Here’s a word for the gardener, herbaceous, it means plants with green stems and, often, lush flowers. Think lantanas, red yuccas, purple coneflowers, and irises, but the list goes on and on. Perennial herbs live for years. It is possible to kill a perennial herb, but as a rule they go dormant, that is they die back to the ground for the winter and during periods of drought. A perennial herb is my kind of plant, and quite a few are native Texans.
At the risk of sounding like a broken CD the first item of perennial herb business is its surrounding soil. Remember the proportion of local clay soil to sand to compost is 1:1:1.
Jeff McCauley, a landscape designer and co-owner of Shades of Green nursery in Frisco, and a native-gardening specialist, swore to me he had only watered his gorgeous garden north of Celina twice in the last 12 years. He attributed this to soil amending, drought-resistant plants, and mulching. His advice is to resist the late summer urge to dig out brittle brown perennial skeletons because there is green hidden among them dry bones. Look and see for yourself!
“As soon as the temperature drops, everything turns green and starts to grow again,” he said, “Dormancy is a plant’s defense mechanism against bad weather.”
The average annual date of the first autumn cool front in southern Denton County is September 15. You will notice the grass (a perennial) wakes up and turns green again. Sometimes fall fronts bring their own water, and sometimes you have to douse the perennial graveyard yourself.
Here is a list of native perennials that like plenty of sun, don’t mind some black gumbo clay between their toes, and will snooze through a drought. They spread underground, so when the clump gets too big, just break it apart, give the pieces a good drink then spread them around the garden.
The Latin names are important because these specific varieties are the Native Texans. Other varieties may or may not be happy in your little patch of Eden.
Yarrow (achillea millefolium)
Texas Blue Star (amsonia ciliata)
Wild Columbine (aquilegia canadensis) – smaller than hothouse columbines
Butterfly Weed (asclepius tuberosa)
Ox-Eye Daisy (chrysanthemum leucanthemum) – this is the Texan among daisies
Golden Wave (coreopsis lanceolata)
Prairie Larkspur (delphinium viriscens) – blooms when the heat hits!
Purple Coneflower (echinacea purpurea)
Spider Lily (hymenocallis liriosme) – likes plenty of water in the spring
Red Yucca (hesperaloe parviflora) – take 3-5 years to mature flowering stalks
Iris (all varieties)
Scarlet Sage (salvia coccinea) – reseeds itself
Turk’s Cap (malvaviscus drummondii)