Fuzzy Wuzzy

Spring is progressing apace, new foliage and flowers appearing, posthaste. My diverse garden community offers varied, interesting blooms, each with their own timeline for appearing, each with their own story and role in this ecosystem. Puffy and playful, the fuzzy spring looms of the Goldenball Leadtree, Leucaena retusa, are glorious golden decorations in a shady part of my garden

This tree is also called Little-leaf tree, or Lemon ball tree–names I find poetic–and except for the ‘goldenball’ part, I find the moniker Goldenball Leadtree a bit klunky. If I’d been asked, I might have named it Golden Koosh Glory tree, or Magnificent Yellow Fuzzy-Wonder tree. Nomenclature aside, what isn’t klunky is the lovely, airy form of this tree.

Shortly after the foliage appeared, blooms begin.

Goldenball Leadtree is a small, shade to part-shade tree, perfect for a small to moderate sized urban garden.

The tree in near full bloom mode.

Flowers begin developing in early March, shortly after the foliage returns from winter’s dormancy. Blooming peaks in April, and slowly declines through May and June. Autumn rains often bring a late season gift of a few of these fuzzy delights. Foliage is delicate and little leafed, colored in pretty, bright green, until a hard freeze unceremoniously drops the leaves.

Developing buds remind me of certain unripe berries.

In sunshine or shade, the tree is a joy in the garden.

The Goldenball Leadtree is in the Pea, or Fabaceae family. Most of the other plants that I grow producing fuzzy flowers belong to the Aster, or Asteraceae, family. I also grow plants that aren’t fuzzy in their flower form, but once they’ve gone to seed, fuzzy, usually soft, structures carry seeds on the wind to parts unknown.

In the light shade of the Goldenball Leadtree, sits a stand of more golden goodness, a small patch of Golden Groundsel, Packera obovata. Diminutive ray flowers accompany the larger goldenball blooms in their early spring show. Once the blooms are done, cottony-soft seed balls appear, awaiting wind, landing in a new place.

Spring is a bounty: lush green, color galore. These are but two of the flowering plants in my spring garden. What’s flowering in yours?

Fab Foliage

I was recently visiting with a neighbor as we stood in front of one of my gardens and she commented that a rosette of American Basket flower, Centaurea americana, looks deliciously edible. (I’m not sure if I’d add Basket flower to my salad greens, but it has been used for traditional medicine purposes.) As we chatted, I realized the particular specimen that was the focus of our conversation also shared close space with several other lovely foliage types.

Basket flower forms a dramatic rosette, but peeking through those glorious leaves are ferny Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, rounded, lobed Henbit, Lamium amplexicaule, and palmate-leafed Carolina geranium, Geranium carolinianum. Except for the non-native Henbit–one of our earliest bloomers and welcomed by pollinators–all of these plants are native to Texas and in many parts of the Americas.

A closer look at these luscious leaves shows another in their midst, also wanting attention for its leafy action–Caterpillars or Blue Curls, Phacelia congesta

A different Blue Curls planted itself directly on a Basket flower rosette, both settled in the crack of a cement driveway, no less. They’ll have to battle it out for survival once spring growth and blooming begins. The smart money is on the Basket flower, as it tends to get much larger than the Blue Curls–but I wouldn’t count out the curls, they’re a tough bunch.

Both Henbit and Blue Curls are having a moment this year in my garden. Scads of them have seeded out and are growing in profusion!

Another nice foliage vignette in a different area of the garden features a purposely planted Twistleaf Yucca, Yucca rupicola, overseeing two volunteer annuals (poppies and geraniums) and one volunteer perennial shrub, Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala. All will bloom in spring, two will disappear afterward (poppies and geraniums), but the Rock Rose will be foliaged and floraled through the growing season.

Spring flowers are bursting out of their winter doldrums and the foliage of those bloomers is also revving up for its part in the garden show. Foliage and flowers form a partnership that are the stuff of gardens, each adding their particular beauty and role in a diverse community of plants.