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Plants for Pollinators

air date: April 25, 2015

What’s to eat? That is, for the pollinators we so welcome? Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center explains who goes for nectar or pollen and how to keep those busy bees and butterflies around all year. On tour, designer Annie Gillespie and associate Rachael Beavers designed a multi-level wildlife and drought resistant garden that started with water control and retention. Daphne answers: how should I prune my crape myrtle?  If you’re looking for a native, drought tough, deer resistant groundcover, go for silvery wooly stemodia, Daphne’s Plant of the Week.  Bring on the hummingbirds with John Dromgoole’s tips for feeders and plants.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Drought Garden for Wildlfie

When Sandi and Bob Tomlinson designed their 5-Star Austin Energy Green Build home, they wanted to live outside, too. For gardens that equally respect resources, from the beginning they worked with designer Annie Gillespie and associate Rachael Beavers. First on Annie’s list: water retention and control, including a wide filtration trench, dry creek beds, and rainwater collection. Then, she and Rachael designed cozy outdoor living among richly fragrant and vibrant drought tough plants for wildlife.

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Question of the Week

How prune crape myrtles into small trees?

Thanks to David Slevin for his pictures and this great question about pruning crape myrtles.

David planted eight ‘Tonto’ crape myrtles from 2-gallon containers four years ago, and they’ve filled in quite nicely, but now he’d like to shape them.

David asked if he should do this himself or if he should hire a professional landscaper, and we of course, encouraged him to DIY it.

The key is to start the process when the branches are small enough to be cut with hand pruners, or loppers, at most. A good, sharp pair of bypass pruning shears is essential, so invest in a good quality pair and keep them in shape.

To train shrubs into trees, you’ll need to do a type of pruning called thinning out, which basically means that you’ll need to remove branches all the way back to their source. The general recommendation is to never remove more than 1/3 of a plant at a time, before allowing it to regrow and recover (normally in a year’s time), and more conservative folks would say no more than 1/4.

If you’d like your crape myrtles to be a single-trunked tree, you’ll need to begin the selection process of which of the current trunks you’d like to keep and which you’ll remove. You’ll want to choose the trunk with the largest diameter, as long as it has no damage that would otherwise inhibit its growth.

When learning to prune, it really helps to see illustrations, and the various cooperative extension systems across the nation have produced some wonderful research-based information that you can download for free. Here’s one good resource for you.

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Plant of the Week

Woolly Stemodia

Woolly Stemodia

Deer-resistant Woolly Stemodia (Stemodia lanata) is native to coastal regions of Texas where deep, sandy soils are most prevalent. It works in many soils, but they must be well-drained. It spreads quickly across the ground, blanketing an area with bright, silvery-soft, almost-white, fuzzy leaves. Growing only about 6 inches tall and spreading to about 3 feet wide, Woolly Stemodia is a great filler in the front of garden spaces, especially raised beds, where it can cascade over onto the ground. It also does great in containers, spilling over the edge for dramatic effect. Full sun is best, but afternoon shade is okay too. Woolly Stemodia flowers from late summer through fall, but the blooms are fairly insignificant. Small white or light lavender flowers stay very tight within the leaves, making them almost unnoticeable. Once established, Woolly Stemodia should be watered sparingly. If the crown of the plant stays too wet, it will begin to rot from the center. Unlike some groundcovers, Woolly Stemodia stays pretty much within bounds and requires very little maintenance to keep it looking good. Listed as hardy to zone 8, it’s a perennial that can die back to the ground in winter, so prune back all the top growth in late winter. Sometimes the leaves can get a bit straggly and unattractive later in the season, once temperatures are off the charts. If that happens to your plant, simply shear off the straggly parts, which will reinvigorate the plant for new growth.

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