A neighborhood unites for wildlife

September 25th, 2014 Posted in garden art, garden design, garden structure, groundcovers, lawn replace, native plants, wildlife | 10 Comments »

Well, wasn’t that rain just lovely? Honestly, I thought I’d missed out on spider lily (Lycoris radiata) this year. In just 24 hours, it zoomed up.

Fall perennial spider lily Lycoris radiata Austin Garden

And I’ve got at least three kinds of mushrooms benefiting my soil and plants with mycoorhizal fungi. They’re the best thing that can happen to your garden, so don’ t scruff them out.

Garden mushroom to benefit soil Austin Texas

My two-year-old passalong Mexican beautyberry (Callicarpa acuminata) couldn’t wait to show off its deep burgundy berries.

Mexican beautyberry Callicarpa acuminata Austin Texas

On a stroll around the neighborhood, I’m pleased to see gardeners venturing into wildlife habitat, like front yard Hamelia patens for hummingbirds.

Firebush Hamelia patens hummingbird plant austin texas

A few streets over, these gardeners dumped lawn to attract anyone that wings by.

No lawn garden for wildlife austin texas

Really, this is the best thing to happen to my neighborhood.  Sure, each of us makes a difference. United, we make a whopping impact!

Too bad I don’t have enough sun for these cheerful cosmos. They’re such easy summer annuals for bees and butterflies.

pink cosmos butterfly and bee summer annual central texas gardener

Nearby, a no-lawn garden favors wildlife with blackfoot daisy and lantana. Mexican feather grass, Yucca rostrata (spring flowers beneficial) and a young agave excite the dimension. The new sidewalk adds warmth, too, far more pleasing than the former concrete.

no-lawn wildlife garden yucca rostrada blackfoot daisy silver ponyfoot

I call this one “the white garden.” Silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) and blackfoot daisy mound underneath shrubby almond verbena. Its aromatic white flowers smell like cookies. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies find their own “cookies.”

no lawn garden silver ponyfoot, yucca, almond verbena central texas gardener

Now, here’s a clever idea for a big tree stump! That ice plant (Aptenia) will soon rock those rocks.

rocks garden on top of tree trunk central texas gardener

In my garden, when an elderly Bradford pear died, the guy who cut it down left a stump “in case” I wanted to put a pot on it. Actually, I did not. Instead, I topped it with a  limestone slab. In seconds, elderly Spencer claimed it for his meditation cat perch.

limestone slab on tree stump cat perch

Eventually, the wood rotted away. Rather than hunt up another discarded tree stump, I decided to fancy it up with an inverted pot for Sam Jr.

limestone slab on inverted pot for plant stand or cat nap

In my slap dash garden, I was really proud of myself for this little brainstorm. I adore it, though now there are no cats to perch on it.

limestone slab on inverted pot for plant stand or cat nap

A few years ago, neighbors exchanged lawn for depth with this raised bed.

raised concrete bed to lose lawn central texas gardener

On my walks, I always stop to admire this nicho. I don’t know these folks but I like them very much.

front yard nicho austin garden central texas gardener

These bougainvilleas encourage me to try one in the ground next year. Butterflies love them.

bougainvillea on fence austin texas central texas gardener

Finally, let’s give a drum roll to Butthole Surfer drummer Jeffrey (King) Coffey, who gets applause as the neighborhood Yard of the Month!

butthole surfer native plant garden for wildlife central texas gardener

The best thing? Everyone stamps their unique style onto their pursuits. Wildlife don’t care about our “tastes,” as long as it tastes good.

Thanks for stopping by! Linda

Wildlife Secrets|Tools for Pesky Saplings|Drowning

September 18th, 2014 Posted in Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Tools, bees, birds, butterflies, drought, garden bloggers, garden rooms, habitat, hummingbirds, lawn replace, perennials | 4 Comments »

I could eat my chile tepins, but I’ll let the birds go first. They always know where to deposit seeds in those shady, psycho light spots where we’re wringing our hands about what to plant.They freeze back in winter but never fail to return, whether we get rain or not. By the way, chile pequins have a more tapered tip but are the same otherwise.

chile tepin austin texas drought shade garden

Ladybugs also know where to lay their eggs to pupate. Viewer Picture of the Week goes to Bonny Woods, who recognized beneficial pupae on her watermelons.

ladybug larvae on watermelon photo by Bonny Woods Central Texsa Gardener

Garden photographers, this is a gem! Bonny captured the birth of this voracious youngster, still too young to have its spots. Aphids: beware!

ladybug emerge from pupa photo by Bonny Woods Central Texas Gardener

It’s another story when nature deposits unwanted tree seedlings. To spare us words our mothers wouldn’t like, Trisha comes to the rescue with two new tools. She pulled all this up in just 30 minutes before heading to KLRU.

tree sapling tools lawn jaws and pullerbear Central Texas Gardener

One is Lawn Jaws. Previously, she’s recommended plain old pliers, and that works, too. But these really grab on. I ordered them immediately and I agree. But as Trisha notes, it’s easier when the soil is moist, so head out after a rain.

Lawn Jaws remove tree seedlings Central Texas Gardener

Pullerbear, for larger jobs, comes in various sizes. They’ll even weld your name on it.

Pullerbear to remove tree saplings Central Texas Gardener

As we slide into sweeter weather, we’re pulling out neglected pruners and shovels, even as dormant muscles protest!  Wildlife won’t protest if we include plants that are pretty to us and delicious to them. Eager bees scramble into Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) while butterflies magically appear to gracefully perch.

Bee on Gregg's mistflower Austin wildlife garden

But do we see the same thing as insects do? Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center joins Tom to explain what insects detect. Many recognize white, like fall-blooming white mistflower (Ageratina havanensis). This one’s a reliable drought-tough perennial that accepts shade along with psycho light blasts of sunshine.

white mistflower for wildlife drought and shade Central Texas Gardener

Not only do insects see different colors than we do, they recognize runways to nectar that are invisible to us. We just see pretty designs, like on perennial crossvine. They definitely have their “mouths” open for company; this shot makes me think of baby birds!

crossvine to attract beneficial wildlife central texas gardener

Hummingbirds dive right into desert willow runways in summer. This one is ‘Bubba’.

Bubba desert willow hummingbird small drought tough tree central texas gardener

As Andrea explains, flower shape and size are designed for the perfect fit to attract particular insects or birds. Spring-blooming perennial Gulf penstemon invites pollinators, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

bee on gulf penstemon central texas gardener

To keep our beneficial pollinators alive all year, give them food in every season. Late winter: Mexican plum supports bees and other small pollinators.

bee on mexican plum native tree central texas gardener

Spring through early summer: Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella).

bee indian blanket wildflower central texas gardener

Summer: Tecoma stans. This is the native one, but the cultivar ‘Gold Star’ does the job, too.

native tecoma stans esperanza wildlife plant drought

Fall: Goldenrod.

bee on perennial goldenrod central texas gardener

Get your own plants to grab those wildlife (whatever color works for you) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center fall plant sale Oct. 11 – 12 (members on Oct. 10).

But what happened to Christine Sills’ native prairie verbena in her drought defiant wildlife design?

why prairie verbena rot central texas gardener

Daphne answers: rain bomb in May.

Although Christine modified her clay soil and even built a French drain, too much rainfall at one time collected in her low-lying spot. Daphne notes: “Soils that hold nutrients, in even small amounts, are problematic for plants that prefer a dry, loose planting area. The plant doesn’t use the nutrients, so they serve as a food source for soil microbes. Combine this with wet soil, and you have a double whammy: too much water, which rots the roots, and plenty of food for potential pathogens.”

Get Daphne’s solution.

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), Daphne’s Plant of the Week, also likes good drainage, but does appreciate a little extra water in hot, dry summers.

Mexican bush sage salvia leucantha drought wildlife plant Central Texas Gardener

A delightful companion to grasses like Lindheimer muhly in Russell Womack’s design, its summer-to-fall velvety purple blooms attract kids, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Good news: it is deer resistant.

lindheimer muhly and salvia leucantha drought combo for wildlife central texas gardener

On tour in San Antonio, Xericstyle blogger and designer Heather Ginsburg swapped lawn for wildlife to hunker down on water use. Husband Brett and their kiddos much prefer watching butterflies and bees on their Salvia leucantha and Russian sage to crunching through dead lawn.

salvia leucantha and russian sage Xericstyle garden Central Texas Gardener

See the whole story now!

Thanks for stopping by! Linda

Spanish/Mexican Melting Pot Gardens and Food

September 11th, 2014 Posted in books, garden design, garden rooms, garden structure, garlic, herbs, lawn replace, patios, water features | 4 Comments »

How did Spanish and Mexican designs influence our garden melting pot?

rill in San Antonio courtyard Central Texas Gardener

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage month on PBS, we look at a few contributions, like plazas, courtyards and our own patios to extend living space.

Lucinda Hutson's outdoor dining room Central Texas Gardener

First, let’s answer Daphne’s viewer question from Amy Winn, since I know it’s got lots of people worried. Why do live oak trees drop their leaves in summer instead of in spring?

why oak leaves drop in summer Central Texas Gardener

Drought.  Many trees respond this way to conserve resources for their roots. They unload their baggage, which is also why fruit trees abort their fruit. Find out more.

Now, have you ever grown garlic? Introduced to Mexico by the Spanish, it’s certainly a staple in our recipes now.  To grow more flavorful garlic than you’ll ever find in grocery stores, Trisha Shirey hosts special guest Ivy Lara from Dripping Springs Garlic Queens to show you how. Ivy demonstrates the proper spacing for cloves like Lorz (Artichoke), Shilla & Red Janice (Turban) in mid-October.

grow garlic Trisha Shirey & Ivy Lara Dripping Springs Garlic Queens

Great tip: soak overnight in liquid seaweed and then rinse with rubbing alcohol the next morning. Give them sun and slow drip water once a week if rains miss us.

Here’s our group shot with Garlic Queen founder Jana Kaura who started her venture in Dripping Springs!

Dripping Springs Garlic Queens Central Texas Gardener

Get all their tips for planting and drying next May/June.

how to dry garlic Dripping Springs Garlic Queens

October means cilantro time, too, so let’s get the beds ready now. It’s very easy from seed or transplants. Perfect for containers.  All you need is sun and daily watering to germinate seeds. After that, just snip off what you need and it keeps on going.

how to grow cilantro central texas gardener

Daphne dishes out the info on Plant of the Week. For sure, do successive plantings to have plenty to snip all winter. When it bolts in late spring, keep the flowers for beneficial insects and seeds.

bolting cilantro flowers central texas gardeners

When the green seeds turn completely brown, harvest for kitchen coriander or save for next fall.

unripe cilantro seeds central texas gardener

On a short tour of Spanish and Mexican contributions, Tom meets with our beloved mentor and friend, Dr. William C. Welch, professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist.

Tom Spencer and William C. Welch Central Texas Gardener

I do hope you have his book, co-authored with Greg Grant, to see where our gardens really came from, including those plants you easily find now in local nurseries, like citrus.

heirloom gardening for the south by William C. Welch

Cooling water and brilliant color is certainly a combo we love in our hot climate!

pride of barbados over aqueduct central texas gardener

Of course, succulents are part of the heritage, here in Jenny and David Stocker’s garden.

succulents and bench walled garden Jenny Stocker Central Texas Gardener

In Lucinda Hutson’s garden, she expounds the Mexican tradition of roof gardens and lots of color below.

agaves on roof lucinda hutson garden central texas gardener

Mosaic and tiles are an enduring classic for today’s gardeners who love personalized intricate craftsmanship.  Again, from Lucinda’s garden.

mosaic nicho bathtub lucinda hutson central texas gardener

brugmansia and door tiles lucinda hutson garden central texas gardener

Event break!  Before we go on to our garden tour that illustrates Dr. Welch’s concepts, I must mention the incredible Monarch Appreciation Day on Saturday, September 13th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at  Zilker Botanical Garden.

Monarch butterfly on coneflower central texas gardener

This free event supports Monarch butterflies who pass through our gardens back to Mexico on their fall migration. Along with a super plant sale and talks, including bee hive instructions, there’s tons of fun activities for the kiddos: build a bee house, make wildflower seed balls, face painting and much more!

SO, now for our tour! We head to San Antonio where owner Claire Golden and architect Don B. McDonald renovated the historic house and its mission-styled walled back garden.

San Antonio mission-style courtyard garden design central texas gardener

Inspired by trips to Mexico with her husband J.Y. during his lifetime, Claire envisioned beloved homes they’d visited, instead of the sloping grass and weeds that once defined the courtyard.

san antonio courtyard central texas gardener

Water, even small amounts, is part of our Spanish heritage. I could sit with Claire by this recirculating bubbling fountain and chat for hours, even in the heat!

inset patio fountain san antonio central texas gardener

The main attraction is the central Spanish-heritage aqueduct or rill.

aqueduct mission style courtyard san antonio central texas gardener

As Claire says, “Water and plants are the perfect soothing combination, inspiring, really. Even if it’s hot, water gives you a sense of traveling to different parts of the world, does it not?”

aqueduct mission style courtyard san antonio central texas gardener

Even though Don B. McDonald broke up the open expanse to invite wandering to secret destinations, the rill is ever present. This view shows Claire’s famous Margarita Room (behind the door), filled with her Mexican collections of “margarita adornments.”

courtyard garden san antonio central texas gardener

View back to the new loggia.

Claire Golden courtyard garden san antonio central texas gardener

This intimate spot against the rill is for truly hands-on conversation.

hands chairs courtyard garden san antonio central texas gardener

As Dr. Welch tells us, arbors and pergolas are essential Spanish/Mexican designs to live outside without burning to a crisp.

shade pergola san antonio mission style courtyard central texas gardener

outdoor fireplace room central texas gardener

Claire completely enraptures and inspires me.  Isn’t it lovely to know someone who embraces you with wisdom and sincere encouragement?  Although she’s passionate about art, she believes that “less is more” to truly make a statement.

garden patio niche design central texas gardener

dragon sconce central texas gardener

I love her foyer to the mission-styled doors, the driveway entrance to the courtyard.

mission style gates garden courtyard claire golden central texas gardener

Let’s head to the front, where she turned an ugly drainage ditch from the sloping street into a wildlife-loving recirculating stream.

recirculating stream from drainage ditch claire golden central texas gardener

Her first call was to faux bois artisan, Carlos Cortes, to install his hand-crafted bridge.

Carlos Cortes faux bois bridge Central Texas Gardener

On the shady wide plaza in front, she entertains many guests, including our CTG assistants, Robert and Trey on the Cortes faux bois furniture, during a much-needed ice cream break that steamy hot day.

Carlos Cortes faux bois furniture Claire Golden patio

Director Ed Fuentes ate his treat while composing yet another fabulous shot.

Carlos Cortes faux bois furniture Claire Golden patio

Like his video version of the faux bois furniture. Here’s just my shot.

Carlos Cortes faux bois chairs claire golden central texas gardener

Let’s not wait any longer! Meet dear Claire and her garden for yourself!

Finally, thanks to Mary Alice Appleman for her Viewer Picture of the Week! We’re all so envious that she lucked into this license plate.

CTG license plate central texas gardener

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Let’s gear up again!

August 27th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

I’ve been buzzing around to launch our fall programs!

Bee on Pride of Barbados Central Texas Gardener

Even though August is a real drag, we’re getting twinges of inspiration, like from ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod (Solidago rugosa).

'Fireworks' goldenrod  Central Texas Gardener

To pump us up again, on September 6, Nathan Unclebach from Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery picks drought-defiant beauties, even for small gardens. Here’s Yucca gloriosa ‘Tiny Star’.

Yucca gloriosa 'Tiny Star' Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery

On tour, designer Russell Womack reduced lawn for a low-water panorama for neighbors and wildlife.

reduced lawn for wildlife plants Central Texas Gardener

wildlife garden for drought central texas gardener

September 13, Dr. William Welch illustrates how Spanish/Mexican designs influenced our garden melting pot. We snagged a “family” portrait with William’s wife Lucille.

William C. Welch, Tom Spencer, Linda Lehmusvirta Central Texas Gardener

On tour, Claire Golden’s mission-styled courtyard renovation reflects Spanish roots through a central aqueduct or rill that cools things down with just a bit of water.

garden rill San Antonio mission-courtyard central texas gardener

The courtyard’s majestic doors are reminiscent of San Antonio’s missions.

garden courtyard mission gate san antonio central texas gardener

Garlic’s a Mexican food staple we can’t live without! Trisha joins Ivy Lara from Dripping Springs Garlic Queens to show how to grow flavorful garlic you’ll never find in stores. Our group shot includes co-founder Jana Kaura.

growing garlic central texas gardener

September 20, Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center explains what insects really see, which may be quite different from our perspective!

Bordered Patch butterfly on zexmenia central texas gardener

crossvine wildlife vine central texas gardener

On tour, Heather Ginsburg dumped the lawn so her young family could actually see some insects and birds.

Xeric-style no lawn wildlife garden San Antonio central texas gardener

Trisha demonstrates the latest tools to banish those pesky tree seedlings without breaking your back.

Pullerbear and Lawn Jaws sapling removal Central Texas Gardener

Sept 27, Master Gardener Ally Stressing’s got the tips for a tasty fall and winter vegetable garden.

Tom Spencer and Ally Stressing Central Texas Gardener

On tour at Wells Branch Elementary, future gardeners make groundbreaking connections, in Spanish and English.

Wells Branch Elementary School garden Central Texas Gardener

Oct. 4, loveable Red Dirt Ramblings blogger and author Dee Nash jumpstarts new gardeners with hands-on tips from soil and design to pathways and raised beds.

20-30 Something Garden Guide Dee Nash

On tour, young agrarians at Ten Acre Organics turned a suburban yard into a garden of food and aquaponics to build a neighborhood food network.

Ten Acre Organics ATX Central Texas Gardener

Ten Acre Organics backyard aquaponics Central Texas Gardener

Of course, Daphne picks the plants to go for this fall and answers your top questions, like why this prairie verbena is rotting.

prairie verbena rot central texas gardener

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time, Linda