Purple Prose

According to Wikipedia: In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. My garden is currently demonstrating its own purple prose happening with an extravagant, ornate, and flowery late summer purple parade of perennial pulchritude. Late summer and autumn is a good time to celebrate the power of purple in the Central Texas garden.

Tidy bouquets of Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia are scattered–some by the gardener, some by serendipity–throughout my gardens.



Bees, as well as butterflies and moths, love the deep, pollen-rich blooms which open in the early morning and close by the end of the day.


An American bumblebee worked the blooms one morning.

These lovely cultivars are well-worth having in Texas (and maybe other) gardens.  Amazingly water-wise (they grow and bloom in the cracks of cement walkways), are disease-free, and pretty in bloom and foliage.


Who wouldn’t want these lovelies making an elaborate statement in the garden?

A native Texas ruellia, Drummond’s wild petuniaRuellia drummondiana, is also flowery poetry right now.




Seeds were gifted to me a few years back, and I sprinkled them in the garden and now have a lifetime supply–and then some– of these sweet and hardy late summer/autumn wildflowers. Like the Katie’s ruellia and all other ruellia plants, the blooms open in the morning and close for the evening–and then seed out prolifically!


A native metallic sweat bee moving in for nectaring.


And a closer look…

Drummond’s wild ruellia is also the host plant for the Common buckeye butterfly and I’ve noticed that in years prior to growing  Drummond’s ruellia, I rarely sighted buckeyes in my garden, but recently the butterflies have become more regular visitors.


Kissin’ cousins: the Drummond’s ruellia and the Katie’s dwarf ruellia.


On the metallic side of purple are the bodacious berries of the American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, in full, fall form.


Birds love to eat them, the gardener loves to look at them and speak and write their praises.


Trending toward the lavender end of purple are a few blooms of the Giant liriope,


…and the native Branched foldwing, Dicliptera brachiata.


I grow a lot of the giant liriope; one or two were given to me years ago and the clumps that I’ve transplanted from those originals form a staple of my shady, water-wise garden.  The blooms are scarce, only occurring this time of year when it rains.   Honeybees visit when the diminutive flowers arrive.

The Branched foldwing was a mystery plant until I identified it last year, which you can read about here.


Dainty and restrained, it’s not a wowzer kind of plant, but the foliage is attractive and the little blooms charming; they’re just the right size for the smaller pollinators.

Orange and purple are a stunningly clashing combo, but that combo often works well and no more so than when my resident Neon skimmer rests on the purple bloom stalk of the Pickerel rushPontederia cordata.



A purple blooming Autumn sage, Salvia greggii x mycrophylla, is beginning a nice composition of blooms, though I don’t think it’s enjoying the constantly wet soil that has been the norm this August.


I hope the wet weather breaks for a dry-out and these shrubs can loudly purple-up my back garden for the coming months.


SkyflowerDuranta erecta has never been so eloquent, nor for so long, in my garden.


It’s not covered in dripping purple comeliness like I’ve jealously witnessed in other Skyflower shrubs, but I’m pleased that the blooms have appeared, on and off, since spring (thanks to the mild winter) and that they’ve provided nectar and respite for pollinators.



Purple heart plantSetcreasea pallida is lush and purple in its groundcover drama throughout our long growing season. While I like the blooms, it’s the showy purple leaves that turn heads.



Purple prose. Late summer purple speaks with beauty and extravagance in my garden as autumn approaches. Soon, companion colors will add to the garden’s story.


Bloom Day, September 2014

September heralds a change from the blisteringly hot to the merely hot in Austin, Texas. This gardener welcomes that subtle, but fundamental change:  the shorter days, the approaching autumn cool and if we’re lucky, some rainy days ahead.  Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this lovely blogging meme celebrating all that flower.

It’s somewhat about the Ruellia this time of year in my gardens.  I grow both a native, Drummond’s Wild PetuniaRuellia drummondiana, like these cuties peeking out through foliage,


…and these that aren’t  quite so shy.



I also grow a well-behaved cultivar, the Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia, Ruellia brittoniana, ‘Katie’s Dwarf’,  blossoming beautifully during the late summer and autumn months.




Additionally, a less mannerly variety, the Chi-Chi Ruellia, Ruellia brittoniana ‘Chi-Chi’, makes its home in my gardens.  Here is it nicely co-mingling with the blooming and berrying PigeonberryRivina humilis,


…and flowering alone.


I love the first two Ruellia species and have a complicated relationship with the third.

The various Salvia in my gardens, like this red Autumn SageSalvia greggii,


…really strut their stuff in the fall. Flowers that appear on and off during our hot summer, the blossoms on these woody, native shrubs will consistently impress both pollinators and gardeners throughout our productive autumn months.

A different salvia, the white Tropical SageSalvia coccinea, was knocked back this past winter with our  late freezes,


…but are lush with snowy, bee-friendly blooms now and will bee that way until there is a killing frost.

Rock RosePavonia lasiopetala, opens its Barbie Doll Pink blooms each morning, remaining open longer as the days get shorter.


Another perennial with pretty-in-pink blossoms, is the Purple Heart, Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart’.


I grew up with Purple Heart rampant in my mother’s garden–I have warm memories of playing near stands of this naturalized ground cover with its dramatic purple foliage and charming blossoms.

Sweet Basil produces tiny flowers for pollinators,


… and the native, wildlife perennial, Lindheimer’s Senna, Senna lindheimeriana, blooms from August into September for the pollinators, then sets seeds for the birds later in fall.



I always forget that I planted these Red Spider Lily bulbs,  Lycoris radiata,


…. until they pop up, overnight it seems.


These are such gorgeous flowers! I don’t know why I can’t remember that the bulbs are in the ground, waiting for the first of the September rains, to grace the gardens with their exotic beauty. The strappy foliage (which emerges after blooming) disappears in the late winter/early spring.  The memory of those exquisite blossoms should stay with me, but I’m always surprised to welcome them again, each September.

Finally, a Monarch butterfly is now visiting my gardens, sipping on his preferred blooms of the Tropical MilkweedAsclepias curassavica.


My heart lifted to see this North American beauty after all I’ve read about the very serious decline in the monarch butterfly population.


Go Monarchs!

Here in Austin we enjoy a second, spectacular blooming season, beginning just about now.  Fall blooms abound and there’s more to come!  For today though, check out blooms from everywhere at May Dreams Gardens.

Wildflower Wednesday, July 2014

Given the seemingly intractable problems our world faces, sometimes it’s hard for me to take garden blogging seriously.  But encouraging beauty and sustainability through practical gardening choices is one ingredient toward healing a troubled world–even if it’s only on the trifling scale of our own back yards.  Celebrating native plants and wildflowers, I’m joining with Gail at clay and limestone for July’s Wildflower Wednesday.  Native plants and wildflowers provide year-round pleasure and sustenance–for gardeners and wildlife.  There are so many reasons to use wildflowers in the home garden: they are beautiful, they require little irrigation and no chemicals and wildflowers evoke a sense of regional location.  Using wildflowers in the home garden is one way to honor the natural, local beauty inherent in all places and to affirm a positive future, wherever one lives and grows.

In my gardens, FrostweedVerbesina virginica, is just beginning its bloom period.  I captured the very first tiny florets recently.


The flowers will expand in summer and early fall, then form into attractive seed heads. A mature Frostweed is multi-trunked,


and tall. This deciduous plant fits nicely into a shade or part shade garden.

One of this year’s first GoldeneyeViguiera dentata, flowers was hiding behind some large leaves.


Another primarily fall bloomer, this happy native will burst forth with masses of blooms in October, so Texas-bright that you’ll almost need sunglasses to look at them!    For now, the perennial sunflower is growing and producing a smattering of blooms.

The Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, is common in Central Texas. The clusters of pink-to-coral blooms,


are favored by hummingbirds, bees and people.   Red Yucca is quite dramatic when viewed in its full form.


The tall, arching branches hold aloft those bloom clusters high above other perennials.

Closer to the ground, Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis,  is a low-growing ground-cover that is beautiful and cooling in shade.



It produces many small, pink flower spikes which form luscious red berries which grateful birds enjoy.


In my gardens, a variety of doves snack on these berries.

Another strong hummingbird attractor is the Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii.  A deciduous shrub, the Fame Acanthus grows red-to-orange tubular flowers.


These striking blossoms bloom profusely during the summer and fall months and without efforts from this gardener.


That’s my kind of wildflower plant!

Here it is in full shrub mode, photo-bombed by a hardy Turk’s Cap!P1050985.new

There are many native Ruellia Texas.  The one I grow is called Drummond’s Wild Petunia or Ruellia drummondiana and is another wildflower at the start of its summer/fall bloom cycle.  A very tough plant which doesn’t require work from me, it displays small, purple blooms. Fresh blooms open each morning, then drop at the end of the day.



A versatile perennial, it performs well in either shade or sun and isn’t large.  Ruellia dies to the ground in the winter, so  I like to plant it between evergreens, like this group which is sandwiched between native Columbine on its left and native Yarrow to its right.


To me,  Turk’s CapMalvaviscus arboreus,  is the quintessential Texas wildflower.  Thriving in the hottest and toughest conditions, it blooms, blooms, blooms.



It provides all sorts of good things for wildlife: cover, nectar, pollen and fruit.  What’s not to love about that plant for Texas birds, bees and butterflies?  And for two-legged Texans, Turk’s Cap form lovely perennial shrubs for their gardens that are easily maintained and make the statement: I’m from here!


Beauty matters.

Wildflowers matter.

Grow what belongs where you are: for ease, for wildlife, and because wildflowers work in the garden–in all sorts of ways.

Grow wildflowers because they give joy.  And joy matters.