Soft, Like Puppy-dog Ears

Sometimes, it’s called Puppy-dog Ears.  Not these kinds of puppy-dog ears,


…this kind.

Senna lindheimeriana is also known as Lindheimer’s Senna (which is what I call it), Velvet leaf Senna, and Velvet-leaf wild sensitive-plant (which is a most awkward name). Another charming common name, Puppy-dog Ears, refers to the softness of the leaves. Whatever you choose to call this wonderful wildflower, it’s a plant that should be in every Texan’s garden.  A graceful perennial, it sports beautiful, velvety-soft, gray-green foliage from spring, through summer and into fall and winter.

If this was Senna’s only redeeming quality, it would be enough.  But wait, there’s more! In September and October, it produces clusters of happy yellow flowers, which become attractive seed pods, later providing seeds for birds during the winter months.

An excellent choice for the water-wise landscape, Lindheimer’s Senna is native to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  It’s best in a dry soil, though mine is planted in heavier clay soil and has performed well. However, I wouldn’t recommend weekly irrigation of this plant.  I only water twice per month during summer and the rest of the year, it gets only what comes from the sky, so my Senna doesn’t receive much moisture.  Senna is deciduous, meaning that it loses its leaves with freezing temperatures, but it returns in spring, increasing in height (and sometimes getting a little too lanky) through the growing season. Some of my Senna have reached five feet tall, but most seem to hover in the three to four feet in height range. I’ve found that the more sun it receives, the less lanky its growth, but Senna almost always leans a little by the fall bloom-n-seed period. On a few occasions, I have staked my plants toward the end of the blooming period, as the seed pods begin developing. Because of its leaning tendency, Lindheimer’s Senna works well in the back of a cultivated, more formal garden or in an informal wildflower garden.

I currently grow only one Senna.  Earlier this year, I transplanted another and it didn’t survive.  I have noticed that Senna can be tricky to transplant, so it’s best to move in late winter/early spring, when the weather is cool and wet.  Afterwards, carefully watch the plant until it’s established.

I like it paired with the bright green leaves of the tropical Esperanza, Tecoma stans,

…and also with this containerized Century Plant, Agave americana.

Lindheimer’s Senna is a plant that you’ll see along highways in Texas in early fall because it is drought resistant and hardy; it doesn’t require “cultivation” by gardeners–it just grows, blooms, and sets seed for the future and for wildlife.

Shirley of Rock-Oak-Deer discussed Lindheimer’s Senna in a recent post celebrating Wildflower Wednesday. She explained how the Senna was one of the plants which piqued her interest with growing natives in her garden.  That’s just how lovely Lindheimer’s Senna is: it’s a plant you notice and think to yourself, Wow!  What a beauty. I wonder if it something I could grow in my garden?

Well it is something you can and should grow!  Drought tolerant, deer resistant, with beautiful foliage and striking blooms,

…this is a perennial worth having in the wildlife-friendly, water-wise garden.


Foliage Follow-up, September 2014

As with our blooms, the Central Texas foliage perks up with September rains, shorter days, and the suggestion of cooler temperature ahead.  I join with Pam at Digging to celebrate the end of summer, new beginnings for autumn, and all things leafy.

The pond garden is a riot of fascinating foliage.  Just take a look!

Lots of foliage action in this shot!  Clockwise from the bottom, the actual water plants include the lily pads of the two lilies I grow (Colorado and Claude Ikins), the Ruby Red Runner, and the showy leaves of the Pickerel RushPontederia cordata.   All three pond plants contribute to the biological filtration of my pond, though I also have a mechanical filter.

Continuing with the tour d’ foliage, the plants adjacent to the pond include tropical Yellow Bells, Tecoma stans, Soft-leaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia, Firecracker Plant, Russelia equisetiformis, Martha Gonzales Roses, Iris, Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii, and Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima.  All of these perennials sport differing widths, textures, and colors of leaves.

Ruby Red Runner dies back in the winter, but by late summer into fall it’s full-on lovely and spreading.

It’s seeded out in several places around the pond. This plant, usually used as a waterfall biological filter and prized for its attractive foliage, produces teensy puff-ball flowers,

…which go to seed, thus, the spread.

Another view of the plants near the pond…

Not much blooming in those photos, but a variety of leaf beauty.

I particularly like these water shots with the creeping roots of the Ruby Red Runner, spreading its spidery fingers toward the lily pads,

…as if the roots are creeping outward to grab the pads.  Or maybe they’re just reaching out for a watery hug!

The soft, elegant foliage of Lindheimer’s Senna, Senna lindheimeriana,

lends structure to, but also softens the back of my garden.  Combined with the bright green leaves of the Yellow Bells and spiky, but matching-in-color American Century Plant, Agave americana,

…the Senna fits well in this spot.

The morning after a recent rain,  the foliage of the Purple Heart, Setcreasea pallida, retained droplets along its edges.

With “traditional” autumn coloring, (which doesn’t happen for Central Texas on a large-scale until late November/December), the plumes of the Maiden Grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’, beautifully complement the flowers of Turk’s CapMalvaviscus arboreus, and the orange blossoms of Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii.

Here’s a closer look at the inflorescence of the Maiden

Along with the orange-y and autumn-y color theme, this new ceramic container is planted with the ‘Color Guard’ YuccaYucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’, accompanied by Woolly Stemodia, Stemodia lanata.

The container sits amidst a nest of blooming and berrying Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis.

What interesting foliage is gracing your garden space now?  Celebrate foliage in your gardens and learn about other foliage by visiting Digging for September Foliage Follow-up.


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.