Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Anticipating Autumn

Though the calendar reads "September" and we've enjoyed a welcome sampler of rainy spells interspersed with some cooler mornings, it is not yet reliably Autumn per se in the Austin area.  We are stuck for a few more weeks in what is more accurately described as protracted Summer.

Early signs of Autumn abound, but those have been well described and beautifully displayed in posts on multiple other (excellent) local garden blogs.

Schoolhouse and pink rain lilies popping up cheerfully in response to long awaited September rains?  Yup. Those have already been blogged about. Several times.
Turk's cap in bloom? Posted elsewhere. Beautyberry bushes and Pidgeonberry eponymously decked out?  Duly noted and reported on other sites.
Inland Sea Oat seed heads shown to their best backlit advantage?  Uh huh, saw that already. Datura blooms?  Photographed in daylight as well as in the moon's golden glow.  Garlic chives?  With and without bees. Lindheimer's senna? Various salvias and Leadwort plumbago?  All shown in flower and exquisitely documented elsewhere.

The usual suspects have definitely already gotten their fair share of the attention.

I wanted to post, but didn't see where I'd gain traction posting more (and not necessarily better) photographs of the plants already listed alongside various lame versions of "what she said".  My frustration mounted. Had I missed Autumn's boat? Was this territory too familiar, too well trod?  Had those other (better organized) bloggers covered alpha all the way to omega?  Couldn't I find one single as-yet unsung wonder left out there waiting its turn in the spotlight?

I groused, I deleted, I muttered. I was about to give up when, scrolling through my most recent photos, I saw both the plants and the light. There were a few also-rans out there not yet covered. Team captains had chosen their favorites first, but there were definitely other players remaining. So here they are, in no particular order, "latter but not least" additions, my own nominees to the lineup of late summer/early autumn stars designate for Central Texas in September.

To kick things off, a native, Texas Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana), which is currently flaunting a scent so pronounced it demands attention.
And attention it gets.  The flower spikes open a few at a time, advancing in numbers day by day until the entire tree becomes a fully loaded, heavily scented pollinator magnet.  Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) butterflies favor it, nectaring alongside honeybees,
all sorts of native bees, bee mimics,
and even wasps.  Like this blue-winged Scolia dubia. They all spend hours darting in and out amongst the flowers, drinking their fill.
Scolia dubia- female blue winged digger wasp.
All that traffic drew even more attention, including that of the local anole population (Anolis carolinensis).
Using their coloration disguise to full advantage, they are lurking in proximity to branch ends in numbers, hoping to snap up a delicious meal all their own from amongst the winged visitors.
In fact, anoles can be seen everywhere these days including this little lip smacker perched on a flower spike of H. Duelberg salvia.
The delicate pink blossoms of Coral Vine, (Antigonon leptopus) are visited all day by pollinators of every stripe....
followed by even more anoles.  Dinner's on!
Non-native but well adapted and widely appreciated south of I-10, Firebush (Hamelia patens) comes back from the roots and kicks into high gear during our very hottest weather.  As the arrival of summer's heat was delayed, it got off to a slow start this year.  Unlike many other plants that went leggy with a vengeance, this seasonal beauty has only grown to half its usual spread and height.
I don't mind a bit.  I like it small or tall, and look forward to when glowing embers at branch ends are lighting up the bed it graces.  Hummingbirds love this plant though you'll have to take my word for that.  The delayed timing this year must be wreaking havoc with their usual feeding habits.
Beleaguered but persistent Fall Obedient plant is finally attempting blooms. Physotegia virginiana likes things wet, but the weeks of heat with no rain that followed spring's bounty took their toll.  This is a tough native however, and good year or bad, I know these will always come back for more.
This little patch of Virginia dayflower, (Commelina virginica) is blooming for a few hours daily, but it is new for me in this spot and I haven't watched it long enough to know if the current show will be reliable year to year.
Like the Firebush, October showstopper Giant Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureous), while only half its usual six foot size this year, is budding out.
Just beginning to appear, Goldeneye (Viguiera dentata) flower heads are small but expanding daily.
There you have it -  my add-ons to the pantheon of reliable late summer to early autumn bloomers in the central Texas area.  Taken in total they provide heat weary Texans with assurance weather is on the way better aligned with the calendar's insistence.

This year has certainly been one for the record books.  What about your garden spaces?  Seeing any surprises in your late summer garden after all our weird weather this year?  I'm sure there are wonderful plants I've overlooked or simply don't enjoy success with here. Lycoris radiata have been reported in bloom a few miles from me, but mine have yet to show.  Are you noticing other emerging changes?  Feel free to list them in the comments section.

Let's keep building the list!


Debra said...

As always: ty for the beauty. And an extra thank you for championing the Texas Kidneywood. Every year I come to appreciate it more and more. I wish I had room for one. The coral vine is really pretty. It is getting tricky finding the words and images. Austin has so many bloggers and has had so for a long time. But I found a little quote yesterday that I passed on to my husband who was saying something like: Why should I make music any more; it has all been done and said before?
"Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again." --Andre Gide.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Thank you. Our kidneywood is small - barely six feet tall and only 3-4 feet in diameter. It is more a large shrub than a tree. It is one of the few purchases I made long ago that I never once regretted. Because speaking of regret...

I discovered Coral Vine is now considered invasive (and I say "now" - probably happened long ago and I'm just reading it.) That vine has been growing here for decades. Now I'm "supposed" to destroy it so it won't be spread by birds. I've never seen birds on it - just pollinators and anoles. Decades from now will the invasives be considered naturalized? Natives, even? Designations do get tricky, long run. A handful of plants on the invasives list I bought decades ago from reputable nurseries. At that time they were typically labeled "well adapted to our area".

As to the lack of novelty in words/images - there is this saying in system theory people need to hear a message multiple times before it sinks in. I arbitrarily say 37 times, but the point is, even when people are listening they don't always "hear". And even when they are looking, they don't always "see". It is our job to make them look, make them listen, until the messages get all the way through their barriers. Or not... We do our work - they have to do theirs. Thanks as always for reading and commenting - I am so happy to have you as part of this blog's regulars!

Tina said...

And what add-ons you chose!! LIke you, I haven't written about all the photos I've taken, because, well, just how many posts about oxblood lilies and spider lilies need to be published? But I'm so glad you posted about these gorgeous bloomers. I love Kidneywood--a beautiful native tree, I wish so much that I had room for one! Coral Vine comes into its pink beauty now. I moved mine in early spring, assumed that I wouldn't have any blooms this year, and found a few yesterday. I was impressed that there were any. I'm sure the bees will, or have, found the flowers. The obedient plants are also grooving up as are the goldeneye. Oh, it's just all so gratifying!

Travis Heights Garden Mama said...

I agree that the kidneywood plants are putting on a great show right now. My new one (planted this spring) is putting out blooms and is covered in local wasps and bees. It keeps me motivated to go outside and smell it. It's also all over the neighborhood in 'wilder' areas along the creeks. I'll have to keep an eye out for the butterflies- beautiful pic!

Kris Peterson said...

I loved this post, Deb. Your "also-rans" definitely deserve their time in the spotlight, especially when you show them in communion with the creatures in your garden. I always enjoy photos of the charismatic anoles.

The biggest surprises in my garden have been the premature demises of plants I thought were reasonably well established and the poor performance of others, like my Coreopsis 'Redshift', which didn't even warrant a Bloom Day mention this month. Of course, a lot of this is probably due to the water restrictions added to the weather mix this year.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: That's it precisely - gratifying. To realize that just when you are about to give up on the garden for the year these few plants have hung on and are either bouncing back into higher gear again or are gearing up for their first run of the season. Certainly we've all suffered our share of losses this year and for me at least, that makes it all the more exciting when these survivors showed up ready to rise and shine.

TexasDeb said...

THGM: Thanks. Honestly that butterfly totally cooperated for once. It was so busy it didn't move for minutes at a time, plus it was up closer to eye height, all making it easier to get a better shot. You will love your kidneywood more with each passing year I'm betting. The one here is a definite favorite. I consider putting it in one of the best choices I ever made, hands down.

TexasDeb said...

Kris: You've had an incredibly tough year and the protracted heat and humidity have certainly not done you any favors. As gardeners here discovered, even some tough hangers on will simply not stand for years of inclement conditions and finally just call it quits. It is the plants that hang on past that point we've often adopted as our new favorites. And most of them (not surprisingly) are native to the area, having developed coping techniques across decades to deal with the vagaries of Texas weather.

As to the anoles, some days they are carrying most of the load to provide delight in a Central Texas garden in the last blasts of summer/early autumn.

Hoping the rains will visit you -gently- to help break the heat and finish filling your barrels soon!

Shirley said...

As usual your thoughts are intriguing. The Kidneywood is a great tree for the garden. We have one that is still a bit small at 3-4' to bloom but I might just run out to check after seeing this post!

TexasDeb said...

Thanks, Shirley. Kidneywood trees are great, aren't they? So quiet and unassuming with their delicate leaves but once they bloom...they are all party all the time. A real star in the landscape and everybody with space ought to have one (or get one ASAP). It is definitely worth checking your baby tree for blooms - that fragrance can't be beat.

Rock rose said...

Among all your beautiful blooms I fear I may be the bearer of bad tidings. I may be mistaken but I think your day flower is of the false variety and yes you will have it for ever and ever and ever and ever. Check to see if it has 3 petals; 2 the same and one smaller. I can only see two in your photo and I know that it is more obvious in the Virginia variety. I rejoiced the first time I found it. Now I shudder.

Debra said...

Thanks, Deb. Love systems theory and yes. I am not so quick anymore to believe a plant is a problem just because it is called invasive. I think we have to look at the context and make an assessment. I recently was reading a report made by some official habitat restoration people where the subject of invasives was brought up. Their theory was that not all invasives are equally bad. If they still play some role and aren't spreading like kudzu then it is probably fine to just leave them. Better to leave a mature mulberry that is feeding birds and caterpillars and providing shelter than to cut it down and leave a gap for example. They even said a little St. Augustine grass growing along a creek bank is nothing to get in a flap about. That grass is holding onto soil for now and will be replaced over time naturally. Is Coral Vine truly invasive here? I have never seen it growing wild. I tried to start some from seed here and failed so it can't be all that easy to grow. The same can be said for a lot of other garden plants that I think have been given a bad rap. Now privat ... that's invasive!

TexasDeb said...

Jenny(RockRose): Thank you! I appreciate the heads up. Good eye and you're absolutely right. That flower most definitely does not have three petals. That said, I was looking at information on the several varieties of commelinas and while I can't quite say what it is so much as what it isn't, I'm still reasonably happy to have it on board here.

I have spaces where a native ground cover can run a bit - it will be mixing in with other ground covers* as companion plantings - I use them a live mulch in certain spots. I'm reading these little beauties feed birds/squirrels/deer their seed so I'm good with that as well. I totally understand how misplaced a plant like this would be in certain/many settings...but here? I'll be happy to let it play, especially out front where deer grazing can keep it contained. (*right now it is in with horse herb and wood sorrel)

TexasDeb said...

Debra: We don't use that Privet word around here - The Hub and I are agreeing to disagree on that topic for the moment, enough said there.

As to coral vine it is labeled "invasive" in Texas without further specification though as you note, it does not seem to spread so easily in our particular area - perhaps it is a greater problem in areas that don't get freezes where birds can feed on the seeds and spread them all winter? I'm discovering several plants I've been growing for decades are now considered invasive. It's discouraging, to say the least!

Michael - Plano Prairie Garden said...

Sometimes I scroll through pictures before reading the words around them. It was not until my second time through that I noticed the anoles. They blend in very well. Love the kidneywood. I planted one that did not survive its first winter. I think it succumbed to a combination of cold temperature and wet soil. I have not tried another. My bee brush is a reasonable substitute.

TexasDeb said...

Michael: Anoles are quite well designed to sneak up on their intended prey, that's a fact. There have been times I've caught an anole hidden in a plant in a photo that I didn't notice until I started the editing process. And I flatter myself to be looking pretty carefully when I aim the camera. Not so much, some days...

I suppose you are just far enough north of here that there are a few breaks between plants that we can use without much trepidation and the ones you will find reliable year in and year out. That said, this kidneywood gets a bit of protection from winter's worst (in a bed close to a pool that provides temperature mediation of the soil there). The way our winters have swung so wildly the past few years it is partly a matter of luck, getting new plants established without losing them to a run of atypical cold. Then of course summer arrives and wants to bake it all as a prize for surviving. Plants growing in Texas all deserve medals if you ask me (as do their caretakers!).

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

It's great to see blooms in your garden and so funny to see the Obedients as mine are long gone. I do like the Texas Kidneywood...such an interesting and critter loved plant.

TexasDeb said...

Donna: Thanks for dropping in! We are on very different schedules garden wise but that's part of the fun of the blogosphere (for me). I enjoy the chances to see and hear what is going on right this minute in a garden (and in that garden's caretaker's mind) hundreds if not thousands, of miles away. I find that every bit as amazing as climbing into a plane and flying overhead to visit in person (and my desk chair is a lot more comfortable!).

Anonymous said...

We are also having the summer that won't quit, but at least the humidity is back to rock bottom, so the swamp cooler works. The sheer number of butterflies you must have - gray hairstreak on the kidneywood, wow. Nice color compliments, but I can imagine the scent of the blooms. I haven't met a creosote, mariola or beebrush I walk or bike by that I don't get tempted to rub the leaves to get a sniff...it seems with our low humidity, everything has to be right to smell plants without doing that...the high elevation helps only a little.

Here, everything looks to have shut down. Even our lingering monsoon season didn't include rain, and that makes a difference. Except coral vines...and even here they spread too much, at least by roots...sheesh!

I'll learn the Latin names for insect yet, thanks to your blog...

TexasDeb said...

David/DHB: It isn't the heat - it IS the humidity - and you've got precious little of that to deal with comfort wise at least, though what a plant experiences as comfort versus what we humans do...I think we're on opposite ends of the spectrum on the humidity front.

Honestly I'm not seeing tons of butterflies but the bees are out in numbers - all types. Lots of birds, lots of lizards, potentially we'll have a butterfly resurgence in the weeks to come as the temperatures even out (and go DOWN!) and local plants gear up for Second Spring. I'll never learn the Latin names - I just put 'em out there because some folks like to know. As for plants and butterflies I'm fine with the "common" names - if and when I even remember those! Have a lovely week and thanks as always for dropping in!