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Peckerwood Garden and Courtyard Romance

air date: January 14, 2017

How do new plants make it into nurseries and home gardens? Peckerwood Garden’s Director of Horticulture Adam Black explains how John Fairey’s botanical discoveries changed our plant vocabulary. On tour, Margie and Al McClurg created a destination courtyard with designer Jackson Broussard. Daphne explains why live oak tree acorns were so prolific in 2016. Plant of the Week, Mexican flame vine, matches summer’s heat with flaming flowers that pollinators can’t resist. Since January’s the best time to prune crape myrtles, Trisha demonstrates the right cuts for elegant structure and abundant summer blooms.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Romantic Courtyard Garden: Margie and Al McClurg

Organizing a bunch of plants into a sensual garden is both exciting and rewarding. Working with designer Jackson Broussard, Margie and Al McClurg turned hodgepodge into a destination courtyard.Winding paths lined with layers of structural succulents and bee-loved perennials and annuals converge under a shady Bradford pear allee and rustic table hangout. Learn how Jackson creates paths and patios that stay firm under many feet.

Watch more "On Tour" videos on YouTube →

Question of the Week

Why do oak trees produce lots of acorns some years?

Thanks to Nancy and Rob Hontz for their great question: Why did their live oak trees produce so MANY acorns in 2016?

They’ve swept countless gallons of acorns from hardscape surfaces, and are dealing with a deluge in their lawn and garden beds.

Pruning last year did not create this exceptional bounty.

There are a few different reasons involved, including differences in species and planting time. In my yard, the red oak is producing a lot more acorns than the live oak, while my Monterrey oak produced almost none, so while the general trend this year is oak trees that are virtually raining acorns, the situation is variable.

The issue is also climate-related: after many years of drought, we’ve had two years of abundant rainfall, giving trees more ability to grow, photosynthesize, recover, and reallocate resources for future generations.

There’s also an evolutionary connection here. Nut-producing trees have developed a cyclical reproduction habit which has been shown to keep the population of nut-eating animals, such as squirrels, off balance. Fewer nuts one year will curb critter populations, so that the next time the tree has a “good” year, there won’t be as many consumers and more nuts will have a better chance to survive and grow into new trees. This cycle is irregular, so it may be a number of years before the problem is this “bad” again.

In addition to their questions, Nancy and Rob also sent along some of the tricks they’ve developed for dealing with the issue. After laborious, virtually futile attempts to rake the acorns, they decided that they had to take more drastic steps.

First, they installed some inexpensive nylon netting on one corner of the tree, keeping the nuts from landing on the ground in the first place.

Next, they purchased a nut-gathering tool, such as those marketed for collecting pecans, to see if it would also work on acorns, and it did! How did I not think of that?! Thanks Nancy and Rob, I will definitely be stealing your idea.

Watch more Question of the Week videos on YouTube →

Plant of the Week

Mexican Flame Vine

Mexican Flame Vine

Senecio confusus

Mexican flame vine grows quickly in warm weather, producing brilliant orange flowers that Monarch butterflies and countless pollinators can’t resist. Mexican flame vine may be evergreen and bloom all year in warm winters and in zones 9 and above, but tends to be an annual in zone 8 and colder. Even if it has to be replaced each year, this plant is well worth the effort for its wildlife benefit and showy flowers. It must have a trellis or some other support, since it quickly grows to 10 to 12’ tall and about 2’ wide. Plant in full sun or light shade and water regularly, but don’t overwater. The only problem we’ve ever noticed with this plant in our demonstration garden is die-back at the base in times of heavy rainfall. If that happens and you lose the plant, increase the drainage with amendments or a berm in future plantings, and also be sure to keep mulch away from the base.

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