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On Tour

Leah & Philip East Side Patch Garden Design

Discovery is the password here. Leah & Philip Leveridge had never gardened when they bought an old home, complete with rundown yard. One plant and path at a time, they traded overgrown lantana and invasive Bermuda grass for diverse texture and color that’s low on water use and high on wildlife attraction. Follow their East Side Patch blog for their on-going adventures of discovery as a family in the garden.

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Question of the Week

Why do plants next to each other perform differently?

I planted a row of Southern wax myrtles along a fence. Only two of the four are still alive. Even though I watered them exactly the same throughout the long, intense summer, the last one in the row burned to a crisp. And then the next one up the row did the same thing. No matter how much I watered those last 2 plants, they simply did not grow as well as the others, and eventually they died.

In this situation, the angle of the sun is the issue. By about 5 p.m. in mid-summer, the first plant in the row was out of direct sunlight. But the last one in the row was in a direct hit of the full late afternoon and evening sun untilalmost 9 p.m. These newly planted, small shrubs just couldn’t take all that intense sun and simply burned to a crisp, almost in front of my eyes.

So if you have a situation where you have multiple of the same plants performing differently in your landscape, the first thing you want to pay attention to is the environment. Look at:

  • The angle of the sun at different times of day, and length of sunlight
  • Soil drainage
  • Proximity to your house
  • Proximity to the street

All of these slight changes in a plant’s surroundings can contribute to big differences in plant health.

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Plant of the Week

Aster

Aster

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

I don't know about you, but I almost thought that fall would never arrive. But it finally DID, and fall aster arrived with it. This is one of our great Central Texas natives that can always be relied upon to rejuvenate our gardens and our spirits after a long, hot and dry summer. Fall aster is a smallish, mounding plant, usually staying less than 2' tall and about as wide, although it can get as tall as 3'. It looks great planted in the foreground of other fall flowering plants, and along the edges of planting beds. These little guys are simply covered in flowers in October and November, making them a real show-stopper in the autumn landscape. Bees, butterflies, and other insects love this plant for its fall nectar. Fall aster is a perennial and is hardy all the way to USDA zone 4, so it has no trouble at all with our winters here in Central Texas. It prefers well-drained soil and needs very little water once established, so be careful not to overwater it. And as with most of our native, low-water use plants, fertilization is really not necessary. They want sun but can also take part sun to even shadier, but will perform best with at least 4 hours of sun. It doesn't matter if it's morning or afternoon sun; asters are very adaptable. Their top growth will die back with the first hard freeze. You can wait until spring to cut them back to ground level, or tidy up sooner. Generally, their tidy rosettes appear by early winter. Cut back the stalks to enjoy their winter groundcover. You can plant naturalizing spring bulbs among the rosettes for a pretty winter picture! Cutting them back a few inches throughout the spring reinvigorates growth and makes the plants bushier and healthier, and encourages the plant to form more flower buds. You want to stop pruning by July to allow flower buds to set. Asters are easily divided. When the rosettes form in winter, dig some up and move to other spots. Although we've all learned the hard way that nothing is deer proof, fall aster's aromatic leaves are a little pungent and make this plant deer resistant.

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