Pedal for Compost, Exotic Edibles, Summer Projects

July 10th, 2014 Posted in Late spring flowers, compost, garden projects, native plants, urban farms, vegetables | 4 Comments »

Since July is great for tackling the non-sweaty projects on our list, this week see how to make magic out of plain concrete sculptures, pavers, and benches.

stain concrete sculptures Central Texas Gardener

I tapped Merrideth Jiles for this one since years ago he gave my concrete cocker spaniel a new “coat.” Chester the real dog passed away at Christmas, so I really value my sculpture.

stain concrete sculptures Central Texas Gardener

He explains the steps to colorize: spray with iron chelate, brush and wipe stain, protect with beeswax to preserve color. Go crazy! And get a little sweaty since you’ve got to do this one outside, right?

stain concrete sculptures Central Texas Gardener

Merrideth’s on his own now, delivering on-target-drought design and consultation services, yippee!

Another cool project: plan spots for wildflower seeds this fall. I’m so impressed about how many gardeners are restoring prairies. One is Darlene Spencer near Fredericksburg, who gets our Viewer Picture.

Wildflower meadow Fredericksburg Texas

Marie & David Fuller from San Antonio sent in their lovely native giant coneflowers (Rudbeckia maxima).

giant coneflower rudbeckia maxima central texas gardener

Daphne explains how to grow giant coneflower as Plant of the Week. I got my first one last year after admiring it in so many native plant gardens.

giant coneflower rudbeckia maxima central texas gardener

I love the leafy silvery foliage that hunkers down quite low & tidy, until late spring/early summer when it claims its name with over-the-top bloom spikes.  Sort of like succulents in spring.

giant coneflower rudbeckia maxima central texas gardener

Mine gets some morning sun and then afternoon sun late.  12° last winter didn’t faze it.  Daphne advises cutting back this evergreen perennial after it blooms.

Although it likes moist spots, mine has made it through weekly watering, though I gave it a little extra last year as a late-planted newbie. Deer-proof, so they say.

Now, you’ve heard of lemongrass, but what about yacon, gynura, oca and moringa?  Jay Beard from Lone Star Nursery joins Tom to introduce us to some exotic edibles that take the heat.

Jay Beard Lone Star Nursery Central Texas Gardener

Lone Star Nursery is a family operation, celebrating their 10th anniversary!  Jay and wife Flint raise plants organically, starting from seed. They’re also raising four great kids, who (except for the baby) can tell you all about yacon. This summer blooming perennial rewards you with pounds of sweet potato-like tubers come January.

yacon Lone Star Nursery Central Texas Gardener

Oca: looks like oxalis, don’t you think?  Its leaves are edible and its prolific tubers have a crispy apple/pear flavor, akin to jicama.

oca Lone Star Nursery Central Texas Gardener

Moringa turns into a 15 -20’ tree. Leaves, seed pods, and tubers are not only edible but high in vitamins. Since it’s got a 50/50 chance to return after freeze, grow in a pot and protect in winter.

Moringa Lone Star Nursery Central Texas Gardener

You’ll find Lone Star Nursery (and some of the kids, too) at Saturday’s Sustainable Food Center Farmers’ Market downtown.

And at the Mueller and Cedar Park Farmers’ Markets to pick up these plants and learn more about them.

Lone Star Nursery at Mueller Farmers' Market Austin Texas

Online at Lone Star Botanicals, and at the markets, pick up Flint’s organic skin creams, medicinal tinctures, teas, essential oils and even natural mosquito spray concocted from their plant trimmings.

Another local recycling initiative, Compost Coalition, encourages picking up coffee shop grounds to spare the landfill and add nitrogen to our compost piles.

ground to ground Compost Coalition

Daphne explains how Ground to Ground can perk up your compost pile even when we’re feeling too sweaty to turn it.

On tour, freeze, snow, rain or heat doesn’t deter the East Side Compost Pedallers from their mission:  to turn residential and commercial “scrapple” into compost, one cargo bike at a time.

East Side Compost Pedallers Central Texas Gardener h

East Side Compost Pedallers Central Texas Gardener

Since 2012, when Dustin Fedako and business partner Eric Goff put the pedal to the metal in five east Austin neighborhoods, the Pedallers have kept 123,643 pounds out of the landfill and reaped 30,910 pounds of compost from “scrapple.”

Dustin Fedako East Side Compost Pedallers Central Texas Gardener

East Side Compost Pedallers Central Texas Gardener

Commercial customers like East Side Pies turn their vegetable scraps into rich compost at local farms, microgrowers, community gardens, and for their members.  Cost savings to local farmers:  $3284.

east side pies central texas gardener

Monica and Dannea Nelson give us a quick tour of a few things they recycle at home, from vacuum cleaner collection to junk mail (including what mail to compost and what to recycle). Great way to avert identity theft and feed your tomatoes at the same time!

compost scraps East Side Compost Pedallers Central Texas Gardener

compost vacuum cleaner collection East Side Compost Pedallers Central Texas Gardener

See the whole story now!

Thanks for stopping by! Next week, Steve Kainer from Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery dives in with summertime tips for ponds and fountains.  Linda

So Succulent!

July 2nd, 2014 Posted in cactus, crafts, cut flowers, drought, garden clubs, succulents | 6 Comments »

This week, we repeat our show on fabulous succulent designs!

Yes, you know that succulents are thrifty on water. But have you thought about using your cuttings in floral arrangements?

succulent arrangements Trisha Shirey Central Texas Gardener

Well, here you go! This week, Trisha shows how to make enchanting indoor displays with cuttings that can be planted again to make more.

Succulent flower arrangements Trisha Shirey Central Texas Gardener
And how about this idea for place card holders? How sweet of Trisha to make one for me! After misting the ghost plant for a few days, I planted it.

Succulent table place card holder Trisha Shirey Central Texas Gardener

Designing with succulents is new to many of us, but what fun we can have with them! Here’s a sweet idea at designer Rebecca Sweet’s garden in California.

Succulent shell in Harmony in the Garden Rebecca Sweet's garden

Closer to home, Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents joins Tom this week to style up succulent design with upcycled containers.

succulent containers Eric Pedley East Austin Succulents and Tom Spencer Central Texas Gardener

See how he turns any scavenge, from old toolboxes to even beer cans, into custom-made containers with a punch. With his eye for opportunity, even antique toys grab his imagination.

Succulents in old toy truck Eric Pedley East Austin Succulents Central Texas Gardener

Succulents in old toy truck Eric Pedley East Austin Succulents Central Texas Gardener

His passion for succulents led to his nursery that’s just brimming with beautiful ideas.

East Austin Succulents

East Austin Succulents

Give that trusty old wheelbarrow a second chance to help you out.

Succulents in old wheelbarrow East Austin Succulents

And, do you know how this started out in life? This file cabinet is having lots more fun now.

Succulents in old file cabinet East Austin Succulents

Eric shows how he drills unusual containers for drainage. And get his potting mix for healthy cacti and succulents.

East Austin Succulents shares the land, across from Boggy Creek Farm, with Jon Hutson’s equally innovative nursery, Tillery Street Plant Company.

Tillery Street Plant Company Austin Texas

Tillery Street Plant Company Austin Texas

In fact, I snagged these portulaca pictures there for Daphne’s Pick of the Week, ice plants.

Portulaca Central Texas Gardener

Many plants are called “ice plant,” including Delosperma and Aptenia. I covered a lot of low-water ground with just a few cuttings of Aptenia that Eric gave me at the Mayfield Park Trowel & Error symposium in 2012.

Ice plant Aptenia filling in stone pathway

You’ll also see them spilling out of Eric’s file cabinet and wheelbarrow above.

Daphne’s question this week: how to shade plants as the summer heat bears down? Get her ideas for shading summer crops, new plants, or ones we have to move (even in April, when it’s hot as blazes). Here’s my down and dirty trick to protect a new plant for a few days to settle it in. As Daphne tells us, just angle your shading to allow light but protect from scorching sun.

Shading new plants with newspaper

On tour, visit Bob Barth’s gardens and greenhouses. As co-founder of the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society. he helped change the face of Austin gardens with drought-tough plants.

Bob Barth Austin Cactus and Succulent Society

Over the years, he’s tutored me, along with so many gardeners, to escalate our perceptions about these drought tough plants in gardens.

Agave and aloe, Bob Barth garden, Central Texas Gardener

His passion led to the global community, where in greenhouses, he grows plants from the Old World and New, many endangered in their native habitats.These are astrophytums.

astrophytums Bob Barth greenhouse Central Texas Gardener

He explains the defensive methods that succulents develop to protect themselves from heat, animals, and to collect water. Flowers attract pollinators.

white protection on cactus Bob Barth collection

Echeverias need shade by afternoon and may not make it through super hot summers. They need protection from winter cold, too. But aren’t they lovely?

Echeverias Bob Barth collection on Central Texas Gardener

From Bob, I’ve learned to NEVER touch a white echeveria!

White echeveria Bob Barth collection on Central Texas Gardener

His story of lithops and how they propagate is one of his outstanding revelations.

Lithops propagation with Bob Barth on Central Texas Gardener

We’ve taped him before, but this time it’s in vivid HD. Here it is in his words with incredible video by Ed Fuentes and Jerin Crandell, assisted by Steve Maedl.

Bob’s downsizing his extensive home nursery, Oracle Gorge, at his summer sale on August 3 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and August 4 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. It’s at 602 Terrace Mountain Drive.

And, mark the date for the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society Show & Sale Labor Day weekend.

Now here’s a “succulent” picture for you from Jason Lantz, our Viewer Pic of the Week: luscious raspberries in his very edible garden!

homegrown raspberries in Jason Lantz garden

Thanks for stopping by! Linda

Cancer Healing Garden|Gomphrena|Vertical Growing Systems

June 26th, 2014 Posted in Vertical Growing Systems, annuals, crafts, cut flowers, garden art, garden designers, garden rooms, healing gardens | 8 Comments »

First, around town Pride of Barbados has been going like gangbusters at the Posse East near UT.

pride of barbados austin texas wildlife perennial

Like us all, they were a tad worried about it last winter. But mine is just crawling back while theirs is stopping traffic! That’s microclimates for you.

While we and the wildlife are waiting for slow-moving perennials to warm up after their big chill scare, Trisha entertains our gardens and attracts butterflies with annual gomphrena (globe amaranth) like ‘Fireworks’.

Fireworks gomphrena globe amaranth austin texas summer annual

She tells us that the colors are actually bracts (like shrimp plant & poinsettias). The actual flowers that attract those butterflies are tiny with yellow stamens.

Fireworks gomphrena globe amaranth austin texas summer annual

Drought tolerant and deer-proof, they bloom like nuts in full sun in the hottest months. Often they’re felled by freeze but sometimes overwinter or return from seed. No fertilizer needed!

Along with Fireworks and the QIS series, Trisha’s latest love is ‘Pink Zazzle’ gomphrena. Its leaves are fuzzy, totally different than any gomphrena I’ve grown.

Pink Zazzle gomphrena Trisha Shirey Central Texas Gardener

Lightly cut back gomphrena early on to spur lush branching. Harvest the little “globes” quickly for long-lasting dried flowers in arrangements, wreaths, or decorative jars.

gomphrena dried flower arrangements central texas gardener

If you want seeds instead, wait until the bracts turn straw-colored. Then, pluck the seeds to sow for another round or save for next year.

My sedges (various Carex) have already scattered their seeds. They’ve been so prolific that I’ll move some around this fall to tickle a few other spaces. I bought my Texas sedge at nurseries and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

sedge Carex texensis central texas gardener

This one came with my house.

Native sedge austin garden

I learned about sedges, along with many native plants, when I met Pat McNeal of McNeal Growers soon after CTG was born. He’s discovered, propagated and brought into the trade many of the drought-tough plants that we count on these days.

Wholesale McNeal Growers is still growing strong, but Pat can’t pass up on new ideas that spare water. This week, he joins Tom to show off his latest venture, Vertical Growing Systems.

Pat McNeal Vertical Growing Systems Central Texas Gardener

Certainly, I’ve seen them around, but how do they work? Pat breaks down the basic engineering that KLRU colleague Galia Farber checked out for herself.

Galia Farber with Vertical Growing Systems Central Texas Gardener KLRU

Why are vertical growing systems trending? For one thing, they’re water-saving ways to grow food and ornamentals to cool down outdoor walls and even roofs.

Vertical Growing System Central Texas Gardener

For indoor condo/apartment gardeners or outside in narrow spaces, Pat explains why this ground-breaking technique is definitely growing up on our horizon.

Vertical Growing Systems Central Texas Gardener

On tour, Elayne Lansford definitely reached for the sky when husband John Villanacci faced a random disease and lung transplant, soon after she recovered from breast cancer.

Healing garden bottle world battle with cancer central texas gardener

She turned her despair into creative energy. After learning to weld, she turned the field beyond their garden into her Bottle World as a triumph to healing.

Healing garden with cancer struggle central texas gardener

Healing garden with cancer struggle central texas gardener

Healing garden with cancer struggle central texas gardener

It was a twist for Elayne, a psychologist who helps clients every day. Since she built a secondary office near the Bottle World, clients can travel her serene path of rebirth—both in spirit and wildflowers.

rustic chairs wildflower path healing garden central texas gardener

Elayne also believes in giving old objects a new objective. She rescues thrift store discards, roadside bottles, and even tools from her family’s farm. One foundling, an old bathtub, became a quiet evening retreat to soak away some of her anger and grief as the stars overhead encouraged hope.

rustic chairs wildflower path healing garden central texas gardener

When she found an abandoned bed spring, she sprung unto action, enlisting a welder friend to create a Bottle World arbor.

Bedspring bottle arbor central texas gardener

Bedspring bottle arbor central texas gardener

Elayne styles up old pails and broken tiles as concrete anchors for smaller Bottle World designs.

Mosaic on concrete container design

From a discarded tabletop, she crafted her recirculating water wall waterfall.

Waterfall with old table top central texas gardener

Her first design had a few bugs, so John came up with a new design. Here’s what he did.

See her story now!

Thanks for stopping by! Linda

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