Xeriscape in bloom at Wells Branch Community Garden

May 14, 2020

Lemon-lime retama trees in bloom caught my eye recently as I drove by the Wells Branch Community Garden and its native xeriscape garden.

Someone takes really good care of this waterwise garden, which dresses up the exterior of the walled community-garden plots. Until a few years ago it was just a tiny bed with a couple of agaves. After those agaves bloomed and died, the bed was ambitiously expanded, and now it’s eye-catchingly planted with drought-tolerant and sun-loving plants like retama (Parkinsonia aculeata), a green-trunked native tree with butter-yellow flowers in spring.

Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), with slender, hummingbird-attracting bloom spikes that flower for weeks at a time.

Whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), a solitary (non-pupping) agave that looks like a big blue rose. It appreciates filtered shade like that provided by the airy retama, or morning sun with afternoon shade. It grows just fine in full sun too, although it sometimes suffers sun scorch during especially hot Texas summers.

Ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense), a cold-hardy, pinkish-gray succulent. This plant thrives in pots in my shady garden, and I hadn’t really seen it in full-sun conditions, but it looks happy.

Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) needs more water than other plants here, but it’s a lovely native perennial that butterflies adore, especially in the fall.

All hail the Queen Victoria agave (Agave victoriae-reginae), a tidy, symmetrical beauty of an agave. It craves full sun, excellent drainage, and being left alone, like Greta Garbo.

I love the white outlining along each leaf’s edge and creased planes.

Artichoke agave (Agave parryi var. truncata), at lower left, is another not-too-big, winter-hardy agave. Notice there’s not one weed or sprig of Bermudagrass in the crushed-rock mulch. As I said, this garden is beautifully maintained.

Gregg’s mistflower and whale’s tongue agave

Another whale’s tongue agave, I think — maybe the ‘Vanzie’ cultivar?

More mistflower with a spineless prickly pear (Opuntia), an excellent “evergreen” for a xeric garden.

Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens), the gray-green shrub in the foreground, is another super-tough evergreen for a low-water Central Texas garden.

But it was the showy retama flowers that made me hit the brakes, and so that’s what I’ll leave you with.

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Wildflower fiesta at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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