Get the story on understory trees and plants

November 1st, 2012 Posted in Insects, bees, birds, butterflies, caterpillars, garden bloggers, garden design, garden projects, lawn replace, native plants, trees, wildlife

Lavender and silver, what a great duo!  But this hoverfly wasn’t zooming in to admire ‘Helen von Stein’ lamb’s ears; it was going for lunch on the asters (Aster oblongifolius). Thanks, Meredith O’Reilly, for reminding me!

Fall purple aster and 'Helen von Stein' lamb's ears
The fall-blooming asters join almost ever-blooming Blackfoot daisy that joins every seasonal companion.

Aster and Blackfoot daisy Central Texas
When we dug out grass last spring along our new den path bed and laid down newspaper and mulch, I planned to fill the gaps this fall.

removing grass project
Well, the resident asters and ‘Country Girl’ mums jumped in to do the job for now!  I’ll divide them when they go dormant this winter to push out their performance. At the far back is my latest acquisition, Manfreda x ‘Silver Leopard’ or Manfreda maculosa ‘Silver Leopard.’ In any case, its purple spots and silvery foliage will accent this bed nicely.

Asters and 'Country Girl' mums stone path
More on this project next week and what we’ve done about the weeds/grass on the right side!

Bees (and hummingbirds) also head for Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla).

Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) bee

This one’s not in my garden since it needs lots of sun and super drainage. But for those of you with that combo, Daphne makes this 3’ tall perennial her Pick of the Week.

Pink Fairy Duster drought garden Austin Texas

Pink Fairy Duster

You’ll also see Red Fairy Duster or Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica), equally busy attracting pollinators all over town.

Red Fairy Duster with agave Austin Texas
Mockingbirds and other berry-eaters are seeing red, too, as our native hollies fill their bellies.

Yaupon holly berries and mockingbird nest
My yaupon holly still bears evidence of a happy family raised near my front door this spring. I suspect the mail carrier got dive-bombed as often as we did by vigilant parents.

Since understory trees should not be overlooked in our gardens, this week Tom meets with Meredith O’Reilly, Texas Master Naturalist, NWF Habitat Steward, and Travis Audubon committee member.

Meredith O'Reilly Great Stems

Along with visual appeal under large shade trees, Meredith explains how the understory is important for nesting, food, and cover for small birds and song birds. One of her favorites is evergreen Goldenball leadtree.

Goldenball leadtree Kyle Texas

Another on her list is Carolina buckthorn. This one’s growing under an ashe juniper in Liberty Hill.

Carolina buckthorn Liberty Hill Texas

Here’s her list that includes diverse situations, including Fragrant mimosa, Spicebush (larval food for the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly), scarlet/red buckeye, and many more!

On Meredith’s blog, Great Stems, tour her progress as a native plant gardener in her urban habitat.

Great Stems Meredith O'Reilly

Her stunning photography also takes us along on her voyages to natural settings to meet both plants and wildlife and how they interact. Meredith’s also available for talks for all ages, though she certainly knows how to engage children in wildlife activities through her work with schools and Scout troops!

Since NOW is the best time to plant new trees, Daphne explains why you want to establish them this fall and early winter.

Mexican redbud flower

It’s also time to bring in house plants that you’ve summered outside. You’ll want to gently spray them down with water and even drench their soil with a weak solution of neem or orange oil and water (1 tablespoon to a gallon of water) so you don’t bring in some new friends, too! John Dromgoole cautions to use just VERY LITTLE to avoid harming root hairs. Another tip from John: when you repot, place some old window screen in the bottom to keep insects from coming in through the drainage hole.

This week on CTG, John shows how to fend off scale, red spider mites, and mealybugs on your houseplants. You can also use these tips on garden plants.

Houseplant insect control John Dromgoole

On tour, resident understory trees and other native plants influenced Christine and Pete Hausmann’s design in their garden, Lazy Acres. See their story of how they united three (now four!) generations with respect for the land.

Until next week, happy planting! Linda

  1. 9 Responses to “Get the story on understory trees and plants”

  2. By Joann Sowell on Nov 1, 2012

    I am a long time gardener (for more than 60 years since I am now 81) and always find something new and interesting in your central Texas Blog. I often get bored looking at my own garden and then you step into my day and bring me new ideas and new plants…. just what I was looking for. Thanks so much. You brighten my day each time you send me your blog. Keep up the wonderful work.


    Linda reply on November 1st, 2012 4:54 pm:

    Dear Joann, wow, this makes my day! Thank you so very much! You’ve brightened up my day, that’s for sure! Linda


  3. By Tina on Nov 1, 2012

    I love your garden along that pathway–so, so pretty. I haven’t had much luck with manfreda (sniff), so I’m trying mine in a container now. I think I’ve found a spot for a Goldenball leadtree–thanks for profiling that great little tree. As always, wonderful information.


    Linda reply on November 1st, 2012 4:54 pm:

    Thanks, Tina! Well, there are so many plants that I absolutely can’t grow, so I understand. More about my pathway project soon–it’s definitely a work in progress!


  4. By esther on Nov 1, 2012

    Manfreda—-LOVE IT!!!

    So do the deer—-they come up to pots right at my back door on rural property in Caldwell county to munch on it.


    Linda reply on November 2nd, 2012 2:58 pm:

    Oh, what a shame. I guess those succulent leaves are just too irresistable! Sounds like you (and your deer) have good taste!


  5. By Barbara on Nov 1, 2012

    Linda–In the pic of your garden path from last spring, what are those shell-fossil-looking things on the left, and what are the red spiky plants still in containers? Verrrry interesting.


    Linda reply on November 2nd, 2012 2:56 pm:

    Hi, Barbara! The fossils are indeed oyster shells from a million years or so ago. We collected them in our creek before the city dug up everything up and made it a drainage ditch. I was hoping to come up with an artistic project and that was it (for now!). And good eye on the red plants! Bilbergias. My first time to try them. We’ll see how they do this winter, but supposedly they’re pretty hardy. I couldn’t resist that color and they are very drought tough!


  6. By Linda on Nov 2, 2012

    Hi, Sharon! I do love them. I didn’t get quite the display this year since it got so dry on us but they are covered with flying insects! Yes, can’t wait to see you!


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