Foliage Follow-up, June 2014

As The Warm settles in for the duration here in Austin, Texas, interesting and lush foliage positions well alongside flowers in our early summer gardens.

Yes, summer in Texas is hot.  But here in Texas reside tough, tough plants that shrug off the heat and the dry and are magnificent to behold.  One such is the Retama, Parkinsonia aculeata.  Retama is a small, airy tree which grows along highways receiving no care and yet is stunning: in form, bloom and  foliage.

The leaves are tiny, delicate and bright green. They form on a long leaf stalk and are paired opposite one another.

The Retama is a Texas beauty.  I’m glad it graces my garden.

The pairing of a not-in-bloom Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata and Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, provides lots of lushness.

The Mexican Orchid TreeBauhinia mexicana, returned after our cold winter.  It hasn’t bloomed yet, but the leaves on this little tree have always reminded me of ungulate hooves.

Really, how often does one have an excuse to use that word??  Ungulate

The American Agave, Agave americana, in the container  provides a striking contrast with the Cast Iron Plant, Aspidistra elatior.

If you look closely at the photo, top right, you can see The Husband’s bicycle, wheel a whirl, as he pedals to work. That’s a brave man in Austin’s traffic.

The unfurling of new Agave growth.


The Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima, is lovely with the YarrowAchillea millefolium, in the background.

Both plants have delicate-looking foliage, but are hardy choices for our challenging soil and climate.

Another look at the Yarrow,  a summertime favorite of mine.

I love this shot of the Sparkler SedgeCarex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’, behind (and above!) the Uruguayan Firecracker Plant, Dicliptera suberecta.

The spiky, variegated ‘Sparkler’ looms over the soft, gray-green Firecracker Plant–they are opposite in  the foliage spectrum, but a nice combination.  The Firecracker doesn’t  bloom often, though it’s pretty when it happens.  I chose this plant primarily for its lovely foliage.  The ‘Sparkler’ is relatively new for me and so far, I love it.  It was evergreen during the winter and seems like a winner for summer as well.

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting this festival of June foliage!



Firecracker, Firecracker, Boom, Boom, Boom!

So goes a cheer from my junior high school days. I have no idea why I would remember such a thing–it’s probably one of those patterns of speech that the brain is so attracted to.  I do however know why I like the Uruguayan Firecracker Plant (Dicliptera suberecta).
It’s a tough and beautiful summer bloomer which, though not native to North America, is a great plant for the home gardener.  It works well here in Zone 8B as a herbaceous perennial but can also be found further north, though it may not be winter hardy.
I planted mine last July.  Yes, last July.  When the average temperature was about a 1000 degrees.  I bought a gallon pot and gave it a little water everyday for a few weeks, then backed off to giving it water several times per week.  By autumn, the plant had grown and the leaves weren’t curling up in pain from the extreme temperatures.  It didn’t die back this past  winter and has continued its moderate growth pattern.  My plant started blooming in May.
The leaves are green-grey and ovate. They are also soft and fuzzy, which tends to be a characteristic of very xeric plants. 
And the Uruguayan Firecracker Plant does seem to be xeric.  I haven’t watered but once this summer and it’s performing well.
The bloom is two-lipped and tubular, a deep orange-red and forms in clusters atop the branches.  The blooms attract hummingbirds, though so far I haven’t seen any feeding on this plant
The plant only gets about two feet tall and spreads like a ground cover, so it’s something that should be planted at the  front of a garden.
Uruguayan Firecracker Plant blooms best in sun, but I chose if for its shade tolerant qualities.  Here in sunny, hot Texas, it’s a good plant for a dappled shade/part shade situation.  The leaves will curl somewhat unattractively in full sun, but in a shadier spot, the foliage is quite lush.  I was in fact researching this plant to use in the Green Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden when I realized that I had the perfect spot for it at home.
This area gets about two hours of direct summer sun (late morning to early afternoon) and is in shade or dappled light for the rest of the time.  I like it here, where it fronts this small Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) and as a companion to the Purple Heart(Tradescantia pallida).
I’m happy with this new addition to my garden.  It’s rewarding to find a plant that is easy and pretty, especially in a shade/part shade situation.  It has showy blooms and lovely foliage.  There don’t seem to be any insect or disease issues and according to Pacific Horticulture and Barton Springs Nursery, this plant is deer resistant.  It doesn’t get much better than that.
 And that’s definitely something to cheer about!