August Blooms

It’s hot August and hot-hued blooms are more than a match for the heat wave that defines recent days in Austin, Texas, USDA zone 8b. The flowers are fine as the day heats up, but the gardener becomes sweaty and grumpy.  Early morning is the best time to appreciate the heat-loving blooming bonanza.  

In my shady garden, I grow only two Pride of BarbadosCaesalpinia pulcherrima; both receive late morning to late afternoon direct sunshine.  I adore the full-of-pulchritude flowers, but each of my individual plants are, truth be told, thinner and less lush than those around town which grow in all-day sun.  

I’m not complaining, especially when an early migrating Monarch stops by for a sip of the sweet stuff that the flowers offer in abundance.  In fact, these blooms are pollinator magnets and there’s always something flitting about and alighting on the bright blooms.

 

Turk’s capMalvaviscus arboreus, is a signature plant in my gardens, as they bloom well in shade–which my garden has plenty of–as well as in full-to-part sun.  These native Texas shrubs bloom multitudes of petite fire-engine red hibiscus flowers from May until October.  Bees and hummingbirds are frequent visitors, and birds will enjoy the fruits that follow, later in autumn.  

    

More hot red blooms this hot August are found on the Firecracker plantRusselia equisetiformis.

A plant which thrives in both dappled shade and part sun, its tubular blooms attract native metallic bees and hummingbirds.   It’s a tough plant:  it requires little water, has no disease or insect problems, and is lovely in both flower and foliage.

I also grow a cousin to the R. equisetiformis, the Russelia coccinea.  My one little plant  has been in the ground for quite a few years and doesn’t bloom often.  

But, it’s blooming now–and how–and has done so for much of this summer.

I like how the arching branch full of red blooms visually bisects the purple Oxalis Triangularis.

Blooms are numerous along arching branches, bright red, but more fluted than the cigar-shaped R. equisetiformis blooms. The leaves are small, opposite and scalloped, rather than the fern-like foliage of the R. equisetiformis

The R. equisetiformis is native to Mexico and southward.  I’ve had both plants in my gardens for many years, but the R. equisetiformis is the more prolific of the two and seemingly better adapted, as mine grows in both shade and in some sun, whereas the R. coccinea seems happier in a spot protected by the Texas summer sun.

 

Mexican HoneysuckleJusticia spicigera, is back in blooming business after its June and July vacation.

The pollinators are cheering!  Well, they don’t exactly cheer, but there are few bloom clusters which don’t have attendant bees, busily working the blooms–all day, everyday.   It’s a popular place to eat!

A honeybee works the bloom,

…as does a Southern Carpenter bee,

…and a Horsefly-like Carpenter bee.

 

Another two plants which thrive in summer’s heat are the Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, and Firebush, Hamelia patens. 

Like the other hot plants in this post, both of these shrubs produce blooms that pollinators love.  Shortly before I caught this shot of the Flame Acanthus flower, it was feeding a female Black-chinned hummingbird.  The hummer buzzed away with an annoyed chirp directed at me, but the flower remained, posed for a photo.

A native metallic bee was more cooperative with the photography session as it ignored me and worked a bloom cluster of  the Firebush.

It’s hot.  It’s August.  There are still a few more weeks of oven-like temperatures–can you tell that I’m weary of the heat?  That said, my garden and its heat worshiping blooms are doing just fine.

Autumn is just around the corner.  I can’t wait.

For more awesome August blooms, check out May Dreams Gardens and its celebration of blooms galore.

Bloom Day, December 2014

Celebrating blooming things with Carol of May Dreams Gardens on this last Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day of 2014, I’d like to share some currently flourishing flowers from my gardens.  It’s been mild here in Austin, Texas, though a few light frosts have come our way, none were significantly cold enough to dampen the blossoming spirit.

Wonderful native perennials continue strutting their blooming stuff late this growing season. Two native salvia species are providing nice nectar sources for passing bees and butterflies and a color show for the resident gardener.   The Tropical SageSalvia coccinea, 

IMGP3068.new …brightens the garden with its scarlet blooms, while Henry Duelberg salviaSalvia farinacea, ‘Henry Duelberg’ provides spikes of blue.

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Planted near to those two perennials is a group of  Texas Craglily, Echeandia texensis.  

IMGP3086.new There are few blooms left, but many seed pods readying for future golden lily loveliness.

Some of my GoldeneyeViguiera dentata, still bloom. IMGP3053.new

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I don’t really think I need to add anything to that!  These individuals face west and receive the warmth of the afternoon autumn sun.

A few Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, flowers grace the gardens as well.

IMGP3057.new I don’t recall ever seeing this plant bloom so late before–I’m not complaining.

Native to areas west of Texas, but not specifically Austin, is the Globe Mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua.   

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In my gardens it’s a reliable cool season bloomer–at least through the beginning of summer.  The one mature Globe Mallow in my gardens is beginning a nice bloom production and that’s likely to happen throughout winter.

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There are always a few Purple Coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea, charming the gardens. This one is planted with an unknown variety of basil-in-bloom,IMGP3046.new

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…which I’d know the name of if I’d bothered to keep the tag.  Ahem.

And here, Coneflower is partnered with the equally sweet Four-nerve Daisy or Hymenoxys, Tetraneuris scaposa.

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I love native Texas plants.

As for the non-natives, well, they’re pretty cool, too.  The Firecracker or Coral PlantRusselia equisetiformis, requires a hard freeze to knock it back.

IMGP3059.new Obviously that hasn’t happened yet.

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I feel good about this plant–it has such a tropical look, but in reality it’s water-wise and tolerant of the cooler season.

Roses are responding in kind to our temperate December by blossoming again. Whoop!

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Glorious in vibrant red are these blooms of the Old Gay Hill rose.

Finally, the Potato VineSolanum laxum, has entered its bloom time.  This vine twines up one side of my swing beam and blossoms primarily in the cool months here in Austin. It’s a timid vine in my garden, never growing too large.    I forget about it during our long, warm  growing season–it’s there, but unimpressive. Once the temperatures cool, its lovely clusters of dainty, creamy-bell flowers provide interest for my honeybees, still foraging on warm afternoons.

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Enjoy whatever blooms you have–indoors or out.  Then check out the many bloom posts by visiting May Dreams Gardens.

 

Foliage Follow-up, July Firecrackers!

There are several plants with the term “firecracker” in the name, but none lovelier than Firecracker Fern (Plant),  Russelia equisetiformis. 

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This beautiful  tropical shrub sports small, red, tubular shaped flowers at the terminal end of the branches–and I’m a sucker for red blooms!  The flowers give rise to one common name of the plant (to some, they look like little firecrackers). But  Firecracker Fern hosts other common names: Firecracker Plant, Firecracker Fern, Coral Plant, and Coral Fountain.

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But it’s the “Fern” part of the equation that attracts me.  Though I think the blooms are fetching, the “foliage” of this plant is what I find most appealing.

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This herbaceous (in Austin) perennial forms multiple bright green, arching branches.  Firecracker Fern is a rush-like plant, with wiry, slender foliage,

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though small ovate leaves form along the main branches of the plant.

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Firecracker Fern is  a tropical native to Mexico, but grows officially in USDA zones 9-12.  Here in Austin, Texas, zone 8b, it will die to the ground after a hard, sustained freeze.  The Firecracker Fern doesn’t grow as large here as it does in its native zones because of winter freezes. Most specimens I’ve seen, including my own, only grow to about 3 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide.  In the milder winters of the past 15 years, my Firecrackers often didn’t die back completely. This past winter all of mine died and I wondered if they would return.  Happily, all did and my garden is the better for it!

The specimen beside my pond gets morning to early afternoon sun,

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and the foliage is always striking–I think Firecracker Fern is a good companion plant for a pond garden.   It doesn’t require much water from me, so it also fits nicely with my xeric garden.  While not a strong attractor of wildlife, I’ve seen hummingbirds sipping at the little red flowers.    Firecracker Fern is reportedly deer resistant, though, like many plants, that can depend on drought and situation.

This group of three in my front garden,

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receive morning sun, then dappled shade for the remainder of the day.  They bloom,

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though not as profusely as the pond Firecracker Fern. I dug these three out from the mother plant beside the pond.  Firecracker Fern will form roots when the branches touch the ground around the immediate area where an original plant is located. Firecracker Fern transplants easily, though I’d recommend transplantation in spring because of its sensitivity to winter freezes. If transplanted in the fall, root development might not be significant enough for winter survival. When I gardened in the Green Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden, there were excess  Firecracker Ferns in the garden because several mother plants had rooted out.   I moved those extra plants to different spots throughout that garden, some in shade and some in sun. I think the Green Garden Firecrackers procreated well because that garden received regular irrigation.  It’s an easy plant to pop into a small space and  I always found a home for new specimens.

In my home garden, I like this combination of Firecracker Fern with Mexican Feather Grass, Nassella tenuisima, and Soft-leaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia. 

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And in another view, the slender foliage Firecracker Fern contrasts  beautifully with the wider leafed Pickerel Rush, Pontederia cordata.

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Though I’ve never grown it as such, Firecracker Fern is a beautiful container plant because of its arching qualities–well, also because of its foliage and blooms!  In a container, it would require more regular (several times per week) watering than it does when planted in the ground.  There are also cultivars of this perennial that bloom creamy white or a pale pink flowers.

Beautiful foliage,

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and stunning red flowers,

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Firecracker Fern is a great plant for many situations in the garden.

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting foliage fun for July.