Gardening on a budget with recycled fun!

November 14th, 2013 Posted in Nurseries, Texas A&M, bees, destinations, fall plants, garden art, garden bloggers, garden projects, garden structure, herbs, lawn replace, recycling, succulents | 3 Comments »

“Are you going to use that?”  Gardeners are masters at recycling—plants, curbside scavenges, leaves, whatever. Give us somebody’s leftovers and we’ll find a way to use them!  You can have a ton of fun without a ton of money.

Plants are recycling themselves, too, just in time to feed insects as temperatures drop. Butterflies and bees head straight for fall sensation queen’s wreath (Antigonon leptopus), also called coral vine.

Queen's wreath bee austin texas garden

Isn’t this a cute recycled fence with coral vine?

Queen's wreath on recycled rusty fence

In my garden, resilient ‘County Girl’ mums didn’t look so hot a month ago. All it took was a breath of cool air for them to shoot up over ‘Helen von Stein’ lamb’s ears and native groundcover snake herb (Dyschoriste linearis).

Country Girl mum with lamb's ear and snake herb

My new pink Turk’s cap sulked a bit this summer, since I planted late. Now, it’s firmly committed to join native Plumbago scandens and one of the blue mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinum).

pink turks cap with plumbago scandens and blue mist flower

Maggie’s looking prettier than ever.

maggie rose austin texas garden

Dr. William C. Welch from Texas A&M found this rose on family property in Louisiana and recycled it into the trade for all of us to enjoy. Here’s something he just told me: rub your fingers on the stem right below the flower for the scent of black pepper!

Now here’s a glorious recycle, ‘Lady Bird Johnson Royal Blue’ bluebonnet, the latest A&M Texas Superstar. Daphne gives us the backstory as her Plant of Week.

Lady Bird Johnson Royal Blue bluebonnet

So, do you have thyme that looks like this?

Woody thyme photo by Daphne Richards

One of my first garden mentors told me, “Keep cutting thyme or you’ll lose it.” Daphne explains why this week, when she puts herself on the line as Question of the Week. With her busy schedule, she flat ran out of time to deal with her thyme in a timely manner! See how she’s cycling it back into lush growth.

Cutting back woody thyme Daphne Richards

Gardeners have a knack for keeping things out of the landfill! One is Sara Breuer, featured on the NXNA Garden tour, with her cute plant “tag.”

brick for plant identify NXNA austin garden

On CTG’s tour in Temple, Master Gardener Mary Lew Quesinberry charms her front porch with repurposed wood.

front porch table from recycled wood Temple Texas

And check out this supreme “bottle tree,” crafted by Lori, blogger from The Garden of Good and Evil.

Bottle tree at Garden of Good and Evil

William Glenn from Garden-Ville grabs our imagination this week when he joins Tom with repurposed finds that are inexpensive and fun.

Tom Spencer and William Glenn Garden-Ville

Garden-Ville converted pallets that once held materials into pretty inventive  tool and supply storage.

Recycled pallet tool storage Central Texas Gardener

Here’s a planter made from  PVC pipes, suspended on old fencing. Perfect for the small space gardener! Pecan mulch helps keep in the moisture. In the background:  another intriguing way to dress up a fence with inverted pots, sporting plants that like good drainage.

PVC pipe planters Garden-Ville on Central Texas Gardener

Their Creedmoor location is aligned with Texas Disposal Systems, where you can buy crushed bottle glass. And YES, they have it in blue!

blue glass mulch Garden-Ville

William shows off  the glass in homemade concrete stepping stones, framed in an aluminum discard from something or other. You can leave them in the metal or just use it as a mold.

concrete stepping stone with blue glass Garden-Ville

Kids love to visit TDS, too, for the exotic game ranch, where they can meet guys like this.

Black Rhinocerous at Texas Disposal Systems exotic game ranch

Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents knows how to recycle a good old thing, too! On Backyard Basics, he propagates succulents for a wealth of new plants on a limited garden budget.

propagate succulent Eric Pedley East Austin Succulents

One of my recycled plants, Cobweb spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana), attracted a beneficial hoverfly (syrphid fly) minutes after its fall flowers opened.

syrphid fly Cobweb spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana)

I got this passalong from Paul Lofton in Pflugerville, where he relied on ingenuity and plant propagation to turn his grassy yard into intriguing garden destinations.

creative path garden Pflugerville Central Texas Gardener

He and his daughter gave this foundling a pretty new use with their mosaic project.

commode mosaic plant holder Pflugerville garden

On our visit, director Ed Fuentes captures Paul and CTG friend Matt Jackson, who nominated this garden, to see how to grow cuttings in a recycled water bottle.

Propagating plants Central Texas Gardener

Here’s our short web extra where Paul shows how to do it yourself.

Finally, here’s his whole inspiring story!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

My Psycho Path Update + Getting Started with Mary Irish

November 8th, 2013 Posted in Techniques, books, bulbs, drought, garden projects, lawn replace, native plants, perennials, psycho lighting | 2 Comments »

Just when I thought I had a handle on soil, weather, and drought-wise seasonal combinations, along comes psycho lighting! Here’s the latest rendition of our den path, a 2012 project to dump the dead grass in the stretch alongside the house. Here’s early morning.

Early morning no lawn path Linda Lehmusvirta Austin garden

A beloved cloudy day.

No lawn path with asters and mums

Normally, here’s what happens in mid-morning.

no lawn path and garden austin texas

By late afternoon, it’s a switcheroo!

no lawn path and garden psycho lighting

I’ve chosen plants that handle both extremes, though I’m still adjusting to unite the den bed on the left with the island bed to the right. That hole on the right represents a lamb’s ear that cratered in summer’s heat and drought. Soon, I’ll divide one of the others to fill that spot. Sometimes, those little lambs kick up their heels!

Native frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) rolls with the lighting punches to soften the Arizona Buckskin sandstone.

no lawn path with native frogfruit austin texas

To unite the silvers, I also tried out groundcover creeping germander (Teucrium cossonii). It’s a hit!

creeping germander no lawn sandstone path

This week, Daphne makes it her Plant of the Week, for its evergreen hardiness and resilience in rain bombs. Here’s a lovely raised bed cascade I spotted at Shoal Creek Nursery.

creeping germander at Shoal Creek Nursery Austin Texas

It’s about as drought tough as they come. Even in my clay soil, it’s the perfect curbside companion underneath The Fairy rose. They thrive in the late afternoon grueling sun and reflected heat from the street.

creeping germander under The Fairy rose

Over the years, I’ve relied on books by Mary Irish to guide me. I’m thrilled about her latest, Texas Getting Started Guide, jam-packed with beautiful photographs by Gary Irish.  Once again, she steps into our garden shoes, anticipating our questions and answering ones we didn’t even know to ask!

Texas Getting Started Garden Guide by Mary Irish

This week, Mary joins Tom with start-up tips to save you time and money on the path to beautiful gardens, even as tight water restrictions loom.

Tom Spencer and Mary Irish Central Texas Gardener

Although geared for the brand-new gardener, “new” is relative, since that includes newcomers to Texas. Good grief, what to do now that we’ve landed HERE? Plus, drought-weary gardeners can turn a new chapter through sections on grasses, bulbs, succulents, trees, vines, groundcovers and more.

She and Tom pick a few plants to highlight, like native Calylophus berlandieri.

calylophus berlandeiri austin garden

Find out why some of our drought-response succulent choices have cratered in rain bombs, especially in winter.

Mary’s no stranger to drought, after working 11 years at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. I love her book, A Place All Our Own, that journals how she and Gary landed in the desert and started a new garden chapter.

Perhaps that’s why she knows how to connect with us so well! Her book, Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants, launched my education about these plants. I refer to it constantly for identification, cold hardiness, and habits.

Agaves Yuccas and Related Plants by Mary Irish

Here’s two more must-haves for the drought-ready gardener.

Perennials for the Southwest by Mary Irish

Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest by Mary Irish

Mary’s now working at the San Antonio Botanical Garden since she and Gary moved back to Texas last year. Follow their latest starting over garden adventures on her blog, Gardening on the Dry Side.

In Texas Getting Started, Mary includes bulbs that perennialize for us. John Dromgoole wraps up your holiday list with tips on forcing indoor bulbs to gift your friends or your own living room.

Forced indoor narcissus

Now, I never knew this: John tells us that some, like Narcissus ‘Inbal’, must be forced in soil, not in gravel and water, while yellow Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or can be planted in decorative gravel.

On tour, Kathleen Lorsbach learned a new plant vocabulary when she and her family moved to Texas from Minnesota.

Drought design for Minnesota gardener in Texas

Now, she’s traded snow for drought in a waterwise garden, where she’s planted new roots in a newfound love of succulents. Here’s her story.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Drought Then Drown + Organic Olive Trees

October 31st, 2013 Posted in Techniques, destinations, early spring flowers, garden projects, garden structure, herbs, vegetables | 4 Comments »

How we  love our rain at last! But oops, look what happened to a lot of us. Every few years, I lose an Artemisia or two in a rain bomb.

rotted artemisia austin garden
Until now, though, my soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia) in its well-drained soil sloughed off the sprinkles, here joined by spring blooming Freesia laxa, a Freesia that returns for us.

freesia laxa with soft leaf yucca austin garden
I couldn’t believe it when one day it toppled over to the touch, totally rotted at the base.

rotted soft leaf yucca austin garden rain bomb
CTG director Ed Fuentes got the same “surprise” with his healthy senna.

rotted senna courtesy Ed Fuentes
Since many gardeners faced drown after drought, Daphne explains why some xeric plants are bailing out and what to do.

On my clay soil, I doubt the fate of an olive tree with its lovely silver leaves. I’ll be content with visiting them at Texas Hill Country Olive Company, the only certified organic olive orchard in Texas.

olive trees Texas Hill Country Olive Company

This week, John Gambini from this family-owned and operated olive orchard in Dripping Springs joins Tom to explain how they grow and press olives.

John Gambini Central Texas Gardener
He explains what TRULY extra virgin oil means and why they’re winning awards, both in national competitions and with cooks like us.  Sadly, a lot of the extra virgin oil in supermarkets is not really true olive oil.

Organic olive oils Texas Hill Country Olive Company
Let me tell you, it was a tasting frenzy at KLRU!  It was a tie between the jalapeno and lemon infused oil. John Gambini even makes healthy pound cake with the lemon.

Texas Hill Country Olive Company organic olive oils
Everyone went for seconds on the balsamic vinegars, too. Top votes went to blackberry and pineapple, but all were lip-smacking delicious. I bet the peach is just as good!

Peach flavored balsamic vinegar Texas Hill Country Olive Company

Find out for yourself at their tastings, events, and a visit to their beautiful mill house.

Texas Hill Country Olive Company mill house

Plus, find them at your local farmers’ markets across the state and some at Central Market.

For gardeners on rocky soil, John recommends Arbequina and Mission olive trees as two of the varieties they grow. In our gardens with a few trees, we won’t have enough to press, but certainly we can harvest to brine as table olives.

Organic olive oil at Texas Hill Country Olive Company

I love this time of year when I plant cilantro and parsley for quick snips at dinner. Many cooks rely on dill, too, Daphne’s Plant of the Week.

Dill at Travis County Extension demonstration gardens

She notes that at Travis Country Extension, where I snagged that picture last June, they wait until after the last frost date to plant. Many of us plant in fall, too. Dill is hardy to 25°, so protect if we get a super freeze bomb.

As with all herbs, Daphne encourages frequent snips to develop branching and more leaves. Caterpillars will harvest too, if you’re lucky enough to attract Swallowtail butterflies to lay eggs on this larval host plant. That’s a super bonus!

Swallowtail butterfly on dill Central Texas

When hot weather arrives, dill bolts by flowering, signaling its demise by setting forth seed.  Until the seeds are brown and ready for your kitchen, its flowers attract bees to benefit your summer crops, like squash. Across-the-board dining just in one plant!

Dill flowers Central Texas

Chard is another I like to snip and chop. With many pretty colors, it’s a great companion to winter flowers, like snapdragons.

Snapdragon with Swiss chard winter garden

This week, John shows how to get more “yums” for your bucks with nursery transplants that are often overcrowded. See how he turns one 4” pot of chard into 4-5 plants, instead of the one you thought you were getting.

john dromgoole divides Swiss chard transplants

On tour, Carla Jean Oldenkamp wanted control of the food she serves her family, from her Zen Hen House eggs and charming square foot vegetable gardens, filled with flowers. Here’s where she and husband Dale started.

Carla Jean Oldenkamp before picture organic garden

Just look at it now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Drought: not out of the woods with our trees

October 24th, 2013 Posted in drought, garden designers, trees | 2 Comments »

Thanks to cool weather and restorative rain, weary plants rebounded to attend my garden’s fall prom.

asters and oxalis Austin Texas #CentralTexasGardener

Country Girl chrysanthemum austin texas garden

Cenizo with Iceberg rose and thryallis
My native evergreen sumac (Rhus virens) is in high gear, pumping out flowers and fruits for wildlife, joined by Mexican redbud to the right.

Evergreen sumac Rhus virens Austin Texas garden

According to Texas A&M, the Comanche Indians mixed evergreen sumac’s sun-cured leaves with tobacco for smoking, and as a remedy for asthma.

Still, we can’t rest on our recent rain laurels.

anole on cotton plant Austin Texas Garden #CentralTexasGardener

Across town and across Texas, we’ve lost frightening numbers of trees due to drought and secondary issues resulting from stress. Unlike little perennials that jumped back after a good douse from above, troubled trees may not rebound.

This week, April Rose from TreeFolks joins Tom for proactive tips to protect our trees.

Tom Spencer and April Rose, TreeFolks Austin Texas

Although I scheduled this segment weeks ago, a recent viewer question prompted some of the conversation. Like many of us with older homes, Jaimi has Arizona ash trees that were planted 40 – 50 years ago by the original owners, and are getting mighty scary.

Arizona ash in danger photo by Jaimi

April suggests options to replace dead trees or to plant for the first time. If you have a tree on its way out, she also recommends installing a sapling to take its place down the road.

Sapling to replace old tree TreeFolks Austin Texas

Get TreeFolks’ complete list of recommended trees, info on free sapling days, workshops, tree care resources, and how to join their volunteers to reforest Austin and Bastrop.

TreeFolks Austin volunteers

Reforest after Bastrop fires TreeFolks

Since Texas Arbor Day is the first Friday in November, it’s a great time to plant! Check out this diagram to start your new tree off right.

how to plant a tree TreeFolks Austin Texas

Join TreeFolks on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. for hands-on tree planting and mulching. Bring the kids to make seed balls and get tree tattoos. Plus, there’s live music and lunch!

One thing they’ll demonstrate is how to mulch a tree. Do you mulch to the drip line?

how to mulch a tree TreeFolks Austin Texas

Now, if you’ve seen this technique around “professional” landscapes, don’t do it!

why not to volcano mulch Daphne Richards Travis County Extension

Daphne explains why “volcano” mulching can end your tree’s life prematurely.

Her Pick of the Week is Texas Superstar native Chinkapin oak (Quercus muhlenbergii).

chinkapin oak Austin Texas

chinkapin oak leaves and acorns

Would you like to grow vegetables on a balcony or patio? Well, winter crops like lettuce, kale and chard work just fine in containers! Trisha shows how to combine fragrant and edible flowers and food. You can even plant in trugs, old wheelbarrows and old nursery pots, jazzed up with a little paint!

Vegetable containers Trisha Shirey

Our Viewer Picture of the Week features succulents in charming upcycled containers. Gardener Tammy recycled a $5 “milk can” from Goodwill and a rusted soap dish.

Milk can succulent container photo by Tammy

soapdish succulent container photo by Tammy

On tour, head to San Antonio’s historic King William district where designer Elizabeth McGreevy and homeowner Gary Woods united indoor and outdoor spaces with an equally sustainable garden.

Ed Fuentes tapes Elizabeth McGreevy and Gary Woods Central Texas Gardener

Elizabeth McGreevy garden design San Antonio

Elizabeth McGreevy garden design San Antonio

Despite hot weather and drought, Gary’s garden is still looking good on his no-water regimen!

San Antonio drough tough garden photo by Gary Woods

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda