Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First Day of Autumn 2014

Today was the first full day of autumn and you can feel it in the air. The mornings are cooler. The afternoons are warm and sometimes hot, but not unbearable. Over the weekend, I became aware that the angle and intensity of the sun had changed. Best of all, the garden is starting to come back to life.

I tested the drought tolerance of the garden this summer by running the sprinkler system just one time. Fortunately, it was a relatively mild summer, by Texas standards. The plants had periods where they wilted and looked rather pitiful, but none of them died from moisture stress. The remnants of my little bluestem prairie look better than they have in years. Maybe I will try dividing these plants and try to create a bluestem prairie again.

Here is a wider view. The Salvia greggii are blooming again and the Liatris are still just starting to bloom. I don't have as many Liatris as I did in previous years because some of the older plants died out and, for the last few years, I removed the dried flowers before the seeds dropped. Remember, all of the Liatris plants in my front garden came from two plants that were planted from one four inch pot about five years ago.

I really like the look of Yucca glauca in the morning light.

Pine Muhly is all around in this part of the garden. They will be more visible after I cut back the dried Liatris stalks in a few weeks.

I like the grape juice color of this Salvia greggii. It had a few flowers earlier in the year and is now in full bloom. It seems to be a little weaker than the plants with coral colored flowers. 

By July, this Datura was a five foot shrub and was growing over the surrounding plants. I cut it to the ground to control its size and the distribution of seeds. It is already a four foot tall and wide shrub again. I will let it continue to grow until flower production slows. At that time, I might do some selective pruning to see if I can get more flowers.

The latest project. I had Snake Herb at the far end of the strip between the street and sidewalk. It is a tough, fast growing, native groundcover, but it also has exploding seed pods like Mexican petunia and those seeds fly when the pods explode. I found little plants in the main part of the garden where I do not want them, so out it came (I hope it is gone. Those roots are deep.) and replaced it with decomposed granite. I let Four Nerve Daisy and Pine Muhly grow as they please in this area, but I kind of like the bare decomposed granite. I added flagstones to direct visitors to the best places to park for access to the sidewalk.

After I spread the decomposed granite, I threw out some bluebonnet seeds and soaked the seeds and granite with water. The seeds sprouted withing a few days. Bluebonnets love growing in decomposed granite.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Late Summer Flowers

My eryngo, Eryngium leavenworthii, are in full bloom. When these late summer flowers begin to bloom, I know that, even though it is still hot outside, the seasons are about to change. Click the link for my Prairie Plant Profile on eryngo.

Eryngo is an annual wildflower. The seeds usually sprout in early spring and the flowers do not begin forming until the middle of July. In August, the stems, bracts, and flowers begin turning purple.

Everything about these plants are spiny. Although, when the leaves first being growing in the spring they are not spiny at all. The young plants look kind of like lettuce (they are actually in the carrot family) u
ntil they start growing a vertical stem and that is when they turn spiny

I first became aware of eryngo at about this time five or six years ago. A couple of miles from home, there is a railroad track that I pass on my way to work. I have collected several plants and seeds from this location over the years. I patiently waited for the flowers to turn brown (and hoping they would not be mowed down) so I could collect some seeds. I went back a couple of weeks ago to take a couple of pictures of my eryngo's relatives in their natural habitat. These plants are growing in chalky soil and are about two feet tall.

Here is a close up of the wildflower growing in the wild.

Back at home, my eryngo are growing wild. My plants do not get any fertilizer or extra water, but they are growing in black clay soil, rather than chalky soil. I guess that is what makes the difference in their growth. My eryngo are over six feet tall! It seems like they grow taller each year. I don't mind the height so much until they start flopping over into the pathways and create something of a gauntlet run.

In mid-July, I experimented on a few four feet tall plants and cut them back to about 6 inches. Some of them died and others branched out with new stems. Next year, I will try cutting them back in June.

In the front garden, the lanky stems are partially hidden by the grasses, Liatris, and other plants. This may be the best location for them in my garden.

Height is probably an adaptive response for eryngo. If they grew in a tall grass prairie, they would need to hold their flowers near the top of the grasses so the bees could find and pollinate them. 
Next year I hope to have another eryngo in the garden. Randy Hyden of Gardening on the Post Oak Savannah came by for a brief visit on Labor Day and brought me some Hooker's eryngo seeds, as well as a few other other types of seeds and some tasty brisket from his restaurant.  Click here for Randy's post on Hooker's eryngo.  

I had a surprise over the weekend when I noticed my next late summer flower blooming a couple of weeks earlier than usual. Here are my first Liatris blooms of the year. More to come on this flower...