Friday, April 15, 2011

Flower Power: GBBD April 2011

On the fifteenth of every month, May Dream Gardens invites us to share postings showing the flowers that are presently being found in our gardens.  This year, my shady garden had more blooms than ever for spring.  Gulf Coast Penstemon, Texas Betony and Texas Gold Columbine even produced swaths of color in certain areas (a first for me - typically one must crawl on hands and knees to spot the tiny blossoms found in my dappled light).  By now, many have faded in our above-average heat, but I'm still enjoying the show.

Established Plants

I was surprised to discover the Aztec Arrowhead (Sagittaria montevidensis) already had a bloom stalk developing.  The first of its flowers are just opening, but it will continue growing upwards and producing additional blossoms - as well as additional stalks appearing sporadically.

There are two aspects of Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana) that I really enjoy: the intense red coloration of its blooms and the way it sprouts from small crevices in my stone walkway.  Eventually the plant will loose its blooms and the foliage will become unattractive, but by then its seeds will have found their way into some other crack amongst the rock - and be ready to surprise me again next spring.

More than ever before, the Chinese Indigo (Indigofera kirilowii) is covered in the dangling, pink blossom clusters that it produces. 

The blooms of the Gulf Coast Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) have begun to fade, but for several weeks it has filled a section of the garden with its pale lavender color.

Strawberry Geranium (Saxifraga stolonifera) are just beginning to send up their diminutive bloom stalks  topped with its clusters of minuscule blossoms.  I have always enjoyed the intricacy of its quarter-inch flowers.

The intense color of the Pink Shamrock (Oxalis crassipes 'Rosea') flowers really stands out in the dappled shade.  Though Oxalis can be considered invasive, I have found this variety to be well-behaved.  Too much so in fact - as I will likely have to purchase more to add as it has not spread at all.

The Amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp.) in my garden are scattered about in small numbers - but all of them are either producing large red blossoms or have bloom stalks shooting skyward.

Last fall I moved the struggling White Margin Snow Rose (Serissa foetida 'Improved') deeper into the shade.  It is still struggling (our ongoing drought is making things difficult for it), but still managed to produce some scattered white blooms amongst its variegated foliage.

Texas Gold Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana) is nearing the end of its flower season - but at its peak the top of my backyard path was highlighted by a large, waving area of bright yellow.

Texas Betony (Stachys coccinea) is also highlighting nice sections of my garden with its sprawling stems of  dusky red flowers.

Both the fragrance and blooms of the Banana Shrub (Michelia figo) are fading - but a few flowers can still be found amongst its shiny, ligustrum-like leaves.

Most of my Ajuga blooms have faded, but the Burgundy Glow Ajuga (Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow') appears to have just started.  Though set back from our severe winter, it certainly can still catch one's attention with its short stalks of purple blooms.

Returning from roots, the Purple Oxalis (Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae 'Atropurpurea') is putting out several cascading clusters of pale blooms.  The flowers look especially nice against the plant's dark purple foliage.

New Plants in the Garden

Recommended by Central Texas Gardener, I added the dwarf Bella Red Abutilon (Abutilon x hybridum 'Bella Red') to the garden last year.  After receiving at least some cover for its first winter, the plant responded by retaining much of its foliage and has started spring off with numerous blooms.  Unlike my other Abutilons, this variety appears to open its blossoms wide - though they do still tend to face downwards.

Planted less than a month ago, Trailing Violet (Viola banksii) was still able to produce a couple of flowers.  The blooms really do stand out in the shade.  If it handles the summer heat and spreads as reported, it could produce quiet the show next spring.

Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Alice' (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice') has added quite a bit of new foliage in its first spring, and is just beginning to unfurl a couple of flower clusters.

Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata) is nearly done blooming, but it made a nice little patch of color near the garden path.  Though this was its first heavy bloom cycle, the few blooms it had in the fall must have scattered its seeds well - for I have seen some of its offspring sprouting from the ground, yards away.

Potted Plants

'Mrs. Pollock' Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum 'Mrs. Pollock') has incredible foliage, but it has also been producing small clusters of bright red flowers - so my shade is getting the best of both!

Originally planted in the ground where winter hammered it, I moved my Star Begonia (Begonia heracleifolia) into a pot last fall and babied it over the winter (good thing with the severe cold we had this winter!).  It has rewarded that move by producing stalks of pale pink blooms.

Indoor Plants

The only flowering plants that I have ever kept indoors are the Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis sp.) - they live happily near a southern widow where they receive dappled shade (as does pretty much everything in my garden!).  The blooms last so long, and the plants are pretty reliable in producing stalks every year.

Flower Wannabes

The slate blue berries of the Mahonia (Mahonia aquifolium) will eventually be eaten up by Mockingbirds - but for now they are attractive counterpoints to the dark green, spiky leaves.

Dwarf Buford Holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii Nana') completed its early bloom cycle, and is well on its way to this fall's berry crop.  Some stems have both the old and the new.

Sitting atop an empty Lyreleaf Sage bloom stalk, this ladybug seemed to want to participate in the color celebration.


Only a few inches long, the bloom stalk of from my Aloe 'Doran Black' is just starting to grow.  Soon I'll need to stalk it as it tends to grow quite thin and over a foot tall before the blooms begin to open - makng it susceptible to the slightest breeze.

Silver Squill (Ledebouria socialis) dangles loose clusters of soon-to-be flowers all about.  Once open, the bees will swarm to it and the flowers will produce several seeds.  Last year, as an experiment, I was able to easily germinate them and presently have a few of its young growing rapidly.

Not all the indoor Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis sp.) were able to get their blooms ready in time.  At least a few of my plants are in the early stages of developing their flower stalk - hopefully this will keep the house filled with color for months to come.

Be sure to visit May Dream Gardens to see all the spring blooms that other garden bloggers are sharing.


  1. I'm starting to think that you live in another part of the world from where I live! All those plants I have never even heard of. Their flowers are wondrous. I know you introduced me to the red dragon knotweed, which I love. Are we going to get to see your garden some day?

  2. Wow-your gardens are beautiful! Gives us hope in the northeast for blooms to come! Happy GBBD!

  3. We have so many plants in common RBell. Like Jenny, I look forward to someday visiting your garden in person. Tell me, how do you like the Chinese Indigo? Does it send out runners or stay pretty much where placed? It has beautiful flowers and I'm looking for a shrub with some seasonal interest for a shady spot.

  4. The strawberry geranium is a very interesting plant. (Thanks for the links to every flower.) I love your "flower wannabes"! Though there are violets and oxalis in bloom here, the penstemon, hydrangea and columbine will be a while yet.

  5. Your garden always has such exotic surprises. Like that arrowhead and banana shrub. And it's great to see the red of the cedar sage and amaryllis in your shots; they're among my favorites right now in Austin. Beautiful blooms!

  6. Terrific closeup photos, RBell - and it is pretty funny how you either blog about plants we have in common or else show wonderful stuff I've never heard of!

    Your cedar sage looks terrific against the rock steps. And Serissa wants shade? I saw it at BSN and was tempted but didn't succumb.... yet.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  7. Lancashire: Glad the knotweed is doing well for ya. Slowly getting more comfortable with the idea of including my garden in our Design-A-Go-Go. But you certainly have an open invitation to come visit anytime - would love to have you give me some ideas!

    Lee: Thanks for visiting.

    Cat: So far, I'm liking the Indigo - this is its third year and the first time it has put out a runner. Have heard it can spread, but it has not been aggressive for me. And that open invitation to visit my garden certainly applies to you as well - I'd really like to have your input!

    Kate: Your welcome for the links - always nice when they benefit someone (cuz they do take some effort). I've enjoyed my Strawberry Geranium and the tiny little blooms are so exotic.

    Amy: I am enjoying the cedar sage also - such intense red.

    Annie: Not really sure how much shade Serissa desires - but pretty sure it wants more water than I give it. So my compromise is to increase shade (since that don't increase my water bill!)

  8. You showed a lot of things that are new to me, making this an especially fun post. I am most particularly drawn to the strawberry geranium...wonder if it would grow here.

  9. Ronnie, the first half of your post felt like I had written it myself. I can say that my shady backyard must look similar to yours right now. The indigofera is awesome this year, isn't it? However, your Star Begonia that I've never heard of is gorgeous, and wow, you actually are growing an orchid! Nice post, and gorgeous flowers.

  10. Ricki: I'm betting it would - I think it'd actually prefer someplace with cooler summers.

    Getgrounded: The Indigo did better this year than ever - not sure why (hope its the start of a trend!). Originally tried the Star Begonia out in the garden, but winters were a little harsh on it - so hoping life in a pot will be better (this is the best its ever bloomed - so that's a good sign).