s overgrowth.  The bee chose a pretty-in-pink spot for its rest, curled up in the pinky petal of an open Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala, bloom.   

I stopped by from time-to-time, taking a break from my hot work to check on the bee’s movement and there wasn’t any.  Who can blame the bee for wanting a snooze in the heat?  Here in Austin, zone 8b, record breaking heat–108°F on Monday–has rendered everyone somnambulant.  Well, it is July in Texas and even the bees need their afternoon siestas.  The flowers are still going strong, even if the rest of us need our rest.

 

This bee, another Horsefly-like carpenter bee, is as busy as can bee, working the heat-loving blooms of the Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacia ‘Henry Duelberg’.  Bee and blooms are a productive pair.

As August approaches, I’ll prune the ‘Henry Duelberg’ salvia to the ground and let it rest.  When the early autumn rains arrive (fingers-crossed!) and the days shorten, the ‘Duelberg’ salvia will bloom up again, providing for pollinators throughout the fall months.

Grey Hairstreaks, Strymon melinus, enjoy nectar from many different blooms, but as with lots of other pollinators, the Purple ConeflowerEchinacea purpurea, is a fan favorite.  The little charmer crawled around the center of the flower, taking in what it needs, while adding beauty to the garden.

As summer drags on (and on…), the coneflowers will fade and seed out, assuring plenty more new coneflowers and blooms for next season.   Pollinators rub their wings together in satisfaction–and cheer!

 

A majestic Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, regularly visits the stunning, intricate blooms on my Mexican Orchid treeBauhina mexicana.   The ice-white flowers appear on and off throughout the growing season, to the delight of the big pollinators and the tiny ones too.  Snowy blooms cover the small tree, visually cooling, if not in reality.  I look forward to temperatures following in suit–in October.

 

Nothing says SUMMER like sunflowers.  

Always cheery and comfy in the hottest of hot weather, these bright blooms are the perfect summer flower: easy to grow for the gardener with plenty to offer for wildlife.  Pollinators love the nectar and birds enjoy the eventual seeds.  It’s a wildlife garden win.

This Southern Carpenter bee, Xylocopa micans, nectar steals from my magenta gorgeous Big Red sage, Salvia penstemonoides.  It’s fascinating to watch the shiny, brilliant black bee buzz from bloom to bloom, searching each for the sweet stuff. The bee dips its proboscis in some blooms, remains for a time–sipping.  Other red receptacles are checked, then ignored, having already donated their goods to some passing pollinator.  

Originally, this stand of four individual plants grew in my back garden, but as that area has become increasingly shady, I transplanted the sage to the front garden, where it thrives, enjoying blasting west sun.  It’s a tough, Texas plant and a beautiful addition to my garden.  

Celebrating mid-summer blooms, I’m linking with May Dreams Garden’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and also with Flutter and Hum and Wednesday Vignette because blooms are the protagonists of garden stories.  Check out both lovely blogs for blooming stories.   

 

Bloom Day, August 2014

Celebrating August blooms,  I’m thanking Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this fun flower meme.   With sporadic rains and relatively mild temperatures this summer, there are fewer burnt-toast blossoms in Austin’s August.

My Mexican Orchid Tree, Bauhinia mexicana, has bloomed on and off all summer.

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Elegant, snowy blossoms cool a shady spot on hot Texas afternoons. These flowers are  a favorite of Black Swallowtail Butterflies.

In stark contrast with the white Mexican Orchid, but also favored by butterflies, is the Pride of BarbadosCaesalpinia pulcherrima.  Tropical-hot orange and yellow,

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… these drama queens thrive in the heat.

Royal SageSalvia guaranitica, blooms stunningly in early and mid-spring, but not as commonly though summer.

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This year though,  a smattering of midnight blue gorgeousness has graced the two royal specimens in my gardens.

With multiple flowers opening everyday, the Lemon Rose MallowHibiscus calyphyllus dances through August.

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Flouncing her petals open in the mornings, sashaying during afternoon breezes and bowing to heat at the end of the day, this mallow is a consummate performer.

The  blooms of Coral VineAntigonon leptopus, form on lacy loops along climbing tendrils.

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I’ll replace its trellis next winter when this tropical, but hardy-for-the-Austin area herbaceous perennial freezes to the ground.

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The trellis is a bit wonky, even for me.  The honeybees and I eagerly await the apex of Coral Vine’s blossoming period–soon, very soon!!

A close-up of a coral  Autumn SageSalvia greggii, flower,

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…it belongs to a woody shrub native to Texas which produces a variety of colors.  I like this soft coral pink–it’s the best blooming salvia in my gardens this year.

The bright red Martha Gonzales Rose, Rosa ‘Martha Gonzales’, flowers throughout summer.

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I wish mine received a little more sun–it would bloom even more.  This is a terrifically tough antique rose for Central Texas.

The Mexican HoneysuckleJusticia spicigera, returned full-force after our hard winter.

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It’s orange clusters await early fall visits by butterflies and the occasional hummingbird.

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The shrub is covered in tubular goodness now and that’s likely to continue into the fall months.

This pairing of pink and blue is too sweet!

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The creeping groundcover, Leadwort Plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, produces sky blue florets,

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…which beautifully complement the small periscope blooms atop the stems of Pink Skullcap, Scutellaria suffrutescens.

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And still screaming: Summer! Summer! Summer!–is the sunflower de jour.

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Or rather, sunflower de l’ete.

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While new flowers open daily,

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…those spent blossoms that have gone to seed are providing yummy munchies for the local finches.

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Happy finch!

Visit May Dreams Gardens for more blooming beauties this Bloggers’ Bloom Day.