RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Texas Discovery Garden

Made For The Shade

Have you always wanted to grow a passion vine but have too much shade to grow the showy purple Passiflora incarnata?  Or perhaps you have a butterfly garden and are interested in providing one of the host plants for Gulf Fritillary, Julia and Zebra Longwing butterflies?  Well, if you don’t mind having a Lilliputian passion flower that is only about an inch in diameter, then Passiflora lutea is for you.

Passiflora lutea is also known as yellow passionflower, though the color of the flowers may range from chartreuse to off-white.  It is a native plant in Texas that blooms from May through September. In Dallas it is considered a perennial herbaceous climbing or trailing vine that can reach 15 feet in height.  Here it will loose its wide shallowly-lobed leaves in the winter but it comes back reliably in the spring.   The fall leaf color is a shade of yellow. Though considered somewhat drought tolerant once established, P. lutea prefers moist, rich soil.  Its flowers are followed by small black berries, which some say are edible but not very tasty.

 

Tiny Yellow Passionflower and Leaf From Carolyn’s Garden

I have P. lutea growing wild in my shady yard near White Rock Lake.  If I don’t keep an eye on it, the vines can grow rampantly in some spots.  However they are very easy to pull off from wherever they are growing.  I also have one pot of purple Passiflora incarnata and have noticed that the Gulf Fritillary butterfles tend to prefer to lay their eggs on P. incarnata rather than P. lutea.  However, one of my neighbors had P. lutea growing in her yard and had many caterpillars feeding on it.

One of the historic uses for the berries has been to make ink.  A recommended recipe is:  ½ cup of P. lutea berries, ½ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. vinegar.  Crush the berries, and then strain the liquid through a fine sieve.  Then add the salt and vinegar.  Though this ink is not archival, the deep purple-black color is pretty

Yellow passionflower  is not often found in most garden centers. However,  Roseann Ferguson says that the annual plant sale at Texas Discovery Gardens will carry it.  The dates for this year’s fall sale are September 15-16 with the member-only sale taking place on the 15.  Many of their unusual plants sell out quickly, so get there early and consider becoming a member.  Further information about the plants that will be for sale will be posted on Texas Discovery Garden’s website (www.txdg.org) closer to the date of the sale.

Carolyn Bush

 

A Bright Spot in the Early Spring Garden

copper canyon daisy As with many plants, Tagetes lemmonii is known by so many common names (Copper Canyon Daisy, Mexican Bush Marigold, Mountain Marigold, Mount Lemmon Marigold, tangerine-scented marigold, and Perennial Marigold) that it is almost easier to refer to it by its Latin nomenclature.  Yet even its Latin name has a fascinating story behind it.

Tagetes lemmonii is native to the high mountain canyons of northwestern Mexico and southern Arizona.  A finely leafed plant with a very distinctive aroma often described as minty and fruity, lemon and tarragon, or (for some people) just plain “Yuck,” it can grow to a size of four to six feet tall and can spread to six to ten feet.  It can be sheared back however.  It grows best in full sun in well drained soil. It can be grown in part shade, though it may get leggy and have fewer blooms.  Once established it needs little to no supplemental watering.  If grown in an area where deer are a problem, deer will definitely avoid it.  However pollinators, including yellow sulpher butterflies and beneficial insects, are drawn to it.

T, lemmonii is considered to be photosensitive and blooms with bright yellow daisy-like flowers in the fall, winter and early spring when the daylight hours are shorter.  In mild winters, it provides a welcome bright spot in the garden since the flowers can last for quite a while.  However in colder winters, it will sometimes die back to the ground but return in the spring.

Though I always thought that its Latin name lemmonii came from its strong citrus/lemon aroma, a Google search from San Marcos Growers (smgrowers.com) reveals otherwise:  “This plant was discovered in southeastern Arizona, by the early plant collectors, self taught field botanists, and husband and wife, John (1832-1908) and Sara (1836 – 1923) Lemmon. These two incredible people met in Santa Barbara, California, where Sara Allen Plummer lived, in 1876 when she attended a lecture given by John, who at the time was the California State Board of Forestry Botanist. They married in 1880 and botanized throughout the southwest and in the process discovered over 150 new plants including an unknown species of Tagetes, from which they sent seed to Asa Gray at Harvard University, who then named the plant to honor them. Sara and John also climbed the highest mountain in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, which is now called Mount Lemmon reportedly because Sara Lemmon was the first woman to climb it. Both authored books and articles which Sara often illustrated and she was instrumental in the efforts to name Eschscholzia californica as the official California State Flower, as it was done officially by Governor George Pardee in 1903. The Lemmons established plants of Tagetes lemmonii in their garden in Oakland, California and progeny of these plants were introduced to the nursery trade in southern California, and England by the early 1900’s.”

copper canyon daisy top downThere is one word of caution when pruning or working with Tagetes lemmonii. Some people are extremely sensitive to the oils in the leaves and can develop a painful, itchy rash when their skin is exposed to sunlight. Sometimes this rash can continue for several days. Therefore it might be best not to plant Tagetes lemmonii where it can be brushed against, be sure and wear gloves and long sleeves when working with it, or at least wash your skin well with soap and water after handling.

Carolyn

Picture by Roseann from Texas Discovery Garden.

A Passion for Passion Vine

Passion Flower

Passion Flower

Though it doesn’t bloom until the heat of summer, usually long past Easter, the flowers of Passifloraceae are often said to refer to the symbolism of the Christian crucifixion, from which it gets one of its common names, passion vine.   The beautiful and unusual pink, blue, red or purple blooms are said to represent Christ’s passion. The 10 petal-like parts represents the disciples of Jesus, excluding Peter and Judas; the 5 stamens the wounds Jesus received; the knob-like stigmas the nails; and the fringe or corona the crown of thorns; while the leaves are reminiscent of the Roman spear; and the tendrils are their whips. However like many plants, the passion vine has other common names. The name Maypop, which is used by many Southerners, comes from the loudly popping sound that the hollow, yellow fruits of P. incarnata make when crushed.

     Passiflora is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants.  They are mostly vines, with some being shrubs, and a few species being herbaceous.   In North Texas several species of passion vines grow well here.  The two most common passion vines found in area nurseries are the Texas native Passiflora incarnata (Maypop) and the Hardy Blue Passionflower, P. caerulea.  Maypop can withstand temperatures as low as 18 degrees F, while P. caerulea can tolerate temperatures to around 25 degrees.  Other species of passion vines are becoming more available; however most of these are tropical plants and should be either treated as annuals or brought inside for the winter.

Passion Flower Fruit

Passion Flower Fruit

      Though the leaves of passion vines have been used in herbal medicine as a remedy for sleep disorders, nervousness, and many other ailments by indigenous peoples and the fruit was a staple of their diet, today most gardeners grow the plant for its quick growing, vining qualities, beautiful flowers and as a butterfly host plant.

     In general, passion vines require full sun (though they can tolerate some partial shade), regular watering, and excellent drainage.  According to Scott Perry’s article, Planting Passion, in Texas Gardener magazine, a 10-5-20 fertilizer should be applied several times a year at four-to six-week intervals throughout the growing season.  However, overfeeding can cause root damage; and fertilizers too high in nitrogen can cause excessive foliage development and reduced flower development.

     Passion vines, which can grow up to thirty feet in a season and should be grown on a strong support, are remarkably pest free.  However there is one “pest” that can defoliate a passion vine quite quickly.  However, this same “pest” is the reason why many butterfly enthusiasts grow passion vines in their gardens.  The passion vine is the sole host plant for several Texas butterflies of the family Heliconius.  This family includes the Zebra, the Julia, and the Gulf Fritillary (a very common butterfly found in Dallas.)  The rather fearsome looking (but harmless to people) caterpillars, when feeding on the passion vine, derive some toxic compounds from the leaves. This, in turn, makes the larvae and butterflies somewhat toxic to predators.  Many butterfly gardeners either grow a large enough stand of passion vines so that some defoliation will not matter or relocate the caterpillars to a designated butterfly garden where the passion vine is grown specifically to be a host plant.

One More Picture of the Amazing Passion Flower

One More Picture of the Amazing Passion Flower

     If you are interested in planting a passion vine in your yard and “growing your own butterflies,” a very good place to purchase many varieties of passion vine is at the Texas Discovery Gardens (www.texasdiscoverygardens.org/plant_sale.php) plant sale.  This year’s sale will take place on April 18-19th, 2015, with the Members Preview Sale on the 17th.   It’s a great place to buy organically grown butterfly host and nectar plants as well as many unusual varieties of plants not found at most area nurseries.

     See you there!!

Carolyn

Pictures by Starla

Note: The Passion Vine at our Demonstration Garden flourished without fertilizer of any kind.

 

 

Yellow-Bellied Racers

 

Our progeny is not sociable.  Ana tapped on the glass of his cage, and the very young, very little, very spotted Yellow-Bellied Racer tried to bite her.

Juvenile Yellow Bellied Racer

Juvenile Yellow Bellied Racer

Ana, Judy and I were checking out Horticulture Director Roger Sanderson’s herpetarium at the Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park.  It’s the new home of our garden’s snake.  Correction: Ana and I were looking attentively at the slithering residents.  Judy was watching from a very respectful distance.

Anyway, there he was, the sole hatchling of 9, some say 10, snake eggs Hans discovered in June at the bottom of the garden’s compost pile.  Hans was excited. Other Gardeners shrieked like 14-year-olds at a rock concert.

Snake Eggs Found at our Garden

Snake Eggs Found at our Garden

If he makes it back to 2311 Joe Field Rd., the racer has long lost cousins to look up at the garden.  Mama Racer chose Cindy’s compost piles for her nest last summer, too.  Luckily we haven’t seen hide nor hair of her or the kids.

At the moment, our guy is about as round as your little finger, maybe 10 inches long, and covered with brown spots and blotches, much like a newbie whitetail deer.  By his third birthday, he’ll trade the spots for a solid blue-grey back and a yellow belly, thus the moniker.  Frogs, lizards, small snakes, rodents, birds, and insects are on the menu.  Racers aren’t constrictors or poisonous, but are very fast on their feet belly.  Don’t know that I’d want to get up close and personal.  When captured, Racers struggle violently and bite.  If all else fails, nasty stuff is expelled through their vents.

Nope, Racers can wind their quick way through the creek and brush without me.

Elizabeth

More about long lost cousins click here.

Winter Honeysuckle

It’s nice to have something blooming in February and it’s nice to have friends like Texas Discovery Garden.

We had all gathered around our Winter honeysuckle to inhale its lovely scent and had questions about this plant.

Winter Honeysuckle Blooming Late January through February at the Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road

Winter Honeysuckle Blooming Late January through February at the Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road

Roger, featured in another of our posts, answered:

Ann,

Roseann had forwarded me your e-mail yesterday and I hadn’t realized until then that ours too is in bloom now!  I had gone out to check on it and never got back to respond.

As you already know it’s a non-native (E. China)so might be discouraged by some purists for planting.  Although it is listed as “invasive” by some sources, most gardeners would disagree, as it doesn’t produce many berries and only suckers for a short distance from the bush.  Perhaps in the moist woods of eastern U.S. it might escape cultivation, but doubtful here in our fairly dry habitat.  Probably it has received a bad rap from its many relatives – like the highly invasive Japanese Honeysuckle which is a VINE or Amur Honeysuckle, a bush that used to be fairly invasive in this area.

Anyone that would rather not try it, might try the native White Honeysuckle (Lonicera alba) that has very similar leaves and not quite so bush-like.  I’m not sure of its bloom time, but it probably doesn’t produce the profusion of strong scented flowers this early in the season like the Winter (or Fragrant) Honeysuckle.

As a landscape plant, it apparently is not picky as to soil type and is relatively drought tolerant.  It does have some other distinct benefits for a North Texas landscape.  The flowers this early in the season do provide a rare nectar source for bees and butterflies that venture out on warm days during the winter months (Question Marks, Goatweeds, and Mourning Cloaks are local butterflies that overwinter here as adults).  It is supposed to be an excellent bird attracting bush according to some sources for the berries.  But since ours rarely fruits, it is often the flowers that attract the birds!  They apparently eat the flowers for the nectar and spit out the petals.  One interesting comment I read is that it is sometimes referred to as “Pouting Flower” as the paired flowers face in opposite directions!

Thanks for asking about this!  I needed to write something for my weekly “In The Garden…” part of TDG’s blog, so I’ll just copy what I wrote to you!  Naturally, Roger

Roger Sanderson
Director of Horticulture

Texas Discovery Gardens
at Fair Park
3601 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Dallas, Texas 75210
P.O. Box 152537
Dallas, Texas 75315
P (214) 428-7476 ext. 210
F (214) 428-5338

RSanderson@TexasDiscoveryGardens.org
The butterflies are back!

Picture by Starla

%d bloggers like this: