The Natives are Restless

Native Texas plants are back in action!  March always heralds the time of the natives, and many are eager for the season to begin.  They’re  budding up and blooming out!  It’s true that several of my non-native plants are, or have been, blooming:  irises, poppies, and Mexican honeysuckle.  But this native Texan  appreciates native Texas plants which are lovely and posses the evolutionary chops to weather the weird–no matter the confusion of seasons or the Texas weather patterns.

 

This sweet thing is a hybrid columbine, a cross between the native Aquilegia chrysantha and another native, Aquilegia canadensis.

I grow the two different columbine species in my garden and the plants hybridize with ease, creating a third alternative, with varying color schemes–sometimes more yellow, sometimes more red.  On this particular hybrid, the butter yellow petals and the blushed spurs show off qualities of both types of columbines.

The sunshine-cheery Golden groundselPackera obovata, is modeling its spring wears, though with less oomph than in years past.

There’s still plenty of pop with these diminutive blooms; there’s no denying that yellow is bright.  But last summer, most of the individual plants in my small patch of groundsels succumbed to the heat and drought.  I didn’t realize that the soaker hose buried in this  garden had developed a leak. While a couple of plants not far from the groundsels received good soaks when during their twice per month drink, these poor little things got none of the wet stuff.  That garden boo-boo occurred during an especially hot and dry spell in August and September, and it wasn’t until the rains returned and the temperatures softened that I discovered that there were few remaining groundsels.

I don’t know if these other rosettes will produce bloom stalks this spring–time will tell–but I’ll certainly keep a better eye on things next summer.  Golden groundsel is a tough native plant which doesn’t need babying,  but two months with no water and hot temperatures is a bit too much to ask of them.  It’s a wonder there are any left!

 

This terra-cotta beauty is the bloom of the CrossvineBignonia capreolata.  

This individual vine grows in shade, up a fence, only producing a few blooms each spring.  Directly across from this vine, at the opposite end of my garden, grows a second Crossvine, also along a fence.  That second Crossvine receives much more sunshine, making many more blooms.  For now, all of its blooms are growing over the fence, where my sister-in-law enjoys them.

Oh, well, I’m sure she won’t mind if I walk over to say ‘hi’ to the wayward flowers.

 

Giant spiderwort, Tradescantia giganteaare solid, reliable spring blooming natives, dotting gardens and roadsides with purple-to-pink clusters.  Each new day as I walk my garden, ever more of these purple clusters appear, petals open for whatever pollinators happen by.  Spiderwort can be aggressive, filling a garden with bright color and fleshy green stalks and foliage.  But its pollinator power and luscious color are well-worth tolerating its bullying behavior.  The thuggy individual plants are easy to yank up and give away!

The first blooms of these plants show up on short bloom stalks, but as the days lengthen, the bloom stalks grow taller, in kind.  Many spiderwort plants in my garden reach up to two feet tall.

And, the bloom clusters are stunning.

As Texas ramps up for the new growing season, the natives are restless.  Native plants provide sustenance for wildlife and beauty for gardeners and wildflower watchers.  Native Texas plants–and there are many for every season and every growing situation–are ready to strut their stuff.

Not only do I celebrate blooming native Texas plants, today is Texas Independence Day!   Hats off to the Lone Star State!

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In the few moments of sunshine in this past week or so, autumn native bloomers spark light and color-joy.  Fall astersSymphyotrichum oblongifolium, beaten down by heavy rains, turn their exuberance to singular rays of sunshine.

Pollinators reveal themselves, taking advantage of limited breaks in the clouds.

Syrphid fly on a Fall aster.

 

Plume-heavy grasses, like this Lindheimer’s muhly, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri,  add feathery grace to the garden.

Heavy rains weigh down the panicles, which sweep walkways,

…and drape over perennials like the ZexmeniaWedelia acapulcensis var. hispida.

Zexmenia’s yellow joy is undiminished.

Absent is the Texas sun, which bleaches color in the height of day.  Instead, gloomy is de rigueur, highlighting startling color.  Crimson Turk’s capMalvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii, and Plateau goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, pair in a color palooza.

 

These days, sunshine is provided by blasts from blooms.

Plateau goldeneye enjoys its flowering zenith and pollinators (when it’s not raining!) rejoice.

 

Light in the garden serves as a beacon during dark times.  These little perennial shrubs, White tropical sageSalvia coccinea, and their partner, the still young Mexican orchid tree, Bauhina mexicana, flower intermittently throughout summer.  Both plants are in their prime once the cool and rain begin in autumn–and we’ve had plenty of rain, that’s for sure!

Amidst Austin’s emergency water restrictions caused by historic flooding, with silt and gunk slowing water treatment and risking bacterial infestation, we’re boiling water for cooking and drinking.

But water from the sky–pure and nourishing–pleases the garden.   Stately FrostweedVerbesina virginica, thoroughly pink Rock rosePavonia lasiopetala, and normally dry-loving Blackfoot daisyMelampodium leucanthum, are awash in blooms.

Austinites have heeded calls for water conservation, thus allowing our water treatment plants to meet demand.  Aerial photos of Lady Bird Lake demonstrate the mess that the treatment plants are rectifying.  We have a 90% chance of heavy rain today, but the rain is slated to end.  Sunshine is in the forecast and all–people, critters, and water treatment plants–will enjoy a break from the wet.   We’ll be boiling drinking water  for a few more days, but normalcy is anticipated.

This little Gray hairstreak (and all other pollinators) will be back in full-wing, fulfilling their pollinating drives. No doubt they’re weary of resting under leaves during heavy downpours.

 

While our blue skies are recently rare, my blue fix is provided by patches of Henry Duelberg Sage, Salvia farenacia.

Syrphid flies also appreciate the blue, working during rain breaks, the blooms of Henry Duelberg

Blue skies are forthcoming.  Our gardens will dry, our streams and lakes will clear. Blooms and beasts will return to their daily duties.

 

Wildflower Wednesday, May 2014

Here in Austin, Texas, May is quite pleasant and we’ve enjoyed some rain.  Yipppy!  Even better, our lakes have received some of that rain.  Double yippy!  We’re still in drought and the lakes are low, but at least we’ve had some relief.  Central Texas wildflowers continue their seasonal segue into summer bloom.  Thanks to Gail at clay and limestone for hosting Wildflower Wednesday to encourage and celebrate gardeners utilizing regional wildflowers in their home gardens.

My Yarrow, Achilliea millefolium, is especially beautiful this year.

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Yarrow is an excellent perennial for Central Texas.  It sports pretty white flowers which will fade to an attractive tawny brown as summer progresses.

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PigeonberryRivina humilis, is a small, delicate looking ground cover with sweet flower spikes at the top of the stems.

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Luscious red berries will develop after the blooms fade and those berries are favorites with many birds, including their namesake pigeons.

The combination of  pink Hill Country Penstemon, Penstemon triflorus,  sunny Engelmann’s (or Cutleaf) Daisy, Engelmannia peristenia, and deep blue ‘Henry Duelburg’ SageSalvia farinacea, continues its happy riot of color this spring.

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Heartleaf Skullcap, Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata,

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is a gorgeous, cool season ground cover.   It spreads prolifically, but is easily controlled by pulling up individual plants as needed.  With beautiful blue blooms and soft, grey-green leaves,

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it fills in the late spring/early summer garden.  By mid-to-late July, Heartleaf Skullcap will be dormant, reappearing with cooler fall temperatures.

And always in my gardens: Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea.

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I don’t think a garden is complete without some variety of this endemic American perennial.

Planted with Engelmann’s Daisy,

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or Heartleaf Skullcap,

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or Zexmenia, it is a perfect companion plant in full-to-part sun conditions.

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It’s a favorite flower for pollinators.

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Purple Coneflower is the bomb.

The xeric  Zexmenia, Wedelia texana,  begins its long bloom cycle in May.

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It’s another wildflower that pollinators prefer.

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Even without a dinner companion, Zexmenia are lovely and tough perennials.

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Planting native plants and wildflowers is the easiest and a beautiful way to a fabulous, regionally appropriate perennial garden.  Rip out your grass, plant native wildflowers and perennials and celebrate your sense of place in our world.

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Happy Wildflower Wednesday!