New look at lawns, watering tips, plant performance flamboozle

Last week, we taped a lawn-free garden that will air in 2012.

Native garden design Austin Texas Central Texas Gardener
I love the way that Anne uses grasses, yuccas, and agaves for vertical distinction against free-flow natives that nectar hosts of winged visitors. Here’s a nice duo: Lindheimer muhly and and Deer muhly.

Lindheimer muhly and deer muhly Central Texas Gardener

Lindheimer seed heads.

Lindheimer muhly seed heads Central Texas Gardener

For years, I had a Lindheimer in the front garden:  a homecoming beacon every fall from far down the street.

Lindheimer muhly Central Texas Gardener

Then it got too shady, and it whimpered away. Last year, with some tree pruning, I had sun again. I was about to get another Lindheimer, when Patrick Kirwin gave me another idea, Pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia), a smaller choice for that space. I planted one in front and three more in the back bed, where despite their youth, already they do a great job against the turk’s cap.

Pine muhly with turk's cap Central Texas Gardener
Pine muhly’s just one of the plants on Patrick’s list this week when he and Tom take a new look at lawns.

Tom Spencer and Patrick Kirwin Central Texas Gardener

Garden designer Patrick of Kirwin Horticulture Services has been working on a design that includes buffalo grass, Indian bunch grass, switch grass, bearded iris, rain lilies and more.

Patrick Kirwin garden design

Patrick also shows off  the sedge Carex retroflexa. I have a few here and there, but intend to replace some of my dead lawn with them this year. I’m totally in love with this sedge!

Sedge, Carex retroflexa Central Texas Gardener
On tour, check out East Side Patch, where discovery replaced lawn. Leah and Philip Leveridge have made some changes since our taping (of course!), but their helpful hobbits and the Botox lady approve their proactive and on-going DD (drought design).

At ESP and in every garden, sometimes we’re flamboozled when one plant craters and its mates are healthy, just a few feet apart. What’s up with that?  This week, Daphne explains what can happen. In her case, she planted four Southern wax myrtles (Morella cerifera) along her fence last February. She watered them just the same. Two are fine.

Southern wax myrtle Daphne Richards Central Texas Gardener

Two are compost.

dead wax myrtle too much sun Central Texas Gardener

What happened? Here’s her analysis: “In this situation, the angle of the sun is the issue.  By about 5 p.m. in mid-summer, the first plant in the row was out of direct sunlight.  But the last one in the row was in a direct hit of the full late afternoon and evening sun until almost 9 p.m.  These newly planted, small shrubs just couldn’t take all that intense sun and simply burned to a crisp, almost in front of my eyes.”  Get her complete answer about what can produce different results in the same garden.

Daphne’s pick of the week is native fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), a reliable perennial in psycho light, drought, freeze, and floods.  I planted my first ones years ago and divide some every winter to spread around. Regardless of weather events, they’ve never missed an October date with bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Native aster with bee
Their tops will freeze back in winter, but their rosettes quickly cover the ground. Simply cut back those dead stems to the rosette for a pretty groundcover all winter. I fill the blank spaces with naturalizing bulbs.

Aster winter rosette

Watering is certainly on our minds! Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors compares options and how much to water.

Merrideth Jiles The Great Outdoors

Even though the ground is dry, fall IS STILL the best time to plant. Check out Daphne’s fabulous article in the Austin American-Statesman to prep sunbaked soil as we dig in this fall.

And here’s a wonderful video from the Texas Forest Service about how to water your trees and check soil moisture underground.

Until next week, Linda

Fall flowers & garden tour

Hey, everyone! If you’re from around “these parts,” please join us at KLRU on October 20 at 7 p.m. for our monthly Community Screening. This time, KLRU features local productions.  Meet Evan Smith from Texas Monthly Talks, and see a few clips from a new independent production, Austin Daytripper.

AND, meet CTG’s host Tom Spencer, director Ed Fuentes, and me. After the screening in the Austin City Limits studio, you can tour the CTG set. (And I’ll just say that on weekly ACL studio tours, some visitors race over to our set and exclaim, “Wow, it’s Central Texas Gardener!”). I like that.

Can you beat last weekend’s sweetness?  Sunday’s rain interfered with my to-do list, but I love that kind of interference!

purple fall asters

Despite the drought, the asters started blooming right on schedule. The yucca youngsters are still a bit overtaken, but in a few years, they’ll be the alpha plants.

fall asters with salvia greggii

I took advantage of the light rain to divide some lambs ears to fill a few spots along the crape bed border. Now it’s all “connected.”  While there, I couldn’t resist a picture of garlic chives against some caladiums that got their second wind.

garlic chive flowers with white caladium

To their right, I planted three pink rain lilies (Zephyranthes labufarosea) in between my recent ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbias.

In the middle of the bed, white Salvia coccineas are overwhelming the dianellas, but I like the ethereal look. It’s not worth taming them now, since it won’t be long before they’re history. After the first hard frost, the dianellas will be back in control.

white salvia coccinea with dianella

I never need a calendar to know it’s fall. Along with the asters, under the Chinese pistache, Salvia regla announced it.

Salvia regla

So did Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida) and Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) in the cat cove.

Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida), Gregg's mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)

On CTG this week, take a look at the really fabulous Travis County Master Gardener tour, coming up October 24 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Thanks to Loretta Fischer for providing images of these outstanding, hands-on gardens.

Travis County Master Gardener tour

This year’s theme is Sustainable Gardening for Urban Wildlife. At each garden, meet the gardeners and ask them how they made it through summer, and how they attract wildlife.

Travis County Master Gardeners tour

On top of that, each garden features seminars for tips on plants, wildlife, and garden problems. And of course, they’ll have plants for sale!   It’s only $10 for the whole shooting match or $5 per garden. Get all the details here.

On CTG’s video tour, we take our camera to one of them to illustrate how Lindy McGinnis turned her front yard into a garden that attracts both wildlife and the neighbors.

Lindy McGinnis master gardener

If you miss the broadcast, or want to get ideas from afar, including John’s how-to on the EarthBox, watch it starting Friday night at

Until next week, Linda