Who Wears White?

There’s an old saying that one should never wear white after Labor Day. My garden is gleefully bucking that tradition; Labor Day has come and gone, but snowy blooms abound! Autumn is a rich time in Central Texas gardens: a little rain (very little) and gentler temperatures, (somewhat…), are just the ingredients for September and October floral madness. All the flowers are lovely, but cool white flowers are radiant in the autumn sun.

Once my front garden became a full sun space, Gaura, also known as Butterfly Gaura, Oenothera lindheimeri, was a plant on my must-have list.

The flowers look delicate and sweet, but this long-blooming perennial is tough and a sunshine-n-heat lover. It’s also proved a great pollinator plant. I’m hoping for a seedling (or several) for more gaura goodness in my garden.

Mexican Orchid tree, Bauhinia mexicana, is also in full-bloom mode, though like the Gaura, it’s bloomed throughout this long, hellish summer.

While I’m touting the virtues of white blooms, you’ll notice that both the Gaura and the Orchid tree sport blooms with a slight blush of pink.

The front garden Orchid tree sits among some Martha Gonzales roses and Mexican Honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera. A couple of volunteer White Tropical sage plants, Salvia coccinea, have joined the crew, adding more dollops of cream in the garden.

Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum are reliable bloomers in late summer and early fall. Typically, it’s a challenge to find a cluster without an attending honeybee–they love this plant! I’ve always wondered what honey produced exclusively from chives would taste like. Amazing, I imagine. In addition to attractive foliage and sweet, snowy blooms, the chives are also edible: bulbs, leaves, and flowers!

An old-fashioned pass-along plant, Four-o-clock, Mirabilis jalapa, is happily blooming white, dainty flowers while invading the space of a Soft-leaf Yucca.

Red flowering Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, joins the scene, top left.

The Four-o-clocks open in late afternoon, providing for nighttime pollinators, specifically Sphinx moths. By mid-morning they’ve closed up shop and new blooms will open later in the day.

I also grow a deep pink four-o-clock–a stunning color–but it’s the white flowers that are blooming beasts.

Softleaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia, are favorite evergreen ‘staple’ plants in my gardens. Most of mine have resided in areas too shady for bloom development, but I like their size, their pretty blue-green foliage, and their ability to withstand heat, drought, and cold. I also appreciate that they’re not too spiky in the garden–I don’t like plants that hurt! I was content with them as an evergreen, architectural presence, only occasionally lamenting a lack of yucca flowers.

This one, near the pond in my back garden, has never bloomed, so when I spotted its bloom stalk, I was thrilled.

I’ve long accepted that the back garden yuccas would never produce any beautiful, bell-shaped blooms. But after the February 2021 deep freeze, one of my oak trees was damaged and now doesn’t provide the shade it once did. I’m guessing that maturity, plus a tad more sunlight, allowed the yucca confidence to send up its bloom stalk and flower.

Nearly a year ago, I transplanted five small Softleaf Yuccas from my back garden to my front, newly full-sun garden, and look forward to their growth and future flower production. They’ll be quite happy in their new home: foliage and blooms–a win!

No Central Texas fall flower fawning is complete without mentioning Frostweed, Verbesina virginica. This stately perennial sometimes begins its blooming in summer (mine did) but the zenith of flowering usually occurs in October, well-timed with Monarch butterfly migration. Clusters of milky flowerets are magnets for a huge variety of pollinators.

My honeybee gals are all over the Frostweed flowers, slurping the sweet stuff and gathering rich, creamy pollen.

I like a garden with plenty of color and textural diversity. But in a colorful garden, white blooms have a place: cooling and calming, they temper brighter colors and are restful to the eye. Even in full sun, white blooms are luminous and beautiful.

Foliage and Bird

It was a sprinkling of snowy Four O’Clock flowersMirabilis jalapa, that caught my eye one evening, not too long before sundown.  My two Four O’Clock plants (the other one blooms a stunning hot pink) are pass-alongs from a gardener and former blogger.  This old-timey, Southern garden addition-by-way-of-Central and South America, is a night bloomer and grows from a fleshy root which can become quite large.  The creamy flowers brighten a shady area close near my pond;  the flowers open in late afternoon, bloom all night, and close by late morning.  

But it was the metal bird, standing in a diversity of foliage, that resonated as a garden story.  Even though I planted this crew, I didn’t recognize just how different the various leaf forms are and how well they complement one another as they mature. 

Sometimes, it’s challenging to see consciously what will be as a garden evolves.

Clockwise from top left, the blue-tinged Soft-leaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia, sits next to the tropical green foliage of the Four O’Clock.  To its right, another grey-blue foliage plant, Drummond’s Ruellia, Ruellia drummondiana, serves as backing for three individuals of strappy, stripy Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’ sedge–and that’s where the quirky bird perches.  A couple of iris straps and dangles of autumnal seeds of Inland Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium complete the oddball group.

The Drummond’s Ruellia and ‘Sparkler’ sedges will grow and will require management: the ruellia will need pruning and the ‘Sparklers’ transplanting.  Maybe the bird will  migrate elsewhere.

For now, the group is simpatico and the gardener is pleased.

It was Anna’s own lovely foliage photo which reminded me of my foliage and bird.  Check out her Wednesday Vignette for garden happenings.

A Little Night Blooming

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A little morning blooming, too.

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My white and pink Four O’Clock, Mirabilis jalapa, are joyously flowering this spring. These are passalong plants from gardening buddy, TexasDeb, who blogs at the most excellent austin agrodolce.IMGP8014_cropped_3359x2973..new

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For years I’ve coveted Four O’Clocks, also known as Marvel of Peru, for my gardens. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to snag some, but they’re merrily floriferous in my garden now.

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They are called “Four O’Clocks” because single blooms open in late afternoon, bloom all night and into the morning hours, then close, ready to set seed.

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IMGP0856.new I’ve always thought Four O’Clocks would be great companion plants to the native Texas Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala.

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Pavonia flowers open early in the morning and close with the heat of the afternoon, especially during summer.  Four O’Clocks throw open their windows for the pollinators at roughly the same time that the Rock Rose blooms shutter their petals for their night-time rest.  Nice time-sharing for pollination, am I right?

Somehow, I managed  to NOT plant any of TexasDeb’s Four O’Clock gifts alongside the multitudes of Rock Rose plants in my gardens.  Despite that planting blunder, I’m still enjoying their fragrance and beauty. At night,

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….and at morning’s’ first light.

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Late afternoons in spring, summer, and autumn, the tubular flowers are full-to-bursting, waiting for the sun to set so they can open for business, providing nectar and pollen for (primarily) moths.IMGP8224.new

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Originally from the Peruvian Andes, the Four O’Clock plant is thought to have been transported back to Europe and cultivated there.  There are native forms of this genus in Central and North America, though it’s likely that most M. jalapa found in home gardens  are common, long-established cultivars.

They do seed out,

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…and this spring, I’ve already plucked seedlings gifted by the mother plants.  I wish I had room for more of these lovelies.  Alas, my gardens are stuffed.

The tuberous roots may grow quite large, which is probably why Four O’Clocks are hardy, water-wise plants which snicker at our hot summers, blooming all the while. They die back with winter chill, to their bulbous roots, returning quickly with the warmer, longer days of spring.

Four O’Clocks are a mainstay of the traditional southern garden and going forward, mine as well.

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