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

Pruning prep + Fruit trees + Rooftop gardens

Christmas lights are down, but my shrimp plants glow like holiday lights all day!
Red shrimp plant in winter with evergreen sumac

That brings up the top question right now: when do we clean up and cut back? Well, I’m not cutting back that beauty just yet. I’ll take the Felcos to it in March to restore its luscious figure. With our swings from hot to freeze, we don’t want to encourage new growth on potentially tender plants like this one. I’ve never lost one to super freeze, but new growth would be fried. Our lives can get stressed, but no reason to freak out our plants!

I did cut back my hardy pink skullcaps (Scutellaria suffrutescens) that were just too woody. They won’t mind as they hurry up to cover themselves anew.

cutting back pink skullcap
Same thing goes for Salvia greggii, even though some are trying to bloom. Do it anyway! Cutting them back several inches now will promote new growth and lots of flowers soon (since they bloom on new wood). If you let this go, you’ll end up with lots of woody branches and a disappointing view come May.

Saliva greggi cut back

My Copper Canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) just hasn’t got this figured out yet!

Copper canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii)
It’s supposed to bloom in fall, but it wimped around since my garden missed all those rains. Although it’s drought tolerant, this one was only in its second season. I gave it some deep soakings and it popped back from death row. Now, I’ll let it bloom its little head off and cut it back several inches in a few weeks. I didn’t prune last winter and that was a mistake. Pruning = powerful pretty!

Another plant we can prune sooner than later is rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) that is a total mess if you don’t take a firm hand.

rock rose pavonia lasiopetala stamens
Now, most of us know this as a pretty-in-pink perennial subshrub. But viewer Laura has one that seeded out pure white!

White rock rose pavonia lasiopetala
Daphne explains how Laura ended up with this beauty, and how she can get more of them. In a nutshell, Daphne reports that white flowers are recessive in rock rose. But sometimes through pollination, genes cross in such a way that both parents contribute the recessive white-flowering gene, instead of the pink-flowering one. Cool, huh?!

If you’ve been hankering for your own fruit trees, grapes, or blackberries, energetic Jim Kamas, Texas AgriLife Extension fruit specialist, joins Tom this week.

Tom Spencer and Jim Kamas Central Texas Gardener

Find out which trees are self-pollinating or need another variety to fruit, how to promote plant health, and when to prune. Check out Texas A&M’s comprehensive Fruit & Nuts fact sheets for details on every mouth-watering one on your list!

A native fruit tree that works even as an understory is Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), Daphne’s Pick of the Week.

Texas persimmon bark

Lamar Hankins and his wife are lucky to have them naturalizing on their San Marcos land.

Texas persimmon fruits Lamar Hankins

Last year, Lamar experimented to make the perfect jelly/jam from their black fruits, which he reports tastes like blackberry jam. Here’s his yummy recipe.

Since now is when nurseries will have bare root fruit trees, grapes, and berries in stock, John Dromgoole shows you how to plant them.

planting bare root fruit trees John Dromgoole

Like bare root roses, which are showing up, it’s essential to put them in a bucket of water for a few hours before planting. Absolutely, do not let their roots dry out!

On tour, see how these gardeners are really on top of things with rooftop vegetables, fruits, and succulents! Contemporary architecture, architectural plants, and organic gardening come together with designer Patrick Kirwin and project architect Thomas Tornbjerg of Bercy Chen Studio.

Thanks for checking in! See you next week, Linda

Winter drought care trees & wildflowers|Edibles meet perennials

Happy New Year! Good wishes to you all that 2013 sprinkles us with abundant joy.

'Patrick' abutilon

Unless we get a few serious sprinkles from above, we need to water our wildflower rosettes, like bluebonnets. Thanks to Jean Warner for Daphne’s question this week! Like Jean, my bluebonnets are up, along with larkspur and weeds—so be careful out there when pulling.

bluebonnet rosette

If you make a mistake like I have “now and then,” quickly plug the keeper back in and water. Here are baby poppies, not native, but still so pretty and beloved by bees.

poppy seedlings

So, Jean wants to know if freeze will harm her healthy crop of bluebonnets. As Daphne reports, cold weather isn’t a concern for our native wildflowers that emerge in fall to hunker down as rosettes until the magic moment.

But lack of water certainly is. Annuals, like bluebonnets and many others, will wither away and never flower and seed for next year without moisture. And we certainly don’t want to miss pictures like this Flickr sequence, thanks to KLRU’s Sara Robertson and her baby’s first Texas 2012 spring!

Sebastian in the bluebonnets

Lack of water is the reason we’re losing valuable trees, too.

Cedar elm winter

Tom joins consulting arborist Don Gardner to explain why it happens and what we can do.

Tom Spencer Don Gardner drought tree care

Find out how far out to water your trees for their age and size. KLRU graphic designer Mark Pedini crafted this to illustrate one of Don’s important points.

Tree roots Mark Pedini Central Texas Gardener

In drought, the absorbing roots get smaller and smaller until eventually the tree only has woody, anchoring roots. Those fine feeder roots are what we must water to keep the tree alive.

Check out Daphne’s explanation of woody roots and whether we can plant over them.

Meet Don in person for more tree care tips on January 26 at 2 p.m. at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Tree Talk Winter Walk. This free event is from 9 a.m. -5 p.m.

Watch this great video from the Texas A&M Forest Service for more on watering your trees.

Not only do we need to water our fruit trees, now is the time to apply horticultural oil to fend off hibernating insects and their eggs. John Dromgoole explains how to help prevent pests like plum curculio and bacterial and fungal disease with proactive care. Oh, the first thing is to sanitize the garden—all year long—by removing old leaves and fruit from the ground.

Fruit tree insect and fungal prevention John Dromgoole

If you don’t have space for fruit trees, I just bet you have a spot to grow pretty edibles, like this ‘Joi Choi’ bok choy!

‘Joi Choi’ bok choy Daphne Richards

Daphne’s Pick of the Week is something you can pick and eat: winter edibles!  And no need to restrict them to an official vegetable bed. Tuck them in among your perennials, like these at the Travis County Texas AgriLife Extension demonstration beds in October.

Edibles and perennials Travis Texas AgriLife Extension

Whether you eat it or not, nutritious Swiss chard is a beauty among winter annuals. Many of mine didn’t weather summer’s heat, but this one never faltered.

Bright Lights Swiss chard

You can still plant winter edibles among your dormant perennials for a pop of delicious color. In fact, check out the Master Gardener’s free workshop  January 17 on how to plant and save seeds.

Daphne also suggests letting some plants bolt or go to seed for their structural addition and flowers. With fall’s warm weather, many of our crops bolted early this year, so go ahead and replant, like lettuce.

lettuce bolting

Molly O’Halloran shares this lettuce soup recipe (which she thickened with diced potatoes) to use lettuce that’s past its salad prime.

Here’s another reason to “try it at home.” Look at the size of this carrot grown by Nancy and Richard Simpson in their year-round organic vegetable garden!

huge carrot Nancy and Richard Simpson

I bet you all, like me, have the fix-it-up bug.  Here’s some great inspiration and tips from designer Annie Gillespie of Botanical Concerns at her hillside garden.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Fall in love with autumn bulbs and grasses

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lindheimer and deer muhly seed heads

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

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

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

Grasses of the Texas Hill Country Brian and Shirley Loflin

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

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

Common curly mesquite Brian and Shirley Loflin

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

Little Bluestem Brian and Shirley Loflin

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

Grasses framed botanical Loflin

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

Want to know more about cactus, too?!

Texas Cacti Brian and Shirley Loflin

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

Betty and Gerald Ronga garden Central Texas Gardener

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

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

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

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

Happy planting and see you next week, Linda

Garden Psychology: What Does Your Garden Say About You?

Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.” Alfred Austin

Turk's cap
Like our home’s interior, our gardens reflect our essential selves at truly ground level. What do our gardens say about us?

Yucca recurvifolia 'Margaritaville'

  • Risk or safety (the gambler in us: new plants/planting early or late/marginally adapted plants)
  • Trends or personal aesthetic (choosing best of each/adaptation?)
  • Do own thing or go for approval  (from parents/neighbors/garden friends)
  • Casual/natural or pruning warrior  (do your Felcos wear out in a week?)
  • Garden art: subdued, dramatic, quirky, sentimental, bunny sculptures (?!)
  • Colors (attraction or rejection)
  • Straight lines or curves
  • Sparse design or cottage garden spill (or a bit of both)
  • Babying or tough love (all living things need tending; where do you draw the line?)
  • Research to pieces or fall in love with a plant and get it?
  • What do you ask Santa? Does it involve a truck?

All living things will throw us a curve. How do we manage our troubles and respect our success?

Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) with Gulf Fritillary butterfly

  • Anger management (Why did it rain EVERYWHERE EXCEPT AT MY HOUSE?)
  • When to fix a problem plant and when to compost  it
  • Depression (drought/heat/extreme freeze/too many bugs/too much rain/rampant disease)
  • Appreciation of accomplishments/obsessive self-critic/trying for magazine cover
  • Learning from your mistakes or repeating them

Some gardeners are very precise in their jobs, but relaxed in the garden. Oh yes, that’s me!  I’ve run into obsessive plant movers, pruning maniacs, weather freaks (moi), and can you believe it, snobs?!

bougainvillea
I just want to whack their turned up noses with some horticultural taxonomy that I probably can’t pronounce. Oops, I need some anger management!  Guess I’ll go pummel a stink bug. An Hempitera of some sort. . .!

But every gardener I’ve met has these qualities: curiosity, tenacity, creativity, and passion. Plants connect us to hope, anticipation, learning and nurturing.

Plumeria buds

In spring at a box store, I saw a woman carefully cradle her single little choice with such love and tenderness. I resisted my control freak urge to tell her that she was planting it way too early and it would probably rot. Because that’s where we all started: with dreams. And joy. And one little plant.

Shrimp plant
And I just bet that plant made it!

This week on CTG, we explore WHY we garden. Tom joins Billy Lee Myers, Jr. LMFT to analyze how our earthly connections enrich our souls and our relationships.

Tom Spencer and Billy Lee Myers Jr. LMFT
One concept Billy notes is our comfort zone. His friend, Jenn Miori, a musician with The Carper Family, contributed her insightful drawing. It certainly connects for me!

Jenn Miori comfort zone

On Billy’s website, I’ve already read many of his articles that help me greatly with challenges in my life. Sometimes we need someone to help us turn around our perspectives.

As I developed this program, Rick Bickling, blogger at The How Do Gardener, sent me this humorous take on our troubles: The Five Stages of Garden Grief. Bet you’ve been there!

Continuing our garden psychology theme, Daphne explains how annuals contribute to our mood (and what an annual really means). Really, one sweet little plant can turn a buster day into a heavenly one, even in a patio pot.  And zinnias like this will improve your day with all the butterflies that nectar on them!

Zinnia Central Texas Gardener

Daphne’s Pick of the Week is sweet potato vine, a perennial that is usually an annual for us. One of mine is in a pot set into—dare I reveal this—a bunny sculpture from It’s About Thyme. I even protected it over winter in my patio greenhouse to return to the bunny ASAP in spring.

Sweet potato vine on bunny sculpture
Its vivid colors (chartreuse here, but it also comes in deep purple and other renditions) chases away the summertime blues.  It takes sun, though I love it to brighten up my psycho shady area as a spreading groundcover in summer to fill the space that perennial oxalis covers in cool weather.

Many of us fell in love with gardening when we harvested our first vegetables. This week, Trisha picks the cucumbers that work best for us and how to grow them. It’s not too late to find some cucumber love!

Trisha Shirey picks cucumbers for Central Texas Gardener
Get her growing tips, including how to assist pollination. And oh yes, you’ll want to try her summertime recipes that will get you past the grumps when it’s hot and sticky out there.

Trisha also explains that if you want to spray neem oil or spinosad to deal with cucumber pests, don’t use it while bees are active. These products will kill your pollinating bees if the leaves/flowers are still wet when they arrive. Apply when the bees aren’t active (like in the evening). Once the products dry, it’s safe for bees.

On tour, see how Kati & David Timmons found a new perspective when they turned an old yard into a garden of spirit. Minus grass, too.

Finally, bunnies Harvey and Gaby wanted me to share this with you. Thanks to “One Big Happy” Rick Detorie!

One Big Happy by Rick Detorie

Okay, off to look for more bunny ornaments. Thanks for checking in and see you next week! Linda

Transition time for flowers and food

Valentine’s Day started early with my potted carnation!

'Silver Pink' carnation

I love everything about it: color, fragrance, blue-green foliage, long-lasting cut flowers. Drought tough. If anything, they hate too much water, and demand perfect drainage.  Two years ago when I got this ‘Silver Pink’, I added decomposed granite to loose potting soil and “mulched” it with a  light layer of the granite.  This would be lovely in a large container with agaves. Hmm, may have to try that!

Purple oxalis sent valentines, too!
purple oxalis flowers

I love purple, but especially I love plants that don’t need much of my time. Between Sunday’s sleet flurries, I got a shot of this trouble-free team, which includes splotchy Arum italicum, columbine and a few Gomphrena ‘Grapes’ to the left.

purple oxalis, Arum italicum,  columbine
The oxalis and arum quietly retreat underground in summer, returning in late fall. ‘Grapes’ usually goes dormant in winter. I’ll cut it back in a few weeks to encourage its lush little leaves until it pops its “grapes” next fall.

Thanks to rain and cooler weather, the lettuces I seeded a few weeks ago are coming in just fine. Upfront is heirloom ‘Speckles’, one of my favorites, not just because of its coloring!

Speckles lettuce Central Texas Gardener
Some cilantro and parsley thought about bolting, but I’ve headed them off for now.

Flat-leaf Italian parsley
After I took this picture, I cut that parsley at the base to bring in for dinner, and to encourage new stems before it bolts for good. Once upon a time,  I could keep this biennial around for two years, but recently, early hot weather does them in the first year for me, though a few did show back up this winter.

Snapdragons are finally in strut-mode. Leafy Swiss chard makes a nice backdrop, when it’s not coming in to dine, like in our Valentine’s night vegetarian stir fry.

Snapdragons with Swiss chard

In this transitional garden time, how do vegetable growers extend their cool weather crops and make way for summer’s plants?  This week, Tom meets with Paula and Glenn Foore from Springdale Farm for some insider tips, including their favorite tomatoes.

Tom Spencer with Paula and Glenn Foore, Springdale Farm
For years, the Foores have been in the landscaping business as Texas Trees & Landscaping (and still are!).  Eventually, Glenn decided to fulfill a dream for a small urban farm on their land in east Austin.

Springdale Farm Austin Texas

Just down the street from Boggy Creek Farm (Carole Ann and Larry as mentors), Springdale opens its farm stand on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and for many community events.

Springdale Farm Austin Texas

On CTG, get some of their “high tech” techniques to keep seedling tomatoes warm.

Springdale Farm vanity lights to warm seedlings

In their greenhouse, they also use buckets of water to warm the plants, a trick for early ground planting (along with rowcover).

Water buckets to warm seedlings Springdale Farm
Once again, they’ll be on the East Austin Urban Farm Tour April 15 from 1-5.  Meet your local growers, along with chefs and local drink artisans who will also flavor your day to benefit small farmers and local ranchers who support the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.

Some of our fruit trees are still showing signs of damage from last year’s freeze. Daphne answers Rachel Jackson’s question about her troubled loquats.

Loquat freeze damage Rachel Jackson
We consulted Texas AgriLife Extension fruit specialist Jim Kamas. Here’s what he says:

It’s almost undoubtedly cold injury.  Loquat is a relatively cold hardy sub-tropical, but last year the warm temperatures during the end of January caused a loss of hardiness in all plants.  The cold front that came through on the first of February caused a sudden drop in temperatures.  We went from 74° to 11° in about 22 hours.

Loquat damaged by freeze Rachel Jackson

Since this could certainly happen again this year, here’s Jim’s advice for our fruit trees:

Keep the plants well watered, but not saturated, over the winter.  The drought last winter greatly exacerbated the problem with cold injury.  Trees can indeed repair themselves, but don’t be surprised if limbs continue to collapse and bark sloughs off of the trunk.  Just keep the plants in as good of health as possible, remove dead wood, and hope for the best.

Kale is a super healthy, easy-to-grow winter green. Trisha shows off her favorite varieties, including Redbor, to put on your list for seeding next fall.

Redbor kale, Trisha Shirey Lake Austin Spa Resort
In the meantime, if you have kale to harvest or buy at a farmers’ market, get her delicious recipes for kale salad with Caesar salad dressing, kale chips and more!

On tour, get hands-on tips from some of the year-round gardeners at Sunshine Community Gardens. From its inception in the 1970s, Sunshine has put food on many a table while connecting urban folk to the root of its origins.  Its mission is more important now than ever:  a public space where people can come together to grow organic food in a wildlife haven framed by asphalt.

At their annual plant sale on March 3 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., pick up their tried and true vegetable and flower transplants.

You also don’t want to miss the Austin Organic Gardeners’ plant sale March 3 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Zilker Botanical Garden!  There’s plenty of time to hit both to get the best varieties for your summer garden, plus meet up with local expert gardeners!

See you next week, Linda

Freeze-dried meets sunbursts; Succulent design; Kale nom noms

Well, geez, here we go again.

frozen cycad leaf (sago palm)

Hottest summers, coldest winters, what’s a gardener to do? For one thing, don’t freak out! Wait a month or more to prune back those frightened cycads (sago palms).

Garden designer Sue Nazar (who will be on the Master Gardener’s tour in May) has a tip to restore your palms and cycads this spring. “I use palm food (has magnesium and manganese, and other good stuff for palms), alternating with a good soil drench of fish/seaweed emulsion, and application of compost too. This makes for a happy sago and many flushes of leaves each year.” She also likes to add Super Thrive with the seaweed to help out plants in distress. Thanks for the tips, Sue!

I did go ahead and chop back my Barbados cherries (Malpighia glabra).  They took a hit last year, but came back just fine. The bay laurel beyond: no damage.

Barbados cherry browned by freeze

This Freesia laxa, like all of mine, withered in the extended freeze, but they’re all racing to catch up, since they hate to miss an appointment.

Freesia laxa emerging from freeze damage

The roses actually got burnt this time, but are already back in business, like this skyward bound Lady Banks.

Leaf bud on Lady Banks rose

She needs some shaping, but since she flowers but once a spring, I’ll wait. I did prune the rest of the roses on Sunday, snipping off their fried foliage. With all the rosy leaf buds shooting out, they’ll be wearing party dresses by this weekend.

Okay, everyone needs spring starflower (Ipheion uniflorum)!  Can’t believe I forgot to get more last fall. Somebody’s already heels over head in love.

Ipheion uniflorum

Like the postal service, neither snow nor whatever deters summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum).

summer snowflake, Leucojum aestivum

Or Narcissus ‘Gigantic Star’. I highly recommend this one that returns every spring.

Narcissus 'Gigantic Star'

I love, love my first Iris reticulata: this one J.S. Dijt that I got at The Natural Gardener last fall. I only got 5, but they’re on my hit list for next fall’s budget. I think I first saw them on Jenny’s Rock Rose blog and made a note. Hers were a different color but I want all these diminutives!

Iris reticulata J.S. Dijt

Since drought is more in our forecast than bizarre freezes, creative design with succulent plants is still new to many of us. So, this week on CTG, Tom meets with Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents for his passionate energy to create succulent magic.

Tom Spencer, Eric Pedley

And, since his passion started with just a few cuttings, he shows you how to do it, along with his favorite potting mix for succulent and cactus plants. Meet Eric at the Zilker Garden Festival March 27 & 28 and at the San Antonio Cactus & Xerophyte Society show & sale April 14 – 16.

On tour, architecture, architectural plants, and organic crops come together on rooftop gardens that please the eye and the environment in this lakeside setting designed by Patrick Kirwin and project architect Thomas Tornbjerg of Bercy Chen Studio.

Patrick Kirwin, Bercy Chen rooftop garden design

Even if you don’t have a rooftop garden, you can “steal” some of Patrick’s ideas, which I’m certainly doing.  One idea to steal from Daphne is her featured plant, soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia).

Soft leaf yucca, Yucca recurvifolia

I know some of yours got freeze-bitten, but mine made it through drought and extended freeze just fine. I love it because it’s the perfect easy-care structure in a bed that gets more shade than sun. It does get a few hours of hot blast sun, which makes for a troublesome area. It’s a keeper for me, even in my clay soil!

We thank Linda Ritzen for her great question: Do we need to water our lawns in winter? Well, it depends on your soil and rainfall. The roots are still growing, so if your soil is very dry, you may want to water once a month.  Otherwise, take a break!

The CTG gang is still talking about Trisha’s crispy kale chips for this week! Yeah, yeah, do lots of healthy things with the beautiful kale varieties that Trisha features, like her kale and bean soup. Then go for the chips! By the way, recently I was at It’s About Thyme, and Diane and Chris are growing lots of kale, enough to make bags of chips.

Also, while at IAT, I nabbed some Crocus sativus, in hopes for strings of saffron. My current ones keep coming back,  though haven’t given me a fall bloom yet. But I wanted more for their cute foliage and maybe saffron from the red stigmas one of these days!

Until next week, Linda

Pretty in pink, peach, and orange to beat summer pouts

Hey, who said it was okay for summer to come back? I feel like a spoiled brat who got sent to time-out. But to ease my pouts, rain lily Zephyranthes labuffarosa popped up between Diamond Frost euphorbias.

Rain lily Zephyranthes labuffarosa with Diamond Frost euphorbia

Last fall, with this “ensemble” in mind, I inserted the bulbs around the euphorbias. I knew that the Diamond Frosts were history with the first freeze, but they marked the spots. In April, I simply replanted in the same place without disturbing the rain lilies.

In the cat cove, my oh my! My new plumeria from It’s About Thyme joined the pretty in pink theme.

Pink plumeria from It's About Thyme

I got it this spring as an 8-10″ unnamed “stick”. Now it’s over 3′ tall. Once it flushed out in earnest, I fed it a high phosphorous fertilizer. In its large container in scalding sun, I water once a week when it doesn’t rain.

Lavender is close enough to this week’s pink theme. The orange of the Bordered Patch butterflies makes a nice ensemble with the Eupatorium (Conoclinium) greggii.

Bordered patch butterfly on Eupatorium greggii (Gregg's mistflower)

Viewer Charlotte Trussell was happy to sacrifice a few sunflowers to get Bordered Patch butterflies.

Bordered patch caterpillars on sunflower larval food

Bordered patch butterfly

When you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the Bulverde/Spring Branch library where she’s working with other gardeners to create an outstanding butterfly garden! I can just imagine sitting there with a book and getting a double dose of inspiration.

Bulverde/Spring Branch library butterfly garden

Peach is also on our minds (and tongues) this week. Viewer Betty Dieckmeier shares this refreshing treat she made with her homegrown peaches.

Betty Dieckmeier’s Peach Sorbet

3 cups fresh peaches

3/4 cup simple syrup

2 tsp. lemon juice

Simple syrup:

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

Puree peaches with blender, hand blender or food processor. Place water and sugar in saucepan and heat on high just until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Add sugar water and lemon juice to peaches, stirring until fully incorporated. Chill mixture overnight in refrigerator or place in freezer until mixture is 32-40 degrees F., approximately 45 minutes. Pour into canister and freeze as directed in ice cream maker.

Now, THAT really turns a pout into a smile. Summer does have its rewards.

Here’s another smile for you, thanks to Sara Robertson and the creative marketing/graphics team. On Tuesday night, I helped pledge NOVA: Hubble Telescope. In honor of my birthday, they sent Harvey to outer space!

bunny Harvey launches into outer space

Until next week, Linda