A Tale of Two Mistflowers

October is the month for mistflowers in my garden. I grow three different ones, two of them closely related. My original mistflower is the Blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum.

My first experience with this plant was a four-inch pot, purchase 20-ish years ago. It spread with joy and bloomed gorgeously many an October, until deep shade forced its move to a different spot along this pathway. As this second area has become shadier, it’s time for another move. Soon, I’ll pull the strands up by their roots and transplant the lot to my SIL’s garden. That said, the Blue mistflower has grown and bloomed in this less than ideal situation, perhaps not like it should, but enough to satisfy.

Blue mistflower blooms are a rich purple-blue, its leaves slightly scalloped and triangular shaped.

My other Conoclinium is Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, happily grows in one of my rare full sun spots. I planted this group from a one gallon pot a year ago and it has thrived.

The Gregg’s blooms boast a lighter shade of lavender-blue–more lavender than blue, I think. The foliage is bright green with a pinnate leaf structure. I admire the foliage and even when not blooming, this mistflower is an attractive groundcover.

The spent blooms turn to toasty puffs as they mature, or once a freeze ends the blooming.

Mistflower blooms are fuzzy and feathery.

The lighter Gregg’s,

…the darker Blue.

Mistflowers bloom primarily in autumn, but pop out a few flowers throughout spring and summer. These plants are groundcovers, drought tolerant (Gregg’s more than Blue) and dormant in winter. I prefer the Blue mistflower–the color is divine–but pollinators prefer the Gregg’s.

Unknown fly-type enjoying some of Gregg’s nectar.
Unknown wasp (I think it’s a wasp…) on Gregg’s flowers. Any ideas who this character is?

There are other “mistflower” plants, several in shrub form, but these two blue-hued mists are well-worth growing. Gregg’s mistflower grows in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Blue mistflower enjoys a much wider range throughout the United States.

You won’t tell a sad tale with either of these mistflowers!

Texas Native Plant Week

The third week of October is Texas Native Plant Week.

Chile pequin Capsicum annuum
Red yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora
Full photo of Red yucca

If you’ve discovered the beauty and practicality of utilizing native plants–in Texas or elsewhere–every day is a celebration of native plants. Using native plants in home gardens is a no-brainer: they’re easy to grow, lovely, and fit where you live.

In spring:

Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens
Spiderwort, Tradescantia sp.
Yellow columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha
Aquilegia sp. (hybrid of A. chrysantha and A. canadensis)

Or summer:

Drummond’s ruellia, Ruellia drummondiana
And a group of Drummond’s ruellia
Tropical sage, Salvia coccinea (White) with accompanying dragonfly
Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea with nectaring Funereal Duskywing, Erynnis funeralis
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
(left to right) Purple coneflower, Zexmenia, Twistleaf yucca, Henry Duelberg sage, Globe mallow
Big red sage, Salvia pentstemonoides with Southern Carpenter bee, Xylocopa micans
Rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala with resting Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis

In autumn:

Rock rose with nectaring Little Yellow, Pyrisitia lisa
Texas craglily, Echeandia texensis with accompanying Horsefly-like Carpenter bee
Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii with nectaring Grey Hairstreak, Strymon melinus
Plateau goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, with honeybee

In winter:

Frostweed, Verbesina virginica after the first freeze of the season
Possumhaw holly, Ilex decidua

Whether its flowers–annuals and perennials–trees, groundcovers, or grasses, native plants exist and flourish in every region and all seasons. Native plants and seeds are readily available from many local nurseries and online sources. With native plants, your garden will be dynamic, reflecting your particular geography and imparting a sense of place. Additionally, native plants support native wildlife, and a garden is never so alive as when pollinators, birds, reptiles and mammals are at home.

Good Morning, Sunshine

Golden groundsel, Packera obovata,  is a yellow-flowered perennial.

Its blooms are not orange-yellow, nor are they yellow-green.

Golden groundsel flowers are yellow.

There’s no ambiguity or ambivalence with these blooms: they are yellow, yellow, yellow.

One of the earliest of the spring bloomers here in the Austin area, this perennial pretty delivers a dab of sunshine to shady spots, and for the remainder of the year, carpets those same shady spots as a hardy ground cover.

I like the foliage.  The base foliage–the leaves that you see for 10 months of the year–are composed of oval, serrated-edged leaves which form a dense mat along the ground.  In late January, early February, the plant sends up slender stems along which grow more deeply lobed leaves.    In essence, the plant produces two styles of foliage.

It’s a plant with a two-for-one set of leaves!

As groundsel gears up for its spring show,  the slender flower stems develop clusters of buds which eventually open with radiant yellow blooms.  Viewing these beauties first thing in the morning is as good a wake-up as any strong cup of coffee.  In a garden or along a trail, you can’t miss these shards of sunshine–they demand attention.  Even before my own little patch of groundsel flowered-up, I’d spied a number of groundsels blooming along some urban trails where I hike.

These flowers are not shy and will not be ignored.

While Golden groundsel isn’t host to any particular insect, the flowers are good nectar sources for native bees and butterflies.  Somehow, I didn’t get any photos of the pollinators on my groundsel blooms, though I observed some tiny native Perdita bees.  In early March, I spotted this hairstreak on a groundsel flower at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

On a petal of the flower just below where  the hairstreak nectars, sits another insect. Bee, beetle, or bug, I can’t discern.

The patch of groundsel was growing in full sun and bloomed much earlier than mine.  On that early March day, the blooms appeared to be nearing the end of their cycle.

Just this week, some of my groundsel flowers have begun to seed out.

Snowy, fuzzy seedheads, clearly designed for wind dispersal, have replaced some of the sunny flowers, and many more will follow in similar fashion.  Golden groundsels are in the Asteraceae family of plants and demonstrate the pappus structure of seed development.  The delicate, hairy attachments carry the actual seed aloft on wind, planting themselves in other places and other gardens for future groundsel goodness.

Many of the native Texas plants that I grow seed out prolifically, but not the Golden groundsel.  Even though I allow mine to seed out, I’ve never found any groundsel seedlings in other parts of my garden.  What I have noticed is that my patch is leaning toward its neighbor, a group of iris, as the groundcover part of the plant is steadily creeping into their space.

Or perhaps, it’s the iris which are marching toward the groundsel.  Either way, I plan to expand the range of my groundsel. The groundsel leaves, presumably with roots attached, are outgrowing the original area that I devoted to it.  In late summer or early fall–once we’re out of our tough Texas summer–I’ll remove several of the abutting iris to make room for the groundsel plants.  I love my iris and they bloom for a longer time, but I have plenty of iris in my garden and not nearly enough Golden groundsel.  By transplanting a few more groundsel plants, I’ll welcome to more in my garden.

Native to Central Texas, Golden groundsel enjoys a wide distribution throughout North America.  As long as you can find seeds or plants, there’s no reason not to enjoy this lovely plant.  It’s a tough, easy-to-grow perennial with a bright disposition.

Just remember to don your sunglasses when they start blooming.