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.

Typical.

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?

Coneflowers are Yummy

Besides being garden head-turners and absurdly easy perennial growers, Purple coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea, are also some of the best wildlife plants in any home garden.  Now, as Central Texas enters its mid-spring-into-summer bloom period, coneflowers are reaching their zenith of beauty and bounty.  Everyone visiting wants a meal at Cafe Coneflower.

Enjoying a coneflower is a plain little Dun Skipper, Euphyes vestris.  According to Austin Bug Collection, a local Austin insect resource, the males of the species show no demonstrable markings, but the females have a few spots on the forewings.

And so they do!

Another of the many skippers endemic in this region is the Julia’s SkipperNastra julia.

Both of these skippers individually enjoy Purple coneflowers,

…and as dining companions at Cafe Coneflower.

Texan Crescents,  Anthanassa texana, are all over the garden, all the time, but they always check out the coneflowers for a good nectar snack.

 

This Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes, heads for Coneflower Cafe whenever he/she is out-and-about, typically during sunshine-drenched afternoons.

 

Of course, honeybees will always be found partaking a good nectar meal.

 

It’s easy to catch a Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, dining on flowers in the garden, but right now, it’s all about coneflower cuisine for these friendly pollinators.

They move around the flower during nectaring, so it’s easy to glimpse the various sides of their wings.

It’s not only the butterflies and honeybees who like coneflowers, though.

A  Spot-sided Coreid, Hypselonotus punctiventris, worked the coneflower one morning.  BugGuide calls this bug a Spot-sided coreid, but Austin Bug Collection says that this common coreid to Central Texas has no common name.

I’ll call him handsome and leave it at that.

This Leaf-footed bug, Acanthocephala femorata, posed impressively on his coneflower plinth.

I think these bugs are charming, though a little intimidating because of their size. But I can’t question this one’s affinity for the coneflower–it’s something we share in common.

As the blooms fade, the birds and some mammals will also reap nutritious rewards through the seeds from this valuable perennial.

I appreciate the beauty coneflowers bring to the garden, the critters like the bounty.

A win-win for all, I’d say.

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.