Bud Love

Recently my niece posted a picture on Facebook. It was a plump red tomato on a blue and white plate. She’d come back from a week at the beach to find it, their first homegrown tomato of the summer. It made me nostalgic for lush summers, even though all that waiting can be very trying.

All our yard tomatoes are long gone, of course. It’s getting to be that time of summer when colorful, living things fade dustily, thirstily, into the past. But this past weekend I paid attention to the surprising array of buds in the yard. I had the feeling they were telling me that they feel rather neglected. Flowers get all the attention, they announced. Buds are promise, they are youth. Buds are the future. Buds are beautiful in their own right.

Rather than become defensive about such a confrontation, I decided to do some portrait work with the buds currently in residence at our house. Before long I found myself cheered by the existence of buds at the end of July; we’ve had just enough rain to keep the wild things happy, and it’s nice to see that the plants I pour money on water want to give me something beautiful in return.

This is a bud on one of the night-blooming cactus. I’m glad I got this photo, because the next morning it was just a shriveled stalk. The night-bloomers above all remind me that appreciation must not be delayed: there may not be a tomorrow.

Usually I just let the Texas hibiscus in the front yard bloom once and go limp, then hack it down to the ground. I think I must foster some resentment about the amount of time I spend murdering the leaf-hoppers that would otherwise destroy them. This year I cut the six-foot-tall stalks back once the first blossoms were finished, and now we have a new array of red flowers waiting to happen.

The back yard Pride of Barbados has been blooming for weeks, but the one in the sidewalk garden is inexplicably late. Oh well, this just means more color as August comes and afternoons really heat up. This one is especially welcome, since when you approach our house from this direction, it’s the first blast of color you see as you approach the sidewalk garden. And who could complain about tardiness when those flowers are so over the top?
I always forget the name of this fluffy, eagerly-spreading purple flower the butterflies love so much. A pretty good trimming has kicked them into gear to produce flowers that will last all the way through the Monarch migration.

The lantana buds wished me to make it clear that they are colorful, too. I’m also happy to report that native lantana keeps showing up in more and more places in the yard – meaning pink and yellow blossoms that love to be neglected.

I had a slight surprise, after last week’s rain, to see that the Texas sage was bursting into flower again. There was a 0% chance of rain in the forecast, as far as the weather people could tell. Despite my surprise, I decided to trust the sage. Sure enough, by midnight on Saturday, we had an impressive electrical storm accompanied by a rather unimpressive cloudburst. Clearly, even the tiniest bit of rain can kick the Texas sage into gear. All over the neighborhood today, shrubs covered with purple flowers are waving around in the wind.

This vivid butterfly bush came up from wildflower seed I threw on the ground to fill empty spaces when the sidewalk garden was brand new. Its first spring flowers attract every aphid in the zip code, and insecticidal soap burns the foliage to a crisp. However, this little dude is a survivor and has come back with weeks of insectless blooms. This is one of those plants that produces thistle-pods like milkweed (see the green pod in the second photo?), so now these orange stars shine here and there all around the garden. Plants that plant their own children, that’s what I like.

The one little Indian Blanket plant I possess keeps pushing out new buds even in this heat.

While this red number looks like a plum tomato out of place, it is a pomegranate bud on the one cooperative pomegranate bush I have. Its sibling, out in the luxurious full sun of the butterfly garden, has beautiful foliage and a very pleasing shape. Flowers? Fruit? Not so much.

I’m sure that one of these Februaries, we shall have edible pomegranates.
Next up, just a stalk of buds on one of the small aloe plants I repotted in the spring. From one large, jammed flowerpot, I pulled enough plants to fill two window-box planters and a couple of square feet of bare ground under the purple butterfly bush. They won’t all survive a really cold winter, if we ever have one again; but aloe plants have a way of dying to the ground and still having an array of offspring up their sleeves.

The vitex has managed to bring forth new buds even this late in the season. I swear, some of those DO NOT PLANT plants do the most delightful things!

The Mexican Bird of Paradise, looking more and more like a feathery tree, is now covered with buds. At some point this week, they will burst into blooms that look a bit like the Bird of Paradise flowers, but smaller and yellow.

It seems wise to finish with a cactus, since summer clearly belongs to them. They bloom obligingly all around the yard throughout the spring and summer. When I was strolling around snapping photos over the weekend, however, only one of the cactus had buds that looked close to ready. Looking like a shiny little pine cone in maroon and yellow, this one promised to do something interesting as the day progressed.
Indeed it did.

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