Spring into summer with gusto

Can you believe this? We’ve had spring (and winter!) longer than 15 minutes. Poppies keep popping up with spuria iris.
corn poppy, seedhead, spuria iris

I can’t have too many native winecups.

winecup central texas gardener
In the cat cove, they team up with Gulf penstemon and Calylophus berlandieri ssp. Pinifolius.

Gulf penstemon, winecup, calylophus
And this time of year is just about my favorite on the patio, when Marie Pavie and star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) double up on perfume whammy.

rose marie pavie and star jasimine flower fragrance
In a Temple garden we taped recently, I love this combination of Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Yellow’, bluebonnets and sotol.

yellow hesperaloe, bluebonnets, sotol in Temple Texas
But it’s about time to shed spring and get those hot weather beauties in the ground.

Jeff Yarbrough from Emerald Garden Nursery and Watergardens joins Tom this week to dazzle us with annuals, perennials and shrubs that put the love back into summer!

Tom Spencer and Jeff Yarbrough Emerald Garden

Get his list for hot weather sizzle, including an intriguing dwarf pomegranate ‘Purple Sunset’ and a new esperanza on the scene.

Oh yes, don’t forget that Jeff’s an expert, locally-oriented plantsman who can help you with anything, including ponds. Emerald Garden also hosts free workshops on every topic under the sun!

Now, about local nurseries: Howard Nursery populated many gardens from 1912 until 2006.

Howard Nursery austin texas
Perhaps you met granddaughter Robin Howard Moore behind the counter where she and brothers Hank and Jim gave hands-on advice. I’ll never forget them as some of my first garden mentors. In fact, Robin always knew when we’d wrapped up another Pledge drive, Auction, or other intense production. I’d drag in on Sunday as my reviving treat. She would say, “So, Linda, guess you just finished a big project. What are you looking for today?”

So, it’s a special honor to present her as our featured gardener on tour. At home with Robin, now working as a landscape designer, she gives us her essential starting points with plants and design. I love our conversation about the changing trends that we’ve witnessed together.

Something I never knew about Robin is her artistic whimsy, like these bird baths she crafted from plates and vases.

bird bath with old plates and vases Robin Howard Moore

This one inspires a trip to the thrift store: a marble-embedded bowling ball, a gift from Anne of the Shady Hollow Garden Club, to brighten up a shady spot.

garden art bowling ball with marbles

Robin’s growing Rangoon Creeper in semi-shade, but in San Antonio, Ragna Hersey has this adaptable plant in a few hours of sun. Others have it in full sun.

Daphne gives us the scoop on this drought and freeze-tough tropical that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Rangoon Creeper flower

Our viewer question comes from Pete Vera: how to mulch with our scatter spots of rain?

soil compost mulch

Wow, is this a great question or what? You know what happens: we get that 1/10” that just sloughs right off. As always, Daphne has the answer.

And, Trisha’s got the perfect answer for all those weeds that love that little bit of rain: put them to work as natural teas to fertilize your plants!

Until next week, visit your local nursery and thank these hard-working folks for helping us grow locally and beautifully. Linda

Fruits of our labors even if some took “almost” a century

I’m always so glad when the Byzantine gladiolus flowers this time every year. But doesn’t that face look a tad grumpy?

Byzantine gladiolus funny face

Starting from just three or so pass-alongs corms, it multiplies every year, so it’s actually very happy!

Maggie rose is looking mighty nice, too.

Maggie rose

Still, she’s a little out of sorts since she came down with a case of powdery mildew thanks to cool nights and moisture in the air.

Powdery mildew on rose

She’ll work it out herself without medication, but if you’re worried about it on your plants, check out neem oil or Serenade. Just don’t apply in the heat of day and don’t use Serenade when the bees are active.

Up the street, an Agave americana is about out of time, though it won’t relinquish its claim to that corner for a century or more, thanks to its pups. And their pups. . .

century plant bloom stalk

Coincidentally, it sent up its final comment just as a Central Texas Gardener Facebook question came in about century plants. So, this week, Daphne answers: does it actually take a century to bloom? Nope.

Hella Wagner shared some pictures of her plant’s glorious ascension as the mother plant died. Daphne explains the process, and how the bloom stalk itself can even be dangerous.

Agave americana bloom stalk

Agave americana flower stalk on ground

My yuccas up front (Y. pallida and Y. reverchonii,) are reaching for the sky, too, but they won’t end their life with this springtime bloom.

Yucca pallida bloom stalks Central Texas

Back to agaves, Daphne makes this deer-resistant, drought-tough genus her Pick of the Week. There are many species and cultivars in various forms, colors, sizes and habitats.

Agave shawii 'Blue Flame'

Mostly, they want good drainage, though my A. celsii does fine in my island bed that I’ve gradually amended with compost and mulch.

Agave celsii

Do look at their cold hardiness. I fell in love with an A. celsii ‘Tricolor’, as it was called then, which is rated for a zone or two just warmer than us. First crazy freeze and they were mush. My regular celsii didn’t fare well in 17 degrees but did return, just slightly modified.

Do take a serious look at their mature size, too. This cute little A. americana will grow up fast, and it won’t take even 10 years!

Agave americana baby

Mature agave americana with jerusalem sage

Event note: The Cactus & Succulent Society of America convenes in Austin June 15 -20, with tours, incredible talks and more. For details and to register, visit http://cssa2013.com.

Certainly, it doesn’t take a century to enjoy homegrown citrus! This week, Tom joins Michelle Pfluger from Green ‘n Growing for her list of easy, productive, and fairly cold tolerant ones to grow.

Tom Spencer and Michelle Pfluger Green 'n Growing Nursery

Recently, I added a calamondin to a patio container. We love the fragrant flowers and can’t wait for its slightly sour fruits a few months down the road.

calamondin green fruits

In the ground, my Satsuma ‘Mr. Mac’ is going gangbusters, thanks to the temperate winter and a little high nitrogen fertilizer in March.

satsuma orange new fruits

On tour in Liberty Hill, April and Cliff Hendricks harvest Improved Meyer lemons, along with dreams, in close-up gardens bordering their wide open land. With scavenges, imagination, and artistry, they created a paradise without spending a ton of money.

By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about ollas to water plants in conservative times. John Dromgoole gives us the scoop.


Find out more at Dripping Springs Ollas.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Plants that fooled drought

Yessiree, we all got spring early when many plants bloomed a month ahead of schedule. But I got one last blast with this Dutch iris on April 1. Guess it wanted to fool us.

Dutch iris yellow and lavender (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Peggy Martin is not fooling around this year. She’s finally got her feet in the ground to cover a trellis to hide the chain link fence.

Peggy Martin rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Thanks to William Welch, who discovered this Katrina survivor, and growers like The Antique Rose Emporium, I have this drought and flood-proof rose myself!

Peggy Martin rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
It’s a little crazy out there right now with poppies, spuria irises, and Maggie rose to her left.

Peggy Martin rose with Maggie rose, poppies, spuria irises

Since Peggy and this Maggie were brought into the trade thanks to dear William Welch, I call it my Welch garden.

Maggie rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Thanks to the Antique Rose Emporium, I have a young  Republic of Texas rose, a low grower I’d planted in front of the den window.

Republic of Texas rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
But she didn’t get as much sun as she liked, so I moved her in late February. In the back area, I’d already pulled out the border stones several feet and did the newspaper/mulch routine over former grass.  I plopped her in this sunnier spot with little ceremony, and off she went!

Some plants find the right spots for themselves. Years ago, Greg built this decomposed granite walkway alongside our carport. Gulf Coast penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) and Mexican feather grass seeds headed right over to fluff it up. Beyond represents some work on hold when I can snag a day.

Gulf penstemon and Mexican feather grass seeded on pathway

It’s not irrigated and never even gets a hose, so you’ve got to give them credit for making it through last year.

Gulf penstemon seeded in pathway near driveway
In the backyard crape/mountain laurel island, the Knock Out rose deflects our attention from straggly poppies. I’ll resist the urge to tidy up for a few more weeks. It’s worth it to fill a bucket of poppy seeds to pass along.

Knock Out rose, lamb's ears, poppies to seed

I love floppy, fluffy plants, but I love structural plants, too. Here’s my combination of Agave striata with ‘Hot Lips’ salvia.

Agave striata with 'Hot Lips' salvia
This week on CTG, we go for plants that stand up to drought and stand out in your garden with Michael Cain from Vivero Growers Nursery.

Tom Spencer and Michael Cain, Vivero Growers Nurser
For years, innovators Katherine and Michael connected with contractors and designers in the wholesale trade to toughen up landscapes in low-water times. In 2011, they opened to the rest of us with their fabulous nursery in Oak Hill, next door to Geo Growers. Here’s Katherine at the nursery. She wanted to come, too, but when you’re a mom and pop local nursery, someone’s got to mind the store!

Katherine Cain at Vivero Growers Nursery

Tom and Michael showcase structural plants like agaves and echeverias to pair with softer forms and ongoing flowers. A new one to us is large leaf Jerusalem sage. No fooling, it’s a knock-out with super-sized leaves! Thanks to Katherine for all these great pictures!

large leaf Jerusalem sage, Vivero Growers Nurse

Have you ever considered Lion’s tail or Lion’s ear (Leonotis menthifolia) ‘Savannah Sunset’ that attract hummingbirds to stand-tall plants that hover with the hummers over foreground plants?

Leonotis menthifolia 'Savannah Sunset', Vivero Growers Nursery

At ground level, ‘Bath’s Pink’ dianthus entices with sweet fragrance. Its delicate silvery demeanor belies its drought-tough strength.

'Bath's Pink' dianthus, Vivero Growers Nursery
Katherine and Michael work long, hot, hard days at their nursery. Then Katherine musters the energy to share her passion about plants, personable stories and great photographs on Vivero’s blog!  I’m in awe.

Daphne’s Pick of the Week, thryallis (Galphimia glauca) is certainly energetic as a structural screening shrub with flowers from spring to frost. Perfect to accent silvers, purples, and whatever your imagination throws your way!

Thryallis flowers (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
But I bet you’ve never imagined this on your oak trees. Please thank Larry Kuehn for bringing it to our attention!

Crown gall on oak tree (c) Larry Kuehn

Daphne and I consulted arborist Guy LeBlanc who nailed it as crown gall. Find out what that means for your trees.

It’s a great time to propagate plants!  Get a few new tricks from Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors, another fabulous local nursery that works online with great tips when they’re not online with you in person.

plant propagation with Merrideth Jiles, The Great Outdoors

On tour, Paul Lofton in Pflugerville shows that you don’t need a ton of money to create a fabulous garden! Thanks to Matt Jackson for connecting us to Paul.

Follow Paul on his Facebook page with what’s up in his garden. And, in his first time on camera, here’s his 1 minute tip on how to propagate a plant in a recycled soda bottle.

Thanks to Paul, I now have a cobweb spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana) that he sent home with me in a bottle! Unlike its spring cousin, this one thrives in summer and takes a break in winter.

Cobweb spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana)
See you next week!  Linda