Wildflowers Work!

The wildflowers in my central Texas garden are screaming SPRING, and this week, May 1-7, is National Wildflower Week, so claimed with the purpose of celebrating the beauty and practicality of planting and nourishing native wildflowers alongside roads and in home and commercial gardens.  Wildflowers define place, as they are specific to region, and besides the beauty that wildflowers add to the world, they serve another noble purpose:  to provide food and cover for endemic wildlife.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) nectaring at a Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Yellow Zexmenia (Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida) pops in the background, while Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima) waves in the breeze behind.

Wildflowers are easy to grow because they belong where they grow. Encroaching urbanization, modern agricultural practices, and the use of non-native, invasive plants threaten native wildflowers and the spaces where they thrive.  You can help lessen that threat to North America’s bountiful natural legacy by growing wildflowers in your garden. They are simple, elegant, and practical plant choices for home gardeners. Most wildflowers germinate easily by seed and many locally owned nurseries carry container grown wildflowers.  If you want to grow wildflowers by seed, use seed packets that contain specifically named seeds that are native to your region. Not only will you get the best results for your seedy efforts, but you’ll be a partner in the restoration of the magnificent endemic flora–wherever you may live in North America.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) at Purple coneflower.

Check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s website  for excellent information on wildflowers and native plants.  Good native wildflower seed sources include, but are not limited to: Native American Seed, Prairie Moon Nursery, and Wildseed Farm.

I’ve grown native plants and wildflowers in my modest urban garden for more than 20 years.  Conditions have changed and interests evolved, but I’ve never regretted the transition from a garden of turf and non-native plants to one utilizing native Texas plants and wildflowers. They’re a snap to grow and fetching to behold. Unlike many non-native plants, natives are tough and stand up to the challenging soil and capricious weather patterns of Central Texas.

The following is a smattering of wildflowers and native shrubs that are currently abloom in my garden this 2017 National Wildflower Week.

This perennial wildflower,  Engelmann’s daisy, Engelmannia peristenia, blossoms in clusters, complementing its deeply lobed foliage.

A prolific spring to early summer bloomer, it’s also a favorite for many native bees like this metallic sweat bee.


A gloriously re-seeding annual wildflower, the Clasping coneflowerDracopis amplexicaulis, blooms precariously by the pond.

These cheery wildflowers mingle with other spring beauties.  Another Clasping coneflower cuddles with a solar lamp, while creamy-bloomed native Autumn sage, Salvia greggii sparkles in the background.


Here, the Clasping accompanies the Purple.  Further afield, red Autumn sage blooms.


Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’, cools a hot wildflower color combo of Purple and Clasping coneflowers.  Henry the wildflower was found in an old Texas cemetery by plantsman, Greg Grant.  It’s easily propagated by seed and readily available in various sized containers in nurseries.


Other spring wild things, like dainty, shade-loving White avensGeum canadense,

…and the aftermath of its blooms, quiet the garden.


Toward the end of its spring show, wildflower Wild red columbineAquilegia canadensis.

…and its spring partner, Gulf penstemonPenstemon tenuis, are fading and will make way for those who enjoy the heat of summer.


Just beginning its long summer-fall bloom period is the Tropical sageSalvia coccinea.

Red blooming

White blooming


Favoring late summer and fall when it blooms in earnest for multitudes of busy butterflies, this Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, displaying its blooming fuzz in a season not its own, shows it has contracted wildflower spring fever.


More wildflower blues in the garden– another Henry Duelberg sage,

…and lavender-blue Heartleaf skullcapScutellaria ovata.

Here, the Heartleaf fronts a late summer flowering wildflower, Drummond’s ruellia, Ruellia drummondiana,


…and here, it fronts Purple coneflower and another fall blooming wildflower, Plateau Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata.

Heartleaf is a wildflower perennial which acts as a winter, spring and early summer groundcover.  It fills the garden with drifts of grey foliage topped with striking, lavender-hued, pollinator-friendly bloom spikes.  Heartleaf skullcap is an excellent landscape plant.


Native plants and wildflowers certainly combine well with hardy non-natives like iris, day lilies and roses.   Though this post is to remind and encourage gardeners to grow local, that doesn’t mean that beloved non-natives are necessarily poor choices as long as they’re not damaging, by being invasive, to the local environment.

The sweet Caldwell pink roses (at right) are the only non-natives in this shot.


These spring examples are a few of the North American native plants and wildflowers that I grow.  The trickiest aspect of having these lovelies in my garden is deciding what to do with the many seedlings they produce.  No worries–I’ve given scads away and they’re propagating happily in new homes, giving joy to their gardeners and sustenance to their fauna!

You too can grow wildflowers–they work, they’re beautiful, they’re easy.

Happy National Wildflower Week–buy some, trade some, plant some!

Tree Following, May 2016: Waiting for Blooms

Thanking Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting the fun Tree Following meme, we’re checking in today on our chosen trees. My Retama, Parkinsonia aculeata, leafed-out fully this past month, providing a respite for this Red-winged Blackbird during his visit to my garden.

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No longer just a display of green bones that are trunk and limbs,


…the tiny, flat leaflets formed along the paired stalks and sport a spring green that is most welcome in my garden.


The fine foliage is lacy against the sky.



The tree fills in a space between the backdrop of neighbors’ trees and my own Shumard Oak,  Quercus shumardii.  Those blasted electric lines traverse the foliage.

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I guess I shouldn’t complain about the lines though, should I?  After all, I couldn’t very well write about Retama and hit “send”  without them.


The Retama is lovely in any light–I’m so glad I have one in my garden and that I chose it to follow this year.



In the past week, look what’s happened!IMGP7615_cropped_3612x2691..new


Just a few for now and they are clustered together in the topmost foliage, but soon the flowers will appear all over the tree and pollinators of all stripes and wings will visit.   It’s been windy here recently, so good photos are tricky.

As this week is National Wildflower Week in the U.S. I think it’s appropriate to laud the Retama’s beauty and appropriateness in its native range.  Retama is a native small tree/shrub to Texas and a bunch of other places throughout North and South America.   It is an arid climate plant, thriving in dry, hot conditions and a valuable plant in many ways–medicinally, and scientifically, as well as being important for erosion control and soil reclamation.

But the Retama, P. aculeata,  has also proven invasive and a problem plant for many areas where it has been introduced.  Australia has banned it entirely because it’s become such a noxious weed. Retama escapes from controlled cultivation, probably by birds which spread the seeds, and becomes weedy in natural ranges. IMGP7556.new

I think this is a good reminder that where a plant is native, there are controls and conditions to keep the plant “in check.”  The Retama in my garden belongs here, in my garden.   It is a native plant to the region in which I live and garden, and a fine addition for its beauty, its water-wise characteristics, and  its ability to thrive in the hot summers. Additionally, it’s also a great wildlife plant.   But in places where it is introduced and has invaded, problems arise.  Retama spreads and grows rapidly, forming thickets and native plants cannot complete, thus the Retama is responsible for declining flora diversity. It causes problems with livestock (because of its thorns) and spreads profusely when there is plenty of soil moisture.

Because we love of plants, gardeners should be cognizant of how our plant choices impact our home region.  When we can do, we should choose native plants and wildflowers to help beautify our world and assist wildlife, but we should also encourage and lobby nursery businesses to supply native plants so that we have choices.  When we totally fall in love with a non-native plant and must have it–and that’s happened to all of us–we should learn about the plant and take care that it isn’t invasive and won’t harm our local environment.


Thanking Lucy again for Tree Following–pop over and learn about trees from all over the world.  Enjoy!

If You Plant Them, They Will Come

I’m always amused when someone says to me, Oh, your gardens are so pretty.  It must take a lot of time….  The reality is that while those same people are mowing, watering and edging their pointless lawns, or hiring some company or individual to do so, I’m sipping my coffee, or whatever, and enjoying the native plants in my gardens–as are the wildlife who are attracted to those plants.


Wildflower and native plants gardens are beautiful and require less work than traditional “yards” of turf.  Additionally, wildlife of all sorts will visit and set up house–because they evolved with natives and generally prefer native plants above others.  Gardeners who plant with natives and wildflowers, instead of introduced plants or turf, help heal the Earth.  A well-designed native and wildflower garden is a balm to the gardener, to people who visit the garden and to wildlife which is threatened by habitat destruction.


Celebrate National Wildflower Week and plant some wildflowers in your garden. Heck, just make your whole plot of land native plants and wildflowers.


Wildflowers work:  they’re beautiful, easy, and support wildlife.