Wild About Texas – October, 2007

Did brutal heat and drought wreak havoc on your garden this summer? Maybe it is a blessing in disguise, giving you more room to try some new garden treats! With the trend of hotter and dryer summers, along with the increased demand on water supplies, consider some cool native plants.

Bee brush (Aloysia gratissima) and kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana) are two shrubs displaying tiny white flowers on spikes that emit a strong sweetness into the air. Your nose will likely find them before your eyes do. Enjoy butterflies, bees, metallic blue and green bottle flies, and many other insect pollinators that find the fragrance and the nectar irresistible.

For open woodlands or full sun gardens, frostweed (Verbesina virginica) is a fascinating choice, especially if you battle deer. The bold, light green leaves look striking in a large grouping, and early fall prompts flat clusters of hundreds of small white blossoms that are greatly appreciated by monarchs, queens, hairstreaks, and other pollinators. The name “frostweed” refers to a odd phenomenon that occurs with the first hard frost of the season. Juices in the stem of the plant slowly exude and then freeze as the temperature drops, leaving curly ribbons of ice by morning. Keep your camera handy!

Other more common native garden species flaunt a range of flower colors throughout the heat of summer. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and autumn sage (Salvia greggii), ranging from pink, lavender, white and red, cater to hummingbirds. Both, along with blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum), attract large and small butterflies. Autumn sage and blackfoot daisy remain green throughout the winter and are deer resistant.

Planting these and other garden worthy native species in fall is ideal. Roots will have fall, winter, and spring to get settled before the most stressful season for Texas gardens hits in summer. Established plants will tolerate heat better than others and a more extensive root system will provide the most efficient use of water.

Find out about nearly 300 species of Texas native wildflowers, trees, grasses, succulents, and pond plants that will be on sale at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Fall Gardening Festival and Plant Sale, Oct 14-15, 2006. Friendly and knowledgeable staff and volunteers will help you with plant and seed selections, and children’s activities, tours of the gardens, food, and music will be ongoing throughout the day.

Preview a list of available plants (subject to change as the sale nears) on the Center’s Web site at: www.wildflower.org. You can find details about the sale there as well. Please join us for this popular fundraising event and say hello!

About the author: Andrea DeLong-Amaya is the Director of Horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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