Minus Lawn Equals Plus

My knee can tell you how much grass I’ve dug up over time! My shovel moans, too, if we count the holes we’ve dug to fill the blanks. Actually, one shovel committed suicide. The pain is worth the gain, like when The Fairy rose—instead of fried grass– romances our hot front curb.

The Fairy rose lawn alternative

Past or current grass gets only the minimal water I give everybody else. Fertilizer? Not for me. Mainly, I’ve diversified because I want this:

golden groundsel packera obovata bee

At some point, I decided if I was going to turn on the spigot, it had to be for plants that re-populate wildlife as their food sources diminish. That golden groundsel (Packera obovata) does a fine job in early spring. Texas betony extends the buffet for months to entice hummingbirds that will stick around for Turk’s cap on the horizon.

texas betony and packera obovata wildlife plants

Gulf penstemon and poppies are booked up with springtime diners.

gulf penstemon with poppies wildlife plants

Even bulbs, like my Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanicus), attract the paparazzi.

spanish bluebells central texas gardener

In the new vegetable bed, native Baby blue eyes came along in my home-made compost. They’re not all about looks: the bees will hang around to pollinate my new tomatoes and squash.

baby blue eyes native annual with bee

Designer Pam Penick shows you how to capture your own version of reduced or no-lawn magic in her book Lawn Gone!

lawn gone pam penick central texas gardener

This week, she joins host Tom Spencer to share a few of her DIY tips, techniques, and lovely alternatives for outdoor living minus grass.

Tom Spencer and Pam Penick, Central Texas Gardener

With plant options, practical design ideas, ponds, and HOA wrangles, she makes it easy to go Lawn Gone!

Lawn Gone

This week’s viewer question comes from Diane Salazar: how to get rid of weeds and make gardens in her new house left vacant for months.

Getting rid of lawn weeds

Get Daphne’s answer on first steps for Diane’s soil restoration and the best way to smother weeds with newspaper.

Since food is replacing lawn for many gardeners, Daphne’s Pick of the Week is deliciously productive tatume squash, an heirloom variety less troubled by the evil squash vine borer. CTG thanks Master Gardener and blogger Caroline Homer for her hands-on tips and a picture from her crazy abundant harvest last summer.

Tatume squash The Shovel-Ready Garden

On tour, see how Meredith Thomas banished lawn for family food by recycling “pre-owned” materials to build beds, including a hugelkulter/keyhole concept, and artwork. She doesn’t buy fertilizer—you just have to see what she does in her own fabulous words. Dear thanks to composer Freejay MacLoud who shared his music that just so perfectly matches Meredith’s truly organic philosophy.

I’ve got the best arugula ever, thanks to Meredith’s passalong seeds of Rocket (also called Rocquette).

Flea beetles on Rocket arugula flowers

Those little insects on it are flea beetles. That’s fine by me because eventually “someone” ate them. You’ll only get long-term predators if you have seasonal prey. Leafy holes didn’t matter a bit in our salads and bunny dinner treats. I’ll be collecting seeds:  to paraphrase Meredith, nature provides our own little seed packets!

And what about those wildflower seed packets?  The party doesn’t end in spring, especially for wildlife that relies on us all year long. So, Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center shows off a few seeds to scatter now, like native partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata).

Partridge pea

Heads up: Get native seeds, perennials (like hard-to-find golden groundsel), shrubs, trees and a lot more at the Wildflower Center’s spring plant sale April 13-14. Member’s day on April 12, but you can join that day to get the first picks! They also have a list online for available plants, so gear up that little red wagon.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Belief in the underground

Flip the Linda coin. On one side, I’m a practical, show-me type. Turn it over and there’s equally strong trust. In my garden, the coin’s complete, especially when the invisibles return after hiding out underground for months. After last week’s restorative rain, sweet Narcissus ‘Abba’ couldn’t wait to renew my trust that she’d return.

Narcissus Abba

Narcissus ‘Falconet’ wasn’t about to be left out.

Narcissus Falconet

This Gladiolus tristis is a newbie, so the trust factor has another year or two to go.

gladiolus tristis

My daylilies are actually evergreen, but this early bird was a surprise!

Yellow daylily Central Texas Gardener

Freesia laxa makes a springtime chorus line against silvery anchor ‘Powis Castle’ Artemisia.

Carmine Freesia laxa

Native spiderworts are a little slow on the punch this year. Oddly enough, this first year self-seeded one bloomed first, perhaps to let me know that it trusts me not to move it! Okay, got it.

Lavender spiderwort

In the cat cove, I always forget about these miniature grape hyacinths that work so nicely between flagstones.

Grape hyancinth

On the edges, Spring starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum) keep on pumping.

spring starflower (Ipheion uniflorum)

Under the mountain laurel in the island bed, I don’t know where I got widow’s tears (Commelina erecta). They showed up last year. I left it to trust that they’d come back. And they did.

widow's tears

Purple oxalis can be finicky for me, but I guess I finally found the right spot for it to return. See, that’s where practicality meets trust!

Purple oxalis

Nearby, African hosta (Drimiopsis maculata) is coming up with its complementary purple speckles.

african hosta Drimiopsis maculata

Yellow is such a team with purple.  Scotty’s Surprise oxalis, a Scott Ogden foundling, knows it well!

scotty's surprise oxalis

Until next week, hope you have fun with your surprises!  Linda

Going shopping in my garden

You bet, I like to buy new plants! Too bad my budget doesn’t tally with my long dream list. Even though I’m certainly doing my part to support local nurseries this spring, last weekend I also did some shopping in my garden. Our creek bank gifted us with native spiderworts before it got razed. Here’s a cheery one greeting Sunday morning as I gathered the tools and wandered my “aisles” for the best deals.

Purple spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea)

Actually, some shopping was to move plants that needed a little more “aisle” attention. I pumped up a squid agave’s (A. bracteosa) face appeal in a part shade corner of the island bed for a touch of different texture and form. To its left is a Mexican oregano I dramatically pruned to revive it. I’ve left room since a big comeback is on its mind.

Squid agave Agave bracteosa

I rescued an aster that was being swallowed up by vigorous ‘Helen von Stein’ lamb’s ears. I like to move asters a little earlier than this, but it’s okay to divide them now. With this drought and wind, though, we just have to water transplants frequently.

dividing asters

To get to it, I had to dig up a clump of lamb’s ears. I’d planned to divide some anyway to fill out the den path, so that simply moved up that task! Next weekend, I’ll divide some more for the new front bed.

dividing lamb's ears

My sweet dwarf Jerusalem sages (Phlomis lanata) were struggling in front since a shade tree grew up so much last year. In back, I needed a bit of silvery gray in the island bed spot that’s just too hot for lamb’s ears. Perfect fit!

dwarf jersusalem sage Phlomis lanata

Even though this bed is well-drained after years of compost, leaves, and mulch, I added a few inches of expanded shale to make sure.

expanded shale

In the back bed that I expanded last spring to get rid of dead grass, I moved a crinum out from a clump of daylilies to give it a forefront claim and breathing room.

Crinum bulb offsets

When I saw all the offsets on the big momma bulb, I filled in that blank spot with a couple to make a little “team crinum.”

Crinums moved in front of daylilies

Then, ah ha! I decided to add a couple to the new front bed. Do you ever have a garden day like that? You start with a handful of projects and come up with an armload.

I’d been thinking about adding some grasses to my new front bed. I got a good deal on gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) that were simply misplaced in the bed against the house.

Gulf muhly moved

In back, I’d also planted an almond verbena (Aloysia virgata) too close to the Mexican plum.

almond verbena Aloysia virgata

That’s on the list for this weekend, along with a few more moves. Later in March, I’ll mulch to pretty things up.

Thanks for stopping in! See you next week, Linda

Banish Bermuda grass for gardens

Over the years, I’ve whittled away grass, because there are so many fun plants out there! I’m keen on bulbs, especially for endearing combinations, like my long-term Narcissus ‘Erlicheer’ and 3-year-old Yucca pallida.

Narcissus Erlicheer with Yucca pallida

This leucojum (Leucojum aestivum) surprised me by popping up in my Texas sedge (Carex texensis). How cute!

Leucojum with Texas sedge
Overhead in back, the Mexican plum carries on the white theme.

Mexican plum flowers Austin
Little spring starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum) touch it up with lavender in a spot that was once plain old grass.

Ipheon uniflorum

Last spring, we tackled one area where grass never had a chance as our path to the front door from the driveway.

Remove grass for path

pathway instead of grass

Recently, we completed the next step of the picture. Last year, I simply layered newspaper, compost, and mulch around the tree and thought about things. Thanks to very talented help, my little vision became real last week. In January, I’d already moved some Salvia greggiis that needed a sunnier position and added some asters to match the window bed (currently cut back, so not visible). In the next few weeks, I’ll do some “shopping” in my garden to fill it out, along with a few new nursery plants to widen the botanical adventure.

new flower bed instead of grass
The bottom slope: still thinking about that one. Already, Mexican feather grasses have seeded themselves. It may be a combo of them and more sedges.

Many times, I’ve banished St. Augustine with the newspaper (or cardboard) technique. In evil spots where Bermuda grass showed up, that’s been a task, though I will say that my newspaper technique worked well for me in a few places. An old-fashioned dandelion puller assists when a stray shows back up.

But I’m sure you all have seen something like this! Not in my garden, thank heavens; I’m very cautious about planting spiky ones if there’s even a sniff of Bermuda around.

Agave smothered in Bermuda grass
This week, Design My Yard garden designer Liz Klein joins Tom to explain how to avoid disaster when replacing Bermuda lawns with gardens.

Tom Spencer and Liz Klein
Find out how she did it in this garden makeover!

Liz Klein Design My Yard makeover

Liz Klein Design My Yard makeover

Liz Klein Design My Yard ridding Bermuda grass

Liz Klein Design My Yard makeover

On tour, Dani & Gary Moss turned an oak wilt disaster into total enchantment with wildlife gardens, a Chicksville chicken coop, and English style conservatory. When they want to add a touch of art, they make it themselves. Gary welds to suit the purpose and Dani catches the light with her stained glass. Here’s a sneak peek, but I know you’ll want to meet them in person on this year’s Austin Funky Chicken Coop tour on March 30!

Now, with this crazy warm weather, it’s tempting to add some things that really need to wait a bit. This is an excellent time to plant almost  everything–except warm soil lovers. Daphne explains why soil temperature makes a difference.

soil temperature for planting
Firespike (Odontonema strictum) is one perennial that we want to plant after the last freeze date. But it’s Daphne’s pick of the week, since gardeners like to plan ahead!

firespike Odontonema strictum
Like the ones at Dani and Gary’s, and the one I have, firespike is a dramatic addition for shade gardens. Mine didn’t even freeze back this year. In harsh winters, I thought I’d lost it. I kept my patience, and as soon as the soil warmed again, back it came!

On comebacks, Trisha shows how to extend your broccoli and fennel past the first big harvest. Plus, she explains how to deal with the pesky insects that arrived early this year to eat our food.

how to cut broccoli plants Trisha Shirey
Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Why plants freeze|Greg Grant vegetables

My crinums don’t look so hot right now.

Frozen crinum leaves
No problem: I simply cut off their mushy leaves and they’ll rebound pronto. Although things have been rather tame this winter, we’ve had our little cold spells. The top question goes to Daphne this week: Why do plants freeze and what will return?

This annual Salvia coccinea is gone for good, unless it re-seeds in self-appointed locations!

frozen salvia coccinea

Microclimates, plant DNA, maturity, and temperature all make a difference. As we approach the last freeze date, I’ll cut back my Pride of Barbados in readiness for new growth.

Freeze damage Pride of Barbados

Here’s how Daphne explains what happens, per Dr. Jerry Parsons, retired Extension agent: “Fill a glass half-full with water and put it in your freezer. Take it out the next day, once it’s thoroughly frozen, and immediately place it under a warm stream of tap water and watch what happens.”

As Daphne says, I bet you’ve already got it: the glass will shatter. That’s what happens to plant cells as they thaw out when temperatures warm up. Some plants just lose their leaves, like this lantana.

Lantana freeze damage purple leaf

Others lose their lives, like this perennial salvia ‘Anthony Parker’.

Salvia 'Anthony Parker' freeze

But get this: just 8’ away in the same bed, this one was fine!

Salvia 'Anthony Parker'

Since vegetables contain lots of water, a simple cover on freezing nights usually does the trick. Check out my neighbor’s hoops to elevate her row cover. They’re just plain old PVC pipes, easy to bend, but she doctored them up with a bit of spray paint!

cute PVC hoops vegetable row cover

If you’re growing ‘Gold Star’ esperanza—a root-hardy perennial —you can thank horticulturist Greg Grant. His many contributions to our gardens and our libraries, like Heirloom Gardening in the South (with Dr. William C. Welch), have yet another.

Texas Fruit & Vegetable Gardening Greg Grant

This go-to guide, written in Greg’s “here ya go” style, deciphers essentials from soil to planting times, cultivation, and starting and saving seeds. Arugula to winter squash, nuts, berries, and fruit trees: it’s all here, including mouth-watering Grant family recipes.

Greg joins Tom this week for some tried and true tips to get you growing.

Tom Spencer and Greg Grant

He made the trip from Nacogdoches, where he’s a horticulturist at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center at Stephen F. Austin University. Stephen F. Austin University garden greenhouse

And mark your calendars right now for April 20, to nab exclusive SFA and Greg Grant introductions, Texas natives, perennials and more at the renowned SFA Gardens annual Garden Gala at Stephen F. Austin. It’s only from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m, so grab your wagons and get there early! It’s also a wonderful time to see the beautiful gardens.

Weeping cypress Greg Grant Stephen F. Austin University

Visit www.sfagardens.sfasu.edu and click on “garden events” for a list of available plants!

Another new Grant release from Texas Gardener magazine pulls together 10 years of his philosophical, humorous, and botanical insights from the magazine. Now in hardcover, it’s also available as an e-book.

In Greg's Garden

On tour, first-time gardener Ellie Hanlon teaches us a few things, too!

On her blog, Mostly Weeds, follow her step-by-step process from Day 1 to irrigation how-to, including her dual valve system and fertilizer. When she first set up her garden, Austin’s water restrictions required a variance (that she posted on her fence) for vegetables. With a flick of a valve, she could turn off the drip system to her flowers.

irrigation valves fertilizer central texas gardener

To fertilize both vegetables and ornamentals, Trisha demonstrates how to make compost tea, along with a trick using recycled nursery containers to slowly distribute it and organic granulars.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Fall in love with autumn bulbs and grasses

Big day in my garden! The autumn daffodils (Sternbergia lutea) popped up reliably a year after planting.

Sternbergia lutea autumn daffodil
These small crocus-like plants, native to the Mediterranean, are cute companions for red oxblood lilies and spider lilies (Lycoris radiata).

Lycoris radiata spider lily and Sternberia lutea autumn daffodil
Last fall on CTG, Chris Wiesinger, author of Heirloom Bulbs for Today, introduced me to these beauties that will naturalize in my Blackland soil, even in part shade! I wasted no time ordering these hard-to-find bulbs online.

Mostly though, I get plants from local nurseries supplied by local/regional growers (or grown themselves), along with passalongs from friends.  My native Plumbago scandens has been in non-stop mode for months against evergreen Texas sedge (Carex texensis). The plumbago will die to the ground this winter but return even stronger next spring.

Plumbago scandens with Texas sedge
Mine came from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center sales—coming up again Oct. 13 & 14 (member’s preview Oct. 12). You can even join that day to beat the rush for superb natives, including ones that don’t often show up in nurseries.

These days, many nurseries do have native grasses like Lindheimer muhly (on the left) and deer muhly (on the right):  this spectacular duo in Anne Bellomy’s garden.

Lindheimer and deer muhly seed heads

Native grasses, in the fields and in our gardens, are both lovely and beneficial. Many send down deep roots, benefiting aeration, stabilizing the soil, and improving fertility—along with providing shelter and food for wildlife. And in fall, they are the ultimate drama queens! My Lindheimer was our favorite autumn standout until it got too much shade and withered away. Until I find a sunny spot, I’ll just enjoy Anne’s.

Lindheimer and deer muhly
This week, Tom meets with Shirley and Brian Loflin, who note that grasses once predominated the Hill Country and the Blackland prairie.

Tom Spencer Shirley Loflin Brian Loflin
Their book, Grasses of the Texas Hill Country, is a friendly hands-on guide to identify and learn about both cool and warm weather grasses in our fields and for our gardens. This popular book is currently in reprint, available for pre-order from Texas A&M University Press.

Grasses of the Texas Hill Country Brian and Shirley Loflin

Currently, it is available as a Google ebook, too.

Brian’s photography helps make it easier to identify the grasses that soon will be in show-off mode, like curly mesquite. This one’s part of  the Habiturf mix that includes buffalo grass and blue grama for a native lawn in sun.  By the way, the Habiturf trio is available at the Wildflower Center and online.

Common curly mesquite Brian and Shirley Loflin

Little bluestem is another native beauty that you’ll be seeing soon.

Little Bluestem Brian and Shirley Loflin

Artist Shirley also creates beautiful framed botanicals with grasses, perfect for that wall you’ve wanted to adorn!

Grasses framed botanical Loflin

You can order online from their site, The Nature Connection, and also find out about their workshops, field trips, and see Brian’s extensive photography of insects, animals, plants, and wonders of the natural world.

Want to know more about cactus, too?!

Texas Cacti Brian and Shirley Loflin

Since we’re heading into prime time planting season for grasses, shrubs, perennials and wildflowers, get inspired with a visit to Betty & Gerald Ronga’s garden where food, wildflowers and wildlife unite on this rocky hilltop in Leander.

Betty and Gerald Ronga garden Central Texas Gardener

Many of us face watering restrictions, like Sheila C., who asks if fungal disease is a problem if we must water at night.

fungal disease watering at night
Daphne explains how it depends on the season and the situation.

It’s hard to imagine that we’re just weeks away from losing our summer annual herbs. Get ready now with Trisha’s tips and tricks for freezing herbs in oil and butter, along with recipes and making herbal vinegars.

Freezing herbs Trisha Shirey
Note: to watch an individual segment online, click on the vertical chapter marks above the play bar!

Happy planting and see you next week, Linda

Keyhole gardens, Oak leaf galls, Gabriel Valley Farms, Drying herbs

First, I have to admit: I’m a bulb freak. I’d buy a thousand more if I could. Instead, I divide my naturalizing wealth and then forget where I planted them. That’s okay, because garden surprises like these oxblood lilies are treasures every year, especially abundant this September, thanks to the rain.

Oxblood lilies and plumbago Austin Texas
I walked out last weekend to find this red spider lily (Lycoris radiata) peeking out in the turk’s caps.

red spider lily (lycoris) and turk's cap
Red is a color that many gardeners are seeing this year from oak leaf galls.

Oak leaf galls (c) Danielle Deuillet
This week, Daphne explains what’s going on: “The small, reddish galls on the undersides of our oak leaves right now are caused by tiny wasps.  They lay their eggs on the leaves and the tree responds by forming a protective structure, the gall, to contain the wasp eggs while the insect larvae grow into adults.”

Oak leaf galls (c) MaryAnn A
You’ll probably never see these non-stinging little wasps. As Daphne tells us, there’s no reason to treat. We have them every year and they don’t harm the trees.  This year was just insect-crazy, so they’ve become especially noticeable.  Thank you, Danielle & MaryAnn, for sending us your pictures!

Soon, I expect to see some yellow in my garden. I have high hopes that my young Skeleton-leaf goldeneye will look like this!

Skeleton-leaf goldeneye austin texas
This native, evergreen drought-tough perennial is Daphne’s pick of the week. Its flowers from late spring to frost attract many beneficial pollinators, like this tiny wasp.

Skeleton-leaf goldeneye daisy with tiny wasp
It requires sun and good drainage, so in my clay soil garden, I amended with compost and decomposed granite.

Our first gentle cold front reminds us that soon we’ll need to snag some of our cold-tender herbs to dry or freeze. So, this week, Trisha shows how to dry herbs in any season (including our evergreens) for homegrown flavor and tastefully beautiful gifts. Get her tips for your files.

Dried herbs cute
Next week, get her tips for freezing herbs, like basil, that don’t stand up well to drying.

Now that I’ve tidied up and revised my plant list, I’ll be hitting the nurseries soon. I respect a tag with Gabriel Valley Farms’ name on it.

Gabriel Valley Farms
On tour, we visit this innovative wholesale grower near Georgetown to see how Cathy and Sam Slaughter grow tried and true Texas plants organically, starting from seed.

The KLRU crew with Ed Carter and Chris Kim had a blast! Here’s director Ed Fuentes documenting the babies that will head to nurseries and your gardens when they’re grown up! If you grow seeds in a few pots or flats, imagine planting thousands!

Gabriel Valley Farms Ed Fuentes camera operator

Cathy and Sam also share their tricks to fool seedlings to germinate when it’s too hot or too cold to plant, and why it’s important to get organically grown plants when possible.

Keyhole gardens are the hot topic this year! Tom meets with Deb Tolman to explain why these sustainable vessels are perfect to grow vegetables, fruit trees or ornamentals.

Tom Spencer and Deb Tolman Central Texas Gardener
Deb explains how to do it for abundant crops, even in small spaces and in thin or dense soils where it’s difficult to grow food. Along with saving water, keyhole gardens are the ultimate design to recycle/reuse cardboard, phone books, newspapers and kitchen vegetable scraps.

Keyhole garden plan (c) Ted Miears

Keyhole garden design (c) Deb Tolman

Keyhole garden cardboard (c) Deb Tolman

Keyhole garden design (c) Ted Miears

Find out more on Deb’s website and get her DVD, shot by videographer Ted Miear, which documents the entire process that you can do in one afternoon!  I thank Ted for his support on this segment. Long ago, he was a KLRU freelancer, who went on to launch his own video production company.

Finally, the garden events are gearing up, but here’s one for the whole family! From Sept. 22 – Nov. 18, head out to Barton Hills Farm in Bastrop for a corn maze, live music and more. Family fall fun, for sure!

Happy planning and planting until I see you next week!  Linda

Make a Fall Resolution to Get Growing!

It’s a sure sign that fall is really coming when Oxblood lilies bloom! Mine started showing up two weeks early near the  patio Turk’s cap, thanks to the bit of rain I got. We’re finally turning the corner, folks.

Oxblood lily with Turk's cap
So, that means it’s time to get a jump on holiday ornaments—at least for those who don’t wait until the last minute (I’m raising my hand). One that even a non-craft person like me can handle is the dried seed pods from butterfly vine (Mascagnia macroptera), Daphne’s Pick of the Week.

Butterfly vine seed pods as Christmas ornaments
She explains how to grow this drought-tough perennial for brilliant yellow flowers that bloom all summer to feed beneficial insects. When the green pods dry to brown, you’re ready to go.

Butterfly vine flowers and green seed pods
Now, here’s something truly fantastic with them and poppy seed pods. The artisans behind these creations just hit a landmark age: 10 years old!

butterfly vine crafts for kids
Thanks to Nina Matts and her friend Tylar for sharing, and to mom Maria Matts for sending along to inspire your little artists!

I bet many of you have seen this, due to the healthy population of black-margined pecan aphids, crape myrtle aphids and whiteflies.  Even other trees in my garden got hit this year. Thanks to Felicia Kongable for this picture of her blotchy pecan tree leaves affected by aphids. Daphne explains what is going on, why sooty mold then develops, and what to do about it.

Sooty mold on pecan leaves
My lamb’s ears and other plants suffered from sooty mold, the “byproduct” of insect honeydew secretions “raining” on them from the overhead crape myrtle. They’ve all recovered just fine.

Lamb's ears with sooty mold
My list of fall projects is longer than my arm, but here’s the site of one back-to-business coming soon.

linda project

I’m digging out the primrose jasmine and wayward passion vine (there’s tons more, so the butterflies are good) to build a new fall vegetable garden with 2 levels of 6×6 dry stack stone. It’ll be around 3 x 10; I’ll leave room between it and the turk’s cap.

That’s because it’s time to gear up for fall vegetable planting! This week, Tom joins Randy Jewart from Resolution Gardens for tips for your table.

Randy Jewart Resolution Gardens
Resolution Gardens started in 2009 as a project of Austin Green Art. Their motto is “Grow Food. We’ll Help.” to implement their mission to bring local organic food into everyone’s kitchen.

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

They’ll build and plant it for you or just come give you a weekly hand.

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

They also do landscape design, water features, outdoor sculpture and even tree trimming! Isn’t this just lovely? Food for the family & the wildlife!

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

Visit them at 5 Miles Farms, 5213 Jim Hogg Avenue, to see what and how they’re growing. If you just want to pick up some fresh food, current farm stand hours are Friday & Saturday noon –6 p.m. and Sunday noon – 3. You can also sign up for their CSA. Membership includes free admission to their delightful dinners and hands-on workshops.

5 miles Farms Austin Texas

On September 22, Resolution Gardens is conducting two workshops: Fall Planting Demo and Build Your Own Salad Garden Workshop.  Find out more.
October 20, you’ve got to bring the whole family to make a 21st Century SCARECROW that actually works to repel garden pests! Randy shows off a super cool one on CTG to inspire the artist in you and your kids. Randy invites everyone to #SCARECROW to join the collective goal to promote local, healthy and sustainable food.

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

And find out how they’re engaging local gardeners in 5 Miles Farms (add your name!), an innovative concept that contributes to their CSA produce. Follow the growing seasons with them via their blog.

On tour, we head to Brenham, where Sally and Jay White built a charming potager on a former Coastal bermudagrass ranch.

Brenham potager Central Texas Gardener
See how they managed to keep the tenacious grass out of their year-round garden of food and flowers. Plus, get Jay’s tips for such a bountiful organic garden!

Brenham potager

Also, check out his freelance stories for Texas Gardener magazine, and his blog, The Masters of Horticulture, for edibles and lots more.

Hey, the next time you’re in Brenham, be sure to stop in at JW’s Steakhouse in nearby Carmine!

JW's Steakhouse

Ed Fuentes, Steve Maedl and I thank Sally & Jay for this yummy recommendation.

fried chicken at JW's Steakhouse

Since it’s still too hot to direct sow some vegetables, John Dromgoole shows how to start seeds in containers.  His tips are great, too, to jump-start summer crops this winter.

How to start seeds with John Dromgoole
Finally, take a look at these Black Spanish grapes that viewer Jason Lantz and his girlfriend are growing. They have a very delicious garden!

Black Spanish grapes
Happy planting and see you next week, Linda

50 Shades of Pink|Hardy Agaves|Repot Succulents

50 shades of pink dominate my garden this week. Okay, well maybe only 10 or so. The most grandiose is the crinum.

Pink crinum lovely

The tiniest is my new Phlox paniculata ‘John Fanick’. It’s been on my list for years! When I ran into some in May, I nabbed them faster than a bunny on a banana. And they won’t be that tiny next year. Every day, I drive by some that are just under 2′ feet tall, in blasting heat, blooming like nuts.

Phlox paniculata 'John Fanick'

Speaking of bunnies, evergreen small shrub Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) droops over a garden sign my sister-in-law gave me years ago, when I never dreamed of having a bunny.  Now, house bunnies Harvey & Gaby like cuttings for snack time.  Edible for us, too! Hummingbirds hone in on the flowers.

Mexican oregano flowers

Most romantic:  plumeria. I have them in large pots to bring to patio-covered warmth in winter.

Pink plumeria

These are quite xeric plants if you want some “container bold.” They like to go dry between infrequent waterings. I’ve noted that too much sun can cause sun scald. This year I moved them to a spot where they get sun, but relief from hot afternoon blasts, and they’ve been much happier. Of course, summer 2011 was a little brutal.

pink plumeria

Annual angelonias can take the heat and all the sun in the world. My purples in sunny spots deepen the palette.

Angelonia

In semi-shade, annual but re-seeding Salvia coccineas sweetly flower against Agave celsii.

Salvia coccinea with Agave celsii

My celsii took a hit in our two sharp winters, but has rallied. Since hardy agaves are lovely textural additions to the waterwise garden, this week Tom joins Bob Barth, founding member of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society, to look at a few.

Tom Spencer and Bob Barth

An important point that Bob makes is the big mistake among new agave gardeners: at the nursery, they see three pots like this.

silver agaves, Central Texas Gardener

Two will stay under 30”: Agave parryi var. truncata and Agave parrasana.  One, Whale’s Tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), will get really big! Here’s Bob’s list with sizes and offset tendency.

We didn’t have time to mention two on his list for shade. The variegated one is Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’, now on my list!

Agaves for shade
The other is Squid agave (Agave bracteosa). I have ‘Calamar’ in a pot, a gift from designer Patrick Kirwin.

Squid agave, Agave bracteosa
Another is in grit-amended clay soil with ‘Blackie’ sweet potato vine nearby.

Squid agave with 'Blackie' sweet potato vine

Both of these squids get “psycho lighting,” shade a lot of the day and blasting afternoon sun for a few hours. They handle it just fine, along with freeze, flood, and drought.

Bob Barth was the man who introduced me to agaves way back when. One I got from him is Agave striata, still in a pot. I’ve considered amending the soil enough to let it go free in the ground. At the same time, although this is a smaller agave, its enforced restriction is just about right for me in this spot.

Agave striata, blackfoot daisy, 'Hotlips' salvia
Now I want to add A. striata ‘Live Wires’, one of Bob’s featured plants on CTG. In sun, its leaves can turn lavender. Oh, must have!

Agave striata 'Live Wires'
One of the first I bought from Bob was Agave gemniflora. It’s been my favorite patio plant in part shade since then. It’s not cold hardy but has made it through 14° in our patio winter greenhouse. I almost never water it.

Agave gemniflora
Jeff Pavlat, also a member of the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society, who’s found a great teacher in Bob, too (and now his assistant in Bob’s private nursery, Oracle Gorge),takes on Backyard Basics this week to demonstrate how to repot spiky cacti and succulents. Here’s Jeff’s potting mixture.

Jeff Pavlat repot cacti and succulents
You can meet them both and lots of neat plants at the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society Show and Sale on Sept. 1 and 2 at Zilker Botanical Garden.

So, can even our hardy plants, like succulents, be sun scalded? Indeed, they can! This week Daphne explains what happens.

My Sedum mexicana isn’t thrilled about the grueling spot I gave it.

Sedum mexicana sun scald

The ones I have in a morning sun patio pot (and that self-propagated in a bed nearby) are much richer in color and more prolific.

Back to the pink theme, Daphne’s Pick of the Week is Ruby crystals grass (Melinis nerviglumis) ‘Pink Crystals’. Thanks to Jennifer Stocker for this picture.  She has the most incredible garden and equally outstanding blog, Rock Rose!

Ruby crystals grass (c) Jenny Stocker

On tour in San Antonio, see how Richard Blocker from the San Antonio Cactus & Xerophyte Society swapped lawn for hardy cacti and succulents and how he protects his succulents from sun scald.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Creating Tomorrow's Garden Today!

Things have changed a lot since I was a kid and had the job to rake leaves from under shrubs to tidy up. As an adult, I’ve watched gardening philosophy among the backyard populace—mine included—gradually head back to the sustainable practices followed by our forebears.

Since I planted my first tree, a crape myrtle barely bigger than a twig, its ever-increasing island bed and girth reflects my own growth: to native plants, habitat invitations, and lawn reduction (still in progress!). And yes, I leave my leaves that helped turn clay dirt clods into productive soil.

Crape in bloom in island bed

Many of us no longer chase away insects with pesticides. Instead, we encourage them with food in all forms, reveling in discoveries that eluded us in homogenous landscapes reeking of chemicals.

Gulf Fritillary chrysalis on manfreda
In fact, these days, we plant milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) just to get eaten by caterpillars! Their flowers attract many butterflies to nectar, but their most significant role is in the leaves.  Migratory Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on Asclepias leaves. Hatching caterpillars chomp away. The plants will recover to contribute to a new generation of butterflies!

Asclepias curassavica
And yes indeed, milkweeds attract Oleander aphids. But these yellow guys are just as selective, and won’t bother your other plants (other than oleanders).  They are important, too. For one thing, they attract parasitic wasps that use them as a nursery to lay their eggs. For another: the ladybug cleaning crew will come right over and stick around to make sure every plant is thoroughly vacuumed.

My native pigeonberry (Rivina humilis), a drought-tough low grower for dry shade, supports all kinds of wildlife with flowers and fruit.

Pigeonberry berries
Butterflies, moths, various insects and hummingbirds love my Turk’s caps (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) flowers. Birds and nocturnal mammals snag the fruits.

Turk's cap Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii
Robin Howard Moore, co-owner of Howard’s Nursery until it closed a few years ago, really saw the swing from annual bedding plants to perennials, especially natives. In her home garden, she liberally plants coneflowers in sunny spots to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

Gorgeous coneflowers
Instead of planting bulbs for just one spring season, we go for naturalizing ones, including bulbs for fall and summer, too. I have lots of rain lilies, including Habranthus robustus, beloved by bees. Its neighbor, young Agastache ‘Tutti-Frutti’, will attract hummingbirds to frame our den window.

Rain lily Habranthus robustus with Agastache 'Tutti-Frutti'

Stephen Orr chronicles this change of philosophy throughout the country in his powerful narrative and photographs in Tomorrow’s Garden: Design and Inspiration for a New Age of Sustainable Gardening.

Stephen Orr's Tomorrow's Garden
This week on CTG, we are thrilled to see him in person for his very insightful stories and perceptions!

Tom Spencer and Stephen Orr

Stephen features several Austin gardens in Tomorrow’s Garden.  But his book journeys far beyond creative designs from around the country. Through thoughtful narrative and photography, he illustrates how America is gardening today: on rooftops, along curbsides in troubled neighborhoods, in vegetable gardens, and with chickens! He includes helpful plant lists, how-to instructions, and eye-opening facts on sustainable materials.

Here’s a front yard garden I drive by every morning. I just had to stop when the artichokes starting blooming.

artichoke flower
Recently, CTG visited Ellie Hanlon’s young garden, where she frames edibles with ornamentals to attract pollinators, and water to attract everybody!

stock pond in vegetable and ornamental garden

These days, she doesn’t interplant edibles and ornamentals. With Austin’s water restrictions, she got an official variance for her vegetable garden (though she’s very thrifty, and waters from her rain barrels when there’s rain!). She set up separate valves on her drip system to accommodate everyone once a week and a just-edibles mid-week dose when irrigation is needed.

In Tomorrow’s Garden, Stephen includes many beautiful examples of front yard gardens that replaced grass. Here’s my visit to Master Gardeners Robin & Ann Matthews’ recent makeover to lose the  lawn.

front yard no lawn design austin

And in Kyle, Ida Bujan replaced grass on an awkward front yard slope with butterfly nectar and larval plants: groundcover frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) and upright Zexmenia (Wedelia texana).

frogfruit and zexmenia replacing lawn
On tour, CTG heads to San Antonio’s historic King William district.  When Gary Woods planned his green-built home around courtyards, landscape designer Elizabeth McGreevy united indoor and outdoor spaces with an equally sustainable garden. Except for brand new plants, Gary didn’t use one drop of water in horrendous 2011!

One of their selections is Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra), Daphne’s Pick of the Week. This native shrub/small tree belongs in every waterwise garden today! Here’s one of mine against a bay laurel.

Barbados cherry with bay laurel

Barbados cherry flowers
The little fruits (edible for us) greatly assist hungry birds and mammals in summer and fall. This incredible specimen belongs to Ida Bujan.

Barbardos cherries galore
Another thing that’s changed is how we fertilize. This week at Lake Austin Spa Resort, Trisha demonstrates how to make compost tea. And check out her great trick to disperse it or organic granular fertilizers with sunken nursery pots between plants.

compost tea how-to
Last, but certainly not least, is awareness of our soil. Daphne explains how to get the dirt on your soil with the USDA’s web soil survey.

Have fun in your garden today until I see you next week! Linda