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Design for Drought and Rain “Bombs”

encore date: August 22, 2015

original air date: June 13, 2015

When it comes to rain, it’s famine or too much feasting! Christopher Charles from Austin Water talks about how to conserve water in drought and control flooding in rain bombs. On tour, Eric Pedley and Julie Patton pack bold into their small garden with colorful recycles and striking succulents.  Plant of the Week is the cold-hardy, drought-tough succulent, Aloe maculata (also called saponaria). Native drought-tough Texas sage (Cenizo) hates hard pruning, but that’s what happened to Amber Simon when house painters chopped them to sticks. Will they recover? Daphne explains what to do.  John Dromgoole shows how to water efficiently when things dry up. Viewer picture goes to Kristy and Jon Paul Bergman for their hoop house design to fend off insects in summer and keep plants warm in winter.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Succulent Gardening and Outdoor Living on a Creative Budget

Julie Patton and Eric Pedley packed bold into their small garden with colorful recycles and striking succulents. What started as lawn gave way to Eric’s passion for succulents, including greenhouses where he propagates plants for his nursery, East Austin Succulents. Julie spruced up outdoor living with vibrant homemade pallet furniture and accents found on the cheap. With stucco and paint, they finished off a cinder block wall as a succulent showplace and privacy border

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Interview

Design for Drought and Rain Bombs with Christopher Charles

When it comes to rain, it’s famine or too much feasting! Christopher Charles from Austin Water conserves water in drought and controls flooding in rain bombs. He and host Tom Spencer explore rain gardens, terracing, wicking beds and other options to keep your water or keep it out of your house.

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Question of the Week

Can Texas sage (Cenizo) be saved after hard pruning?

Thanks to Amber Simon for this great question! A few months ago, she had her house painted and the crew completely demolished her Texas sage. They’re still alive but were almost completely defoliated by the damage, so they’re mainly just “sticks.” Amber notes that she can see new growth starting to emerge at the bottom and wants to know what to do to try to reinvigorate her formerly gorgeous shrubs!

First, I would suggest taking the opportunity to prune the backside of the shrubs, to make some space between the plants and the house. Next, lightly prune out some of the “sticks,” to increase the sunlight into the center of the shrubs. Increased sunlight is necessary for the plant to put on new leaves, and increasing the sunlight in the center of the shrub will help keep it from growing new leaves only on the tips. Then, give the new growth a little time to show where it’s headed and prune out the areas that aren’t putting on new leaves.

Cenizos are very slow to regrow, so the recovery process may take a while. Although these plants are commonly planted in rows and sheared into hedges, that isn’t good for them over time. They’ll be healthiest if allowed to grow to their natural potential and keep their natural shape and form.

If you have to prune Texas sages, as Amber does in this situation, be sure to do so as infrequently as possible. Cenizos can recover from heavy pruning, but it takes a while, a long while. With that in mind, if the plants were healthy and vibrant before they were damaged, and if you’re feeling very brave, Amber, you could try giving them a very hard pruning. By that I mean, taking many of the stems completely out, all the way to the ground, and leaving only the thickest, healthiest ones. This is pretty drastic, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a regular practice, but if the plant was healthy and in very good shape before it was damaged, it will respond to this heavy pruning by putting on all new leaves, and will look much better and be healthier in the long run. This drastic measure is comparable to the way we annually prune roses, which removes all of the weak and spindly growth, so that the plant can spend more resources on developing fewer, healthier stems.

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Plant of the Week

Aloe Maculata

Aloe Maculata

Soap aloe, Aloe maculata is also known as Aloe saponaria.  Like most aloes, soap aloe grows as a small rosette, keeping its leaves in a tight cluster at the base and staying relatively small, making it a great choice for an accent among other, drought-hardy plants in your garden. Soap aloe grows to only about a foot tall and 18 inches wide at maturity, but from early spring through early summer, you’ll be delighted with the towering bloom stalk that will be topped with red-orange or bright yellow flowers. Plus, these flowers attract bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds like magnets. Listed as hardy to zone 8, unlike many other succulent plants, this aloe reliably survives our Central Texas winters. But if it is damaged by any unseasonably frosty temperatures, it normally recovers quite easily. Although soap aloe does just fine in full sun, it’ll look a little beefier, greener, and healthier if given afternoon shade. As with most succulents, be sure to plant soap aloe only in areas of very well-drained soil and water sparingly, if at all.

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