Shady Customers + Saving Seeds

June 19th, 2014 Posted in Saving seeds, garden art, garden designers, garden rooms, garden structure, groundcovers, lawn replace, mulch, shade plants | 4 Comments »

The latest round of wildflowers is in gear, like bee balm (Monarda citriodora) while the early birds are going to seed.

Monarda (Bee balm) Austin texas prairie

This week, Trisha Shirey shows when and how to collect and dry seeds for next fall, including the bucket technique, my fave.

how dry and collect seeds Trisha Shirey Central Texas Gardener

To separate seeds from debris, you can use a fine strainer and even sift in front of a fan to blow away the hulls.

how dry nigella seeds central texas gardener

Trisha cautions: Always store in paper bags or jars after you’ve dried the seeds in shallow containers in the house. Plastic bags can retain residual moisture, and if the seeds mildew, they won’t germinate.

Check out these medication envelopes, available online to dispense to friends with your prescription!

medication envelopes store seeds

seed label medication envelopes trisha shirey central texas gardener

In shady areas, it’s time to collect seeds from columbine.

columbine and purple oxalis

And widow’s tears (Commelina erecta), if they haven’t already scattered.

widow's tears wildflower

Shade plants TOP all the questions I get. Here’s a charming spot in Lucinda Hutson’s garden under a gingko tree, where she quilted ferns, ajuga, Katie ruellia, Wedelia tribolata, creeping jenny, violets and oxalis.

Lucinda Hutson shade garden cove

Recently I learned at Ten Acre Organics that the oakleaf hydrangea they inherited is quite drought-tough.

oakleaf hydrangea shade perennial texas

Jon Hutson from Tillery Street Plant Company dispels some of my concerns about drought & cold-hardy plants for shade when he joins Tom to widen our shady horizon.

Shade plants Central Texas Gardener Tom Spencer and Jon Hutson

I was astounded to learn that firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis) works in some shade and heavy soil. Of course, it’s going to stretch a bit, but that just adds to the cascading affect.

firecracker fern russelia plant for shade and hummingbirds

I’ve admired ligularia in gardens for YEARS. I figured this would be a water hound. Not so, he tells us.

ligularia shade plant

Another I’ve drooled over after seeing it in several waterwise gardens: Plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Duke Gardens’). Now, Jon tells us, this low-growing groundcover is more available outside the landscaper trade.

plum yew shade plant Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Duke Gardens'

One I never would have suspected is Anthony Waterer spiraea that blooms in summer!

Anthony Waterer spiraea shade shrub

Jon’s got a ton more, so here’s his list. Or just head out to Tillery Street Plant Company and hang out in the shade to peruse your favorites.

tillery street plant company patio hangout austin nursery

On tour, Lynne Dobson grows many on Jon’s list, like root beer plant (Hoja Santa).

root beer plant hoja santa shade plant

When she and husband Greg Wooldridge bought their house, the backyard was an unwieldy slope of lawn in lots of shade. Landscape architect Bill Bauer gave them access on every level. Lynne filled them with serene enchanting places to live and talk.

Lynne Dobson shade garden on slope

shade garden living room on slope Lynne Dobson

shade garden outdoor living room Lynne Dobson Central Texas Gardener

shade garden living room Lynne Dobson Central Texas Gardener

Her Chilean mesquite tree gracefully transitions the broad sunny patio with the cozy, shady living room.

chilean mesquite tree lynne dobson central texas gardener

As a professional photographer, with a deep and rich connection to nature’s gifts, Lynne designs patterns to appreciate from every view. She’s mindful of close-up wonders, like this Ming fern.

Ming fern shade plant Lynne Dobson Central Texas Gardener

She tells us, “I’m always finding different angles and looking at backgrounds and looking at foregrounds and looking at everything together.”

blackfoot daisy lamb's ears oxalis Lynne Dobson garden

Growing up on the Gulf coast, she symbolizes her mother’s love of shells with a sculpture by artist Emily Tracy-Haas.

Emily Tracy-Haas shell sculpture Lynne Dobson garden

Lynne charms every nook. She likes to pair succulents with Austin artist Rick Van Dyke’s containers.

rick van dyke succulent container Lynne Dobson garden

To have a ball with the side yard’s functional drainage control “gutter,” Lynne dipped into Greg’s bowling ball collection. “They’re fun and structural and they withstand the weather just great. It was boring with just the rocks for drainage,” she says.

bowling balls line drainage path Lynne Dobson garden

A classic mailbox delivers garden tools and supplies midway between gardens.

classic mailbox garden tool storage Lynne Dobson

Certified arborist and designer Molly Wood assists with plant resources and big maintenance jobs, like the yearly application of turkey compost for plant health and water retention.

Lynne also sees a lot away from home as a humanitarian photojournalist and activist for several non-profits. On her website, she documents her missions in Africa, including Water to Thrive, Free Wheelchair Mission and the African Children’s Choir.

Water to Thrive photo by Lynne Dobson

Watch her story now!

Thanks for stopping by! Next week, we grow up with vertical containers. Linda

Cheers! Amy Stewart & Lucinda Hutson

June 12th, 2014 Posted in books, garden designers, garden rooms, garden structure, groundcovers, habitat, lawn replace, plant uses, shade plants, succulent flowers | 1 Comment »

What a show we’ve had with skyrocketing succulents! Yucca rostratas at Habanero Mexican Café synchronized their traffic-stopper explosion.

yucca rostrata blooms at Habanero Mexican Cafe Austin

We know that some agaves die after blooming, like Randy Case’s Agave victoriae-reginae.

Victoria Regina agave in bloom

Agave victoriae-reginae flower

But what about yuccas and sotols (Dasylirion wheeleri) like this one in the Travis Extension Office demonstration garden?

sotol bloom travis county extension

Indeed, they don’t die, as Daphne tells us this week. But removing the dried flower stalks can inflict wounds on you! Get her tips on how to do it without EMS to the rescue.

Sotol, agave and many familiar plants like pomegranate aren’t just for show and food: you can drink them! Amy Stewart, NY Times Bestseller author of The Drunken Botanist, joins Tom to toast the plants in your favorite drinks with really tasty stories.

Amy Stewart and Tom Spencer Central Texas Gardener The Drunken Botanist

The Drunken Botanist so intrigues that it’s hard to put it down to mix one of Amy’s recipes. You’ll say “I didn’t know that!” every page. Even if you don’t drink, you’ll be captivated at how plants turn into booze or flavor it.

the drunken botanist

Totally sober I was taking this picture: just crooked drunk on awe.

amy stewart at historic Austin City Limits studio

On CTG, Amy serves up a spirited aperitif about the science, history, hilarity, and perceptions about plants, even those in your garden. Cheers!

Lavendula intoxicatea cocktail The Drunken Botanist

If you grow figs, don’t miss Amy’s chapter on that easy-to-grow fruit. On Backyard Basics, Tim Miller from Millberg Farm shows how to take fig cuttings, plus how he conserves water for his organic fruit and vegetables.

Fig cutting Tim Miller Millberg Farm Central Texas Gardener

Author Lucinda Hutson fills us up with tasty tales and recipes in her books, Viva Tequila and The Herb Garden Cookbook. But what inspired her to bring her love of Mexico and its rich colors across the border? 

Lucinda Hutson's purple cottage Central Texas Gardener Ed Fuentes

On tour with director Ed Fuentes’ dreamy video, see how Lucinda’s passion led to joyful rooms that make her small space feel quite roomy.

Lucinda Hutson's brugmansias and purple cottage

lucinda hutson's decorative plate herb bed

Lucinda Hutson's outdoor dining room central texas gardener

lucinda hutson's outdoor dining room cabinet

lucinda hutson's outdoor living rooms central Texas gardener austin

lucinda hutson's charming outdoor garden rooms

Lucinda Hutson's tequila cantina

Isn’t this a charming salad bar in her front yard?

Lucinda Hutson's front yard salad bar

And what a lucky find for this succulent “bed.”

lucinda hutson's succulent bed container

Through poignant stories, meet a bit of Lucinda’s history that prompted her designs.

lucinda hutson's mermaid pond room

lucinda hutson's Mexican bathtub nicho and patio room

lucinda hutson's milagros door to patio

lucinda hutson's mosaic stairway to heaven

And get the inside story about her traditional Mexican wall of chairs and agaves on the roof.

lucinda hutson's traditional Mexican chairs on wall agaves on roof

Take the tour right now!

Thanks for stopping by! Next week, we’ve got lots of shady ideas for you. Linda

Shade, insects, drought: what’s buggin’ you?

June 5th, 2014 Posted in Insects, bees, bulbs, caterpillars, drought, garden designers, groundcovers, habitat, lawn replace, perennials, pests, shade plants | 2 Comments »

Like us, rain lilies jumped for joy with the recent deluge. When my Habranthus robustus seeds dry, I’ll spread them around. In the meantime, I’ll swat eager beaver mosquitoes.

rain lily Habranthus robustus

I’m thrilled that Michelle Pfluger from Green ‘n Growing in Pflugerville introduced us to native snake herb (Dyschoriste linearis) on CTG with her list of great groundcovers for shade.

snake herb central texas gardener

I moved faster than a garden snake (or deer) to get some. Now in their second spring, they’ve taken off, after a brief underground winter excursion. They contribute to my textural dimension in shade with sun at different times of the day.

snake herb (Dyschoriste linearis) with lamb's ears central texas gardener

The almost secretive flowers attract butterflies, not snakes.

snake herb flower (Dyschoriste linearis) central texas gardener

Though honestly, if you don’t have garden snakes, earthworms, insects and birds, then something is really wrong! Into our cycle of healthy garden life, a few chompers or suckers must fall. It kills me that people wipe out everything and then wonder what happened to the bees, ladybugs, fireflies, birds, and butterflies. Or the squash and other crops that fail from lack of pollination.

Wizzie Brown, Travis County IPM Program Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, joins Tom to sort out what’s bugging us and how to adopt the Integrated Pest Management approach.

Wizzie Brown Travis County Extension-IPM on Central Texas Gardener

IPM means accepting that circle of life with pests and their natural predators, like ladybug and green lacewing larvae that scarf up aphids, among others.

green lacewing and ladybug larvae eating aphids photo by Wizzie Brown

If we must control intense populations, select the least toxic/invasive approach. It depends on the insect: whether it chews or sucks/pierces.

Wizzie’s safest control is a blast of water on jet spray. For some, like various true bugs—including those dratted tomato stink bugs—scoop them up in early morning or suck up those suckers in a vacuum device.

Her top advice: nab them while they are little, like in their nymph stage. Once they’re big and flying, good luck!

bug nymph

She tells us when and how to use direct kills, like insecticidal soap for piercing insects. Use products like spinosad or Bt for chewing pests.

BIG CAUTION: natural product spinosad is fatal to bees. If you spray it on your plants to kill chomping insects, do it at night so that it dries before the bees come to pollinate the next morning. Granular Spinosad, used for fire ants, won’t harm bees since it’s on the ground.

If you can’t figure out what’s going on, head out after dark with a flashlight to find your culprit. That’s what KLRU producer Eve Tarlo did to catch this one in the act on her fig tree: a June bug!

June bug on fig tree photo by Eve Tarlo

Normally, it’s the larvae of June bugs (actually a beetle) that cause our woes if we’re out of balance with too many grubs. The adults just fly around, mate, and lay their eggs, which they’ll be doing soon. Count on innovative Eve to have creative insects, too!

Follow Wizzie on her blog to keep up with the latest pestilential news, webinars and workshops

If you spot this around the garden, jump for joy! Gardener extraordinaire Vicki Blachman’s husband Steven captured the delicate eggs of green lacewings.

Green lacewing eggs photo by vicki and steven blachman

When they hatch, the larvae will clean up aphids or other small insects that dare to pester Vicki. The lacy adults hover near night lights after dining on pollen and nectar.

Peggy Moore doesn’t have insects on her loropetalum, but she sure wants to know how to prune it.

loropetalum pruning photo by peggy moore

We’ve all been there: something that goes nuts before we have time to deal with it. Daphne explains why Peggy should only cut back 2’ for now on her 6’ plants: the 1/3 rule. She also advises against hedging, but simply shaping as Peggy reduces the height. Rejuvenating an overgrown shrub can take a few seasons.

If you want a border plant that doesn’t require much pruning, check out Daphne’s Pick, Green germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), a member of the mint family.

green germander sidewalk edging groundcover Travis County Extension

To keep it dense, Daphne recommends shearing lightly in early spring and again after its lavender flowers fade in early summer. Mainly, enjoy this cold-hardy and drought tough evergreen for its deep glossy leaves in full sun to some shade.

green germander sidewalk edging groundcover Travis County Extension

Since 1989, Tim Miller from Millberg Farm in Kyle has farmed organically with intense water conservation methods. He jumps into his first Backyard Basics to give you some of his tricks.

Tim Miller Millberg Farm Central Texas Gardener

On tour, landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck is passionate about conserving water without sacrificing wildlife and soulful beauty.

agave blackfoot daisy four-nerve daisy Christy Ten Eyck

ten eyck garden agaves in rock

ten eyck patio fireplace

After years in Tucson, she expanded her office to Austin, working with clients across several states. When she and husband Gary Deaver bought a house in Austin, she renovated the elderly yard’s footprint. She dumped the sloping lawn and built terraces and drains to harness and retain water.

ten eyck granite path bamboo muhly

Ten Eyck millstone secret garden walls of bamboo muhly

Sustainable, non-clumping pecan mulch is her favorite topping to hold in moisture.

pecan mulch ten eyck

Since her return, the wildlife have returned to this once sterile yard.

ten eyck big mama turks cap bamboo muhly

Watch her wise and beautiful story right now!

Thanks for stopping by! Next week, meet Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist, and take a tour of Lucinda Hutson’s vivacious garden and Tequila Cantina. Linda

Let’s Go Wild with Plants & Ponds

May 29th, 2014 Posted in Tours, children, container gardens, fairy gardens, garden clubs, garden structure, habitat, lawn replace, organic fertilizers, patio plants, ponds, shade plants, water features, young gardeners | 3 Comments »

Rudbeckia and beebalm (bee balm): What a pleasing combination for us and the wildlife. Even better, this cheery team was planted by the children at Oak Hill Elementary!

rudbekia and beebalm bee balm elementary school austin

At home, my Peter’s Purple beebalm finally settled in after Daphne shared a division a few years ago while trialing it.

peter's purple monarda central texas gardener

Back in 2007, Jimmy Turner, then at the Dallas Arboretum, told CTG about his success with this mildew-resistant Monarda, a cross between American and Mexican varieties. Eventually, it made it into the market as a confirmed hit.

Mine’s already spreading, which is fine by me in this spot that gets morning sun and gentle afternoon light. And when it goes nuts, I’ll pass it along! Until then, bees and hummingbirds will go nuts. I already spotted my first hummingbird on it!

peter's purple monarda central texas gardener

For semi-shady spots, Daphne makes evergreen dwarf pittosporum Plant of the Week. She’s growing ‘Mojo’ against her patio, where Augie’s sniffing in case a cookie fell in.  Oregano’s in front.

'Mojo' pittosporum and oregano photo by Daphne Richards

Another you’ll find is Cream De Mint™ Dwarf Mock Orange (Pittosporum tobira ‘Shima’).

cream de mint pittosporum austin garden

There are others, too, that offer a tidy roundness to strengthen a multi-textured bed. Since it’s cold hardy to Zone 7, it’ll hang with you if its companions go underground in winter. Daphne reports that it’s actually very drought tolerant in shade, especially if you top dress with compost.

dwarf pittosporum shade plant bed central texas gardener

Daphne’s Question goes to Jean Warner, whose ashe junipers (cedar trees) are in decline. What’s up?

spider mites on ashe juniper cedar tree

Spider mites. Daphne explains why spider mites can move in on drought-stressed plants like cedar trees, even when it’s not hot, dusty weather. Perhaps our heavy rains rinsed them off Jean’s plants, though we can fend off this pest with frequent blasts of water underneath the leaves.

Ants in our plants (containers) is one of our top questions. John Dromgoole takes on this one with a simple tip: a screen mesh at the bottom of your pot.

Screen in pot to fend off ants John Dromgoole Central Texas Gardener

If ants are already in, he shows how to tackle them safely. Also good to battle fire ants in the beds.

natural fire ant control John Dromgoole

Picture of the Week goes to Lee Franzel, our very helpful friend and Comal County Master Gardener. In deer and rabbit country, he constructed a safe home for his vegetables. Cattle panel on T-posts supports cucumbers, but could be used for tomatoes.

Cattle panel vegetable support Lee Franzel Comal County Master Gardeners

Tie up bamboo stakes for climbing vegetables like beans, squash, and cucumbers.

Teepee bean Lee Franzel Comal County Master Gardeners

Our spotlight is on the Austin Pond Society tour, coming your way June 7 & 8. Tom joins Linda and Karl Tinsley to show off just a couple on their 20th anniversary tour. We actually taped one of the first, back when personal ponds were “What?!” I remember that I was in awe.

pond tour Tom Spencer with Linda and Karl Tinsley Central Texas Gardener

APS has helped SO MANY people get started ponding–big, small, fountains, streams. As always, their proceeds benefit local organizations. This year, it’s the Dell Children’s Medical Center where you can visit on Sunday, June 8 from 9 a.m. – noon.

Dell Children's Medical Center ponds central texas

Visit south ponds on Saturday—including night gardens—and north ones on Sunday.  If you’re thinking about a pond or want to improve yours, helpful owners are glad to share everything they know. You’ll also see designs of all kinds to make your own match.  Here’s how to get the map and tickets.

One we preview sprinkles magical home-made fairy gardens throughout, including a tiny fairy garden pond.

Fairy garden pond central texas gardener

Wow, wouldn’t it be great to have this pond in your front yard? They carry it on in back, too, with a stream that connects with the neighbor’s pond.

front yard pond central texas gardener

On our video tour, get a closer look at Laura and Travis McGarraugh’s backyard, where they built two ponds to replace grass when their children Daniel and Naomi outgrew the playscape.

pond replaces grass central texas gardener

Laura’s always wanted ponds and fish. As an emergency room nurse, their “Tranquility” and “Pilfered Rock” ponds help her unwind after 12 hours on the job.

pond replaces grass central texas gardener

backyard pond design central texas gardener

And hey, they’re honest enough to share their mistakes, too!

You’ll often spot daughter Naomi out there with a book or feeding the fish they’ve named.

backyard pond design central texas gardener

backyard pond design replace playscape central texas gardener

Travis built the ponds and laid the Oklahoma Hickory flagstones for their outdoor living room. He chose crushed granite as infill to filter rainfall to their trees. Here’s director Ed Fuentes moving in for a shot.

flag stone patio living room with fountains and containers central texas gardener

Laura and Naomi often spend after-school time designing containers together. Naomi’s got a great eye for succulents!

child's succulent container design gorgeous

I don’t know if African Gray parrot Taz will come outside for the tour, but she’s so cute I had to introduce you. She really directed this taping.

African Gray parrot outside for a visit with central texas gardener

She’s not giving us a bird’s version of “the bird” here. On cue, she turns around for a bath and I used the magic words!

African Gray parrot outside for a visit with central texas gardener

Watch the whole story!

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week when entomologist Wizzie Brown explains what’s buggin’ us. Linda