Early Days

Firmly ensconced in the early days of spring,  the garden is flush with new foliage and floral growth, birds (and bees!) are building nests, and gardeners are keen for emerging possibilities.  Here in Central Texas, we’ve forgotten that winter was a bust, with only two hard freezes for gardens and gardeners to endure.  Now in March, it’s all flourish and blooming, hope and planning.

Central Texans love to talk weather and this year many are commenting that everything is early!   But in my garden, things are mostly prompt in their materialization and that’s especially true of the native plants I grow.  Evolved along with the capriciousness of Texas weather patterns, these hardy ones are right on schedule. Yes, the Mountain laurels bloomed somewhat early, in Austin anyhow.  Those purple, drooping clusters are fading rapidly, their nectar and pollen contributions to bees and butterflies, and their gift of beauty and fragrance to human admirers, now concluded.  It’s time for other spring flowers to enjoy their time in the sun.

The first  columbines have opened in my garden. This is a hybrid between the native Yellow columbineAquilegia chrysantha and its cousin the Wild red columbineA. canadensis.

When these two columbine kinds are planted in close proximity over a few years and with thanks to pollinators and probably, the wind, yellow flowers with a blush of red, results.

I don’t mind.

 

Blasts of sunny glee define these clusters of cheery Golden groundselPackera obovata.

My little stand has grown and expanded from two small plants to a nice carpet of evergreen, topped with spring-bright sunshine.

In autumn, I’ll pull some of these up and deliver them to a new home.

A garden is always better for more of these hardy native Texas perennials and the tiny native bees are also enthralled at their bounty.

Possibly a Ceratina sp., a small carpenter bee

 

Giant spiderwort, Tradescantia giganteapose in a  range of purples.

A prolific bloomer, as well as re-seeder, I cull some of these (okay, lots of these) each spring, as well as gift as many as I can manage to unsuspecting, spiderwort-neophyte gardeners.

 

Astrud the Cat, seemingly unimpressed with the photographer,  also  contributes to spring color as she wears her lively collared accessory–her Birds be safe collar.

She’s mostly an indoor kitty, but likes to hang out with me and supervise my work in the garden.  The theory behind these silly collars is that cats, who are efficient predators, are better seen by their prey–those birds we want in our gardens–if the cats have a spot of brilliant color to them.  Cats’ fur doesn’t provide that bright coloration, but the patterned collars certainly oblige.  Apparently, birds see colors well, even in dim light, so the collar (which fits easily over a regular bell collar) is an ideal warning that there is something hinky and possibly dangerous in the verge.  We do want to protect the little foraging warblers and  finches, don’t we?  Of course, the best thing to do–for the safety of cats and their potential prey–is to keep cats indoors.  Neither of my cats are birders, though they’ve both been guilty of catching the occasional lizard, for which they are verbally admonished, accompanied with wagging finger.  Naughty kitties!

The collars flash brightness, they seem to work (insofar as the birds are concerned), and it’s also fun to laugh at the kitty wearing the clown collar.

Be it collar color or flower color, enjoy your garden: its birds, bees, and pets–and spring joy!

 

Foliage Follow-up, April 2014

Spring has definitely sprung here in Austin and though blooms may be foremost for most garden lovers, foliage loveliness deserves a shout-out.   Here are my foliage favorites for April.

The summer and fall blooming Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinium greggiisports deeply lobed foliage, giving rise to one of the common names for this hardy ground cover, Palmleaf Mistflower.

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Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has beautiful foliage year-round.  It’s delicate, fern-like and spreads well (sometimes too well).  Yarrow is evergreen, hardy and drought tolerant.

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It brightens this shady spot.

A perennial favorite of mine and one I’ve profiled before, Mexican Feathergrass (Nassella tenuisima) is at the zenith of beauty in the spring.

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The lone green Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)  in my back gardens apparently wasn’t decimated by butterfly larva last year.

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With soft, graceful foliage, it’s a wonderful addition to the mixed perennial garden.

Globe Mallow (Spaeralcea ambigua)  is such a show-stopper with its combination of orange blooms and arresting, pale gray-green, fuzzy leaves.

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I like this combination of  Pale-leaf Yucca (Yucca pallida), Heartleaf Skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) and the bright green Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).

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The Pale-leaf Yucca appears blue against the backdrop of the greener Skullcap ground cover  and the Autumn Sage’s is a bright green punctuation situated further in that same ground cover.

The Wild Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) not only has beautiful blooms in spring, but interesting foliage year-round.

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New growth from a young American Smoke Tree (Cotinus obovatus), promises more beauty as it matures.

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Lastly, I can’t resist the photo of the Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea, who has visited my garden this past week as he rests on the green branch of Retama (Parkinsonia aculeata).  Plumage and foliage–you can’t beat that!

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Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-up for April.

 

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, April 2014

Joining garden bloggers from around the world, here are my picks for Bloom Day, April 2014 from Austin, Texas.  The Hill Country Penstemon (Penstemon triflorus), thrust upward its bloom stalks during January, but waited until March to unfurl its fuchsia beauty.

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My Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis) has bloomed this past month and shows no signs of slowing down, much to the delight of the honeybees.

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The  ‘Brazos’ Blackberry   is in full flower now, with berries to follow.  I can’t wait to eat the berries from the vine in May and June.

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A beautiful cool season bloomer here in Austin is the Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).

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And there are lots of Columbine this spring.  The Hinckley (or Yellow) Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana) is in full glory.
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Blooming alongside another native Columbine, the Wild Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis),

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these two will  rampantly hybridize to create lovely variations of themselves over several seasons.

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Lastly, the Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) blooms are opening daily.

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Happy Spring!

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And thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.