Autumn’s heralds, sound the news!


Heat and drought may still grip Texas in an iron fist, but cheery oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) are popping up anyway to remind us that autumn will be here soon. I treasure fall heralds like these for their hopeful message as much as for their seasonal flowering.

This is the early-bird oxblood lily in my garden this year. I hope to see lots more in my garden and around town in coming weeks. Oxblood bulbs require absolutely no care beyond dividing them every few years if you feel like it, and they don’t mind dry soil or light shade, making them a wonderful addition to dry-South gardens.


Another sign of summer’s end are the spiky, purple bracts of native Leavenworth’s eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii), which came to my garden via seeds shared by Michael at Plano Prairie Garden. Sure, it’s a little weedy, but can anything beat that crown of purple spikes?


Maybe only the jewel-toned berries of American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). Even though its leaves hang limply from thirst, the purple berries speak of hope for fall rain — at least that’s what they’re saying to me. For the mockingbirds, those brilliant berries are a dinner bell.


Thank you for giving me hope, fall harbingers. We who garden under the Death Star really need it.

Is anything promising cooler weather in your garden?

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

17 Responses

  1. Shirley says:

    After the extra-hot August it is fun to know cooler gardening weather is on its way. It’s time I added oxblood lily to my garden. They are so pretty at a slow time in the garden.

    So far the best indicator is the ripening of the prickly pear. The flowering perennials are pulling out of their August dormancy so it won’t be long.

    I do love those purple, egg-shaped tunas on the prickly pears. I’ll be looking out for those too. —Pam

  2. We’re experiencing a brief cool(er) spell before our temps are expected to head upward again, a pattern that’s likely to continue into the latter part of October. There’s no rain in sight. However, the Japanese anemones, one harbinger of fall, are in bloom in my garden (albeit with dry, ratty foliage) and my fall-blooming Plectranthus is in bud so there’s hope on the horizon.

    I remember admiring Japanese anemones at Chicago Botanic Garden one October, several years ago. So pretty! Hope you get some rain soon. We’re praying for it too. —Pam

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Beauty Berry is one of my faves. Here they aren’t very far along. It won’t be long and the berries will be purple.

    Gosh, I can’t believe a plant is farther along in fall color here than in Indianapolis. We must have different varieties of American beautyberry, you think? Enjoy your berries when they purple up! —Pam

  4. ricki says:

    A week of rain has given me strength to go on…into the 90′s this week. Fall is a tease.

    That’s really hot for you guys in the PacNW. Yes, rain does give us all the strength to go on. —Pam

  5. Jenny says:

    I love those purple berries! I’m going to be on the lookout for some here.

    Aren’t they pretty? I think Callicarpa is pretty widespread. I hope you find a variety for your climate, Jenny. —Pam

  6. Jenny says:

    I am sure they too are happy to have made it through the dry hot summer. Your oxblood is so early. After you mentioned it yesterday I went to take a look for mine. Not a peep. Did you just put those eryngo seeds in the ground or start them early. I would love to grow that plant.

    They self-seeded, Jenny. I’ll try to remember to save you some seeds from this one. —Pam

  7. peter schaar says:

    Not many autumn harbingers in my garden. It’s been even hotter than Austin, but some of my roses are blooming, although their flowers are so pitiful I really wish they wouldn’t. Mainly, Vincent Godsif, Dame de Coeur, and Jane Bullock are in bloom. Other than that, just a continuation of summer blooms – cow pen daisy, Salvia coccinea, S. Henry Duelberg, Dicliptera bracheata, snake herb, horse herb, frog fruit, Texas lantana, Mexican honeysuckle. Nothing spectacular, though.

    It’s a hard time of year for spectacular, but it sounds like you have a lot of pretty summer bloomers to keep you happy until fall comes along, Peter. —Pam

  8. Alison says:

    Holy Moly, that Eryngium is bright! I’m going to need to find seeds for that. Love your oxblood lilies too, thanks for the great photo.

    I can send you seeds too, Alison. Just don’t let me forget! —Pam

  9. linda says:

    That reminds me…what happened to those Eryngium leavenworthii I sowed this spring . Next year another go!

    I thought they’d sow pretty readily, but they definitely didn’t self-sow much in my garden. Of course, I tend to use a lot of mulch, and that inhibits self-seeding. —Pam

  10. No signs from my oxblood lilies yet, but the eryngo and American beautyberry are showing color. I noticed that the mockingbird are picking the chile pequin peppers off the plants as soon as they turn red. The next big sign of the changing seasons will be when the gayfeather begins to bloom.

    Oh yes, your gayfeather — another beautiful fall flower. The birds do love those chile pequins. —Pam

  11. Peter says:

    We have an old beautyberry in mostly shade that is about 10 ft wide and I love seeing those berries too, it’s a nice reminder that cooler weather is coming soon. I read beautyberry leaves can be used as a natural insect repellant so I tried rubbing them on my arm but just got some mosquito bites and rash that lasted a couple of hours. =)

    Wouldn’t it have been nice if it had worked? Ah well. Enjoy all your purple berries! —Pam

  12. “Iron fist” and “Death Star”…such a sweet and gentle place! Seeing your oxblood lilies come up must be nice, though red shows some intensity. Looking forward to seeing if my old oxbloods recovered after the convection oven flooded! All good:-)

    My feelings about late summer in Texas really crept through in this post, didn’t they? Ha! Did you bring your oxblood lily bulbs with you to El Paso? —Pam

  13. Ally says:

    I had hoped to get some eryngium seeds started in my wild flower meadow, but the drought made me drag my heels yet again. It’s still on my to do list. Maybe next year. I think I’ll pair up the eryngium with goldenrod. Wouldn’t that be a nice combination.

    That would be lovely, Ally! Do you regularly grow goldenrod? I’ve never tried it (don’t have the room), but it sure is pretty. —Pam

  14. It’s good to see those glimpses of fall.

    We’re headed back to the heat tomorrow, after being up here in the middle of the beauty of Wyoming. Cool mornings and warm (not HOT) days, will be missed.

    Hope those are soon coming our way in Central Texas.

    I envy you those cool mornings and comfortable afternoons in Wyoming, Linda. Please bring some of it with you when you return. —Pam

  15. Oh yay! I always love your fall lily post – it means fall is almost here! Woo-Hoo! You made my day Pam!

    I aim to please, Heather! ;-) —Pam

  16. Katina says:

    It’s getting dark earlier…and the death star doesn’t seem quite so deathly…fall is on the way, I can feel it.

    Can’t wait! —Pam

  17. Diana Studer says:

    we are promised snow on the mountains again with the cold front rolling in from Wednesday to Thursday. Maybe then, we’ll settle into spring weather.

    I hope spring comes soon for you, Diana! I’m sure you are anticipating it in the Southern Hemisphere the way we hot-climate N. Hem. gardeners are looking forward to fall. —Pam