Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Well, hello, Hamelia!

I've told you about some of the tropical plants whose toughness surprised me after our recent cold winter. These resurrection artists have been an unexpected delight this spring. But I have a lot of tough plants in my garden and most of them are not tropicals.

Two plants, in particular, come to mind when I think of toughness. Both of these plants have been a part of my garden for many years. I actually got my start of both of them years ago from Treesearch Farms when those folks were still doing a retail business. They have never disappointed me.

Both plants are wonderful attractants for butterflies and hummingbirds, which is why I added them in the first place. Both of them always die back with the first hard freeze of autumn, but then they come back strong in the spring and by the end of autumn, they will be four to six feet tall once again.

They do come back strong in the spring, but they are slow to begin the comeback and one of them has been particularly slow this year. In fact, I've been sweating this return in recent days, wondering if this might finally be the year that Hamelia patens didn't come back. Every day, I've been examining the base of the plants for new growth. Finally, yesterday, I was rewarded.

Well, hello, Hamelia! Here are the first tentative sprouts as Hamelia patens reenters my world. In less time than you would think, these little sprouts will look like this...

The hamelia in mid-summer form last summer.

The second tough hummingbird/butterfly plant is the Anisacanthus wrightii or flame acanthus. It is a true hummingbird and butterfly magnet throughout the summer.

The flame acanthus is a slow starter in spring, too, but not as slow as the hamelia. It actually started coming back about a month ago, and already the hedge of the shrubs along my veggie garden fence is beginning to fill in.

About six weeks ago, this was nothing but a bunch of brown sticks. Now it's about 18 inches tall, fully-leaved out and growing daily. Before too long, it will begin to look like this...

Once these orange blooms start, the bushes will be constantly visited by butterflies, particularly swallowtails.

It's very gratifying to the gardener - at least it is to this gardener - to see these plants that have long been backbones of my efforts at "gardening with Nature" slowly waking from their long winter's naps and coming back to life again. It's just one of those everyday miracles that gardeners get to witness. What fortunate people we are!


  1. I'm jealous about your firebush. Nothing yet from ours; if they follow past years, I won't see leaves until JUNE. But the flame acanthus is leafing out nicely, will begin to flower soon I bet.

    It's fun that we have so many plants in common, even though you're in an acid soil and higher rain environment and we're on alkaline clay/rock in an arid zone.

  2. Just shows how really versatile and "tough" these plants are, doesn't it?