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Succulent Companions

encore date: August 15, 2015

original air date: April 11, 2015

Team up structural succulents and flowering trees and perennials with Lindsey Mayer from Tillery Street Plant Company and Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents. On tour, Havilah and Ryan Gee worked with land designer Elizabeth McGreevy to update their front yard with food, fun, and low-water plants. Daphne explains how to rescue a desert willow “pruned” by a raccoon. Her Plant of the Week is drought tough silvery groundcover, silver ponyfoot. Trisha shows how to grow luffa gourds and make your own sponges.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Front Yard Makeover

Ryan and Havilah Gee had the typical grass and foundation shrub front yard. Not their style. When their oak trees fell to oak wilt disease, they worked with land designer Elizabeth McGreevy to create “Austin chic” with a front yard patio and terraced beds that retain rainfall for vegetables, herbs, succulents, and wildlife plants.

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Question of the Week

My desert willow’s main trunk was chomped by a raccoon. What should I do?

Thanks to Gail Allen, Landscape Manager at Natural Bridge Caverns, who wants some advice on how to deal with the desert willow that she planted two years ago. Raccoons broke off the main trunk last fall and Gail would like to know whether to cut it back, prune it to the ground or pull it out entirely.

It’s always disappointing when a plant is damaged, but if the plant is young, at least we can take heart that we haven’t invested too much time in it yet, and it will be easier to replace.

In this case, your first inclination might be to pull it out and start over—a very valid choice, and one that I could support.  You could also choose to just wait and see what emerges in the spring.  If no new growth appears once temperatures have reliably warmed into the 70’s, the tree is likely dead and you should obviously remove it.

But if it grows from what’s left of the trunk, you might choose to cut back the dead portions above that, leaving the new growth to become the main trunk.  Many people prefer single-trunked trees, but, personally, I happen to prefer multi-trunked growth on a desert willow, so I’d prune it to the ground and let it resprout from the roots.  It should do so quite easily, as long as it was healthy prior to being damaged, and had some root mass built up to use as a growing source.  A single-trunked tree may be hard to achieve at this point, due to the plant’s instinct to recover by producing shrubby growth.  So, if you want a single-trunked tree, it might be better to cut your losses now and replace it.

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Plant of the Week

Silver Ponyfoot

Silver Ponyfoot

Dichondra argentea

Need to replace some lawn in a sunny spot?  Native groundcover silver ponyfoot can do that for you, with striking silvery foliage that covers an area like a living carpet.  The silver color of the leaves may be what first catches your attention, but when you look closely, you might find the shape of them even more appealing.  Flat, almost heart-shaped, and slightly cupped, the leaves of silver ponyfoot provide an interesting structural element to any garden space. As with many groundcovers, silver ponyfoot is equally happy to drape from an elevated perch as it is to crawl along the ground.  Whether that perch be an urn on a 3 foot pedestal or simply a 3 inch border of steel edging, you’ll be pleased with the result. Silver ponyfoot is quite happy in xeric, sunny areas of the garden, and will be more mannerly in those spots as well.  But if given a little shade and plenty of moisture, you may find silver ponyfoot will quite vigorously leap past the boundaries you set for it. Most descriptions list a height of 6 to 12 inches, but I doubt you’ll ever see the upper end of that range.  As for width, silver ponyfoot sends out little runners that look kind of like small feet.  Similar to strawberries, these runners put down roots at the nodes and a new plantlet is formed, giving this plant the ability to roam far and wide if not kept in check.  

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