Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Record Breaking Summer

The weather guessers (aka meteorologists) are saying that the summer of 2011 is the hottest on record for DFW. We had a few days of relief from the heat last week and then it returned again this week. Yesterday's high was 107. This was the hottest recorded day after Labor Day in DFW. Yesterday's high also put us in the record books for the most 100 degree days in a year. The old record was 69 days from 1980. We hit 70 days yesterday and we are expected to get to 71 days today. 

Despite the heat (and still no rain), my prairie is starting to come back to life again. 

The sky blue flowers of Pitcher sage, Salvia azurea, are making a second appearance this year. Pitcher Sage normally just blooms in late summer, but this year it also bloomed in the spring. I cut the plants back after the spring flowers faded and hoped they would bloom again in September. It worked! There is a Mealycup Sage, Salvia farinacea, right next to the Pitcher Sage. Mealycup Sage has purple flowers. I have to look closely to notice the differences in color when they grow next to each other. Pale-leaf Yucca, Yucca pallida, is in the foreground. It had several pups pop up this year. The growth of the Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, was stunted this year due to the drought.

Little Bluestem is one of my favorite grasses, but this year, I think Pine Muhly, Muhlenbergia dubia, is at the top of the list. It is native to West Texas, so it did not have any issues with the heat and drought. I really like the way the flower spikes shoot out of the center of the plant and catch the sunlight.

Here is the same Pine Muhly from a different angle. Surrounding the Pine Muhly are more Mealycup sage, Pink Skullcap, Scutellaria suffrutescens, a native of Mexico, and yellow  flowered Zexmenia, Wedelia hispida.

A gayfeather, Liatris mucronata, started blooming over the weekend. Seeds from this plant an another plant were scattered across the prairie a couple of years ago. The seedlings are finally mature enough to bloom and will fill the prairie with purple spikes within the next couple of weeks.

Here is my stock tank. It is now planted with horsetail reed, Equisetum hyemale, which should fill in well by next summer. The autumn sage around the tank seems to show its appreciation for the moisture seeping from the tank with additional blooms. The hummingbirds have noticed the flowers and stop by regularly for a drink.

Daytime high temperatures are expected to drop into the 80s later this week. The weather guessers say we should not see any more 100 degree days this year after today. I hope they are guessing correctly. If we could just get a good soaking rain...


  1. Maybe rain today. Thanks for the flowers.

  2. I love your Mealycup Sage! I'm going to have buy some now!

  3. It's so good to see things looking fresher...the blue sage is stunning. I am totally smitten by the Pine Muhly...I must look it up...may have to ad to my "Micro-Prairie" in the front parking strip next year :-)

  4. The pine muhly is a winner, all right, and so are your structural yuccas and opuntia. They ground all those tiny flowers -- and let me just say I'm amazed by how much is blooming in your garden. The stock tank planter looks very Austin -- love it!

  5. Beautiful garden, so impressive in this year of heat and drought. Love the pine muhly and it's going on my list of must-have plants!

  6. Like Pam, I'm surprised by how much you have blooming too. Your prairie is beautiful!

  7. We have finally been vindicated for all of our whining about the heat. It really was HOT, one for the record books!! Lots of great blooms in your garden despite the summer. This post lists some of my favorites...salvia farinacea, greggii, skullcap, liatris, zexmenia. Have not heard of pine muhly before; will have to check it out!

  8. Love all the blues in your garden! Gorgeous! The blues are quite refreshing with all the heat we've been having. Your autumn sage is gorgeous, too. I, too, am very impressed with all your blooms.

  9. That pine muhly is a good one. Your garden looks great.
    Hope your heat is about over. Ours here in Central Texas, too. We all deserve a break.

  10. We keep missing out on that rain Collagemama. Sounds like there are more chances in the forecast. I have my fingers crossed.

    Mary, Mealycup Sage is a great plant. The bees really love the flowers.

    Scott, it is nice to see a little color in the garden again. I am not sure how well Pine Muhly will do up there, but it is worth a try. It is a little hard to find, even down here.

    Pam, you are right about the yuccas and opuntia providing structure. Their value is even more apparent in February when I cut all the grasses to the ground in February. The grasses usually provide additional structure from late summer until spring. Unfortunately, the drought stunted their growth this year. I have a neighbor that said I should move my stock tank to the backyard. Apparently, he is not a fan of the Austin look.

    Thanks for the comments Shirley. It was a tough year on plants and people alike.

    Thanks Cat. I think the numbers of blooms are a combination of plant selection, a brief break in the heat and good timing with the water and pruning. In case anyone is interested, I started watering in July and watered about once every 7-10 days. The goal was to keep the plants on the green side of dormant until cooler weather and rain returned.

    Toni, I think I need a t-shirt saying that I survived the Texas heat waves of 1980 and 2011. All the plants you listed are definitely winners for this record breaking summer. The Pine Muhly is getting lots of attention on this post. The only place I have seen it in DFW is at Weston Gardens in south Fort Worth. If you have never been there, you should go. I am not as impressed with the nursery and display gardens as I used to be, but it is still an interesting destination.

    Thanks HolleyGarden. The blues and purples are dominant colors in my garden in late summer and fall. Normally, the Greggs Mistflower would be adding more blue and attracting butterflies to the prairie, but I think I let it get too dry and it is not growing at the moment.

    Thanks Linda. Another fan of the pine muhly. Let’s hope our weather is finally changing for the better.

  11. Your prairie is fabulous, Bluestem. Like the other commenters, I love that Pine Muhly.

    We finally got some rain down here in Katy .. I hope you did too!

  12. The beauty of growing a prairie garden in the prairie is that drought conditions don't force you to waste precious water on a yard filled with non-native species. I'm hoping for a wet fall.

  13. Wow-- This is really inspiring! I live in Fort Worth and have heard that the drought is predicted to last another year for Texas. SO... we are planning a lawn make-over in a couple of weeks. We have a landscaper who is doing the bed prep, and we will be planting Mexican feather grass, blue fescue, yarrow, thyme, and drought tolerant veronica. I have also recently discovered Green Santolina, an evergreen, fragrant, xeric herb that gets to be 2 ft by 2ft with beautiful yellow flowers. I am very excited to try that out.
    I also recommend Damianita.
    High Country gardens in Santa Fe is an excellent nursery to find xeric plants to order.
    Thanks for the beautiful pictures... I think more and more people in DFW are going to have to go this route, and it can be a beautiful change.

  14. Donna, good luck with your lawn makeover. The Fort Worth chapter of the Native Plant Society of TX is having a plant sale in a couple of weeks. It will be a good opportunity to pick up some native plants that will grow well here as well as valuable information from the members. The sale is at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens on October 8. Weston Gardens in FW and Redenta's in Arlington are other good local sources for native plants. Keep me posted on your progress.

  15. Thank you Bluestem-- I will definitely be at the Plant sale at the Botanic Gardens Saturday. It is a great place to see and purchase a variety of native species. I have recently picked up a Gregg Mistflower after seeing it on this blog--beautiful! I love finding great plants for butterflies.

    We had a hardy passion vine for years which grew on a chain link fence (in Fort Worth) and reached twenty feet across. We noticed the first year that small orange spikey caterpillars ate it to the ground-- we did nothing and just watched.... the plant grew back strong, and then we noticed several chrysalis on the fence, and witnessed the emergence of dozens of beautiful orange and black butterflies---Gulf Fritillary! One year we had 2-3 days of 40 or more butterflies in our tiny backyard! And it is next to a large yellow butterfly bush (Honeycomb) which they love.

    Unfortunately the severe winter killed the passion vine. (It usually easily re-seeded and we had dozens of extra plants we gave to friends.) But this year they did not return. We will be buying it again in the spring.

    We had the landscaping done this week--gravel and flagstone paths and a large bed that I spent all day today planting. Gorgeous weather, and luckily cloudy. ---Happy Gardening!


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