Sneaking into summer

Now here’s a plant for your list. My native snake herb (Dyschoriste linearis) sneaks in to attract butterflies in its carefree perennial spread in part-time sun.

Snake herb (Dyschoriste linearis)

When Michelle Pfluger from Green ‘n Growing introduced it to us last year, I raced to get a few. They’ve done so well that I got more, and still want more! Graceful foliage all the time with “come find me” flowers in spring through fall.

snake herb flower

Despite “snake” in its name, sadly, it’s not deer resistant.

An old-time summer favorite is Althea (Rose of Sharon), a shrub/small tree. This new color for me is a passalong from friend Bob Beyer.

pink althea flower

From Central Texas Gardener’s Facebook page, some of our friends fondly refer to Althea as the “granny plant.” We all agree that we need a good granny now and then!  I still have some of the lavender ones that came with my 1950s house. It’s a great adaptable accent or deciduous companion in an evergreen natural screen.

Another passalong is from Daphne herself, when she was trialing Peter’s Purple monarda. Hummingbirds and butterflies, here they come! Find out more about this great beebalm.

peter's purple monarda

Daphne’s pick this week is Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’.

orange jubilee tecoma

It’s a cultivar, like the ‘Gold Star’ you may know, derived from our native Tecoma stans, also called yellow bells or esperanza.

orange jubilee tecoma

Here’s a “new” idea that actually is historic: grafted vegetables. John Dromgoole explains why grafted tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are making a sensation, thanks to insect resistance and faster and bigger production.  Actually, by mail, I received three ‘Mighty Matos’ to test.

Mighty Mato in Central Texas

Like the ones that John, Trisha and Travis Extension are growing, mine took off like gangbusters, even though I got a late start. Certainly, I’m going to be looking more into them, and CTG plans a follow-up this summer.

Weeds are always sneaking in—you know how that is! Daphne answers: can they be put in the compost pile? She explains cold and hot composting. Since mine is a cold one, I’ll put in weeds before seeds are mature, since they add nitrogen. Once they look like this, I send them to the city’s hot piles in my leaf bags.

ripe weed seeds not for cold compost piles

Now that the heat is on, let’s all dive into some water—like ponds, streams and fountains! Not only do they cool us off visually and relax us spiritually, the thirsty wildlife will thank you.

This week, Tom meets with Kathy Ragan and Karl Tinsley from the Austin Pond Society to show off a few of the designs on this year’s tour, June 8 & June 9.

Austin Pond Society tour

Featuring 21 ponds in all styles and sizes, you can meet the ponders in person to learn anything you want to know, from technical details to tips on fish and plants.

Austin Pond Society tour

Austin Pond Society tour

Austin Pond Society tour

The evening of June 8, experience some night-time pond magic, too! Get the details and buy tickets in advance.

In Georgetown, Claudia and Ronnie Hubenthal’s ponds and streams started with a serendipitous find.  Here’s a sneak preview.

This Saturday, June 1, check out the fabulous gardens on the NXNA tour: the North Austin Coalition of Neighborhoods. 13 private gardens will be on tour, along with 5 school gardens and a community garden.  On June 2, check out their garden talks and photography exhibit. All proceeds benefit AustinVoices to beautify north Austin. Find out more.

And here’s a huge shout-out to our friends, Rick and Kelle Stults, at Wild Birds Unlimited in the Westwoods Shopping Center, who’ve signed on as local underwriters for CTG. Please tell them thanks the next time you’re in!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Where botany meets horticulture|Monticello|Peckerwood

Thanks to insects, human foragers, experimenters, dreamers, and plants’ own spin on things, our gardens are deeply enriched. My Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’, discovered by Greg Grant in a cemetery—and named for the nearby headstone—makes a perfect companion to white Salvia greggii.

Salvia farinacea 'Henry Duelberg'

I’m so glad that Austin horticulturist Art Petley found this salvia, now named ‘Silke’s Dream’.

Salvia 'Silke's Dream' with apricot globe mallow

His cuttings wended their way through two horticulturists to end up in nurseries. Beyond, you’ll see my sweet apricot pink globe mallow, which was supposed to be orange. Still, I bought it knowing it could be ANYTHING! Works for me.

I remember when Mexican feathergrass was the new cool plant in Austin (and hard to find).

mexican feathergrass  Nassella tenuissima

It was called Stipa tenuissima. I’d recite the botanical name over and over because I liked the sound of it. Now, botanists have changed the taxonomy to Nassella tenuissima. Still the same springtime seed heads on feathery leaves, plus a fancy name to roll off the tongue. And now so available.

Pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) is actually not a guava at all, though many love its flowers in spring and ripe fruits in fall. I’ve heard that the sweetest fruit is when you let them actually fall to the ground.

pineapple guava flowers pineapple guava flowers Feijoa sellowiana

A German botanist named this fruiting small tree/shrub after Don da Silva Feijoa, a botanist in Spain. Its species name acknowledges F. Sellow, a German who collected specimens in the province of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil. Mine hasn’t bloomed yet, though I love the silvery undersides of the leaves in a semi-shaded spot. My friend with this blooming one uses it in a natural screen between her driveway and the neighbor’s.

pineapple guava as a screen plant

Down her street, this Yucca rostrata sends it flowers to the sky. These days, thanks to tissue culture, there are cultivars like ‘Sapphire Skies’.

yucca rostrata flowers

Thanks to enterprising folks, my native Penstemon cobaea, Mediterranean Byzantine gladiolus, and larkspurs made it into nurseries and into my melting pot garden.

Penstemon cobaea with Byzantine gladiolus

So, how do horticulture and botany intersect? Daphne deciphers it for us this week.

One of the most quintessential explorations was President Thomas Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello. This week, Peter J. Hatch, Retired Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, joins Tom to connect Jefferson’s revolutionary garden and organic practices to our cultivation today.

Tom Spencer and Peter J. Hatch, Monticello

In Peter’s beautifully written and illustrated book, A Rich Spot of Earth, settle down to rich stories of Jefferson’s botanical journeys, detailed diaries, the origins of plants, horticultural tips and recipes from the period. See how Peter restored Jefferson’s vegetable vision and excites us to do the same.

A Rich Spot of Earth by Peter Hatch, Monticello

Here’s one of the countless surprises (to me): Jefferson used the leaves of Yucca filamentosa to tie up and stake grapevines. Have you ever thought of that with cultivars like ‘Bright Edge’ or ‘Color Guard’? I’ll have to wait a few years for my passalong ‘Color Guard’!

Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard' tiny

Oh yes, if you can’t get to Monticello, online you can buy historic seeds for food and ornamentals, like Hyacinth bean that I’ve seeded to cover a part of my chain link fence.  And do check out their events, too, for a family trip into history, wonder, and rejuvenation of good, healthy taste.

Daphne’s pick of the week is Chile pequin/Chiletepin/Chili pequin, etc. At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson grew chiletepin, the “Texas bird pepper,” from Dr. Samuel Brown in Natchez. In 1997, the Texas House named chiletepin the official wild pepper of Texas.

chile pequin austin texas

Many sources describe tepin as ovoid and pequin as conical or oblong. However, my plants from local nurseries were labeled “chile pequin,” even though the fruits are rounded, as you can see!

In any case, it’s a true tough Texan, and a wonderful perennial in my semi- shady beds with that psycho blast of sun. It’s totally fun to see where birds seed it.  At Travis Extension, they’re larger and denser in full sun.

If you can nab the fruits before the birds get them, here’s a fabulous salsa recipe from KLRU colleague JJ Weber.

JJ Weber's Simple Sonoran salsa recipe with chile tepins

Normally he uses dried tepins, but to celebrate Peter Hatch’s visit, he made three different versions with my fresh chile pequins (tepins?). Whatever, it was gone so fast I almost didn’t get a picture!

Thanks to explorers and nurseries, in recent years gardeners have added specimens and cultivars of cacti and agaves. Since tending them without an “ouch” is new for many of us, Jeff Pavlat from the Austin & Cactus Succulent Society demonstrates his spiky/spiny plant toolkit!

Toolkit for cactus and agaves Jeff Pavlat Austin Cactus & Succulent Society

To add to your collection, the Cactus & Succulent Society of America is hosting their national convention in Austin June 15-20. Register to attend incredible workshops, talks and private plant sales. If you can’t swing the whole deal, sales to the public are June 16 from 1:00 – 5:00; Monday June 17, Wednesday June 19 from 7:45 – 5:00; and Thursday June 20 from 7:45 – 4:00.

On tour, we repeat our visit to Peckerwood Garden, where botanical explorer John G. Fairey introduced many of the plants that have made it our own explorations. This weekend, May 11 & 12, is Peckerwood’s last general public open days until fall, so head on out if you can!

Viewer picture of the week: an update from Susan Brock. The cardinal eggs in a hanging basket in her NWF certified Backyard Habitat have hatched! What a wonderful discovery!

baby cardinals in hanging basket picture by Susan Brock

Thanks for stopping by. Until next week, happy explorations! Linda

Spring into summer with gusto

Can you believe this? We’ve had spring (and winter!) longer than 15 minutes. Poppies keep popping up with spuria iris.
corn poppy, seedhead, spuria iris

I can’t have too many native winecups.

winecup central texas gardener
In the cat cove, they team up with Gulf penstemon and Calylophus berlandieri ssp. Pinifolius.

Gulf penstemon, winecup, calylophus
And this time of year is just about my favorite on the patio, when Marie Pavie and star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) double up on perfume whammy.

rose marie pavie and star jasimine flower fragrance
In a Temple garden we taped recently, I love this combination of Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Yellow’, bluebonnets and sotol.

yellow hesperaloe, bluebonnets, sotol in Temple Texas
But it’s about time to shed spring and get those hot weather beauties in the ground.


Jeff Yarbrough from Emerald Garden Nursery and Watergardens joins Tom this week to dazzle us with annuals, perennials and shrubs that put the love back into summer!

Tom Spencer and Jeff Yarbrough Emerald Garden

Get his list for hot weather sizzle, including an intriguing dwarf pomegranate ‘Purple Sunset’ and a new esperanza on the scene.

Oh yes, don’t forget that Jeff’s an expert, locally-oriented plantsman who can help you with anything, including ponds. Emerald Garden also hosts free workshops on every topic under the sun!

Now, about local nurseries: Howard Nursery populated many gardens from 1912 until 2006.

Howard Nursery austin texas
Perhaps you met granddaughter Robin Howard Moore behind the counter where she and brothers Hank and Jim gave hands-on advice. I’ll never forget them as some of my first garden mentors. In fact, Robin always knew when we’d wrapped up another Pledge drive, Auction, or other intense production. I’d drag in on Sunday as my reviving treat. She would say, “So, Linda, guess you just finished a big project. What are you looking for today?”

So, it’s a special honor to present her as our featured gardener on tour. At home with Robin, now working as a landscape designer, she gives us her essential starting points with plants and design. I love our conversation about the changing trends that we’ve witnessed together.

Something I never knew about Robin is her artistic whimsy, like these bird baths she crafted from plates and vases.

bird bath with old plates and vases Robin Howard Moore

This one inspires a trip to the thrift store: a marble-embedded bowling ball, a gift from Anne of the Shady Hollow Garden Club, to brighten up a shady spot.

garden art bowling ball with marbles

Robin’s growing Rangoon Creeper in semi-shade, but in San Antonio, Ragna Hersey has this adaptable plant in a few hours of sun. Others have it in full sun.

Daphne gives us the scoop on this drought and freeze-tough tropical that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Rangoon Creeper flower

Our viewer question comes from Pete Vera: how to mulch with our scatter spots of rain?

soil compost mulch

Wow, is this a great question or what? You know what happens: we get that 1/10” that just sloughs right off. As always, Daphne has the answer.

And, Trisha’s got the perfect answer for all those weeds that love that little bit of rain: put them to work as natural teas to fertilize your plants!

Until next week, visit your local nursery and thank these hard-working folks for helping us grow locally and beautifully. Linda

Native companions

Things are buzzing around here!

Bee on gulf penstemon flower

Native Gulf penstemons absolutely suck in the bees. I have them everywhere, including the cat cove; not by my design, but by theirs. Like all parents, plants point their progeny in the right direction.

Cat cove spring beauty
I don’t mind if they crowd the path for now. I’ll cut them back after the parents launch their seeds to the big wide world. It does take a while for the seeds to brown up, so hang on to your patience.

Sometimes I lose my beloved ground-hugging native Calylophus berlandieri that so well favors the hues of penstemons and winecups in spring, and rock roses (Pavonia lasiopetala) through summer. Recently, I added these: Calylophus drummondii var. berlandieri.

Calylophus drummondii var. berlandieri.

On a fence bed, winecups soothe Macho Mocha mangave in its recent snail attack.

winecup with macho mocha mangave

Pink evening primrose is an opportunist who moved right into the path we laid last year. They’re overwhelming the frogfruit underneath, but it’s holding its own.

pink evening primrose on path

To the right in the bed, Texas blue grass (Poa arachnifera) leans over from its shady spot underneath the mountain laurel to chat with hotspot edge plant blackfoot daisy.

Poa arachnifera Texas blue grass and blackfoot daisy
Hunkering in the shadier spots on the other side, columbine and widow’s tears (Commelina erecta) unite.

Columbine with widow's tears Commelina erecta
Another tough native to add to your list is Engelmann’s daisy, Daphne’s Pick of the Week.

engelmann's daisy

Engelmann's daisy
Although it wants sun, it can handle a shade break. Its spring-to-frost flowers feed many beneficial insects. Cutting it back now and then encourages more blooms, but do allow some flowers to go to seed for small birds that will swoop in.

Natives join the not-so-native for me. Jenny Stocker’s garden is my dream of the compatible blend. Oh, recently we taped it again, this time in HD, coming your way in early 2014.

Jenny Stocker Rock Rose blogger garden

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s annual Gardens on Tour is the super duper way to pick up design and native plant combinations to try at home. This week, Tom joins Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Wildflower Center for a sneak preview.

Tom Spencer and Andrea DeLong-Amaya

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gardens on Tour

From gardens big and small and plants for sun, shade, rocks or clay, you’ll get lots of ideas on May 11. Find out how to go on tour.

Here’s a closer look at one of the gardens on tour, where Laura and Andrew Stewart restored native plants and wildlife within biking distance of downtown.  Native plant designer David Mahler united with Miró Rivera Architects to tie together house and land.

Although native plants are very tough, this week Daphne answers, “Why are highway wildflowers sparse in some areas this spring?” Drought. At home, we can water the seeds that germinate in fall and winter.

bluebonnets central texas front yard

Earlier this year, we answered Jean Warner’s question about caring for her bluebonnet rosettes. She took our advice to give them a little water now and then. Look what happened!

jean warner's bluebonnets front yard Central Texas

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Fruits of our labors even if some took “almost” a century

I’m always so glad when the Byzantine gladiolus flowers this time every year. But doesn’t that face look a tad grumpy?

Byzantine gladiolus funny face

Starting from just three or so pass-alongs corms, it multiplies every year, so it’s actually very happy!

Maggie rose is looking mighty nice, too.

Maggie rose

Still, she’s a little out of sorts since she came down with a case of powdery mildew thanks to cool nights and moisture in the air.

Powdery mildew on rose

She’ll work it out herself without medication, but if you’re worried about it on your plants, check out neem oil or Serenade. Just don’t apply in the heat of day and don’t use Serenade when the bees are active.

Up the street, an Agave americana is about out of time, though it won’t relinquish its claim to that corner for a century or more, thanks to its pups. And their pups. . .

century plant bloom stalk

Coincidentally, it sent up its final comment just as a Central Texas Gardener Facebook question came in about century plants. So, this week, Daphne answers: does it actually take a century to bloom? Nope.

Hella Wagner shared some pictures of her plant’s glorious ascension as the mother plant died. Daphne explains the process, and how the bloom stalk itself can even be dangerous.

Agave americana bloom stalk

Agave americana flower stalk on ground

My yuccas up front (Y. pallida and Y. reverchonii,) are reaching for the sky, too, but they won’t end their life with this springtime bloom.

Yucca pallida bloom stalks Central Texas

Back to agaves, Daphne makes this deer-resistant, drought-tough genus her Pick of the Week. There are many species and cultivars in various forms, colors, sizes and habitats.

Agave shawii 'Blue Flame'

Mostly, they want good drainage, though my A. celsii does fine in my island bed that I’ve gradually amended with compost and mulch.

Agave celsii

Do look at their cold hardiness. I fell in love with an A. celsii ‘Tricolor’, as it was called then, which is rated for a zone or two just warmer than us. First crazy freeze and they were mush. My regular celsii didn’t fare well in 17 degrees but did return, just slightly modified.

Do take a serious look at their mature size, too. This cute little A. americana will grow up fast, and it won’t take even 10 years!

Agave americana baby

Mature agave americana with jerusalem sage

Event note: The Cactus & Succulent Society of America convenes in Austin June 15 -20, with tours, incredible talks and more. For details and to register, visit http://cssa2013.com.

Certainly, it doesn’t take a century to enjoy homegrown citrus! This week, Tom joins Michelle Pfluger from Green ‘n Growing for her list of easy, productive, and fairly cold tolerant ones to grow.

Tom Spencer and Michelle Pfluger Green 'n Growing Nursery

Recently, I added a calamondin to a patio container. We love the fragrant flowers and can’t wait for its slightly sour fruits a few months down the road.

calamondin green fruits

In the ground, my Satsuma ‘Mr. Mac’ is going gangbusters, thanks to the temperate winter and a little high nitrogen fertilizer in March.

satsuma orange new fruits

On tour in Liberty Hill, April and Cliff Hendricks harvest Improved Meyer lemons, along with dreams, in close-up gardens bordering their wide open land. With scavenges, imagination, and artistry, they created a paradise without spending a ton of money.

By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about ollas to water plants in conservative times. John Dromgoole gives us the scoop.

ollas

Find out more at Dripping Springs Ollas.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Like taking risks? Hey, you’re a gardener!

It’s natural to be a little wary when treading on new ground, especially when it means keeping something alive. My young Copper Canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) gave me a scare last summer. Oh yes, we ARE taking risks if we don’t water even drought-tough plants their first year. This one forgave my negligence by blooming this spring. I was lucky.

copper canyon daisy austin

I finally cut it back several inches, since I want it to lush back out: not just for my visual preference, but to cover itself in flowers for migrating and resident butterflies this summer and fall.

Weird years (and that’s most of them), keep us coming back for more. Many weird years ago, I took a risk when I dug up a huge stretch of lawn. At one end, I decided to have a rose arbor. I couldn’t decide between New Dawn or Buff Beauty, so I took a design risk and put one on each side. Well.

New Dawn and Buff Beauty roses arbor

I wasn’t so lucky when I planted an Iceberg rose in the den bed, where I figured it would get “just about enough” sun. Nope. I moved it to a really hot spot that I rarely water and never fertilize. Now, it’s almost always in bloom. It reminds me: the odds are better by following SOME of the rules.

Iceberg rose Austin

Peggy Martin loves her hot spot trellised on my chain link fence as a little privacy and to share with our beloved neighbor.

Peggy Martin rose Austin

Known as the “Katrina rose,” here’s the story of how Dr. William C. Welch brought us this intrepid rose, since he’s a man who thrives on a good plant risk.

Recently, Saliva farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’ joined Texas betony in the island bed. I found it in a nursery, thanks to horticulturist Greg Grant, who collected seeds in a La Grange cemetery and named it for the headstone nearby. I also thank the Texas growers who took a risk to take it public.

Saliva Henry Duelberg and Texas betony

And what about avocados, allspice, cinnamon, hibiscus for tea, and other tropical edibles? Amanda Moon from It’s About Thyme joins Tom this week to entice us to follow this delicious trek.

Tom Spencer and Amanda Moon, It's About Thyme

Amanda gives us the few simple rules to take this risk for yummy rewards. Here’s her list for your future adventures.

I snagged this picture of allspice in Lucinda Hutson’s garden last fall. She does overwinter its container in a garage with a Grow Light when she remembers to turn it on! Like all plants protected in a garage, gradually bring them back out into the light to avoid sunburn.

Allspice in Lucinda Hutson's garden

On tour in San Antonio, Ragna and Bob Hersey are all about risks in a glorious garden that Ragna rescued from total boredom with scavenges,  invention, and many passalong plants. Thanks to Shirley Fox, gardener and blogger at Rock-Oak-Deer, for this connection! Take a look to be dancing all day.

Ragna went totally organic since butterflies and other beneficial wildlife matter more than a few pests. Oh, and since then, she doesn’t have many pests! One way to attract butterflies is with summertime annual, Mexican tithonia, Daphne’s pick of the week.

Mexican tithonia

Our viewer question this week comes from garden blogger Robin Mayfield who wants to know if she can mulch over live oak leaves.

mulch over oak leaves

Yes, says Daphne, unless there’s been a past problem with oak leaf rollers. She also explains why oak leaf drop happened earlier this year for some of us. Have we mentioned watering trees in drought?! Don’t risk your trees: do water.

Not every plant wants the same kind of mulch. Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center explores the pros and cons of several options to keep everybody happy.

mulch options Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

From Central Texas Gardener’s Face Book page, heads up to Tamara Dextre on the best advice ever: “I am getting fearless…after all, it is about gaining experience and having fun.” Well said!

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to have some risky fun until next week! Linda

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

Performance art in your garden

Performance art: isn’t that what your garden’s all about?  Certainly, birds dance for free when possumhaw holly berries are on stage.

Possumhaw holly berries

What about a little plant that gets encores at dinner?

organic broccoli

Like mimes, plants reach for the sky to silently gather us into their unfolding stories.

Gazania bud

Lady Banks rose sky

scabiosa glow

Bulbs like Gladiolus tristis stand in the wings until spring’s stage manager gives them their cue.

gladiolus tristis

Others take center stage all the time, though they get a little upstaged when a flamboyant star commands the spring run.

agave mountain laurel silver germander combo

Then there are those that know they’re just one-hit wonders.

ornamental kale

pink and white sweet pea

Though, California poppies might make a return run next year if they liked the venue.

california poppy

Some are delighted to have a small part and happy to return again next year; see you then!

Arum italicum

Sometimes, we just have to sit back and applaud.

purple bench in Lucinda Hutson's garden

Gardeners can pick their own performance.

No lawn curb strip and front

mexican river stone circle

beautiful wildflower garden Dani and Gary Moss

Turning problems into art always gets rave reviews.

blue marbles driveway crack

With creativity, we turn has-beens into stars once again.
bedspring bottle arbor

Variegated wandering jew lavender pot

Succulent in pitcher

We know how to spin bad reviews when they hail on us.

prickly pear cactus cute carving

And we never lack an audience.

sunflower with bee

In our gardens, we open the doors to performance art every single day.

Blue gates entrance to vegetable garden

Until next time, have fun performing in your garden!  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

Drought disasters to avoid

Drought doesn’t scare me to pieces. My plants have been through it all and always come back for more. Yes, I do water some, but not outrageously. I avoid thirsty ones and go for those that can take our brutal swings.
Rock rose and turk's cap wildlife plants

What scares the living daylights out of me is overreaction to drought. I keep seeing people make a clean sweep of it all and dumping yards of rocks over former living ground. Aside from being hot, hot, hot, and a mess when “weeds” inevitably find a niche, what about the wildlife we banish?

Bordered Patch butterfly on zexmenia

New Mexico landscape architect David Cristiani is very familiar with this frightening response. He made the trip to Austin to join Tom for his insightful perspective to steer us away from ecological disaster. Follow his insightful blog, The Desert Edge, for more of his perceptions.

Tom Spencer and David Cristiani Central Texas Gardener

Some plants thrive in rock, for sure. But a lot do not, like many of our trees and native plants! If we force them into unnatural habitat, what happens? Okay, bet you got that one: death.

Dead tree rockscape photo by David Cristiani

Hot, ugly, and not much life in sight, other than the person who comes to blow debris off the rocks: is that how we want to deal with drought?

Hot rockscape photo by David Cristiani

Nope, says landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck, who lived in Phoenix for many years. Now, she’s in Austin, keeping busy designing across state lines around the country with her important message to keep our wildlife intact. On tour in her Austin garden, see how she connects the drought dots without sacrificing essential content, like our lives!

Christy’s garden includes many clumping grasses. These drought tough plants, like Lindheimer muhly, are superb standouts for texture, structure, and striking seed heads.

Lindheimer muhly and agave

Most of them go dormant in winter. So, when should we prune them and how far down do we cut? Daphne gives us the cutting edge scoop. We want to keep them up as long as possible, since their seed heads, like those of Gulf muhly, are still gorgeous in this mild winter.

Gulf muhly seed heads

I think they look great in their winter rendition! Butterflies agree, since overwintering ones hide in the leaves to stay warm. Some birds go for the seed heads, too.

Silver bluestem

Daphne explains that we do want to cut them back by the end of February to clean up before new growth emerges. With inland sea oats, cut all the way to the ground. I cut some of mine already to show you how their new leaves are already popping up.

inland sea oats new growth

Strappy ones, like Mexican feather grass, get a straight haircut to about 6” above ground.

mexican feather grass seed heads

Mexican feather grass cut back

Get Daphne’s techniques to make the job easier on large plants like Lindheimer muhly. Cut this neighboring Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) down to the rosette.

Lindheimer muhly and salvia leucantha

A chore we can’t delay is wrangling those weeds! With the low rainfall, they’re not as crazy as in wet winters, but even a few mean a lifetime supply if we let them go to seed. See how Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors snags them.

Merrideth Jiles The Great Outdoors

Now is also an excellent time to plant trees before it gets hot in earnest. Take a look at Daphne’s Pick of the Week, Mexican orchid tree, (Bauhinia mexicana), if you’re looking for a small shrub-like tree in dappled light.

Mexican orchid tree Bauhinia mexicana
Like Christy, plant it where you can see the butterflies and hummingbirds that flock to its flowers from summer to early fall. And you’re good to go in deer country, since (usually) they won’t bother it.

Mexican orchid tree flower hummingbird plant

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda