Commelinantia anomala
Commelinantia anomala. False dayflower. Who could resist a face like that?

November 26th, 2009
Commelinantia anomala

If Austin has received good fall rains, then by November my yard is filled with the first grassy green leaves of false dayflowers. The color is a young, spring green so bright and cheerful that it seems at odds with the season.

False dayflower is a beautiful, but generally uncultivated, member of the Commelinaceae family which includes spiderwort, wandering Jew, and the true, perennial day flower (widow’s tears). Seeds for false dayflower arrived in my garden in a bag of leaves that I collected for mulch. I’m glad they did because their 5-inch tufts of bright green foliage which appear in late fall, brighten the winter garden.

Commelinantia anomala
The bright green leaves of false dayflower glow when they catch the sunlight.

Its habit is very similar to its relative, the spiderwort. I consider them far superior to spiderwort because they are shallow-rooted, easy to remove from any spot where they’re not wanted, and have more arresting flowers.

False dayflowers form grass-like drifts that disappear in the first heat of summer. Although they self-sow with the vigor of weeds, they are not rank. They are very shallow-rooted and easy to remove from any place that they are not wanted. They require absolutely no attention and make wonderful filler plants, especially on the edges of shady areas. The seeds sprout in moist soil covered with mulch.

Commelinantia anomala
False dayflower massed next to purple heart–another relative.

They are also quite attractive as single plants.

Commelinantia anomala

With spring rains the flower spathes shoot up a foot or more and the funny-faced flowers float like pale blue butterflies. Normally, the petals are a solid lavender blue, but occasionally a bitone flower will appear. I’ve selected the bitones seeds over the years and now about 80 per cent of the flowers in my yard are bitoned.

Commelinantia anomala
Two colors of false dayflowers growing among purple spiderwort. (Blooming more typically in March.)

I have never seen false dayflower or its seeds for sale. The Wildflower Center had plants at their Spring 2010 sale. I felt sorry for anyone who bought them because they were near the end of their lives and looked unlikely to flower and set seeds. I don’t know anyone else who grows them on purpose. They are weeds. But what wonderful weeds! They are endemic to central Texas so I can grow them without guilt.

Previously, the earliest that false dayflower had bloomed in my garden was December 7, 2001. However, this year it is already blooming. The first flower was October 28th.


Wildflower Center: Native Plant Database: Tinantia anomala (The botanists are playing with names again. I say commelinantia because it took me such a long time to learn to spell it. And because it belongs to the Commelinaceae (Spiderwort) family.

new buds on rose Ducher
Buds and tender new growth (red) on the ‘Ducher’ rose.

November 20th, 2009
Freeze Warning

We Austin gardeners are living in heady times. The last two winters have been very mild. Last year I didn’t even get a killing freeze in my garden (although I know others in who Austin did). As a result, plants that usually die back to the ground–like the duranta and the Port St. Johns creeper–kept growing and flowering year around. Tender perennials that we treat as annuals–such a jalapeno pepper–demonstrated that they are indeed perennials. My aloe vera that I planted outside has survived three winters and grown and flowered. It produces so many pups and is so heat and drought tolerant that I keep planting it all over the garden. And worse, I’ve started collecting its cousins. There are 400 species of aloe and dozens of different ones are available in Austin nurseries. Some are reputed to be hardy but aloe vera is not. So far the aloe vera has reacted to the cold by turning slightly red but recovered quickly.

Aloe barbadensis
Aloe vera. I planted these in 2006. Since then they’ve doubled in size, multiplied, and flowered.

The aloe vera was only the beginning. Last winter I got tired of lugging plants I could barely carry into the house when a freeze threatened only to lug them back out again a couple of days later when temperatures returned to the 70s. So, I planted them out in the garden, too. If Austin gets several hard freezes this year will it be the end of my lemon tree, my cut leaf philodendron, two different kinds of asparagus fern, and my kalanchoe?

Kalanchoe dagriemontiana
The kalanchoe is forming new buds. These will turn to mush in a freeze.

Why do I keep buying new frost-sensitive plants like the allspice bush and the Natal plum?

As I continue planting (Austinites do most of our planting in the autumn so that our plants can have a chance to establish themselves before our deadly summer), I keep wondering if we aren’t headed for a reversal of fortune. We’ve been riding a non-freeze plant survival wave, living recklessly based on short-term memories. The forecast for this El Niño winter is colder than normal.

Established plants have responded to Austin’s recent rains after our two year drought as if it were spring. Several normally spring-blooming plants are flowering now and everything is putting out new growth. Even in normal years, many of our plants don’t go dormant and our ground never freezes. I often have roses in bloom at Christmas. Although on average Austin has a dozen nights of freezing temperatures, these nights are interspersed with days in the 60s, 70s, and even 80s. (If you delight in statistics, see the freeze dates at Camp Mabry between 1997 and 2006.)

Earlier this week, November 17th, the National Weather Service issued its first freeze warning for parts of our county. This should not have surprised us. The average is first freeze is December 2nd and as recently as 2005, our first freeze was also November 17th.

If the garden is unprepared and vulnerable, I think Austin gardeners are even more so. On Twitter, our responses fell into one of three camps: those who hurriedly covered plants and brought them inside, those who decided their plants were just going to have to tough it out, and those who gambled that while a freeze might hit other parts of Travis County, our micro-climate was probably safe. I was in the latter group and I won my bet with the weather. This time.

I need to get prepared. When it comes to Austin weather, anything can happen. In 1980, on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, it snowed.

Commelinantia anomala
Commelinantia anomala. I prefer this pale false dayflower.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites us to tell her what’s blooming in our gardens on the 15th of each month.

November 15th, 2009
GBBD 200911: Nov 2009

November 15, 2009

This last month has been one of the most beautiful in memory, its perfection lulling us into a glowing sense of “God! Isn’t it wonderful to live here in central Texas.” Rain. Rain. Rain. And then a month of dew-kissed mornings when we never got the hose out once and only watered seedlings and new transplants with the bounty in our rain barrels.

The overwintering annuals have filled in making it look more like March than November. The false dayflower is already flowering.
Commelinantia anomala
Commelinantia anomala. The common solid blue false day flower has an endearing face, too.

Henbit, chickweed, and dandelions–the early winter weeds (or tonic herbs depending on your point of view)–are also getting a head start on sprouting and blooming. It’s odd to think that our first freeze is due within three weeks when the whole garden is insisting we’re already into spring.

Another March flowerer, cilantro, is about to bolt. I hope this counts as a bonus fall crop and that we get a second crop in spring. Even the spring-flowering Jerusalem sage threw out a few flowers on one bush.

The fall flowers, brilliant with fall yellows and oranges, are in full bloom. With the flowers, the butterflies returned.
monarch on butterfly weed
Asclepias curassavica.

As did swarms of mosquitoes. The mosquitoes love to be in the garden in the late afternoon at the same time I otherwise find it most pleasant to work. Very discouraging. The garden is buzzing with bees, too. They especially like the coral vine, the basil, and the orange cosmos. The cosmos is in full bloom right now. Unfortunately it is a uniform orange, unlike previous years. It and the pink Port St. John’s Creeper account for almost all the color in the back yard.
Cosmos sulphureus
Cosmos sulphureus.

All month the roses have been in full bloom. The ‘New Dawn’ rose by the front fence has flowered more and longer than ever before. So has ‘Red Cascade’ which looks like it has finally decided to do something (take over the world?) after years of lying sleepily along the ground. In the back yard, ‘Ducher’ collapsed under its own weight and then sent out a lot of additional new growth from the bent canes. In short, it pegged itself.

rose Ducher
Rose ‘Ducher’. Linen white and lemon scented.

rose Red Cascade
Rose ‘Red Cascade’. Tiny flowers on rambling rose that wants to be a groundcover.

rose Prosperity
Rose ‘Prosperty’. From bud, to faded flower on stem…like a timelapse photo of itself.

rose Blush Noisette
Rose ‘Blush Noisette’.

‘Mermaid’ has been blooming this last month, just not today. Only ‘Souvenir del Malmaison’ and ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, which are still in the shade of a red oak, have not flowered.

The vines have set out to smother the yard, especially the kudzu-like Port St. John’s creeper which is following the coral vine’s leap into the trees. The cypress vine has grown into a flopsy mopsy tangle at the top of its trellis. One surviving morning glory puts out a unique striated flower every other day or so.

Pavonia hastata
Pavonia hastata. A single pale pavonia flower struggles to open. I prefer it to its cousin the solid pink, Texas native, rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala.

In the winter vegetable garden, the parsnips are flowering. The leaves are only just beginning to fall from the pecans today so the newly planted lettuce and other salad greens are struggling in the shade and getting leggy or eaten by pill bugs. The jalapeno is flowering and has peppers on it. One self-sown tomatillo is flowering but the other two which sprouted died so can’t cross-pollinate and set fruit.

Complete List for November

The list of all plants flowering today, November 15th 2009, at Zanthan Gardens.

  • Ajania pacifica (2009)
  • Antigonon leptopus (2009)
  • Asclepias curassavica (2009)
  • Aster ericoides (2009)
  • basil (2009)
  • Callisia repens (2009)
  • Calytocarpus vialis (2009) hated horseherb
  • Commelina communis (2009)
  • Commelinantia anomala (2009)
  • Cosmos sulphureus (2009)
  • Datura inoxia (2009)
  • Dolichos lablab (2009)
  • Duranta erecta (2009): overwintered and bloomed all summer
  • Eupatorium wrightii (2009): fading
  • Galphimia gracilis (2009)
  • henbit (2009)
  • Ipomoea quamoclit (2009)
  • jalapeno (2009)
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Catawba’ (2009): one flower; leaves browning–not changing color
  • Lavandula heterophylla ‘Goodwin Creek’ (2009)
  • Lobularia maritima ‘Tiny Tim’ (2009) survived the summer
  • Malvaviscus arboreus (2009)
  • Mirabilis jalapa pink (2009)
  • Nerium oleander ‘Turner’s Shari D.’ (2009): fading
  • Oxalis crassipis (2009)
  • Oxalis triangularis, purple (2009)
  • parsnips (2009)
  • Pavonia hastata (2009)
  • Podranea ricasoliana (2009)
  • Polanisia dodecandra (2009)
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette’ (2009)
  • rose ‘Ducher’ (2009): so heavy with new growth and flowers that it’s sprawling
  • rose ‘New Dawn’ (2009): both plants
  • rose ‘Prosperity’ (2009)
  • rose ‘Red Cascade’ (2009)
  • rosemary (2009)
  • Setcreasea (2009) both purple and green
  • Solanum jasminoides (2009)
  • tomatillo (2009)
  • Tagetes lucida (2009)
  • Thymophylla tenuiloba (2009)
  • Zexmenia hispida (2009)

rose Happenstance
2009-11-07. Rose ‘Happenstance’ at the Antique Rose Emporium north of San Antonio, Texas.

November 8th, 2009
Rose ‘Happenstance’

While on a the Austin garden blogger field trip to the Madrone Nursery, the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, and the Antique Rose Emporium, yesterday, at the latter I came across this lovely rose ‘Happenstance’.

‘Happenstance’ is the miniature version of ‘Mermaid’ (which I grow). ‘Mermaid’ is a rambunctious rambler, and in my garden has snaked up through several trees making many visitors do a double-take when they see her flowers blooming through very non-rose foliage.

‘Mermaid’ is renowned for her thorns and ‘Happenstance’ shares this family trait. However, ‘Happenstance’ is a comparitively small, dense (although equally thorny) bush. The leaves are much smaller than ‘Mermaid’ but just as glossy and bright green. The flowers are only slightly smaller. So if you like the large, flat creamy flowers of ‘Mermaid’ but don’t have room for a house-eating rambling rose, ‘Happenstance’ seems to be the solution.

rose Mermaid
Rose ‘Mermaid’. The difference in color is primarily a result of the lighting. Mermaid is a creamy ivory, not yellow, rose.

This is the first time I’ve written a plant profile on a plant I haven’t grown. When, I saw ‘Happenstance’ I knew that I would grow it someday…just as soon as I find a sunny spot.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-02-26. Kalanchoe daigremontiana.

November 6th, 2009
Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Mother of thousands, Kalanchoe daigremontiana, is described as an annual succulent that will not survive a frost. For years, I kept this native of southwest Madagascar potted and moved it indoors any time we had a freeze warning. Last winter, it got too big for me to carry in and out and I left it outside. Although others in Austin experienced hard freezes, my neighborhood just south of Lady Bird Lake apparently did not. Old stands of mother of thousands bloomed up and down my street.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-03-10. A well established stand of Kalanchoe daigremontiana in a neighbor’s garden.

When taking photos for GBBD last January, I noticed that buds were forming on my potted plant.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-01-15. Anticipation.

It had never bloomed before and I was excited. It took almost six weeks for the flowers to open fully; however, it remained in flower for months. Flowering does not necessarily happen annually. The conditions must have been just right in Austin last winter because I’d never seen it in flower before, mine had never flowered before, but I suddenly saw it flowering everywhere.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-03-20. Kalanchoe daigremontiana.

My kalanchoe tolerated full sun even in this hot, dry year. It was fairly drought tolerant. I watered it when it looked reddish and sunburnt but I didn’t have to baby it. When it began to rain and cool down, the leaves became greener and plumper. I would say that its growing requirements are similar to Aloe vera. It’s tempting to want to plant both because they are great structural plants that can take Austin’s punishing summers. They’ve survived the warmer than normal winters we’ve had in 2007 and 2008. However, 2009 is supposed to be colder than average–plants which have recently thrived may be in for a killer surprise.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-11-06. Kalanchoe daigremontiana. All the green around the pot are baby plants.

Fortunately this kalanchoe is aptly named mother of thousands. The edges of the leaves are covered with plantlets which drop off and root. I got my start by taking a few leaves and sprinkling the plantlets into the pot containing another plant. Sure enough they sprouted and pretty soon took over the pot. Now they’ve sprouted all around the pot

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-02-09. Kalanchoe daigremontiana.

The stems also flop over and root. I’ve read that the cuttings must be kept dry to root but I haven’t tried that yet because when the rains finally arrived this fall hundreds of little plantlets fell from the leaves and took root around the mother plant and even quite far away wherever the rainwater had washed them.

I’m potting them up to take inside over the winter as a backup in case the mother plants freeze. If you’re an Austin gardener and want some, let me know.

Pronunciation: kalənˈkō-ē, that is the “ch” is pronounce like a “k”. “ko-ee”, not “cho”.