Drought Busters!

April 3rd, 2014 Posted in Nurseries, bees, citrus, companion plants, drought, early spring flowers, fall plants, freeze damage, garden art, garden bloggers on tour, garden projects, lawn replace, native plants, patio plants, plant propagation, succulents | 8 Comments »

Despite only rainfall spit for months, a few poppies won’t miss their yearly applause. This clever one selected artemisia and lamb’s ears to show off in the crowd.

Pink poppy with artemisia and lamb's ears Austin Texas

I’m a fan of drought tolerant bearded iris, even when not in bloom. Right now, deeper green spuria irises join in this end bed’s structural anchor. They’ll tag along with golden blooms in a few weeks.

Bearded iris and spuria iris structural drought plants

Lavender bearded iris austin texas drought

Texas bluegrass (Poa arachnifera) is in full swing with blackfoot daisy and rambunctious pink evening primrose.

Texas bluegrass blooming with pink evening primrose native texas plants

Pink evening primrose picked its own spot to cheer up freeze-nipped ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave.

Mangave 'Macho Mocha' with pink evening primrose austin texas drought

For years, I bet lots of my drought buster plants (and yours too) started at Mountain States Wholesale Nursery in Arizona—many from seeds collected right here in Texas! This week, Tom meets with Janet Rademacher for a few you don’t want to miss at your local nurseries.

Janet Rademacher Mountain States Wholesale Nursery on CTG

We all love red yucca, but Hesperaloe parviflora Brakelights® PPAF certainly brakes us to stop for another look!

brakelights hesperaloe stops traffic at UT

brakelights hesperaloe flower austin texas

And what about Hesperaloe x Pink Parade with a more upright flower?

Hesperaloe x Pink Parade Mountain States Nursery

Summer won’t seem so awful with bold Tecoma x Solar Flare to catch the rays.

Tecoma x Solar Flare R PPAF Mountain States Wholesale Nursery

Aloe x Blue Elf is one her list I’m adding to mine. Here’s the kind of great fact sheets you can read on Mountain States’ website.

Aloe x 'Blue Elf' Mountain States Nursery

In those narrow well-drained spots with lots of sun, Candelilla Euphorbia antisyphilitica is positively soothing.

Candelilla Euphorbia antisyphallitica Mountain States Wholesale Nursery

Another smaller one Janet features is gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida). My very first is already blooming in its pot.  I didn’t dare plant this guy in my clay soil, no matter how amended! It’s in nice gritty soil.

Gopher plant euphorbia rigida bract austin texas

Janet explains: when the bee-loving bracts fade, cut back the gangly stems to the rosettes.

how cut back gopher plant euphorbia rigida

Structural, fragrant rosemary makes a lovely companion to hot, drought designs. This prostrate variety I planted in my neighbor’s curb bed gets no extra water.  Content, it’s rooting new plants from branches that touch the soil (uh, you know, prostrate!).

prostrate rosemary rooting austin texas drought

This week, Daphne answers a Facebook question: how to propagate rosemary from stem cuttings. Find out why she recommends rooting in soil rather than in water.

Daphne’s pick of the week is Bottlebrush (Callistemon rigidus), a sure fire bee magnet. This one made it through the freeze in Hutto.

bottlebrush tree central Texas

Dr. Robin Mayfield, gardener and blogger at Getting Grounded, absolutely loved hers. Sadly, in her microclimate,  super freeze took it out.

frozen bottlebrush tree Getting Grounded blog Austin Texas

Daphne notes: “This tree is notoriously frost sensitive, usually being completely killed if temperatures get into the 20s. But I’ve also seen bottlebrush taken out by our extreme Texas heat during abnormally hot, dry summers.”

Still, other gardeners didn’t lose a leaf this winter. And it’s a great evergreen screen, so give it a try if you have a protected spot where it gets sun but not all-day searing blasts.

For homegrown fruit even in containers,  Trisha shows how to grow yummy kumquat and calamondin. And Kaffir lime, which may not produce fruit, but the leaves are wonderful in Thai and other recipes. Yes, they need some water, but too much is actually worse than not enough. Last year I tried my first calamondin in a pot. I watered it deeply once a week.

calamondin in pot austin texas

It got nipped when it hit 12°, but is still alive.  Like the kumquat, it flowers and fruits from spring to frost.  The fruits are very tart, even when super ripe, but are great in recipes and to munch if you like tart, as I do!

On tour, check out how new Texas gardener and  fabulous blogger Heather and Brett Ginsburg dumped their lawn and boring shrubs for a xeric-style party to wow their kids with wildlife discovery.

Xeric garden style paths San Antonio Texas

Heather kept an eye on practicality with her design for paths and a screen from a busy street.

xeric style wildlife plants and path san antonio texas

xeric style wildlife garden house makeover san antonio

She also hid the original box store edging with free rocks she scavenged. I really like this combination of rosemary, creeping germander and thyme, with silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) in a pot.

xeric style border with herbs and creeping germander san antonio

In back, she dumped lawn for this fun hangout. Her fire pit is another scavenge, some big truck tire rim.

fire pit from scavenged tire rim san antonio garden patio

Brett tells us how he turned leftover exhaust pipe into Heather’s succulent planters.

exhaust pipe succulent planter

And, they dumped lawn in exchange for fresh eggs.

cute chicken coop central texas gardener

They tell their story best, so watch it now!

Thanks for stopping by! Next week, check out native alternatives to invasive plants. Linda

Freeze Report|Cold & Deer Proof Succulents|Citrus|Chickens!

March 27th, 2014 Posted in Late spring flowers, agaves, citrus, deer, freeze damage, garden bloggers, master gardeners, tomatoes | 8 Comments »

First, please join us in thanking the Austin Area Garden Council at Zilker Botanical Garden, our new production underwriter! Their support helps continue our mission to serve you.  This weekend—March 29 & 30—head out to the 57th annual Zilker Garden Festival to brighten up your garden.

Despite weirdo weather, the bulb parade marches on with my baby-blanket-yellow Gladiolus tristus.

gladiolus tristus central texas

Fluffy little Narcissus ‘Abba’ showed up, as always.

narcissus abba central texas gardener spring

But what a winter! Some old reliables froze in their tracks. It’s the first time I’ve seen freeze damage on roses.  Most will bloom right on schedule, but early bird Lady Banks lost her flamboyant crop. Not one for regrets, she’s already cranking out new leaves.

freeze damage Lady Banks rose Central Texas

Daphne answers THE top question: planting tomatoes! Until temps are reliably in the 50° degree range at night, do cover them.  Even though we’re hitting that now, look what happened to Laura Zebehazy last April.

freeze damage on tomato photo by Laura Zebehazy

She’d done everything the right way and her tomatoes were setting fruit. Laura planted in March after getting her plants at the annual Sunshine Community Gardens sale. THEN, we got a surprise late nip after lots of warm days.

Good news! Her plants recovered just fine.

Home-grown tomatoes Photo by Laura Zebehazy

But, Laura started with healthy greenhouse plants and good garden prep. Do beware of buying young plants that suffered freeze damage.  And keep that row cover handy!

And oh yes, what about flowering pomegranates that literally got nipped in the bud? Jim Kamas,Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Fruit Specialist advises: “Do nothing right now. You can’t really tell the extent of the injury at this point; it will vary quite a bit by variety and even location.  So, just be patient and let the tree force and prune out dead tissue when it shows itself.  You may have lost quite a bit of bloom, but the tree should ultimately be fine.  Just give it a little time and some water.”

Here’s my reward for patience: new life on foxtail ferns I’d just about eulogized with a shovel.

foxtail ferns emerge after freeze

Agave celsii doesn’t look so hot, but it’s not a loss.

Agave celsii freeze damage austin texas

Ditto for my ‘Macho Mocha’ mangaves. I’ll let new growth emerge and cut off damaged leaves.

mangave macho mangave freeze damage austin texas

Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents advises:  Fertilize with a liquid seaweed/fish emulsion mixture. “If it’s a real treasure, dust wounds with sulfur. Serrated, long bread knives cut leaves the fastest. Leave as much of the healthy leaf as possible and shape them like swords so they don’t look cut.”

In part shade, my squid agaves (Agave bracteosa) weren’t scared at all, joined here by native baby blue-eyes (Nemophila phacelioides) and golden groundsel (Packera obovata).

Squid agave with baby blue-eyes and golden groundsel native plants

Squid agave is one on Eric’s list when he joins Tom this week with some of his East Austin Succulents that defy both cold and DEER.

Tom Spencer and Eric Pedley Central Texas Gardener succulents

beavertail cactus eric pedley on Central Texas Gardener

cold hardy succulents central texas gardener

Get Eric’s CTG list.

Some of our citrus didn’t fare too well. My Satsuma near the house looked fine until that last blast.  More good news! Daphne introduces a new cold-hardy Satsuma mandarin, ‘Orange Frost,’ the latest Texas Superstar.

Despite freezes, home-grown fruit is a good treat well worth planting. Trisha picks a few of her favorites, with tips on growing and harvesting.  Here’s her Key lime, Ponderosa lemon (a cross between lemon and citron) and Improved Meyer lemon.

Key lime, ponderosa lemon, Improved Meyer lemon central texas gardener

They will suffer damage with temps in the 23-28° range, so plant in pots to protect. In warmer microclimates (like near the house), I’ve seen huge Improved Meyer lemons in the ground for years.

Trisha also mentions Lemonquat, a cross between lemon and kumquat. Our San Antonio friend, blogger Shirley Fox at Rock-Oak-Deer, reports: “We got down to 20 degrees this year.  The first year with the Lemonquat, which I think was 2010/2011, we got down to 15 and it died to the ground but came back.  This year we didn’t lose a single leaf.  The fruit is very good too.” On her blog, she reports her success with ‘Orange Frost,’ too, but here’s one of her Lemonquats.

Lemonquat photo by Shirley Fox at Rock-Oak-Deer blog

In a past CTG interview, Monte Nesbitt, Extension Program Specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, provided this list of plants and cold hardiness, including what to do if your plants got bitten.

If plants are healthy, it’s time to fertilize if you haven’t already.  Trisha recommends Citrus-tone to feed their need for lots of nitrogen.

On tour, we were so lucky to meet joyful hands-on Ally and Richard Stresing to see how they tackled flooding problems on their way to wildlife habitat and organic food.

Ally and Richard Stresing garden arbor

raised organic Texas vegetable garden Ally & Richard Stresing

I love their undaunted attitude about trial and error DIY projects to fend water away from the house to more favorable destinations.

Home-made wall to control flooding Central Texas Gardener

Now a Travis County Master Gardener, Ally passes along her experience, including their venture into raising happy hens in a raccoon-proof house that she and Richard built.

Safe chicken coop austin texas by Ally & Richard Stresing

Follow their step-by-step projects and adventures on Ally’s blog, Garden Ally. Believe me, she IS your ally!

Take a look for yourself!

They aren’t on the Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour on April 19, but you can meet some cute chicks at other coops.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week with plants that defy water restrictions. Linda

Events that Changed My Life

March 19th, 2014 Posted in Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, bees, early spring flowers, garden projects, lawn replace, native plants, parks, philosophy | 21 Comments »

Let me tell you, I was pretty proud of this long ago!

Linda's first garden Austin Texas

And rightfully so. My first garden life-changing event was when we bought a house with a dusty yard owned by fire ants.  With more energy than knowledge or money, I embarked on a journey that hasn’t yet reached its destination. Who knows how I’d be spending my time now if not for those fire ants?

The more I learned, the more the garden changed.

taking out grass for path Austin Texas

As the garden changed, the more I learned/am learning.

spring garden austin texas

When I started, there weren’t tons of garden events/talks every weekend at local nurseries.  It was to Zilker Botanical Garden that I headed to learn about drought-tough adaptable and native plants like Mexican feather grass.

mexican feather grass austin texas

At the Austin Area Garden Council clubs’ meetings, shows and sales, I picked up one-on-one lessons in botany, plant cultivation and wildlife sustainability.

honeybee on passionvine

At Zilker Garden Festival (then Florarama) I got my first Salvia greggi—a native plant! What a prize! I raced home to dump a resident ligustrum and chop out grass for a new front yard garden.

Salvia greggi with silver germander austin texas

Always, I hauled home a trunk load of local garden art and surprises, like this crinum lily.

crinum lily austin texas

On March 29 & 30, join the fun for plants, garden talks, Kids Corner and live music at the 57th Zilker Garden Festival!

Another big event for me: Mayfield Park’s annual Trowel & Error Symposium.

mayfield park trowel & error with Renee Studebaker

I’ve always loved the historic Gutsch garden and house at Mayfield (we even thought about getting married there).

mayfield park pond austin texas

Over the years, I’ve attended every Trowel & Error to learn from passionate gardeners (speakers and guests) and pick up heirloom plants at the plant sale.

mayfield park trowel & error Meredith O'Reilly

On April 5 from 9:30 – 1 p.m., Mayfield’s got another super lineup! Landscape designer and horticulturist Amanda Moon goes for “Heat & Drought Tolerant Plants You May Not Have Heard Of.”

amanda moon It's About Thyme

Writers for Texas Gardener magazine include passionate and informative blogger Jay White:  “Fence Me In: Selecting Proper Support for Tomatoes.”

Jay White Masters of Horticulture

And equally passionate Master Gardener Patty Leander: “Go Vertical in the Garden with Climbing, Vining, and Twining Vegetables.”

Master Gardener Patty Leander photo by Bruce Leander

I’ll be there, too, as the Raffle Queen, with fabulous gifts from many generous donors!

The event that really turned my vision to native plants is when I attended the first Bluebonnet Blast at the original location of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

bluebonnets and nolina central texas

At the semi-annual plant sales, I’m always adding to my collection, like rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) and Calylophus berlandieri.

pavonia lasiopetala and calylophus berlandieri native plants

I’m so glad I took a chance two years ago on Texas bluegrass (Poa arachnifera), here with blackfoot daisy. I’ve started to divide the Poa for other shady spots in the garden. . .that includes non-natives, too, but all suited for drought and wildlife.

Texas bluegrass with blackfoot daisy austin texas

Some part-shade plants like golden groundsel (Packera obovata) aren’t yet available in nurseries. This one’s so popular that you really need to get there on Members Day!

native bee on golden groundsel austin texas

One big lesson I’ve learned is that “native” is not a catchall. Plants native to rock are never going to be satisfied in my Blackland Prairie soil. Others want conditions that I just don’t have. So, I’ll admire lovely Texas bluebells at the Wildflower Center!

Texas bluebell at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

On April 12 & 13; members day on April 11, admire away and grab your goodies, walks and talks, kid’s events, and more. Click that link to also get the plant list. I like to have it as a resource for my ground-breaking endeavors!

All these events support the organizations’ year-long endeavors to inspire and guide us.

Next week, we launch our spring season with all new shows, starting with Eric Pedley’s deer-proof succulents and a couple’s garden journey that started with a flood of ideas to control flooding.

Thanks for stopping by! Linda

Patience is Worth Waiting For

February 26th, 2014 Posted in bees, early spring flowers, fruit trees, habitat, native plants, trees, wildlife | 10 Comments »

I swooned the first time I saw a native Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana) tree in bloom one February.

mexican plum flowers austin texas

A grower friend gave me a very small one, just as this native was making it into nurseries.

mexican plum flowers central texas gardener

February #6 came and went, no flower in sight. Year seven (maybe 8)  was the magic number! Again, I started with a tiny sapling.

mexican plum flowers central texas gardener

Once mature enough to propagate, it doesn’t mickey mouse around. In a span of two weeks or so, visible buds swing into action.

mexican plum leaf first buds central texas native plants

mexican plum February buds central texas gardener

mexican plum flowers buds central texas gardener

Even with my allergy-stricken nose, I don’t miss out on its perfume bottle.

mexican plum native texas plant

Honeybees and native bees get the message pronto!

Honeybee on mexican plum flower native texas plant

Wizzie Brown, Texas A&M Agrilife entomologist, identified this spotted cucumber beetle having a meal. I’m like her: I take the good with the bad, since somebody good needs dinner.

spotted cucumber beetle on mexican plum flower

Fall-ripened fruit goes to the birds, though we could eat them too.

mexican plum fruit central texas gardener

Sadly, in drought, a lot of mine end up aborting fruit when the parent’s survival matters most. And across the area, even this tough native has succumbed to drought like many trees.

Brief fall color isn’t blinding in my garden. Mexican plum does everything in a hurry, except for the fruits that do take months to ripen.

mexican plum fall color

Mine in dense soil stands now about 18’ tall but it can get to 35’. It’s about 13′ wide. It hunkers under the neighbor’s pecan tree, but gets blasts of sun, generally late day in summer. It’s been a wonderful screening tree for us, especially since we’ve kept its lower branches.

mexican plum native texas tree

It’s not too late to plant, but do give it deep soakings this first year after letting it dry out in between.

Thanks for stopping by! Linda