For those of us who Garden in the great land of Texas, this time of the year (mid-July and August) can be perhaps the most challenging. Rain is sparse, the heat is ever-present and there isn’t really much of a respite.
Thankfully, there are plants that are either native or that have been transplanted into our area that seem to thrive.
First up in the Vitex bush (in this case, I’m forming mine into a tree). It is a native of China an India (also long grown in the eastern Mediterranean regions) and gained the name of “Chaste Tree” or “Monk’s Pepper” from the belief that drinking a tea made from the small black seeds could help cut into a monk’s libido, thus helping the Brothers to maintain their vows of chastity. It can still be used for a variety of ailments, including menstrual cycle regulation, interestingly enough.
Another favorite of mine is another bush with purple flowers, the Texas Sage bush, a spectacular Texas native. Mine tend to bloom 3-4 times a summer, usually with all the other Texas Sage bushes in the area. When a really heavy bloom hits my backyard becomes a big beehive, with the bushes simply covered with the little buggers.
Last Autumn I experimented with sowing wildflower seeds in late October and letting them grow wild along a new bed of native grasses and lantanas I’m growing out by the curb and I wasn’t disappointed. At the beginning of the spring we had small pink wild phloxes and then we got a nice carpet of blue Bachelor Buttons and now we’ve moved into the yellows and reds of daisys and Indian Blankets. It’s been fun to watch.
One of the favorite things about our house when we bought it was the large Chinese Pistache tree out front. It’s has proven to remain one of my favorite trees in the neighborhood. It’s drought tolerant, heat tolerant, bug tolerant and consistently provides the best fall foliage of any tree I’ve seen in Texas. It’s not native to the area, but like many plants that transplant well here, its from China. The only negatives I’ve seen is that it takes longer than most to leaf-out, and its prone to branching out fairly low to the ground, causing splitting in high winds (I had to have mine stitched back together after a particularly nasty Texas storm a couple of summers ago).
Finally, I planted this Passion Flower vine last summer from a cutting provided to me from a classmate. It’s really taken off this year and is close to blooming! I can’t wait to see which blooms I get.