Coneflower

Echinacea spp. also known as Coneflowers, are a popular and colorful perennial accent for landscapes, gardens, and as cut flowers ranging in height from 24 inches to 4 to 6 feet. Hardy from zone 2 to 10 depending on the variety, they require full sun to partial shade, average watering, and come in a variety of colors. Echinacea spp. bloom in mid-summer to mid-fall and attract bees, butterflies, and birds as well as being unattractive to deer. The most common coneflower for Texas landscapes is the Eastern Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) which is characterized by a medium purple flower with petals that hang down from the seed head.

In the landscape, you may Coneflowers or similar plants in naturalistic designs such as Texas native or English garden style, and in containers. Coneflowers are some of my personal favorite for their simple blooms and natural look in the landscape. They pair well with Artemisia, Rosemary, boulders, Salvia, and grasses.

 

Other Varieties:

Pixie Meadowbrite Coneflower (Echinacea ‘CBG Cone 2’) has a vibrant pink flower with an orange center with petals that hold themselves horizontally. It can be 8-20 inches tall and 2 feet wide with more than 20 flowers on a single plant, and is hardy throughout Texas in zones 4-9.

Echinacea ‘Julia’ is a compact cultivar of Echinacea with bright orange flowers that grow 15-18 inches tall. It is hardy in Texas (zones 6-9) and needs full sun. It is a lovely alternative to the common purples and pinks normally seen in coneflowers.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Double Scoop Cranberry’ is another interesting coneflower that differs in appearance from the standard. It has a pompom like flower with slender petals falling downwards from a double blooming center. It is bright and vibrant in the garden and makes for an excellent cut flower for arrangements and bouquets. It is hardy in all of Texas (zones 4 to 9).

Echinacea hybrida ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is a variety of coneflower featuring a mixture of colors from yellow to red to purple in a massed planting. It provides a colorful and natural look to any landscape and looks great as a potted plant. It is hardy from zone 4 to 10 and can be grown in most of the continental US.

More Varieties: ‘Magnus’, ‘Razzmatazz’, ‘Merlot’,  ‘Cleopatra’, ‘Passion Fruit’, ‘Butterfly Kisses’,  ‘Evening Glow’ , and ‘Supreme Cantaloupe’

Similar to Echinacea: Coreopsis, Ratibida columnifera or Mexican Hat, Rudbeckia or Black Eyed Susan, wildflower Indian Blanket

 

© HDG Landscape Design, 2020

HDG on DIY Yardcrashers

20130919_174749HDG Landscape Design was fortunate enough to be selected as the first and only Texas designer for DIY Yardcrasher’s Houston episode.  The California crew and host soon realized things really are bigger in Texas after receiving lots of donated resources from generous local companies including Tomball’s beloved nursery, The Arbor Gate.  We were about to embark on the biggest Yardcrasher’s project in the history of the show, and we still only had the designated 1.5 days available to install.

Thankfully, the design process started for HDG Landscape Design in September 2013, but the design process was the quickest executed in HDG’s history to date. HDG was hired 24 hours before visiting the episode’s property, was notified just 2 hours in advance of the location of the property, was only allowed 30 minutes on the property while the crew was there to ensure no one interacted with the owners, and our team worked diligently in one of Houston’s famous rain events to measure the site and take photos as it would be the last time we saw the property before filming in just 2 months.

To make sure we would be ready for filming on time, HDG prepared a detailed plan, material inventory for purchasing, and site furniture selections in just 4 business days, and the team got to work finding local Houston vendors to support the project. Through this process a major but seemingly minor change was made to the design. The main patio designed with large set Oklahoma Flagstone was vetoed by the show’s producer and replaced with a raised wood deck. This decision was not agreed with by HDG due to the site’s slope, issues with Houston’s climate and floods, and wildlife issues for this particular site located in rural Tomball including mosquitoes and rodents.  For the reference of the reader, it is recommended that a project located any area with known drainage issues or potential flooding (such as areas in and around Houston) includes appropriate drainage solutions in their project’s budget.

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As an additional bonus for the home owners, HDG prepared 3-Dimensional graphic representations of their project to present to the owners on the day the project began in mid-November 2013. These graphics did not give the owners an instant look at what to expect in just 1.5 shorts days from the project’s beginning, but it gave the behind the scenes team including HDG and the producer an opportunity to plan where to shoot footage and final photos from in advance.

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The first day of filming went off with a slight hitch or two.  The “off camera” fun was had to fix the unknowns found on site, and a generous neighbor lent the owner his tractor to remove a particularly difficult tree stump.

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Even in November, it was hot and humid out in Houston, but the behind the scenes team worked hard from 7:00 am – 11:00 pm to make sure we stayed on schedule.

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HDG’s role on this day included project layout, directing the behind the scenes team, educating the host about the types of plant and hardscape materials selected and design intent behind the layout, construction, and small details in the design so it could be relayed to the audience when on camera, and most importantly reassuring the producer that we were staying on schedule with the largest project ever constructed on the show.  By the second day it was evident that our hard work at night after the show left made all the difference in keeping the project on schedule. All that was left included fun scenes to film including dressing up pottery with edible plants, laying out the dry river bed, and putting in final touches with site furnishings.

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By 3:00 pm on the second day of filming, the behind the scenes team and California crew was ready for final photos and filming.  With a short 24 hours of labor and over 20 team members, the seemingly impossibly large project was made possible. For Holly and Barrett, this project finished just in time to host friends and family for Thanksgiving festivities.

Charming Southern Retreat

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By nightfall, the crew and team enjoyed the cool night around the fire pit fitting 12 people comfortably on the seat wall alone.

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The “Behind the Scenes” Team waited silently behind the camera during filming, and then quickly got back to work between takes.

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Home owners Holly and Barrett reflecting on the whirlwind installation.

Find the Charming Southern Retreat Episode on DIY Network Show’s  YouTube!

© HDG Landscape Design, 2016

Mexican Feather Grass

Nassella tenuissima, more often known as Mexican Feather Grass is a common ornamental grass in Texas landscapes and still referred to Stipa tenuissima by some authorities. This perennial grass can reach 24” to 36” in height and 15” to18” in width. Ornamental grasses in general are grown for a texture and interesting foliage. Mexican Feather Grass has a light and airy texture consisting of green foliage with tan to cream plumes. This grass blooms throughout late spring to mid-summer. Hardy throughout most of Texas, Mexican Feather Grass is a great choice for a low to mid-level accent needing full sun and infrequent watering.20160626_172845

Mexican Feather Grass is one of my favorite grasses to use in the landscape because it provides movement as it sways in the breeze. Its graceful stems contrast with broad leaved succulents, bright flowers, and xeriscaping plants, such as Agave, Red Yucca, Lantana, Salvia, and even boulders and river rocks. Mexican Feather Grass works particularly well as a lining plant for pathways because the leaves and plumes fall over the edges of the path to provide a softer transition and immersive feel. It will self-sow freely which may be beneficial if used in large landscapes and meadows or even on slopes for purposes of erosion control. When used in containers and modern design it would be wise to deadhead the plant to control growth.

Maintenance at least once a year is suggested. Removing gray colored old growth is simple and will allow for more air flow between the healthy grass blades. I have found the best way to manage this is to run your fingers through the blades like you are detangling long hair. The dead growth will remove easily, and it will give you an opportunity to restructure the plant if you found it laying too far on one side.

*Warning: This plant doesn’t like soggy, wet soil and roots will rot in these conditions!!

We love to pair this plant with Agave, Soft Leaf Yucca, Gold Star Esperanza, Vitex, Salvia, Texas Sage, and other Texas Superstar Plants.

Other Names: Silky Thread Grass, Mexican Needle Grass

 

© HDG Landscape Design, 2016

Red Yucca – Hesperaloe parviflora

Hesperaloe parviflora, also known as Red Yucca, is a moderately growing perennial often used in Texas native and water wise landscaping.  It is hardy in all of Texas, the south and into the mid-west, from zone 5 to 11, and requires full sun. Red Yucca is an evergreen plant with long slender succulent like leaves and tall rose pink flowering stalks with small cup like flowers all along them. This plant can grow to be 3 to 4 feet tall and wide in the landscape with vertical or draping flower stalks up to 6 feet tall. It is a great residential design plant due to its relatively deer resistant nature, for example deer will most likely eat the red blooms but will spare the unpalatable evergreen foliage. 20150618_174225

Red Yucca is used effectively in rock gardens and as a landscape accent, and I like to pair it with are Agave, Mexican Feather Grass, Sotol, and Lantana. It is best when used with other desert like plants and in Texas native designs because it uses low amounts of water much like many other Texas natives, making them natural pairings. It provides continued interest in the landscape with its almost year round blooms of rose pink to salmon. Even when not in bloom it does not lose its interest due to its long slender leaves that give it a grass like texture without being too fine. It can provide a great focal feature when allowed to fall naturally over a boulder, when placed next to a dry river bed, or looks great when planted in a bed topped with crushed granite.

20151009_173928Fun Facts:

In my experience, Red Yucca grows well in part shade or filtered sun if the landscape design does not require blooming. This can be advantageous as Red Yucca seed pods yields upwards of 50 seeds per pod. It is easy to grow Red Yucca from seed, and with enough moisture the seed can grow without soil. In fact, the humidity near the Texas gulf coast provides enough moisture in the air to begin the growth of Red Yucca seeds while they are still in the pod. This makes offspring once dropped even easier to root, so remove seed pods or flower stalks as soon as the flowers are no longer present to avoid additional future maintenance.

 

 

Other Varieties:

Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Perpa’ or Brakelights Red Yucca is a variety of Red yucca that features vibrant brake light red blooms. It is a compact new selection with more prolific flowering and exceptionally long season due to its tendency to not set seed pods. It can reach a height of 2 feet tall and is known to attract hummingbirds due to its cup shaped red flowers that are easier for the birds to get pollen out of and are highly visible.

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Turk’s Cap

Malvaviscus arboreus, or Turk’s Cap, is a large flowering shrub with a natural tendencys, has a tropical look with large leaves, and flowers resembling a turk’s cap bloom or a closed hibiscus flower. It can grow 6 to 8 feet tall and wide with a wild habit that, when used correctly, can work well in an existing natural setting. It can grow in full sun to partial shade and is hardy in zones 8-11(Central Texas and south). Turk’s Cap is evergreen and blooms red or white from mid-summer to early winter, giving a prolonged interest to the plant.

Turk’s Cap, a Texas Native and Texas Superstar, needs to be used carefully in the landscape, due to its natural habit. It is best for naturalistic or native designs that can grow in mass, allowing its form to show true. It is great along fences where it can grow to its true height and provide an evergreen backdrop to other colorful perennials or annual seasonal color. It can also provide a nice shrub for along windowless walls if you are looking for that natural feel. Planting it behind evergreen shrubs can help to mask its wild appearance if needed but still allow its showy flowers to shine.

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Other Varieties:

Malvaviscus drummondii ‘Big Momma’ is a variety that can survive as far north as Dallas and into southern Oklahoma, and has large eye catching coral red flowers. It is a fast grower to 6 feet tall and attracts butterflies, due to its closed flowers that are difficult for bees to access.

Malvaviscus ‘Pam Puryear’ is a newer hybrid variety with pink flowers. It is more cold hardy than traditional Turk’s Cap and can be grown as an annual north Texas. It grows 4 to 6 feet tall and is hardy as a perennial in central and south Texas, blooming late spring to early fall.

Photo Credit: Kristin Howard

Texas Sage

HDG Landscape Design Texas SageTexas Sage, commonly known by other names as Cenizo, Texas Ranger, or Barometer Bush, is a well-known native shrub often used in Texas commercial and residential landscapes. Texas Sage is evergreen and typically needs full sun to look its best. Texas Sage has very unique silver-gray velvet textured leaves and bright purple flowers that bloom in the summer and fall, but it is also valued for its ability to thrive in heat and drought conditions. The native Texas Sage is rather large and can grow to be 6 feet tall, but there are other cultivars to choose from that can give you a more manageable sized shrub. Texas Rangers are in fact not a true sage although they are often called Texas Sage. Texas Rangers are more cold tolerant to 10 degrees Fahrenheit making these varieties excellent for commercial use throughout Texas. Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’ is a featured Texas Ranger below.

Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Silverado’ grows up to 6 feet tall and wide with a dense growth habit to the base making it a better selection of Texas Sage than other varieties of its size. This variety is fast growing which allows an established look in the landscape in just a couple growing seasons. Like most Texas Sage, ‘Silverado’ grows best in zones 8-11 with silver foliage and blooms spring through fall. It is a common variety for commercial use.

Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Bertstar Dwarf’ is a dwarf variety and only grows to be about 4 feet tall. This variety has the same signature silver-gray foliage and purple blooms as other varieties but blooms repeatedly throughout the year. ‘Bertstar Dwarf’ should be planted in full sun in zones 8-11 and can be used to provide year-round interest in a home garden attracting butterflies, birds, and bees when flowering.

Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’ is a unique variety because instead of the silver foliage with purple booms, it sports green foliage and rose colored blooms. ‘Green Cloud’ is best planted in full sun in zones 8-10 and is drought tolerant and deer resistant. This variety blooms from June through October usually after rain, is very compact, more vigorous than other varieties, and it can grow up to 5-6 feet tall.

Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’ is a slow growing compact variety up to 3 feet tall and wide. ‘Thunder Cloud’ thrives in full sun in zones 8-11 and is known to be extremely heat and drought resistant once established.  This compact shrub consistently reveals purple flowers from spring to fall flowering repeatedly and especially after a rainfall. ‘Thunder Cloud’ is the most common dwarf variety of Texas Rangers used commercially in Texas.

Gulf Muhly – Muhlenbergia capillaris

Grass, Gulf Muhly cloud

Muhlenbergia capillaris, most commonly known as Gulf Muhly, Pink Muhly, or Hair Grass, is a hardy ornamental grass native to Texas and most of the United States; however, it grows most successfully in zones 8-11.  Gulf Muhly grows only to 3 foot tall and wide, and it has a wide range of uses in the landscape. It is often used as a color accent, border, or featured in a large mass which turns into a pink cloud in fall.
This plant is often used commercially and especially in large masses because of its drought-tolerance and attractive pink blooms during the fall. It attracts butterflies, birds, and insects, is deer resistant, drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, and can be planted in areas with poor soil which makes it a very attractive choice for a homeowner.  The best time to plant Gulf Muhly is in the early spring and in full sun.

 

Image:   http://www.texasgardeninginfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/gulf-muhly.jpg

Salvia greggii – Autumn Sage

Salvia greggii Red with Butterfly

Salvia greggii, commonly known as Autumn Sage, is a small woody perennial that is often used commercially in Texas and is found in zones 5-9. This perennial can grow 2-3 feet tall and wide and is easy to grow as it is heat and drought tolerant and considered a native in North America. Salvia greggii grows best in full to partial sun, is best used as a color accent or bed border, and blooms from early summer to late fall. The best time to plant Salvia greggii is in early Spring so that roots will have time to grow before the heat of the summer, and you will benefit from its early summer blooms quickly. Red blooms attract Hummingbirds as well as other birds and butterflies, but is a great addition to a Hill Country landscape because it is deer resistant. As this perennial begins to die back in Winter, prune to a few inches off the ground. You can even prune mid-season to reduce this perennial’s shrub-like size.

 

Passionflower Vine

Passiflora spp., more often known as the Passionflower Vine, is known for its stunning and unique flowers. You can find this semi-evergreen perennial vine from zones 6-11, Passion Flower Vine - HDG Landscape Designand it should be planted in full sun. Tendrils allow this vine to climb, and once established, the Passionflower Vine may be difficult to eradicate as it is known to be a rampant grower. You can expect this plant to reach anywhere from 15′ to 20′ in a single season depending on the variety you have selected and your location.

Varities

Passiflora incarnata is tolerant of drought, heat, and wet soils. This variety is native to the Southeastern USA from zones 7-10 with purple-blue to pink-lavender flowers or combinations of pink, purple, and white.

Passiflora coccinea is tolerant of drought, heat, and wet soils. This variety is not cold hardy and should be planted in sub-tropical regions from zones 9b-11. This variety has scarlet flowers and is much less vigorous than Passiflora incarnata.

Passiflora caerulea flowers with blue, white, and pink all found in the same flower, but it is less stunning than Passiflora incarnata and Passiflora coccinea. This variety is hardy from zones 8-11 and can withstand the cold temperatures of zone 7 (but will die back to the roots). The Gulf Fritillary Moth feeds on this plant in Central and East Texas.

Passiflora lutea flowers very small 3/4” yellow-green with purple-black fruit that cannot be eaten. This variety is the most cold hardy from zones 6-9 and is native from the Southeastern USA to Pennsylvania.

Passiflora vitifolia flowers a deeper red than Passiflora coccinea with grape vine-like leaves. This variety is hardy from zones 9b-11 and is known to be evergreen within the subtropical regions.

The Passionflower in Christianity

“The unusual shape of the flowers has led to the plant being associated in Christian symbolism with the passion of Jesus; the three stigmas representing the three nails used to nail Jesus to the cross, the ovary and its stalk represent the chalice of the Last Supper, the five anthers represent the five wounds, the corona represents the crown of thorns, the ten ‘petals’ (actually five petals and five sepals) the apostles (save Judas the traitor and Peter the denyer); the old leaves also represent the hands of those who persecuted Him, the young leaves are the point of the lance used to stab Him, and the tendrils the whips of those who beat Him.” (quoted from http://elimurray.hubpages.com/hub/The-Passion-Flower-in-Christianity)

Texas Star Hibiscus

Hibiscus coccineus, more often known as Texas Star Hibiscus, is a Texas ‘Super Star’ and perennial shrub many have not given a chance. You can expect this plant to reach Texas Star Hibiscus - HDG Landscape Designanywhere from 3′ to 8.’  This perennial dies back to the ground in the winter, grows from zone 6a to 11, and can withstand many of our winters in warmer climates.  Texas Star Hibiscus will come back in spring when temperatures warm up. The dark red petals resemble a 5 point star and are much larger and open compared to standard hibiscus.

Texas Star Hibiscus can handle full sun to part shade, flowering best in full sun from mid-summer to early fall.  Texas Star Hibiscus is known to handle drought conditions but can also handle quite a bit of water. Plant this perennial behind evergreen plants with plenty of room (about 4’) so that it is hidden when it dies back in winter.