Flowers going up and coming down Leave a comment

April 03, 2023

The first hummingbird appeared last weekend, zooming under the dangling red flowers of soap aloes. No surprise there. Those aloes put out quite the welcome mat for hummers.

The spiderwort has had a good run — here’s a volunteer by the covered porch, looking pretty — but the mild days of spring are rapidly drawing to an end. We’ve already had a 90-degree day or two, and more are expected today and tomorrow. That means ratty, gone-to-seed spiderwort, so I’ll be getting out the pruners and cutting them down this week.

Spuria iris are starting to flower, and according to my records, they’re about a month early. Wow!

I gave the ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods a haircut last week with my battery-powered hedge trimmers. I’ve learned a new trick for doing this chore: spread a couple of old sheets around the base of the shrub before trimming. Afterward, gather the trimmed leaves in the sheets and dump them into the yard waste bin. No more yellowing leaves scattered on the ground!

The next day, as I reached across a boxwood to pluck a missed leaf, I sucked in my breath and yanked back my hand — that involuntary “zero at the bone” reaction. It was just a harmless rat snake stretched across the boxwood ball, resting there. I suspect it was hunting birds. A pair of titmice are raising chicks in the owl box on the deck post high above. I hope they stay safe, but I didn’t intervene.

I did intervene on something else. Last week I noticed a change in the leaf pattern at the top of the big Yucca rostrata. Was it going to bloom after all these years, I wondered?

Sure enough, a view from the deck revealed a bloom spike rising from the top. An exciting moment, especially because yuccas, unlike agaves, don’t die after they flower. But then I remembered that I treat my big, valuable yuccas and agaves annually with a systemic drench to keep them safe from the agave snout-nosed weevil. Systemic insecticides are taken up by the roots and stay in the system of a plant for a year. That means that when the flowers open and pollinators like bees or moths find them, they would be poisoned. That’s a big nope. So I used a pole saw to cut off the bloom spike.

I’m sorry not to be able to enjoy the drama and beauty of the yucca’s flowering. But I would feel terrible about harming pollinators that were drawn to it. Removing it was the responsible thing to do.

I’m unwilling to take a chance on losing my big yuccas and agaves to the weevil, so I treat them — carefully and slowly, avoiding runoff onto other plants. And then I must take care not to let them flower. That way, only pests that chew into the plants are affected.

In the night garden, palm fronds add fringey silhouettes…

…and an ‘Opal’ agave’s yellow stripes glow.

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Digging Deeper

Shop for native Texas plants at the Wildflower Center’s spring Native Plant Sale. Held on Fridays through Sundays, March 24 to May 7, from 9 am to 1 pm. The first weekend is just for Wildflower Center members, so join to enjoy this perk, plus get free admission all year and more.

Experience the Surreal Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden, an enchanting neon-art display throughout the gardens, with food and drink, music and dancing, surreal performers, and interactive art sculptures. Surreal costumes encouraged! 25% of event proceeds benefit the Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy. Runs April 6 (VIP Night), April 7-8, and April 13-15, from 6:30 pm to 11 pm.

Add to your succulent collection at the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society Spring Show & Sale on April 15 and 16, from 10 am to 5 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden. Come enjoy the plant show, shop for unique plants and pottery, and participate in a silent auction and raffles. Free with paid admission to Zilker Botanical Garden.

Tour 9 designer landscapes on the 2023 Austin Outdoor Living Tour on May 6. Designers and builders will be on hand to answer your questions. Cost is $33.85 for adults and $17.85 for kids aged 12 to 17. For safety, no one under 12 years of age except for carried infants.

Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These 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. Season 7 starts in August. Stay tuned for the lineup!

All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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