June Pollinator Blooms

Here in Austin, Texas, the weather has settled into the summer pattern of boringly bright days, warm-to-hot-temperatures, and plenty of humidity;  the solstice is now a memory.  There’s just no way around it–it’s summer, and as writer Al Bernstein said: Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.

So what’s in the garden reflecting the shimmering June days?  In a word: Daylilies.  I say that, though I have only one type of daylily, planted in only one spot.  Their cheery orange is, for me, a June thing every summer.

My mother-in-law gave to me a couple of daylily leaves with attached root 20 some-odd years ago.  She wasn’t a gardener and I have no idea where she got hers, but they hadn’t bloomed alongside her driveway in many years.  She insisted that they were lovely.

And she was correct.

Full and ruffly, I look forward to the blooms every June, though sometimes they appear as early as May or as late as July.  I believe they’re a form of the Asian variety Hermerocallis fulva.

For years, I didn’t notice any pollinators at these blooms, but as I have paid more attention, I see a species of native bee who visits when these flowers open.  A small, iridescent blue-green bee, it’s probably a Sweat bee, Genus Halictidae.  The bees dive deep into the flower and it’s usually several minutes before they emerge;  I have to be quick with the camera button!

 

The Purple coneflowersEchinacea purpurea, opened for business in May, but have achieved their zenith of beauty in June.

An excellent pollinator plant, there’s always something working these happy flowers, like this Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor.  I wonder if Ms. White flower spider is sizing up the butterfly for a meal?

 

YarrowAchillea millefolium, is a pretty plant year-round, mostly due to its foliage.  But in May, it sends up flower stalks and by June, those stalks are topped off with white flower clusters, adding their particular charm to bright June days.

I’ve seen all sorts of pollinators at Yarrow, from common, everyday flies, (great pollinators!),

…to large, dramatic bees, like this Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis.

By mid-July, the snowy blooms will turn toasty, and will then attract little finches and sparrows who flit through the garden.

 

Barbados cherryMalpighia glabra, a hardy Texas native, serves as a privacy screen in my front garden.  It’s a large shrub which may be hedged, though I prefer its natural shape of arching branches.  After rains, the plant bursts full of sweet pink flowers, eventually producing, juicy, red fruits favored by birds and mammals.  The fruits are called acerola cherries and are used to make juice.  I’ve tasted the fruits and they are sweet, though it would take quite a few to squeeze into juice.

The pink flowers are small and dainty, borne in clusters along the branches.

Eastern Carpenter bees, Xylocopa virginica, visit whenever the blooms appear.  These bees are fast fliers–I was lucky to get this shot!

 

Zexmenia, Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida, provides a sparkle of yellow in my garden.  A low growing, deciduous shrub, Zexmenia loves abusive heat and blooms best in the heat.  In fact, with our wet late spring, mine haven’t bloomed quite as well as usual, though the yellow still sparkles-up the garden.  The yellow flowers are companionable with many plants.

Another flower which attracts many types of pollinators, it’s also a host plant for three different butterfly species:  Bordered Patch, Sierran Metalmark, and Lacinia Patch.

Here a Ceratina bee sips nectar.  It looks like others before it have nibbled at the petals.

 

Pretty in pink are Rock rosePavonia lasiopetala.  Another shrub with twinkly flowers, I utilize Rock rose as a staple plant in my garden.  It grows and blooms in shade or sun (better in sun), and is a tough customer in our long, hot summers.  I prune it back a few times during the growing season as it blooms best on new wood and will seed out prolifically if allowed.  I like this little shrub planted in a mass to amplify the its pink power!

Small, hibiscus-like blooms are favored by pollinators like this Grey Hairstreak, Strymon melinus.  

 

Red yuccaHesperaloe parviflora, is no yucca, but in fact a gorgeous plant in the Agavaceae family.  From late April until late October, Salmon-pink, tubular flowers with creamy yellow interiors, adorn tall, arching bloom stalks.

The base of the plant is fleshy, dark foliage and a nice structural element, especially in winter; the showy blooms are a cherry on top.   Typically, I can’t look at these flower stalks without seeing some pollinator going about its business:  bees of several varieties, some smaller butterflies, and hummingbirds are all are drawn to Red yucca.  Alas, I seem to have missed catching any pollinator in my recent photos. Drat!

 

Late spring blues segue–just for a bit–into June with Heartleaf skullcap, Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata.   A perennial groundcover, which is low to the ground during late autumn and winter, the plant rockets upwards in spring, developing beautiful lavender-blue flowers, which make gardeners swoon,

…and bees work.

The foliage is a lovely blue-grey, soft and slightly sticky, but a perfect partner for the salvia blooms.

 

I like oregano–a lot.  Pollinators like oregano (and other herbs) blooms–a lot.  The teeny-tiny, frothy white flowers of oregano are in full bloom mode right now and pollinators are all over them.

My honeybees are especially fond of oregano flowers.   I wonder if their oregano-derived honey can be used on pizza?

 

Big red sageSalvia penstemonoides, started blooming this month and will bloom throughout summer.   My camera doesn’t quite catch the beauty of the magenta coloring of this salvia flower, but it’s a show-stopper.    Native only to the Edward Plateau of Central Texas, this plant was thought to be extinct, but was then discovered blooming in south Austin in the 1980s.  Fortunately for Austin gardeners, it’s easy to grow from seed and some local nurseries have made plants available.

During its summer blooming period, hummingbirds, mostly female Black-chinned and Ruby-throated, visit mine.

 

Happy June blooms and many thanks to Chloris of The Blooming Garden and her celebration of monthly blooms.  This ends National Pollinator Week  here in the United States.  Readers from elsewhere–you were probably wondering why I was beating the pollinator drum! Gardeners are usually close to and aware of their  environment, so I’m probably preaching to the choir, but if you don’t plant for pollinators–do!  You’ll be amazed at who shows up and pleased at how pollinators and all wildlife bring life to your garden.

From left to right: Red Yucca, Yarrow, Rock Rose, Big Red Sage.

 

May Flowers

The world’s favorite season is the spring.  All things seem possible in May.   

Thank you, Edwin Way Teale, May is pretty great here in Central Texas, too.  The temperature is warming, but not summer hot. Rain is a regular event, and the garden sparkles with color, and chirps and buzzes with life.   This May 23rd, I’m delighted to join in with Chloris to celebrate Top Ten monthly blooms.

Mexican honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera, is an odd plant.  It doesn’t employ a regular bloom cycle, instead, it blooms when it wants to.  This year, my Mexican honeysuckle has flowered non-stop since late fall.  Our winter was mild, with only one hard freeze in early March which didn’t faze the shrub one little bit.  During years like this one–a mild winter and wet, cool spring–the blooms go on and on.

In years with “normal” winters of cool-to-cold temperatures, some days dipping well below freezing, the plant dies to the ground.  After the die-back and come warmer temperatures in spring, the honeysuckle bush requires several months to flush out and begin blooming again.  

This cluster shows only one flower open, but the others will surely follow, as will the pollinators.

 

The dainty, belled flowers of Gulf penstemon, Penstemon tenuis, are a staple of my mid-to-late spring Texas wildflower show.

The sweet, lavender blooms feed honeybees, native bees, and butterflies.  It doesn’t bloom for long, only 3 to 4 weeks, but the seed heads remain attractive until July or August, and the plant, best grown in a mass, provides evergreen groundcover for the remainder of the year.

 

Goldenball Leadtree, Leucaena retusa, is a small, airy native tree bearing charming, kush-ball blooms in April and May.

I’ve noticed that in addition to the regular smaller bees–honeys and natives–large carpenter and bumble bees favor these cheery flowers.

It’s been a windy spring, so I haven’t managed anything beyond a blur-of-bee photo at the blooms, but early one morning, the flowers themselves posed nicely.

 

My back garden is a shady one, but at least one vine performs well with limited direct sun.  Star jasmineTrachelospermum jasminoides, is loaded with fragrant, white blooms beginning in April, continuing throughout the merry month of May.

A full and lush vine, the snowy flowers twinkle and infuse the garden with a heady scent.

I’m reminded of my mother’s garden when my jasmine blooms.  Each spring of my childhood, her vine–which grew just off of the kitchen windows–wafted sweet fragrance into our house.  When the same happens in my garden and at my home, sweet memories follow.

 

My mother also grew Blue passion vinePassiflora caerulea.   I recall that she loved the blooms. I grow the same passion vine not only for the quirky blooms, but because the foliage hosts the Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

An acquaintance once stated that she thought these flowers were so ugly, they’re cute.

I don’t agree with the ugly part of that equation, but I definitely think the flowers are cute.

 

Native DamianitaChrysactinia mexicana, provides blasts of sunshine on and off throughout the growing season.  The first set of blooms brightening the garden open for business in late April or May.

The individual blooms are small, pretty in and of themselves, but as a group, they pack a powerful floral punch.

 

I love blue flowers.  A few years back, a friend passed on some seeds of Blue curlsPhacelia congesta.  The resulting plants have reseeded each year since, enough to feed plenty of small pollinators and those pollinators’ predators. 

I observed this well camouflaged Green anole lizard among the blooms as he hunted for dinner.

 

A close up of Blue curl–sans lizard– demonstrates the coil from which each individual bloom develops.   

These darling flowers put on their best show when grown in groups.  This year, five individual plants seeded out in one part of my garden; they’ve added blue beauty to that garden.

 

Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata, produces scads of yellow-orange trumpet flowers in April and May.

Terracotta orange, with a tunnel of yellow, these blooms beckon bees to nectar, and gardeners to admire. The main blooming period is during late spring, but throughout summer, the bees and I will enjoy these happy flowers, though the color of the bloom pales during our heat.  

 

More blues in my garden, this time in the form of the shade-tolerant Salvia guaranitica.

Such a blue!  There are numerous cultivars of this native of South America and I’ve no idea which one I have.  Someone gave me a start of plant with roots years ago and they’ve grown in various spots of my garden since.   The giver of the plant told me it was Majestic sage and while there are new deep blue salvia cultivars now available, I’m very happy with this plant.  It’s been a well-behaved, lovely perennial for many years.

As my back garden becomes shadier, this blue will be the blue that I’ll grow.  Most of floriferous blues here in Austin are sun worshipers and some don’t work in my sun-limited garden.   Hardy, pollinator-friendly, beautiful, and shade tolerant–what’s not to love about it?

 

Speaking of blue lovers of the sun, check out the May show of Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’.  Nice!!  I have several clumps of these in my west-facing front garden, which is considerably sunnier than the back garden.

Another pollinator powerhouse plant, this perennial blooms throughout the growing season, has no disease issues, and is as tough as the Texas sun. 

The gusty spring has rendered photography of insects a significant challenge, but I caught this female Monarch butterfly, probably a new adult and first generation of 2019, nectaring for a day or so on my various patches of Henrys.   By now, I’m certain she’s on her way north–all the best to her and her offspring.  There are plenty of other pollinators visiting these blooms.

Whew! Profiling ten blooms is a pleasure and one this gardener is happy to undertake. Please pop over to The Booming Garden to oooh, aaah, and appreciate blooms from many places.