𓅛 Pumilo

Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

A week of bloom spikes and rain

May 22, 2021

We had such prolonged rain this week that I lost track of how many inches it came to — 4 inches for sure if not 5. The garden responded to the extra water and mild May temps with a profusion of growth, including bloom spikes on yuccas, sotols, and aloes. A ‘Bright Edge’ yucca, one of a trio, sent up a spike of creamy, bell-shaped flowers that echoes the ivory stripes of an ‘Espresso’ mangave in the stock-tank planter.

For whatever reason, the yucca flowers weren’t troubled this spring by leaf-footed bugs.

Aloe maculata, which amazingly survived the February snowpocalypse, continues to send up candelabra-shaped flower spikes. I just cut one down that had gone to seed, and now I see another coming up on a different plant. The hummingbirds will be happy!

Out front, Texas sotol (Dasylirion texana) is showing off with a trio of 15-foot bloom spikes, beloved by honeybees.

I looked out the window today — it’s raining again — and saw one of the spikes bent almost horizontal from the rain. Hopefully it’ll stand back up again when we dry out.

Heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata), a native Texas plant that blooms in spring and goes dormant in summer, is in full bloom and competing with the sotol for my attention. Masses of low-growing, purple bloom spikes stand atop fuzzy, blue-green leaves, which make this plant unpalatable to deer.

It spreads slowly but relentlessly both underground and above, by seed, and it’s welcome to cover the entire island bed. I’m often asked what takes over when the skullcap goes dormant, and the answer is visible at lower-left, in the rapidly growing Turk’s cap leaves. Turk’s cap, a summer-blooming native, takes over much of the island bed as temperatures heat up. I also have foxtail ferns along the edge that are revealed when the skullcap gets cut back. The other plants here include Sabal minor and variegated miscanthus grass, which grows well in bright shade.

The first datura flowers opened this week, to my delight. Cloudy mornings allowed the night-blooming flowers to hang on almost to noon before collapsing.

Remember the “dinosaur bone” cactus stump left behind after my ‘Old Mexico’ prickly pear collapsed in a mushy heap after the snowpocalypse? Here it is today, sprouting a dozen new pads. This passalong from Jean at Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog should soon be trying to dominate the garden again.

The recently replanted side garden is coming along, and deer repellant is keeping the hoofed pests off the coreopsis flowers — for now.

On the covered patio, container plants and garden decor add a little personality.

And on the sunny deck, cacti have been flowering nonstop, like this hedgehog cactus (Thelocactus setispinus)…

…and a pink-flowering mammillaria.

I always think of it as a flower child, wearing flowers in her hair.

I’m still removing plants killed by the snowpocalypse. This week alone, a big loropetalum shrub and evergreen sumac and pomegranate trees came down. All are coming back from the roots, and it’ll be an experiment to see how long it takes them to regrow into the large specimens they were. I also took out the big toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) in the pipe planter (above), which had slumped to one side in defeat, revealing its rotten core. See earlier pics of it in this post. No tears — it was time.

Intriguingly, the sotol pulled apart in layers, each section resembling a sunflower. The white center contained a perfectly circular hole, as if the plant were layered in place on a pole. Check out my short video on Instagram (with volume on) about these interesting layers.

I found a 5-gallon replacement plant at a new-to-me nursery, SiteOne Landscape Supply in Manor. The place has a wholesale atmosphere, but it does sell retail at several locations in Austin and San Antonio. (Thanks to Linda Peterson for the tip!) If you’re unable to find your plants at our beloved Austin nurseries this spring, it’s worth a look, and you can check inventory online.

I can’t end this post with a photo of a dead plant, even if it’s already been replaced, so let’s go back and enjoy the short-lived blossoms of ‘Etoile Violette’ clematis. The Tempest in a Teapot windchime is a long-ago gift, still much enjoyed, from my husband. That’s a big ‘Sapphire Skies’ Yucca rostrata behind it. It was my first. Now I have four.

I’ll leave you with a mini-meadow view of ‘Sterntaler’ lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) and Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima). It’s a small moment, but if you crouch it looks much larger. It all depends on your perspective.

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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

It’s pond tour time! Grab your sun hat and attend Austin’s 26th annual Pond and Garden Tour on June 5 and 6. Sponsored by the Austin Pond Society, the tour includes 13 ponds over two days, with admission of $20 in advance (until 5/31) and $25 on the day of (online payments only; no cash).

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark! Hungry to learn about garden design from the experts? I’m hosting a series of talks by inspiring garden designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. (While in-person talks are currently on hiatus due to the pandemic, I hope to resume again this fall.) Talks are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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