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

How does a garden grow?

Often I’m asked, “How do people have such great gardens? I can NEVER do that.” Well, yes you can!

Silke's Dream salvia, purple lantana, skeleton-leaf goldeneye

All it takes is patience, a plan, personality, and passion. Oh, and lots of blisters. Now, this is not to say that I had a plan! When I started, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted a crape myrtle that we could see from the den window.

Linda's first garden

I’m kneeling here, since I set my camera on a tripod for a self-picture, and I’m much taller than the little tree. I snagged some free rocks to encircle my first little garden. Clueless about plants, I bought a bag of dahlia corms. I was mighty proud of this, let me tell you!

This was before nurseries promoted native and hardy adapteds. Quickly I figured out that dahlias are not Texas plants. And believe me, I’m still learning what actually works for me. But with more patience then pennies, my den view is a lot more dramatic these days.

Linda's new garden no lawn

But I’m not finished!  As I’ve mentioned before, last spring we decided to put in a path to replace dead grass.

Linda's path project

Over the summer, I thought about what I wanted to do about the section near the island bed.  Eventually, I ordered more stones and roughly painted in the plan to complete the lawn-free picture.

outlining new path area

den path with new stones

In our original work, I planted a few frogfruit plants (Phyla nodiflora) in one section to soften and cool the stones. Butterflies, bees and other beneficials flock to them constantly.

frogfruit groundcover between path stones

They’ve done so well that I’ve added some to the new stones (and more, as soon as I can lay my hands on this tough native groundcover). The first ones have been so prolific that I’m also dividing some to fill in the gaps. Their long stems root easily, so I just cut a section from the mother plant and dig up the rooted plant.

frogfruit in stone pathway

By next spring, this picture will have changed again when it fills in! During Christmas, I’ll work on the edging.  I haven’t decided whether to build up the original edging with roadbase or to use leftovers of the 6′ x 6′ dry stack stones for the vegetable bed (more on that in a few weeks). Sometimes, patience pays off to give you the answer!

stone path in progress

To spare you my early mistakes, this week on CTG, designer and garden coach, Diana Kirby, presents Design 101.

Diana Kirby Central Texas Gardener

Tom was booked as director of iACT (Interfaith Action of Central Texas), so I stepped in. Yowsers!

Linda Lehmusvirta Diana Kirby Central Texas Gardener

Diana points out the essentials for planting: size, sun, soil, and compatible conditions. Then she recommends looking at the long-term picture: how do you want to use the space? What’s your style?

Diana Kirby drought tough no lawn design

Diana Kirby pathway design

She explains how to use color and texture.

Purple fountain grass and prickly pear

Lindheimer muhly and Salvia leucantha

Diana stresses the importance of including destinations for your eye and to reinforce your own sense of style.
Diana Kirby design focal point

purple bench duranta Lucinda Hutson design

Ragna shells focal point

Find out more about Diana’s designs, her garden coaching and to follow her beautiful, instructive blog!

Another question CTG often gets: what is the difference between soil, compost, and mulch? I remember when I was confused about mulch and compost, too (and thought I could just stick a plant into my heavy clay soil and be done with it. Oh brother!). So, this week, Daphne explains the difference and how they work together for a healthy garden.

soil compost mulch

Now, to show you that I wasn’t totally clueless in my first garden: I gathered what few leaves I had and scavenged more to scrunch into my beds, back in the days when buying even a bag of mulch at the grocery store was a financial luxury. Eventually, I made my own compost in a bin from wooden pallets left over from KLRU deliveries.  These days, I just have piles behind the shed, but I also buy bags and sometimes yards. And I often add decomposed granite or expanded shale to up the drainage even more.

Cover crops for vegetable beds fascinated me from the first. This week, John Dromgoole explains how Austrian winter peas, hairy vetch, crimson clover and elbon rye return nitrogen and compost to fallow winter beds destined for summer crops. While they’re growing, they’re a  natural “mulch” too!

John Dromgoole cover crops

On tour, visit Molly O’Halloran and David Brearley’s first garden, where they renovated their 1915 house and garden on Austin’s east side from devastation to drought-tough style, vegetables, and safe harbor for chickens that supply organic eggs for Molly’s yummy recipes!

I’m still figuring out gardening, but CTG is here to help us!

Until next week, Linda

Get the story on understory trees and plants

Lavender and silver, what a great duo!  But this hoverfly wasn’t zooming in to admire ‘Helen von Stein’ lamb’s ears; it was going for lunch on the asters (Aster oblongifolius). Thanks, Meredith O’Reilly, for reminding me!

Fall purple aster and 'Helen von Stein' lamb's ears
The fall-blooming asters join almost ever-blooming Blackfoot daisy that joins every seasonal companion.

Aster and Blackfoot daisy Central Texas
When we dug out grass last spring along our new den path bed and laid down newspaper and mulch, I planned to fill the gaps this fall.

removing grass project
Well, the resident asters and ‘Country Girl’ mums jumped in to do the job for now!  I’ll divide them when they go dormant this winter to push out their performance. At the far back is my latest acquisition, Manfreda x ‘Silver Leopard’ or Manfreda maculosa ‘Silver Leopard.’ In any case, its purple spots and silvery foliage will accent this bed nicely.

Asters and 'Country Girl' mums stone path
More on this project next week and what we’ve done about the weeds/grass on the right side!

Bees (and hummingbirds) also head for Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla).

Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) bee

This one’s not in my garden since it needs lots of sun and super drainage. But for those of you with that combo, Daphne makes this 3’ tall perennial her Pick of the Week.

Pink Fairy Duster drought garden Austin Texas

Pink Fairy Duster

You’ll also see Red Fairy Duster or Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica), equally busy attracting pollinators all over town.

Red Fairy Duster with agave Austin Texas
Mockingbirds and other berry-eaters are seeing red, too, as our native hollies fill their bellies.

Yaupon holly berries and mockingbird nest
My yaupon holly still bears evidence of a happy family raised near my front door this spring. I suspect the mail carrier got dive-bombed as often as we did by vigilant parents.

Since understory trees should not be overlooked in our gardens, this week Tom meets with Meredith O’Reilly, Texas Master Naturalist, NWF Habitat Steward, and Travis Audubon committee member.

Meredith O'Reilly Great Stems

Along with visual appeal under large shade trees, Meredith explains how the understory is important for nesting, food, and cover for small birds and song birds. One of her favorites is evergreen Goldenball leadtree.

Goldenball leadtree Kyle Texas

Another on her list is Carolina buckthorn. This one’s growing under an ashe juniper in Liberty Hill.

Carolina buckthorn Liberty Hill Texas

Here’s her list that includes diverse situations, including Fragrant mimosa, Spicebush (larval food for the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly), scarlet/red buckeye, and many more!

On Meredith’s blog, Great Stems, tour her progress as a native plant gardener in her urban habitat.

Great Stems Meredith O'Reilly

Her stunning photography also takes us along on her voyages to natural settings to meet both plants and wildlife and how they interact. Meredith’s also available for talks for all ages, though she certainly knows how to engage children in wildlife activities through her work with schools and Scout troops!

Since NOW is the best time to plant new trees, Daphne explains why you want to establish them this fall and early winter.

Mexican redbud flower

It’s also time to bring in house plants that you’ve summered outside. You’ll want to gently spray them down with water and even drench their soil with a weak solution of neem or orange oil and water (1 tablespoon to a gallon of water) so you don’t bring in some new friends, too! John Dromgoole cautions to use just VERY LITTLE to avoid harming root hairs. Another tip from John: when you repot, place some old window screen in the bottom to keep insects from coming in through the drainage hole.

This week on CTG, John shows how to fend off scale, red spider mites, and mealybugs on your houseplants. You can also use these tips on garden plants.

Houseplant insect control John Dromgoole

On tour, resident understory trees and other native plants influenced Christine and Pete Hausmann’s design in their garden, Lazy Acres. See their story of how they united three (now four!) generations with respect for the land.

Until next week, happy planting! Linda

Garden Conservancy tour, what's up with redbuds, edible containers

Is this a fun fall or what?! It’s also crazy with springtime redbuds blooming alongside autumn asters. What’s up with that?

Redbud tree blooming in fall
Thanks to D. Kirkland for Daphne’s question this week! Daphne explains that it’s all about weather—trees stressed once again this summer.  As a safety valve to carry on their legacy, they flower to re-seed themselves, just in case. Get Daphne’s complete explanation.

Despite our indecisive weather (jeans or shorts today?), it’s time to plant cool weather crops and flowers. Some of us only have room to grow in containers. Even if we tend garden beds, it’s fun to spice up our patio or front porch with a mini-garden, easy to snip for the kitchen on snippy wet days.

See how Trisha creates tasty containers with edible flowers and food (a perfect gift, too), plus how to “coddle” nursery pot roots for quicker growth.

edible container gardens

Now is also the best time to plant trees. Daphne’s Pick of the Week is Mexican olive (Cordia boissieri), a small tree/large shrub for us, depending on how you prune it. It’s a fabulous screening plant if you’ve got full sun and good drainage. It doesn’t want much water after the first year.  I don’t have one (yet) but my neighbor’s thrives in a hot curbside bed against the street.

Mexican olive Cordia boissieri

Luscious flowers come on for months, starting in late spring to attract all your neighbors, along with butterflies!

Mexican olive Cordia boissieri flowers
Even out of bloom, its velvety leaves are gorgeous.

Mexican olive Cordia boissieri leaves
Its fruits are edible, but not really yummy for us. The birds will thank you for them, though.  Deer like the fruits, but supposedly not the leaves.

Mexican olive Cordia boissieri fruits
Do protect with mulch if you plant this fall, since harsh winters can cause it some trouble. But my neighbor’s made it through 14° and I’ve seen other show-stoppers in established gardens.

Cooler weather always gets us back in gear with ideas!  The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour on November 3 is sure to spark your imagination for plants and concepts to try at home. This week, Tom meets with Austin coordinators Charlotte Warren and Laura Bohls for a sneak preview.

Tom Spencer, Charlotte Warren, Laura Bohls The Garden Conservancy
This year’s tour offers diverse perspectives, from plants to spaces.

Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Christy Ten Eyck Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Jeff Pavlat garden Garden Conservancy tour

Jeff Pavlat garden Garden Conservancy tourJeff Pavlat garden Garden Conservancy tour

Here’s where to get tour details and advance ticket information.

Our video tour visits one of them: landscape architect Curt Arnette’s hillside renovation that respects the interface of land, family engagements, and wildlife.  Here’s a sneak preview!

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you next week! Linda

On tour with the Travis County Master Gardeners

How can you reduce lawn, combine edibles, flowers for wildlife, living spaces, and art?

no lawn edible ornamental front yard
The best ideas come from fellow gardeners! That’s why you won’t want to miss the Travis County Master Gardeners’ “Inside Austin Gardens” tour on October 20. This year highlights hands-on gardeners who tuck in food with their salvias and succulents, like Ann & Robin Matthews, who even take it all out front.

no lawn edible ornamental front garden
They unite their garden with neighbor Donnis Doyle, also on tour.

hot curb strip garden
In back, find out how they got rid of grass in favor of paths, coves, and a labyrinth-style vegetable garden.

labyrinth vegetable garden
See how they screen a view with Hardiboard imprinted with ancient Native American rock art they’ve seen on excursions throughout Texas.

Hardiboard garden screen

On tour, you can also see how Donnis screened her view of a daycare center for a soothing spot to hang out with her neighbors.

galvanized steel patio screen

Here’s a sneak preview with CTG’s video visit.

I love the natural screen the Matthews chose on one side: bay laurel!

bay laurel hedge

Daphne makes bay laurel her Pick of the Week to explain how to grow this Central Texas evergreen as a screen or accent. Why buy expensive bay leaves when you can pluck some of your own?

bay laurel leaf

When I got my bay laurel in a 4” pot, I potted it up as a patio container.  It barely grew (though it’s fine in a pot if you have just a small space). Then, I ran into large bay hedges in long-term gardens. I saw Trisha’s huge one at her Lake Austin Spa garden. So, I stuck mine in the ground to shield a so-so shed. It shot up like a fiend in blasts of hot sunlight (not all day) and very little water.  In 14°, it suffered a little leaf damage, but spring pruning flushed it right back out. The Barbados cherry in front died to the ground, but returned, too.

Barbados cherry bay laurel screen

I just pluck a leaf when I need it for the pot. When I prune to tidy and shape, I bring in some to dry. If you missed Trisha’s segment on how to dry and anchor herbs, and the ones to choose, watch it now!

To preview the other gardens on tour, Tom meets with Travis County Master Gardeners Carolyn Williams and Holly Plotner.

Tom Spencer, Carolyn Williams, Holly Plotner Master Gardeners

Here’s just a tease of the diversity on tour this year!

Stock tank vegetable beds Travis County Master Gardeners

No lawn backyard habitat
Cute garden shed Travis County Master Gardeners
Garden fountains Travis County Master Gardeners

Renee Studebaker isn’t officially a Master Gardener (though she’s a master at it!). If you’ve ever wanted a closer look at her garden, here’s the chance! She’s even going to be serving homemade treats from her harvests.

Renee Studebaker's front yard garden

And find out where Daphne hangs out with a visit to the Texas AgriLife Extension Office demo gardens! She and Augie will be on hand (paw) all day to answer your questions!

Not only will you have a chance to talk with the gardeners to see how they did it and where they got it, each site includes educational talks and plant and book sales.  All this for just $20 or $5 per garden, to support their many free workshops throughout the year. Find out more about upcoming workshops and details of the tour.

Since we all like to recycle, a viewer asks: “Can I spread used kitty litter on the grass or non-edible gardens?” Get Daphne’s answer about why this isn’t a good idea—it’s not what you might think. Telo and Camille Farber already watched this on their iCatfonz to pass along to their moms, sisters Galia (KLRU’s production coordinator) and Naomi.

Galia's cats in sink
In the next few weeks, it’s time to plant wildflower seeds like Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella).

Indian blanket Gaillardia pulchella
Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center shows how to sow for the best success. Since bluebonnets are tops on the list, she explains how to improve germination the first year.

plant bluebonnet seeds
Note: the inoculant she mentions has become very hard to find, so go with one of her other techniques to start your bluebonnet patch. Trisha sometimes moves bluebonnet plants to a new area (or you can buy transplants) to inoculate the soil, too. I’ve always had great luck without the inoculant.

Happy planting until next week! Linda

Projects! Reduce lawn makeover! Container vegetables!

Revival! As the rock roses (Pavonia lasiopetala) and Turk’s cap swing back into gear, my ideas hit revival mode, too.

Rock rose and turk's cap
Projects are finally in the works.  Last spring, we laid a sandstone path over a section of dead grass, but wanted time to think about what to do next.

Path project lawn reduce

We’ve decided to get more sandstone, but to reduce the heat factor, I’m leaving wide spaces to plant frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora). You can see how the first ones are already creeping over.

Last March, I set out a few 4” pots to soften our new work. They’ve taken off like crazy, unmindful of the unamended soil, heat, drought or the brief spurts of drenching rain.

frogfruit on path

I’ve been digging up grass since the day we moved in, since I want a garden full of wildlife. When 2010-2011 took a hard toll on lawns, I lost a lot of the rest, as did many gardeners.

This week on tour, see how Lana & Bob Beyer retrieved their garden with stunning new ideas!

Lawn replace design Lana and Bob Beyer
Here’s how it looked this spring, new plants soon to fill in. Already, they’re seeing more wildlife.

Lawn replace design Lana and Bob Beyer
Director Ed Fuentes had a lot of fun taping this renovation, even though the sun was brutal.

Central Texas Gardener on location with Ed Fuentes
In front, here’s Bob’s shot after they stripped the dead grass.

stripping front yard grass Lana and Bob Beyer
Since their HOA requires some lawn, Lana designed a wineglass shape with buffalograss to draw street-side views into the garden.

front yard makeover Lana and Bob Beyer
On Bob’s Central Texas Gardening website, see his remarkable slide show that documents the process step by step. Really, this is fabulous!

In the awkward curb strip, the Beyers made life easier and more beautiful with gray and green santolina, pink skullcap, and Rock penstemon.

santolina, pink skullcap, rock penstemon
Santolina is a drought-tough evergreen (or ever gray) deer-resistant groundcover. Find out how to grow it as Daphne’s Pick of the Week.

Gray santolina and flowers
Thanks to the rains last winter and a little this summer, our Mexican plum is hanging onto some of its fruit instead of dropping it all prematurely.
The ones at Mueller are totally abundant!

Mexican plum fruit Mueller Austin Texas
Since fall is the best time to plant trees, Tom joins Amanda Moon from It’s About Thyme for some tasty additions.

Tom Spencer and Amanda Moon, It's About Thyme
Her list includes fruiting and ornamental olive trees, including specimen tree ‘Little Ollie.’  Lana and Bob are growing theirs in a pot for now.

'Little Ollie' olive in a pot
Whether olive trees produce fruit or not, I love the silvery leaves. This one’s a tall shade tree in the garden of dear friends Molly and David.

Olive tree

Get Amanda’s list of olives, compact and ‘Wonderful’ pomegranate, Texas persimmon, loquat and figs.

And be sure to check out It’s About Thyme, where Diane and Chris Winslow and a very knowledgeable team guide you to tried-and-true plants, fabulous herbs, and ideas that will astound you and your garden. Sign up for their informative weekly enewsletter, too, for valuable tips from Chris and culinary expert Mick Vann.

Animals dine on the bark of our trees, especially in drought. Viewer Connie Lawson asked what to do about porcupines chomping her new trees. KLRU colleague Robert found squirrels stripping his trees. Will this kill your tree?  Get Daphne’s answer about whether trees will recover, and the best way to protect them.

Since many of us have limited space or limited sunlight, John Dromgoole demonstrates how to plant in containers, for organic food even on a patio, balcony, or driveway.

John Dromgoole vegetables in containers

Get his list of a few tiny plants, including ‘Tom Thumb’ corn for next summer.

Happy planting and I’ll 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

Structure + Soft = Powerful Designs

Although I’m fond of tidy, highly structural gardens, mine doesn’t make that list. I do have many non-fussy anchors, but I wouldn’t be content with an essentially static garden. I’m a drama queen and I like surprises! This sure was a surprise:  my Iceberg rose blooming its head off with thryallis and cenizo.

Cenizo, Iceberg rose, thryallis
That group only gets water once a week in summer if rain veered past us (yet again!). A few years ago, I replaced the red tip photinias in this AC side yard with these and other sun lovers that I relocated from too much shade.

My altheas/Rose of Sharon that came with our 1950s house have hung around through many a dry year. This new beauty is a passalong from Bob Beyer.  In a few years, this large shrub will be big enough to complete the “living wall” that I’m creating for our patio cove “enclosure.”

Pink althea, Rose of Sharon
This part of the back “prairie” is in riot-mode with milkweeds, Turk’s caps, pavonia, lantana and passionvine. It’s a wildlife riot, too!

Milkweed, Turk's cap, rock rose, lantana
Old-fashioned fragrant petunias in patio containers are heading into summer break, though not quite ready to give up their perfumed performance. I’ve been cutting them back a little and feeding with a seaweed/fish emulsion/molasses drink which they appreciate.

Old-fashioned pink petunias
In a fence bed, this spring I added some red billbergias. They get shade mixed with blasts of sunlight. I just love this color and their tidy form that so beautifully complements the spilling plants beyond them.

Red billbergia
On CTG this week, that’s just one of many plants that Tillery Street Plant Company’s Jon Hutson highlights in his talk with Tom.

Jon Hutson Tillery Street Plant Company
I’ve known Jon since he ran innovative Floribunda in south Austin. We were thrilled when he opened equally innovative Tillery Street in east Austin! It’s just across the street from Boggy Creek Farm and down the street from Springdale Farm. Since many talented artisans have located nearby, this is the latest go-to place for food, plants, and art!

On CTG, responding to viewer requests, Jon combines structural and softer forms for sun and shade. He explains how to diversify our gardens with drought-tough companions that strengthen our designs with contrasting forms.

Tom Spencer and Jon Hutson at Central Texas Gardener
One he brought along is native candellia (Euphorbia antisyphilitica). Isn’t this nicho at the Wildflower Center just so appropriate? A plant “candle.”

Candellia at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Cent
Get Jon’s list for outstanding additions from upright yuccas to floppy yellow firecracker fern and silvery native groundcover woolley stemodia. I grabbed this shot at Mueller on a cloudy morning. In sunlight, its silver absolutely shimmers!

Woolly stemodia
Another on his plant list is foxtail fern. Mine (this one in a pot) are soft-structure perfect in psycho lighting: dry shade peppered with a brutal spear of afternoon sun. Beyond are inland sea oats and potato vine (Solanum jasminoides) on an obelisk.

Foxtail fern and inland sea oats

Jon brings along a Mangave ‘Bloodspot’, a cross between Manfreda and agave. Since these are great non-fussy structures, Daphne makes Manfreda our Pick of the Week with her insight and planting tips. Gardener Brent Henry has clay soil, so he mixes in decomposed granite to improve drainage.  His Manfredas get partial sun with most of the sun in the afternoon, but shaded by a bur oak.

Manfreda bloom stalk
Gardener Matt Jackson snapped these pictures of native Manfreda virginica for CTG.

Manfreda virginica

Manfreda virginica flower buds

When I first heard about ‘Macho Mocha’ years ago, it was considered a Manfreda. By the time Pam Penick divided some of hers for me, it was categorized as a Mangave.
Manfreda (Mangave) 'Macho Mocha'

Whatever. You’ll see them as both names. As Daphne tells us, the native Manfreda maculosa is considered the Texas tuberose. That’s on my list!

So, once you have your structural succulents, how do you divide these vigorous plants? Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents shows us how.

Eric Pedley East Austin Succulents Central Texas Gardener
In 2011, Eric met with CTG for astounding design ideas with succulents. Now, he’s joined spaces with Jon’s Tillery Street Plant Company. In one visit, you can fulfill your garden dreams, encouraged by two hard-working home-grown owners who are passionate about plants and ready to share their knowledge with you.

To complete our east Austin tour of innovative ideas that combine structure with softness, take a tour of Lee Clippard and John Stott’s garden.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGfU8iyPClQ

Many gardeners, like Russell Bauer, have asked us about blossom end rot! Daphne explains why this happens and what you can do.

Tomato blossom end rot Galveston Texas AgriLife
Thank you to Dr. William Johnson, Texas Agrilife Extension/Galveston for sharing his picture! Usually, the second crop comes out clean, as Russell shows us with his second harvest.

homegrown tomatoes
Certified Backyard Habitat gardener Susan Brock shares this picture from her organic garden: another reason to diversify your garden. Cardinals selected her Knock Out to raise a new family!

cardinal nest in Knock Out rose
Stay cool until our visit next week, Linda

Plants that survived the Texas Two-Step: Freeze and Drought

Spuria iris (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Although my spuria iris flowers astound me just once a year, they do it every year—drought, flood, or freeze—since Scott Ogden shared a few divisions with me years ago.

My garden is resilient, too, thanks to the words he’s shared with me through all his books. Lauren Springer Ogden is another mentor, through her The Undaunted Garden (recently revised with Fulcrum Publishing) for garden design, plant resumes, and the poetry of words that express our love of the garden.

The Undaunted Garden Lauren Springer Ogden

Lauren and Scott collaborated on Plant-Driven Design, which ought be be in your grubby hands, if not already. Their latest (and very timely) partnership is Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens, a quick-read, hands-on guide to peruse as you head to the nursery.

Ogdens' Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens
Icons quickly indicate each plant’s favored conditions (including deer resistance and wildlife attraction). With each featured plant, the Ogdens include other options and companions.

Wow on CTG this week when they join Tom in a passionate conversation about the plants that took the “double spanking,”—Lauren’s on-target description about last year’s extreme freeze and drought.

Tom Spencer, Lauren Ogden, Scott Ogden
One they mention as a durable replacement for sago palms (cycads) is Dioon angustifolium (formerly Dioon edule var. angustifolium). That’s one on my list for this year. In the meantime, I nabbed a Dioon edule.

Dioon edule (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Another is Lady Banks rose (Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’).  Here’s mine in full bloom in the cat cove. I don’t think I’ve watered it since it was a youngster.

Lady Banks rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
The Ogdens love seasonal bulbs and rhizomes as much as I do. I’ve divided the original spurias again and again to include their strappy foliage in several sections of my garden.

Lady Banks rose, spuria irises

Spuria iris

When they brown up in a few months, I’ll cut them back. In some areas, neighboring perennials fill out to cover the spot or I’ll seed annuals.

Here’s a great example to illustrate the tenacity of Lady Banks. Years ago, I planted the fragrant white one ‘Alba Plena’ (included in Waterwise) at the back fence. Primrose jasmine grew up to smother it. No irrigation, fertilizer, or even attention until it sent its light-deprived stems into the trees to bloom.

In our recent project, when I dug out the primrose jasmines, I discovered that she was still there and had even rooted a second one.

Lady Banks rose under renovation

A few weeks after I began its renovation, it had already filled out and bloomed.  White Lady Banks is sweetly fragrant.

White Lady Banks flower
I’ll keep working to promote her renewed form, but I suspect she’ll cover that fence by summer’s end! I’m training some long stems to cover that back fence, too.

White Lady Banks growing in during renovation
In Waterwise, the Ogdens include various Jerusalem sages (Phlomis). This P. fruticosa is blooming like crazy in a hot median strip at Mueller.

Jerusalem sage, Phlomis fruticosa
I spotted this lush display, accompanied by pink skullcap, in an east Austin garden.

Jerusalem sage Phlomis fruticosa with pink skullcap
I’m treasuring my P. lanata, a dwarf form, that fits so well into one of my front beds.

Jerusalem sage Phlomis lanata
That bed includes another Ogden inspiration, a Yucca recurvifolia ‘Margaritaville’. I saw it in one of their books and nabbed one for myself.

Yucca 'Margaritaville' with Phlomis lanata

Although some things in this bed are new from last fall, many others have made it through the Texas Two-Step for several years.

Jerusalem sage is one that Merrideth Jiles includes in his Backyard Basics list of “double spanking” plants that made it in his east Austin garden. Get his list here.

Merrideth Jiles, The Great Outdoors

Among his success stories: Olive tree (Olea europea). Since 2006, this one’s been growing in the garden of my friends, Molly and David.

Olive tree in Austin Texas
They also have a fine-looking sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri), another that Merrideth and the Ogdens include on their lists.

Sotol Dasylirion wheeleri
Certain species of sedges (Carex) make the list for Merrideth, the Ogdens, and me. I’ve bought it as Texas sedge (Carex texensis)/Carex retroflexa var. texensis/Scott’s Turf.

Sedge, Carex texensis
Merrideth explains how to add Globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), another double trouble star.  A few months ago, I finally got one when I dug out dead grass and had a good sunny spot for it. Obviously, I got this picture on one of our luscious cloudy days!

Salmon pink globe mallon
Texas mountain laurel, Daphne’s Pick of the Week, favored us this year with outstanding performance, a keeper for double troubled Texas gardens.
But every year, viewers ask us why theirs didn’t bloom. There are many factors, but one is by pruning off the flower buds that form almost immediately after bloom.

Mountain Laurel flower young flower bud
You also need to watch out for the Genista caterpillar, which can defoliate a tree while you’re at the grocery store. Hand-pick or spray Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to spare the ravage.

Genista caterpillar (c) Wizzie Brown Texas AgriLife Extension

On tour, see how Anne Bellomy replaced lawn and invasive plants with waterwise specimens that have turned her formerly wildlife-bereft lot into a garden for resident and migratory wildlife.

Now, what about those exposed oak tree roots?

exposed oak tree roots

A viewer asked if she can plant groundcover (like sedges!) in between, and how much soil can she add. Get Daphne’s answer.

See you next week! Linda

My big reduce lawn renovation: before and after!

For years, we’ve planned to install large stone paths where our feet pound the soil every day. Intent turns into action when grass-killing drought prods inertia. Although I’ve hauled a ton of stones in my car, this time I turned to designer Mark Biechler and his team from Pearson Landscape Design to take stone work to a level beyond my expertise, my car, and my back!

digging out grass with Pearson Landscape Design

In January, here’s the spot that bugged us every time we headed to the driveway. Really bugged us when the grass was dead.


What a transformation! The established plants transformed themselves from project day Feb. 12 to a few weeks later.


From the other side:

On the next free weekend, I’ll dig up more weeds around the tree and simply mulch it. Eventually, I’ll divide plants from the bed to unify the path. Oh: the blank spot in the left bed has a healthy stand of asters coming back from their pruning when I took this picture.

Moving around back, here’s another well-traveled path (rowcover at half-mast at that time to protect cilantro in case of crazy freeze).

lawn replace

Here’s the view from the garden side.

stone path (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

So, okay, I did pick up a few billbergias from Tillery Street Plant Company to try them out. For now, I’ve mainly pulled out the rock edging and either dug weeds or covered them with newspaper and mulch until I divide plants or add new ones. The resident winecups will cover a lot of ground pretty fast.

Rounding the corner, I quickly divided some of the no-mow monkey grass that thrives next to the garbage cans, and pulled some Bouncing Bets (Saponaira officinalis) from the crape bed. I dug into the newspaper weed barrier, and set them in. In one week, the Bets were bouncing!

garden renovation with divided plants (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Really, it all didn’t look so awful before. And the stretch alongside the den window wasn’t always so miserable. But drought, ball throw with dog, and our feet took their toll.

lawn replace (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

For two years, we’ve talked about what we’d do. Mark helped us decide!

lawn replace with stone pathway (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Once the stones were in, I widened the beds and did the newspaper/mulch routine. When I pulled out the edging stones, I put a layer of decomposed granite underneath so maybe they won’t sink so much. I’ll be dividing crowded plants to fill in the new spaces, though I think some (like the lamb’s ears and skullcaps) will take care of it themselves. Obviously, a lot of plants are out of control, but I’ve been dealing with that!

den path after stonework (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

About the dead grass strip: we’re exploring options. For me, it’s easier to visualize once I’ve cleared the space.


The view from the other side shows off Greg’s oyster shell sculpture, moved out from its former residence closer in. Greg gave it a new look with a “river” of Mexican black river rocks.  They’re a luxury, but his idea was priceless.

stone path with oyster shell sculpture (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
So, then, I suggested we continue the “river” theme on the other side. For this, he scavenged some of my holey rocks that were hidden in the garden. We really did this for the cats, don’t you know. Oops, our newspaper is showing!

Sam on holey rock sculpture (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Mark’s stones really make the central bed stand out. At their edges, I dug out weeds and spread more decomposed granite.  In the front, I planted native frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) to soften the stones and attract butterflies and bees with its eventual flowers.

stone path with crape and mountain laurel bed (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Since this picture, I dug out that weedy patch on the right and went shopping again in my garden. I took cuttings of Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and stuck them in. I figure that silver will show up at night from every path.

Here’s the strip to the back, always an awkward place to mow and trim since the summer kiddie pool lives within the rock border on the right.

path to patio before (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

new stone path to patio (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

At the back, for years I’ve wanted to do a patio (or something) for the grass that gave up in the shade.

lawn replace (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Mark came up with the “something.”

new back patio (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

On the left, I’ve planned (for years) raised vegetable beds. That’s the next project.

At the back corner that overlooks the creek, I’d let primrose jasmine take over. In an energetic fit the day after Christmas, I cleared as much as I could.

clearing primrose jasmine for new patio (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Mark’s team cleared the rest and fulfilled a long-term dream.

New back patio over creek (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

What’s totally amazing is that the white Lady Banks rose I’d planted years ago was still alive. No water from me, no fertilizer, shaded. It’s rebounding so fast from my renovation that in one year (and possibly sooner) it will hide the chain link fence and return our privacy. More about this fragrant champ later.

No question, there’s lots more to do, one Sunday at a time!  That’s the value of a garden: it’s an endless open door to dreams and imagination. And yes, back-breaking work.  The aches heal quickly.  The rewards last forever. Until you change them!

Next week, CTG is back in high definition (so cool!) with a fabulous lineup to fuel your dreams, too!

See you then, Linda