Fruits of Our Labor

January 9th, 2014 Posted in Nurseries, annuals, bees, birds, chickens, fruit trees, house plants, urban farms | 2 Comments »

It’s time to plant fruit! Along with luscious ones for us, add some for wildlife, like possumhaw holly. Pair with fall leaf peeper, Bald cypress, to double the sensation.

Possumhaw holly and Bald Cypress Christy Ten Eyck Austin Texas design

My native evergreen sumac fruits are yummy for me and the birds. Since I only have one, I’d rather feed feathered families, especially these super cold days.

evergreen sumac fruit austin texas

In late spring through fall, I will snag a few fruits from native Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra) before they get plucked clean. Pollinators stay busy on the flowers to crank out more, plus it’s a larval plant for some butterflies.

barbados cherry flowers, fruit austin texas

Since this large shrub can suffer top growth damage in hard freezes, I’d wait to plant until March. Established roots are hardy. If it freezes, simply prune a little in late winter to spur new growth and keep them in bounds.

barbados cherry freeze damage

In a large patio pot, I’m growing my first calamondin.

barbados cherry freeze damage

From day one, this guy has flowered and fruited without taking a breath.  What its fruits lack in size—largest about 2”—it makes up in performance. For some, it’s too tart to munch (though I like it—being a fan of Sweet Tarts). It’s great for dressings, marinades and marmalades.  A few handfuls of mine made it into KLRU colleague Jacob’s yummy version of Key Lime pie.

Picking your own fruit or nuts is immensely satisfying. This week, Larry Womack from family growers, Womack Nursery in De Leon, Texas, joins Tom for the secrets to success.

Tom Spencer and Larry Womack fruit trees, Womack Nursery

He has us drooling with pear and pomegranate selections, including some for smaller spaces.

We ran out of time to mention almonds, but yes, we can grow them! Check out Womack’s online nursery for mouth-watering selections from one of the leaders in quality fruit and nut growing.

womack nursery central texas gardener

Also on our winter to-do list: Prune shade and understory trees. Daphne answers Susie Epstein’s great question: “Why do we paint some tree cuts and not others?”

Daphne explains that we don’t paint most cuts, since it inhibits the natural healing process. The exception is live oaks and red oaks susceptible to oak wilt.

oak tree prune against oak wilt

In their case, we DO need to paint the cut within 10 minutes, since the fragrance of freshly cut wood is attractive to the Nitulid beetle, the vector of oak wilt fungus.

How to paint? I love Daphne’s idea to use a clear lacquer spray or even spray adhesive so you’re not looking at ugly black paint the rest of your life! And rather than disinfect tools with a bleach solution, which can rust them, use Lysol or Pinesol. Find out more.

In this winter gap, annual calendulas feed bees and even hummingbirds.

Bee on calendula Austin Texas

calendula Texas AgriLife Extension

In the organic garden, add its lovely petals to salads if you can spare a few!

calendula Texas Agrilife Extension

Indoors, Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors has the easiest plant you’ll ever grow: Tillandsia!

Growing tillandsias Central Texas Gardener

Sure, you can pluck epiphytic ball moss from your trees and give them new cred in a creative display. Or, style up with one of its cousins.

tillandsia flower Central Texas Gardener

On tour, Paige Hill (now Oliverio with recent marriage, yahoosers!) promotes urban orchards, like the one at Mueller, to collect Mexican plums and pecans.

Urban Patchwork Neighborhood Farms collect Mexican plums urban orchard

Here’s a handy trick: a cherry pitter to extricate the native plum’s seeds. The CTG crew got yummy treats that day!

Urban Patchwork Paige Hill cores Mexican plums

Founder of Austin’s Urban Patchwork Neighborhood Farms, Paige brings neighbors together to grow food and friendships in the move back to our sustainable heritage through urban farms.

Urban Patchwork Neighborhood Farms

Here’s the deal: I grow herbs and swap you for eggs. The guy down the street has honey and the folks a few blocks over grow organic vegetables.

It’s a team effort that includes neighborhood grocer in.gredients, where Urban Patchwork conserves water with wicking and hugelkultur beds.

in.gredients Austin hugelkultur and wicking beds

East Side Compost Pedallers completes the cycle of neighbors in Urban Patchwork compost sites that fortify crops across the “Patch.”

East Side Compost Pedallers Austin Texas

Watch now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

England Goes To Texas!

January 2nd, 2014 Posted in Late spring flowers, Texas A&M, garden bloggers, garden design, garden structure, lawn replace, native plants, perennials, terrariums | 6 Comments »

“The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown/ Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.” Traditional English carol

yaupon holly berries austin texas

I don’t have English ivy, but I do have native Yaupon holly, which birds crown all winter in a feeding frenzy.

To celebrate PBS/ KLRU’s premiere of Downton Abbey’s fourth season, CTG looks at how England influenced our garden melting pot.

iris columbine in Rock Rose garden on Central Texas Gardener

Let’s start with Texas A&M Extension Landscape Horticulturist Dr. William C. Welch, one of my dear mentors. He joins Tom to reveal how our garden structure and style bear roots from across the pond. Watch now.

English gardens with Tom Spencer and Willliam Welch

In his book co-authored with Greg Grant, travel the melting pot of cultures that translate to our current notions.

Heirloom Gardening in the Sout

In the England chapter, I learned how Lancelot “Capability” Brown created the naturalistic style before cottage gardens came into vogue in the late 1800s. Not only did he influence Jefferson’s Monticello, he designed the grounds of Highclere Castle, home of Downton Abbey!

So, one of CTG’s top questions from newcomers is how to grow their beloved Northeastern/Midwestern passions like lilacs and peonies.

Peony by Kylee Baumlee Our Little Acre

Unlike Kylee Baumlee, who gardens in Ohio and blogs at Our Little Acre, Southwestern gardeners can’t grow peonies like her lovely ones. (By the way, here’s CTG’s interview with the co-author of her gorgeous book, Indoor Plant Décor).

Daphne explains: “The first botanists in the United States brought with them plants from their native European homes. They also brought along plants that were collected and treasured by British and European botanists, who were the world’s leading plant collectors at a time when interest in botany was skyrocketing. And so, the plants that were brought with the Brits became very popular in the nursery trade, and so did plants that were native to Northeastern states.” Find out more.

You know, so often that’s still the case! Online and in magazines, we’re bombarded with beauties that can’t withstand our soil/rocks and severe weather extremes. For best success, rely on knowledgeable local nurseries to steer you to native choices or well-adapted ones. Online, select a source familiar with your specific region.

Jean Bettencourt and Stan Hopfe have the right idea with native Copper Canyon daisy, approved by their German Shepherd, Loki!

German shepherd in Copper Canyon daisy

Daphne’s Plant of the Week, lamb’s ears, is native to the Middle East, but adds that “English” look with roots that love our xeric situation.

lamb's ears austin texas

Its tightly woven silvery leaves hunker along the ground to offset flowering clumps like blackfoot daisy or spiky forms.

lamb's ears and blackfoot daisy central texas gardener

Even though lamb’s ears can take the heat, it can fry in scalding situations or rot in heavy soils, especially in winter or humid summers when rain bombs hit. Find out more.

In Victorian England, terrariums were the rage. Invented by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, his Wardian cases became instrumental outside the drawing room as a way to transport plants from distant lands.

Even if you don’t have a drawing room, they’re back in style as no-fuss classic beauty for the indoor gardener. Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors shows how to do it, even with succulents. Watch now.

Terrariums with Merrideth Jiles Central Central Gardener

On tour, Jennifer and David Stocker grounded their rocky garden on memories from childhood homes in northern England.

Jenny Stocker's garden Central Texas Gardener

One memory is of sunken gardens. Theirs is quite different than in England, though, where David moved on-site boulders to frame Texas tough plants that rarely see a foggy day.

Their walled gardens keep out the deer, though Jenny explains their other role in historic England: to fend off poachers.

Jenny Stocker English garden Central Texas Gardener

At home in Austin, walls both define and connect unique expressions.

Jenny Stocker English garden Central Texas Gardener

Jenny has a keen eye for details, like the hypertufa basins she makes, to discern the view in a rich tapestry of plants.

Jenny Stocker hypertufa basin central texas gardener

An accomplished cook as well as a designer, one of her first projects was their potager, where David made by hand its distinctive pavers.

Jenny Stocker in her Texas potager

Check out Jenny’s award-winning blog, Rock Rose, where she beautifully illustrates her pursuits, great finds, and hands-on projects.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Connecting Kids to Food & Nature |Richard Louv |Family Resolution

November 27th, 2013 Posted in books, children, garden designers, garden structure, herbs, lawn replace, pruning, trees | 2 Comments »

Let us give thanks for family traditions that start outside. Do you remember summers, lying on your back to watch stars and fireflies through shadowy leaves, while Dad turned hamburgers on the grill? And, what about collecting autumn leaves to press into the biggest thickest book on the shelf?

rusty blackhaw viburnum fall leaves austin texash

Tramping through mystical woods on a foggy day, herding doodlebugs, making little dams. I’ll never forget my childhood astonishment when I opened a cotton boll. “Wow, so that’s where my shirt came from!” I’m just as fascinated now when my “for fun” cotton plant flowers and turns into a puffball.

cotton flower bud austin texas

Internal chaos vanishes when we focus on wonders outside and outside of ourselves.

anole shedding

Anole shedding

Bee on goldenrod Central Texas Gardener

Bee on goldenrod

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on passionvine Central Texas Gardener

Gulf Fritillary butterfly caterpillars on passionvine

lady bug pupa on sage leaf Austin Texas

Lady bug pupa

Richard Louv writes: “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

This week, Richard joins Tom to examine nature-deficit disorder and how it impacts our children physically and emotionally.

Tom Spencer and Richard Louv Central Texas Gardener

In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard tells powerful stories of community and societal interventions that disconnect children from hands-on discovery and interaction outdoors.

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

What does that mean for them and for the ecological future? I find it scary that one child he interviewed said that he’d rather be inside, since that’s where the electrical outlets are.

In The Nature Principle, Richard connects to us busy bees, so attached to our various devices that we forget to go outside and actually see a bee! Discover how the “restorative powers of the natural world can boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds.”

The Nature Principle by Richard Louv

On tour, authors and UT associate professors Deborah Paredez and Frank Guridy made an outdoors resolution when their daughter was born.That’s director Ed Fuentes behind the camera.

Paredez & Guridy family vegetable garden Central Texas Gardener

They’d never grown food before. In their dusty lawn, there were no beneficial insects or birds. With a jump start from Randy Jewart of Resolution Gardens, now it’s a backyard feast of food and wildlife discovery for them and daughter Zaya—a creative designer with stick games, too!

Randy Jewart Resolution Gardens vegetable garden design

Resolution Gardens before picture garden makeover

Resolution Gardens after picture no lawn for vegetables

Watch the whole story!

Mint is an easy one for kids to grow for a snip into winter’s hot chocolate. Watching it sprout roots in a glass of water is super fun!  See how Trisha grows, propagates and dries mint with her favorite varieties.

how to grow, propagate and dry mint central texas gardener

Daphne shares her family’s holiday tradition: pruning their live oak trees where everyone pitched in. Now their healthy, well-shaped trees are a storybook of her family together. By the way, now’s a great time to prune live oaks and red oaks susceptible to oak wilt.

Pruning live oak trees Daphne Richards Central Texas Gardener

Our Facebook friends share their family outdoor and garden traditions. We’d love to hear yours!

Going to a Christmas tree farm to support local farmers. It is so much fun. We pack our hot cocoa, cider, and bundle up. The farms have hay rides and you get off when you find the area you want to search, saw in hand.

We had a garden every summer next to our orchard. Dad let me have my own row (well, 1/2 a row) every spring, and I planted sunflowers, such happy flowers! I swear they were 20 feet tall, at least to me.

My maternal grandparents were homesteaders. They loved the land and passed on that heritage to my mother and me. We have a family tradition from my paternal grandparents to plant irises at every new home. It is a tradition that came down from 4 generations. I too have irises. Black ones that came from my grandmother’s (Verdant Warren) yard.

photo by Tamara Dextre Central Texas Gardener

Driving to Big Bend in the sleet for the 8th straight year with our girls. They like camping over gardening so far!

Every year my kids and I get a Christmas tree. But not an everyday Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We started a tradition of getting a different kind of “tree” about 6 years ago. We have had a 4′ tall nulti-headed Yucca rostrata, Windmill palm, weeping Kasmir cypress , Andean columnar cacti , an olive tree (kids favorite so far). I am thinking Texas Mountain Laurel this year. We have the traditional red and white skirt , ornaments, and lights. We usually get something that is a decent size. Usually right after Christmas, we plant it in the garden. Even though my children are getting older they still enjoy the fun of getting a new tree every year. And they get to see past trees growing throughout the year. Of course I am doing most of the shoveling. I have a lot of supervisors.

I have an heirloom tomato party every August and invite friends and family. We have tastings and make everything tomato. The tomato ice cream was a hit one year and the tomato cocktails.

Growing up in England we always brought holly and mistletoe inside to decorate the house at Christmas. We had a holly tree in our garden but no mistletoe. Now we have both holly and mistletoe and I still bring it inside to decorate. These garden plants and others were used to decorate the house for the winter solstice during pagan times, but have persisted. The holly with its red berries cheers up the house during the winter and mistletoe-well it wouldn’t be Christmas without a kiss under the mistletoe.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest we always just went out in the woods to harvest great things to bring in the house – blooming dogwood and currants, dried seed heads, wild rose hips, red vine maple leaves, Christmas trees and wreath material. Like Jenny, I’ve continued the gatherer tradition by harvesting plants from the yard. This year I’ve made a grapevine wreath with olive branches, citrus leaves, and rose hips.

I planted a Bur oak when my daughter was born. It has a birthday every year. And it is now huge!

Every year on March 14th, our family plants flowers. This is to honor my husband’s mentor and friend, Norm Hoffman. Norm was a cyclist and a time trial champion. He also taught health at a community college. Sadly a distracted driver hit him one sunny spring afternoon while he was on a bike ride. We have been doing this tradition since our kids were babies. We love this planting and remembering our friend and his message of health.

Painted rocks. Turtles, lady bugs, snakes, etc. My kids love putting “strawberry” rocks in the mulch.

Yes, I ask my children to bring me rocks for holidays. I have rocks and shells that span 40 years. Needless to say, I have rock gardens.

My 3 children each had a small garden that they could plant and grow anything they wanted when they were growing up. They each chose such different things to grow, and enjoy caring for and harvesting, given the limited allotted space. All of my adult “kids” still enjoy gardening today! Woot. Plant the seeds of knowledge and the love of gardening while they are young!

We give thanks to all of you! Linda

Little views + fairy gardens and terrariums

November 21st, 2013 Posted in Nurseries, annuals, bulbs, children, companion plants, container gardens, fairy gardens, fall plants, garden bloggers on tour, lawn replace, mushrooms, terrariums | No Comments »

Sometimes we luck into perfect little frames, like ‘Black Pearl’ pepper with fall asters. A hard freeze will really blacken that pearl, but I’ll plant more next spring. They liven up asters’ stolid green foliage until explosion time.

Black Pearl pepper with fall asters austin garden

The great thing about perennial gardens is that we get new frames all year. In my den bed, Salvia microphylla ‘La Trinidad Pink’ blooms alongside ‘Butterpat’ mums. In spring, spuria iris will join it, instead. They’re already up in the background.

Butterpat mum and 'La Trinidad Pink' Salvia microphylla

A riot’s going on with ‘Country Girl’ mums in that strip. Larkspurs, poppies and spring bulbs are emerging to change April’s view, when cut-back mum rosettes hunker as a leafy bedspread.

Country Girl and Butterpat mums in perennial bed austin texas

Beneficial mushrooms erupt into little frames when rain douses our cool weather.

Garden mushrooms Holliday photo

Jackie and Jon Holliday know their value to the soil. But their puppy Sophie likes to scrabble in the mulch where they’re growing.

sophie golden retriever graduation day Holliday photo

Until Sophie’s mastered all her new lessons, Daphne answers their question: are mushrooms toxic to dogs?

Garden mushrooms photo by Holliday family

Dr. T.J. Palvino at Austin Vet Hospital reports that many are poisonous to dogs, as they are for us. Since most of us are not experts about mushrooms, he recommends removing them if your dog is inclined to eat them.

orange garden mushrooms austin garden

Important note from him: compost piles are very dangerous to dogs. Neurotoxins from bacteria and fungi in decomposing matter, great for compost, can result in seizures in dogs if they scavenge it.

Dr. Kevin Ong from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Plant Disease Diagnostic lab has good news, though! Pulling up the mushrooms won’t destroy the mycelial network in the soil.

When my mushrooms pop up, I always think, “What little fairy gardens!”

mushrooms galore austin texas

Two of the biggest things right now are really small: fairy gardens and terrariums. This week, Sandra Killough from Bonnie’s Greenhouse in Waco takes us on a magical journey to delight adults and the children in your life.

Sandra Killough Bonnie's Greenhouse in Waco Texas

Fairy garden Bonnie's Greenhouse

fairy garden in old drawer Bonnie's Greenhouse

terrarium Bonnie's Greenhouse

Check out Bonnie’s Greenhouse for classes and Sandra’s top plants, picked by her to suit your Texas garden. She has absolutely wonderful ideas for you, big and small!

And, what about a holiday miniature with amaryllis bulbs? See how Trisha Shirey forces amaryllis in soil or decorative beads and what to do for another round next year.

amaryllis bulbs Trisha Shirey Central Texas Gardener

She reports: those forced in soil have a better chance to establish themselves outdoors. Plus, find out why she avoids those pricey amaryllis glass containers. Top tip: keep their shoulder exposed, indoors or in the garden, to avoid rotting.

amaryllis bulbs Trisha Shirey Central Texas Gardener

Frame your containers or gardens with cool-weather nasturtiums, like this darling raised bed at Viva Tequila author Lucinda Hutson’s home.

nasturtiums in raised bed at Lucinda Hutson's home

Daphne makes nasturtiums Plant of the Week, since it’s an easy, fast-growing seed that kids can plant for quick results. Plus, they can eat both flowers and leaves!

nasturtiums lucinda hutson garden

On tour, Lana and Bob Beyer framed their entire yard with a new view when the 2011 drought fried their grass.

Here’s Bob’s step-by-step instructions.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda