Balcony & patio renovate; reliable comebacks

Lately, I’ve had little time to work in the garden. Rather than moaning (too much) for all that must be done, I’m celebrating a few summer reliables that went through two years of drought, extreme heat, and 10º.

Pink crape myrtle flower

The crape myrtle was the first tree I ever planted.  These days, you can get varieties resistant to powdery mildew, unlike this one, and in many colors and sizes, including small shrubs.  But our first tree has been with us many years, and we love its graceful limbs and bark as much as the flowers. Every year we say, “I think we’ve got more blooms than ever!”  It blooms like crazy every year, but still, we have to say it. Family tradition.

This year, plumbagos are slow to fill in, but give ‘em a week or two more and they’ll be in full force. Already, my white is shyly blooming against the blue.

white plumbago

I’ve heard from so many gardeners who’ve gotten recent surprises. One is from dear viewer Katy. Her garden really took a beating last winter. She’d just about given up on her cycads (sago palms) when some fuzzy brown stuff appeared on top. Yahoo!  In a few days, she reported new leaves.

This althea/Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) came with the house; probably planted in the 70s, or possibly earlier by the very first owners.

Althea, Rose of Sharon

If you like hibiscus flowers and need a sweet accent shrub/small tree in sun to partial shade, consider this old-fashioned love. It’s deciduous, but about as self-sufficient as they come.

Last year’s first-time love was the spider lily, Hymenocallis Sulphur Queen. Drought & freeze didn’t waylay its return. I love the cooling yellow flowers against mostly evergreen glossy strong foliage, in my semi-shade areas.

Hymenocallis Sulphur Queen

This week on CTG, Tom meets with designer Jenny Peterson to snazzy up your patio or balcony.  They don’t just need to be spots where you park the grill and the swimming pool towels!  Jenny illustrates how she renovated her tiny balcony to extend her living space.

Jenny Peterson's patio before renovation

Jenny Peterson's balcony after renovation

Jenny Peterson's balcony wall fountain

For patios and balconies alike, Jenny has simple, inexpensive ideas to turn these oft-overlooked spaces into real living rooms.

Jenny Peterson balcony makeover "before"

Jenny Peterson balcony design "after"

Daphne answers a viewer’s question about this noxious weed that’s overtaking his garden. Thanks, Shawn!

Smilax bona-nox

It’s Smilax bona-nox. I’ll give you a sneak preview of what she says to do: when the ground is wet, dig out its deep roots. Herbicides aren’t that effective, and without extreme care, can harm the neighboring plants you value. I have the same problem with snailseed (Cocculus carolinus).

Snailseed (Cocculus carolinus)

Wildlife loves the berries, but it strangles everything in its path, and the roots go from my house to south Austin!  Get all of Daphne’s great tips & plant info on our website. And a valuable book to add to your list:  A Practical Guide to Edible & Useful Plants by Delena Tull. That’s where I first identified my snailseed.

On tour, check out Lana & Robert Beyer’s total makeover-philosophically as well as new space-when they moved from Houston to Austin. Robert is a passionate plant collector, who chronicles his discoveries, detailed plant lists, and tips at Central Texas Gardening.

Here’s one of the plants you’ll find on his web site:  Variegated Calamondin Orange.

Variegated calamondin orange

It’s hardy to 20° with evergreen, brightly variegated foliage. It stays small and compact, (perfect for that patio, huh?), with fragrant citrus blooms followed by small, tangy fruit.

Variegated calamondin orange fruit

Find out more about it and other citrus plants with Merredith Jiles from The Great Outdoors.

As always, you can watch Jenny, Daphne, the Beyers, and John online!

Until next week, Linda

15 Responses to “Balcony & patio renovate; reliable comebacks”

  1. Pam/Digging says:

    Ugh, I have both the smilax and the snailseed weed vines and been battling them endlessly. But I look forward to seeing Jenny’s tips on balcony gardening.

  2. I’ve fallen in love with Crape Myrtle all over this year! Is smilax prickly briar? I’ve seen it and heard that it makes a gourd…though I’ve never seen it.

    • Linda says:

      I know, all the crapes are just outstanding!

      Yes, the smilax is somewhat prickly. Hmm, don’t know about the gourd factor; will check that out. Snailseed makes beautiful (poisonous) berries that the birds love.

  3. I have smilax, snailseed, and nandina all growing along the entire length of my north fence. Fall and Spring I’m out there with a crow bar trying to dig them out. I even make wreaths out of some of the long, long roots. They’re winning the battle, though.

    • Linda says:

      Sounds like me! Though instead of smilax, I’ll stick in ruellia. Wow, pretty neat that you make wreaths out of the long long roots. That is really cool.

  4. Jenny says:

    I watched the program and what great balcony tips. Jenny created such a gorgeous outdoor space. As to the Smilax- No way to weaken that plant. I keep cutting it and cutting it and still it grows on. I wonder why it is there? The deer don’t eat it.

    • Linda says:

      Now why can’t the deer eat something that is so destructive?!

      And yes, Jenny is extremely talented! We’re glad to know her, and you!

  5. Aha! That stuff is snailseed. Good to know.

    The smilax is nasty stuff. Cutting it down only makes it grow back thicker. We can’t dig far enough to get it out of our thin-clay-over-limestone. David Will says to spray the leaves (carefully) with industrial vinegar. Wait a day and then spray with roundup. The vinegar cuts the waxy surface on the leaves so that the roundup sinks in.

  6. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Since the heat index is already at 106 if you believe AccuWeather (97 per Weather Underground), I’m holed up inside this Wednesday morning to catch up on blogs. I’ve enjoyed all your recent posts but I’m wondering … is the kiddie pool for y’all or the dogs? I’ve been talking about getting a stock tank to make a cowgirl bathtub!

    • Linda says:

      You bet the kiddie pool is for me! Chester the cocker spaniel is afraid of water. The kiddie pool is a great way to make it easier to tend to garden tasks or to just doggoned cool off!

  7. Yes, we must celebrate those true blue bloomers who grace our gardens in spite of adverse circumstances. Many of your plants also like to live here at RDR. What on earth would we do without crapemyrtles for example?~~Dee

  8. Linda says:

    Everything looks great. We just upgraded our home with a timber decking perth. These plants would look awesome on it.

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