Drought disasters to avoid

Drought doesn’t scare me to pieces. My plants have been through it all and always come back for more. Yes, I do water some, but not outrageously. I avoid thirsty ones and go for those that can take our brutal swings.
Rock rose and turk's cap wildlife plants

What scares the living daylights out of me is overreaction to drought. I keep seeing people make a clean sweep of it all and dumping yards of rocks over former living ground. Aside from being hot, hot, hot, and a mess when “weeds” inevitably find a niche, what about the wildlife we banish?

Bordered Patch butterfly on zexmenia

New Mexico landscape architect David Cristiani is very familiar with this frightening response. He made the trip to Austin to join Tom for his insightful perspective to steer us away from ecological disaster. Follow his insightful blog, The Desert Edge, for more of his perceptions.

Tom Spencer and David Cristiani Central Texas Gardener

Some plants thrive in rock, for sure. But a lot do not, like many of our trees and native plants! If we force them into unnatural habitat, what happens? Okay, bet you got that one: death.

Dead tree rockscape photo by David Cristiani

Hot, ugly, and not much life in sight, other than the person who comes to blow debris off the rocks: is that how we want to deal with drought?

Hot rockscape photo by David Cristiani

Nope, says landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck, who lived in Phoenix for many years. Now, she’s in Austin, keeping busy designing across state lines around the country with her important message to keep our wildlife intact. On tour in her Austin garden, see how she connects the drought dots without sacrificing essential content, like our lives!

Christy’s garden includes many clumping grasses. These drought tough plants, like Lindheimer muhly, are superb standouts for texture, structure, and striking seed heads.

Lindheimer muhly and agave

Most of them go dormant in winter. So, when should we prune them and how far down do we cut? Daphne gives us the cutting edge scoop. We want to keep them up as long as possible, since their seed heads, like those of Gulf muhly, are still gorgeous in this mild winter.

Gulf muhly seed heads

I think they look great in their winter rendition! Butterflies agree, since overwintering ones hide in the leaves to stay warm. Some birds go for the seed heads, too.

Silver bluestem

Daphne explains that we do want to cut them back by the end of February to clean up before new growth emerges. With inland sea oats, cut all the way to the ground. I cut some of mine already to show you how their new leaves are already popping up.

inland sea oats new growth

Strappy ones, like Mexican feather grass, get a straight haircut to about 6” above ground.

mexican feather grass seed heads

Mexican feather grass cut back

Get Daphne’s techniques to make the job easier on large plants like Lindheimer muhly. Cut this neighboring Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) down to the rosette.

Lindheimer muhly and salvia leucantha

A chore we can’t delay is wrangling those weeds! With the low rainfall, they’re not as crazy as in wet winters, but even a few mean a lifetime supply if we let them go to seed. See how Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors snags them.

Merrideth Jiles The Great Outdoors

Now is also an excellent time to plant trees before it gets hot in earnest. Take a look at Daphne’s Pick of the Week, Mexican orchid tree, (Bauhinia mexicana), if you’re looking for a small shrub-like tree in dappled light.

Mexican orchid tree Bauhinia mexicana
Like Christy, plant it where you can see the butterflies and hummingbirds that flock to its flowers from summer to early fall. And you’re good to go in deer country, since (usually) they won’t bother it.

Mexican orchid tree flower hummingbird plant

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Winter drought care trees & wildflowers|Edibles meet perennials

Happy New Year! Good wishes to you all that 2013 sprinkles us with abundant joy.

'Patrick' abutilon

Unless we get a few serious sprinkles from above, we need to water our wildflower rosettes, like bluebonnets. Thanks to Jean Warner for Daphne’s question this week! Like Jean, my bluebonnets are up, along with larkspur and weeds—so be careful out there when pulling.

bluebonnet rosette

If you make a mistake like I have “now and then,” quickly plug the keeper back in and water. Here are baby poppies, not native, but still so pretty and beloved by bees.

poppy seedlings

So, Jean wants to know if freeze will harm her healthy crop of bluebonnets. As Daphne reports, cold weather isn’t a concern for our native wildflowers that emerge in fall to hunker down as rosettes until the magic moment.

But lack of water certainly is. Annuals, like bluebonnets and many others, will wither away and never flower and seed for next year without moisture. And we certainly don’t want to miss pictures like this Flickr sequence, thanks to KLRU’s Sara Robertson and her baby’s first Texas 2012 spring!

Sebastian in the bluebonnets

Lack of water is the reason we’re losing valuable trees, too.

Cedar elm winter

Tom joins consulting arborist Don Gardner to explain why it happens and what we can do.

Tom Spencer Don Gardner drought tree care

Find out how far out to water your trees for their age and size. KLRU graphic designer Mark Pedini crafted this to illustrate one of Don’s important points.

Tree roots Mark Pedini Central Texas Gardener

In drought, the absorbing roots get smaller and smaller until eventually the tree only has woody, anchoring roots. Those fine feeder roots are what we must water to keep the tree alive.

Check out Daphne’s explanation of woody roots and whether we can plant over them.

Meet Don in person for more tree care tips on January 26 at 2 p.m. at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Tree Talk Winter Walk. This free event is from 9 a.m. -5 p.m.

Watch this great video from the Texas A&M Forest Service for more on watering your trees.

Not only do we need to water our fruit trees, now is the time to apply horticultural oil to fend off hibernating insects and their eggs. John Dromgoole explains how to help prevent pests like plum curculio and bacterial and fungal disease with proactive care. Oh, the first thing is to sanitize the garden—all year long—by removing old leaves and fruit from the ground.

Fruit tree insect and fungal prevention John Dromgoole

If you don’t have space for fruit trees, I just bet you have a spot to grow pretty edibles, like this ‘Joi Choi’ bok choy!

‘Joi Choi’ bok choy Daphne Richards

Daphne’s Pick of the Week is something you can pick and eat: winter edibles!  And no need to restrict them to an official vegetable bed. Tuck them in among your perennials, like these at the Travis County Texas AgriLife Extension demonstration beds in October.

Edibles and perennials Travis Texas AgriLife Extension

Whether you eat it or not, nutritious Swiss chard is a beauty among winter annuals. Many of mine didn’t weather summer’s heat, but this one never faltered.

Bright Lights Swiss chard

You can still plant winter edibles among your dormant perennials for a pop of delicious color. In fact, check out the Master Gardener’s free workshop  January 17 on how to plant and save seeds.

Daphne also suggests letting some plants bolt or go to seed for their structural addition and flowers. With fall’s warm weather, many of our crops bolted early this year, so go ahead and replant, like lettuce.

lettuce bolting

Molly O’Halloran shares this lettuce soup recipe (which she thickened with diced potatoes) to use lettuce that’s past its salad prime.

Here’s another reason to “try it at home.” Look at the size of this carrot grown by Nancy and Richard Simpson in their year-round organic vegetable garden!

huge carrot Nancy and Richard Simpson

I bet you all, like me, have the fix-it-up bug.  Here’s some great inspiration and tips from designer Annie Gillespie of Botanical Concerns at her hillside garden.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Groundcovers made for the shade; spiritual healing garden

Is it true? Is fall here at last? In any case, ‘Butterpat’ chrysanthemum is ready!

Butterpat chrysanthemum
Since we’re finally around the heat bend, it’s time to plant. This week Daphne explains why we should firm the soil around our plants. Why is that, when we’re cautioned not to trample beds? Plus, get her answer on what happens when we till.

Daphne Richards, Augie, Grandma's Yellow rose
I did firm the soil around my new snake herb (Dyschoriste linearis), one that accepts my east Austin soil, but is adaptable to many sites.

Snake herb (Dyschoriste linearis)

Find out about this drought-tough groundcover and many more when Tom meets with Michelle Pfluger from Green ‘n Growing in Pflugerville.

Tom Spencer Michelle Pfluger Central Texas Gardener

Yep, she descends from the Pfluger founders. Her parents started this great nursery in 1975, one of the first to carry organic products. I cut some of my early teeth on it. Now she’s at the helm, and carrying on the tradition of propagating some of their diverse, Texas-proven selections.

Green 'n Growing Garden Center Pflugerville Texas
She responds to one of CTG’s top questions:  How can we dress up dry shade to part sun?  One of her drought-tough picks is cobweb plant (Tradescantia sillamontana).

Cobweb spiderwort Tradescantia sillamontana

Now, this one’s really supposed to get some shade, but I planted my passalong from gardener Paul Lofton last spring in a psycho hot area: shade morning and blasted heat in the afternoon. It blooms most in fall, but its creeping texture is what I treasure.

Cobweb spiderwort flower
It goes dormant in winter when tall spring spiderworts (Tradescantia gigantea) will take over.

This picture shows it in perspective. It’s the one cozying up between the two pots.

frogfruit path with cobweb spiderwort

Another dry shade/part sun lover is Mexican spiderwort (Tinantia pringlei), blooming through hot months. This perennial will go dormant in winter but return in spring, maybe even with a new family!

Mexican spiderwort  (Tinantia pringlei)
Here’s mine with Yucca rupicola x pallida and fall-blooming bulb Sternbergia lutea.

Mexican spiderwort with Sternbergia lutea
A compatible companion for its spotted leaves is African hosta (Drimiopsis maculata). In gardens, it goes dormant in winter to return in spring. In protected containers, it is evergreen.

African hosta Drimiopsis maculata
Recently, I found a spot for another spotted one on Michelle’s list: Silver leopard manfreda (Manfreda x ‘Silver Leopard’). You’ll also see it as Manfreda maculosa ‘Silver Leopard.’

Silver leopard manfreda (Manfreda x 'Silver Leopard').

Nearby are two ‘Helen von Stein’ lamb’s ears. Behind are the ‘Butterpat’ mums. Yellow, silver, and burgundy; lovely! One of the new snake herbs is just down the line from them. Pictures later! I plan to take a cue from Amanda and create a “spotted garden” in this area, too.

An evergreen I’ve wanted for years is Mountain pea (Orbexilum sp.) Recently, this drought-hardy plant for sun to part shade has become more available. It’s showing up in gardens all over, including mine. It’s the perfect, no-care addition under big trees, though I’ve also seen it as a lush companion plant in sun. Gets about a foot high. Here’s one with its sweet little pea-flower in the Travis County AgriLife Extension demo garden.

Mountain pea

Get Michelle’s complete CTG list to spark up your shade.

Since drought and hard freezes will always be on our radar, we repeat Merredith Jiles’ Backyard Basics tips on what takes the trauma in his garden.

Merrideth Jiles The Great Outdoors

On tour, find soulful inspiration as we head into the season of thanks through Elayne Lansford’s healing garden.

Healing garden Elayne Lansford Central Texas Gardener
Her Bottle World is a tribute to triumph over life-threatening illness and the power of healing through gardening and hands-on creativity. Here’s a shot where director Ed Fuentes documents her journey.

Healing garden bottle world

Re-framing her reality by giving new life to old objects helped her when husband John Villanacci faced a random disease and double lung transplant, soon after she recovered from breast cancer. One soothing technique is a waterfall from a recycled table top.

Waterfall with old table top

Healing garden outdoor bath

She even learned how to weld to create her own Bottle World creations from foundlings.

Healing garden bottle tree
Every roadside discard captures her imagination, like this comfy hideaway under a satellite dish.

Satellite dish shade cover
Her story of struggle and yes, celebration, is CTG’s tribute to every gardener who seeks consolation, strength, and joy when life throws us a curve.

Thank you for checking in! See you next week, Linda

Garden fireworks!

To celebrate red, white and blue this week, my new blue gazing ball glows against firecracker red Turk’s cap!

blue gazing ball with turk's cap

White native Plumbago scandens droops over soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia).

Plumbago scandens with soft leaf yucca

Non-native blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) sparked some attention from this Snowberry Clearwing moth, too speedy for slow me to nab a super shot. From a distance, it resembled a hummingbird. Some people refer to it as the “bumblebee moth.”

Snowberry clearwing moth on blue plumbago

Snowberry clearwing moth on plumbago

The sparks really fly from this native hibiscus (Hibiscus martianus). Since it’s probably not cold hardy, we enjoy its flare from a patio container.

Hibiscus martianus

Okay, purple passion vine/passionflower isn’t exactly blue, but it sure is setting off fireworks for the frenzied butterflies mating and laying eggs on its leaves.

Purple passion vine

Mine is a hybrid with five-lobed leaves, not the native Passiflora incarnata with three-lobed leaves, but it’s definitely related.  It does spread like mad, and I need to pull it off some trees it’s shading. Still, I hate to pull one that has a happy caterpillar chomping away. I examine closely for tiny eggs, too.

Uruguayan Firecracker Plant is orange, but it’s name says it all.  It’s also called hummingbird bush (since it attracts them) and a bunch of other names.  I know it as Dicliptera suberecta, since it’s fun to say!

Dicliptera suberecta hummingbird bush, firecracker plant

Also called hummingbird bush is native Flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii), a perennial shrub that attracts butterflies, too.

Flame acanthus

A showy white with lots of different names is Datura (Datura wrightii). Commonly called Jimsonweed or Angel’s trumpet (not to be confused with Brugmansia, a related genus), Daphne makes it her Plant Pick this week.

Datura (c) Daphne Richards

Daphne explains how to grow this native annual (so well-known through Georgia O’Keefe paintings). It attracts night-pollinating moths and is deer resistant, but all plant parts are highly toxic to us.

Fireworks you don’t want to set off in your garden is a fire.  This week, Tom joins Patrick Allen from the Texas Forest Service for a few tips on garden firewise safety.

Tom Spencer, Patrick Allen Texas Forest Service

Texas Forest Service firewise zones

Check out Texas Forest Service for more about how to landscape safely. Click on the icon to download Firewise Landscaping for step-by-step instructions and plant information.

Firewise Communities includes fire safe plant lists for around the country. I’ve checked out many of the lists from other states, and many apply to Texas.

Whether for fire safety or to reduce our lawns, how close to our trees can we hardscape? Daphne answers this great question from Emily Keith, who wants to reduce lawn space but protect her trees.

hardscape around trees

Keeping gutters clean is one firewise safety tip. But, they’re also a breeding ground for mosquitoes with even a few drops of rain. John Dromgoole explains how to fend off mosquitoes in your gutters and in your garden, without harming the beneficials heading for your plants.

John Dromgoole mosquito control

On tour, visit designer Glee Ingram’s firewise native plant restoration on a rocky slope above a greenbelt.

Stay cool until next week! Linda

Plants that survived the Texas Two-Step: Freeze and Drought

Spuria iris (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Although my spuria iris flowers astound me just once a year, they do it every year—drought, flood, or freeze—since Scott Ogden shared a few divisions with me years ago.

My garden is resilient, too, thanks to the words he’s shared with me through all his books. Lauren Springer Ogden is another mentor, through her The Undaunted Garden (recently revised with Fulcrum Publishing) for garden design, plant resumes, and the poetry of words that express our love of the garden.

The Undaunted Garden Lauren Springer Ogden

Lauren and Scott collaborated on Plant-Driven Design, which ought be be in your grubby hands, if not already. Their latest (and very timely) partnership is Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens, a quick-read, hands-on guide to peruse as you head to the nursery.

Ogdens' Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens
Icons quickly indicate each plant’s favored conditions (including deer resistance and wildlife attraction). With each featured plant, the Ogdens include other options and companions.

Wow on CTG this week when they join Tom in a passionate conversation about the plants that took the “double spanking,”—Lauren’s on-target description about last year’s extreme freeze and drought.

Tom Spencer, Lauren Ogden, Scott Ogden
One they mention as a durable replacement for sago palms (cycads) is Dioon angustifolium (formerly Dioon edule var. angustifolium). That’s one on my list for this year. In the meantime, I nabbed a Dioon edule.

Dioon edule (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Another is Lady Banks rose (Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’).  Here’s mine in full bloom in the cat cove. I don’t think I’ve watered it since it was a youngster.

Lady Banks rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
The Ogdens love seasonal bulbs and rhizomes as much as I do. I’ve divided the original spurias again and again to include their strappy foliage in several sections of my garden.

Lady Banks rose, spuria irises

Spuria iris

When they brown up in a few months, I’ll cut them back. In some areas, neighboring perennials fill out to cover the spot or I’ll seed annuals.

Here’s a great example to illustrate the tenacity of Lady Banks. Years ago, I planted the fragrant white one ‘Alba Plena’ (included in Waterwise) at the back fence. Primrose jasmine grew up to smother it. No irrigation, fertilizer, or even attention until it sent its light-deprived stems into the trees to bloom.

In our recent project, when I dug out the primrose jasmines, I discovered that she was still there and had even rooted a second one.

Lady Banks rose under renovation

A few weeks after I began its renovation, it had already filled out and bloomed.  White Lady Banks is sweetly fragrant.

White Lady Banks flower
I’ll keep working to promote her renewed form, but I suspect she’ll cover that fence by summer’s end! I’m training some long stems to cover that back fence, too.

White Lady Banks growing in during renovation
In Waterwise, the Ogdens include various Jerusalem sages (Phlomis). This P. fruticosa is blooming like crazy in a hot median strip at Mueller.

Jerusalem sage, Phlomis fruticosa
I spotted this lush display, accompanied by pink skullcap, in an east Austin garden.

Jerusalem sage Phlomis fruticosa with pink skullcap
I’m treasuring my P. lanata, a dwarf form, that fits so well into one of my front beds.

Jerusalem sage Phlomis lanata
That bed includes another Ogden inspiration, a Yucca recurvifolia ‘Margaritaville’. I saw it in one of their books and nabbed one for myself.

Yucca 'Margaritaville' with Phlomis lanata

Although some things in this bed are new from last fall, many others have made it through the Texas Two-Step for several years.

Jerusalem sage is one that Merrideth Jiles includes in his Backyard Basics list of “double spanking” plants that made it in his east Austin garden. Get his list here.

Merrideth Jiles, The Great Outdoors

Among his success stories: Olive tree (Olea europea). Since 2006, this one’s been growing in the garden of my friends, Molly and David.

Olive tree in Austin Texas
They also have a fine-looking sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri), another that Merrideth and the Ogdens include on their lists.

Sotol Dasylirion wheeleri
Certain species of sedges (Carex) make the list for Merrideth, the Ogdens, and me. I’ve bought it as Texas sedge (Carex texensis)/Carex retroflexa var. texensis/Scott’s Turf.

Sedge, Carex texensis
Merrideth explains how to add Globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), another double trouble star.  A few months ago, I finally got one when I dug out dead grass and had a good sunny spot for it. Obviously, I got this picture on one of our luscious cloudy days!

Salmon pink globe mallon
Texas mountain laurel, Daphne’s Pick of the Week, favored us this year with outstanding performance, a keeper for double troubled Texas gardens.
But every year, viewers ask us why theirs didn’t bloom. There are many factors, but one is by pruning off the flower buds that form almost immediately after bloom.

Mountain Laurel flower young flower bud
You also need to watch out for the Genista caterpillar, which can defoliate a tree while you’re at the grocery store. Hand-pick or spray Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to spare the ravage.

Genista caterpillar (c) Wizzie Brown Texas AgriLife Extension

On tour, see how Anne Bellomy replaced lawn and invasive plants with waterwise specimens that have turned her formerly wildlife-bereft lot into a garden for resident and migratory wildlife.

Now, what about those exposed oak tree roots?

exposed oak tree roots

A viewer asked if she can plant groundcover (like sedges!) in between, and how much soil can she add. Get Daphne’s answer.

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

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day from Linda's east Austin garden!

This week, CTG joins fellow gardeners from around the world for May Dreams’ Garden Bloom Day! Here’s a mere sample of what’s blooming after two years of torture-by-weather in my east Austin garden.  With our recent rain salvation, this poppy (Papaver orientale) cupped its petals in gratitude.

Red poppy (Papaver orientale) (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Some early bird daylilies are so thankful that they couldn’t wait to blossom.

Yellow daylily (c}Linda Lehmusvirta
Maybe they just wanted to join the not so mellow yellows of columbine (Aguilegia chrysantha).

Columbine Aguilegia chrysantha (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Tiny species tulip ‘Tinka’ is indeed mellow, a subtle one that naturalizes for us.

'Tinka' tulip (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

I love the balloons of annual snapdragons.
Yellow snapdragon (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Native golden groundsel (Packera obovata) pops up from ground-hugging rosettes to join oxalis (Oxalis crassipes).

Golden groundsel (Packera obovata) (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Golden groundsel and Oxalis crassipes (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Fluffy spiraea stands tall against even taller and fluffier Lady Banks rose.

Spiraea and Lady Banks rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Self-seeded larkspur decided the yellows needed a touch of purple. Oh yes!

Purple larkspur and yellow columbine (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
But I planted the Dutch iris, since I love purple. These return every year, flood, freeze, or drought.

Purple Dutch iris (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Without a hard freeze this year, trailing lavender lantana (Lantana montevidensis) feeds overwintering butterflies like crazy on warm days.

Lantana montividensis (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Young Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) dots it up with some complementary orange.

Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
‘Patrick’ abutilon drips little lanterns of teamwork orange and yellow.

'Patrick abutilon' (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Native Texas blue grass (Poa arachnifera) adds a seed head texture to Bloom Day, along with the foliage of Arum italicum that returns every winter in the shady spot under a mountain laurel.

Texas blue grass (Poa arachnifera)and Arum italicum (c)Linda Lehmusvirta
Happy bloom day to you! Linda

Drought didn't make it to my spring party

Ready or not, here I come with the pruners!  It’s safe now to prune evergreens, Texas sage (cenizo), thryallis, and shrimp plants like these.

Shrimp plant winter (c) Linda LehmusvirtaShrimp plant winter (c)Linda Lehmusvirta
I’ll cut them down to a foot or so to encourage fluffy growth.  Since the thryallis didn’t freeze completely, I’ll chop it back a few feet, and simply tip my cenizo.

Eventually, I’ll prune these Gomphrena ‘Grapes’ against the Swiss chard. I’ll wait a bit, since it’s quite unusual to see them blooming this time of year.

Swiss chard and Gomphrena grapes (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

It’s hard to focus, though, since I flit from one little (or big) discovery to the next. The first Freesia laxa showed up against soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia).

Freesia laxa with soft leaf yucca (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

First poppies!

Red poppy (c)Linda Lehmusvirta

They are HUGE. I’ve actually been pulling some out before they strangled everyone underneath.

Poppy with spiderworts (c)Linda Lehmusvirta

I’ve always wanted native perennial Widow’s tears (Commelina erecta). Not sure how I came by these, but now I’ve got their charm.

Widow's tears Commelina erecta (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

They do spread like nuts, so things are getting a tad covered there, too. It’s hard to pull things up, though, since it’s such a luxury to see such abundance.

Native spiderworts (Tradescantia gigantea) are in gear, too, here with candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), a non-native, but very drought tough in the right spot.

Spiderwort with candytuft (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Spiraea may be an old-fashioned shrub, but despite the drought, I think this is the best performance yet.

Spiraea (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Spiraea flowers (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Climbing Cecile Brunner defied drought, too.

Cecile Brunner rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
The ultimate drought winner is Lady Banks rose, out of range for me to drag the hose, since I’m so lazy.

Lady Banks rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Viewer picture of the week: Jeff Goodwin’s young redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma’) that defied the drought, too! Of course, we all know that young trees need to be watered, and Jeff did a good job.

Oklahoma redbud (c) Jeff Goodwin
I sure hope that 2012 isn’t a repeat of the past two years, but if so, my garden is tougher than my spirit when the hot, dry days drag on and on. I tip my garden hat to them with respect, admiration, and fondness for new and old friends.

Until next week, Linda

Read your garden's rule book|Mueller restoration

Crazy days weather!

winter tree color Central Texas
Narcissus ‘Abba’ is an early performer, but a few weeks earlier this year.

Narcissus 'Abba'
Primrose jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi) is a little ahead of schedule, too.

primrose jasmine early bloom
It’s a bit early for silver germander (Teucrium fruticans), though flower “scouts” are not unusual.

Silver germander flower Teucrium fruticans
Generally, it explodes later in spring. Since its diminutive flowers are but brief, its true mission lies in dramatizing the neighbors all year.

Salvia greggii and silver germander
I’ll wait to shape this drought-tough shrub in March, like all the evergreens.  I guess I’ll wait until then to cut back the unusually busy Copper Canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii), too.

Copper Canyon daisy
Rose ‘Isabella Sprunt’ is always early, a gift long ago on my mother’s death, from dear friends Kati and David Timmons.

Isabella Sprunt rose
As usual, my neighbor’s ‘Marie Pavie’ is the first on the block to unveil a shower, without benefit of fertilizer, shaping, or even irrigation. I planted it when she lost her husband, one of my first garden mentors.

Rose Marie Pavie early flower

The hardest lesson I learned as a gardener is that you can’t change your zip code. Sure, you can attempt it if you’re one who loves a battle. But we face so many other battles; why invite one with the ultimate CEO?  Instead of competing with nature, I’ve learned to  pay attention to my garden’s rule book.

Why good plants go wrong is this week’s interview with Pat McNeal from McNeal Growers.

Tom Spencer and Pat McNeal
He and Tom remind us why it’s important to “dance with the one that brung you,” not the partner across the room (or zip code!). I admire so many plants, but before I succumb, I refer to my garden’s rule book.

Pat’s a long-time innovator to grow what works for us, like this sedge lawn of his.

Pat McNeal sedge lawn

Although his nursery is not open for retail, check out his website for plants he’s tested, and his insight into selections for your garden.

On tour, see how Mueller in east Austin is growing where it’s planted: a new and yet old-fashioned way to garden, with compact yards that value resources and connect neighbors as nearby bungalows did years ago.  It’s a community that unites with nature, too, through the parks and ponds that have brought back the wildlife on land once covered by airport runways and parking lots.

In the vegetable garden, John Dromgoole shows off some late winter beauties that aren’t too late to grow from transplants.

John Dromgoole late winter vegetables

John Dromgoole late winter vegetables

See you next week! Linda

Spring has sprung, what to prune|drought strategies|fungi friends

Narcissus ‘Erlicheer’ takes a cue from the U.S. Postal Service, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Narcissus Erlicheer
No matter what weather throws our way, they stick around for years, reminding me every spring that it’s all going to be okay. My viburnums, including ‘Spring Bouquet’ do, too.

'Spring Bouquet' viburnum in bud
So, about this pruning stuff that’s on all our minds. The viburnums need pruning, but I’ll wait until they finish flowering. The roses are going nuts already, like Mrs. Oakley Fisher (among many others).

Mrs. Oakley Fisher rose
What to do about them? In two weeks, I’ll gather a vase of them all, and then start clipping. We really do want to shape our roses in February for form and height and to encourage new growth before the heat descends!

My Turks caps are already pushing new leaves on stems I hadn’t cut back. I went ahead and cut them back last weekend. Even if we get a harsh freeze, it won’t hurt these tough natives.

cutting back Turks cap in winter

I cut back most of the zexmenias (Wedelia texana).

Zexmenia (Wedelia texana) cut back for winter
One is still flowering (that’s microclimates for you!), so I left it for the hungry wildlife who head for it on warm days.

Zexmenia blooming in January
Even though I’m clipping back some chrysanthemums to their rosettes, I’m not pruning any with a bud or a flower. ‘Butterpat’ is just not giving up!

Bee on chrysanthemum 'Butterpat'

Rules, rules, rules!  I’ve learned that the only ruler is nature and we just have to pay attention. And get to know your own microclimates and your plants. But for some “cutting edge” information, check out this Texas A&M site.

To illustrate how we can work with nature instead of against it, this week sustainable garden designer Adams Kirkpatrick of Sunflower Design meets with Tom.

Tom Spencer and Adams Kirkpatrick, Sunflower Design
Get some of his strategies to deal with drought through easy, sustainable practices: water retention, the 7-layer forest in our own gardens, and how to conserve the critical duff layer.

Adams Kirkpatrick Sunflower Design sustainable design
One strategy that Adams promotes is respect for the beneficial fungi in our soil. This week, John Dromgoole explains how to pump up mycorrhizal fungi that are working for us underground.

Benefits: Enhanced plant efficiency to absorb water and nutrients, increased drought resistance, and increased pathogen resistance. Find out more about mycorrhizal fungi from Texas A&M.

On tour in San Antonio, see how Don Clowe embraced these strategies as he removed lawn grass, merging his passion for plants and impressions from world travels with the natural conditions of his garden. On their tree house deck in front, he and wife Gail experience Japan in one view,  and in another, the sculptural beauty of the Southwest. Especially significant is their dedication to beloved, departed family through stones of remembrance.

See you next week!  Linda