Mash-up: artful edibles for all

October 16th, 2014 Posted in garden art, garden projects, garden rooms, garden structure, habitat, herbs, lawn replace, master gardeners, native plants, patios, recipes, water features | 2 Comments »

First, we’ve got lots of drowning going on, since rain isn’t always reasonable.  When it drops a bomb, xeric herbs like sage dive out.

why sage died central texas gardener

Daphne explains what happened to Tracie Storie’s healthy, long-term thyme and others.

why thyme rotted central texas gardener

Tracie keeps them on the dry side, which is good.  Suddenly, the plants get drenched, humidity builds up in their dense centers, and root rot clips them.  Get Daphne’s complete answer.

With autumn’s heads-up that freeze is around the corner, Trisha preserves cold-tender herbs and chile pequins to use all winter. I love her tip to freeze ginger, too; just shave off a bit when you need it.

freeze herbs in Mason jars and containers central texas gardener

But there’s lots to eat in winter, including edible flowers! Deena Spellman from Bastrop Gardens joins Tom to fill our perennial beds and containers with cheery petals, herbs, and vegetables.

Deena Spellman Bastrop Gardens and Tom Spencer Central Texas Gardener

What about planting annual calendulas to fill spots left blank when perennials freeze back?  They’re pretty enough to eat, especially sprinkled on homegrown lettuce salads.  Plant enough to invite bees and butterflies to dinner!

edible flower calendula and bee central texas gardener

At Bastrop Gardens, Deena and husband Jeff Spellman operate an organic, “here to help” nursery that promotes good health for all of us, including the wildlife. They encourage us to include birds in our planting schemes this fall, with drought defiant choices like possumhaw holly.  Deena gives us the scoop on why yaupon hollies are discouraged in fire-ravaged Bastrop as replacement trees.

Fragrant dianthus is a charmer in the ground or in containers. Its abundant petals can spare a few to punch up your salads.

edible flower fragrant dianthus central texas gardener

Let’s spice things up with perennial oregano and cool-weather annual feathery dill.

oregano and dill central texas gardener

In spring, Swallowtail caterpillars will seem to appear overnight if you didn’t spot the adult laying her eggs on this larval host.

Swallowtail caterpillar on larval host dill central texas gardener

I’m so partial to sweet little violas that I hate to eat even one petal, but per their common name, Johnny-Jump Up, they’ll jump back fast to replenish my pickings.

edible flowers viola central texas gardener

Viewer Picture goes to Irene Phillips for this knockout container with summer annual Blue Daze. I imagine yellow violas to take its place this winter!  Ooh, that gives me an idea. . .

Summer annual Blue Daze in cobalt container Central Texas Gardener

We can’t eat Daphne’s Plant of the Week crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), but its spring and fall flowers are a real treat for hummingbirds and butterflies. Deer love it all the time.

'Tangerine Beauty' crossvine on chain link fence Central Texas Gardener

Like all vines, it takes a few years to get growing to cover an arbor, trellis, or chain link fence.

'Tangerine Beauty' crossvine on trellis to hide fence

It’s a great time to plant cultivar ‘Tangerine Dream’ or the original native that sports golden tubes with magenta center.

Tangerine Beauty crossvine on arbor at Mueller Lake Park

It’s semi-evergreen, dropping its leaves in spring, just before new ones emerge.   Daphne explains that it blooms on old wood, so prune after flowering. Oh, and it needs a little gardener control. Mine clambered onto Lady Banks rose until I gently intervened.

lady banks rose and 'Tangerine Beauty' crossvine central texas gardener

On tour, meet Austin Neal, one of the most joyful people in the world! I first met him when he volunteered as a Travis County Master Gardener for KLRU’s 50th anniversary party.

Austin Neal at KLRU 50th birthday party

In his front yard courtyard garden, he blends food for him and wildlife along with serene spots to hang out and enjoy it all.

front yard courtyard garden Austin Neal Central Texas Gardener

To gently frame his courtyard, he recycled old fence planks with six different design panels. “It’s kind of a patchwork thing, which I like to think as a homage to my great grandmother who was a quilter,” he tells us. Cattle panel sections invite neighborly interaction.

creative fence courtyard garden Austin Neal Central Texas Gardener

Neighbors often join him to wander the garden where he turned a one-dimensional yard into many levels of interest. He kept some grass for rescued dog, Zephyr. Since we taped, he’s planted a native blend of grasses.

front yard courtyard garden Austin Neal Central Texas Gardener

To clarify spaces, he built ipe boardwalks against decomposed granite sections.

ipe path front yard courtyard garden Austin Neal Central Texas Gardener

When he moved to Austin in 2008, he was clueless about Texas plants. With his tireless quest for knowledge and challenges, he dug in with layers of textures and seasonal attraction that require little water or constant babysitting.

ipe path front yard courtyard garden Austin Neal Central Texas Gardener

ipe path front yard courtyard garden Austin Neal Central Texas Gardener

Now a Travis County Master Gardener, Austin starts other new gardeners on their journey with resourceful plants and techniques. In his vegetable beds, shaped to counterpoint the garden’s straight lines, he uses efficient ollas to water his organic vegetables.

front yard courtyard vegetable garden Austin Neal Central Texas Gardener

He can’t resist a creative way to repurpose lucky finds, like Habitat for Humanity roof tiles for succulent containers.

succulent hanging container Austin Neal Central Texas Gardener

In his wildlife active garden, he treasures beneficial wasps, as I hope we all do. Respecting their work of art, he attached abandoned nests to a repurposed mobile. Especially I love the ones shaped like a heart!

wasp nest mobile Austin Neal Central Texas Gardener

Watch it now and get ready to feel joyful!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

What’s the BUZZ About Native Plants?

October 9th, 2014 Posted in Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Texas Native Plant Week, Vines, bees, birds, butterflies, crafts, drought, garden bloggers on tour, garden rooms, lawn replace, native plants, perennials | 2 Comments »

Adaptable, rambunctious native Conoclinium coelestinum—one of a few called blue mistflower—is on target for the usual flock of butterflies (let’s hope).

conoclinium coelestinum blue mistflower central texas gardener

Boy, it’s been a rough year. Since winter’s 12° and drought, it’s the first time that my Salvia greggiis have wimped around. After recent rains, they rallied to get back on the job.

salvia greggii native perennial for bees and butterflies

My new native gray golden-aster (Heterotheca canescens) pumped out its first tentative flowers. I’m not sure I have the right spot for it, but I had to try after meeting it on our visit to the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration.

gray golden-aster native prairie perennial Central Texas Gardener

With Texas Native Plant Week around the corner—October 19- 26—now’s the best time to plant our native perennials, like pitcher sage (Salvia azurea). Bumblebees are going nuts on this one a few blocks from me.

Bee on pitcher sage (Salvia azurea) central texas gardener

Why is it so important to include native plants in our gardens? Cathy Downs from the Native Plant Society of Texas joins Tom to tell us why with some starter options.

Tom Spencer and Cathy Downs Native Texas Plant Society

You don’t need lots of room. My neighbors solarized their lawn all winter a few years ago to kill it without chemicals.

kill grass solarize with black plastic central texas gardener

After adding compost, now they’ve got a perennially pretty spot for everybody, even in this small spot. Here’s a view of desert willow, Hamelia patens, Salvia greggii, Salvia leucantha, blackfoot daisy and Mexican feather grass.

losing lawn for native hamelia patens and salvias small yard Central Texas Gardener

Deer-resistant evergreen red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) blooms from spring to fall, speeding those hummingbirds back to our zip codes.

red yucca hesperaloe parvifolia for hummingbirds and drought

Need an evergreen vine? Check out coral honeysuckle that entices butterflies and hummers in early spring to summer.

native evergreen coral honeysuckle vine for hummingbirds

Got shade? Let’s add some perennial frostweed (Verbesina virginica). It’s a great woodland plant for us. Mine is just starting to flower. I hope to attract butterflies like in Cathy’s picture.

Frostweed and Queen butterflies Native Plant Society of Texas

Cathy encourages us to become Monarch Waystations. It’s easy to make it official but all you need are nectar plants, milkweeds to lay their eggs, water, and shelter.

milkweed asclepias curassavica Monarch butterflies central texas gardener

Birds treasure those seeds you’re not quick to clean up, like from coneflower.

coneflower seeds for birds central texas gardener

When possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua) loses its leaves in winter, it stages a show for birds that claim its berry wonderful nutrition.

possumhaw holly berries for mockingbirds central texas gardener

Now, isn’t this lawn just lovely? The house has been up for sale for weeks, sans irrigation. Native horseherb, also called straggler daisy, fluffed out with the first rain. This no-mow lawn, that attracts little pollinators to its tiny flowers,  is so dense that it’s smothering anxious weed seeds underneath. BUT: let’s not mulch around trees like this! More on upcoming CTG.

horseherb, straggler daisy lawn for drought central texas gardener

Mexican-native pink skullcap is easy to find. You have to look around a bit to get native skullcaps, like purple skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii), Daphne’s Plant of the Week.

purple skullcap Scutellaria wrightii central texas gardener native plant

Jenny Stocker’s plants illustrate that it wants sun to some shade, along with good drainage.

purple skullcap Scutellaria wrightii Jennifer Stocker's garden

So, you’ve got all these great flowers and you’d like to frame them or turn into gifting bookmarks. Viewer Kim Bruch details how she laminated hers to share with her elementary school students.

how laminate flowers to frame by Kim Bruch

Viewer picture of the week goes to Robin Mayfield for her Senna corymbosa. Although native to South America, this drought defiant small shrub/tree attracts lots of pollinators.

senna corymbosa photo by Robin Mayfield Central Texas Gardener

On tour, visit Jenny and David Stocker’s garden where native and adapted plants unite for wildlife and delightful outdoor living!

Drought garden for wildlife Jennifer Stocker

Salvia farinacea joyfully re-seeds all over Jenny’s garden to keep up with its wildlife customers.

native salvia farinacea in Jenny Stocker's garden central texas gardener

They built this comfy incubator for pollinator-powerful Mason or solitary bees.

Mason bee house built by Jennifer and David Stocker Central Texas Gardener

Watch now!

A few events on the horizon:

Oct. 11-13: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center native plant sale

Oct. 15 – 18: The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired fall vegetable sale (great prices to support their endeavors!)
Oct. 18- 19: At Zilker Botanical Garden, celebrate The Austin Area Garden Center’s 50th Anniversary celebration with plant sales & more.
The First Austin African Violet Society will be there, too, selling lovely African violets to enjoy indoors.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Movers & Shakers

October 2nd, 2014 Posted in Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, books, compost, garden bloggers, lawn replace, mulch, native plants, urban farms | No Comments »

Are you a mover and shaker? That is to say: you move plants around and shake your head that you didn’t do it sooner.

That’s me! In the case of this rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetela), I didn’t do a thing. It picked the spot to seed in front of blue plumbago where brief shafts of sun penetrate filtered shade.

Native rock rose pavonia and blue plumbago part shade garden austin

Even though November – February is the best time to move trees, shrubs, evergreen perennials, and roses, I’ve jumped the shovel gun a little.  I’d already bought replacements for things getting too much shade.  For now, I won’t disturb my Salvia ‘Silke’s Dream’, though it’s a bit skimpy, overcrowded, and stretching for light.

salvia silke's dream central texas gardener

I was shaking my head about my new raised vegetable bed. In its first winter season, it looked okay.

raised limestone vegetable bed austin te

Suddenly, everything cratered.  What did I do wrong?

Well by golly, Daphne’s heard from many gardeners with the same issue. Like me, they’d put in lots of compost and good soil and watered it well.

Not so fast, there, veteran gardener who messed up. Daphne explains what happened: new soil and compost can be dry, dry, dry. You THINK you’ve watered it, but even 2” down is still dry as dust.

Solution: water, mix, water, mix. I’ve been doing it for three weekends. Even after 5” of rain, I turned the soil to find it dry just below the surface. This weekend I’ll do the final turn and then plant lettuce, arugula, cilantro, parsley, garlic, and Swiss chard.

fall vegetable seeds and garlic austin texas

Get Daphne’s complete answer and how to include Plant of the Week Swiss chard among your ornamentals like Gomphrena ‘Little Grapes.’

Swiss chard with gomphrena grapes central texas gardener

Now, what about mulch?  Yes, we know it’s a good thing, but what is the best one?  Like everything, it depends on the plant. Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center deciphers it for us.

what mulch to use Andrea DeLong-Amaya Lady Bird Johnson Wildlflower Center

Maybe you’ll run into Andrea at the LBJWC fall plant sale Oct. 11- 12 (members day Oct. 10). If you’ve admired my native Hibiscus martianus, I see that it’s on the list this year. By the way, that list is great reference!

native hibiscus martianus central texas gardener

And do check out the Wildflower Center’s Landscape for Life series that starts Oct. 15. This is a great way to learn how to transform your yard into a sustainable garden!

Bluebonnets are coming up, thanks to recent rains. To start your first patch, get seeds to plant in early November. Viewer Picture goes to Melinda McGowan and Leo’s bluebonnet selfie last spring!

dog selfie bluebonnets central texas gardener

Mover & shaker Red Dirt Ramblings author Dee Nash joins Tom to dish up the real dirt on gardening in her book The 20/30 Something  Garden Guide.

Dee Nash 20/30 Something Garden Guide Central Texas Gardener

Written for new soil grubbers, veterans will also whoop about her colorful graphic designs, DIY instructions, and plants from food to fragrance.

The 20/30 Something Garden Guide Dee Nash Central Texas Gardener

The 20/30 Something Garden Guide Dee Nash Central Texas Gardener

The 20/30 Something Garden Guide Dee Nash Central Texas Gardener

Along with plant tips & tricks, she makes it easy to visualize designs to shake up that dull yard—even in tiny spaces.

The 20/30 Something Garden Guide Dee Nash Central Texas Gardener

Dee sprinkles in lots of pictures, including her own deliciously beautiful garden.

On tour, meet the energetic young urban farmers shaking things up at Ten Acre Organics. Co-founders Lloyd Minick and Michael Hanan are joined by Michael’s wife, Marie Franki, and Grayson Oheim, Kimberly Griffin and Mike Jeffcoat.

Ten Acre Organics Lloyd Minick and Michael Hanan Central Texas Gardener

Oh, it’s not 10 acres of land either! It’s a typical 1970s suburban lot where food rules now instead of grass.

Ten Acre Organics front yard suburban food garden central texas gardener

Drip hose irrigation and lots of compost and mulch conserve water.

Ten Acre Organics drip hose suburban food garden central texas gardener

They didn’t forget to feed the pollinators.

ten acre organics native plants for wildlife pollinators

In back, two aquaponics greenhouses frame rotational ground crops.

Ten Acre Organics backyard aquaponics Central Texas Gardener

Ten Acre Organics backyard aquaponics Central Texas Gardener

Happy hens in the TAO coop never lay down on the job, either.

Ten Acre Organics backyard aquaponics and chickens Central Texas Gardener

Even though it’s not 10 acres (yet), they’re supplying lots of organic food to restaurants and neighbors.

Ten Acre Organics backyard aquaponics Central Texas Gardener

Rob Nash at Austin Aquaponics launched them into this water-wise method to grow organic food.

To build up formerly lifeless soil for productivity and water retention, TAO nurtures several compost bins, filled weekly as a drop-off site for East Austin Compost Pedallers.

compost bin at Ten Acre Organics Central Texas Gardener

Watch the whole story now!

Thanks for stopping by! Next week, we celebrate Texas Native Plant Week. See you then, Linda

A neighborhood unites for wildlife

September 25th, 2014 Posted in garden art, garden design, garden structure, groundcovers, lawn replace, native plants, wildlife | 10 Comments »

Well, wasn’t that rain just lovely? Honestly, I thought I’d missed out on spider lily (Lycoris radiata) this year. In just 24 hours, it zoomed up.

Fall perennial spider lily Lycoris radiata Austin Garden

And I’ve got at least three kinds of mushrooms benefiting my soil and plants with mycoorhizal fungi. They’re the best thing that can happen to your garden, so don’ t scruff them out.

Garden mushroom to benefit soil Austin Texas

My two-year-old passalong Mexican beautyberry (Callicarpa acuminata) couldn’t wait to show off its deep burgundy berries.

Mexican beautyberry Callicarpa acuminata Austin Texas

On a stroll around the neighborhood, I’m pleased to see gardeners venturing into wildlife habitat, like front yard Hamelia patens for hummingbirds.

Firebush Hamelia patens hummingbird plant austin texas

A few streets over, these gardeners dumped lawn to attract anyone that wings by.

No lawn garden for wildlife austin texas

Really, this is the best thing to happen to my neighborhood.  Sure, each of us makes a difference. United, we make a whopping impact!

Too bad I don’t have enough sun for these cheerful cosmos. They’re such easy summer annuals for bees and butterflies.

pink cosmos butterfly and bee summer annual central texas gardener

Nearby, a no-lawn garden favors wildlife with blackfoot daisy and lantana. Mexican feather grass, Yucca rostrata (spring flowers beneficial) and a young agave excite the dimension. The new sidewalk adds warmth, too, far more pleasing than the former concrete.

no-lawn wildlife garden yucca rostrada blackfoot daisy silver ponyfoot

I call this one “the white garden.” Silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) and blackfoot daisy mound underneath shrubby almond verbena. Its aromatic white flowers smell like cookies. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies find their own “cookies.”

no lawn garden silver ponyfoot, yucca, almond verbena central texas gardener

Now, here’s a clever idea for a big tree stump! That ice plant (Aptenia) will soon rock those rocks.

rocks garden on top of tree trunk central texas gardener

In my garden, when an elderly Bradford pear died, the guy who cut it down left a stump “in case” I wanted to put a pot on it. Actually, I did not. Instead, I topped it with a  limestone slab. In seconds, elderly Spencer claimed it for his meditation cat perch.

limestone slab on tree stump cat perch

Eventually, the wood rotted away. Rather than hunt up another discarded tree stump, I decided to fancy it up with an inverted pot for Sam Jr.

limestone slab on inverted pot for plant stand or cat nap

In my slap dash garden, I was really proud of myself for this little brainstorm. I adore it, though now there are no cats to perch on it.

limestone slab on inverted pot for plant stand or cat nap

A few years ago, neighbors exchanged lawn for depth with this raised bed.

raised concrete bed to lose lawn central texas gardener

On my walks, I always stop to admire this nicho. I don’t know these folks but I like them very much.

front yard nicho austin garden central texas gardener

These bougainvilleas encourage me to try one in the ground next year. Butterflies love them.

bougainvillea on fence austin texas central texas gardener

Finally, let’s give a drum roll to Butthole Surfer drummer Jeffrey (King) Coffey, who gets applause as the neighborhood Yard of the Month!

butthole surfer native plant garden for wildlife central texas gardener

The best thing? Everyone stamps their unique style onto their pursuits. Wildlife don’t care about our “tastes,” as long as it tastes good.

Thanks for stopping by! Linda