Summer Splendor: Leucophyllum frutescens

Strangely enough, less than a day from my last post's mention of our moving plans, the whole scheme collapsed (I should have known?).  While for me there is some disappointment at the lost plans, there is honestly a good deal more relief at not having to leave a region and a garden that I have come to love very much.


Not surprisingly, one of my first responses as the numbness wore off, was a good look around the garden to see where things actually stand now.  While I am assessing what needs to be done in preparation for the cooler seasons, it is tempting to just stand back and admire one plant in particular.  


Leucophyllum frutescens has come into full bloom.

This can happen at least once or twice a year; perhaps it would be more often still in a somewhat moister climate.  They bloom in response to increased humidity as much as actual rainfall, and this year there has been a distinct monsoon season, which certainly encourages this kind of reckless flowering.  The burst of bloom will be brief as flowers often drop quickly, but what a delight while it lasts!

Leucophyllum frutescens originates in the Chihuahuan Desert, the home of many great cold-hardy desert species.  It outfaces the blast of a low desert summer, but it is hardy down to about 10 F/-12 C, which means I don't have to worry about it during any season.  It drops some leaves and gets a little ratty looking in spring (as does L. pruinosum), but on the whole it goes from strength to strength.


Not that I need to worry about cold hardiness for this particular bush, positioned as it is at the eaves of the patio roof and itself providing protection for more tender plants.

I pruned it back heavily last spring, but its exuberance is sending sprays in every direction.  

It is said to respond well to very controlled shaping, and there is a house a couple of miles from us that boasts some cloud-pruned specimens.  I think they look handsome, but I would rather have a looser form with the chance of full bloom myself!

The bees are enthusiastic, if a little difficult to find amid all the flowers!

Not much bee to be seen!

I've used this one to anchor the top of the border.  Here it is making a lush backdrop for a miniature rose.

Debate is open as to which variety this is.  It was a named variety which came home with no label.  On the whole I lean toward the theory that it is "Green Cloud", as I think it is getting a bit too boisterous to be "Compacta".  Descriptions of "Green Cloud's" flower color vary from purple to pink, but I suspect much of that question is in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps soil conditions.  Mine at any rate is a color I would describe as a lovely, pale, rosy purple.

I've not met a Leucophyllum I didn't like.  This, the first one I planted, now has three summers to its credit.  It has grown into a splendid shrub, a very respectable background plant out of bloom, and a showstopper in full flower.  Ask the bees...

Weather Diary: Fair; High: 94 F (34 C)/Low: 83 F (28 C)

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Comments: 6 (Discussion closed)
  • #1

    Kris P (Thursday, 03 August 2017 17:57)

    I somehow missed your post yesterday. I'm sure the discussions of moving caused both excitement and nerves. I, for one, am pleased to have the opportunity to continue seeing your current garden develop and flourish. You've done so much with it already in a relatively short time. Yesterday's photos, as well as those here, reflect a lushness I'd never have expected in a desert setting (and that I struggle mightily to achieve here, even in my more temperate setting). Blooms on my own Leucophyllum (I have 2) are always a delightful surprise when they appear - I almost forget the plants are there until they burst into glorious bloom. Sadly, they haven't done that in quite some time as there's been no rain for us despite higher humidity.

  • #2

    Amy@smallsunnygarden (Friday, 04 August 2017 09:27)

    Definitely both excitement and nerves, Kris, and a lot of planning and logistics had already been done, so I came out of it pretty tired. But it does give a new perspective on what I'm doing here, so all to the good perhaps! I'm still waiting for either of my other Leucophyllum varieties to come up with flowers this year; they are opinionated plants! Hope you get some rain out of all that humidity... :)

  • #3

    Cathy (Friday, 04 August 2017 13:20)

    Phew, you can breathe out and focus on the garden again. :) It certainly would have been sad to leave that lovely shrub behind! It is a beauty. Gorgeous colour and attractive to the bees too. I also prefer shrubs to grow a little wilder. Many people here trim their Forsythias into round shapes and it is tidy but with hardly any flowers.
    Have a relaxing weekend Amy!

  • #4

    Amy@smallsunnygarden (Friday, 04 August 2017 14:33)

    Yes, Cathy, I must admit that as it broke into bloom I kept double-checking whether I would be able to grow it in Santa Fe - the answer was distinctly "No!" as the winters there drop at least to -23 C.
    I can't really imagine clipping Forsythia! That early brilliant bloom is so wonderful, and luckily where we lived in the Midwest the bushes were often left to their own blowsy shape. But my father used to complain about them being "too messy", which goes to show...!
    Happy weekend, Cathy :)

  • #5

    David C. (Tuesday, 08 August 2017 20:36)

    I like one of the common names, Barometer Bush. Your lushness here and in the last post really say it all.

  • #6

    Amy@smallsunnygarden (Thursday, 10 August 2017 00:09)

    David C. - Yes, it really has kept pace with the weather. Still wondering whether it bloomed like that because of the rain that had already fallen or because of the rising humidity as we headed into another moist spell... probably some of both! ;-)