Fireworks in the Yard: A Year of Perennial Flowers in East Texas

by Marinda Arney

I love bursts of color. It all started when I was at Disneyland watching the fireworks, the park closed at night with Tinkerbell lighting the fireworks in the sky. It must have been a long time ago because I was sitting on my dad’s shoulders. He doesn’t let me do that anymore. Can’t say I’ve tried. 

I still love fireworks. I go out to the lake to watch them over the water every Fourth of July. I come home and try to figure out how to do that in my yard without catching it on fire. 

Bursting colors of blossoms in my yard; at least ONE thing blooming every month of the year. This can be a challenge for lazy gardeners like me. Plants that thrive here naturally (adaptive plants) and native plants make it a lot easier. Perennials, you know, the plant once and enjoy for years plant? Yes, those make it even easier. Plant once and blooms every year unless the armadillos like the taste of the roots or deer find your yard a buffet.

Amaryllis, graceful and proud, blooming on the kitchen table during the winter holidays gets my mindset toward what is to come, the promise of a new spring and a new year of flowers.

Quince starts the show. This must be where Tinkerbell or some other garden fairy lights the first tiny burst of color of the fireworks season. The lone prickly plant burst that signals winter is soon to be over and spring is on its way. 

Camelia Japonica with their glossy leaves, pink, red, white candy-striped dramatic lipstick blooms, and their southern charm boldly snubbing the cold to show out. 

Star magnolia, a smaller magnolia and Jane magnolia, often called a tulip tree in this area, fill their leafless limbs with blooms abundant. Palm-sized white star shaped flowers on the star Magnolia and pink/mauve or lavender tulip shaped flowers gracefully pushing through the cold to light up your yard. Winter’s flower lantern. Tulip trees bring color when everything is brown and gray, you can almost hear the blooms giggling “spring is coming.”

Tippy toeing through the tulips. Tulip Clusiana can bring many years of returning tulips. One of my favorite discoveries. Most tulips are non-native to this area but such a treat and treated as an annual can bring a warming reminder of spring in the cold months or our winter. 

Snowdrops, white bells nodding in the early morning atop slender stems popping out in the pansies. Pansies are a cold weather annual planted in the fall here, but SO hard to resist and beautiful until late spring early summer.

The Dogwoods whispering, “Everyone WAKE UP!”’

BOOM: Jonquil, fragrant beauties in white or yellow blazing from the ground trumpeting the oncoming spring. The delicate Rush Leaf Jonquil with its slender leaves and delicate sparling yellow cups. Jonquils, tiny treasure sparkling, clusters of fragrance. 

Lightly scented Daffodils, ruffled petticoats of Tahiti Daffodils, the frilly scrambled egg, stout and strong King Edward. OH, so many to choose from! Hardy, delicate, bold and brazing the cold in their bright yellow and white single bonnets on a stem.

All the whilst the Hellebores (Lentin Rose) quietly, gracefully, steadfastly glow, preparing you for the wave of color to come.

Anemones; the wind flower. A little cookie sized windmill of color looking like parsley surprise.

Red then white clover cheering on from the fields and roadsides. Bluebonnets carpeting nearby meadows with masses of color, sunny spot in your yard or patio pot. 

WISTERIA! So worth the work of taming it for the spring spectacular flowing in rich lavender over a supported fence; a queen like draping of fragrance and beauty.

The deceptively hardy Columbine. Texas gold that is. It’s a superstar for our hot humid summers. A true treat of color within the partial shade with their weedy appearance and jester hat flowers. 

Gardenias fragrant white blooms exploding opening act for the ……… Azaleas, Azaleas, Azaleas! Azaleas love our east Texas soil and climate. Floriferous billowing clouds of cotton candy in your yard carnival of flowers. Sweeps of white, soft pink. Bold Formosa, red and even orange blooms with its cousin deciduous Azalea proudly holding up its blooms, naked of leaves from the winter. Azaleas that bloom all summer long crying Encore! Encore!

Little unnamed bright yellow weeds feeding the quickly declining bees, flowing across the fields of East Texas Spring. A field of sun, warmth and comfort for the soul, a coming back from long ago.

Amaryllis in the ground bursting through with big bold blooms: white, red, dark orange, pink striped, red striped, Old-Fashioned St. Joseph, candy apple stripes. A bouquet growing in the green.

Iris: Bearded, Siberian, Louisiana, Dutch, Flag (bog iris) OH MY!

Star Jasmine bursting with tiny sparkles of white that will perfume the whole yard climbing up a trellis. Asters and Cleome delicately popping up from the Verbena backdrop competing for attention with the Yarrow, Kwanso Lilies, Daylilies and Cosmos bottle rocketing up from the flowerbeds.

Geraniums clapping from the stands next to the passion flowers and honeysuckle climbing over the fence to watch the show.

My darling Dahlia. Rising to take a bow, blushing while licking her lips anticipating her debut. 

Crepe Myrtles gracefully exploding with color atop smooth artistically drawn trunks.

Rose bushes applauding with blooms in the corner, in a pot or draped over the front door. Yellow rose of Texas and peace rose in its grandiflora way all the way to Seven Sisters to tiny delicate tea roses peeking out for the show. Floribunda!

Esperanza cheering with brightness, Echinacea, Zinnias, and Coreopsis jumping in for attention. Cannas doing the wave with their flags of colors. 

Followed by the sparklers of the Cuphea Cigar Plant, Portulaca, Moss Rose and Lantana showing how it’s done in our East Texas heat.

Elegant Altheas and Confederate Rose making one last hoorah backed up with the ever-blooming Marigolds shooing the mosquitoes back away, bright yellow or feisty orange sizzling at the stem.

Camellia Sasanqua, Yuletide, faithful and drought resistant will bloom when all others have tuckered out. Red blooms with yellow stamen to create a dark pink glow.

Fall Asters, blue Corn flowers and Chrysanthemums winding us down from the garden fairy’s wand, preparing us for Poinsettias in pots to hold us for cold, short, dark days of winter and anticipating next year’s floriferous fascination.

The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.