Winter(?) Blooms

While it flies in the face of garden normalcy, it’s been a good winter for many of the flowering perennials in my garden.  Few plants were sent deep into dormancy, so flowering florals have been a constant.

This cheery cool season bloomer has brightened the edge of a garden for months.  Four-nerve DaisyTetraneuris scaposa, is a tidy little thing.  Evergreen slender leaves serve as a base for sprightly yellow daisies.  Even after a hard freeze, this is a typical winter bloomer.


Owing to the mild winter, there are a couple of Purple coneflowerEchinacea purpurea, eager for spring to begin.  Interestingly, the established plants, some of which are years old, haven’t bloomed up yet.

This group volunteered themselves for a pathway decoration.   I’ll leave them be–who am I to yank them up when they’re so charming?


Another beneficiary of our lack of freezes this winter are the Tropical sageSalvia coccinea.  This particular one is red, but the white ones have bloomed all winter too.  They’re a little lanky now, but I’m still enjoying the accents of red, so they’ll remain until the new growth catches up with the old-growth blooms.


A cousin of the S. coccinea is this salmon-colored Autumn sageSalvia greggi.  It’s not a bountiful bloomer, but only because it grows in too much shade.  Still, the blooms are beginning and will grace the garden for the next couple of months, taking a break during our hot summer, resuming flowering in fall.


Another “victim” of the mild winter is the Mexican honeysuckleJusticia spicigera.  This is a funny plant as it doesn’t have a specific bloom time. In mild winters like the one this year, it blooms all winter, well into spring.  In a “normal” winter (whatever that is), it’ll be knocked to the ground, requiring several months to flush out before flowering ensues.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these winter-orange blooms and so have the honeybees.  Most of the native bees are dormant for now.

Mexican honeysuckle is also a great plant for part shade–yay for me as I have plenty of that!


My two red roses have produced luscious blooms all winter, non-stop.  This, the Martha Gonzales rose,

…and its botanical doppelgänger, the Old Gay Hill rose.  Easy to grow, disease-free, and gorgeous against the blue Texas sky, both roses are head-turners.  I’m not going to prune them just yet, against common gardening wisdom;  there will be time later for that.


In the last week or so, the Southern dewberry, Rubus trivialis has burst out in blooms.

The sweet, snowy flowers attract skippers and honeybees, and dot the back of the garden, clambering up a fence and creeping along the ground.

The buds are a pure pink, so provides a bit of a color two-fer.  Alas, it’s more than likely that the birds will pick off the berries before I get to them.


I finally found the one spot in my garden for Desert mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua.  Native to regions west of Texas, this lovely requires full sun and excellent drainage.  It’s a high elevation shrub, but the best I could do was pop it into a raised bed.  I love it, blooms or not, and the tangerine flowers paired with that grey-green ruffle of foliage is a winning combination.

The native Blue Orchard bees, recently awakened from their own year-long dormancy, have enjoyed the pollen provided by this mallow.


A passalong plant,  Giant spiderwort, Tradescantia gigantea, delivers blasts of purple for this gardener and loads of nectar and pollen for the pollinators.  Honeybees are in a frenzy gathering the pollen as they gear up for spring.

I have quite a few clumps of this spiderwort and they seed out prolifically.  They’re easily pulled up and tossed into the compost, or even better, gifted to unsuspecting gardeners.

I like that the insect (a fly or native bee?) is also interested in the plant.  I wonder if he/she is responsible for the hole in the leaf?

Purple power rules the garden with these spring pretties.

Most of these perennials and shrubs bloom at least some during a colder winter, but this year, that floral show has been richer.  Of course, as we enter March, the month of spring, an overnight light freeze or two is predicted in the next few days.


The native plants will be fine, the irises, reaching to the sky and starting their blooms, might be damaged.  Time–and actual temperature–will tell.  Regardless, spring is now knocking at the garden gate and winter is mostly done.

How has your winter garden fared?

Martha and the Old Gay Hill

I’m guessing that the title captured your attention?  As well it should, because  Martha Gonzales rose and Old Gay Hill China rose are both rose shrubs worth noticing and growing, and both are stellar performers during a (so far) mild, drippy winter here in Central Texas.

I’m not a huge rose fan.  I like them just fine; I sniff the blooms and enjoy the results.  I think they’re pretty, when they’re pretty.  In general though, I prefer other plants in my gardens like grasses, perennials, and wildflowers. But I do like Martha and Old Gay Hill.  Both are antique roses, meaning that folks brought them to the New World, probably before the late 1800s, and planted them in small towns and on family farms. Due to hardy Rosa genetics, the roses flourished without much care and here in Texas, that’s the ONLY kind of rose that you want!

I accidentally purchased my Old Gay Hill rose shrubs some years ago.  I’d read about the rose, but was hankering for a Martha Gonzales, which the nursery didn’t have in stock at the particular point in time that I was hot to buy. But I had money to burn and energy to spare, so the Old Gay Hills came home with me.  I’ve never regretted that trip home as the roses have provided bursts of color, couple with an evergreen presence, excepting during the deep heat of summers and post-freezes of winters.

I’m charmed by the bride-of-Frankenstein stripes of white that each rose displays amid shouts of scarlet petals.

The shrub boasts good size (mine are currently nearly 4 feet tall), with handsome green foliage and pops of red.  This winter, Old Gay Hill has bloomed steadily.

New foliage is bronzy, held aloft by maroon-tinged stems, topped with sweet buds which open to generous, fragrant blooms.  Mature leaves are green, with a border of bronze.

The Old Gay Hill was discovered in Washington County, Texas, near a town called Gay Hill.  It’s listed as a “native” rose in the link above, but many rose species were brought to Texas by European immigrants during the 1800s.  Like most immigrants to North America, the rose varieties settled in, accepted their new home–heat, drought, and everything else–and did what immigrants always do:  they made Texas a better, more beautiful place.


Apparently, I like red roses.  Unsatisfied with growing only Old Gay Hill, I eventually planted the desired Martha Gonzales roses.  The Marthas grow a smaller bloom, but rival Old Gay Hill’s in brilliance and beauty.  The petite roses are deeply fragrant, a delight to the nose. In my experience, the Marthas are better over-all bloomers than the Old Gay Hills, but they’re also located in sunnier spots.  The shrubs are foliage-dense, though haven’t grown particularly tall for me. I’ve seen Marthas grow quite large in both height and width, some in my own neighborhood.  Those are the ones growing with ample, year-round sun.

I’m especially fond of the foliage on this rose shrub.  The leaves are deep green, flushed with a tinge of burgundy, each leaf edged in wine red.   Though smaller than the green leaves of Old Gay Hill, Martha’s leaves are richly colored.  The pairing of carmine blooms with the vivid leaves is stunning.

The Martha Gonzales was discovered in 1984 in the Navasota, Texas garden of–you guessed it–Martha Gonzales!

Both rose varieties are disease free, nearly thornless, and are frequented by many of the pollinators who visit my garden, though right now, there’s not much pollinator action, excepting honeybees on warmer days.  During this mild winter, my roses have been stalwart bloomers and I’m enjoying the flowering.  A hard freeze is predicted in the few next days which may end the the show the immediate future.  If that happens, I have only to wait until  March or April for the crimson tide to return.

Winter red blooms are chasing away the winter blues for me.  Do you have winter blooms cheering your garden?


An Easy Task

It’s a simple chore, this business of observing the growing season’s debut, a chore that requires only looking out the window or strolling along the pathway. Each day brings new life in the form of opening blooms, wafting tree catkins, and emerging wildlife ready for their pollinating, nesting, and procreating work.

Golden groundselPackera obovata, brightens March with full-of-sunshine-beauty.

A variety of small pollinators are attracted to these sweet flowers.  A tiny Miner(?) bee and her bee buddies are all over the shocking yellow blooms each day, this spring.

It looks like there might be a spider nearby–watch out little bees!


Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata, flush with terra cotta petals, beckon swiftly flying native metallic bees into alluring yellow throats.

The bees were  too fast for me to photograph competently, but the blooms held their position. Crossvine is one of Central Texas’ earliest blossoming vines.

Thanks to spring breezes, the Crimson flowers of the Old Gay Hill rose are accompanied by the downed catkins of a neighboring Red Oak tree.


Pink is the true color of the Purple coneflowerEchinacea purpurea,  just entering a long, glorious bloom cycle.


Another spring pink is the native to Central Texas, Hill Country penstemonPenstemon triflorus.

The tubular flowers typically align along tall bloom spikes, though this spring, the whole apparatus of this particular specimen nestles close to the ground.  The one currently in bloom waits for action from native bees, its stripes serving as a runway to a luscious nectar and pollen-filled destination.

Autumn sageSalvia greggii, blooms in a variety of colors.

This coral beauty is a reliable spring and fall bloomer, taking a break during our toasty summers, though it maintains a tidy, evergreen form in the heat.  Like so many other plants in my garden, the shrub is currently decorated with Red Oak.  The troop of Horsefly-like Carpenter bees, Xylocopa tabaniformis, who reside in my garden have no trouble finding the sweet spot(s) of these lovely blooms.


Another blooming vine, the Coral honeysuckle,  Lonicera sempervirens, is also a bee magnet.

Fortunately, this gorgeous bee (Sweat bee, Augochloropsis metallica ?)  rested between forays into the flowers, allowing for its capture in photo form.

Blooms are boss and for a look at a spring-flowering festival, check out Carol’s May Dreams Gardens celebrating all things blooming this March.