Small native trees & shrubs, Green Garden makeover

Happy Thanksgiving!

Queen butterfly on lantana

As gardeners, we’re most thankful for the soaking rains. Remember last year when new plants went into freezes with bone-dry roots? And, as Austin gardeners entered the season of wastewater averaging, we were hesitant to water, yet anxious if we didn’t. I’m thankful we’re spared that dilemma this year.

City of Austin wastewater averaging

With the rain and cooler temperatures, my firespike (Odontonema stricta) in the shady patio cove bloomed at last.

Firespike Odontonema stricta

This leafy perennial (joined by some gingers) gets the briefest glance at early morning sun. In the hottest part of summer, it likes some extra water, but generally did fine with a weekly dose in its shady, heavy soil spot. Its first location got a brief bit of afternoon sun and it wilted daily. Since I moved it, it’s been pretty carefree. It can freeze to the ground, and can be slow to return (though it does return). Last year it didn’t freeze in its protected spot next to the house. Right now it’s leggy since it recently shot up.  I won’t prune it now, but I’ll shape it next spring to encourage a bushy shape.

Firespike (Odontonema stricta)

I’m not one to baby plants too much. I’m open to experiments, but if success means too much work, or if I can’t find a move that suits the plant (often a move is all it needs), it gets moved out of here. I’m thankful that I’ve come to recognize what works for my site and for me.

That’s John Wilson’s philosophy, too. As our featured gardener this week, see how he and his wife Debra Leff exchanged front yard grass for a neighborhood living room.

John Wilson Green Garden Austin Texas

John wanted to exemplify the resourceful lessons he teaches his biology students at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. He also wanted to apply the tough-plant lessons he’d learned while taking them on expeditions to the Davis Mountains and Big Bend.

John Wilson Green Garden Austin Texas

Recognized as an Austin Green Garden, it’s become more than that. Neighbors stop by to visit the pond and check out what’s changing in the garden.

John Wilson Green Garden Austin Texas

Then they follow the concrete-stained pathway to come sit and talk awhile.

John Wilson Green Garden Austin Texas

As John says, “I kind of wish everybody had a living space in their front yard. I think we’d probably have a lot more to do with each other.”

Keeping to our tough plant theme, we also take a look at small native trees and shrubs that attract wildlife and stand up to drought. Jared Pyka from Native Texas Nursery meets with Tom to give you a few outstanding ideas, like this Arroyo sweetwood (Myrospermum sousanum).

Arroyo sweetwood, Tom Spencer, Jared Pyka

Jared’s list includes choices for gardeners in confined spaces, or as accents and living screens in larger gardens.  Of course, you can get the entire list on our fabulous new website!

(Note: Native Texas is wholesale only, so please ask for these great plants at your favorite nursery).

It’s always Thanksgiving weekend when I plant a few more bulbs. This year, I’m adding some Erlicheer and Grand Primo. Recently, Lauren Ogden told me that if we plant too early in our usually warm early fall days, the bulbs can send up foliage before their roots get established. This can be harmful if we get a killer freeze.

Two weeks ago, I did move some bulbs that were hidden under the silver germander that grew so fast. They had good root systems and are looking good.  We’ll see if they bloom this spring.  Sometimes you simply must experiment!

I thank you all for sharing this year with me!

Until next week, Linda

8 Responses to “Small native trees & shrubs, Green Garden makeover”

  1. Judy tye says:

    Thanks for the tip about firespike; I intend to try to find some for my back beds, which are mostly in shade. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Diana says:

    Linda — Love that Firespike — I’m not familiar with it. And we are all so thankful for the rains, aren’t we? Thanks for reminding us and for the tips about waiting with the bulbs. I put some out early, but then stopped when I read your comment. (I needed an excuse to focus on the holidays and quit pretending it was still the gardening season!) But now they may not get planted unti January!!! Happy Holidays.

  3. Bob Harper says:

    Well, I’m too late for you to read this unless you’re still in the studio, but I want to wish you a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving.

  4. What a lovely pond and concrete path. I love the strong geometric hardscaping in John and Debra’s garden. The pond makes a lovely and cooling counterpoint.

  5. I love the native trees and now have a place to grow them. I have Red Buckeye and Waffer Ash seeds overwinteringin the seed bed and plan to plant plant more varieties in the spring. I also will be taking cuttings of trees and shrubs. We need lots of under story trees and shrubs and I want lots of pops of color and food and shelter for birdws and butterflies.

    My friend in Hammand, Louisiana has firespike growing wild on his sandy property. It loves shade but will probably need extra water here. It does well with no care at another friend’s house in Leage City, TX.

  6. Bob Harper says:

    Dear, wonderful Linda, I hope you and your family (and all your plants) have a glorious Christmas. And, if possible pass on to the CTG staff how very much I’ve enjoyed the wonderful shows each week. I look forward to another year of super shows. I’ve learned a lot. And, most of all I’ve enjoyed the “tours” you give us each week to some really special gardens. MARRY CHRISTMAS

  7. Beautiful firespike plant, I have never seen one before. That landscaping, structure and the cacti fuse into awesomeness.

  8. Excellent post. This creative concept is outstanding. I appreciate this stunning picture Gallery. It is very helpful for designing a new garden landscape. Really, very helpful and magnificent designs that can inspire the design your garden. Thanks for sharing this beautiful article.

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