Garden fiesta and Viva Tequila!

What’s your favorite garden color or combination? Mine change with the season, week, and even the hour.

rock rose (pavonia) and Calylophus berlandieri

Right now, it’s hard to resist that current cat cove combo—how’s that for alliteration—pink rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetela) and Calylophus berlandieri, where sun beats down on them many hours.

I’m just as joyful about this little group in the new front bed.

cosmos with artemisia and black pearl pepper

I seeded annual pink Cosmos to fill in while the perennials grow up. Already, I’m a fan of it with perennial artemisia and annual ‘Black Pearl’ pepper (though it returns in mild winters).

The den bed goes for a yellow/orange ensemble in daylily season, while ‘Patrick’ abutilon carries my orange torch almost all year. Okay, I admit, I love orange and its various hues.

yellow daylily and 'Patrick' orange abutilon

I’m a real fan of ‘David Verity’ cuphea, too, though I don’t have any, until I can snag the sun and good drainage that cupheas like.

David Verity cuphea

Daphne makes Cuphea her pick of the week, since they feed butterflies, bees and hummingbirds in summer. Bat-faced (bat face) cuphea (Cuphea llavea) is a darling combo of red and purple that hovers at this garden’s border.

batface cuphea, bamboo muhly, cotoneaster

It was in Lucinda Hutson’s garden long ago that I fell for abutilons. I also fell for her Herb Garden Cookbook, my go-to book for plant info, recipes, and Lucinda’s vivacious stories. Every page encourages my culinary and plant creativity. Tom reports that her Mustard and Mexican mint marigold chicken is one of his “book mark” faves.

THE HERB GARDEN COOK BOOK Lucinda Hutson

Her latest adventure takes us on a spirited tour of Mexico’s agaves, their history, and very tasteful recipes from cantina to cocina.

Viva Tequila Lucinda Hutson

Lucinda joins Tom this week for a fiesta of folklore, the inside story of how agaves turn into tasty drinks, and which one is tequila’s exclusive.

Tom Spencer and Lucinda Hutson

On her Life is a Fiesta site, check out her upcoming events, recipes, and links to articles, including her monthly feature in Edible Austin.

We’ve taped Lucinda’s garden a couple of times, including her poignant Day of the Dead celebration. In 2014, we’ll take you on a current tour, since our first was pre-YouTube! For now, here’s a cute succulent presentation from an upcycled toy bed frame she found on a curb.

Succulents in cute miniature bed frame

Since succulents tend to fiesta a lot, Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents demonstrates how to control the party and pass it along to friends before the wayward plant police step in.

Eric Pedley East Austin Succulents on Central Texas Gardener

Critters can party down on your succulents, too, like on my Macho Mocha mangave.

yucca bug and snail damage on Macho mocha mangave

But who is the real culprit behind this damage? Daphne has the answer, joined by detective (aka Extension entomologist) Wizzie Brown. The little yucca bugs created small spots with their piercing and sucking.

yucca bug damage on mangave

The party hounds that trashed the place?

Snail on mangave

Daphne explains when to find these secretive warriors and why not to use snail baits.

On tour, let’s head to a romantic garden where web designer Bob Atchison and “The Wine Guy” Rob Moshein host the neighborhood every day and night.

Every week, Central Texas Gardener passes along knowledge, inspiration, wonder and friendships. So now, the CTG team asks for your support to keep this garden growing!

You can pledge online ANYTIME for fabulous gifts, including Lucinda’s The Herb Garden Cookbook, Viva Tequila, a Go Local card, and a Roku to watch your favorite PBS and KLRU programs anytime you want!

On Saturday, we continue the inspiration after our usual broadcast with two recent favorite gardens: Meredith Thomas and Robin Howard Moore. Join me, Tom, and Daphne from 12:30 to 1 p.m. and 4:30 – 5, to support your CTG team!

MANY THANKS from me, Tom, John, Trisha, Daphne and ALL the gardeners who have been able to share their stories and inspiration thanks to KLRU.

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

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

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

50 Shades of Pink|Hardy Agaves|Repot Succulents

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

Pink crinum lovely

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

Phlox paniculata 'John Fanick'

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

Mexican oregano flowers

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

Pink plumeria

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

pink plumeria

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

Angelonia

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

Salvia coccinea with Agave celsii

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

Tom Spencer and Bob Barth

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

silver agaves, Central Texas Gardener

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

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

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

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

Squid agave with 'Blackie' sweet potato vine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sedum mexicana sun scald

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

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

Ruby crystals grass (c) Jenny Stocker

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

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Bee happy|Succulent strategies|Natural Bridge Caverns

One thing I love about wildlife is that they don’t mind if my garden gets a tad messy. As long as the place is clean (no pesticides), they’re going for the atmosphere—free food in a diner that’s open all year. This combo platter of shrimp plant and oxalis attracts a wide selection of customers, including hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.

Shrimp plant and oxalis
Thanks to the rain, the sunflowers tower over us!  Perhaps they’ll entice some Bordered Patch or Painted Lady butterflies to lay their eggs. Certainly, they’ll be attracting birds, who planted these in the first place. These natural designers picked an inspiring spot!

really tall sunflower
In the front bed, there’s something for everybody, too: pink skullcap, shrimp plant, heartleaf skullcap, white mistflower, zexmenia, copper canyon daisy, eupatorium, pine muhly, setcresea (Purple Heart), Mexican bush sage and evergreen sumac. With Yucca recurvifolia ‘Margaritaville’.

Linda's front garden bed for wildlife
Greg nabbed a picture of Coreopsis tinctoria on the creek bank behind our fence. I hope some of the seeds end up in our back “prairie!”

Coreopsis tinctoria east Austin
My baby skeleton-leaf goldeneye daisy appears to be MIA, but I’m getting more! In the meantime, here’s a beneficial wasp (I think) on one at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Skeleton-leaf goldeneye daisy with beneficial wasp
Another I’d like to have again is ‘David Verity’ Cuphea, beneficial to insects and hummingbirds.  My former one froze in the “big chill” two years ago. I didn’t replace it since it wasn’t getting enough sun, but I’ll find a spot to have one like this!

David Verity cuphea
Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) is another that I didn’t give enough sun. So, I’m glad a neighbor is growing it in a new hot strip curb bed, converted from lawn.

Gaura lindheimeri

It really does take a village to feed the wildlife. If everyone in the neighborhood plants even a few plants, the “strip mall” cluster attracts a bigger crowd.

Gaura lindheimeri
Along with masses to attract the masses, the secret to diversified wildlife is diversified food, even in winter. While we’re sipping hot chocolate, honeybees head for narcissus.

Narcissus with bee
In early spring, they make a beeline to Mexican plum, viburnums, and roses like this Mutabilis.

Rose mutabilis with bee

And native annual baby blue-eyes.

Baby blue-eyes with bee
I laughed like crazy to see this bee gleefully rolling around in the Pink evening primrose.

Pink Evening primrose with bee
More ecstasy in poppies. Sights like this are my favorite part of gardening.

Bee in poppy

This mild winter, everyone headed for a Salvia coccinea that didn’t freeze. It was protected by other plants in a warm niche, where spuria irises served dessert on April flowers.

Salvia coccinea with spuria iris
In summer, when this heat-loving annual salvia usually performs, it attracts bees and butterflies.

Salvia coccinea with bee

My “patrons” all rave about my fall goldenrods, though it wasn’t my recipe. These perennial natives just wandered in on their own.

Goldenrod with bee
Since bees are so important for pollination, this week Tom meets with Kellan Vincent, landscape architect, and Beekeeper and Pollination Strategist.
Tom Spencer and Kellan Vincent

What a fascinating quick primer on the lifestyles of honeybees, bumble bees and solitary bees, like Mason bees!  Here’s a native honeybee on my rosemary in January.

Rosemary flowers with bees

Mason bees quickly found my house, a gift from Travis Audubon stewards Georgean and Paul Kyle, who handcrafted this. You may know them best for their delightful handmade toys at Rootin’ Ridge Toymakers, but they also make the bee houses, bird nesting boxes and food perches.

Mason bee house from Rootin' Ridge

For more about bees, check in with The San Marcos Area Bee Wranglers, where you can meet Kellan in person! Follow him on Twitter at @BeeKellan.

This week, Daphne answers: why did our fall-blooming plants show up this spring?

Fall aster with bee
Daphne’s Pick of the Week is Texas Star Hibiscus, a native hibiscus that feeds wildlife all summer.

Texas Star hibiscus at Natural Bridge Caverns

That’s a screen grab from our tour this week to Natural Bridge Caverns (hence why it looks a little odd!). We didn’t go on the cavern tour, though you should! Our focus is what’s on top: design concepts for home gardens, plants for wildlife (no pesticides!), and mainly, a vivid illustration to remind us that what we pour on top of our gardens or to kill insects ends up in our water.

Jeff Pavlat from the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society premieres his first Backyard Basics with something we’ve wanted to do for years: show off Jeff’s toolkit for working with spiky plants!

Jeff Pavlat Central Texas Gardener
Sources: Jeff gets his knives and covers, ice scoops, brushes and gravel bins cheap at a restaurant supply store. On Amazon, I found several sources for these tools. But Jeff gets the big tweezers (forceps), hemostats and the sharp pointed tweezers at Miles’  To Go cacti and succulent nursery.
And also from Rainbow Gardens Bookshop that specializes in cacti and succulent plant books. The toolkit is a fishing tackle box from Academy.

Until next week, garden safe! 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

Drought and freeze survivors|Big Red Sun|No-kill trees

By golly, I have more plants in the ground than in the compost pile. Some look a little winded after this hard run, but if they made it through 2011, they can handle anything. One is my Salvia microphylla ‘La Trinidad Pink’.

Salvia microphylla 'La Trinidad Pink'
It’s only been here since after last Thanksgiving, but with a hard freeze and drought in its first young year, it plans to to stick around for more!

I’ll share other survivors in the next few weeks. For now, my Hymenocallis ‘Sulphur Queen’ spider lilies and bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) wear a weather badge of merit. SQ didn’t bloom this summer as always, but her strappy leaves indicate she’s banking on the future with work underground.

Hymenocallis 'Sulphur Queen' with bamboo muhly

My Chrysanthemum pacificum started as a tiny passalong division. I really feared for its fate, but it sure didn’t. Since I’m always on the lookout for silver, its edges won me over!

Chrysanthemum pacificum
For many years, I hesitated about yuccas since I’m on clay soil. But since I’ve amended it over the years with leaves, compost, and mulch, I took a chance. Plus, I just had to have some more silver!  Yucca pallida and this one, Yucca rupicola x pallida, bounce off whatever freeze or drought comes their way.

Yucca rupicola x pallida Central Texas Gardener
This week on CTG, they’re two of the plants that Tom and Justin Kasulka from Big Red Sun include in their conversation focused on some stalwarts that won’t let you down in trying times.

Justin Kasulka Big Red Sun on Central Texas Gardener
Yes, Big Red Sun is back!  They’ve just moved down the street, ready to share their great ideas with you!

Big Red Sun Austin Texas Central Texas Gardener
Justin shows off some designs and plants that make it through drought AND freeze.

I love this image of one of Justin’s designs: Agave parryi with Knock Out roses and dwarf yaupon.

Agave parryi with Knock Out roses Big Red Sun

Justin has lots of tips for you!  I was thankful to find out that yuccas aren’t thrilled about being moved, so I was really glad that the guys who fixed my sewer pipe carefully worked around it.

Daphne’s pick of the week is Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), a drought tolerant succulent that sniffs at cold, too. It does require perfect drainage, so for me, I would put it in a pot where it can cascade its silver. For you folks on well-drained spots, its form, texture and silver are delicious complements to Justin’s design above or softer upright grasses and flowering perennials.

Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) Daphne Richards

On tour, we head to Mueller to visit Betsy Hilton and Joe Denton, who didn’t give up much when they traded a large rental garden for a National Wildlife Backyard habitat in their new (smaller) digs.  I love Joe’s creativity for a birdbath stand!

bird bath on limb stand Joe Denton
You’ll also appreciate how he and his son took out the backyard grass, dealt with drainage issues and created a multi-tiered garden and convivial space for this neighborhood of true community gardener neighbors.

Joe Denton garden Central Texas Gardener

Joe Denton garden design Central Texas Gardener

Joe Denton garden design Central Texas Gardener

Joe Denton garden design Central Texas Gardener

Update: here’s an October  vase of their waterwise roses Joe brought from their former house:  Maggie, Perle de Jardin, Excellenz von Schubert, Dome deCouer, and The Fairy.

Heirloom roses, Joe Denton
Drought or no, it’s time to plant trees. With hand-watering, it’s much better to establish them in cool weather. But, so many people kill their trees the first day they bring them home. For sure, it can take a couple of years, but it’s easy to avoid future grief with Trisha Shirey’s tips this week, part 1 of how not kill your trees!

Two things I’ll mention from Trisha: Remove burlap and wires from balled and burlap trees. The roots will just wind around and around and eventually suffocate the tree.

Girdled tree roots Guy LeBlanc
The same applies to container plants with girdled roots. Ideally, leave them at the nursery. Since many do have winding roots, be sure to cut them off and spread them out.

Cutting girdled tree roots Guy LeBlanc

Years ago, I let someone else plant a tree for me (I usually do it myself). It took 7 years for me to learn that the roots were girdled. To make it even worse, it had been planted too deeply—the root flare below ground. It languished for two years before its demise. Figuring it needed more water, I provided it. Finally, I brought in an arborist to analyze it and he gave me the sad truth. So, that’s a painful lesson we want to spare you!

Next, check to see how big the tree will grow to avoid a future collision with power lines. As we all know, the consequences can be disruptive if not downright disastrous.

Trees growing into power line Guy LeBlanc

So, what about those lawns?

Live and dead grass drought Central Texas Gardener
Indeed, this is a hot topic, but well-managed lawns are not off the chart as soothing spaces and play areas for children and pets.  Every fall, we get questions about “winterizer” fertilizer. This week, Daphne answers Mark Banigan’s great question about what that means, when should we apply fertilizer, and should we do it this year?

Until next week, Linda

Succulents pests with Wizzie Brown

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

Damage from agave snout weevil

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

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

agave striata

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

Yucca pallida

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

Santa Rita prickly pear cactus repotted after freezing

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

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

Cactus bug on spineless prickly pear

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

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

Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension entomologist

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

Cactus bugs (Hesperolabops gelastops)

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

Yucca plant bug (Halticotoma valida)

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

Another little sucker is Cochineal scale, related to mealybugs.

Cochineal scale, Dactylopius coccus

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

Red dye from cochineal insect

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

Wall hanging rug with plant and cochineal insect dyes

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

Agave snout weevil

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

Agave dead from agave snout weevil

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

Agave snout weevil damage on yuccas

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

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

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

Jeff Pavlat garden

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

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

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

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

Aloe vera

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

how to pinch a plant

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

John Dromgoole pots up a prickly cactus

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

Until next week, Linda

Succulents for kids, Blocker's garden tour, red oak troubles, beneficial wasps

My garden’s a little out of control.

Rock rose gone crazy in Austin garden

It’s kind of a big mess. Someone needs to keep an eye on things.

Sunflower looking over turks cap Austin Texas

For now, it can’t be me. Workload is on steroids. So are the butterflies!  I guess it’s a good way to justify a messy garden.

Gulf frittilary butterfly on purple lantana

When that Gulf fritillary is fueled up, I bet there will be some eggs on the nearby passion vine that’s crawling all over the place. How can I justify pruning it now?

Passionvine Austin Texas

This week on CTG, Daphne reminds us that every insect has a reason, even when it makes you want to stamp it into goop. If you can open your heart to a few tomato hornworms, you may get a  nursery for beneficial braconid wasps!

Braconid wasp cocoons on tomato hornworm

They’re so tiny you may not even see them, but they rely on your caterpillars to feed their young. Give them a chance and you’ve got free help.

Milkweeds, including Asclepias tuberosa, tend to attract Oleander aphids. They only bother oleanders and milkweeds, but will attract beneficials to eat them. Summertime picnic for ladybugs and green lacewings!  Mainly, they’ll entice the Monarch butterflies to your ever ready camera, since it’s their essential larval food. Lots of butterflies like the nectar.

Asclepias tuberosa Daphne Richards

Insects are a surefire way to get kids intrigued outside. Another is to get them their own plants, with fun names like Cub’s Paw or Panda Paw.

Panda paw succulent Desert to Tropics

This week on CTG, sweetheart Cindy Arredondo from Desert to Tropics joins Tom to show off soft succulents that spark imagination with the kids. And hey, with us old-timers, too!

In San Antonio, Carol & Richard Blocker fell so in love with cactus and succulent plants that they designed their entire garden around them.

Carol and Richard Blocker San Antonio cactus & succulent garden design

This week, our featured video visits their outstanding garden. Ed Fuentes even taped some of their blooming cacti in April for our special 2011 documentary on wildflowers. (My first high definition project).

Richard also answered my question about why my Santa Rita prickly pear (a division from Tom) dropped its first little flower this spring before it opened. I was just dying to take a picture for you. Plopped right off. You can see the stub.

Santa Rita cactus

I hadn’t watered it, since I didn’t want to over water. Well, that was a mistake. While it’s putting on flowers, it needs a little extra help, especially when it’s still so young. There ya go!

Join the Blockers at the San Antonio Cactus & Xerophyte Society meetings and events to learn even more.

PLUS, you can meet Cindy and the Blockers in person at the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society’s show & sale on Labor Day weekend.

I thank viewer Phillip Smith who sent us this picture of his troubled red oak.
Iron chlorosis on red oak tree Arborist Guy LeBlanc said this was an excellent example of iron chlorosis that plagues some of our red oaks. At Mueller, I’ve since noticed that the red oaks in the median are deep green, while the ones on the other side are almost chartreuse. Anyway, this week, Guy explains why this happens, what to do about it, and how to tell the difference between iron chlorosis and nitrogen deficiency.

Until next week, Linda