New look at lawns, watering tips, plant performance flamboozle

Last week, we taped a lawn-free garden that will air in 2012.

Native garden design Austin Texas Central Texas Gardener
I love the way that Anne uses grasses, yuccas, and agaves for vertical distinction against free-flow natives that nectar hosts of winged visitors. Here’s a nice duo: Lindheimer muhly and and Deer muhly.

Lindheimer muhly and deer muhly Central Texas Gardener

Lindheimer seed heads.

Lindheimer muhly seed heads Central Texas Gardener

For years, I had a Lindheimer in the front garden:  a homecoming beacon every fall from far down the street.

Lindheimer muhly Central Texas Gardener

Then it got too shady, and it whimpered away. Last year, with some tree pruning, I had sun again. I was about to get another Lindheimer, when Patrick Kirwin gave me another idea, Pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia), a smaller choice for that space. I planted one in front and three more in the back bed, where despite their youth, already they do a great job against the turk’s cap.

Pine muhly with turk's cap Central Texas Gardener
Pine muhly’s just one of the plants on Patrick’s list this week when he and Tom take a new look at lawns.

Tom Spencer and Patrick Kirwin Central Texas Gardener

Garden designer Patrick of Kirwin Horticulture Services has been working on a design that includes buffalo grass, Indian bunch grass, switch grass, bearded iris, rain lilies and more.

Patrick Kirwin garden design

Patrick also shows off  the sedge Carex retroflexa. I have a few here and there, but intend to replace some of my dead lawn with them this year. I’m totally in love with this sedge!

Sedge, Carex retroflexa Central Texas Gardener
On tour, check out East Side Patch, where discovery replaced lawn. Leah and Philip Leveridge have made some changes since our taping (of course!), but their helpful hobbits and the Botox lady approve their proactive and on-going DD (drought design).

At ESP and in every garden, sometimes we’re flamboozled when one plant craters and its mates are healthy, just a few feet apart. What’s up with that?  This week, Daphne explains what can happen. In her case, she planted four Southern wax myrtles (Morella cerifera) along her fence last February. She watered them just the same. Two are fine.

Southern wax myrtle Daphne Richards Central Texas Gardener

Two are compost.

dead wax myrtle too much sun Central Texas Gardener

What happened? Here’s her analysis: “In this situation, the angle of the sun is the issue.  By about 5 p.m. in mid-summer, the first plant in the row was out of direct sunlight.  But the last one in the row was in a direct hit of the full late afternoon and evening sun until almost 9 p.m.  These newly planted, small shrubs just couldn’t take all that intense sun and simply burned to a crisp, almost in front of my eyes.”  Get her complete answer about what can produce different results in the same garden.

Daphne’s pick of the week is native fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), a reliable perennial in psycho light, drought, freeze, and floods.  I planted my first ones years ago and divide some every winter to spread around. Regardless of weather events, they’ve never missed an October date with bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Native aster with bee
Their tops will freeze back in winter, but their rosettes quickly cover the ground. Simply cut back those dead stems to the rosette for a pretty groundcover all winter. I fill the blank spaces with naturalizing bulbs.

Aster winter rosette

Watering is certainly on our minds! Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors compares options and how much to water.

Merrideth Jiles The Great Outdoors

Even though the ground is dry, fall IS STILL the best time to plant. Check out Daphne’s fabulous article in the Austin American-Statesman to prep sunbaked soil as we dig in this fall.

And here’s a wonderful video from the Texas Forest Service about how to water your trees and check soil moisture underground.

Until next week, Linda

Succulents pests with Wizzie Brown

Warning! Some of today’s images are scary. Here’s a preview, taken by CTG viewer John Shearer.

Damage from agave snout weevil

So far, I haven’t had any trouble with my agaves and yuccas.  In fact, I plan to add a few more. I really like my soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia), the perfect dynamic in bright shade with a few hours of torturous sun.

soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia)
I’ve kept my Agave striata in a pot for years, rather than deal with my drainage issues.  Supposedly it’s hardy to 15° or even lower. Mine sure did fine last winter. I may add some to the ground, since I dearly love it.  It will only get about 2 – 3′ tall. When I bought it from Yucca Do, they said it also did well in dry bright shade as well as full sun. For years, I had it on the patio where it got shade a lot of the day.Last year, I put its pot in the hot spot of the crape bed to see if I liked it there. I do.

agave striata

I have three gray yuccas in front: this one is Yucca pallida. It gets bright shade with some poignant sun. I just coveted that silvery form, and so far, they’ve all been fine in my heavy soil amended over years with compost.

Yucca pallida

My only cactus is the Santa Rita prickly pear (Opuntia santa-rita) which returned from the dead after winter’s ” weather event.”

Santa Rita prickly pear cactus repotted after freezing

A lot of it was black and mushy, but with other things to attend, I left it. When it started showing signs of renewal, I cut off the icky parts, let the “neutered” pads dry for a week, and replanted.

My spineless prickly pear succumbed to cactus bugs/cactus coreids (Chelinidea sp.).

Cactus bug on spineless prickly pear

I got rid of them, but due to their damage, combined with hail and freeze in 2009, I tossed the whole thing into the compost pile. By golly, those little devils took root and now I have a healthy cactus factory amongst the potato peelings and bunny litter.

Cactus bugs are one of the insects Tom investigates this week with Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Extension Program Specialist- IPM.

Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension entomologist

A few years ago, most of us had never seen or heard of them. Then they came marching in to get our attention. Like this cactus bug, (Hesperolabops gelastops), they’re easy to control if you start early and stay on it! Strong blasts of water will do it. Or spray with a soap or horticultural-based product like Neem.  But avoid using in hot temperatures!

Cactus bugs (Hesperolabops gelastops)

A few months ago, viewer Linda Avitt wrote in about the Yucca plant bug (Halticotoma valida) on her soft leaf yuccas.  Her question prompted this segment with Wizzie!

Yucca plant bug (Halticotoma valida)

Like the cactus bugs, this one sucks the plant. Use the same water blast/soap/horticultural oil treatment.  She did this morning and evening and got it under total control. Thanks, Linda, for the update!

Another little sucker is Cochineal scale, related to mealybugs.

Cochineal scale, Dactylopius coccus

But many people cultivate this one by diving under its protective cover to squish the insect for red dye.

Red dye from cochineal insect

I actually have a wall hanging woven with plant and cochineal insect dyes!

Wall hanging rug with plant and cochineal insect dyes

Wizzie’s got even more, including how to avoid problems, but let’s get down to the really scary one, agave snout weevil. I’m sorry that Philip Leveridge met their acquaintance in East Side Patch, but thanks for the great pictures!

Agave snout weevil

John Shearer kindly took pictures of its wide-spread damage, if you’ve been lucky enough to not see it person.

Agave dead from agave snout weevil

The female agave snout weevil lays her eggs at the base of a leaf. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the plant, eating out its heart, and providing entry for bacteria, fungi and viruses. The plant soon collapses, never to recover.

Agave snout weevil damage on yuccas

Right now, the only control for home-owners is imidacloprid. This is HIGHLY toxic and will kill off everything.

Sorry to be such a pooper here, but it’s true: “Know your enemy.”  For more about insects (good and evil) follow Wizzie’s informative and insightful blog for updates on what’s bugging you!  I relied on a blog post last year for pesky indoor fruit flies.

On tour, we repeat Jeff Pavlat’s outstanding succulent garden design, home to hundreds of species, with nary an insect problem. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s beautiful inspiration for your own drought-tough designs.

Jeff Pavlat garden

And you can meet Jeff and other members of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society at their show & sale on September 3 & 4 and get tips from the experts on how to grow them. Don’t be scared off by our scary stuff. These plants have been around a long time!

So have Texas tree lizards, and we thank Robert Breeze for this week’s Garden Pet of the Week: The Dude!

Texas tree lizard
He likes to join Robert every morning to get misted, along with the tomato plants.  You know it’s hot and dry when lizards need water!  And what a wonderful connection to make, too.  Most of our wildlife is extremely beneficial, like The Dude. Robert’s story reminded me of the anoles that follow me around as I water plants. Not only do we want to observe the evil in our gardens, we want to observe, protect, and enjoy the ones that give us delight.

On succulent plants, the question CTG often gets is about aloe vera. It’s an easy plant to grow and very handy when a fire an or “a cooking event” gets you. It’s also easy to kill with too much love. This week, Daphne explains how to keep your garden first-aid in good health!

Aloe vera

And get Daphne’s answer on “how and why to pinch a plant?”

how to pinch a plant

John Dromgoole concocts a well-draining soil mix for your succulent plants, and demonstrates how to move a prickly one without needing first-aid attention!

John Dromgoole pots up a prickly cactus

Also, in case you missed last week’s post, Wizzie LOVES the MiteYFine sprayer to get the bugs off your succulents!

Until next week, Linda