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Penstemon or Beardtongue

Penstemons are becoming hugely popular in gardens, it seems, and they encompass a wide range of species native to the U.S. Since I first started gardening, I was attracted to foxgloves but haven’t had much success with them so far, as with many perennial cottage garden plants they fare better in cooler summers. I was also on the lookout for spiky tall plants for parts of my garden that needed less sprawly things (I seem to have a lot of sprawliness). I’ve tried Mulleins, foxglove, larkspur. Read more


Paperwhites are native to many parts of the Mediterranean. and are a type of narcissus closely related to the Tazettas, many of which are great for the South (Grand Primo, Chinese Sacred Lily, Erlicheer, and Avalanche are some that I grow). Like Tazettas, paperwhites bloom in little clusters of small white flowers, sometimes with yellowish cups but most of the time are all white. Most people grow Paperwhites indoors (you see a lot of them in stores around the holidays along with amaryllis) on rocks or in potting soil, let them bloom and throw them away. Read more

Chinese Sacred Lily

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this narcissus bloom yet, but I’m not giving up on it. (Note: more recent update below.) I read in a local garden blog that perhaps they need more cold than our winters provide. And yet a seemingly conflicting fact about them is that their native habitat is coastal and they are being sold as better narcissus for warmer, more coastal winters. Go figure. (I keep going back to what one local nursery owner said to me, “It’s all a crapshoot, anyway.”) Read more

‘Avalanche’ Tazetta

These are the cutest little flowers, not unlike ‘Grand Primo’, whose flowers spray out in more of a snowball shape, it can carry from 5 to 20 flowers from the top of each stem. Avalanche was once called “Seventeen Sisters” because of its frequent grouping of 17 flowers, but none of mine had even 10. Perhaps a few more years in the garden and I will see more. Avalanche’s blossoms are just a little bit smaller than Grand Primo, but the cups are distinctly, well, cups, and are also a clear yellow, which makes them look more like miniature daffodils and less like a paperwhite. For such a small flower, even from a distance, it looks so perfectly ‘buttercup’ (as I knew the as a child). Read more

Campernelle Jonquil

This sweet little starry-eyed beauty disappeared nearly as soon as it appeared. Out of about 10 bulbs, this was the only bloom (as I write in February 2008). Campernelles are sweetly fragranced with dainty blossoms and wiry (often called rush-like) leaves. This is an easy way to tell many jonquils apart from modern daffodils or tazettas. Read more

Daffodil ‘Scarlet O’Hara’

I couldn’t quite capture the orange of the cups, but this daffodil is a very bright yellow with cups that darken toward the edges. In some photos I’ve seen, the cups look closer to red, but I’m beginning to think that many garden colors wash out in the Texas sun. (Some roses are lighter here than is often pictured.)

This was one of my ‘throwaway’ daffodils; most of those I picked out had been mentioned in one place or another as doing well in Texas or the south, but this one was just a risk. (Not to mention I refrigerated it with the tulips, which something I’m not sure I want to do year after year.) I didn’t want to take up any precious space with extra daffodils, as they seem to bloom for such a short time, and then you get leaves for the next few months–so I decided to convert my rapidly rusting old wheelbarrow into a bulb display.

‘Erlicheer’ Tazetta

I wish I could get an accurate photo of these beautiful blossoms but my camera always seems to want to make some yellows more yellow, or subtle yellows just wash away. Argh, digital cameras like to guess at things. Yes, yes, there’s always Photoshop but that’s another story.

Anyhow, these are so beautiful and I was surprised when they began to bloom how much they looked like the tiniest roses, each small blossom packed with creamy white petals. They are called a double daffodil, and are descended from ‘Grand Primo’, a tazetta which is widely naturalized in Texas. They have a very similar fragrance, like a light sweet citrus on top of powdery musk, and bloom nearly the exact same time. Read more

the first of the blooms

Since my first daffodils starting putting out their buds a few weeks ago, I have suddenly felt the nearness of spring hurrying toward me. Spring is such a beautiful season in Texas, but so fleeting, that I want to take every opportunity just to enjoy it. So much happens all at once, like a speed opera–it crescendoes quickly–and then gives way to the heat of summer when all the ‘endurance players’ of the garden start doing their work.

But there is nothing like that crescendo, no matter how fleeting. Last year we had such a beautiful and unusually long-lasting spring, thanks to the constant rain. Both last year’s fall and spring rains led to a spectacular wildflower show all over Austin. The highways glittered with non-stop Bluebonnets and Indian Blankets. This year will probably be a bit of a quiet year. We had a drought in fall and have had maybe two good rains all winter, and so I don’t expect to see the same show. Read more

Daffodil ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’

This trumpet-cupped daffodil was first introduced in 1956, and as you would guess, is an “early” daffodil. Which makes for a good try here in Austin, as most of what keeps daffodils from doing well is either the lack of cold winter, or the very hot spring when most of the big trumpets and big cups bloom. It was the first of all the big daffodils to bloom in my garden, following shortly after the early jonquils and their pretty, fragrant flowers.

These are big and yellow and bloomy and all that is classic daffodil.

first of the daffodils

This past fall I went on a bit of a daffodil buying craze. Daffodils were amongst the first flowers to bloom when we bought this house–pretty little creamy flowers that I knew as ‘buttercups’ when I was a kid. I later discovered that the particular kind I have growing in odd places, along the driveway, hidden behind our shed, were remnants from an old time, when our property was probably connected by family to the neighbor’s property, as the daffodils seem to have been planted in places that had no regard for property lines.

My ‘buttercups’ are known as ‘Grand Primo’, a type of ‘tazetta’ daffodil that grows around old homes in the South. Only recently has a person actually been able to buy this particular daffodil, but it has spread and survived without much intervention, like a wildflower for decades. Read more