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

Magical fall flowers; meet trouble free roses

A few weeks ago, it seemed like a Lycoris radiata would never show up. All it took was a smatter of rain for them to pop out like mad; I haven’t seen this many in years.  Here they are with shrimp plant and native betony-leaf mistflower (Conoclinium betonicifolium). Bamboo muhly peeking out  at  far left.

Lycoris radiata with shrimp plant

Just give ‘em what they want, ma’am, rain at the right time.

spider lily Lycoris radiata in rain

The garlic chives rival competition for most ethereal. I can’t grow any of the other alliums with success, but these multiply with abandon.

Garlic chives flowerhead

Garlic chives

See how Trisha Shirey adds all different alliums to her Lake Austin Spa gardens, even as edging borders!

After sulking all summer this year, the toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) finally got over last winter’s 14°. Here, it’s nestled with purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis).

Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)

Admire it from afar, though, unless you have 10 billion square feet you want to cover. It is considered an invasive plant, which I didn’t know when I bought it years ago at a reliable nursery. The extreme cold set it back, but it’s returned with a vengeance. Thank heavens the bunnies like it, so I pull up handfuls for their dinner salad, leaving just enough for us to enjoy. It hasn’t spread outside its domain, though. The once-recommended purple trailing lantana is now on some hit lists as an invasive, too. Sigh.

Fall is my favorite season, since a few springtime bloomers go for a second round to join the autumn stars. Climber New Dawn on the cat cove trellis is one of them.

New Dawn rose in bud

For many of us, a garden isn’t complete without a rose. But troublesome roses are worse than no rose at all.

So, this week on CTG, Tom meets with Michael Shoup of the Antique Rose Emporium for selections that promise a rosier outlook. Old Blush is one to add to your list.

Old Blush, The Antique Rose Emporium

And don’t be afraid to soften your textural structure with fragrance, like with F.J. Lindheimer.

F.J. Lindheimer with yucca, The Antique Rose Emporium

Plus, get Michael’s latest research on how to make organic rose growing even easier!

On tour, absolutely don’t miss Donna & Mike Fowler’s garden in Hutto!

Donna & Mike Fowler garden

Framed around the 1880s house that Mike’s great grandpa built, they’ve designed a low-care garden that reflects their playful wit, spiritual curiosity, and family and community connection. Donna whittles out a few hours before & after her job as a pharmacist at the Round Rock Medical Center.  She devoted weeks to help out Katrina victims. When she first started gardening, one of her inspirations was Mike’s mother, Vee Fowler, who many of you know from Zilker Botanical Garden’s herb garden.  Donna & Mike are just as involved in civic affairs as when he served as Hutto’s mayor.

Of course, you’ll see a few hustling hippos in their garden, along with Hutto’s official flower, the Orange Crush daylily, thanks to Donna & Mike.

This week, Daphne features Susan Whitton’s great question, since it’s a very common confusion. Is this plant poison ivy or, as she suspected, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quincefolia)?

Virginia creeper, not poison ivy

The two look very similar, and when they’re clustering like crazy, and you’re a little timid to get too close, it can be difficult to know. Anyway, this is the native Virginia creeper, a great choice for a perennial deciduous vine or groundcover in partial shade to prevent erosion.

Since it’s time to get wildflower seeds to plant in a few weeks, William Glenn from The Natural Gardener explains how to do it for the best success.

William Glenn The Natural Gardener on wildflowers

I’m going through my seed inventory and adding a few from the nurseries. Of course, you can get everything you want at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s plant sale on Oct. 9 & 10 (preview sale for members on Oct. 8).

Pink evening primrose and spiderworts are already popping out in my garden, but I plan to wait until mid to even late October to sow my seeds.

I finally got around to clearing out the fall vegetable beds and turning in compost and 8-2-4 fertilizer. Now, I’ll progressively start sowing lettuce seeds, cilantro and others, though I’ll install parsley from transplants. Get the latest planting guide from Skip Richter, Director, Travis County AgriLife Extension,  and Master Gardener Patty Leander. And check out Renee’s Roots for more tips for your fall vegetable garden.

Until next week, Linda

Gardening on a budget

I’ve never had a ton of money for the garden, and not a bunch of time, either. And like the rest of my life, the garden is a process, one step and experiment at a time. Honestly, I can count more failures than victories (though every disaster is one-up for experience). But a sure-fire way to extend your bucks is with naturalizing bulbs for reliable seasonal surprise every year, one of the best joys of gardening. Well, if you like surprises, that is.

Oxblood lily with lantana

After the 6″ of rain, my oxbloods went stark crazy. I love the way they spring up through perennials like blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata).

Oxblood lily with plumbago auriculata

This year, I’ll divide some to include around the native Plumbago scandens.

Plumbago scandens

Another rain lily popped up. I think it’s some version of Zephyranthes labuffarosa, but I’m not sure.

summer rain lily

Thanks to the rain, the passionvine got a second wind, too. From the patio, Greg spotted it on the back fence and raced out for a picture.

Passionvine Greg Klinginsmith

Back on the patio, he got this romantic shot of our potted begonia, another long-term reliable if protected from freeze.

Begonia Greg Klinginsmith

Since gardening is how many of us launch into DIY projects that we never imagined taking on, this week on CTG, Tom Spencer meets with Pam Penick, of Penick Landscape Design with tips to give your garden structure, definition, and intrigue on a budget.

Many of you know Pam already through her beautiful and informative blog, Digging, where she journals the adventures in her garden and travels to others.

On CTG, she tackles three easy projects that make such a difference in the garden’s personality. Sure, there’s a little sweat equity involved, but with cooler days on the way, now’s a perfect time to try this at home. Pam explains how to make an easy trellis with cow panel (without a post hole digger!), and how to stylize your garden with paths that are equally functional and eye-catching.

Pam Penick, Penick Landscape Design

For a little intrigue, Pam shows how easy it is to make a peek-a-boo gate. One illustration she chose is the picture she took of the curious & creative Michele Holt’s version at Wabi-Sabi Home and Garden.

Michele Holt wabi-sabihomeandgarden

Daphne tackles a little intrigue this week, too, with some troubled leaves sent in by Richard Reinert and his daughter Vivian Miller.

Fungus on Chinese pistache leaves

If you’ve only considered kalanchoe a patio or houseplant, check out her tips on growing ground-hardy Kalanchoe sp., Mother of Thousands.

Before racing to the nursery this fall, check out Trisha’s tips on how to pick a healthy plant.  Gardening on a budget is a lot easier if you pass up a plant that’s about to croak.

Catch it all online, including our garden visit that reminds us that it’s time to be thinking about planting wildflower seeds.

Note on Casis garden: I really thank Lynn Boswell who spent tons of time organizing it all. Well, no wonder. When she’s not being a Casis mom, she’s a freelance television producer (via CNN) who also produces Texas Monthly Talks. This October, watch for its new rendition as Overheard with Evan Smith; great guests to overhear on the way!

Until 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