Reds After the Rain

As happens every August and September, flower stalks of the perennial bulb Oxblood or Schoolhouse Lily, Rhodophiala bifida, have emerged. These bright pops of color appear, seemingly overnight, after the first few soaking late summer rains. This particular group lives among some Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima. The still green, but turning autumn-toasty feathery grass, contrasts with the deep red, dainty lilies, creating a charming scene.

So far, this is the only Schoolhouse Lily group that has awakened from its underground bed, but I’m confident that in coming weeks, other red surprises will reach up for a share of sunshine and a howdy! from pollinators. The individual blooms don’t last long, only a few days, but I’ve planted various bulbs around my garden and they appear, as they choose, at different times, allowing for a longer period in which to enjoy the pretties. Once the blooms fade, strappy foliage will stay green, disappearing in late spring as the temperatures rise. This Amaryllid was most likely introduced in Texas by a German colonist and botanist, Peter Heinrich Oberwetter (1830-1915). He imported R. bifida bulbs from Argentina and it has naturalized successfully in many parts of the state, especially here in Central Texas.

Another Amaryllis bulb making its flowery appearance after late summer rains is the Red Spider Lily, also called Guernsey Lily–Lycoris radiata. These stunning flowers, with their curled petals and spidery stamens, are showstoppers.

Like the Schoolhouse Lily, Red Spider Lily flowers emerge from buried bulbs after an August or September rain and sit atop fleshy stems . The stems of L. radiata are taller and the flower is larger than those of R. bifida. Both rock stunningly rich red accents in the garden.

This group of Red Spider Lilies produced five stems with flowers. The stems are single, with no foliage emerging until the flower has faded. Like the Schoolhouse Lily, the foliage will be evergreen through winter and spring, disappearing with warmer temperatures. The bulbs stay safe from summer’s heat in deep soil, needling little water through the summer months.

The foliage you see in both photos comes from a Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis. The Pigeonberry and Spider Lily are accompanied by a couple of Glo Coalson’s raku pigeons. I thought the Pigeonberry needed some pigeon friends. Also, these pigeons don’t poop.

Our blisteringly hot summer has somewhat abated and we’ve recently received 4-5 inches of rain. We’re still in an official drought, but the slightly cooler temperatures and the rain are most welcome by the garden and this gardener. Along with these reliable late summer bulb bloomers, everything in the garden is breathing a sigh of relief–greening up and flowering out–demonstrating their appreciating for the rain.

Luscious Lycoris

It’s fall!!


I can always tell, especially when these beauties surprise me.  Even if I wanted to, there’s no way to ignore this!

After our first decent rain in early September, the Red Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata, sends up its bloom stalk and in the following days, stunning blooms unfold.

The long stamens give rise the the common name, spider.

These petals and those extravagant stamens still sported rain drops on a recent morning after overnight rain.

In the Amaryllis family and native to the Far East, this bulb has naturalized in the southern part of the United States. Here in Austin, they’re easy to grow.  Plant now (in the early fall), in a part shade to shady spot and wait.  And if you’re like me, forget about them, go on with your life, your stuff, and your gardening.  Then be happily surprised each September–I never remember that I’ve planted them.  They pop out of the ground and do this:

…and then they do this.

Usually there are several blooms, one atop each scape, rising from the dormant-since-last winter bulbs.

After the flowers fade, the foliage will emerge–it looks similar to liriope foliage, except with a pale-yellow stripe up the middle.  The foliage will stick around until sometime in late winter–I don’t really know because I never realize that they’ve gone.

I only have three groups of L. radiata.  In this area I planted two bulbs in two different spots,

…while here resides a single bulb.

I planted my bulbs three years ago and this is the second year they’ve bloomed. They seem happy here.

So you know how I’m always preaching about planting for pollinators–bees, butterflies, and other assorted wildlife?  Well, forget all that for this one post:  you plant Red Spider Lily for yourself.  Go ahead, be completely selfish and shoot for style over substance. I’m sure in its native range, there’s something that feeds on Lycoris radiata–but not here.  No sir, I haven’t seen anything so much as hover around the Spider Lily, wondering whether this is something worth sipping from or chewing on.  This plant is for looks only–it’s a total fluff plant, indulging the pretty-plant-person resident in every gardener.

And that’s okay.

Plant, wait. enjoy!!

Bloom Day, September 2014

September heralds a change from the blisteringly hot to the merely hot in Austin, Texas. This gardener welcomes that subtle, but fundamental change:  the shorter days, the approaching autumn cool and if we’re lucky, some rainy days ahead.  Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this lovely blogging meme celebrating all that flower.

It’s somewhat about the Ruellia this time of year in my gardens.  I grow both a native, Drummond’s Wild PetuniaRuellia drummondiana, like these cuties peeking out through foliage,

…and these that aren’t  quite so shy.

I also grow a well-behaved cultivar, the Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia, Ruellia brittoniana, ‘Katie’s Dwarf’,  blossoming beautifully during the late summer and autumn months.

Additionally, a less mannerly variety, the Chi-Chi Ruellia, Ruellia brittoniana ‘Chi-Chi’, makes its home in my gardens.  Here is it nicely co-mingling with the blooming and berrying PigeonberryRivina humilis,

…and flowering alone.

I love the first two Ruellia species and have a complicated relationship with the third.

The various Salvia in my gardens, like this red Autumn SageSalvia greggii,

…really strut their stuff in the fall. Flowers that appear on and off during our hot summer, the blossoms on these woody, native shrubs will consistently impress both pollinators and gardeners throughout our productive autumn months.

A different salvia, the white Tropical SageSalvia coccinea, was knocked back this past winter with our  late freezes,

…but are lush with snowy, bee-friendly blooms now and will bee that way until there is a killing frost.

Rock RosePavonia lasiopetala, opens its Barbie Doll Pink blooms each morning, remaining open longer as the days get shorter.

Another perennial with pretty-in-pink blossoms, is the Purple Heart, Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart’.

I grew up with Purple Heart rampant in my mother’s garden–I have warm memories of playing near stands of this naturalized ground cover with its dramatic purple foliage and charming blossoms.

Sweet Basil produces tiny flowers for pollinators,

… and the native, wildlife perennial, Lindheimer’s Senna, Senna lindheimeriana, blooms from August into September for the pollinators, then sets seeds for the birds later in fall.


I always forget that I planted these Red Spider Lily bulbs,  Lycoris radiata,


…. until they pop up, overnight it seems.

These are such gorgeous flowers! I don’t know why I can’t remember that the bulbs are in the ground, waiting for the first of the September rains, to grace the gardens with their exotic beauty. The strappy foliage (which emerges after blooming) disappears in the late winter/early spring.  The memory of those exquisite blossoms should stay with me, but I’m always surprised to welcome them again, each September.

Finally, a Monarch butterfly is now visiting my gardens, sipping on his preferred blooms of the Tropical MilkweedAsclepias curassavica.

My heart lifted to see this North American beauty after all I’ve read about the very serious decline in the monarch butterfly population.

Go Monarchs!

Here in Austin we enjoy a second, spectacular blooming season, beginning just about now.  Fall blooms abound and there’s more to come!  For today though, check out blooms from everywhere at May Dreams Gardens.