Monday, September 2, 2013

Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer continue into September as temperatures continue to venture into triple digit territory. The stress of high temperatures and lack of rain are evident in lake levels, plants and wildlife. Take this squirrel that has been hanging out in my backyard lately.

He seems to be suffering from heat exhaustion as he hangs his body over this branch.

A few moments later, he turns the other direction in an effort to find some comfort in the heat.

Still no relief, so he turns again.

Even as I approach, he (or maybe I should have said she?) is too exhausted to acknowledge my presence.

The garden looks a little tired too. This is always my least favorite time for my native plant garden. Few plants are blooming and it just looks a little messy to me. I have to keep reminding myself that it is resting in preparation for the burst of life that will come in the next few weeks. In this photo, the spiky stems of Gayfeather, Liatris, are everywhere and the lanky stems of Pitcher Sage,  Salvia azurea, are topped with blue flowers.

To help control the messy look and prepare for the fall blooming season, I pruned some plants a couple of weeks ago. Some of the plants were pruned more severely than others. There are several Zexmenia, Wedelia texana, in the now open space in this photo. The plants had grown to one foot diameter loose balls of seedheads, so I whacked the plants within inches of the ground to visually open this area and to allow the plants to regrow for fall blooming. I did not prune all of the Zexmenia this severely. I only removed an inch or two of growth from some plants and left others alone if they were still blooming.

I was very tempted to cut back some of the Gayfeather so some of the other plants, like this Pale-leaf Yucca, Yucca pallida, could be seen. I resisted the temptation because the Gayfeather are weeks away from being in full bloom. I do think I will remove some of the Gayfeather next year and group them together instead of letting them cover the entire front garden.

The Rock Penstemon, Penstemon baccharifolius, were in a down time between blooms, so I took the opportunity to shape the plants by removing a couple of inches of the tip growth. I did the same thing with the Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii. To the right of the Rock Penstemon is a Zexmenia that I did not prune because it was still blooming. This one now has several gray seedheads that rise above the foliage and I may end up pruning them off before the fall blooming starts.

I cut back this Mexican Feathergrass because most of the leaves had turned to as straw color. Fresh green growth sprouted quickly.

Another shot showing all of the Gayfeather in the garden. This will be a sea of purple in another month. Unlike the spring and fall, flowers are few and far between in the heat of the summer, but they are out there if you look around. The white flowers of Angel's Trumpet, Datura wrightii, are hard to miss when they are blooming in the evening and morning hours. This is one of the plants I mentioned in the last post that sprouted where it wanted to.

The red flowers of Scarlet Sage, Salvia coccinea, white flowers of Clammyweed, Polanisia dodecandra, and blue flowers of Pitcher Sage bloom among the inflorescence of
 Pine Muhly, Muhlenbergia dubia. Some of the brown seedheads from this spring's Echinacea are still around because I find some beauty in them and the birds may eat the seeds. 

I really like the white, curly filaments on the leaves of this 
Hesperaloe funifera (?). This is its first year in the garden. I really hope it blooms next year so I can give a positive identification of the plant. It was sold as Giant Red Yucca.

These are the flowers of the Pitcher Sage shown in the first garden photo above. The flowers are favorite of bees and hummingbirds.

These are the flowers of the Pitcher Sage that grows in the backyard. The flowers of this plant are a darker blue than the flowers of the plant in the front yard and this plant is less upright than the plant in the front yard. Some of the Little Bluestem leaves in the background are beginning to turn colors.

Rain Lilies, Cooperia drummondii,
 bloomed last week, but not because of rain. I think these must have been tricked into blooming because I watered the backyard garden for the second time this year. 

Skeleton-leaf Goldeneye, Viguiera stenoloba, laughs at the heat and drought and continues to bloom. I will need to find a new location for this plant next year because it blocks the view of the stock tank from the street.

I carefully removed most of the Horsemint, Monarda citriodora, seedheads when I was on my pruning spree. These seedheads are full of seeds and I wanted to control the number of seedlings that come up in the garden (and pathways) next spring. I left the seedheads of this plant in tact because they are attractive and this plant bloomed longer than all the others. Salvia greggii blooms in the background.

Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. Wrightii, is always a popular stop for hummingbirds.

Seep Muhly, Muhlenbergia reverchonii, is not quite as impressive as it's cousin Gulf Muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaris, but it is still attractive and it blooms earlier.

The lush green plant in the center of this photo is Prairie Flameleaf Sumac, Rhus lanceolata. It was a small twig when I bought it in January. I am amazed at how much it has grown considering I moved it three or four times before I settled on this spot. I saw one today at the Plano Environmental Education Center that formed a large forest and now I am rethinking the placement of this plant again. Looking to the left of the sumac is a sign that the
dog days of summer are beginning to come to an end. 

The Eryngo, Eryngium leavenworthii, is one of the first late season flowers to begin blooming each year.

The plants are often unattractive and the leaves are spiny, but those purple flowers are tough to beat.

Another sign that summer is coming to a close is that the berries on American Beautyberry are turning purple. This shrub is native to east Texas and prefers a little more water than it gets in my garden. As a result, the leaves often wilt during the hot, dry times of the year. 

This morning the garden received a little relief from the dog days of summer in the form of rain and slightly cooler temperatures. It was only enough to make things wet, but I will take any rain that I can get. 

I took a few pictures of the wet garden. These are wide shots because I periodically receive requests to show different angles of the garden. Wide Shots is also the title of Xericstyle's new meme. The idea is to post a wide shot of the garden on the first of each month.  Below are two wide shots of the front garden and two wide shots of the back garden.

This is the front garden looking southeast.

Front garden looking southwest.

Back garden looking southeast.

Back garden looking southwest. Go to the Xericstyle blog to see her Wide Shot for September.


  1. Wow! Impressive and so beautiful....and you have another growing season coming? Lucky you!

    1. Thanks Flower Freak. The only problem with having a second season is the season of heat that comes after the first growing season.

  2. Michael, I think your garden has weathered the terrblle spout of late season heat very well. I love the gayfeather , eryngo, etc. I hope you got some of that rain I saw on the radar yesterday. I got a brief shower of about 30 minutes. Anything helps. I was looking back and saw where the weather broke about 9-8 last year. I`m afaraid we may have longer to wait this time. Thanks for the wide shot on the Eryngo. Mine is just about that size. Do you let it reseed itself?

    1. Randy, I will probably post some more pictures of the eryngo later. I need to get a good picture of the 5 foot tall one in the backyard. Since the seed heads hold up pretty well, I have to help out a little by breaking them up when I cut back the dead stems. I scatter the seeds where I might like them to grow. I never really know where they will pop up. Be sure to wear gloves when handling the plant.

  3. Everything is looking so wonderful...with much texture. You did such a great job with your paths on both sides of the front garden...they look great. Thanks for joining in, Michael. I look forward to next month already!

    1. Thanks Heather. Texture is good, but I want flowers!!!

    2. I hear shmowers. Everything is looking so lovely!!!!!!!

  4. Your garden looks good even when not at its best. Most lawns in my neighborhood have burned out again this year and probably won't recover without major replacement. I'd much rather have a yard that's supposed to have down time in preparation for the fall finale. Our new neighbors next door let us know first thing they love the yard and want to copy us.

    The plants you shared with me are doing well except the Eryngo didn't bloom before it conked out this summer. I did see it at Rainbow Gardens here so will pick up some there next spring. The Liatris is looking much better this year and I plan to put the bee brush in as soon as it cools just a bit.

    1. Shirley, that is good news about your neighbors. I am expecting new neighbors soon too. I hope it goes as well. Sorry about the eryngo. They do that sometimes. I have had it happen to three foot tall plants for no apparent reason.

    2. Two of my 4 seedlings died after getting about a foot tall.

  5. The mistflower I was frustrated with a couple months back has now become a three ring circus. I stuck it in a tomato cage because it was flopping every which way. It has grown mostly upward, and hidden the cage. Skipper butterflies and bees are on every bloom. Anoles hang out on the branches and patrol the cage wires. I took pity on the squirrels and watered the tomato and basil plants in pots so they can drink from the saucers.

    1. Collagemama, the mistflower can sprawl, but it is well worth it for the wildlife it attracts. Just wait until the monarchs fly through town. Then you will really see something.

  6. I've always wondered how Zexmenia would respond if I cut it back hard this time of year to get fresh new growth and blooms for fall. I usually just give it a haircut. Have you done this before with good results? I don't guess you can kill a Zexmenia, can you? Maybe with too much water. The liatris is going to be so pretty soon!! Be sure to show us when they are in bloom!

    1. You are right about zexmenia, Toni. It is tough to kill. I cut mine back to some degree every year and they always come back. The ones I cut back to stubs were producing new leaves within a week. I suspect they will be blooming again by October.

  7. I do not envy those temps...not one bit! If it makes you feel better, we're supposed to get close to 100 this week (which is crazy for us in September). I think your garden always looks good...and just think about all those Liatris about to bloom! Seriously loving that Salvia with the flame-red Little Bluestem in the background...gorgeous.

    1. Pitcher Sage and LBS are a great natural combination. I had a feeling they would catch you eye if you saw them.


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