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

Blooming for Wildlife!

My namesake bloomed this week!

Linda lily
In 2008, I couldn’t resist a try at the Asiatic lily ‘Linda’.  Her visit is brief, but worth it for that vibrant golden orange, just lovely against the last of the larkspurs.

This daylily in the den bed companions the orange theme.

Tawny daylily

When I got it years ago, it was simply called ‘Tawny.’ This could be the “ditch lily” (Hemerocallis fulva) but mine isn’t invasive.

The white mistflowers, also called boneset (Ageratina havanensis) are growing like crazy and flowering way ahead of their fall schedule. I’m adding more!

white mistflower Ageratina havanensis
They’re perfect for those part shade spots to entice butterflies and other pollinators.

hite mistflower (Ageratina havanensis or Eupatorium havanense)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), one of the first natives I planted, is another pollinator love. It runs like crazy, but the delicate ferny foliage is quite a distinctive counterpoint to brisker leaves.  And you can’t beat its tenacity in drought, freeze, flood!

White yarrow (Achillea millfolium)
In front, feverfew towers above the Yucca rupicola x pallida.

Feverfew with Yucca rupicola x pallida
Apparently bees don’t like its flowers but it hasn’t scared them off from other flowering plants nearby.

Feverfew flowers

Here’s another orange for you, Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), a true draw for hummingbirds. On Daphne’s Pick of the Week, she explains how to grow it in your shady spots.  Viewer Nancy Yerks sent in this from her garden, photographed by friend Bob Phillips.

Mexican honeysuckle Justicia spicigera Georgetown Texas
She moved them from a former garden and last year they were a little slow to establish.  They’re now quite at home in the southwest corner of her garden where they get shade from a cedar elm.  Mine are still young and will take another season to fill my partly shady areas and look like these in Paul Lofton’s garden!

Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) in Pfugerville Texas
Daphne notes: It’s not a vining plant at all; it’s actually related to shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana), another great part shade to sun lover that attracts hummingbirds.

On Backyard Basics, Lyda Guz from The Natural Gardener steps in front of the CTG cameras for the first time to share her passion about plants for butterflies!

Butterfly plants Lyda Guz The Natural Gardener
Many of her selections attract other pollinators, too. Plus, she reminds us to plant larval food hosts to invite your “happy hour nectaring” adults to lay some eggs for a return audience in a few months.

Lyda explains how to make a simple puddling spot, which butterflies love to nab some water and salt. Ripe fruit is a bonus. Another shot from Paul Lofton’s garden.

Butterfly puddling bowl

Gourds are another way to attract pollinators with their summer flowers that turn into cool things we can use! This week, Tom joins Suzanne Haffey from the Capital of Texas Gourd Patch/Texas Gourd Society and Charlotte Yeisley from Diamond Y Farm in Smithville to explain how to grow and craft with these historic plants.

Tom Spencer, Suzanne Haffey, Charlotte Yeisley
At the Texas Gourd Society’s show and sale every fall, get the most beautiful bowls, lamps, baskets and artwork. I’ve got several, but here are a couple that Suzanne made. Gorgeous!

gourd basket Texas Gourd Society Suzanne Haffey

Gourd artwork Suzanne Haffey Texas Gourd Society

Meet Charlotte and her husband Ed at the River Valley Farmers’ Market in Smithville for their organic produce. Or head to Smithville and ask for the Diamond Y Ranch for a personal tour, where they’re growing lots of gourds and vegetables.

Find out more about how to grow gourds and prep them for crafts with Trisha Shirey.

On tour, we head to Hutto for a healing garden that celebrates family, community, and wildlife after a scrape with cancer.

In my garden, I’m doing lots of touch-up pruning right now. What do you need to do? Get  Daphne’s answer on how/why/when to prune and how to fertilize as we head into the heat.

See ya next week! Linda

I heard a rumor that fall is on the way; time to get growing fall vegetables

We’re not out of the hot woods yet, but you know that fall is coming with the arrival of its emissaries. My first Lycoris radiata (spider lily) radiates a smile that pots of chile are on the horizon.

Lycoris radiata (spider lily)

In my garden,  spider lilies can be temperamental and take a year off, especially after dividing. The oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) are more accommodating.

Oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida)
Blooming against the kiddie pool, they taunt me that I’ll still need its refreshment for a few more weeks, despite our beloved rain and cooler temps this week.

Oxblood lily Rhodophiala bifida against kiddie pool

Rain lily Habranthus robustus flowered again after last week’s preview shower. I planted others throughout the garden, but it seems to like this spot. Guess I’ll get it some buddies.

Rain lily Habranthus robustus

What I like about this one is that its strappy foliage has been up and at ‘em for months. It hasn’t hidden underground until the magic moment.

Since it’s time to head out for cool-weather vegetables, this week on CTG, Tom meets with Erin Flynn and Skip Connett from organic Green Gate Farms in east Austin. Get some of their tastiest favorites, along with homegrown garlic, an easy grow even in small spaces.

Be sure to check out their farm stand on Fridays & Saturdays, and sign up for their CSA.  On top of that, they’ve got tons of activities for kids. On September 18, they’ve got a whopper plant sale, too.

Green Gate Farms, Austin Texas

I’m adding compost and granular organic fertilizer to the upcoming lettuce/arugula/parsley bed.  And counting the days to sow cilantro seeds for us and the bunnies later this month.

On tour, meet the next generation of gardeners at Casis Elementary.

Casis Elementary school vegetable garden
Teachers, parents, and students collaborate in a vegetable garden for hands-on lessons in sustainability, math, science, art, cycles of insect life, and plain good eating!

Now, have you seen this on your trees?

Skeletonized oak leaf

Daphne answers viewer Bob Harper’s question about what the heck is up with his red oak leaves.

If you haven’t yet met native Eupatorium/Conoclinium greggii (Gregg’s blue mist flower), nab this native perennial to bring butterflies to your drought-tough fingertips.

Eupatorium/Conoclinium greggii

It’s rather invasive to flower beds, but well worth it if you can wrangle it.

In our soils, nitrogen is the nutrient we most need. Get John Dromgoole’s analysis of various additives,  including  coffee grounds. Our fall crops, like lettuce, really want that nitrogen. In my case, I’ll be adding some Harvey & Gaby “contributions,” too!

If you need a little inspiration any time of day, watch it all online!  The Casis kids will certainly pump up the energy!

Until next week, Linda