The Spring Garden

Despite late freezes, drought, and earlier-than-normal warm temperatures, it’s been a lovely, affirming spring in my garden. Plants are growing, leafing out, and blooming in their typical order and roughly on their same schedule. Some, like the multitudes of Tradescantia, Spiderwort, were so eager for spring to happen that they’re over-performing. Of course that has nothing to do with the fact that I routinely fail to control them by weeding during fall and winter. Ahem.

My Spiderwort are pass-alongs varieties and they’ve mix-n-matched for years, so I don’t have a definitive species. Because of their height, I suspect T. gigantea, but regardless of species, the flowers are stunning in shades of purples with a few pinky hues. Some are pure lavender, with rounded petals,

…and some are deeper lavender with or triangulated petals

Certain individuals bloom in shades trending pink. These below sport ruffly petals.

No matter their color or form, Spiderworts are favorites of the honeybees. Flowering early and for most of the spring season, bees are keeping busy with the nectar sipping and the pollen collecting.

The first yellow in my garden is typically Golden Groundsel, Packera obovata. The little group I have brightens a shady spot.

The groundsel echos the Adirondack chairs: cheery blooms, comfortable chairs.

Last year’s deep, destructive freeze ended 2021 hopes for the luscious clusters of blooms from Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora. This year, both of my Mountain Laurels flowered beautifully, if too briefly. These blooms are known for their grape juice fragrance. Weirdly, I can’t detect their very sweet fragrance unless my nose is right up in the flowers or at night, with whiffs of the grape scent on the wind.

The irises I grow, all pass-along plants, have bloomed prolifically this spring, more so than in many years.

I think every single bulb, even those that I separated and replanted in the fall, have pushed up stalks and adorned those stalks with flowers. The irises are still going strong and are now joined by European poppies. Tall, leafy American Basket flower stalks await their turn to shine in the sun, while a couple of Martha Gonzalez rose bushes add pops of rich red and burgundy-tinged foliage.

Spiderworts, irises, and poppies are all plants-gone-wild this spring, but the heat and drought have sadly rendered the columbines less floriferous. As well, given my now full-sun front garden, columbines won’t grow there–they fry in Texas sun.

This one, as well as a couple of others, still have a place in the back garden. I plan to add more in the shadier areas because I can’t resist these graceful additions to the garden.

Hill Country Penstemon, Penstemon triflorus, are in top form this year. Hummingbird moths and Horsefly-like carpenter bees are regular visitors.

I wonder if pollinators have a hard time deciding? Hmmm. Penstemons or Spiderworts? What am I in the mood for??

Of course, it’s not only gorgeous bloom time, but foliage presents a worthy rival in beauty and form during verdant spring. This silvery-green Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima, waves, adding movement and action in the garden. In the past, I’ve witnessed migrating Painted Buntings nibbling at the tiny seeds that feathergrass produces. I wonder if those colorful birds will find this patch as they move through my garden this spring?

The drought continues and summer will be a bear, but I’m grateful for the gentle artistry and renewal of life that is spring.

What’s in your spring garden this year? I hope it’s colorful and ever-changing and provides a respite from the world’s troubles.

Happy spring gardening!

Foliage Follow-up, August 2014

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-up, the monthly fanfare of foliage in the garden. As much as I love flowers, a plant’s foliage is often a deal-breaker when choosing for my gardens.  Especially in August when Austin blooms are a little scarce, the plant parts that are not flowers can lend beauty and definition to a garden space.

While not exactly foliage, seed heads certainly aren’t  blooms either.  Ex-flowers, I guess, but I’m including them because in mid-to-late summer, seed pods produced by former blooms impart interest to perennial gardens.  This group of seed heads of the Gulf Penstemon, Penstemon tenuis, are just about to POP open and spread their glory!

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The Gulf Penstemon is a lovely lavender spring-blooming perennial.   I keep the seed heads as long as possible to give the seeds time to develop for propagation of new specimens for this short-lived perennial and also because I find them attractive.

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Little, tawny turban-hats, the hard shell will burst open, spreading the seeds to nearby areas.  Or, the gardener (that’s me, folks) can prune the stems, crack open those turbans, shake out the seeds and in doing so, appear to evoke some pagan ritual while waving the stalks over the gardens.  I wonder what the neighbors think?

The Hill Country Penstemon, Penstemon triflorus, sports a larger, darker turban-capped seed head.

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This year marks the latest I’ve ever left these seed pods on their bloom spikes. Usually, this plant topples over by early summer, I lose patience with the mess and cut it to the ground.

This seed pod of the RetamaParkinsonia aculeata, hangs from the tree’s slender branch like a pea ready for pickin’.

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Retama is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae), so the pea analogy works.

This combination of varying foliage pleases me:  Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima, Globe MallowSphaeralcea ambigua, and GoldeneyeViguiera dentata.  

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This trio includes some of the premier hardy perennials easily available for the Austin gardener.

If you have, have had or have ever seen a teenage boy of that certain age when the hair is long and a bit shaggy, close your eyes and visualize that in this DamianitaChrysactinia mexicana.

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I love the swoosh of the “bangs” framed over the decorative stone.  Just imagine the teenage boy-head, constantly swooping his hair back to keep those bangs out of the eyes, in that annoyingly cute, but insolent way.

The wide, heart-shaped and deeply veined foliage of Coral VineAntigonon leptopus,

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suggests a tropical lushness that is welcome this time of year.

I’m enamored with strappy, striped foliage, like that of this Dianella or Variegated Flax Lily, Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’,

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…and this Color Guard YuccaYucca filamentosa, ‘Color Guard’.

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Those banded beauties work nicely in concert with each other and with another pairing I like, the native ColumbineAquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana, mixed with the cultivar  Katie’s Dwarf RuelliaRuellia brittoniana, ‘Katie’s Dwarf’.

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The evergreen Columbine, with its soft form and graceful foliage, blooms yellow in spring. Conversely, the deciduous Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia has dark, lance-like leaves and sports sprays of deep purple from July through October.  Opposites attract and work well together–at least that’s true of these two plants.

Head over to Digging to check out other accolades to the leafy among us.