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The Drunken Botanist

encore air date: August 9, 2014

original air date: June 14, 2014

Toast the plant in your favorite drink with tasty stories from Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist.  On tour, visit author Lucinda Hutson at home to see what inspired her purple cottage and books Viva Tequila and The Herb Garden Cookbook. Daphne answers: do sotols die after blooming? Her pick of the week is drought-tough oregano. Tim Miller from Millberg Farm shows how to root fig trees along with tips for saving water on food crops.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Lucinda Hutson’s Life Is a Fiesta Garden

Against vivid backdrops front and back, Lucinda Hutson gardens with passionate flamboyance in artfully unique spaces framed by her tiny purple cottage. Author of The Herb Garden Cookbook and Viva Tequila, she brings her love of Mexico across the border. Find out what inspired her festive and tasty designs.

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Question of the Week

Do Sotols Die After Blooming?

Do Sotols Die After Blooming?

In late spring, our various succulents send up fantastic blooms! It’s easy to confuse all of the various beautiful desert plants that are making their way into our Central Texas landscapes these days. Yuccas, agaves, sotols, nolinas, and others all have similarities.

And one of those similarities is a skyward-shooting bloom stalk. One of those groups of desert plants, the agaves, DO die after blooming in many cases, depending on species.

Other desert species, including Dasylirion, which are the sotols, don’t. All of these desert plants may take many weeks, or even months, to form their glorious bloom stalk, which start to emerge in early spring and may not be fully spent until late summer or early fall.

Cutting out the bloom stalk, after it’s seen its better days, can be challenging. You’ll need some heavy duty gloves to protect your hands from the sharply toothed margins of the sotol’s leaves. And you’ll need a small hand saw, like you might use to cut small tree branches. It would be very challenging to get a pair of pruning shears down into the space where you’d need to make the cut, and you’d also be surprised at how hard and thick that bloom stalk may be.

As with pruning tree limbs, I recommend you cut the top off first, to remove the weight. Then you won’t have to worry about the potential of cutting halfway through the bloom stalk and then it toppling over and causing damage.

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Plant of the Week

Oregano

Oregano

Oregano comes in all different types, varieties and cultivars. All are very drought tough and all require good drainage. Oregano’s so easy to grow, even in a container, that you’ll never need to purchase it in the produce section ever again! Or buy dried out oregano! On top of that, it makes a great groundcover and in fact, without an intervention, oregano will creep steadily across any garden bed that you plant it in. much the same as many of its other minty relatives. There’s no reason to isolate it in an official herb bed; include it as a groundcover to border walkways or accent beds. Oregano spreads by rhizomes, and so it’s very easy to dig up a hunk of it and transplant it to another area of your garden, or to give to friends. Some cultivars get much taller than others, so be sure to get the right one for your space. Full sun is great, but a little shade is fine too. Oregano will do fine on once a week irrigation and performs best with a little organic matter in the soil. In warmer winters it may remain evergreen but will still need to be sheared back all the way to the ground to encourage new growth in early spring. Some cultivars flower easily, while others rarely do. But this plant is grown for its leaves, so you really don’t want it to flower anyway. After vigorous spring growth, it’s a good idea to shear oregano back quite a bit, otherwise it tends to get leggy and flop over, which doesn’t hurt anything, it just doesn’t look too attractive.

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