Friday, January 4, 2013

A Look Back at 2012

Here is a photographic journey through the seasons of 2012 in my front garden. Toward the end of the post are hints of changes that will be occurring in the new year.

The year started out with concerns that portions of my garden could be destroyed as the city replaced sewer connections throughout the neighborhood. Fortunately, the contractor was attentive to my concerns and only one plant did not survive being transplanted. 

January 24. A worker is in a hole surrounded by four nerve daisies. The 2011-2012 winter was so warm that the four nerve daisies bloomed non-stop.

February 19. Pine muhly right before I trimmed all of the plants back to prepare for a new season's growth.

March 13. Four nerve daisies filled the garden. 

March 24. Dew on the blades of Indian grass.

March 31. Temporarily coming out of a drought with a wet and early spring caused the flowers to explode with blooms. The four nerve daisy plants are huge! Bluebonnets, wine cup and mealycup sage are beginning to bloom.

March 31. This was certainly the best spring my garden had seen. Even neighbors that were not impressed with my lawnless garden were starting to change their minds and said the garden was beautiful. The dark leafed plant is Husker Red penstemon.

March 31. Gulf coast penstemon, bluebonnets, four nerve daisies, and Gregg's salvia are in full bloom.

April 7. Sunrise over the wildflowers.

April 7. The Hercules Club tree is in bloom and very popular with butterflies and bees. 

April 22. Black Sampson coneflower blooms.

May 2. The four nerve daisies are taking a break after a long bloom period. Several of the plants began to die. After blooming all winter and spring, I think they bloomed their hearts out and could not go on any longer. The red yucca and mealycup sage are in bloom and the spineless prickly pear is adding a new layer of pads.

May 20. Rock penstemon is in bloom next to pale leaf yucca.

May 20. Annual wildflowers, horsemint and Indian blanket, sprouted everywhere. 

June 17. The spring flowering season is about wrapped up.

July 9. The garden goes dormant to survive the hot, dry summer. Flowers are few. This is the most unattractive season for my garden. It was also about this time that I decided to stop referring to my garden as a prairie, although I did not change the blog name. A prairie is primarily composed of prairie grasses and mine were fizzling out. A couple of years ago this area was filled with little bluestem and now only a few remain. With all the dry years we have had lately, I am looking westward for plants that will look good during the dry seasons and still survive the rare wet seasons.

July 14. One successful grass is the west Texas native, pine muhly. This clump of plants is in bloom (the spikes) and is not fazed by heat and drought. It also reseeds, but not aggressively. My little bluestem has never reseeded so there are no new plants to replace the old plants.

August 26. The garden is pretty lush for late August thanks to rain 10 days earlier. It is amazing how quickly the native plants will rebound once they get some rain. Treated city water does not have the same effect.

September 12. The autumn flowers are blooming. The sky blue flowers in the center are pitcher sage. It is surrounded by mealycup sage, zexmenia, and scarlet sage.

September 30. Spikes of gayfeather bloom across the garden.

September 30. Gayfeather among scarlet sage, zexmenia, and the dried flowerheads of Black Sampson coneflower.

October 7. Gayfeather and scarlet sage make a nice combination.

October 14. Which is most attractive? The the powdery blue pale leaf yucca or the flower spikes of pine muhly?

October 14. On this day, I think the pale leaf yucca wins. It rained overnight and really seemed to enhance the blue coloring.

October 29. In an effort to add some structure and evergreen color to the front garden, I relocated a Nolina that had outgrown its spot in the back garden. This was the second time I moved the plant around the front garden in a 10 day period. 
I am not sure it works here, so it may have to go. 

October 29. Looking to the left of the Nolina, I removed the pine muhly seedlings that were growing under this plant and spread them across the front garden. I can't say anything bad about pine muhly. It could be my new favorite plant.

November 22. And it is no wonder why I like this grass. Here are some of the relocated pine muhly. They are lit up by the late afternoon sunshine. Now notice the pathetic little bluestem in the lower right corner.

December 9. This is about the same shot as the November 22 photo. Still no killing frost, but most of the flowers are about finished blooming for the season.

December 9. There were several queen butterflies desperately seeking nectar on the dried flowers of Gregg's mistflower. 

December 15. A view of pine muhly across the front garden.

December 26. Christmas snow on the pine muhly. I am sure this grass will be a dominant feature in the next phase of the garden.

Thanks to some end of season plant sales, I picked up several new plants at half price. I was blinded by the sale prices and now I am not really sure where these plants will go. At 11:00 in this photo is Yucca filamentosa. At 3:00 another plant that was labeled Yucca filamentosa and at 6:00 is a plant labeled Yucca pendula. I am sure the first yucca is as it was labeled because of the filaments on the leaves. I am not sure about the identity of the next two. They look alike to me. Both have a purplish cast and neither has filaments on the leaves. I hope both are not Yucca pendula. Once I looked up Yucca pendula, I realized it is the yucca that is very common in landscapes. I want less common plants in my landscape. Oh, over in the lower right corner is flame sumac, Rhus lanceolata.

This plant was labeled as "Giant". The nursery workers told me it was a giant red yucca. I knew it was a Hesperaloe but not Hesperaloe parviflora. I am pretty sure it is Hesperaloe funifera. I first noticed Hesperaloe funifera several years ago when they were grown in the raised medians between the north and south bound lanes of Central Expressway in Dallas. I hope it is as tolerant of clay soils as the red yucca.

This is a variegated Yucca gloriosa. I am not a huge fan of variegated plants, but I may be able to use this one.

I said I am not a fan of variegated so pay no attention to the Dianella in the background. The focus of this photo is the evergreen sumac, Rhus virens. Books from 10-15 years ago said it is a little winter tender in this area. Maybe not any longer.

So that is a look at 2012. It is fun to look back and see how the garden changes throughout the year. I am sure it will change some more in the new year as I move, remove, and add new plants.


  1. We're getting ready to transform some of our yard into some wildflower gardens here in Montgomery county just outside of Houston. I really like that you had a second season of flowers in the fall, something I would like to plan for as well.

    Looks like a beautiful year!

    1. Good luck with your gardens, Misti. With a little planning, you can have blooming native plants most of the year. If you look through my archives, most of the fall blooming plants you will see in my garden should work well in yours.

  2. 2012 was an awesome year in your garden. I'm glad I had a chance to visit this year and can't wait to see the changes you make. Pine muhly looks so good I can see adding more where you need structure. Thanks to your recommendation, I used pine muhly in my back garden and was thrilled when it matured in just one season. Now I know when to cut them back.

    Hope the hesperaloe is funifera. Giant hesperaloe gets enormous and flops over. I have some photos of it at The Antique Rose Emporium.

    Looking forward to seeing what you do in your 2013 garden.

    1. Shirley, it was a pleasure to meet you and your husband last year. If I ever find myself in San Antonio, I would enjoy seeing your garden too.

      I think I had a good plan when I spread out the pine muhly in the front garden. I hope I don’t mess up that plan by trying to squeeze in the new plants. You had some great fall pictures of your pine muhly. I bet you find a couple of seedlings around your plant later this year.

      I searched through your Antique Rose Emporium posts for photos of the Giant hesperaloe. That plant gets big! I was surprised to see dark red flowers in one of the photos. I guess I will have to wait for flowers before I can identify my plant. My research finds that Hesperaloe campanulata has pink flowers and Hesperaloe funifera has white flowers. Both of these plants seem to be much larger than the more common red yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora.

  3. Love this look back at the year! I'm so sad about the decline of your Little, we have a hard time keeping them dry enough to avoid lodging late in the season. LOVE the Pine Muhly, though, yours are utterly gorgeous...and seeing yours totally made me get one (well, the similar Muhlenbergia rigens) for my garden. Even in its first year, it was pretty impressive, but I can't wait for it to get as full as yours are :-) Happy New Year!

    1. Scott, I don’t know what goes wrong with my little bluestem. For some reason, they never seem to develop a good root system and begin to fail after a couple of years. Maybe they will all come back if we get a moist spring and summer.

      The muhlys are a great family of grasses. I have grown Muhlenbergia rigens before. I like the grass, but I dug it out to make room for something else. I am sure I will have some again. It is larger and denser than the pine muhly and has thicker flower spikes. Happy New Year and Happy Gardening to you too!

  4. Great stuff, Michael. I can only aspire to such a great garden. Hope 2013 is a good one for you.

    1. Thanks Randy. I had to recreate nature here in the city, but you have something even better. You have the real thing right outside your door.

  5. You have the prettiest year-round prairie garden I have ever seen. I wish I could achieve such a garden on my septic field.

    1. Thanks Lancashire rose. You have a lot more wildlife that wants to enjoy the plants outside your garden walls. I just have to contend with renegade rabbits munching on my plants.

  6. Your garden is amazing. I am always in awe of your liatris. I am going to show mine a picture of yours so they'll know what they're supposed to look like! You know you have really succeeded if you have overcome your neighbors complaints! I bet they are secretly envious and wish they could break out of the yard-just-like-everyone-else's-mold. Your muhlys in the snow look so pretty. And it will be fun to see which yuccas you have. I, too, fell in love with hesperaloes when I saw them blooming in the medians on Central Expressway. Happy 2013!

    1. I hope your Liatris pays attention. Do you know what kind you have? Four years and no complaints (that I know of) is a good thing. The neighbors that said they now like my garden told me that they still prefer lawns. Maybe it is because lawns do not require as much imagination as a garden?

  7. Great tour. I'm glad your neighbors are finally coming around. If not, just throw some wildflower seeds in the corners of their yard. Ownership is such a great tool! LOL
    Those new yuccas should be a nice treat. They've ended up in the best garden around the metroplex!

    1. David, I have noticed a few of my plants coming up in the yard at the vacant house next door. Maybe I will have a wildflower meadow next door if the house stays vacant long enough.

  8. Your garden will always be the prairie garden to me, especially if it becomes even more populated with that beautiful pine muhly. The one you gave me did OK. It probably wants a lot more sun than it gets in my partly shady garden, and I did move it around a couple of times trying to find just the right spot. I'll leave it alone this year and see how it does. I'd love for it to get big and full like your beauties in full sun.

    1. Pam, it is still a prairie to me, even if I am using non-traditional grasses. By this time next year, I may have a garden of nothing but pine muhly and yuccas. I hope you find a good spot for your pine muhly. Love that grass.


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