Sneaking into summer

Now here’s a plant for your list. My native snake herb (Dyschoriste linearis) sneaks in to attract butterflies in its carefree perennial spread in part-time sun.

Snake herb (Dyschoriste linearis)

When Michelle Pfluger from Green ‘n Growing introduced it to us last year, I raced to get a few. They’ve done so well that I got more, and still want more! Graceful foliage all the time with “come find me” flowers in spring through fall.

snake herb flower

Despite “snake” in its name, sadly, it’s not deer resistant.

An old-time summer favorite is Althea (Rose of Sharon), a shrub/small tree. This new color for me is a passalong from friend Bob Beyer.

pink althea flower

From Central Texas Gardener’s Facebook page, some of our friends fondly refer to Althea as the “granny plant.” We all agree that we need a good granny now and then!  I still have some of the lavender ones that came with my 1950s house. It’s a great adaptable accent or deciduous companion in an evergreen natural screen.

Another passalong is from Daphne herself, when she was trialing Peter’s Purple monarda. Hummingbirds and butterflies, here they come! Find out more about this great beebalm.

peter's purple monarda

Daphne’s pick this week is Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’.

orange jubilee tecoma

It’s a cultivar, like the ‘Gold Star’ you may know, derived from our native Tecoma stans, also called yellow bells or esperanza.

orange jubilee tecoma

Here’s a “new” idea that actually is historic: grafted vegetables. John Dromgoole explains why grafted tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are making a sensation, thanks to insect resistance and faster and bigger production.  Actually, by mail, I received three ‘Mighty Matos’ to test.

Mighty Mato in Central Texas

Like the ones that John, Trisha and Travis Extension are growing, mine took off like gangbusters, even though I got a late start. Certainly, I’m going to be looking more into them, and CTG plans a follow-up this summer.

Weeds are always sneaking in—you know how that is! Daphne answers: can they be put in the compost pile? She explains cold and hot composting. Since mine is a cold one, I’ll put in weeds before seeds are mature, since they add nitrogen. Once they look like this, I send them to the city’s hot piles in my leaf bags.

ripe weed seeds not for cold compost piles

Now that the heat is on, let’s all dive into some water—like ponds, streams and fountains! Not only do they cool us off visually and relax us spiritually, the thirsty wildlife will thank you.

This week, Tom meets with Kathy Ragan and Karl Tinsley from the Austin Pond Society to show off a few of the designs on this year’s tour, June 8 & June 9.

Austin Pond Society tour

Featuring 21 ponds in all styles and sizes, you can meet the ponders in person to learn anything you want to know, from technical details to tips on fish and plants.

Austin Pond Society tour

Austin Pond Society tour

Austin Pond Society tour

The evening of June 8, experience some night-time pond magic, too! Get the details and buy tickets in advance.

In Georgetown, Claudia and Ronnie Hubenthal’s ponds and streams started with a serendipitous find.  Here’s a sneak preview.

This Saturday, June 1, check out the fabulous gardens on the NXNA tour: the North Austin Coalition of Neighborhoods. 13 private gardens will be on tour, along with 5 school gardens and a community garden.  On June 2, check out their garden talks and photography exhibit. All proceeds benefit AustinVoices to beautify north Austin. Find out more.

And here’s a huge shout-out to our friends, Rick and Kelle Stults, at Wild Birds Unlimited in the Westwoods Shopping Center, who’ve signed on as local underwriters for CTG. Please tell them thanks the next time you’re in!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Feeding wildlife; Pond Society tour; periwinkle rot

I love free plants.

Bird seed sunflower with bee

These sunflowers sprouted from bird seed. I have no luck at all with the gorgeous hybrids, but without doing a thing, I get a wall of sunflowers all summer for bees and birds.

We’re loving watching the lesser goldfinches’ acrobatics on the zexmenias and the purple coneflowers. Not when I have the camera, of course.

Purple coneflower

Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get a shot of hummingbirds and butterflies on the Dicliptera suberecta, since they certainly zoom in on this perennial.

Dicliptera suberecta (hummingbird plant)
The Diclipteras took a hard hit the past few winters, but decided to stick around. Actually, I rather appreciated nature’s editing, since they can get a bit out of control. But I love that soft gray, velvety foliage even when they’re not blooming. Mine get blasts of harsh sun, but not for hours at a time. In my semi-shady beds, they add the tall silvery tone I crave.

In the same part sun/part shade bed, bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) mingles with the lamb’s ears. I’ve also seen it growing like crazy in full sun. This sprawling, crawling perennial softens summer’s heat with sweet pale flowers.

Bouncing bet with 'Helen von Stein' lambs ears
Its common name, soapwort, derives from the saponin in its roots. Crush the leaves and mix with water for homegrown soap. I squished a few leaves in my grubby hands, applied the water hose, and lathered up a storm. Next time, maybe I’ll add some mint to my “yard bath.” As Cheryl from Conscious Gardening says, “Neato!” Yep.

Right now, water is the most refreshing sound and sight to both us and our desperate wildlife. If you’ve been thinking about a pond, fountain, or waterfall, immerse yourself in ideas on this year’s Austin Pond Society tour.

Anna Lisa & Rick Austin Pond Society tour
This week on CTG, Tom meets with Terrie and Michael Lumsden from the Austin Pond Society for a preview of just a few of the many gardens on June 11 and 12. And you can’t beat the price for passionate friendly hands-on advice from the gardeners. $15 in advance at selected nurseries, and $20 on site. The funds benefit their care of many public gardens.

Michael & Terrie Austin Pond Society tour
At each garden, pick up techie info (like liners, pumps, filters), design concepts, plant tips, advice about fish, and the “Oh wow”
magic we all need.

Bobbie & Naomi Austin Pond Society tour

Scott Austin Pond Society tour

And, for the small ticket price, travel to a romantic paradise at Barbara and David Hale’s, CTG’s garden on tour.

Barbara and David Hale garden, Austin Pond Society
In their basic backyard, one weekend at a time, they pulled from Pond Society tours, their travels, and their imaginations to change a muddy, shady backyard and humdrum front into a daily vacation.

Barbara and David Hale garden, Austin Pond Society

Barbara and David Hale garden, Austin Pond Society

And, check out their mosaics that dress up standard pots, cement benches and a front walkway!

Barbara and David Hale mosaic

A few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist adding some old-fashioned periwinkles (annual vincas), reminiscent of my childhood, against ‘Helen von Stein’ lamb’s ears, verbena, Agave striata, and ‘Hot Lips’ salvia.

annual periwinkles (vinca) with Agave striata and Hot Lips salvi
With this year’s exceptional heat and high winds, I must water them every few days, until they’re ready to launch on their own (generally, they’re not water hogs at all).  But planting too early ends up like this photo from Lisa Maddox.

Periwinkle (annual vinca) rot
We thank Lisa for her great Daphne’s Question of the Week, since this happens to so many of us. Shoot, I haven’t planted periwinkles for years after I made the same mistake, since I’d heard that the disease never leaves the soil. And I learned my lesson on caladiums too! Nurseries entice us with periwinkles, caladiums, impatiens, and other heat lovers too soon. Yes, it may seem hot to us in April, but as Daphne tells us: the soil and nights are still too cool.

Diseases like Pythium or Phytopthora set in. As Daphne says, “These are both soil-borne diseases known as water-molds.  These diseases have spores that are motile in water, and in the spring rain or by watering your plants from above, you can actually splash those spores onto your plant from the soil.”

Periwinkle (annual vinca) rot

The disease will remain in the soil, but you can plant again! Just wait until the temps are reliably in the 80s next May. And make sure you mulch around them to prevent the soil  mold spores from splashing onto the leaves. This applies to tomatoes, roses and other susceptible plants, too. Thanks, Lisa, for helping us all out here!

John Dromgoole explains how to use anti-transpirants like Wilt-Pruf, Cloud Cover and Vacation to help new plants get established. You can even spray your Christmas tree with Wilt-Pruf and Cloud Cover to keep its needles fresh longer. Vacation is the one to use on houseplants (and outdoor plants) when you spring out of here for two weeks!

Until next week, Linda