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

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

Superstars, outside and for your Indoor Plant Decor

There’s a lot to be said for summer annuals.

'Fireworks' globe amaranth
I’ve always adored globe amaranths, but this ‘Fireworks’ in Lucinda Hutson’s garden sparked a new love affair. Beyond, Duranta pops in some wowza color, too.

'Fireworks' globe amaranth and Duranta

Here’s why Daphne makes globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) her Pick of the Week: It’s a Texas Superstar, which means it’s been tested around the state for worthiness in our gardens. You can find them in many colors and sizes, even for containers.

Orange globe amaranth
They bloom all summer, standing up to searing heat and drought, as in Daphne’s own trials with new varieties in the infamous 2011 torture. But did you know they attract butterflies, too?  They’re so prolific that you can spare a few as long-lasting cut flowers that dry like a dream. Wonderful in a wreath!

Recently, on a mini vacation, I fulfilled a dream to visit Texas Superstar’s Brent Pemberton at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton.

Brent Pemberton Texas Superstar plants A&M

I’ll have more about Superstar in a later post. For now, it was a thrill to stroll the greenhouses where trial seeds and plugs start out.

Texas Superstar plants greenhouse Texas A&M Extension
Isn’t this Calliope geranium a gem? I can’t wait to see if it makes Superstar status!

geranium calliope red

Once they’re ready, they head to the fields for the ultimate test of endurance and performance.

Texas Superstar plant test field Texas A&M Extension, Overton

My garden is a perpetual test ground. One superstar for me is bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), a grass that surprised me this spring with its first delicate seed heads.

bamboo muhly Muhlenbergia dumosa seed heads

Gulf penstemon found its own test grounds in a bed of Texas sedge (Carex texensis). Both rate **** for me.

Texas sedge seed heads with Gulf penstemon

Salvia microphylla ‘La Trinidad Pink’ survives the test of just not quite enough sun. A little floppy sometimes, it’s doing fine in morning sun.  It could stand to have a gardener that prunes it more often, you know?

salvia microphylla 'La Trinidad Pink'

But, I’ll admit: I’m so not adventurous indoors. That’s about to change, thanks to Indoor Plant Décor, authored by friends Jenny Peterson and Kylee Baumle.

Indoor Plant Decor Jenny Peterson and Kylee Baumlee St. Lynn's Press

Kylee was holding down Ohio, so Jenny joins Tom to pep up your house and office to take the humdrum out of houseplants with THE design style book that connects to your muse, budget and imagination.

Tom Spencer & Jenny Peterson, Indoor Plant Decor

In their book, Kylee and Jenny include plant lists and DIY tips in friendly style that prompts “oh, I didn’t know this/I’ve got to try THAT” on every page. Every stunning chapter plugs a new spin into your imagination and creativity, inside.

succuelent chair Indoor Plant Decor photo by Laura Eubanks Design for Serenity

Indoor Plant Decor photo by Articulture Designs

Back outside, are you seeing this on your trees or other plants?

frost damage oak tree photo by Daphne Richar

Before you freak out about horrendous disease or insects, Daphne has the answer: our bizarre late frost. In full disclosure, Daphne puts herself on the line. To pump up her young Monterrey oak, she admits that she fertilized a little too early.  Hey, raise your hands if you’ve done that too!

Normally, it would have been okay that her tree responded by putting out new leaves. EXCEPT. In her microclimate, it got cold enough to damage the new growth. Get her complete answer on how to tell the difference in temporary freeze damage or something evil. By the way, her tree recovered just fine, and so will yours.

So, have you just about had it with flies, fleas, fire ants, and plum curculios? John Dromgoole explains how to tackle them naturally underground with beneficial nematodes.

beneficial nematodes

On tour, visit the diverse gardens at Mueller, the ultimate “testing ground” in its restoration of wildlife habitat over former runways and parking lots.

Thanks for stopping by! Until next week, reach for the stars, indoors and out. 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

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

Get past August "Grr" with garden gifts all year long

In August, when gardeners flag “a little,” sometimes we need a boost to get past the “Grrr” and remember the gifts we’ve given ourselves, our neighbors, and our wildlife.

Mexican plum fruit

Bee on Pride of Barbados

romantic plumbago
'Patrick' abutilon

In our gardens, we give the gift of life to the creatures that share and enliven our world. They return their thanks via the ultimate gifts: discovery and joy.

hummingbird on turk's cap

Gulf fritillary butterfly on bougainvillea

And what a gift when they entrust us to raise their young!

Gulf fritillary caterpillar

As gardeners, the gift we truly give ourselves is the ability to look ahead: to get past the doldrums and envision an ever-changing calendar of enchantment.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly on lantana

Bee on aster
'Country Girl' chrysanthemum and aster

Bee on goldenrod
Oxblood lily with plumbago
Lindheimer muhly
Agave striata in snow
Narcissus 'Gigantic Star'
Baby blue eyes and oxalis

In every season, Central Texas Gardener is right with you every single week to share the gift of knowledge, inspiration, and to help make your garden adventure a little easier.

Columbine

This week, we ask for your support to keep this garden growing! Our 1-hour special airs on KLRU at noon and 4 p.m. this Saturday, August 18. Or you can pledge online at any time and watch online after Thursday to pump up the August blues.

Many thanks for your support from the CTG team! Linda

Fuzzy Wuzzy Plants

When it’s hot enough to scald our eyeballs walking across the street, garden fuzzie wuzzies tame our steaming souls.  Doesn’t this downy silk make you feel cooler already?

Milkweed seed floss

As you can imagine, the purpose behind this floss inside milkweeds (Asclepia) is to disperse their seeds via wind. And get this: the floss is actually harvested by some companies for pillows and comforters. It’s an excellent insulator!

Lamb’s ears is beloved in children’s gardens, since it’s as cuddly as a stuffed toy.

Lamb's ears fuzzy wuzzy
Mine have recently been plagued by sooty mold.

Lamb's ears sooty mold
Above them is a crape myrtle, under attack by whiteflies, secreting honeydew that is “raining” on everything.  Fungi thrive on this sugary substance, creating sooty mold on tree leaves and on understory plants where honeydew has collected. I simply pull off the damaged leaves, and new ones are already emerging.

By the way, we’ve given the tree some slow deep watering and jetted the leaves with water to get rid of the whiteflies. In just a few days, the tree is flowering again and actually putting on new leaves!

My latest fuzzy plant has made it to my winner’s circle.

Cobweb spiderwort

When I saw Cobweb spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana) at Paul Lofton’s garden, I fell for its downy foliage. He gave me a cutting, now thriving in a shady spot that gets hot afternoon sun. It’s known for being a shade plant, but I saw that Paul had some in sun. Seems to work but I think I’ll move it to a tamer area next year.

I have many spring-blooming spiderworts (Tradescantia gigantea): already emerging, if you can believe it. They make their tall statement in spring. Cobweb is a low rider as a handy summertime companion, since it will go underground in cold winters while its show-off cousin takes over.

Another companion plant that’s made my take-home list is hardy white gloxinia (Sinningia tubiflora).

Hardy white gloxinia

This diminutive groundcover “runs” like fuzzy heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) but emerges in warmth, when heartleaf is going underground until cooler weather.

Another soft-touch is native woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata).

Woolly stemodia

This one’s growing in hot spots at Mueller. But I’ve got a plan to include this sun-loving, good-drainage silver between stones to replace former grass.

Perennial, evergreen Dicliptera suberecta (also called hummingbird plant) attracts me with its velvety soft gray leaves. I’m a fan of its vivid flowers, as are the hummingbirds and many insects.

Dicliptera suberecta hummingbird plant
It’s tolerant of many situations, but like lots of  plants, prefers a shade break, whether it’s morning or afternoon.

Semi-shade lover Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) also invites a pat on the head. As with Dicliptera, hummingbirds and others have a more prosaic goal: food.

Mexican honeysuckle

Blue mist flowers (many varieties of Conoclinium/Eupatorium) are truly fuzzy little flowers. They go for the gold in fall when butterflies are all over them. In late summer, they give a sneak preview.

Blue mist flower fuzzy wuzzy

Now, globe mallow doesn’t have the fuzziest leaves in town, but they’re a soft break against smooth green ones.

Globe mallow silver leaves
Mexican olive (Cordia boissieri) is a bold shrub/small tree with huge soft leaves.

Mexican olive leaves
Bonus points: even in blazing heat, it keeps cranking out flowers. Okay, I’ve added it to my cooler weather projects!

Mexican olive flowers

So, yes, caterpillars eat things. But a memory I carry from childhood is stroking woolly bear caterpillars or other bristly ones.  I still do it and don’t kill a one.  This one is the Salt Marsh.

Salt Marsh caterpillar on larkspur
They’ll pupate into pollinating moths. Perhaps the babies are so fuzzy wuzzy because we like to watch them and pat them, rather than squishing them! Unless there’s a serious invasion, plant life will go on.

Wishing you warm fuzzy wuzzies on a hot day, and thanks for checking in! Linda

Catching the rain, tree problems, organic fertilizers

In the wilt of weeks past, our desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) keeps pumping out a few flowers to please the hummingbirds that have finally shown up!

Desert willow Austin Texas
Even though this native tree requires very little water and isn’t keen on soggy soils, this week’s rain may encourage extended flowering.

Desert willow flower Austin Texas
My sedges (Carex texensis) are pretty drought tough, but the ones tucked near the AC condensation pipe are especially robust, whereas their thirstier neighbors look a tad annoyed.

sedge, carex texensis at AC condensation pipe
Keeping our container plants going in heat is a question I often get.

Old-fashioned pink petunias
This week, Trisha Shirey explains how to fortify them with organic fertilizers and which nutrients they provide. Her arsenal includes seaweed, apple cider vinegar, molasses, coffee grounds, earthworm castings (great for indoor plants)  and more!

Trisha Shirey organic fertilizers for container plants
She also recommends topping your containers with compost to gently feed them with each watering. Then, add mulch on top to conserve moisture. Here’s her list for details. I’m definitely getting blackstrap molasses and apple cider vinegar this weekend!

Another top question: Why don’t my new trees grow, even though I’m watering them deeply? This week, Daphne explains that if the tree looks healthy, water may not be the issue at all.

Daphne Richards why trees don't grow

If your tree won’t budge after a few seasons, and you’ve provided the right conditions, your problem may be underground with girdled roots (very common) or stone basins in rockier sites that are actually drowning your tree. Find out more.

A perennial that will grow just about anywhere is Pam’s Pink turk’s cap (Malvaviscus x ‘Pam Puryear’), Daphne’s Pick this week.

Pam's Pink turk's cap (c) Daphne Richards
Horticulturist Greg Grant at Stephen F. Austin University’s gardens hybridized this plant, named for friend and veteran gardener, Pam Puryear.

Its claim to fame, along with our native turk’s cap (one of its parents) is that it can withstand drought or too much water at one time.  In fact, it’s perfect for rain gardens.  Wherever you put it, beneficial insects and hummingbirds will thank you! My returned hummingbirds are all over my natives!

Since catching the rain is on our minds, this week Tom joins Environmental Consultant Dick Peterson for tips on barrels, cisterns, and simple berms to catch runoff.

Tom Spencer and environmental consultant Dick Peterson
There are many options, including smaller barrels to get you started.

RainXchange rain barrel (c) Dick Peterson
Move up to something larger to cover more ground, like this 350-gallon tank.

350 gallon rain barrel from Great Outdoors (c) Dick Peterson
This 350-gallon fiberglass tank is even in the front yard, pretty much invisible from the street with its color and foreground trellis of evergreen star jasmine.


Plastic, metal, fiberglass, and ferrocement are all options these days. Cisterns complete with pumps are showing up in more gardens these days.

Texas Metal Cisterns (c) Dick Peterson

Ferrocement rain barrel (c) Dick Peterson

Spec-All Products rain barrel (c) Dick Peterson
If you’re into making your own with recycled products, some gardeners are adapting IBC totes.

IBC Tote adapted for rain collection (c) Dick Peterson
These gardeners (to be on the Master Gardener tour this fall) adapted 50-gallon Hatch chile pepper barrels!

Hatch chile pepper barrel adapted as rain barrel

Hatch chile pepper barrel adapted as rain barrel

Dick’s site includes more resources, including a supplier’s list. There are many others, including Austin Green Water. LCRA has resources for you, too!

And here’s how to get a Austin Water Utility rebate.

On tour, cool off your spirit and feed your soul at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum. We taped this in high definition a few years ago, but until CTG went HD, that copy stayed safely in my office. Now you can experience Ed Fuentes’ beautiful videography in HD!

Thanks for stopping in!  See you next week! Linda

Garden fireworks!

To celebrate red, white and blue this week, my new blue gazing ball glows against firecracker red Turk’s cap!

blue gazing ball with turk's cap

White native Plumbago scandens droops over soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia).

Plumbago scandens with soft leaf yucca

Non-native blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) sparked some attention from this Snowberry Clearwing moth, too speedy for slow me to nab a super shot. From a distance, it resembled a hummingbird. Some people refer to it as the “bumblebee moth.”

Snowberry clearwing moth on blue plumbago

Snowberry clearwing moth on plumbago

The sparks really fly from this native hibiscus (Hibiscus martianus). Since it’s probably not cold hardy, we enjoy its flare from a patio container.

Hibiscus martianus

Okay, purple passion vine/passionflower isn’t exactly blue, but it sure is setting off fireworks for the frenzied butterflies mating and laying eggs on its leaves.

Purple passion vine

Mine is a hybrid with five-lobed leaves, not the native Passiflora incarnata with three-lobed leaves, but it’s definitely related.  It does spread like mad, and I need to pull it off some trees it’s shading. Still, I hate to pull one that has a happy caterpillar chomping away. I examine closely for tiny eggs, too.

Uruguayan Firecracker Plant is orange, but it’s name says it all.  It’s also called hummingbird bush (since it attracts them) and a bunch of other names.  I know it as Dicliptera suberecta, since it’s fun to say!

Dicliptera suberecta hummingbird bush, firecracker plant

Also called hummingbird bush is native Flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii), a perennial shrub that attracts butterflies, too.

Flame acanthus

A showy white with lots of different names is Datura (Datura wrightii). Commonly called Jimsonweed or Angel’s trumpet (not to be confused with Brugmansia, a related genus), Daphne makes it her Plant Pick this week.

Datura (c) Daphne Richards

Daphne explains how to grow this native annual (so well-known through Georgia O’Keefe paintings). It attracts night-pollinating moths and is deer resistant, but all plant parts are highly toxic to us.

Fireworks you don’t want to set off in your garden is a fire.  This week, Tom joins Patrick Allen from the Texas Forest Service for a few tips on garden firewise safety.

Tom Spencer, Patrick Allen Texas Forest Service

Texas Forest Service firewise zones

Check out Texas Forest Service for more about how to landscape safely. Click on the icon to download Firewise Landscaping for step-by-step instructions and plant information.

Firewise Communities includes fire safe plant lists for around the country. I’ve checked out many of the lists from other states, and many apply to Texas.

Whether for fire safety or to reduce our lawns, how close to our trees can we hardscape? Daphne answers this great question from Emily Keith, who wants to reduce lawn space but protect her trees.

hardscape around trees

Keeping gutters clean is one firewise safety tip. But, they’re also a breeding ground for mosquitoes with even a few drops of rain. John Dromgoole explains how to fend off mosquitoes in your gutters and in your garden, without harming the beneficials heading for your plants.

John Dromgoole mosquito control

On tour, visit designer Glee Ingram’s firewise native plant restoration on a rocky slope above a greenbelt.

Stay cool until next week! Linda

Structure + Soft = Powerful Designs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foxtail fern and inland sea oats

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

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

Manfreda virginica

Manfreda virginica flower buds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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