Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Enthusiastics in the garden

"Enthusiastics" is what I have dubbed those eager and able plants which a more fastidious gardener would probably call "invasives."  Ages ago when I decided to make a proper perennial garden, I poured over gardening books and catalogs, noting every seductive specimen which seemed as if it might thrive here if lavished with care.  I hunted for them in local nurseries, I ordered from the catalogs, I planted packets and packets of seeds.  And for a brief moment in time I had...a North Carolina garden in Dallas. It was lovely, and it was high maintenance.  Time passed and trees grew, veiling more and more sun, while I grew a bit weary of all that work. So now what blossoms around my house are the survivors that decided they liked it here just fine, with ample water and fertilizer but without being coddled.

Ruellia brittoniana
The hardiest of the bunch has to be Mexican petunia, Ruellia brittoniana, which blooms from spring until frost. In searching online for its botanical name I read an interesting comment by a Houston environmentalist: "It's not establishing a monoculture, just holding its own, part of a complicated new balance. Butterflies love it. So is it really invasive? Does it deserve to be branded with the scarlet letter I?"  It grows in the sun, it grows in the shade, it manages with little water, all the while thrusting up bright purple flowers with happy abandon.  It does send out roots everywhere, but I simply yank them up where they're not wanted.  And it shoots out seeds like tiny bullets when signaled by a good drenching with the hose. 

Phlox paniculata
Physostegia virginiana
 In contrast to the ruellia which was a from a friend's yard, two other stalwarts were carefully chosen in  that first foray into perennial gardening.  The vivid pink tall garden phlox, Phlox paniculata, mingles prettily with the ruellia all summer long. I bought it so long ago that I don't remember its specific name. It does spread by roots but not so rampantly.  Right now it's winding down its blooming season just as obedient plant, Physostegia virginiana, is unfurling its frothy, delicate-looking petals along foot-tall stems.  The common name comes from their tendency to remain positioned however you bend them. They also spread moderately by roots.

Clematic terniflora
Sweet autumn clematis, Clematis terniflora,  has just burst exuberantly into bloom in the past couple of weeks or so.  Originally I planted it alongside our fence in the back, but here it is crowning some shrubs by the front porch, its seeds conveyed in our homemade mulch, I assume.  How can I mind its unmannerly presence when it wafts its delicate fragrance out near the front door?

Mirabilis jalapa

An even more intoxicating scent is emitted by the four o'clocks, Mirabilis jalapa, so called because it opens its blossoms late in the day.  It seems to be classified as an annual, but does come back from its roots here, as well as self-seed prolifically, abundantly.  I am constantly pulling up errant seedlings all during the growing season.  But, oh, to enhale that luscious odor at twilight is certainly worth a bit of effort.  I wish I could post a sample of that scent here instead of merely a photo of its simple flower.  Mine are a hot pink but they come in a variety of colors as well as multicolored. I took some seeds from a plant growing more or less wild alongside a former railroad track in the middle of the city.

There are some others, but as this post is getting lengthy, I think I'll write about them another day.  All of these plants make themselves at home in both some sun and even in quite a bit of shade where they might not bloom prolifically but at least do provide carefree foliage.  I let them sort themselves out as to who gets to be dominant in their various gardens areas, and they carry on with panache.  The other morning a woman walking her dog complimented me on the display out front, and when I replied that everything there was easy to grow, she said, "that's your secret."

1 comment:

  1. I've also learned to go with plants that WANT to be in my garden. If it can't take Texas weather & my neglect, it's gone!