Fall in love with autumn bulbs and grasses

Big day in my garden! The autumn daffodils (Sternbergia lutea) popped up reliably a year after planting.

Sternbergia lutea autumn daffodil
These small crocus-like plants, native to the Mediterranean, are cute companions for red oxblood lilies and spider lilies (Lycoris radiata).

Lycoris radiata spider lily and Sternberia lutea autumn daffodil
Last fall on CTG, Chris Wiesinger, author of Heirloom Bulbs for Today, introduced me to these beauties that will naturalize in my Blackland soil, even in part shade! I wasted no time ordering these hard-to-find bulbs online.

Mostly though, I get plants from local nurseries supplied by local/regional growers (or grown themselves), along with passalongs from friends.  My native Plumbago scandens has been in non-stop mode for months against evergreen Texas sedge (Carex texensis). The plumbago will die to the ground this winter but return even stronger next spring.

Plumbago scandens with Texas sedge
Mine came from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center sales—coming up again Oct. 13 & 14 (member’s preview Oct. 12). You can even join that day to beat the rush for superb natives, including ones that don’t often show up in nurseries.

These days, many nurseries do have native grasses like Lindheimer muhly (on the left) and deer muhly (on the right):  this spectacular duo in Anne Bellomy’s garden.

Lindheimer and deer muhly seed heads

Native grasses, in the fields and in our gardens, are both lovely and beneficial. Many send down deep roots, benefiting aeration, stabilizing the soil, and improving fertility—along with providing shelter and food for wildlife. And in fall, they are the ultimate drama queens! My Lindheimer was our favorite autumn standout until it got too much shade and withered away. Until I find a sunny spot, I’ll just enjoy Anne’s.

Lindheimer and deer muhly
This week, Tom meets with Shirley and Brian Loflin, who note that grasses once predominated the Hill Country and the Blackland prairie.

Tom Spencer Shirley Loflin Brian Loflin
Their book, Grasses of the Texas Hill Country, is a friendly hands-on guide to identify and learn about both cool and warm weather grasses in our fields and for our gardens. This popular book is currently in reprint, available for pre-order from Texas A&M University Press.

Grasses of the Texas Hill Country Brian and Shirley Loflin

Currently, it is available as a Google ebook, too.

Brian’s photography helps make it easier to identify the grasses that soon will be in show-off mode, like curly mesquite. This one’s part of  the Habiturf mix that includes buffalo grass and blue grama for a native lawn in sun.  By the way, the Habiturf trio is available at the Wildflower Center and online.

Common curly mesquite Brian and Shirley Loflin

Little bluestem is another native beauty that you’ll be seeing soon.

Little Bluestem Brian and Shirley Loflin

Artist Shirley also creates beautiful framed botanicals with grasses, perfect for that wall you’ve wanted to adorn!

Grasses framed botanical Loflin

You can order online from their site, The Nature Connection, and also find out about their workshops, field trips, and see Brian’s extensive photography of insects, animals, plants, and wonders of the natural world.

Want to know more about cactus, too?!

Texas Cacti Brian and Shirley Loflin

Since we’re heading into prime time planting season for grasses, shrubs, perennials and wildflowers, get inspired with a visit to Betty & Gerald Ronga’s garden where food, wildflowers and wildlife unite on this rocky hilltop in Leander.

Betty and Gerald Ronga garden Central Texas Gardener

Many of us face watering restrictions, like Sheila C., who asks if fungal disease is a problem if we must water at night.

fungal disease watering at night
Daphne explains how it depends on the season and the situation.

It’s hard to imagine that we’re just weeks away from losing our summer annual herbs. Get ready now with Trisha’s tips and tricks for freezing herbs in oil and butter, along with recipes and making herbal vinegars.

Freezing herbs Trisha Shirey
Note: to watch an individual segment online, click on the vertical chapter marks above the play bar!

Happy planting and see you next week, Linda

Tough plants for tough times|William Welch Heirloom Gardening in the South

The garden’s under serious sag alert. Not many of my plants are whiners, but right now I need ear plugs. Crinum ‘Ellen Bosanquet’ didn’t join the chorus, though she delayed her yearly performance by about 10 days until she got a dose of rain.

Crinum 'Ellen Bosanquet'
She is a tad grouchy, but has seen worse since Louis Percival Bosanquet hybridized her around 1930 in honor of his wife.

Crinum 'Ellen Bosanquet'
Like us, she sags within minutes when her flowers open in early morning.  By early afternoon, when shade gives her a break, she’s done for the day. But she’s a tough old broad who rebounds the next morning.

Crinum lily 'Ellen Bosanquet'
Then, in the scalding afternoon sun on July 4, the mystery pink crinum in the cat cove decided to put on some fireworks.  This one gets full sun almost all day.  To each her own.

Pink crinum lily with flame acanthus
Both of these were passalongs, and their recent history is glued to mine. But as we ponder when rain will come our way again, let’s get the backstory behind some of our toughest plants.

In Heirloom Gardening in the South: Yesterday’s Plants for Today’s Gardens, recently released by Texas A&M University Press, William C. Welch and Greg Grant captivate us with the cross-cultural melting pot of garden design that influences us today.

Heirloom Gardening in the South: Yesterday's Plants for Today's Gardens
To tell you a few of the stories, this week on CTG, Tom meets with William Welch, Texas A&M Extension Landscape Horticulturist.

Tom Spencer and William C. Welch on Central Texas Gardener
Today’s designs found their roots in the settlers who brought along their seeds, divisions, and visions, eventually revised and integrated as the melting pot converged.

Bottle tree Heirloom Gardening in the South

Heirloom Gardening in the South William C. Welch

In Heirloom Gardening in the South, discover which native plants were respected for survival, those that made their way to our shores, and the ones that have stuck it out through thick and thin. Discover the reason behind “swept gardens” and how plants like crinums and Phlox paniculata ‘John Fanick’ found their way into our backyards.

Phlox paniculata ‘John Fanick’
In this beautifully written and illustrated book, Bill and Greg remind me of the origin of my reliable oxblood lilies. Some Septembers, drought deters them a bit, but I never lose them.

Oxblood lily
For years, Bill and Greg have been my vicarious garden mentors. As a new gardener, I devoured their book, The Southern Heirloom Garden (their new book is an expanded and revised version).  Other books by William C. Welch to add to your library:

* Perennial Garden Color
* The Bountiful Flower Garden: Growing and Sharing Cut Flowers (with Neil Odenwald)

And be sure to check out Greg Grant’s heirloom plant stories and cultivation tips at Arcadia Archives. Also, every month in Texas Gardener magazine, travel with him along the back roads of plant history and restoration.

Onto my Christmas Kindle, I even got his Kindle book: In Greg’s Garden: A Pineywoods Perspective on Gardening, Nature & Family.

On tour, the past meets present in garden designer Mitzi VanSant’s positively adorable 1929 Arts and Crafts bungalow and formal garden in Smithville.

Mitzi VanSant The Fragrant Garden

Mitzi VanSant, The Fragrant Garden

She was but a name to me when years ago, she joined the Texas Rose Rustlers–along with William Welch, Michael Shoup, Pam Puryear, and many others–to rescue old, hardy roses and bring them into cultivation

In her new garden, 2011 meets 1929 with hardy roses and other fragrant plants, along with vegetable gardens lined with pass-along irises. See how she designed a children’s garden to pass along to her grandchildren the sensory memories from her grandparents. On Mitzi’s website, The Fragrant Garden, get her diverse plant list to  include in your waterwise garden.

Daphne’s plant of the week, Lamb’s ears (Stachys Byzantina), found its way to Central Texas from its origins in Turkey, Armenia, and Iran.

Lamb's ears 'Helen von Stein'
Its low fuzzy silvery-gray foliage is a delicious prompt against flowering plants or taller evergreens.  As Daphne tells us, its enemies are poor drainage and too much water, which leads to rot. And even though it likes sun, Daphne reminds us that it wants some protection from hot afternoon sun. I can attest to that! I’ll spare you the picture: it’s gruesome.

Plus, get her summer survival tips. For sure, take a break and let your plants have one too. Avoid fertilizing and pruning (light deadheading is okay). Raise that mower up and never mow more than 1/3 off the top. I watched someone scalp my neighbor’s yard last weekend. What little grass was left will be dead by this weekend.

But you can fertilize and prune your pond plants! Steve Kainer from Hill County Water Gardens & Nursery demonstrates how to tidy up your pond plants.

Steve Kainer, Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery, Central Texas Gardener

And, get his technique to fertilize your pond containers with ONE 10-26-10 tablet per gallon of pot.

Until next week, hang in there! Linda