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Superstar plants

Fall aster and larkspur in spring Austin garden
I love it when cloudy days in spring fool the fall asters (and many autumn perennials) to bloom along with the larkspurs.

Even though we got a break this winter with rain and mild temperatures, the insects got a break too.  They’re just as thrilled as we are!  Really, every year in Texas is tough. If drought doesn’t get us, it’s too much rain, too much cold, or too many pests. That’s why I rely on my personal superstars to hang with me no matter what.

In the cat cove: Winecups on rainwater steroids climbed up to join the native Pavonia/rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) and larkspur.

Winecups, pavonia rock rose and larkspur
Coneflowers in the crape bed stretched up to snuggle against tough-as-nails Knock Out rose.

Coneflower and Knock Out rose
Red Admiral butterflies fuel up for another busy day.

Red Admiral butterfly on coneflower
I think they wear out going between the coneflowers and the Rusty blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum).

Rusty blackhaw viburnum flowers
Note: this native shrub thickets like nuts!

Rusty blackhaw viburnum in bloom
My Angelica pachycarpa hangs out with me every winter until June or so. Now it’s sending up flowers before it crashes in a few weeks.

Angelica flower buds
Underneath, I’ve planted White veined Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia fimbriata) to cover the space when it goes dormant. Since pipevine swallowtail butterflies are nectaring all over the garden, I suspect they’ll be laying eggs soon.

Angelica pachycarpa
But did you know that there are official Texas Superstar plants, thanks to research at Texas A&M University? This week on CTG, Tom meets with A&M professor H. Brent Pemberton, Texas AgriLife Research, to commend a few that you can find in nurseries right now.

Tom Spencer and Brent Pemberton

One is the Cora and Nirvana Vinca (periwinkle) series. These summer annuals are resistant to the aerial Phytophthora fungus that devastated our periwinkle chances in the past. They are tolerant of heat and humidity and DEER! In this picture, they’re in the foreground of other Superstar plants, like Esperanza.

Nora and Cora Vinca Texas Superstar plants
Brent explains how Texas AgriLife Research trials plants under grueling Texas conditions to make sure they’re tough enough for your garden! Watch for this Grandma’s Yellow Rose rose, here with Burgundy Sun SuperSun Coleus and Tidal Wave™ petunias.

Grandma's Yellow Rose Texas Superstar plants
One I discovered last year in a garden is Angelonia angustifolia Serena ™series.

Angelonia Serena series Texas Superstar plants

It’s a summer annual, but if you like that snapdragon/larkspur look in summer, it takes the heat, sun and drought! Just nabbed a few myself!

Here’s Brent’s CTG list. Plus, check out all the Texas Superstars. One to watch for is cenizo (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Lyaa’s Legacy’) that can bloom more often in summer than other selections.  But since all varieties of cenizo/Texas sage are superstars, it’s Daphne’s Pick of the Week!

Cenizo, Texas sage

But why do they fail for some of us? Daphne explains why. One is poor drainage, too much water, and not enough sun. Even a gutter that gushes into the area can be fatal.  The picture above represents a fatality in my garden when trees grew up and it didn’t get the hot blast of sun it really wanted.

The second reason is pruning it too much. Cenizo really doesn’t want to be hedged to perfection. Just lightly shape it to encourage more growth.

On tour, meet some superstar butterflies and birds at the Bulverde/Spring Branch Library. Thanks to the Comal County Master Gardeners and Friends of the Library, a rocky slope at the end of the parking lot is now an instructional guide to gardening and wildlife, plus an outdoor haven to read a book!

Daphne’s question of the week comes from Nettie Birnbaum: “Do we need to clean or sterilize our pots or black plastic 6-packs before replanting or seeding?”

Pots to be cleaned and sterilized before planting again

Yes! Daphne recommends cleaning with soap and water and then a 10% bleach solution. Rinse well and dry.

Since many of our container plants need to be divided this time of year, Trisha explains how to do that. She also shows how to separate new nursery plants, like basils that are overcrowded.  Get her tips on amending/sterilizing old potting soil, how to keep ants out of your pots, and how she starts summer crops in containers until winter plants finish for the year.

This Sunday, join the CTG team and the Travis Master Gardeners at KLRU’s 50th anniversary birthday party!  We’ll be making “eat a rainbow” bracelets for kids (vegetables!).  Plus there are tons of activities, PBS characters, and the Biscuit Brothers for this family fun day! It’s noon – 4 p.m. on 2nd street in Austin. See you there!

Thank you for your support of CTG as we head into KLRU’s 51st year! See you next week, Linda