Designs by us, modified by nature

February 10th, 2011 Posted in garden design, roses, snow, winter color

Bizarre Central Texas weather is the master of garden design. This Agave striata made it.

Agave striata
But these may be the last pictures of my beloved Agave celsii.

Agave celsii in snow
It’s too early to tell.

Agave celsii in snow

This growth does seem to be turgid, but the rest of the leaves are in various states of mush.

Agave celsii possibly turgid growth after freeze

Last year, it lost several bottom leaves, which didn’t harm its overall appearance. This may have been too much, though.

Agave celsii in snow
And it’s a bit early to diagnose the Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’ (variegated flax lily) beyond. But it doesn’t look promising.

You’d think I’d learned my lesson last year. But NO! I love the dianellas so much that I just had to have more. And you know what, I’ll probably try again!

By the way, I’ve already heard from viewers about their cycads. Mine is snow-white, too, as it was last year. Once things warmed up last spring, it grew a new set of fronds. So I’ll wait, once again, to clean it up and hope for the best.

Native heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) hates summer as much as it loves winter.

Heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata)
Weather “events” like drought, extended freeze, and Texas-style monsoons rule us in the end. Sometimes we can go for years with a plant before extreme conditions send us back to the drawing board.

Ultimately, that’s where it starts. If we have a good design, occasional plant change-outs simply give us the “push” we need to try something new. So, this week on CTG, Tom meets with Sharon St. John, Horticulture and Landscape Design Coordinator at Austin Community College. She introduces us to ACC’s fabulous continuing education classes geared for designers and horticulturists.

Austin Community College garden design

Plus, she illustrates a few design concepts and how to adapt to your garden. Note: at ACC’s classes, you can learn how to make renderings like this!

Austin Community College garden design

Austin Community College garden design

Well, a few weeks ago, I jumped the gun on Daphne’s question of the week from viewer Joan Wade. In case you missed it, it’s excellent, since I often hear from viewers that their good-choice roses aren’t doing well. Almost always, it’s due to lack of enough sun.

Roses in too much shade
Joan’s trimmed back the oak tree that was creating too much shade. She scratched in a compost/rose mix and drenched with liquid seaweed with iron. Already, they’re doing great. They did get burned a bit in last week’s extended freeze, as did my roses, but they’ll rally. In the next few weeks, we can prune and feed our roses to stimulate new healthy growth. Note: Joan reports that her roses are climbing versions of shrub roses, which are more appropriate for her narrow space.

Daphne’s featured plant is Mutabilis, one of the Earth-Kind roses.

Apricot Mutabilis rose flower
If you a have a large space and need a beautiful screen, this shrub rose is the one for you. No need to bother with fertilizer, either. For years, I’ve just added mulch to mine, and it performs like a champ even though it gets only 4 or 5 hours of sun (more is certainly recommended!)  There are smaller Earth-Kind roses that are just as easy to grow. Really, you can have roses without the hassle!

On tour, we visit herbalist Ellen Zimmermann’s garden, where she combines roses, herbs, perennials and annuals that are beneficial to us and our wildlife. Check out her classes and fabulous herbal insight at the Austin School of Herbal Studies. You can even see why you should treasure those cleavers showing up in your garden! Also, Ellen’s got a new Apprentice Program starting in March; a great opportunity to study with her.

If you don’t want to use your weeds, but just get rid of them, this week Sweetpea Hoover explains what to do.

Since we’re planning our summer vegetable beds, don’t miss the best vegetable plant sale around at Sunshine Community Gardens on Saturday, March 5, from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. They always have hard-to-find varieties along with standby faves.

This Saturday, Feb. 12, the Travis County Master Gardeners host a free workshop on planting your vegetable garden. If you miss that one, these busy bees have something just about every weekend!

By now, you’re sick of snow pictures, but just hang on for a few more!

cat paws in snow

Snow bunny

Snow heart

Until next week, happy Valentine’s Day early!  Linda

  1. 19 Responses to “Designs by us, modified by nature”

  2. By Cat on Feb 10, 2011

    Personally, I LOVE your snow pictures! Some of the most creative I’ve seen ;) Hoping my flax lily will survive too – it died back to the ground last year but came back (very slowly)…keeping my fingers crossed!


  3. By Bob Beyer on Feb 10, 2011

    Hi Linda, We share our woes over damage to our garden plants by this extraordinary winter freeze, but don’t give up on the Daniella. Mine looked dead last year, I cut off the dead foliage and they regenerated from the roots. There is hope for them. Agaves, I cut off the mushy fronds and allow them to regenerate their rosette form if the core is unaffected. Sometimes new pups will come up from the underground base if not frozen. It will be a long recovery period for us but I do believe many of our plants will surprise us with comebacks.


  4. By Sue Nazar on Feb 11, 2011


    I loved “Designed by me, modified by Nature”…I had some of the largest sago palms in Austin. Then came last winter…I nurtured them back, with compost,palm food, and TLC… After many new flushes of growth, with all the dead fronds cut back, Nature gave them tiny “trunks”which I slowly began to accept…I could live with it.But now…Nature is pushing MY envelope…They will soon be looking like baby palm trees!


    Linda reply on February 11th, 2011 11:55 am:

    Hi Sue!

    Yes, we keep whittling away. Geez. And yours are so big and beautiful. Well, I’m going to be doing some serious thinking.
    Thanks for the tips on nurturing back the cycads. I never even thought of palm food!


  5. By Cindy, MCOK on Feb 11, 2011

    Linda, my Dianella looked similarly grim last winter but returned from the roots quite nicely. I’m counting on their doing so again this year … I hope you’re not so much colder there that yours must be replaced.

    There are some mighty sad-looking Agaves and Aloes on my corner of Katy, many of them installed last fall. Time will tell if they’re history or history-making!


    Linda reply on February 11th, 2011 4:41 pm:

    Hi, Cindy! Most of my dianellas did not return last year, even though I waited until May to replace. Don’t know what’s up in my garden but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

    Oh, I sure hope your new agaves and aloes made it. This of the winter that was supposed to be “mild!”


  6. By Pam/Digging on Feb 11, 2011

    I haven’t tried Dianellas yet, but they are pretty enough to tempt, even though I figured they weren’t totally hardy. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me with other plants that I’ve probably lost this winter. My hardest loss is a second Mexican weeping bamboo — so expensive! Don’t know that I can bring myself to try again, but I will with other lost plants that are easier on the wallet. We’re an optimistic bunch, and I know we’re all thinking (as I did last year), “It can’t get that cold again next year!”


    Linda reply on February 12th, 2011 3:15 pm:

    Yes, I just KNOW it won’t get cold next year. My dianellas did fine for years; below 20 gets ‘em though. Am sorry about the Mexican weeping bamboo–so lovely.


  7. By David C. on Feb 11, 2011

    Nice post! I had a great day looking at ALL the plants in our valley and at the Rio Grande Botanic Gardens that MADE it fine…far outnumbered those that did not.


    Linda reply on February 12th, 2011 3:14 pm:

    Yes, I think that will be the case for us too. The damage is fairly minor, thank heavens!


  8. By Bonnie on Feb 11, 2011

    I’m just delaying the inevitable by not looking under the frost blankets. But tomorrow is the day with no freeze expected for a while. I think the lettuce at the school garden might have bit it, but maybe just a trim will bring it back.


    Linda reply on February 12th, 2011 3:13 pm:

    Hi, Bonnie!

    I just took a peek. Lettuce is gone but cilantro is fine. Arugula flat disappeared. Hope your school garden is ok.


  9. By Katie on Feb 13, 2011

    I’m in San Antonio. I had 3 dianellas, 2 of which came back from the weather last year. Not quite as cold as you guys had of course. Remembering how slowly they recovered, I put cardboard boxes over my 2 survivors this time around and they look great right now….just a little brown on a few tips.


    Linda reply on February 14th, 2011 4:18 pm:

    Hi, Katie! Thanks for checking in. I’m so glad your dianellas came back. And believe me, I’ll use your box trick next year. I played the odds, but not again with those, because they are so great!


  10. By Gardener on Feb 17, 2011

    Where I live we go through this every year. Winter can be very cruel…


  11. By Diane Sherrill on Feb 24, 2011

    That’s one of the wonderful things about using plants native to your area. You don’t have to get mad at Nature, because the plants She puts there, belong there, and will survive the weird weather. Still, my condolences to all who lost beloved plants. They’re like family, aren’t they?


    Linda reply on February 24th, 2011 7:29 pm:

    Well, and this year, we may have taken a hit on some of our natives. But time will tell! I do rely more on the natives to come back, that is for sure. Thanks for checking in!


    Diane Sherrill reply on March 5th, 2011 1:56 pm:

    As a passionate gardener, I feel for anyone who loses a loved plant. I have planted almost entirely CENTRAL Tx. native plants, and as the weather warms, it’s looking like I’ve lost none of them, with no wrapping, covering, or winter protection of any kind. A lot of “native Texas plants” did take a hit this year, because South Texas plants can’t handle the cold (or the weird weather fluctuations) that we get here. Still, if there’s a plant you love, as long as it’s not invasive and destructive of native ecosystems, plant it, baby it, protect it, and hope for the best!


    Linda reply on March 5th, 2011 4:02 pm:

    Hi, Diane! Great words! Gardening is always a challenge, even with native plants, but I think we’ll all come out ahead once again.

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