Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 Fall Season Finale

Precipitation-wise, 2015 was an unusual year. Even though most of the year was dry, this year will be one of the top precipitation years on record in the Dallas area. Not because it rained throughout the year, but because it rained in bucket loads a couple of times during the year.

The year started out very dry and then we had a few weeks of "drought busting" precipitation in May. After that, there was not much precipitation to speak of and the drought came back. (I question whether it really went away.) Then, in the last week of October, we had more "frog strangler" rains.

Since the fall rains were delayed by a few weeks, much of the fall blooming season in my garden was delayed as well. I thought I should memorialize this season because it is all about to come to an end because we are expecting our first freeze tonight.

If any of my plants suffered from the wet and dry periods this year, it was the horsetail reed in the stock tank. It grew normally during the first part of the spring and then it grew exponentially during the wet spell in May. At one point the reeds reached six feet high, including the height of the stock tank. As soon as the hot dry, weather hit and the soil began to dry, the reeds started to dry out and die. The solution was to cut them back and let them regrow. Now they look much like they do when they start to grow out after their annual late winter trim.

Around the stock tank skeleton leaf goldeneye and autumn sage are in bloom.

This autumn sage color developed on its own in my garden. The camera did not capture its true color. It is more like the color of grape juice.

Here is another color of purple autumn sage that appeared in my garden. Plants with white flowers and pale yellow-green flowers have also popped up in the garden. The pinkish red one in this picture was purchased with that color. There is also a red tropical sage in the lower left corner of the picture.

The autumn sage on the right in this photo is probably my favorite color. It is sold as "Coral".

The monarchs missed the gayfeather in bloom, but a few have trickled in from time to time to enjoy the Gregg's mistflower.

Looking at the garden through pine muhly.

Another pine muhly glamour shot with coral autumn sage and spineless prickly pear in the background.

Here is the spineless prickly pear from the opposite side. This is the view I see from the house. The white autumn sage on the right is actually one of the ones with greenish-yellow flowers. They typically photograph as white.

In this photo, the gayfeather flower spikes are starting to dry and drop seeds. Last year I allowed the spikes to stay around for an extended period because they are quite attractive when backlit by the sun. Click here for pictures of last year's plants. They are not particularly attractive otherwise and it seems that every seed sprouts.

So, this year, I cut back the gayfeather flowers spikes before too many seeds had an opportunity to hit the ground.

It gives the garden a much cleaner look too.

With a freeze expected tonight, most of the flowers will probably turn brown, however I will make an attempt to save a few flowers for any lingering butterflies. This area above is my mistflower mashup. It includes Gregg's mistflower (front center), white fragrant mistflower (left), and blue mistflower (back center).

It does not look as good as I hoped it would, but the idea was to have several late blooming flowers grouped together so I could easily cover one area of the garden during those early freezes. It is not unusual to have freezing temperatures one night and then afternoon temperatures in the 80s or 90s a couple of days later. If I can save a few flowers, I can provide food for the bees and butterflies that will return on the warm fall and winter days.

The wind changed directions overnight. It is now blowing strongly from the north and ushering in the dreaded season of trash and leaf collecting. What blows across my neighbor's lawns gets stuck and collects in my garden.


  1. Pine muhly sure earned that glamour shot! After seeing it here several years ago I added a few and now have transplanted seedlings everywhere.

    Another year in the garden closing out and time to assess the year which was an odd one. We've had hot and dry most years but the plants this year reacted by producing late and sparse blooms when fall rains returned. I've covered a few things because a quick warm up is predicted so the garden is not quite done yet.

    1. Hope your plants made it through the cold. My garden had frost Sunday and Monday mornings. The temperature dipped below freezing for a little while Sunday morning. The covered plants did alright and some plants that were protected by the canopies of trees did fine as well. The exposed tender plants are gone for this year. No more freezing weather in the forecast for the next 7 days.

  2. Your prairie looks as delightful as ever. I wonder if you got the freeze. We did here although I think many things survived because there is still plenty of heat in the walls and gravel. You are right about the rain-I think we will break the record here set in 1912. If only it had spread itself a little more. I am seeing lots of rain damage on agaves in the neighborhood so who knows what winter will bring. As to liatris. Much as I wanted it I am now finding it invasive. I too must gather seeds and put them where I don't mind them growing.

    1. It could have been a great growing season had all that rain been spread across the year. Maybe next year will be more normal; whatever that is.

      I have mixed feelings about liatris these days. It is pretty while in bloom and attracts pollinators. It is not much to look at otherwise and, like you said, can spread aggressively if you do not remove the seeds.

  3. Hi Michael
    Like your blog a lot!!
    What´s the latin name of your Liatris/ gayfeathers the posts below?

    greetings from Denmark

    Kjeld S.

    1. Greetings from Texas. I think the gayfeather is Liatris mucronata. It all started with two little plants in a four inch pot. They were labeled as "Liatris sp." so I had to figure out which species on my own.

  4. Love your garden. Makes me want to move to Texas, so I can grow all the neat plants you have down there.

  5. And that is my main gripe with Texas weather in a nutshell. Rain comes, but too much at once. Winters are often mild, but random freezing spells can take out blooming plants long before the warm afternoons pollinators utilize are over. Even with those regular irregularities, this year was weird on top of that however. Gardening in Texas is hard enough but up in your area, well...hats off to anybody who doesn't throw in the trowel after a year like 2015.

    1. TexasDeb, this is why we Texas gardeners are the best gardeners in the world.

  6. Deb nails it. Texas weather is an all-or-nothing proposition. It did a number on a few of my plants this year too, and I think it'll affect what little fall color we normally get too. Still, it's hard to complain about rain, even when it's too much at once. I'll take this year over another 2011 any day.


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