Fall preview + CTG swag!

It’s droopy times out there.

Shrimp plant and plumbago

But CTG’s getting ready to renew your weather-weary spirit this September! I’ve just finished editing several fabulosa gardens sure to get our dreams soaring again.

Central Texas Gardener

We launch the fall season on Sept. 10 with good taste: garlic!  Sam Slaughter from Gabriel Valley Farms shows how to tuck garlic bulbs all over the garden for whopping flavor this spring and fine foliage all winter.

Speaking of bulbs and dreamy spring, on Sept. 17, Chris Wiesinger from The Southern Bulb Company picks a few of his favorite flowering bulbs that naturalize even in #toomanydaysover100.  He co-authored this FABULOUS book with Cherie Colburn.

Heirloom Bulbs for today

BUT FIRST, this Saturday, from 4-5:30 on KLRU, I hope you’ll tune in for our CTG special.  Tom, Daphne and I will be live in the KLRU studio, along with volunteers from Go Local, to support Central Texas Gardener.

Central Texas Gardener

Like most gardeners, CTG is on a limited budget to sow the seeds of knowledge and inspiration every single weekOn TV and online, we’re committed to tackling your concerns, from the roots up, in rain and in too much shine.

On August 13, we’ll feature Master Gardener Patty Leander’s fall vegetable tips and Wizzie Brown’s answer to those pests on your beloved succulent plants.

agave snout weevil

In the studio, Tom, Daphne and I will be answering questions and throwing in a few tipsKLRU needs to raise $240,000 to provide the PBS programs and local productions to answer the needs of 1.7 million people in Central Texas. Is CTG one reason #Why KLRU for you?

SO LET’S GET DOWN TO THE SWAG! To thank you for sowing a few CTG seeds, we’ve got a Go Local card (which expires next August; this is just a sample).

Or the organic cotton CTG t-shirt to show off your “cool” local garden connection!

Central Texas Gardener t-shirt
Or a behind-the-scenes visit to CTG in the historic ACL studio on Oct. 6 to meet the CTG team and our guests for a taping and lunch.  Taping CTG always means a few surprises, so get a front row seat on how it all begins, and even be part of the taping!  This gift also includes the CTG t-shirt.

GRAND PRIZE: everyone who pledges goes into a drawing for Eastside Cafe’s generous donation: a dining experience and garden gift bag!

Of course, you can support CTG  online at any time. Wish I could offer rain as as a gift. Dang.

Thank you for being CTG’s friend every day of the year, with your suggestions, questions, pictures, and comments. This show’s for you, and YOU are the secret behind CTG’s success!

Until next time, Linda

CTG has another face on Facebook!

For months, CTG has had a FB-generated community page. But gardeners are control freaks and I wanted to have our own page. At the same time, gardening is easier when you get some help, so I wanted another spot where we could interact.

Since it’s too hot to work outside, last Sunday I “gardened” online.  It would be mighty fine if headed to www.facebook.com/CentralTexasGardener to “like” us & join in the fun!

Thanks!  Linda

Central Texas Gardener logo

Surprises every day + Rocking out with Troy Nixon's rock designs

The best thing about gardening is a new surprise every day. I guess my best surprise today was 3″ of rain!  Kaboshed our Mueller garden taping, but gotta love it.  Ed, our camera director, said I looked like a “drowned squirrel.” He and Steve, our audio person, were soaked to the skin running the gear to safety.  But another surprise this week is my Tawny daylilies.

Tawny daylily

For weeks, we watched the surprise coming from our Yucca pallida.

Yucca pallida forming bloom stalk

Yucca pallida flowers

Yucca pallida blooming

The leaffooted bugs were anxious, too. Eventually, their humongous numbers reduced, possibly thanks to the frenzied parental birds grocery shopping for the kids. (Oh, I had a shot of their clusters, but I “learned” a new trick on how to erase  EVERY shot from my camera card.  Some surprises I don’t really need).

Leaffooted bug on Yucca pallida flower

My Agave celsii took another severe hit last winter. Although I didn’t plan to dig it up yet, a few months ago it decided to give me an incentive to keep it around. Our first measurement on April 3 was about 3 feet.

At blooming time, it’s 48”. The flowers start at the bottom and work their way up.

Agave celsii flowers

Agave celsii flower buds

What my garden really needs, though, is  architectural structure. I’ve hauled rocks by the trunk load, collected them for free, and one luxurious day, had a bunch of limestone edgers delivered. But how do you give it that professional look?

Since I often get this question from gardeners, this week on CTG Tom meets with Troy Nixon from Environmental Survey Consulting for some DIY tips from the pros. How do you haul stones, chip them, and place them?  What about creative designs to deal with drainage issues? How do you do it when it’s just you, or if lucky, a spouse or a friend who got enlisted for the price of a cold one?

Laying rock borders, Environmental Survey Consulting

Environmental Survey Consulting

Drainage solution Environmental Survey Consulting

Get Troy’s insider tips from ESC, founded in 1984 by David Mahler and Judy Walther. They were among the leaders to promote a “restoration first” approach to garden design that respects native plants and our resources.

Environmental Survey Consulting
One plant, one shovel, and one rock at a time, that’s how Kati & David Timmons did it. CTG goes on tour with them for David’s revelation of his mistakes, practical tips, and artistic insight about  how they turned their standard in-town yard into a garden of many levels, front and back. Working with David’s designs, Troy executed some of their stone work.

Kati and David Timmons garden Austin Texas

Kati and David Timmons garden Central Texas Gardener

Kati and David Timmons garden Austin Texas

And, bonus time! David’s a graphic artist. If you love Lucinda’s book as much as I do, now you’ll meet the man behind its design.

Lucinda Hutson The Herb Garden Cookbook

Last weekend, I got around to planting more cosmos seeds. Thank you, rain, for this perfect timing!

Yellow cosmos

This was the first summer annual I grew in my dusty garden years ago. As a new gardener, I was thrilled at “instant magic” from a packet of seeds. Aside from their heat resilience, they attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Cosmos Kathy-Annie Kloba
As Daphne’s Plant of the Week, I also thank garden bloggers:

Pam Penick from Digging

Bonnie Martin from Kiss of the Sun

Laura Wills from Some Like It Hot

Caroline Homer from Shovel Ready Gardener

Rachel Strain Graham from In Bloom

Check out their blogs for super garden info!

Daphne’s question of the week is one we often get: when do spring plants form their flowers? Some form on new wood and some on older wood.  Mountain laurels are forming their buds right now, so if you prune heavily, you’ll sacrifice next spring’s Kool-Aid high.

Mountain laurel flower spike

Also significant for flowering plants and fruit trees: year-round water. If they stay dry in the critical months of bud formation, they’ll blow off reproduction until things look better.

With pruning on our minds, on Backyard Basics, Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors shows how to deadhead. After pruning, he gives everyone a boost with a liquid seaweed foliar feed.

pruning plants with Merrideth Jiles, The Great Outdoors.
Tons of events, including the Travis County Master Gardeners tour this weekend. And see all the neat events they have coming up!

On May 21 & 22, check out the Heart O’ Texas Orchid Society show and sale. They’ll also have workshops on how to grow these beauties.

Also on May 21, hit the Outdoor Living tour for plants and outdoor living designs.

Then, on May 22, from 1 – 5 p.m., visit a few gardens in east Austin on the Windsor Park Garden Tour.  Outstanding ideas, with only a suggested donation of $5 for all three. Just show up at one of them to get your pass.  1412 Suffolk Drive| 1420 Ridgehaven Drive|2104 Bristol Drive.

Until next week, Linda

Augie doggie doo in compost? Dillo Dirt? This week CTG, really.

Well, golly. Did I ever mess up. I guess that’s appropriate, considering this super question!

For real, this week on CTG, Daphne answers Jean Wucher’s question about using doggie doo in the compost pile. I got ahead of myself and posted Joan’s rose question instead. Actually, it’s  good timing, since I know you’re thinking about your roses. But that one airs February 12!

Jean’s question is perfect timing too, especially if you have a pet!  And thank heavens, Chester the cocker spaniel just went out to potty; this dog hates cold and the slightest moisture on the grass. But I’ll nab his “good outside potty” into a bag for the trash.

So: why can we use cow & chicken manure in the compost pile, but not what we scoop up off the yard?

Well, our pets are carnivores and bacteria will not break down in our home compost piles.  Get Daphne’s complete answer and her response to using Dillo Dirt regarding heavy metal concerns.

I can confirm that my vet also discourages using cat and dog waste in the compost pile for a long list of reasons. I can use what bunnies Harvey & Gaby “produce”,  very prolifically, I might say. (By the way, these house bunnies are litter box trained.)  I can dump their deposits directly onto my plants for a subtle nitrogen boost.  That’s how rabbits in the wild quickly nourish the plants they’re chomping, in order to get more.

Chicken, horse, and cow manure should be composted, since they’re so “hot.”

Thanks, Jean, for setting us straight, even though I was on the fast track.


Winter romance + Ikebana, the art of communion, slowing down


Oxalis raindrops

That’s how I felt last Saturday once the errands were done and I was free at last to fully absorb the rainy romantic day. And jot the magic numbers from the rain gauge into my garden diary.

Purple heart, Setcreasea pallida raindrop

I get really drippy about drippy days, since they are so rare. I felt elevated to cook and clean, to read and write, to plan a billion projects. Mainly, I wanted to wander a squishy garden to revel in my winter romance of colors that turn greenery into scenery.

Spiraea orange winter leaves

Plumbago scandens winter purple leaves

Rusty blackhaw viburnum winter leaves
In my wanders, I thought about this week’s CTG, which features Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging. Far more than collecting cuttings for an explosive vase of color, it’s about a sensitive, spiritual communion with each stalk, leaf, and flower.

Purple mustard leaf

lantana purple winter leaf

wild aster

I learned a lot when we taped this week’s video feature with  some of the gardeners from the San Antonio chapter of Ikebana International. I was honored to meet the women who were born in Japan and learned the art as children before WWII. I love their stories, just as I love the ones from the Americans who went overseas and brought the art back to the U.S. Through them, they opened new garden eyes for me to the significance and contemplation that sometimes eludes me in my rush to “get things done.”

conoclinium greggii, eupatorium greggi purple winter leaves

salvia blepharophylla purple winter leaves

In-studio, Tom meets with Jay Marie Buttross from San Antonio Ikebana International to explain more about the spiritual connection of Ikebana design. She also demonstrates a few of her techniques with plants from her garden, like umbrella plant.

Jay Marie Buttross and Tom Spencer on CTG set

Meet them all on Feb. 5 at the Asian Festival: Year of the Rabbit, at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. They’ll be demonstrating Ikebana arrangements and techniques. By the way, I had nothing to do with this being Year of the Rabbit!

Since it’s a great time to prune trees, Daphne answers this question from JoLea Arcidiacono: “How soon can we use chipped tree prunings as mulch?” They’re too hot to use right away, plus as the microbes digest them, they’ll tie up soil nitrogen that your plants also want. Let them sit for a few weeks to a month. You can also add nitrogen to your garden when you apply fresh mulch. Find out more.

Arborist Guy LeBlanc answers our questions about ball moss and those pesky oak tree sprouts.

Until next week, Linda

Countdown to freeze; alternatives to nandina & ligustrum

For a fall that’s been “resplendent” with fire ants like I haven’t seen in years, it’s been a slow show for butterflies. Early on, bordered patch butterflies blanketed anything with flowers. That was a first in my garden.

Bordered patch butterfly on zexmenia

And although I’ve certainly seen butterflies in past weeks, it’s been nothing like the usual swarm. The blue mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinum) have felt a tad lonesome.

Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)
In October, when I started seeding lettuce (some of which the ants ate), I borrowed Master Gardener Patty Leander’s tip about shading during those hot days. (This is also a good idea when you transplant something when it’s scalding by afternoon.)

Beach umbrella to shade lettuce seedlings
In the shed, I found the beach umbrella that Greg and I got when he was recording in La Jolla and I went for a weekend to try out life as a beach bum. Sad to say, in my world, it’s more likely to be used as a lettuce umbrella. And when the kiddie pool was up, it added a nice design connection. Hey!

Now, I’ve hunted down where I tossed the rowcover bag in the shed. I stuff them into a bedspread bag. I used to keep them in bags by name for location, but last spring I threw out my orderly ways and hastily crammed them into one big bag “to deal with later.” Uh oh, “later” is here.

Since we’re on the countdown to the first freeze, this week on CTG Daphne has a few tips on how to properly cover tender plants. Hint: keep your plastic trash bags for the trash. Do not put them on your plants.

Jeff Pavlat freeze protection ideas for agaves

Thanks to Jeff Pavlat from the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society for sharing his picture from last year’s unusual cold. You can use Christmas lights or other waterproof lighting to make your own version of winter garden luminarias.

In most cases, just a blanket, sheet, or even a box works. I keep a stash of old bedspreads and sheets from the days before rowcover was commonly available, and I still rely on them for a few plants on the patio. These days, you can buy packaged N-Sulate at nurseries, but I bought mine by the yard from The Natural Gardener a few years back. When it hit below 20° in my garden last year, though, I spread an old blanket on top of the lettuce rowcover for extra protection.

The advantage to rowcover is that it lets in light and doesn’t sog down with rain. It’s the best idea for plants you want to cover all winter, like vegetables and citrus. If you cover plants with a sheet or blanket, be sure to remove it on “normal” mornings when the sun comes out. For the lettuce bed and my Satsuma orange, I also pull up the rowcover on warm days. When I covered my slightly tender agaves, I also removed the rowcover on warm days.

It’s all about temperatures where you live, since it varies so much. After last winter’s scare, I’m sure you’ve checked the cold hardiness temps for some of the marginal plants we’ve been tempted to try. This weekend, I clumped up lots of mulch on my new pink turks cap and dianellas. I won’t cover them, as I don’t most of my plants.  I’ve never had a problem with the native red turks cap coming back, but new additions like these get a little special attention since their roots aren’t established.

William Glenn from The Natural Gardener carries on Daphne’s theme with some tips of his own, especially covering those square foot gardens or containers you have.

Natural Gardener square foot gardens covered with rowcover
As both Daphne and William advise: Anchor your protection with stones, bricks,  jute pins or clamps.

Since my Satsuma orange is still small, I make a teepee with bamboo canes and blanket it with rowcover. With larger citrus, you just have to take your chances. At least, mulch the roots.

Well, the good news is that my evergreen sumac is loaded with luscious berries for the birds.

Evergreen sumac berries
The bad news is that it’s fallen over.

Evergreen sumac falling over
Since Jared Pyka from Native Texas Nursery was in-studio for this week’s CTG, I asked him about it. It’s happening all over town. They have shallow roots, and with the heavy limbs, the rains we got (remember when we had rain!) tumped them over. I’m not sure I can correct mine with pruning. We’ll see.

Jared’s true mission at CTG was to meet with Tom for native plant alternatives to those invasive ligustrums and nandinas. Get his great ideas for plants like elbow bush, dwarf Barbados cherry, silk tassel and more. They are just as tough, add a lot more interest, and don’t destroy essential diversity for our wildlife.

The silver germander (Teucrium fruiticans) he recommends isn’t native, but adds that silvery interest when layered with green shrubs and perennials. It isn’t invasive and loves drought.

Silver germander with Salvia greggii
It’s one I selected when I dug up the nandinas in front. It gets morning shade and hot afternoon sun for a few hours. The 14° didn’t bother it.

Note: Native Texas Nursery isn’t open to the public, so please ask for Jared’s plant ideas at your local nursery.

It’s almost last call for larkspurs and native wildflower seeds. This week, Daphne features rocket larkspur, thanks to Melissa at Zanthan Gardens.

Zanthan Gardens larkspur

It’s not too late to add them to your garden, but do it soon!

Until next week, Linda

Warm up cool weather gardens

It’ll be weeks before there’s any yellow leaf-peeping in my garden. We have to peep fast, since the whole show lasts about 5 hours from leaf turn to drop. ‘Butterpat’ mums alert us that the time is coming, though.

'Butterpat' chrysanthemum
I just love these mums! I got them a few years ago at The Natural Gardener from the plants that designer and grower Tom Peace brings every year, starting about now. Check out his book, Sunbelt Gardening-Success in Hot-Weather Climates, packed with superb design and plant ideas.

This week on CTG, we repeat our tour of his springtime garden in Lockhart.

Tom Peace kalanchoe and violas
He layers structural evergreens via palms, agaves, yuccas, and shrubs with explosions of layered color. Since it’s just about time to plant our cool weather color, I hope this gives you some new ideas!

Even though it’s fall (when it’s not being summer), it’s time to think about winter and early spring. On CTG this week, Tom meets with Kim and Mark Gaddy from Gaddy’s Feed, Hardware and Garden in Pflugerville for plants to warm you up on hot chocolate days.

orange viola

Stop into Gaddy’s and you may meet three generations: Mark’s parents, who started it all, Mark & Kim, and their son and daughter. They always have time to answer your questions and solve your design puzzles. Gaddy’s has lots of natives for winter interest, too, like possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua).

And if you want some naturalizing spring bulbs, it’s time to nab them.

Narcissus 'Gigantic Star'

I always plant mine on Thanksgiving weekend. One that both Tom Peace and designer Patrick Kirwin turned me onto was Freesia laxa, one that naturalizes for us, and comes in white, too.

Freesia laxa
This week on CTG, William Glenn selects a few good naturalizing bulbs, like Narcissus Erlicheer, and shows us how to get them off to a good start.

Narcissus Erlicheer
As we head into winter, now is not a good time to prune fruit trees. But when Gail Allen sent us her photo of a precarious peach tree, this week Daphne explains how to safely prune it now.

wayward peach tree prune in fall
Until next week, Linda

Crinums, what's soil all about?, how to water

Typically, my crinums bloom the first week of July. This year, ‘Ellen Bosanquet’ jumped the gun in June, but returned this week to avoid confusing the garden diary too much.

Crinum 'Ellen Bosanquet'

In the cat cove, the mystery pink flowered for the second year in a row.

Pink crinum lily

I know some of you wonder, “Is my crinum EVER going to bloom?” Believe me, they take their sweet time. The pink one waited  7 years or so to make its debut. Several others are paying their rent with lovely foliage for a few more years.

At the other end of the den bed from ‘Ellen’, here’s Rose of Sharon/Althea (Hibiscus syriacus ‘Jeanne D’ Arc’).

Althea, Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus 'Jeanne D' Arc'

In the cat cove, a self-seeded morning glory found a perch on the Lady Banks rose. I’ll pull it off before it makes too much mischief.

Morning glory

We’re all rejoicing with the rain that’s spared us last summer’s misery. For sure, rain is the secret ingredient that we can’t provide on demand. But the first best ingredient is the soil. We can’t control rainfall, but we can improve our soil. Ultimately, our success starts underground.

And, what is the difference between soil, compost, and mulch, and how do they work together? How does that relate to our plants?

Since these are questions I often get, this week on CTG Tom meets with George Altgelt from Geo Growers to connect the dots.

It’s perfect timing, since now’s when we need to renew our beds for fall’s vegetables and ornamentals. Our soil needs a little boost after its depletion from spring’s energy and summer’s heat.

On tour, see why Julie Donie and Alexa Villalobos from Fertile Ground Gardens are confirmed soil-huggers. In this garden they tend (originally designed by Mitzi VanSant) compost is their secret ingredient for thriving old roses and even camellias that frame the renovated historic home.

Since we’re back into a dry spell, Daphne explains how to water. Sounds simple, huh? Nope. Even experienced gardeners make this mistake.

Her featured plant is purple heart (Tradescantia pallida). I used to think this was for shade, and it does work there, especially if it gets a little shine on it. I can’t get enough purple!

Purple heart (Tradescantia pallida) with zexmenia

But give it some sun and it’s really spectacular. Along 45th street, someone lined a whole block with it and silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea).

purple heart with silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea)

At the Dell Children’s Medical Center, I’ve admired how it stands out from afar, and against tough reflected heat. Pair it with alternating big stands of Aztec grass or the dichondra for a simple elegant presentation.

Purple heart (Tradescantia pallida)

I also like the lime green of the shrimp plant against it in my partially shady front bed.

Purple heart with shrimp plant

For those of us in shade, get John Dromgoole’s ideas for heat-loving annuals.

Until next week, Linda

Wicked plants

After a rewarding  stint of raindrop refreshment, the sunshine on July 4 prompted a celebratory backyard parade.

Gulf fritillary butterfly on turks cap
This Gulf fritillary was in the head car.

In early morning, the cat perch turks cap patiently waited in the wings for the wings: butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds that arrived with the sun. The cats aren’t keen on parades; they slept it out in air conditioning.

Turks cap near cat perch
Nearby, Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) attracted its share of fans.

Gregg's mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)
You’ll never hear me howling about too much rain, but it can certainly take a toll on plants like Artemisia ‘Powis Castle.’

root rot on Powis Castle artemisia

This is not unusual. In my garden, these are temporary perennials. Typically, in three years, it’s time to replace them, especially when we get the rare wet winter or summer.

For the fun of it, I replaced one with Artemisia schmidtiana. We’ll see if it’s as reliable as ‘Powis Castle’. I hope so, because I rather prefer its fernier, more silvery foliage.

Artemisia schmidtianaArtemisia schmidtianaLast year, I added wormwood, Artemisia absinthium.

wormwood, Artemisia absinthium

I got it when I went to Pots & Plants to hear Amy Stewart speak about Wicked Plants, her latest New York Times Bestseller. I couldn’t leave without one of her prime suspects!

Amy Stewart Wicked Plants

I first discovered Amy through the group blog, Garden Rant, and her book, Flower Confidential.

Amy Stewart Flower Confidential

Writing this “tell all” behind the flower industry, she met hybridizers and plant enthusiasts from around the world. Some of them couldn’t resist hauling her “to the back” to see a “really special” plant. From that spun an idea for the intriguing stories behind botanical atrocities that make murderous history or just plain make us miserable.

This week on CTG, Amy joins Tom for tales of murder, mystery and mayhem, including some of the perps lurking in your own backyard!  And check out her book for more surprising revelations about dangerous plants you may be coddling right this minute.

This week, Daphne answers a wicked plant question: Why doesn’t viewer Helen Kott’s ‘Wonderful’ pomegranate produce fruit?

John’s got ideas for wicked color to punch up your summer to fall ornamental beds.

On tour, a San Antonio couple transformed a wicked garden problem into a splendidly wicked retreat.

Harvey bunny disapproves of wicked plants

Harvey’s going to watch online to make a list of wicked plants. (I also keep a reference list for plants that are poisonous or dangerous for bunnies, cats, and dogs, just in case Harv eats his notes!).

Until next week, Linda