Gaura

"Whirling Butterflies"

“Whirling Butterflies”

I’m again posting a new article in the midst of transferring text from my former blog hosting site.  This might be the trend for a little while as I’m attempting to write about items that are timely to the seasons so that they best benefit you, the reader.

There is a perennial that I’ve had in my landscape in one way or another for several years now – Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri.)   I’ve had it in pots (see photo at http://natureisnurture.net/sweet-alyssum/) and I’ve had it planted in the soil.  It’s been a companion plant and I’ve spotlighted it as a specimen plant.  Right now, I have it in a pot alone, but within a trio of pots that are comprised of Crown of Thorns and Sweet Potato Vine.  My husband likes it best as it is now and I have to agree.  Gaura probably isn’t the best specimen plant as at times it has lanky stems and very sparse blooms.  As a companion, it does well with other plants but again, the natural form Gaura takes on (thick at base and thin on top) doesn’t complement too many other plantings.  I would say a row or mass planting of Gaura would look nice in a perennial and/or wildflower bed, however.  I’ll reiterate I think we’ve found that we prefer it in its own container where we can place it where we like and where it thrives best.

Gaura Flower

Gaura Flower

Speaking of thriving, Gaura is a native Texas perennial and thus, it can really take the heat.  As it also grows in portions of Mexico and Louisiana naturally, Gaura is adaptive to drought and can tolerate both alkaline and acidic soil.  Having had no rain for the past 2 months (July & August) with temps consistently in the high 90’s to 100, this is a bonus attribute for this summer bloomer.    There are several varieties of Gaura that range in height from 2 – 5 ft.    The foliage is tinged in magenta and is often more vibrant in the fall months.  Gaura clumps at its base and sends out long, to very long, stems where most of its white to deep pink flowers are borne.   From a distance, the flowers occurring at the very ends of the long stems look like butterflies dancing in the wind, thus the nickname for Gaura is appropriately “Whirling Butterflies”.

More Gaura Flowers

More Gaura Flowers

Gaura is a relatively fast grower and will bloom spring through fall.  If desired, you may divide mature plants.  While the plant may reseed, it is best propagated through division of the clumps.  If the plant or portions of the plant become dry and brittle during the dog days of summer, a nice trim may initiate renewed growth in the fall.  I compare this with how I handle spent tomato plants in the summer – sometimes a better crop can be brought forth in the fall by simply trimming a bit of the mid-summer crunchy leaves and stems away.

During my research on Gaura, I discovered a very odd aspect of the plant – that its fragrance is associated with the odor of cat urine.   I must say I haven’t personally experienced this and I have a cat and can attest to knowing that odor!  In fact, as I sit on my patio I witness bee after bee and butterfly after butterfly stop by and partake of my Gaura.  I’ve also had a hummingbird stop by the plant this year.  See: Hummingbird.  My thoughts are if the fragrance is similar to cat urine, it must be extremely mild.  Thus, I wouldn’t let this subtle detail discourage you from planting a bit of Gaura in your landscape.

In conclusion, a more pleasant point about Gaura lindheimeri is that it is named after the Father of Texas Botany, Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer (1801-1879).  Mr. Lindheimer is buried in New Braunfels, Texas and his home on Comal Street is one of the oldest, preserved historical structures in that city. See:  http://www.seenewbraunfels.com/directory/attractions/ferdinand-lindheimer-haus.

 

Until next time,

Cindy

 

 

 

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