Wild Ideas for You + Luci & Ian Family Garden

April 24th, 2014 Posted in Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Techniques, Tours, bees, children, destinations, lawn replace, native plants, wildflowers, wildlife | 6 Comments »

We’re not all so lucky to have a wildflower front yard scented with acres of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush!

Bluebonnets Indian paintbrush prairie restoration central texas

At least I get a wildflower pop driving home every day past the Mueller prairie strip along I-35.

Wildflower Thelesperma I-35 Mueller strip

Wildflower Thelesperma I-35 Mueller strip

Most of us can’t have our very own prairie, but we can go a little wild in our gardens.

Wildflower Indian blanket and Thelesperma Austin Texas
At Mueller, I spied spikes of lavender Texas vervain (Verbena halei) among Indian blanket and Thelesperma.

Wildflower Texas vervain Thelesperma Indian blanket austin texas
I used to have some vervain until things got too shady. Now I have a sunny spot where I’ll seed next fall.

I’m tempted to try Erodium texanum, since it’s growing only a mile from my house.

Wildflowert Erodium texanum central texas mueller wildflowers
Then, garden artist Bob Pool told me, “It’s also called fillaree by almost all Texas ranchers. It is already growing by fall in a low, ground hugging manner and is the most important plant in the Hill Country for a lot of wildlife. It is the highest in protein, about 17%, of any plant in the Hill Country.”

That sounds great, but I’m on flat Blackland Prairie, not on a scruffy soil slope. But I do qualify for purple prairie verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida).

glandularia purple prairie verbena Mueller Austin Texas
I’m not the only gardener on the block who’s made a fatal mistake in assuming that “native” translates to “my garden.” So, this week, Daphne answers, “What is a native plant?

Indeed, what’s native to rocks or sand is not native to my soil. Many are adaptable, like Engelmann’s daisy.

Engelmann's daisy native plant for wildlife
Calylophus berlandieri isn’t the best choice for me, but it works where I’ve given it extra grit in the looser spots.

Black-eyed Calylophus berlandieri Austin Texas
After a few misses, I found a perfect spot for spring-blooming Salvia roemeriana.

salvia roemeriana austin texas
I finally figured out where columbine is happiest for me, here joined by really really happy Widow’s tears (Commelina erecta).

columbine and widow's tears shade garden austin texas
I rely on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s native plant database to keep me on track. Also, the City of Austin’s Grow Green program now has a fabulous searchable database by soil type.

We’ve all learned that some plants simply move themselves to the right spots. That’s the case with my Gulf penstemon, a busy bee right now. Aside from conserving water, wildlife is tops on my list to choose natives when I can.

gulf penstemon bees

Bees love wildflowers, even the seed heads on Indian blanket!

bee on Indian blanket Mueller prairie

bee on Indian blanket seed head Mueller prairie

I’m totally impressed that Matt Jackson snagged this shot of a bee heading to Mexican buckeye on an energetic park romp with his young children!

bee on Mexican buckeye photo by Matt Jackson

In the right spots, native plants will increase their population without our help. To up the ante, this week John Dromgoole shows how to take cuttings.

cuttings from native plants with John Dromgoole

10 years ago, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center launched its Mother’s Day weekend Gardens on Tour to help us visualize native plant designs in our gardens.

Chris Levack sculpture Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gardens on Tour

This week, Director of Horticulture Andrea DeLong-Amaya joins Tom for a preview of this year’s May 10 tour.

Tom Spencer and Andrea DeLong-Amaya Central Texas Gardener

Put on your walking shoes, grab your camera and get the details!

The Wildflower Center is on the tour, of course, and you don’t want to miss the new Luci & Ian Family Garden that opens May 4.

Luci & Ian Family Garden Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

15 years in conception with lead designer W. Gary Smith, it’s an adventure in imagination and fun with “secret” messages on watershed care, water management, and native plant wildlife connections.

Here’s director Ed Fuentes taping Gary as he installs intricate tiles in the spiral based on plants with spiral flowers or forms. Plants like Turk’s cap and ferns with furling fronds complete the theme.

W. Gary Smith landscape architect installing tiles in the Luci & Ian Family Garden

spiral at Luci & Ian Family Garden LBJWC

The garden extends Lady Bird’s mission in a garden where kids can run, explore, and play.

Cave at Luci & Ian Family Garden

Grotto at Luci & Ian Family Garden

Instead of instructional signs, Gary’s designed interactive elements to inspire the powerful childhood transformation that sticks with us as we grow up and buy our first house and make our first garden.

Watershed lessons at the Luci & Ian Family Garden LBJWC

Gardeners can frolic and wander, too, while getting plant ideas for sun, shade, and rain gardens. Lots of volunteers recently finished planting, so it’s a great way to connect to complementary textures and spacing for brand new plants.

native plant designs Luci & Ian Family Garden

Take the tour now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week for garden art. Linda

Creative plants and gardeners |Master Gardener Tour 2014

April 17th, 2014 Posted in Tours, drought, garden art, garden bloggers on tour, garden structure, lawn replace, master gardeners, recycling, water features | 3 Comments »

There’s certainly been a buzz about the maroon bluebonnets at the UT Tower!

maroon bluebonnets at UT

I don’t understand the uproar at all. Most certainly this is a fluke, not a prank. And, the color won’t last as long as the historic A&M/UT rivalry, since the dominant blue gene will take over in time, according to Horticulturist Greg Grant at Stephen F. Austin University.

maroon bluebonnets UT

Here’s how he and Texas A&M Extension Dr. Jerry Parsons discovered this natural occurrence and developed ‘Texas Maroon’, a Texas Superstar plant.

Now here’s a charming tale for you, “The Legend of the Pink Bluebonnet.” Years ago, an elderly woman spun Greg this story about why white bluebonnets turned pink in honor of the blood shed by brave Texans during the Texas Revolution.

This week, Daphne answers: what is the connection between botany and horticulture? Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’ is another that Greg Grant brought into cultivation after finding nature’s botanical invention in a dry land cemetery.

Henry Duelberg salvia

For sure, it’s a weather prank behind my usually early bird Lady Banks and April’s Buff Beauty roses blooming together!

Lady Banks late bloom to join Buff Beauty rose

Thanks to Lady’s late arrival, it’s a first for me that yellow bearded iris and Gulf penstemon bloom along with her.

Yellow bearded iris with Gulf penstemon

Also on the bulb parade: golden Spuria iris.

golden spuria iris austin garden

William Glenn from Garden-Ville explains how natural minerals like basalt and greensand assist our horticultural endeavors by adding nitrogen, iron, and magnesium.

natural minerals for the garden William Glenn Central Texas Gardener

Horticulture in all its creative renditions is what the Travis County Master Gardeners’ “Inside Austin Gardens” tour is all about. This week, Tom joins Master Gardeners Maggie Tate and Wendy Buck to preview the May 3 tour.

Tom Spencer Maggie Tate Wendy Buck Central Texas Gardener

Meet DIY gardeners to see how they took out lawn, tackled shade, drainage problems, irrigation and deer.

vegetable deer protection photo by Bruce Leander

Pond and patio Austin Texas photo by Bruce Leander

removing lawn Robin Howard Moore Central Texas Gardener

Really, it’s a tour of unique expression. Find your style and take it home with you!

creative fence and curb Austin Neal Austin Texas gsrden

Bicycle shade garden plants Robin Howard Moore

Woodland and art garden Jerry Naiser Austin Texas

Meet Daphne, Augie and Master Gardeners at the Travis County Extension demonstration gardens, too.

Travis County Extension demonstration garden

Get all the details and check out upcoming workshops that teach us all year long!

Our video tour takes a closer look at one of the gardens. At Lori Daul’s, see how she dumped grass in her first home.

No lawn front garden Austin Texas

She calls her blog The Gardener of Good and Evil for the problems she faced and how she fixed them. On a budget. And what could fit in her car.

Patio pavers replace lawn control drainage austin texas

Thanks to her artistic eye, you’ll get great ideas for plant combinations in sun and shade, structure, and stylish whimsy.

plant structure in shade garden austin texas

structure plants and birdbath austin texas garden

fun garden water fountain austin texas central texas gardener

best bottle tree ever austin texas

cute garden mirror and prisms austin garden

She’s made some dramatic changes so don’t miss it on May 3. But take our tour right now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week as I preview the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center tour. Linda

Good aggressives, bad invasives

April 10th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

First, update on freeze report. Before you shovel out that “dead” plant, hang on a bit, since we’re getting lots of surprises like chile tepin/pequin.

chile tepin emerge after freeze austin texas

Birds spread the wealth, but it’s a bonus for all in part shade.

chile pequin austin texas

Lady Banks didn’t let me down after all.

lady banks flowers after hard freeze Texas

Bulb parade: late Dutch iris is a bonus! Here with native heartleaf skullcap reaching for the sky. That heartleaf will be all over the place next year. Good!

dutch iris lavender with native plant heartleaf skullcap

12° plus  drought didn’t offend my yearling native Salvia roemeriana.

salvia roemeriana native perennial

Yes, some people consider native salvias “invasive,” too, but they’re actually considered “aggressive” if they find the right spot. It’s all in your perspective. I say: the more the merrier to attract wildlife.

Some gardeners even yelp about “invasive” bluebonnets and California poppies. Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion! These are certainly prettier in this front yard than lawn, that’s for sure.

bluebonnets california poppies front yard instead of lawn

Native pink evening primrose walks over everything in its path, but attracts so many beneficial insects.

bee on pink evening primrose

It’s a kick for me to see how they’ve moved around my garden to find their happy spot in sun: here where I took out grass.

pink evening primrose replaces lawn

Native baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) finds its happy spot in part shade. I lose it in spots that get too much shade, but it moves itself!

bee on native baby blue eyes annual

native baby blue eyes with pink oxalis for bees

What a lovely combination with columbine.

native columbine with baby blue eyes part shade garden

Quite a surprise to find native prickly poppy growing in this east Austin garden! Usually you see them in fields.

native white prickly poppy

prickly poppy with cow central texas wildflowers

So why do we run for the shovel when milk thistle settles in our garden? I like the variegated foliage all winter. This year, I got a bee bonus, too.

milk thistle flower central texas

As gardeners, if exuberant plants take over, we can thin to pass along to friends who hanker for them. But when invasive species like ligustrum take over, it can take an army of volunteers to eradicate them from natural areas where they smother wildlife habitat diversity. Animals can’t live by ligustrums alone!

invasive ligustrum berries

This week, Jessica Wilson from the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department joins Tom to swap invasives for much more appealing native plants that do the same job. For example, native cherry laurel instead of ligustrum.

Tom Spencer and Jessica Wilson Central Texas Gardener

My house came with many on her list, like Japanese honeysuckle and ligustrums. We cut down our ligustrums for a mountain laurel hedge (from seed, no less) to hide a chain link fence. I planted crossvine to hide the fence until the mountain laurels grew up. Now we have a solid hedge and the crossvine is still there, even though it gets no extra water from me. I’ll tame it off the mountain laurels (along with passion vine), don’t worry.

crossvine in mountain laurel hedge

Jessica picks options for elephant ears, nandina, vitex and devilish catclaw vine.

invasive catclaw vine

Find out more about invasive plants.

In case you missed it last year, Daphne explains why it doesn’t really take 100 years for a century plant to bloom.

At Mayfield Park, these yuccas are sending out their flowers. But they’re not dying; just losing their leaves as they trunk up.

yucca blooms Mayfield Park austin texas

Along with dumping invasives, the best thing I did for my garden in clay and even “red death sandy loam” was to pile on leaves, compost (some bought, some made) and mulch. Over time, there are spots where I can dig with my hands.

Any compost is good, but this week William Glenn from Garden-Ville compares the options, including biosolids.

compare compost Garden-Ville on Central Texas Gardener

On tour, Laura and Andy Stewart worked with David Mahler of Environmental Survey Consulting to rescue their in-town hillside from invasive invasion.

hillside habitat restoration austin texas

Now, treasures like rock penstemon can breathe again.

rock penstemon hillside habitat restoration austin texas

Miró Rivera Architects beautifully melded their house design into the hillside in a total indoor/outdoor experience.

Miró Rivera Architects hillside home austin texas

rebar patio cover Miró Rivera Architects hillside home austin texas

Take the tour now!

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week as we preview the Master Gardener tour. Linda

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