currently in Austin


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