Wednesday, March 16, 2016

From Winter to Spring

I began transitioning my garden from winter to spring over the last couple of weekends. This is when I cut back all of last year's growth (mostly dead) from the grasses and perennials and remove many of the tree leaves that collected in the garden. Here are a few before and after shots of the garden.

Before: Pine muhly and little bluestem glow in the morning sunlight. 

After: I used an electric hedge trimmer to cut the pine muhly within a few inches of the ground. Almost every year, my extension cord gets a little shorter because it always seems to get in the way of the trimmer and gets cut. The pine muhly were getting thick in a few areas where seedlings had sprouted, so I removed several plants. I think pine muhly look better when they are not crowded. I also dug and divided a few of the little bluestem and spread them across the garden.

Before: This photo looks more like October or November than March because the autumn sage bloomed so early and the grasses had yet to be cut back.

After: With the grasses cut back, the photo looks a little more springlike. 

Before: Another photo that looks like it could have been taken in the fall, but this was March.

After: The pine muhly is no longer apparent, but the agave and four nerve daisies remain.

After: This is the agave from the other side.

Before: Pine muhly dominate the scene. The red berries on the possumhaw holly in the upper left corner will not be around much longer. Cedar waxwing birds are swarming the neighborhood eating all the berries they can find. Right now, their focus is on the yaupon holly berries. 

After: The garden appears a little more colorful and alive now that the browns of the grasses are gone.

After: Another shot looking in the direction of the sunrise with more coral autumn sage.

The golden yellow flowers of golden groundsel are as warm as the morning sunrise. This stand gets larger every year and I have a few others started. Once the flowers fade, they develop puffy seedheads similar to dandelions. I have noticed plants popping up in unplanned areas, particularly the decomposed granite pathways. I dug up several little plants and transplanted them to new locations that I would like to see these cheerful flowers in the spring.

The bluebonnets are blooming about three weeks earlier than they did last year. In fact, all of the plants in the garden are ahead of schedule. I am sure it is due to the warm temperatures and few freezes we had over the winter. According to a news broadcast earlier this week, we normally have 33 freezes during the winter. So far, we only had 17 during this winter. As well as I can recall, the temperature never dropped below 30 in any of those freezes.

Around in the backyard, the coral honeysuckle and redbud tree are in bloom.

A closer look at honeysuckle flowers.

This is a first. Buffalo currant comes in male and female plants and my female plant started blooming in late December. For the first time, my plant set a few fruits from those early flowers. It will be interesting to see if they get full size.

This Mexican milkweed is proof of the warm winter. These plants do not reliably return after normal winters, but this one did not even die back to the ground this winter. In fact, it is blooming in these last days of winter on last year's stems. Officially, spring begins on Sunday, March 20. Spring started in my garden several weeks ago.


  1. I'm torn between liking both the untrimmed garden and then trimmed, ready for spring garden! Both are quite lovely.

    We, too, here in Houston had a lot of plants that are usually nipped back, stay around this year. Should be interesting to see what kind of growth comes out of those plants this year.

    1. At this point, I definitely prefer the look with the grasses, but it is time to let them go and make way for the new growth. I hope the warm winter is not an indicator of a hot summer.

  2. I know, isn't this the strangest year! On hedger: I got my first this year, a cordless one. What a difference it makes! And I love the freshly cleaned up look in spring to showcase early beauties while the later performers return. I really, really like the pathway you've created with salvias and others to make such a charming walkway.

    1. Thanks Linda. Those hedge trimmers really speed up the job of trimming grasses and other perennials.

  3. These photos are great!! Thanks for sharing!
    I just love your garden design style. I always forget to take "before" pics, so good job!
    I love my coral Autumn sages, too, I think they're my favorite shade. Maybe those and purple.
    I need to get a coral honeysuckle.

    1. Laurin, if your Autumn sage reseed, you may see some other colors in your garden. My end up with light yellow/white ones around my coral plants and various shades of purple around the plants with the cherry colored flowers.

    2. Awesome! My corals did make some new plants, now I'm excited to see what color they bloom.

      My white trailing lantana has a gazillion white flowers on it, and one little puff of purple flowers at the end of one stem. Never seen that before. They match my purple trailing lantana.

  4. I'm a fan of leaving grass clumps alone for as long as possible but have to agree - the flowers you're getting early this year certainly pop when the airspace around them is no longer dominated by golden strands of grass. Your sage and four nerves are gorgeous. That's the way I imagine our front spaces might evolve if not for ravenous deer. (they don't really bother the sages and are not "supposed" to chomp four nerves but they keep forgetting to read the nursery lists).

    As to golden groundsel - I have a volunteer here this year - a first. Others locally have reported difficulty with transplanting them. Do you have any tips to offer? I'd be interested if you're able to start them from gathered seed?

    1. TexDeb, I noticed that my golden groundsel transplants are slow to take off. They seem to do better when I move them in the fall. They still look a little weak until the next year and then they take off. I originally planned to grow them under a red oak, but they did not seem to like it too much. They are doing great growing under and near my possumhaw hollies.
      I never tried growing them from seed intentionally. I know they grow from seeds because of some of the locations they are popping up. This year, I will try spreading the seeds around to other locations I would like them to grow.

  5. Thanks for sharing. I am a gardener by profession in New York City but am originally from central Texas, so I enjoy a little bit of home by reading your blog. In my garden at work, things are quite early as well (including the weeds, yikes!) Thanks again for sharing your experiences and beautiful photos!

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment, Rachel. The unpredictable weather keeps us gardeners on our toes.


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