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?

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


Planted near to those two perennials is a group of  Texas Craglily, Echeandia texensis. There are few blooms left, but many seed pods readying for future golden lily loveliness.

Some of my GoldeneyeViguiera dentata, still bloom.

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. 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.

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.

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

…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.

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. Obviously that hasn’t happened yet.

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!

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.

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


Globe Mallow-Bewitching Bloom, Fair Foliage

On the heels of celebrating blooms with May Dreams Garden and foliage with Digging, I can’t help but think about the Globe Mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua, which is graced with both characteristics in abundance.

With fuzzy, ruffly gray-green leaves and orange dreamsicle blooms, the Globe Mallow is botanical eye candy.

But it’s also drought tolerant and hardy, so its marriage of beauty and brawn makes for a sexy and solid relationship! Globe Mallow is certainly a great perennial for the home garden in Central Texas.

For years I  thought the “globe mallow” that is commonly available in Austin nurseries was a native shrub, but that’s not the case.  The gray-leafed and orange-bloomed “globe mallow” that most Austin gardeners pine for and plant is usually the Sphaeralcea ambigua and isn’t native to Texas according the the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s plant database. The native-to-Texas orange-blossomed “globe mallow” is Sphaeralcea incana  and the only place I’ve ever seen it sold is at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Fall or Spring plant sale.  For whatever reason, it appears that the S.ambigua has cornered the commercial nursery market.  The Texas Sphaeralcea incana grows from a tap-root, so it might be more difficult to propagate or perhaps it’s harder to grow by seed. Regardless, the S.ambigua, Globe Mallow, works well for us in the Austin area. The Globe Mallow is a perennial that I like, but I’ve only experienced moderate success with it.

I’ve planted several of these lovely mallow shrubs.  The first was planted beside a Mt. Laurel, Sophora secundiflora and that was a majestic plant combination. Unfortunately I have no pictures, but imagine in cool, verdant March, the pairing of Mt. Laurel’s deep, glossy foliage, dripping with rich purple blooms planted alongside the airy gray foliage and orange flowers of the Globe Mallow–it’s a stunning sight.  I grew that combination for several years until the Globe Mallow sputtered in the increasing shade of an Oak tree. It grew leggy and thin, plus it stopped producing those gorgeous blooms.  I moved the mallow to this spot where it still didn’t receive enough sun to do much of anything except to flop over.

Then I transplanted it here,

…in the middle of my large perennial garden and purchased a couple of companions to keep it company.

For the first year the transplanted Globe Mallow performed well in the garden, though the newly planted mallows puttered along, with limited growth.

As I’ve written before, the biggest frustration with my gardens is the amount of “part-shade” I have.  My back gardens, which were once full sun, have less of that sun every year.  Darn trees.   My ill-fortune with Globe Mallow is a prime example of my part-sun predicament. This group of three were okay in that spot, but still didn’t quite receive enough sun to perform their best. They grew and they even bloomed in spring.

The foliage was stellar,

…but I wanted more orange-blossom beauty!

As the plants matured and the Oak trees cast shadows over the garden, the Globe Mallow would leeaan into the available sun, so they ended up looking a little silly.

This past year, I moved those listing mallows again, only this time to my front gardens.  One is here,

…planted in a strip garden, along with Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima, Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea and annual Sunflower.  These are just on the edge of my property.  Really, just on the edge. Don’t ask what I was thinking when I planted the mallow there, I have no idea. But I’m not moving it. I’m not moving it.  I’m not moving it. Transplanting woody perennials (like mallows) is tricky, so that’s not happening again.  

Except if I need to find more direct sun for them!

The second Globe Mallow is planted down the property line, nearer to the street.

I like this group with the Globe Mallow: Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala, the not-in-bloom-yet Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, Mexican Feathergrass and Soft-leaf Yucca,  Yucca recurvifolia.

With this move, both Globe Mallows are doing quite well–finally, they get a full 6 hours of sun, year round. And that, kids,  is the trick with Globe Mallow success: they really do need FULL SUN. None of this part-sun, part-shade nonsense. They enjoy being tortured by the death rays of the Southwest Sun.  And why not?  These are desert plants–native to sandy, rocky soils and arid climates and the furnace blast of the sun.

My experience is that Globe Mallow bloom fully in the spring and again in fall, taking a rest during summer.  This one though has bloomed sporadically throughout this summer, which was a treat.

I recently pruned the mallow back a bit, as it was lolling over everything around it. Like many in the Malvaceae family, Globe Mallow flowers best on new wood, so pruning for tidiness also enhances blossom production.

According to the Wildflower Center, the Sphaeralcea are important plants for native bees, but I haven’t noticed bees favoring my blossoms.  Again, the S. ambigua is not native to the Austin area, or Texas, for that matter, so that might explain why I haven’t seen significant numbers of native bees at my flowers–other gardeners may experience differently.  If you plant the S. incana, the native bees in your neighborhood surely will enjoy the blooms.

One more note about “globe mallows” in Austin.  I’ve seen the Sphaeralcea angustifolia, also called Globe Mallow, for sale at Austin nurseries.  I don’t have that plant in my garden, but click here for the Wildflower Center’s database photos.  It produces similar foliage to the other two discussed, but blossom color ranges from pink to purple. Like the S. incana, it’s also native to Texas, as well as other Western states.

Stunning foliage and lovely mallow flowers,

…extend an invitation for Sphaeralcea shrubs to take their place in the sun and in your gardens.