New look at lawns, watering tips, plant performance flamboozle

Last week, we taped a lawn-free garden that will air in 2012.

Native garden design Austin Texas Central Texas Gardener
I love the way that Anne uses grasses, yuccas, and agaves for vertical distinction against free-flow natives that nectar hosts of winged visitors. Here’s a nice duo: Lindheimer muhly and and Deer muhly.

Lindheimer muhly and deer muhly Central Texas Gardener

Lindheimer seed heads.

Lindheimer muhly seed heads Central Texas Gardener

For years, I had a Lindheimer in the front garden:  a homecoming beacon every fall from far down the street.

Lindheimer muhly Central Texas Gardener

Then it got too shady, and it whimpered away. Last year, with some tree pruning, I had sun again. I was about to get another Lindheimer, when Patrick Kirwin gave me another idea, Pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia), a smaller choice for that space. I planted one in front and three more in the back bed, where despite their youth, already they do a great job against the turk’s cap.

Pine muhly with turk's cap Central Texas Gardener
Pine muhly’s just one of the plants on Patrick’s list this week when he and Tom take a new look at lawns.

Tom Spencer and Patrick Kirwin Central Texas Gardener

Garden designer Patrick of Kirwin Horticulture Services has been working on a design that includes buffalo grass, Indian bunch grass, switch grass, bearded iris, rain lilies and more.

Patrick Kirwin garden design

Patrick also shows off  the sedge Carex retroflexa. I have a few here and there, but intend to replace some of my dead lawn with them this year. I’m totally in love with this sedge!

Sedge, Carex retroflexa Central Texas Gardener
On tour, check out East Side Patch, where discovery replaced lawn. Leah and Philip Leveridge have made some changes since our taping (of course!), but their helpful hobbits and the Botox lady approve their proactive and on-going DD (drought design).

At ESP and in every garden, sometimes we’re flamboozled when one plant craters and its mates are healthy, just a few feet apart. What’s up with that?  This week, Daphne explains what can happen. In her case, she planted four Southern wax myrtles (Morella cerifera) along her fence last February. She watered them just the same. Two are fine.

Southern wax myrtle Daphne Richards Central Texas Gardener

Two are compost.

dead wax myrtle too much sun Central Texas Gardener

What happened? Here’s her analysis: “In this situation, the angle of the sun is the issue.  By about 5 p.m. in mid-summer, the first plant in the row was out of direct sunlight.  But the last one in the row was in a direct hit of the full late afternoon and evening sun until almost 9 p.m.  These newly planted, small shrubs just couldn’t take all that intense sun and simply burned to a crisp, almost in front of my eyes.”  Get her complete answer about what can produce different results in the same garden.

Daphne’s pick of the week is native fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), a reliable perennial in psycho light, drought, freeze, and floods.  I planted my first ones years ago and divide some every winter to spread around. Regardless of weather events, they’ve never missed an October date with bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Native aster with bee
Their tops will freeze back in winter, but their rosettes quickly cover the ground. Simply cut back those dead stems to the rosette for a pretty groundcover all winter. I fill the blank spaces with naturalizing bulbs.

Aster winter rosette

Watering is certainly on our minds! Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors compares options and how much to water.

Merrideth Jiles The Great Outdoors

Even though the ground is dry, fall IS STILL the best time to plant. Check out Daphne’s fabulous article in the Austin American-Statesman to prep sunbaked soil as we dig in this fall.

And here’s a wonderful video from the Texas Forest Service about how to water your trees and check soil moisture underground.

Until next week, Linda

11 Responses to “New look at lawns, watering tips, plant performance flamboozle”

  1. Shirley Fox says:

    Anne’s yard looks amazing, I look forward to seeing it air.

    I find sedges need more water than other types of ornamental grass. Is this typical? Should it be compared with turf grass water needs?

  2. So many good stories in this one post!

    Loved the ‘no grass’ yards. Our back gardens have no turf and we don’t miss it. Neither do the butterflies and birds. This week two rufous hummingbirds and a wayward rubythroated hummingbird are enjoying the blooming firebush, hummingbird bush, esperanza, tropical sage, salvia greggii and pineapple sage.

    Tickled me to hear the advice in the tree-watering video “water to a depth of six to eight inches”. I can tell he’s talking to residents of blackland prairie…here in the hills few people have more than an inch of clay over limestone. Fall care for woody plants in this environment is another layer of compost and refreshing the mulch to about two inches, then watering it all in until it’s wet to the ground. The moisture will last a long time since temperatures are lower.

    From now until spring, we’ll thoroughly water our mature plantings once a month if there is no rain, more often if trees/bushes are young.

    • Linda says:

      Hi, Kathleen! Thank you. Well, you have a beautiful beautiful garden and lots of great rewards with mowing and watering grass.

      I like your compost and mulch tip; will include it next week!

  3. Diana says:

    Love those grasses — I’ve been thinking about Lindheimer grasses for behind my back fence in the un-irrigated area.

    • Linda says:

      Oh, yes, Diana, perfect choice!! You’ve got lots of room and those seed heads would stand out even from your patio! And as drought tough as they get. Some water does help, of course, but you know the drill.

  4. Pam/Digging says:

    I look forward to seeing Anne’s garden next year. It looks lovely.

  5. I admit “flamboozle” got me to comment, though I will have to look that foreign-to-me word up!

    Can’t wait to see this show. I like the front yard image from Kirwin Hort Svcs, as that seem more in-tune with Austin than a recreated desertscape.

    On the plants, where 1 dies and others live, I like that one more. I recall a colleague who often says, “it could just be a weaker plant”!

    • Linda says:

      Hi, David! I thought I made up flamboozle but I think it’s one of the “new words.”

      Yes, Patrick is a wonderful designer who captures all that grows well in Central Texas, including roses!

      And yes, sometimes, one is a weaker plant for sure. So many factors to take it account. Sometimes it takes trying more than once to find the right fit, for sure.

  6. Steve says:

    Nice blog. Lots and lots of helpful information on here. Thank you.

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