Invasive options, butterfly birth, freeze clean up

January 28th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Happy Birthday!

Gulf fritillary birth indoors

I hadn’t kept an eye on the chrysalis in the window after all. I thought it was too early. But with Friday’s warmth, I came home that evening to see a butterfly between the windows!

Gulf fritillary birth indoors

It took a little coordination to get him out of his tight spot, but he wasn’t too upset about all the attention.

Butterfly on Greg's finger

Then he joyously flew off into the wind. I wasn’t as joyous. If I’d kept a better eye on it, I could have had some food ready. I sure hope he found something to eat out there.

For more new birth, I ordered five Hymenocallis ‘Sulphur Queen,’ an heirloom from 1830. Last summer they were so beautiful that I’d planned to go to Garden’s this spring for more.

Hymenocallis Sulphur Queen

Alas, that won’t happen. So I ordered from Brent and Becky’s. Most people think of the white “spider lilies” of summer. I like those, too, but this soft yellow won me good, a perfect touch in semi-shady spots. The foliage was lovely, too, until it hit 10º in my garden. I don’t know if they survived, but I’m optimistic my three will return. Now, they’ll have some new friends.

I’m also optimistic about the abutilons.

Patrick abutilon freeze damage

They look a bit ragged, but the stems are green. When I scratched the bark, it showed green, too. I’ll wait at least a month to prune them, though. Who knows what’s still coming?

The bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) wasn’t thrilled about the freeze, either. But it’s a grass, so in a few weeks, I’ll cut it down, along with the other ornamental grasses, and see what happens.

Frozen bamboo muhly

Since questions about freeze damage top CTG’s emails right now, this week Daphne analyzes how to tell if a plant is dead or dormant. And since drought is still on our minds, get her tips for Water Efficient Gardening on February 9, when you can meet her in person at the Lost Pines Garden Club in Bastrop. She’ll be there from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Bastrop Public Library.

This weekend in Austin, she’s also presenting “Gardening 101,” a free workshop on Sat., Jan. 30, from 10 a.m.- noon.

Introducing new plants to a garden is always tricky. It’s easy to spot troubles in a few months. But when things go well for a few years, it can take one like this to find out our plants’ true grit.

It can also take years to recognize that recommended, hardy plants sometimes turn into invasive monsters. This week on CTG, Kelly Bender, Urban Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, joins Tom to put the finger on a few that are demolishing native diversity. Then, she offers some beautiful alternatives to please us and the wildlife that depend on them.

Also, check out Kelly’s latest book edition: Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife. It even includes a DVD!

Texas Wildscapes, Kelly Bender

The first edition helped set me on the path to gardening for wildlife. I refer to it constantly for wildlife ID and tips, so I’m thrilled for this recent publication to guide new gardeners.

Join Kelly & friends on the invasion of the plant snatchers in Texas Parks and Wildlife’s “When Plants Attack.”  Scary, so get your woobie (or your shovel).

To find out more about gardening for wildlife, mark your calendar for February 13 for the Gardening for Wildlife Workshop, presented by Austin Parks and Recreation and Texas Parks and Wildlife. It’s $10 per person/$15 per couple, with light refreshments provided. Space is limited, so sign up before February 5!

Since weeds are big invaders right now, Sweetpea Hoover is back with products, tools, and techniques to fend them off. Personally, I’m interested in the organic crabgrass killer she brought: Garden Weasel Crabgrass Killer, a fragrant concoction of cinnamon, turmeric, and baking soda (it also kills other weeds).  I spent a lot of time last year digging up crabgrass that sprouted in the side yards between the neighbors’ houses and us. Although I promote the “dig” version of weed control, I wouldn’t mind a little help.

And boy, right now, do I need help!  We’ve got some busy weekends ahead of us.

Until next week, Linda

  1. 16 Responses to “Invasive options, butterfly birth, freeze clean up”

  2. By Lee Gunn on Jan 28, 2010

    Hi, How do you get rid of those thorny green vines with potatoe – looking roots. they get thick and Hurt! Please tell me there is a liquid solution. Thank you, Lee


    Linda reply on January 29th, 2010 4:22 pm:

    Lee, can you send me a picture to Thanks! Linda


  3. By Diana on Jan 28, 2010

    OM Gosh – that Hymenocallis Sulphur Queen is just stunning. I have to have some of those! I am green with envy. But then again, would Dakota like them??!


    Linda reply on January 29th, 2010 4:22 pm:

    I know, aren’t they luscious! And they bloomed for a long time. I’m sure Dakota would really, really love them; those leaves look mighty tasty!


  4. By Jenny on Jan 29, 2010

    What a joyful post. I wish I could find some bright things to talk about but I am doing a lot of bark scratching to see if plants made it through. The Sulphur Queen is gorgeous. I am tempted. I have seen the bamboo muhly all over town in the same condition as yours. I would like to know how tough this plant is. i am glad for the rain today, but not the next round of freezes. Thanks for adding some brightness on a dreary day.


    Linda reply on January 29th, 2010 4:23 pm:

    Oh my gosh, your garden is joyful all the time! I wish I’d nabbed the S. Queen for you as I’d promised; I just never got back this fall. I bet the b. muhly will be fine.


  5. By Bob Beyer on Jan 29, 2010

    Hi Linda,

    That picture of the Hymenocalis “sulphur queen” brought back memories of my garden in Virginia where this plant, called Peruvian daffodil in that area, was one of my favorite summer bulbs. I would dig and store them over winter as they weren’t ground hardy in Zone 7. The common color for this plant is white, but the yellow “sulphur queen” was quite a hit when first introduced back in the 70’s, and yes, they are one of the sweetest fragrances of any flower I have known. Good luck with them.


    Linda reply on January 29th, 2010 4:24 pm:

    Thank you Bob! You know so much! Next week we’re doing a show on summer bulbs, featuring the white spider lilies.


  6. By Louise D. Suhey on Jan 29, 2010

    Dear Linda,
    Love your photos and timely comments! I have had many beautiful “Sulpher Oueen” bulbs in my garden for over 12 years. I live on the very north side of SA and I have never lost them to a hard freeze. I do however, mulch well. All my bulbs are effected more by the yearly rainfall than anything else. As I was instrucetd by an eighty year old pro, bulbs will hibernate underground for years till they receive the right amount of rainfall. After living in our house for nearly 20 years, I have found this to be absolutely true.


  7. By Linda on Jan 29, 2010

    Dear Louise,
    Thank you so much! That is so encouraging. Mine aren’t deeply mulched, but they are mulched. You and your 80 year old mentor are indeed right; the rains brought some glorious results this year, so I have my fingers crossed that these new ones made it.


  8. By Karen R. Thompson on Jan 30, 2010

    I was cooking today and half listening to CTG. That is until I heard “Ligustrum”! That is my most hated plant…..and to hear others express those same view was great…or actually sad. I’m 65 and years ago a local home builder would plant 3 Ligustrum in the front yard and call it “landscaped”. Old Austinites know who I am talking about.

    Last year we moved to Leander to land that has been in the family since the 1850s. It is on Brushy Creek and now Ligustrum has grown up all up and down the creek(many are 20 feet tall). Acres of it! I don’t know if I’ll ever get rid of it. My time is spent fighting Ligustrum and cedar.


    Linda reply on January 30th, 2010 3:33 pm:

    Karen, thank you! You can help spread the word. Yes, they were the recommended plant & they certainly are drought hardy. But what a shame that it’s destroyed “your” creek and many others. It was one of the first shrubs I dug out at our house but we’re still plagued with them in the creek.


  9. By Mike Harkins on Jan 31, 2010

    I saw Kelly and Tom talk about invasive plants on the latest episode of CTG. Tom seemed especially disturbed about Chinaberry, but did not go into what is wrong with them. I read a little about them and I also notice there are a lot of them scattered around the landscape. I am the proud owner of a Chinaberry. There is only one in my yard. The only bad effect I’ve seen so far is that I am seeing a few sprout up a good ways from the trunk, possibly from runner roots, but I have been able to pull them up. I only hope this is not one of those trees that cracks your house slab. Do they?

    A couple good things about chinaberry: 1) They have very nice-smelling (but short-lived) blooms in the spring 2) they grow quickly and provide shade in just a few years after planting 3) the deer love the leaves and prune them very nicely so they have a nice shape to them. 4) they have dense dark green foliage providing excellent shade. Yes, I hate stepping on the hard berries in my bare feet, and the berries are unsightly. But hey, nothing is perfect. And besides, I read that many people don’t like the Carolina Cherry Laurels that Tom and Kelly recommend as a replacement. Why? Because they are invasive.


    Linda reply on January 31st, 2010 2:15 pm:

    Mike, I don’t know if chinaberry trees hurt slabs. According to, its problem lies in that it overtakes all native species and can raise the soil pH and hinder that diversity.


  10. By Cindy, MCOK on Jan 31, 2010

    Linda, now I see why you thought I need that Hymenocallis. I agree!


  11. By Vertie on Feb 1, 2010

    I’ve been wondering about the fate of my bamboo muhly, which look like yours. Glad to hear they might have a chance to survive.


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