Sunday, September 14, 2014

September Bloom Day

Happy early autumn greetings to my fellow gardeners! And thanks, as always, to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting the wonderful Bloom Day meme.

Here in Austin, we've had our first real break from the broiling we always get at the end of summer. Lots of plants here love that hot, dry weather, and it hasn't been cool or wet enough long enough for those plants to start fading. Most of the ones blooming in my yard right now fall into that category. The August-lovers.

Recently, in my first gardening project since Ian was born, I cut down and pulled up weeds, spread out newspaper and cardboard, and topped it all off with some leftover mulch and decomposed granite. Then I came back a few weeks later and finished out the mulch and DG areas. This is an area I hope to shape into a butterfly garden. 

Without intending to, I spread the mulch and DG into a shape that vaguely resembles a butterfly.

This was the highest aerial view I could manage, perched on top of a ladder. Yes, I tell my kids not to do this all the time.

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii) is blooming again in the front yard, even though I didn't bother to cut off the old flower stalks after the Spring bloom.

Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) is covered in masses of pretty, sticky blue flowers. Several different varieties of butterfly like plumbago, but it seems to be a favorite with Swallowtails.

Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. Drummondii) is one I usually cut back at some point during the growing season, but didn't this year. As a result, it is tall, leggy and mostly green by now. But it still has enough bright red flowers to attract daily hummingbirds.

Our Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) hasn't bloomed much this year, even while the rest of those in the Austin area have been covered in purple blossoms following thunderstorms. But there are a few pretty purple flowers to enjoy at the moment. We had a whole day of rain yesterday, so perhaps we'll finally see this one go all purple.

Esperanza or Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) has faded somewhat from its peak blooms this year, but it still has plenty of show left. My camera doesn't do justice to the intense canary yellow. I'm sure there are wildlife visitors to this one, too, but it's in the least visible (to me) and most neglected part of my garden.

Cardinal Climber Vine (Ipomoea sloteri) really surprised me this year. I have next to no experience with vines, prior to this year, and this was one we started from seed in late February, then had to keep in suboptimal conditions in the garage under flourescent light until it was warm enough to plant in the spring. I didn't think it would survive. Wrong! The hummingbirds love the tubular red flowers that are usually only open in the morning. Today they were open all day, perhaps because of the cooler temperatures and cloud cover.

One of the few perennials I have cut back this year, Pavonia or Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is already coming back with plenty of blooms. This is another morning-bloomer that closes later in the day. I have mixed feelings about it; the little hibiscus-like flowers are charming, but it is so aggressive in full sun! It tried hard to smother some of my Crinums, which prompted the cut-back.

Salvia 'Mystic Spires' (Salvia longispicata x farinacea) hasn't been quite as aggressive, but is certainly thriving in its sunny spot in the Rainbow Bed. Deadheading it produces a whole new round of indigo spikes, within a few weeks. Lovely! The bees love it, too.

Texas Lantana (Lantana urticoides) was another aggressive perennial that got the mid-season chop this year. These perennials are gluttons for punishment!

In the shadier end of the Rainbow Bed, Scarlet or Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea) has grown to easily 4' x 3', and is both blocking sunlight from hitting much of the two Japanese Aralias behind it, and seeding out like crazy. This is another plant that I like, and the bees like... but I don't know what I'm going to do with it. Maybe this is a good candidate for transplant to the Hell Strip (parking strip in the front yard.)

Yellow Shrimp Plant (Pachistachys lutea) seems to have responded to the hot, dry peak of summer with stunted growth. It looks a little scraggly, but it's hanging in there. I wonder what effect cooler temperatures and rain will have.

Elsewhere in the garden, I found a lovely blue surprise in the Wildflower Experiment Garden. This is from the bag of Shade-Friendly Wildflower Mix I bought from Native American Seed and scattered this spring. My best guess is that this is Pitcher Sage, Salvia azurea. There are a few more of these out there that haven't started blooming yet, and several Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) rosettes that didn't flower this spring. I'd love to see fall blooms, but only time will tell.

Clasping Coneflower (Dracopis amplexicaulis) has been blooming for a couple of months now, far and away the biggest success of the Wildflower Experiment Garden so far.

Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) slowly made it back to full bloom this summer. Lately, the yellow aphids have been taking over. I give them an occasional blast of water to try to knock them off, but otherwise don't mess with them, as the ladybugs like them. I have seen all of one Monarch butterfly visiting the milkweed this year. I understand their numbers are dangerously low. It would be such a heartbreaking loss to see this species die out.

Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) is another plant I have mixed feelings about, but the seedheads sure put on a good show! These are wet--when dry, the seedheads are silky and feathery, undulating with the wind. Lizards and finches love to hide out in the grass mounds.

Purple Bindweed (Ipomoea cordatotriloba var. cordatotriloba), or what I like to call Wild Morning Glory, is at its peak for the year, I believe. It is most certainly aggressive, and I've done next to nothing to keep it from binding up all its neighbors in the Purple Pocket Garden this year. Interestingly, this plant has two different leaf shapes - a heart shape and a three-lobed version. )Note: I really need to take an actual botany course so that I can describe leaf shapes intelligently!)

Happy Bloom Day, and three cheers for cooler, wetter weather down here in the mid-South! (Northern Gardeners, I've been admiring your lush summer gardens all summer, from the comfort of my air-conditioned house. One of these days I'll figure out how to spend my summers far north of Austin...)


  1. Happy Bloom Day! Lots to love here, but especially that cardinal climber. What a brilliant pop of color it provides. Going to have to look that one up. Do you think it will reseed itself at your place?

    I love wildflower mix packets. I still have a few steady returnees from my first experiment with a mix designed for our area that I put out over a decade ago!

    1. Happy Bloom Day to you, too, Deb! The Cardinal Climber came from a seed packet from Botanical Interests. I bet they will reseed. I've already seen a few in another part of the garden that appear to have self-sown. I might be complaining about trying to get rid of this one in a year or two, but for now, it's quite charming.

      Good to know about your wildflowers! We just scattered bluebonnet seeds yesterday. Looking forward to seeing those distinctive rosettes and spring flowers.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I love seeing all your beautiful flowers! Hopefully some day I can come see for real!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by online, Mary, and yes, we'd love to have you visit in person!

  3. Aren't we loving this cooler weather? Your garden looks fabulous. I see that we do have many plants in common including that "wild morning glory" which is particularly rampant throughout my garden this year. Even though it is a weed, I have to admit it's quite pretty.

  4. Thanks, Dorothy! Yes, I'm seeing that Purple Bindweed all over town right now. I saw some that made the leap from a 6' ligustrum hedge to a nearby utility pole. I like to think them as little ninjas, stealthily painting dots of purple graffiti over boring plain-green commercial landscapes.

  5. You have lots going on, Mary and your garden is really taking ott! It will continue to improve with the softer days ahead. I also never have as many blooms on my Cenizo as everyone else. My two shrubs bloom and it's great, but not like so many around town. They are old though, so that might have something to do with the lack of blooms. Be careful on that ladder!!

  6. What gorgeous colors you have in your garden! I'm so jealous, as we haven't gotten to spring yet here in New Zealand!