Luck, loss, plus lawns

March 31st, 2011 Posted in Agave celsii, lawns, native plants, poppies

For years, I struggled to get poppies to come up. Don’t know the magic formula, but now I have them, even in the grass. In the beds, some returned from last year, but I scratched in a few safety seeds last fall.

Poppy bud
Maybe it’s because now I don’t dig them in. I scratch the soil, throw them out, lightly scrape a little soil back on top, and gently water. Plus, turn around three times, tap garden shoes, squeeze eyes shut and think Judy Garland. Hey, you never know!

Red poppy Austin Texas
I didn’t get around to collecting seeds of Baby Blue Eyes last spring, but some of my passalongs from Zanthan Gardens returned on their own. This one is with Variegated Japanese sedge (Carex Morrowii ‘Aurea-variegata’), which, by the way, didn’t suffer from freeze at all.

Baby Blue Eyes with variegated Japanese sedge
Native BBB makes a wonderful combination with yellow columbine, mine just starting to bloom. There are many species, and I just bet you can pick up seeds at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Spring Sale April 9 – 10.

Native pink and lavender spiderworts join this bed, along with the first passalong lavender iris.

Lavender iris
One big question the past few weeks: are my plants dead? Some may be, indeed, but every day, I see a sprout on one that I thought was a goner. So hang in there a little longer!

We thank Kathleen Lorsbach for asking about frozen cactus plants and others. This week on CTG, Daphne explains that if your Opuntia cacti have healthy pads, gently cut them off, let them dry for a few days, and replant in gritty soil. That’s what I’ll do with my Santa Rita prickly pear.

Freeze damaged Santa Rita opuntia cactus
Agaves may be dead or just have mushy leaves. Cut off the bad leaves. If the center is still firm, they’ll be okay. In the case of Daphne’s artichoke agave, it’s still alive.

freeze damaged artichoke agave daphne richards photo
But my Echinopsis didn’t make it. After a few weeks, it simply collapsed.

Echinopsis freeze damaged austin texas
I asked Richard Blocker from the San Antonio Cactus and Xerophyte Society about these plants.  “People can cut frozen parts of cacti down to the level of good flesh if there’s any left.  If these plants are outside I cut them at an angle, then put rooting powder or sulfur on the angled cut, so that if water gets on the cut it doesn’t sit on it.  I’ve had yuccas rot to the ground and cut them off and have then regrow from ground level!

Not sure what I’ll do about my misshapen Agave celsii. It still has leaves, and now it looks like it’s going to flower!

Agave celsii about to flower
The other top question is about lawns. So, this week on CTG, Tom meets with Mike Piwonka from The Grass Outlet, a family business over a few generations. He has fabulous ideas for you if you need to renovate or start over!

One is with drought-tough zoysia. I took this picture of Palisades zoysia last fall. It’s a lovely choice for sun and partial shade.

Palisades zoysia in strips
Here it is with the St. Augustine it’s replacing.

Palisades zoysia compared to St. Augustine
Mike compares fabulous zoysias to select, and also a good St. Augustine for you, Palmetto—more cold and drought hardy than the one we most know.  For hot sun and lots of traffic (kids, dogs, gardeners) check out 419 Tifway Bermuda (if it can work at Zilker, it can work in your garden) and Celebration. Mike says that these are not as invasive to garden beds as the standard Bermuda.

And, when well-managed and with the right selection, grass doesn’t need to be a hassle or water hog. Often, it’s simply the best option. The trick is to treat it right.

So, here’s my CHANCE AT LAST to vent on mowing practices! It just kills me that in spring, people let weeds go to seed and don’t mow. Then, in summer, they are determined to mow the life out of their grass, cutting so short that the roots get stressed. That just opens things up for the weeds to germinate with the first cool, fall rains. Mow weeds in spring; take a break in summer! Or at least, set that mower really high by June 1.

On tour, we re-visit a garden: Kenneth Paynter in San Antonio and his brother, Michael Paynter, in San Marcos. They’ve chosen two different garden styles but what unites them is their dad’s legacy of lawn and the happy kids who played on it.

John Dromgoole does Part One of making a nifty propagation box. This is so cool! Certainly, you can do it in a dish pan or other plastic container, but a pretty box nabs every gardener with scrap lumber!  This technique makes it super easy to root many plants, including tomato cuttings later. Even when you’re going to be out of town.

John Dromgoole propagation box
Until next week, Linda

  1. 10 Responses to “Luck, loss, plus lawns”

  2. By Marlene on Mar 31, 2011

    Hi Linda,
    I’m wondering if Celebration bermuda will, in fact, grow in bright shade. I recently moved to a house with 2 10 yr. old live oaks in the front. There is nothing but dirt under them, but I recently had the canopy of the trees lifted and although there is no full sun, there is bright shade. I’ve read on several turf grass websites that Celebration Bermuda will work in those conditions. I’m thinking about seeding it since I’m home during the day to keep it moist. Thanks for your help!


    Linda reply on March 31st, 2011 9:05 pm:

    Marlene, let me check on this one & I’ll be back with you. I think the zoysia or St. Augustine would do better, though. Back soon!


  3. By Diana on Apr 1, 2011

    Love your poppies & irises. Can’t wait to watch the grass expert this weekend — I’m always running into folks with grass problems and always looking for new varieties and ideas!


    Linda reply on April 1st, 2011 6:59 pm:

    Yes, Mike is fabulous! I learned a lot.


  4. By Hella Wagner on Apr 1, 2011

    Thanks for identifying Little Baby Blue Eyes! I found several of this at the roadside on my way to my daughter in Hearne last year. It also looked like they did not make it through the winter, but here they are, just peeking through the mulch.
    Lucky Day!


    Linda reply on April 1st, 2011 6:58 pm:

    Wow, that is great! They are so cute.


  5. By Deb Boyd on Apr 1, 2011

    I really enjoyed the post on the propagation box. I cannot wait to make some this weekend and give to my friends. This is a gift that I know they will really ‘dig’.


    Linda reply on April 2nd, 2011 3:26 pm:

    Thanks, Deb! I know, isn’t that cool? Such an easy way to do cuttings. Yes, I know your friends will totally dig it!


  6. By Joanne Proffitt on Apr 3, 2011

    We have an interesting plant in the backyard. We have many birds, that seed our yard regularly. I will attach pics.
    Thanks for any help.


    Linda reply on April 4th, 2011 4:24 pm:

    Hi, Joanne! You can send pictures to me at


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