Foliage Follow-up, April 2014

Spring has definitely sprung here in Austin and though blooms may be foremost for most garden lovers, foliage loveliness deserves a shout-out.   Here are my foliage favorites for April.

The summer and fall blooming Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinium greggiisports deeply lobed foliage, giving rise to one of the common names for this hardy ground cover, Palmleaf Mistflower.


Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has beautiful foliage year-round.  It’s delicate, fern-like and spreads well (sometimes too well).  Yarrow is evergreen, hardy and drought tolerant.

It brightens this shady spot.

A perennial favorite of mine and one I’ve profiled before, Mexican Feathergrass (Nassella tenuisima) is at the zenith of beauty in the spring.

The lone green Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)  in my back gardens apparently wasn’t decimated by butterfly larva last year.

With soft, graceful foliage, it’s a wonderful addition to the mixed perennial garden.

Globe Mallow (Spaeralcea ambigua)  is such a show-stopper with its combination of orange blooms and arresting, pale gray-green, fuzzy leaves.

I like this combination of  Pale-leaf Yucca (Yucca pallida), Heartleaf Skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) and the bright green Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).

The Pale-leaf Yucca appears blue against the backdrop of the greener Skullcap ground cover  and the Autumn Sage’s is a bright green punctuation situated further in that same ground cover.

The Wild Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) not only has beautiful blooms in spring, but interesting foliage year-round.

New growth from a young American Smoke Tree (Cotinus obovatus), promises more beauty as it matures.

Lastly, I can’t resist the photo of the Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea, who has visited my garden this past week as he rests on the green branch of Retama (Parkinsonia aculeata).  Plumage and foliage–you can’t beat that!

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-up for April.


Waiting For Muhly

How many Octobers have I waited, in hopes, to see if the Gulf Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) in my gardens  will show off the beautiful and graceful seed heads that arise from the grass, gossamer and veil-like?  How many Octobers waiting to see if my Gulf Muhly would look like those  that I see in commercial landscapes or others’ (Growing Optimism) personal gardens?    How many times have I transplanted my Gulf Muhly in the spring, after disappointing no-show plumes, only to wait a year or more to see if this spot in the garden is the right spot.  I can’t say.

Finally, I think I have the right (two) spots.  Yipee!!!

I love Gulf Muhly.  When I see this beautiful grass in October, it takes my breath away.  The color (a pinkish-purple) is lovely, rich and unusual and the “bloom,” which are actually tiny seeds borne on very thin spikes, is feathery and soft.  It’s a sensual plant.  As a single plant, it’s lovely.  Planted in mass?  Stunning!  Mostly, I’ve admired Gulf Muhly from afar, because I  have too much shade/part shade on my property and I’ve opted for longer blooming plants in the few areas which receive full sun.  Gulf Muhly is best in full sun and requires a bit more water than many of the plants that I grow.

My landscape has changed in the last couple of years, so last year (fall 2010),  I moved two in a back area which receives the blasting sun in the summer.

Originally, I had three, but lost one over the Summer From Hell.  The other two are doing well and in just the last two days, put on their fabulous bloom spikes.

I know, you can barely see the signature pink-purple seed heads–they look spindly compared with  other Gulf Muhly around Austin, but I’m tickled to have anything.  It will take another 2-3 years to reach maturity and real be show-stoppers.   But finally, I’ll  have a nice display of this beautiful plant in the back of my garden.

I also moved this one at about the same time last year.

Wow!  Enough plumage to achieve a back-lit effect from the west sun!  I can die now.

The little spikes to the left are another Gulf Muhly that I moved two weeks ago.  It’ll be next year before I see anything from this plant.  But in 2 or 3 years?  Oh, I can’t wait!

Most of the year, Gulf Muhly is an attractive grass–light green and full.  Generally, it’s a tough plant, with higher water needs than some of the other native grasses.  In October (or so), those magnificent spikes appear and it’s unrivaled in beauty.  It sways in the breeze and when the sun is behind the plant, it glows.  As the seeds develop, the seed heads turn a soft light brown.  Still lovely.  After the first hard freeze, the plant is dormant until spring.
This Gulf Muhly lover lives for the October show.

And the wait is worth it.