Wild About Texas – October, 2007

During the wicked hot months of a Texas summer, only after the sun retires are we ready to venture out and relish the fresh air of an evening garden. Many of us work daily and would otherwise be able to experience our gardens only on weekends if we did not take advantage of the later hours. Does your garden have enough to hold your interest through the faint light of night?

The evening moon awakens another personality of the garden, fostering a rich engagement of our secondary senses as our reliance on sight is reduced. The romantic perfume of native summer flowers like Texas kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana) and jimsonweed (Datura sp.), and aromatic foliage of species such as damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) and salvias can send our emotions to reflect on moments from our past or to create new memories.

Other times of year, floral scents of Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana), wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata) and shrubby boneset (Ageratina havanensis) delight the senses.

Then there is the dreamy nocturne composed by the cottonwood (Populus deltoides) tickled by a zephyr, accompanied by a murmuring fountain, a chorus of katydids or an occasional interjection of an owl or coyote. Wistful conversations among frogs or toads fill out the evening space. Moments of silence, while truly rare in a garden, invoke mystery.

Gardens of white, popularized by Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst, are easily crafted from native Texas flora such as prairie fleabane (Erigeron modestus), Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia caespitosa), blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum), and jimsonweed, visited nightly by acrobatic hawk moths. Add silver foliage from pale-leaf yucca (Yucca pallida), cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens), Gregg’s dalea (Dalea greggii), silver pony-foot (Dichondra argentea), and stemodia (Stemodia lanata). Contrast pallid flowers and foliage with dark walls or backdrops of evergreen wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), Texas mountain laurel, easter red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), or yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria).

Crepuscular garden experiences are richest without artificial lighting, recommended only when moonlight is unavailable or insufficient. Pathways of native limestone or other light colored materials can aid nighttime navigation. Flickering light cast by candles or torches adds another imaginative layer of visual dynamics and can be augmented by reflections in still pools.

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

For more information about Texas native plants, visit the Wildflower Center’s website at: www.wildflower.org. The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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