New look at lawns, watering tips, plant performance flamboozle

Last week, we taped a lawn-free garden that will air in 2012.

Native garden design Austin Texas Central Texas Gardener
I love the way that Anne uses grasses, yuccas, and agaves for vertical distinction against free-flow natives that nectar hosts of winged visitors. Here’s a nice duo: Lindheimer muhly and and Deer muhly.

Lindheimer muhly and deer muhly Central Texas Gardener

Lindheimer seed heads.

Lindheimer muhly seed heads Central Texas Gardener

For years, I had a Lindheimer in the front garden:  a homecoming beacon every fall from far down the street.

Lindheimer muhly Central Texas Gardener

Then it got too shady, and it whimpered away. Last year, with some tree pruning, I had sun again. I was about to get another Lindheimer, when Patrick Kirwin gave me another idea, Pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia), a smaller choice for that space. I planted one in front and three more in the back bed, where despite their youth, already they do a great job against the turk’s cap.

Pine muhly with turk's cap Central Texas Gardener
Pine muhly’s just one of the plants on Patrick’s list this week when he and Tom take a new look at lawns.

Tom Spencer and Patrick Kirwin Central Texas Gardener

Garden designer Patrick of Kirwin Horticulture Services has been working on a design that includes buffalo grass, Indian bunch grass, switch grass, bearded iris, rain lilies and more.

Patrick Kirwin garden design

Patrick also shows off  the sedge Carex retroflexa. I have a few here and there, but intend to replace some of my dead lawn with them this year. I’m totally in love with this sedge!

Sedge, Carex retroflexa Central Texas Gardener
On tour, check out East Side Patch, where discovery replaced lawn. Leah and Philip Leveridge have made some changes since our taping (of course!), but their helpful hobbits and the Botox lady approve their proactive and on-going DD (drought design).

At ESP and in every garden, sometimes we’re flamboozled when one plant craters and its mates are healthy, just a few feet apart. What’s up with that?  This week, Daphne explains what can happen. In her case, she planted four Southern wax myrtles (Morella cerifera) along her fence last February. She watered them just the same. Two are fine.

Southern wax myrtle Daphne Richards Central Texas Gardener

Two are compost.

dead wax myrtle too much sun Central Texas Gardener

What happened? Here’s her analysis: “In this situation, the angle of the sun is the issue.  By about 5 p.m. in mid-summer, the first plant in the row was out of direct sunlight.  But the last one in the row was in a direct hit of the full late afternoon and evening sun until almost 9 p.m.  These newly planted, small shrubs just couldn’t take all that intense sun and simply burned to a crisp, almost in front of my eyes.”  Get her complete answer about what can produce different results in the same garden.

Daphne’s pick of the week is native fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), a reliable perennial in psycho light, drought, freeze, and floods.  I planted my first ones years ago and divide some every winter to spread around. Regardless of weather events, they’ve never missed an October date with bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Native aster with bee
Their tops will freeze back in winter, but their rosettes quickly cover the ground. Simply cut back those dead stems to the rosette for a pretty groundcover all winter. I fill the blank spaces with naturalizing bulbs.

Aster winter rosette

Watering is certainly on our minds! Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors compares options and how much to water.

Merrideth Jiles The Great Outdoors

Even though the ground is dry, fall IS STILL the best time to plant. Check out Daphne’s fabulous article in the Austin American-Statesman to prep sunbaked soil as we dig in this fall.

And here’s a wonderful video from the Texas Forest Service about how to water your trees and check soil moisture underground.

Until next week, Linda

Peckerwood, East Side Patch, scat cats from plants, roses

Gardeners won’t soon forget the “winter of 2010.”  Indeed, it will be in quotations for years, like “the drought of 2009″ and the “2007 floods.” Gardeners forget where they put their pruners, but they never forget weather events. It helps us remember significant life events. “Oh yes! It was 2005. That was the year of the grasshoppers. Now I remember when we had the baby!”

Seriously, it shows that we are actually connected to the real-life reality show, as opposed to the ersatz version. Our concern for our gardens connects us to what weather events mean to the farmers who provide our food, and to our wildlife.

In our heartbreak over plants that may be lost, there is beauty in the “winter of 2010.” I thank viewer Don Baker who found these sculptures in ice while wandering a field with his grandchildren.

Don Baker's ice sculpture Austin Texas 2010

What a moment to share. Long from now, his grandkids will remember the day they found the crazy ice things with their grandpa.

Don Baker's ice sculpture Austin 2010

Essentially, frost flowers or ice ribbons or ice flowers happen when sap in the stem freezes and breaks it open. Thank you, Don!

I’m not ready to count anyone in or out in my garden. I can tell you that I fearfully peeked under the Satsuma’s cover and saw green leaves! Some lettuce was a little wilted but not ready to give up. The Agave celsiis: not sure. I’ll report later. It’s too early. For all you eager, anxious beavers, don’t clear out or dig up.  That includes the sago palms.

Mine doesn’t look too hot.

Frozen cycad, sago palm

Neither does the one I gave to CTG’s director, Ed Fuentes.

Frozen cycad, sago palm

The story behind this: I dug up that cycad last year and moved it. It lost all its fronds, so I decided to replace it. But I couldn’t bear to toss it, so I stuck it in a pot, threw a shovel of soil on it and stuck it behind the shed. One day it had new fronds coming out. To make it up to it, I gave it to Ed, who treasured it. Like a rescued pet, the cycad was so grateful that it grew into a beautiful plant in just a few months. Lesson here: this spring, we’ll cut off the foliage and see if the root ball made it through. This time, I won’t be so hasty to sign off on it. (Greg pointed out that sago palms didn’t survive since the Prehistoric days by being wimps.)

Here’s a surprise for you:  a Salvia coccinea in bloom!  A few months ago, I told you that I dug it up and put it in the patio “greenhouse.”  Is that fun or what?

Salvia coccinea in winter patio greenhouse

This week on CTG, we highlight a Texas treasure, Peckerwood Garden. In 1971, John G. Fairey dedicated his land in Hempstead to explore his ever-growing collection of rare plants native to the southern U.S., Mexico, and Asia. Thanks to his endeavors, many of us have plants that were strangers to us just a few years ago.

Garden manager Chris Camacho joins Tom to show off a few of Peckerwood’s spectacular winter performers, like this Magnolia tamaulipana. The entire list will be on CTG’s website, where you can also watch the show online.

Magnolia tamaulipana Peckerwood Garden

Along with their Open Days tours, this year Peckerwood invites you to attend their Winter Lecture Series in January and February.

On tour, meet Leah & Philip Leveridge from East Side Patch!  In “Fall 2008,” (momentous event), I got to visit their garden on a Garden Bloggers tour. As we approached taping in “Fall 2009,” I feared that drought, heat, and a month away to visit family in Scotland would end up in yet another cancellation. “Fall 2009″ goes down in CTG records as the most cancellations ever.

Instead, their garden was a paradise and testament to tough plants. See how they started from scratch to turn grass and overgrown shrubs into a family destination of discovery. Especially, I love how their children are growing up in the garden. Generations from now, their stories and “weather events” will encourage the gardeners of the future.

Got cats that tear up houseplants and garden beds? Trisha responds to viewer Billie’s question about how to keep their little paws off.  Thanks, Billie! 

Daphne explains why we want to get bare-root roses in the ground soon. It’s also a great time to plant container roses, too. The heat will be back before we know it!  Check CTG’s website for lots of info on the best rose varieties, pruning tips, and how to deal with problems.

Until next week, Linda