Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Surprises

Blue pickerel

Fall is here, hallelujah! And with it come a few surprises in the garden and life in general. Probably one of the biggest surprises is that I'm finally doing a blog post, haha! First one since late June. And I've seen a boatload of beautiful gardens since then and lots of things have been happening in my own garden. What can I say except that I've been super busy? But that's always been one of my excuses. Onward... I thought I'd show a few of the happenings here that have been both little and big surprises for me in the last two months. First up is the blue pickerel. I bought it for my stock tank pond just for its height. Little did I know how much the bees and hummingbirds would like it.

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ - beautyberry

Though beautyberry is not that surprising, this cultivar called 'Issai' produces tons of light purple berries that are immediately eaten by all the birds in my backyard. They're eating these berries while the plant is still making them! By now all the berries are gone. Another surprise is that this plant is supposed to be about 3-4 feet by 3-4 feet. Mine is 4 feet tall by 9 feet wide!

Lycoris radiata, aka spider lily, amongst 'Compact Margie' sweet potato vine

We had a great showing of spider lilies all around town this year. I love how you can never predict where they'll show up. I know the general vicinity of most of them but I always get surprises like this one.

'Amistad' salvia

Okay, it's no surprise that I like salvias. What did surprise me was my failed attempt to grow a salvia that didn't make it through a relatively mild 2012-2013 winter. It was a freebie 'Amistad' salvia from Southern Living Plants, so I let them know of that issue. Then I totally forgot about it until two of them showed up on my doorstep this June. I have been LOVING them ever since. They're not too tall, maybe 3 feet by 3 feet, and they bloom nonstop, no joke.

Milkweed assassin bug and bee on garlic chives

I had a fun time watching this milkweed assassin bug waiting for potential victims. Every time a bee landed, he turned to face it. I never did see a capture, though.

Milkweed bugs and nymphs on milkweed

Speaking of milkweed, here are some different insects - the milkweed bug and its nymphs. They are certainly startling when first viewed! They suck the sap from the milkweed pods. I didn't see them on any other plants, and plenty of seed escaped unharmed (as you can see below). But I did end up squishing some when they got too plentiful.

Milkweed bugs and nymphs with milkweed seed

The surprise with these milkweed seeds was the feel of the "coma," the silk-like threads that the actual seeds hang on. I swear they're as soft as kitten fur!

Oxblood lily, Rhodophiala bifida, aka hurricane or schoolhouse lily

I've planted quite a few 'Hill Country Red' heirloom oxblood lilies here and there but gotten very few blooms. But this year I had great success! I think it may be because I've finally started to get the graveyard grasshoppers under control, and maybe they just needed to settle in a bit. Sometimes bulbs are like that. BTW, I love the size of the ones I get from Old House Gardens. I actually ordered more of them after this year's wonderful show.

Anyone know what these caterpillars are called? They've had fun munching on my Chinese hibiscus,  Hibiscus paramutabilis

'Firecracker' cuphea

The first surprise with this 'Firecracker' cuphea is that I planted the original one two years ago. It's supposed to be an annual but I just cut back the plants and they made it through our mild 2012-2013 winter and rebloomed. Of course, they didn't make it another year because of the fierce winter we had in 2013-2014. But lo and behold it had seeded around and then in October I found these blooms.

'Indian Spring' hollyhock

The 'Indian Spring' hollyhocks I grew this spring did great except for the usual rust problem. When I went to remove them after their bloom period it looked like some of them wanted to keep going. So I cut them back, continued to remove rust covered leaves, and they're still here. It'll be cool if they make it to next spring and start blooming again.

Nonstop bloomer - 'Fireworks' gomphrena

My 'Fireworks' gomphrena has continued to bloom since late May when I first planted it. I even had a stray one pop up and bloom in the gravel path.

'Climbing Pinkie' rose only three weeks after planting

I decided to add another climbing rose to my little pergola since the 'Sombreuil' is doing just so-so (too much blackspot and too few blooms). I had a 'Climbing Pinkie' rose in the front but she died suddenly from a mysterious ailment, as did the climbing rose that was there before it. (Roses are no longer allowed in that area!) But I loved Pinkie since she was a showstopper in spring. So I'm giving a new one a go in the back. I can't say enough good things about the Antique Rose Emporium when it comes to their nice, healthy roses.

'Peppermint Stick' Swiss chard

My chard has picked up considerably since the cool weather arrived. It's no longer flopping about, as you can see.

Fall aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, with gulf muhly

I thought all the fall asters I had purchased from the Wildflower Center last fall had died. But then this one popped up. It was most surprising since I don't remember planting it there but I guess I did. I'm liking it.

'Lindheimer's Muhly' grass

Since we're really into fall now, I'll show some not so surprising things in my fall garden. The 'Lindheimer's Muhly' is like Old Faithful. Every year I say I'm going to move it but that hasn't happened yet. I guess that's no surprise since it's so big!

Moon vine, Ipomea alba

Every year I grow moon vine on my tuteur, so I guess that's no surprise either. But I do love it when they stay open long enough for me to catch them in the morning.

That's it for around the garden right now. Soon I'm off to a more tropical destination where I hope to visit some gardens and blog about them. Stay tuned!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. Hi Jean, you have a beautiful fall garden! Those aren't caterpillars on your hibiscus. I made that same mistake the first year those guys showed up in my garden. They are the larva of the hibiscus saw fly. I did a blog post on them if you want to check it out http://gardeningsoul.blogspot.com/2012/09/hibiscus-are-under-attack.html
    They are ferocious eaters but my experience is that they don't kill the plant, just defoliate it pretty severely. Good luck!

    1. Karin, thanks for the ID. I'll be on the lookout next year for that. You're right, the plant keeps on blooming but it looks ugly. Fortunately it's towards the back of my yard so I don't see it up close much!

  2. I used to grow moonvine from seed every year, but I haven't since I moved 6 years ago. Maybe next year, as I miss that fragrance. And yes, this was a great fall for spider lilies in Austin too.

  3. I thought they were saw flies they stripped my 'Kopper King' hibiscus a few years ago, but haven't seen them since.

    Love the bounty in your garden. Curious if the the aster 'September Red' survived for you? Mine is still alive and I have high hopes it will blooms next year!

    1. Gail, 'September Red' did indeed bloom for me. As you may recall, I put it in a pot since it was in such poor shape by the time I got it home. It bloomed pretty well in that pot although it had some miscellaneous lavender blooms. I just put it in its "permanent" home a few days ago. I have high hopes for next year as well!

  4. I always love surprises in the garden, too. I remember seeing the salvia 'Amistad' in Scott's garden in Portland and made a note of it--I'd love to have this purple one in my own garden, but of course, it would be an annual here. I don't know how those milkweed bugs always find the plants, but my butterfly weeds are covered with them every year as well. That is one big beautyberry!

  5. Yes, it is always a relief when autumn arrives. Your garden has so many beautiful autumn blooms! I love the photo of the bee about to land on Blue pickerel : )

  6. I seem to have forgotten to plant the moonflower this season. Thanks for that reminder. I always love the backside of that flower. So few look good from the back! HA

  7. Milkweed is good for many things, including treating warts


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