With each of this winter’s freezes and accompanying ice, I’ve assumed that the plants which create ice sculptures are done with their frosty shows until next winter. But with the latest round of mid-to-low 20s, more curling and swirling appeared, some on plants thus far unmolested by the cold, and some on plants that previously froze and were pruned.
These cut stems are all that remain of a mature Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, that I pruned in late January after an earlier hard freeze. Clearly though, there was just enough stem material left for the ice fairies to appear.
I hoped that the Mexican Honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera, would be spared a killing freeze this year and remain green. That hope was dashed Thursday and Friday as temperatures dipped to the lowest point so far this year. The wilted mush of the once bright green foliage will require pruning to the ground for each of these shrubs in my garden to make room for new growth.
On the positive side, the water-turned-ice-crystals in the stems created some lovely, if short-lived ice art.
I’m now in full winter perennial pruning mode. When I prune herbaceous perennials I typically leave 8 to 10 inches of stems, sometimes more. On the remains of a Plateau Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, the ice formed, puff pastry style.
I think the January/February 2022 plant ice capades has completed its final act. After the upcoming year of growth, it’ll be interesting to see if early freezes in November/December bring an encore performance.
Here in Central Texas, zone 8b, we’re enjoying our second spring, so called because the native annuals and perennials burst out with a bevy of blooms, celebrating the end of the hot season and the return of the cool.
And how cool are these lovelies? Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, are native to the southwest–Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. A mostly autumn blooming groundcover, established plants produce a smattering of blooms during spring and summer. During months when the fuzzy blooms are on hiatus, the stars of this plant are the palmate, light green leaves. The combination of the lavender-blue blooms and the cheery green leaves gladdens this gardener’s heart.
This time of year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a mistflower group who doesn’t host a remarkable variety of pollinators, they’re all over these pretty blooms. That also gladdens this gardener’s heart.
Coral vine, Mexican creeper, Antigonon leptopus, is an old-fashioned vine, resplendent in dripping pink in the latter part of summer and well into the fall months.
I’ve grown this vine in my garden for many years. It resided in the back garden. It returned after winter each spring, climbing up and over a trellis during during the growing season, until that spot became too shady. About 3 years ago, I moved the hefty root to my front garden, where the vine receives ample sun. The vine is happy here, as are the honeybees, small native Perdita bees, and various butterfly types.
I love this vine and am comfortable with it where I garden, but Coral vine is designated as an invasive species here in Texas (click on the link above for more information) and so should be grown with caution and attention to nearby areas. I wouldn’t plant Coral vine if I lived near a greenbelt or natural area, because it’s known to seed out and once it is in a uncontrolled area, it can spread and displace native plants, which is never a good thing. In my years of hosting this vine, I’ve only seen 2 or 3 seedlings that germinated at the base of the plant. I’ve never seen birds nibble at any seeds, so I plan to keep it where it is–pink and pretty and full of the good stuff for bees and other pollinators.
The happy faces of Fall aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, arrive along with cooler temperatures–which makes everyone happy. These cheery, lavender asters don’t bloom for long, maybe 2 weeks in total. I have several groups of them, each of which bloom with slightly different times, so in my garden, the aster show lasts through much of October. For the rest of the growing season, the plant grows as a low shrub/ground cover with attractive, diminutive leaves. In winter, a hard freeze will knock back most of the foliage, leaving an evergreen rosette until new spring growth.
Another pollinator magnet, the asters always have plenty of nectaring business and often host rarely seen winged things. This Syrphid fly (?) is unknown to me; the closest ID I could find is Hoplitimyia constans. I’ll continue looking for an identification and update if I find a match. It’s a handsome critter, no doubt.
Sunshiny Plateau goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, is another native perennial, seeding out with abandon and rocking its yellow vibe with verve. Bees, butterflies, and gardeners all love this member of the Asteraceae family. I just realized that 3 of the 4 plants profiled for this post belong to this prolific family. Aster plants are garden stars!
Goldeneye volunteers pop up in my garden and depending upon where they land, I keep–or not. There are so many, I don’t mind tossing out a few. Well, I don’t mind too much. Goldeneye individuals grow tall, so I make some (rather) lame attempts at control, pruning it back a couple of times during summer. But once the fall rains arrive and Goldeneye send forth their end-of-season stems, gloriously topped with dabs of sunny delight, I don’t mess with them.
I stand, admire, and don some sunglasses.
In a work/storage area, I let these seed out, grow up, and have at it! The bees and butterflies love this buffet of pollen-n-nectar. The fun doesn’t end when the blooms end, because wrens and finches of various sorts swoop in for the seeds, assuring a good crop of Goldeneye for the next year.
There are always more Goldeneye.
Happy spring! Happy autumn! Happy blooms! Join in celebrating blooms along with Carol at May Dreams Garden and gardening friends. Pop over to appreciate blooms from many places.
A bevy of beautiful birds are noshing in the garden.
Three males and a female enjoying lunch.
Lesser Goldfinches, Spinus psaltria, come and go throughout the year, but I can set my calendar by their appearance in the garden buffet during autumn when the Plateau Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, are creating seeds.
After all, that’s how the plants and the birds rock-n-roll with one another: seeds are produced at the end of flowering and for the nourishment of the birds, and the birds, in turn, spread the seeds to other places to grow, bloom, seed. It’s an ancient complementary relationship and one worthy of watching and appreciating.