July Blooms

It’s hot.  Really hot.  It’s the kind of hot where all you want to do is pull up a hammock and nap in the shade, not unlike this Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis.  I observed this sleepy-head as I worked in the garden, pruning a bit of spring’s overgrowth.  The bee chose a pretty-in-pink spot for its rest, curled up in the pinky petal of an open Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala, bloom.   

I stopped by from time-to-time, taking a break from my hot work to check on the bee’s movement and there wasn’t any.  Who can blame the bee for wanting a snooze in the heat?  Here in Austin, zone 8b, record breaking heat–108°F on Monday–has rendered everyone somnambulant.  Well, it is July in Texas and even the bees need their afternoon siestas.  The flowers are still going strong, even if the rest of us need our rest.

 

This bee, another Horsefly-like carpenter bee, is as busy as can bee, working the heat-loving blooms of the Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacia ‘Henry Duelberg’.  Bee and blooms are a productive pair.

As August approaches, I’ll prune the ‘Henry Duelberg’ salvia to the ground and let it rest.  When the early autumn rains arrive (fingers-crossed!) and the days shorten, the ‘Duelberg’ salvia will bloom up again, providing for pollinators throughout the fall months.

Grey Hairstreaks, Strymon melinus, enjoy nectar from many different blooms, but as with lots of other pollinators, the Purple ConeflowerEchinacea purpurea, is a fan favorite.  The little charmer crawled around the center of the flower, taking in what it needs, while adding beauty to the garden.

As summer drags on (and on…), the coneflowers will fade and seed out, assuring plenty more new coneflowers and blooms for next season.   Pollinators rub their wings together in satisfaction–and cheer!

 

A majestic Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, regularly visits the stunning, intricate blooms on my Mexican Orchid treeBauhina mexicana.   The ice-white flowers appear on and off throughout the growing season, to the delight of the big pollinators and the tiny ones too.  Snowy blooms cover the small tree, visually cooling, if not in reality.  I look forward to temperatures following in suit–in October.

 

Nothing says SUMMER like sunflowers.  

Always cheery and comfy in the hottest of hot weather, these bright blooms are the perfect summer flower: easy to grow for the gardener with plenty to offer for wildlife.  Pollinators love the nectar and birds enjoy the eventual seeds.  It’s a wildlife garden win.

This Southern Carpenter bee, Xylocopa micans, nectar steals from my magenta gorgeous Big Red sage, Salvia penstemonoides.  It’s fascinating to watch the shiny, brilliant black bee buzz from bloom to bloom, searching each for the sweet stuff. The bee dips its proboscis in some blooms, remains for a time–sipping.  Other red receptacles are checked, then ignored, having already donated their goods to some passing pollinator.  

Originally, this stand of four individual plants grew in my back garden, but as that area has become increasingly shady, I transplanted the sage to the front garden, where it thrives, enjoying blasting west sun.  It’s a tough, Texas plant and a beautiful addition to my garden.  

Celebrating mid-summer blooms, I’m linking with May Dreams Garden’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and also with Flutter and Hum and Wednesday Vignette because blooms are the protagonists of garden stories.  Check out both lovely blogs for blooming stories.   

 

A Surprise Basket

I like early mornings.  I need the time to myself, to wake up, to think about the day ahead, to breathe the outdoors. The light is soft and even in the warm, humid Texas summer, the morning walk through the garden is calming, refreshing.  I love the sunrise, the sparkle of light through the trees, casting shadows, then not, across the garden.  I replenish the bird feeders and baths and notice the changes in the garden.  I feed the fish in the pond.  This morning ritual doesn’t take much time and is a good way to face each day.

While my eyes are bleary, at least until the caffeine kicks in with its magic, I’m often surprised, and usually pleased, by the bits of news the garden has for me.  Recently, I was in my front garden and was flabbergasted when I spied a bit of pink underneath a Mexican Orchid tree, whose flowers are decidedly white.

What ho, you frilly, pinky thing!  The anemone-like flower was low to the ground, highlighted by the rising sun to its east.  Its plant companions, a Purple Heart,  Tradescantia pallida and a low branch from the Mexican Orchid tree,  Bauhinia mexicana, are there, always, but made room for this new resident.  It reached out, made sure I noticed–an American Basket flowerCentaurea americana

Some time ago, my blogging buddy, Shoreacres of the beautiful Lagniappe and the thoroughly charming, The Task at Hand, mailed some basket flower seeds to me, which I happily spread out in autumn of 2018–and then, completely forgot about.  I never assume the seeds would germinate (because seeds will, or won’t, and I go with the flow) and particularly not in this shadier, rather than sunnier, spot.  I’d spread the seeds in the same garden, but primarily in the part of the garden where the west sun bakes, figuring that the sun-loving annual would be content to grow there.  I recall having extra seeds and tossing out those extras in this area;  here we are, nearly two years later, a single American Basket flower in bloom.

I’m tickled pink.

Thistle-like in structure, its filaments are soft, not prickly.  American Basket flowers are native to Texas and a number of other states, typically growing in prairie-type settings.  I checked that day and for the next few days, for interested pollinators.  I never saw any, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t visit, only that I didn’t see. Basket flowers attract butterflies and native bees and I hope that some found this specimen, though it was so low to the ground.  I would love for some pollination to have happened, so that I enjoy another surprise again next summer.

I’ll have to wait and that’s okay.  The basket flower find reinforces the commitment to my early morning strolls and especially, to the connections that gardeners and plant lovers share.   

With grateful appreciation for the many knowledgeable garden/nature bloggers who share their seeds (thanks, Linda!), tell stories, and express their love of the natural world.  Today, I’m linking with Anna and her lovely Flutter and Hum and Wednesday Vignette. 

Opening Up

I’ve grown an unknown crinum lily for many years.  It’s a passalong from my parents’ garden and I’m certain that it was my mom who bought or was gifted this lovely thing, as flowers were the key driver to her gardening passion.  Dad liked his veggies, green shrubs, and fruit trees, but Mom was all about the blooms.

For a long time after I planted it, the crinum didn’t bloom.  Of course, I was disappointed; similar to my mom, blooms are boss in my gardening heart.  But I like the foliage and have contented myself with appreciation of its beauty.  The glossy, arching, bright green foliage emerges in spring from large bulbs and by late spring, and through the remainder of the growing season, are lush and graceful focal points in the garden. 

In the last few years, the crinums’ years-long sulk over growing in a new home has ended and it has relented its stubborn non-bloom policy, adding some spring-pink to my hot July garden.  The bloom stalks appear, seemingly overnight and I never notice the soon-to-be blooms until shortly before they open up.

The buds tease, at first pointing deep pink toward the summer sky, eventually weighing heavily enough to gently bend their stems in a bow.  The petal tips purse for a kiss, the flowers take time to reveal themselves in full.  But within a day or so, the bell-shaped beauties unlock, curl outward, and soft pink opens itself to the world.

While not a strong attractor of pollinators, I’ve seen a few carpenter bees nose around the inner workings of the flowers; I don’t know if their interest was rewarded with any treats of pollen or nectar.   I typically like my plants to feed something, to serve a purpose more than beauty.  But if the crinums’ role are limited to being pretty faces in the garden, with no real offering of sustenance, I’m fine with that. 

I’m rewarded in early-to-mid summer with these charming flowers and for most of the year with the foliage of this tough and attractive plant.

Thanks Mom and Dad–for your flowers and your love.