April showers bring May flowers, right? Yes, even though some of the showers up north and back east right now are snow showers, in warmer weather climates flowers are indeed starting to bloom. I’m not much of a gardener or green thumb, but I do like pretty flowers, flower beds, window boxes, and potted plants. So much so, in fact, that I recently attended a Master Gardner luncheon in my neighborhood. When I first saw it was our monthly topic, my immediate thought was “no thank you,” but then I reminded myself that my New Year’s resolution each year is to learn new things so why not learn about pretty flowers? I dug in and I’m sharing the dirt!
And, I learned so much and had so much fun! It focused on native plants so I won’t dig way into what all was discussed but I learned what plants are native in these parts, which means they were here before people were, and that they are fairly low-maintenance. They might die in a freeze but they’ll likely come back and many of them attract beloved hummingbirds, are natural pollinators for bees and butterflies, and make for a very healthy garden. I also learned they despise fertilizer!
When you say “native plants” in Texas, most right away think cactus but depending on what area of Texas you’re in, you can really grow some flowering and towering beauties. Yes, cactus does do well here and we actually have several varieties in our yard, but so do a host of other, as they say, garden varieties. Here are just a few examples:
Firecracker Plant. Beautiful blooming and somewhat tall perennial that hummingbirds love.
Trumpet Vine. Great perennial for fences in full sun that blooms late and also attracts hummingbirds.
Gulf Muhly. Lovely late-blooming purple blooming tall grass that’s a great filler for large yards.
Mountain Laurel. If you like the smell of grape, you’ll love this bright purple blooming spring beauty as you can literally smell them down the street! Careful though; their seeds can be poisonous for animals.
Crepe Myrtle. One of my favorites as it comes in a host of colors and blooms like crazy in the heat.
Esperanza. Not only do I love this plant’s name (“hope” in English) but I also love its yellow flowers and the fullness of it.
Pride of Barbados. Another great named growth and one I’m wanting in our yard as these tall orange bloomers add stunning color and height. They grow like crazy and seeds in their pods can be planted for more saplings.
Blue Sage. This tall blue-stemmed bush blooms all season, adding color to a garden that may be feeling the heat of a long, hot summer.
Lantana. You can’t go wrong with these space fillers as they bloom spring to fall, come in a variety of bright and cheerful colors, and come back every year.
Salvia. A gorgeous Texas native that’s easy to grow, blooms virtually all season, and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It’s also heat and drought-tolerant and doesn’t attract deer.
Verbena. This one thrives in the heat and I’m here to say it’s a winner. Plant it in full sun as it won’t bloom unless it gets plenty of sunlight. After its first blooms, prune the plant to encourage more blooms.
Red Yucca. They give a “desert-y” kind of feel and produce tubular coral flowers on tall stalks spring through summer. Though not actually a yucca, this perennial succulent resembles a true yucca and loves full sun.
The biggest knock-outs in town right now are Knock Out Roses. They bloom abundantly, make for beautiful cut flowers for the house, are extremely low maintenance, and come back every year. I guess that means they are perennials as opposed to annuals, right? I can never seem to remember which is which of the two but learned annuals need to be planted annually and perennials come back each year. I think where I get confused is thinking annuals come back annually rather than need to be planted annually. Any helpful hints out there?
I’ll just talk briefly about the beloved Texas Bluebonnets as they are generally true wild flowers, as are their stunning friends Indian Paintbrush. I learned that seeds from them or for them should be tossed about in November if you want traditional spring blooms. The patches this year have been stunning!
One last thing I learned is that even though it is pretty and pretty popular, black mulch is not good as it gets its long-lasting color from dye; dye that seeps into your garden and the environment. Opt instead for cedar or other natural mulches.
Other than all of the above, my favorite potted plant is a geranium surrounded by some trailing greenery of some type as well as asparagus and Boston ferns. In my gardens I love daisies and irises in addition to the natives I listed above. I also love boxwood. I’ve blogged about the beloved boxwood before but feel it fits right in with today’s musings.
Boxwoods are actually evergreens and are the ideal garden design building blocks and add instant curb appeal. The gorgeous greenery creates structure and depth to any landscape and is both earthy and elegant. I’ve forever been fond of the formality and symmetry of boxwoods but am a bit intimidated by them too.
They can for sure be a bit much for a novice gardener but they are drought and deer-resistant and endlessly versatile. They can be used as everything from low-growing yard hedges to small front porch topiaries to even conical columns. They also have an illustrious history.
This staple of gardens was found as formal hedges in ancient Egypt as well as palatial gardens of ancient Greece and Rome. So fabulous are they, that they’re often referred to as the “little black dress” of plants as every garden should have at least one.
You can’t talk boxwood without talking blight though. That dreaded blight is basically a fungus that can wipe out an entire shrub and first appears as brown spots on leaves. Blight needs to be tended to immediately and once established and healthy, boxwood is quite hardy and low-maintenance, other than the trimming.
If the weather isn’t scorching hot and you have good irrigation, you can pretty much plant boxwood any time of the year. Keep in mind, however, that boxwood prefers some shade so don’t plant it in areas that get a lot of afternoon sun and loose, quick-draining soil is best.
So, there’s my very rookie-ish take on gardening and gardens. And not to sound too Miley Cyrus-y, plant your own garden and buy your own flowers! And lastly, bloom where you are planted and live by this, The Garden of Daily Living.