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Standout Olive Trees

encore date: February 25, 2016

original air date: February 27, 2016

Silvery olive trees really glisten in the garden, even if we don’t get enough olives to press. Pecan/Fruit/Nut Program Specialist Monte Nesbitt from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension picks the best varieties and conditions.  For dramatic palm tree flair, Daphne chooses native Texas palmetto, Sabal mexicana.  Find out how plant location impacts photosynthesis.  Get past “weekend warrior” pain with garden stretches demonstrated by Paul Smith, Fitness Professional at Lake Austin Spa. On tour, landscape designer Robert Leeper updated a family’s kid and dog friendly garden to conserve and control water in deer country.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Wildlife and Kid Friendly Water Conserving Garden

Kid, dog, and wildlife friendly:  that’s what Stephanie and Tom Sloss wanted when they updated their garden for water conservation and control in deer country.  Landscape architect Robert Leeper turned anxious footing and access into surround-around family outdoor living and stylish reduced-lawn native plant diversity.

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Question of the Week

How does light affect photosynthesis?

As I’m sure you know, plants perform photosynthesis via chlorophyll, and I’m sure you also know that chlorophyll is green, giving leaves their characteristic color. But have you ever noticed that shade-loving plants are usually darker green than plants that thrive in the sun? That’s because the more chlorophyll a plant has in its leaves the darker green it will be.

Shade plants, often native to tropical regions where they grow as understory plants, need quite a bit more chlorophyll to produce a sufficient amount of sugars to feed themselves and grow.

While plants that grow in full sun don’t need much chlorophyll at all, by comparison, since sun is plentiful, so they tend to be lighter green overall. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it is pretty common.

For example, compare a corn plant, with its yellow-green leaves, to a Hosta or cast-iron plant. The difference in greens is striking.

Shade plants also don’t flower as much as plants that prefer full sun, or their flowers are less significant, since sufficient sunlight is necessary to produce showy flowers.

A sun plant when placed in a shady spot will often not flower, and may be lanky an unattractive, since it will try to stretch up in search of sunlight.

Variegation is also common in shade plants: those white-striped areas on variegated leaves lack chlorophyll.

And colors other than green are also more common in shade plants, indicating a different strategy altogether, where the plant may have replaced much of the chlorophyll with carotenoids and anthocyanins, giving them orange or purple characteristics.

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Plant of the Week

Texas palmetto

Texas palmetto

Sabal Mexicana

Sabal Mexicana, often called Texas palmetto, is native to the Rio Grande Valley in extreme southern Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico. They’re normally available in quite small containers, but don’t let their size in the nursery fool you. These stout-trunked palms get up to 50 feet tall in their native habitat. The larger they are when purchased, the more expensive they will be, since growth is very slow. The larger the specimen, the older it is and the more time and effort the grower has invested in it. Because of this, most palms are sold according to caliper inch, rather than container size. Although palms aren’t generally planted for their flowers, once mature, Texas palmetto produces creamy white flowers in spring, on stalks that may extend seven to eight feet above the top of the plant. This is noteworthy, since birds are attracted to them, and to the black, berry-like fruit produced afterward. As with many other palms, Texas palmettos are evergreen and very adaptable to different soil types. They are fairly xeric, but since these palms are native to a warm, humid, relatively rainy region, they do need a bit of water to stay healthy. Listed as hardy only to USDA Zone 8, an unseasonably harsh winter may lead to the demise of this tree, so be sure to plant on the southwest side of your home, and be prepared to protect this tree during an especially harsh cold snap. Viewer Video goes to Diana Saunders for her remarkable shot of a Zebra Longwing butterfly laying eggs on passionvine.

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