Asclepias curassavica, Tropical Butterfly Weed -- woe is me. So...when we first left our acreage and moved onto this teeny, tiny lot, I was more than a little disheartened. I couldn't abandon gardening altogether (anymore than I could stop writing), but I didn't try as hard. When I saw this butterfly weed at one of my favorite nurseries, I didn't stop to think, "Native? Non-native?" I assumed that since that particular nursery was selling it and I'd had it in my previous garden (having purchased it from the same nursery), it was native.
I recently learned that it's not! I can't even find a definitive answer to where exactly it originated, so we'll just go with "the tropics".
It's not a complete disaster. I only have it at the very end of our western hedge because it can get weedy and seems to be under control there. It's a host plant for monarch butterflies and is popular with other pollinators. Hummingbirds even seem to like it.
It does well in hot climates. In areas of mild winters, like southeast Texas, it does too well. That's the problem. Its flowers encourage monarchs to remain in the area beyond migration time. They usually won't survive the winter. Furthermore, the plant tends to harbor the parasite Ophryocytis elektroscirrha (OE), whose primary host is the monarch butterfly. When it fails to die back in winter, concentrations of OE increase to dangerous levels for the butterflies.
According to various, trusted sources (that I've been chasing frantically), it's not all bad.
The National Wildlife Federation
It is a host plant for monarchs. It's just not as safe as native milkweeds are. I can either pull it completely or controlling the problem by pruning it down to the ground twice a year. I've been doing that, anyway, because I knew about OE even without realizing or recalling that the plant isn't native. And since native milkweed is hard to find in nurseries, I ordered some seeds today.
I love seeing butterflies in our garden -- the more, the merrier. If the native milkweed takes off, I'll probably pull the rest. Until then, I'll control it.
In the northern hemisphere, it's hot in August. It is what it is. It might be one of my least favorite months in the garden, but make no mistake. I'm very grateful for both the time and the garden.
The above photo is of one side of our short, eastern hedge. Facing west, it's in full sun most of the day. You can imagine that in 100 degree weather with high humidity, it takes special plants indeed to not only survive but thrive.
One of those plants is Butterfly Bush, also known as Butterfly Clerodendrum.
Native to eastern Africa, its botanical name seems to be rapidly evolving. It's gone from Clerodendrum ugandense to Clerodendrum myricoides 'Ugandense' to Rotheca myricoides in a little over 100 years. Since there are other plants called "Butterfly Bush", I prefer the common name "Butterfly Clerodendrum. But both are fitting names. Not only does it attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, the flowers look like small, adorable butterflies.
Isn't that sweet? Our Butterfly Clerodendrum is taller than me - probably about 7' high and 3' wide. I must say, it's the tallest one I've ever seen. I'm used to seeing them around four or five feet tall. It would be wider if it had room and shorter if I'd gotten around to pruning it sooner. I'm not going to do anything drastic right now, though. It's just too hot. While all of the eastern hedge is persevering, it does not need the challenge of extra stress.
Tough as it is, Butterfly Clerodendrum does have a few simple requirements. While it's fine with full sun, it does better with a little shade, especially in summer. It's not completely drought tolerant, but only requires average watering. And while it prefers a loamy soil, it is willing to negotiate.
It will bloom until the first frost. In a very mild winter, it might remain evergreen, but it usually dies to the ground and pops back up in spring.
From past experience, I have reason to expect our plant to be covered in small, butterfly-like blooms this autumn.
You should get one. :) Happy Gardening!
I absolutely love our Sweet Bay tree -- Laurus nobilis. A member of the Lauraceae family and native to the Mediterranean, it has been widely adapted, it has been used as a culinary herb for over a millenium. Here in southeast Texas, it gets big. We planted this one almost eight years ago, when we first moved to this property. It was a baby, about a foot tall, and we've cut it in half twice because of the power lines overhead. My husband has tried to shape it several times, too. Personally, I don't mind its shrubby-ness as I can harvest the leaves more easily.
It fronts our northern or golf course hedge. It might seem pretentious to name the areas of our small garden, but I don't care (which surely indicates pretention is not part of the plan). It's easier for me to refer to the different areas, whatever the size, and personalizes the space.
We love the aromatic leaves in the garden. We also enjoy them in soups, gumbos, with roasts, and for tea. I brewed a lovely tea with sweet bay and rosemary leaves just yesterday. It smelled and tasted so good. But that's for an herbal chat, not a hedge one.
For a pest-free plant that grows quickly, is undemanding, and tolerates most any type of pruning, Laurus nobilis is hard to beat. I'm pleased to have it along my mini-hedgerow.
I am a flower of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys. -- Song of Solomon 2:1
I'm so surprised. All this time, I've thought that Althea, Hibiscus syriacus, is native to Texas. Why I would think that, I freely admit, is something of a mystery. Then I thought, given its Latin name, that it is must be of Levantine origin. To further confirm that idea -- no presumption this time -- it's called "Rose of Sharon", as in the Plain of Sharon in Israel. But nope! Current opinion is that it originated in China.
Wherever it came from, it's a well-loved plant around the world. It's even the national plant of Korea.
It's certainly popular here in Texas. A member of the mallow family, it can grow very large; but it's not an aggressive plant. Not only are the beautiful blooms appreciated by gardeners; butterflies and hummingbirds like them, too.
I don't know what particular variety mine is. I really must start keeping better notes. But it's double-petaled, seems pest-free, and is about six-feet tall at the moment. It's been blooming away since the beginning of June.
It's the first Althea I've ever grown. I wish I had room for more.
Happy Tuesday! Another round of obsessing over my mini-hedgerow. To me, it's startling how much a slight change of location can affect a garden. We live less than an hour away from our previous location. Same weather for sure, but the soil isn't quite the same and the conditions are different. There's even a a difference between our front and back gardens. The oak trees in front make the ground drier and the location more shady. Our back garden is north-facing, more open, and gets extra humidity rolling in from the oft-watered golf course. Roses don't love our backyard for the humidity and they don't love the front for the dryness and shade. So, I don't have a lot of roses. I couldn't anyway, given the size of our property, but there is space for more roses than I have. Oops -- tangent!
It's really a good thing. In the above photo is our eastern hedge. West-facing, it gets scorched in the afternoon. Salvias have reseeded and spread profusely and I am fine with that. They don't mind the intense sun at all and they are so much better for local wildlife than roses.
Roses are loved for their fragrance. But salvias smell good, too. Even their leaves smell good -- a fragrant, earthy scent that is entirely pleasant. I've always loved them and now more than ever. There are a lot of wonderful plants in the Lamiaceae family that have medicinal and culinary uses. This includes mint, deadnettle, and sage (salvia). Rosemary, by the way, has recently been moved to the salvia family. Formerly called Rosmarinus officinalis, its new name is Salvia rosmarinus. But that's another post.
There are many varieties of salvia in our garden. Along this, our eastern hedge, salvia coccinea has reseeded to the point I have to thin it out regularly. It's the smaller, mostly pink and white plant on either side of the old garden rose. To the far left is a treasure, Salvia guaranitica. At least, I think that's its name. I'm embarrassed to say that I've planted so many salvias and some resemble so closely that I have a hard time telling them apart! Whatever its name, it is one of my favorite plants in our garden. It's a giant, growing wide and tall. It's taller than me! It is loved by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Time to get out there and weed -- just a little! The sun is high in the sky. :)
Wishing you a lovely time in your garden.
Summer Solstice -- Midsummer -- Hot and Humid Here in Southeast Texas
No matter the weather, it's a magical time, full of dreams and hopes.
One daydream I've enjoyed over the years is about having a hedgerow. I've always wanted one, likening them to a "woodland edge", where all manner of creatures and plants can be found. I tried to grow one on our few acres back when, but it wouldn't have been anything like the old, enormous hedgerows of the UK.
And now I have this tiny dot of a garden. I can't have a hedgerow. But I do have a hedge and I make the most of it. And, wonderfully, birds, insects, and small creatures do make themselves at home there.
I've fronted the hedges with fruit trees, flowering shrubs, and a few annuals now and then. Not everything is flowering yet. Some plants have shot up rather quickly from winter slumber, surely because temps have jumped to triple digits earlier than usual. They are giant plants and I have every confidence that they will burst into color soon.
For now, the althea and rose mallow are strutting their stuff!
I aim to make this a regular, weekly blogpost. I think it will be fun to share my mini-hedgerow with you.
For years, my husband and I worked at creating a series of gardens on our four-acre lot in a rural, Texas subdivision west of Houston. I have to say, it was a fantastic experience. Now, I have a pocket garden on a golf course.
From me to you with a smile.
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