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Wild About Wildflowers

encore date: September 22, 2016

original air date: September 24, 2016

Yes, we love those spring wildflowers!  But just like us, our beneficial wildlife needs food all year long. Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center shows how to extend the menu every season.  On tour, see how a gardener turned a typical suburban lawn into wildlife habitat. Daphne’s Plant of the Week, native four-nerve daisy, blooms for months on evergreen foliage. And find out why some recommended plants are now considered invasive, while others get tagged as aggressive. Trisha heads to the vegetable garden for the best eggplants, when to harvest, and  how to use in delicious recipes. Get her growing tips and recipes.

Episode Segments

On Tour

No Lawn Native Plant Garden

Jackie Davis is always throwing a garden party. It often includes family, friends and neighbors, but the wildlife stops by every day from dawn to dark. It’s a far different scene than when she bought her small-lot house, complete with dying trees and dog-trampled yard. Now her Certified Backyard Habitat is always full of life, including over 110 species of birds. She’s a member of Travis Audubon, the Native Plant Society and the Austin Butterfly Forum.

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Interview

Native Plants and Wildflowers All Year

Yes, we love those spring wildflowers!  But just like us, our beneficial wildlife needs food all year long. Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center shows how to extend the menu every season.

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Question of the Week

Why are formerly promoted plants now on the invasive list?

A viewer recently asked about why certain trees or other plants that were once highly promoted are now on the invasive plant list? And, many of them are still sold in nurseries.

Well, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the interpretation of the term “invasive” is subjective, and often depends on the environment. A plant that is invasive in one situation may be much less so in others. Rainfall and soil type will influence this quite a lot.

A plant that is invasive here in Central Texas may be much less so, or not at all, in the sandy soils and xeric climate of far West Texas, and those same characteristics that lead a species to earn the “invasive” label here, may be prized in areas where other plants are challenging to grow.

Most plant species that are labeled “invasive” are not native to the region where they’ve been given this negative description.

So then, are native plants not considered invasive? Not usually. In the case of native plants, instead of “invasive,” you will often hear the label “aggressive” used.

Now, to the untrained ear, those two adjectives may not sound all that different. But to plant people, they are. One big difference is that “invasive” species are known to escape confinement, into unwanted areas. And when they get out of your yard into your neighbor’s or a greenbelt, they tend to take over and choke out native species, thereby effecting the entire microclimate in that area, and most likely also effecting the delicate balance of wildlife living there.

Again, in far West Texas, where there is much less rainfall, an “invasive” plant may thrive with very little care or supplemental irrigation. Although we’ve received adequate rainfall this year, it hasn’t been that long since Central Texas was in a severe drought and we were all rethinking our landscapes for water conservation.

Which leads us full circle back to the question of why many “invasive” species are sold in nurseries. The situation is a delicate balance, and in general, we should avoid plants that are considered invasive where we live. And as a final note, we should mention the category of “noxious weed,” which is a designation given to plants that are illegal in certain regions. Those species have been shown to severely affect not only the natural areas, but also commerce. Just think “Kudzu.”

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Plant of the Week

Four-nerve daisy

Four-nerve daisy

Tetraneuris acaulis, also Hymenoxys

Native perennial four-nerve daisy does great in full sun or afternoon shade, with very little water or maintenance. They prefer rocky, well-drained soil, so if you have heavy clay, you may find them a challenge. If that’s the case in your garden, consider building berms or raised beds with sandy soil and some added organic matter, but not too much. Or even containers, where again, you can control the soil and drainage, will work with this beautiful perennial. The bright yellow, cheerful flowers will greet you from spring all the way through the heat of summer. And you’ll need several plants for grouping, since four-nerve daisy stays a petite 6” by 6” in size. Water sparingly and don’t mulch heavily, as these plants easily rot if they stay too wet.

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