The garden loves late October, and so do I

Is April the best month in the garden? May? No, surely it’s October, when the Death Star shifts its beam to the Southern Hemisphere, nights offer cool relief, and we even get an occasional rain shower. The garden, released from its summer thrall, responds with elation, bursting into a second spring that’s all the sweeter for having endured summer. Here are the happy summer survivors that I’m delighting in as October draws to a close.

Golden thryallis (Galphimia glauca), also pictured at top, starts blooming in late summer in its part-shade location in my garden. Native to Mexico, it’s hardy here in Austin but does drop its leaves after a hard freeze. Don’t worry though; it leafs out again in spring.

You won’t meet a tougher sun plant than globemallow (Sphaeralcea incana). I have several green-leaf globemallows with coral-red blossoms

…but I just found this silver-leaf one with orange-popsicle-colored flowers at Barton Springs Nursery, marked half-off. Whoo-hoo!

I love those frosty, fuzzy leaves and tissuey, cupped flowers.

Airy ‘Grapes’ gomphrena is also doing its thing. Mine is a little lonely without something denser to thread through. I need to remedy that.

Scenting the sunny hillside path on the east end of my garden, sweet almond verbena (Aloysia virgata) is sending honeybees into a frenzy. Native to Argentina, this shrubby, coarse-leaved plant likes sun and tolerates drought well, though it grows taller and blooms more often with regular water. It’s a tough plant for tough conditions, and although it dies back in winter, it responds well to a mid-February cut-back and flushes out again in spring.

Everyone knows Autumn sage (Salvia greggii), though not everyone loves it because it can get woody and leggy if planted in too much shade or left unpruned. I cut mine back to 12 inches tall in mid-February, and then I prune it back by half again in late May/early June and in late August. Do that and you’ll have full, bushy plants smothered in vibrant blossoms in spring and fall, with occasional flowering in summer.

I couldn’t resist the hype and am trying a trio of ‘Blonde Ambition’ grama grass (from The Great Outdoors) in my sunny raised bed. It’s blooming with abandon, but it needs something more at its feet, perhaps threading through its tufty leaves. More to think on.

The water lilies in the stock-tank pond are winding down for the season, but I’m still getting a few flowers. This large, elevated bud of ‘Madame Ganna Walska’ looks pretty backed by the burgundy leaves of the pond crinum.

‘Madame Ganna Walska’ water lily in full glory—a passalong from East Side Patch.

No flowering here, but I adore my curving line of ‘Color Guard’ yuccas.

And agaves just laugh at summer’s heat and ask, “What’s all this fuss about October?”

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

18 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    I think I’ll just pop round and sit in one of those inviting chairs and enjoy all your lovely blooms.

    Come on over sometime, Jenny! —Pam

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I love October too Pam. Here it is quite chilly and the first frosts have put an end to most blooms. Annuals seem to take precedence here fighting to bloom until the end. Your blooms are terrific. I like the clear yellow of that first plant. The yellow looks sort of out of place way out there on the tips of the shrubby plant. Beautiful though. Unexpected. I see that it is a Southern plant. Too bad for me.

    Annuals do have a wonderfully extended bloom time. Enjoy yours, Lisa! —Pam

  3. variegatagal says:

    Love the Audrey II-type plant stake on that last photo. Fitting how these plants laugh off the extremes…and I might have to find a copy of Little Pet Shop of Horrors for Halloween.

    Isn’t that Audrey-like garden art fun? The Great Outdoors in Austin carries them in small and large sizes. —Pam

  4. I need to hard prune my lemon verbena and Salvia greggei, just have to add 6 to your months. Way down South we are having an unseasonal chilly week. Grey clouds and cool breezes.

    Enjoy your spring weather when it returns, EE. —Pam

  5. diana says:

    October is a pretty month in your garden for sure. I think, like us, the garden breathes a sigh of relief and shows its appreciation in October!

    Especially on days like yesterday and today, right? We’re having beautiful weather right now. —Pam

  6. My garden loves October too. I grow several of these plants, but of course, they aren’t hardy for me. Salvia greggii is, but not the first plant for sure. I still love it for its sunny ways. Have you grown Salvia greggii ‘Pink Preference?’ It was found in Texas and blooms here all summer and fall. It’s also more hardy, although that wouldn’t be a consideration in Austin. Thinking of you and all the Austin bloggers this morning.~~Dee

    I haven’t grown that particular Salvia greggii, Dee. Right now I only have the red and the raspberry pink. I have tried a few other colors in previous gardens. —Pam

  7. Pam, you always give me so many new plants to think about – someday I’ll see your garden in person and I’m sure I’ll just FAINT with excitement! Gorgeous photos, as usual, are all the more enticing….

    Rebecca, I’d love for you to visit Austin and my garden one day. Let’s plan on it! —Pam

  8. Jess says:

    “The Death Star” hehe, I’m going to have to use that one day to describe our southern sun. I agree about October too. Best Month, without pause. I’ve rated them all too. October, April, May, November, March, September, December (because of Christmas), June, February, January, August and July (because you still know there is August on the way, otherwise there would be a tie between those last two horrendous things).

    You cracked me up, Jess, with your careful ordering of the months, especially the final two. I think I’m in agreement with you, except I’d bump September to right in front of August—it’s still too hot then. :-) —Pam

  9. Those silver and orange mallows are fabulous, and I envy you your extended waterlily season (mine were done by late September). Fun, as always, to see all that’s happening in your garden!

    October is a happening time in central Texas gardens, and not for traditional fall color, which we get very little of. It really is a second spring for us, and boy do we feel we deserve it after the long, hot summer. ;-) —Pam

  10. Michelle says:

    I have that silver leave globe mallow as well. I got it at Barton Springs nursery last year. It kept its leaves all winter, didn’t mind freezing and wind chills down to zero degrees and kept looking fabulous all throughout the drought-ridden 100+ temps. I’m thinking of buying more of these as it has done so fabulous for me. I do have this one planted in the front hell strip on a slope for good drainage.

    I’m glad to hear how well it’s done for you, Michelle. I’d forgotten that the globe mallows can keep their leaves in winter. —Pam

  11. Sunita says:

    Lovely post!I think the title could well apply to my own garden in the tropics, but with a twist ” The garden loves late October, though I don’t … but I can be persuaded!”. We do share a few plants I think.

    In the tropics, is October much different than any other month? I wouldn’t imagine you’d see many seasonal changes. Or is it a change in rain patterns? —Pam

  12. Robin says:

    Pam, I’m falling quickly in love even more with the mallow family in general after this summer. The only blooms I had all summer were on Pale Pavonia (aka Pale Texas Rosemallow) and Rose of Sharon (also in the Hibiscus family). Now I have this globe mallow of yours to add to the list. I love that Color Guard Yucca – how much shade is yours in?

    Mallows rock! And of course there’s good old rock rose too (Pavonia lasiopetala), a tough blooming plant for Texas summers. As for the ‘Color Guard’ yuccas, they get mostly sun, with some shade at midday and in late afternoon. I have three more out front that get morning shade and afternoon sun. —Pam

  13. Tina says:

    October blooms are fabulous, as are your photos! I’ve grown the orange globe mallow for years. I had one that I got from BSN, planted at the base of a Mt. Laurel (that’s a beautiful combo), eventually moved it, lost it, replaced it and added another this summer (not half price, darn it!). It a great plant.

    Globe mallow is somewhat short-lived, right? But perhaps that’s it’s only drawback. I bet the silver leaves against the deep, glossy green of Texas mountain laurel was a beautiful combo. —Pam

  14. Ed says:

    October is easily the best month for both plants and wildlife here in South Texas, and sadly it also seems like it is the shortest month as well. Great photos!

    Time flies when a gardener is having fun! Thanks for your comment, Ed. —Pam

  15. Bernieh says:

    Yes, Pam, the death star has definitely shifted its beam down here to the southern hemisphere. I think I will have to borrow that description of what happens at the end of our Spring here. I love it! October there sounds like April here.

    Luckily for me, the Galphimia blooms almost entirely all year round. I just love its bright cheery flowers. That Gomphrena is just beautiful. I have the ‘globosa’, but I will definitely be on the hunt for the ‘grapes’ now.

    Oh, I hope the Death Star is not too hard on you Aussies this summer. It brutalized us in Texas. But enough whining! Enjoy your lovely spring flowers and lengthening days. —Pam

  16. Les says:

    I love stopping for a visit and seeing several unfamiliar faces. I especially liked the mallow.

    It’s fairly new in my garden, Les, but I’ve come to love it. What a great plant for hot, dry locations. —Pam

  17. jenn says:

    Does your pond crinum bloom?
    I’ve had one for several years – it’s bloomed once, and two years I noted buds that never opened. Feel like I need to figure this one out, because although the foliage is very satisfying, I love the blooms!

    Jenn, my pond crinum does indeed bloom, at least once each summer and usually twice. Click for a picture of it in bloom. Do you feed yours? I give mine a fertilizer tablet every couple of months during the growing season. And I divide it in early spring, as I do with my water lilies. —Pam

  18. jenn says:

    Ah. I haven’t fed the water lilies or the crinum this year. One lily went to town this year, I have one more bloom coming… I did up-pot the crinum – and it did start a bud, but then it failed to flower. Fertilizer! (do you just use pond tablets?)

    Yes, water lily fertilizer tablets. —Pam