Fruits of our labors even if some took “almost” a century

I’m always so glad when the Byzantine gladiolus flowers this time every year. But doesn’t that face look a tad grumpy?

Byzantine gladiolus funny face

Starting from just three or so pass-alongs corms, it multiplies every year, so it’s actually very happy!

Maggie rose is looking mighty nice, too.

Maggie rose

Still, she’s a little out of sorts since she came down with a case of powdery mildew thanks to cool nights and moisture in the air.

Powdery mildew on rose

She’ll work it out herself without medication, but if you’re worried about it on your plants, check out neem oil or Serenade. Just don’t apply in the heat of day and don’t use Serenade when the bees are active.

Up the street, an Agave americana is about out of time, though it won’t relinquish its claim to that corner for a century or more, thanks to its pups. And their pups. . .

century plant bloom stalk

Coincidentally, it sent up its final comment just as a Central Texas Gardener Facebook question came in about century plants. So, this week, Daphne answers: does it actually take a century to bloom? Nope.

Hella Wagner shared some pictures of her plant’s glorious ascension as the mother plant died. Daphne explains the process, and how the bloom stalk itself can even be dangerous.

Agave americana bloom stalk

Agave americana flower stalk on ground

My yuccas up front (Y. pallida and Y. reverchonii,) are reaching for the sky, too, but they won’t end their life with this springtime bloom.

Yucca pallida bloom stalks Central Texas

Back to agaves, Daphne makes this deer-resistant, drought-tough genus her Pick of the Week. There are many species and cultivars in various forms, colors, sizes and habitats.

Agave shawii 'Blue Flame'

Mostly, they want good drainage, though my A. celsii does fine in my island bed that I’ve gradually amended with compost and mulch.

Agave celsii

Do look at their cold hardiness. I fell in love with an A. celsii ‘Tricolor’, as it was called then, which is rated for a zone or two just warmer than us. First crazy freeze and they were mush. My regular celsii didn’t fare well in 17 degrees but did return, just slightly modified.

Do take a serious look at their mature size, too. This cute little A. americana will grow up fast, and it won’t take even 10 years!

Agave americana baby

Mature agave americana with jerusalem sage

Event note: The Cactus & Succulent Society of America convenes in Austin June 15 -20, with tours, incredible talks and more. For details and to register, visit http://cssa2013.com.

Certainly, it doesn’t take a century to enjoy homegrown citrus! This week, Tom joins Michelle Pfluger from Green ‘n Growing for her list of easy, productive, and fairly cold tolerant ones to grow.

Tom Spencer and Michelle Pfluger Green 'n Growing Nursery

Recently, I added a calamondin to a patio container. We love the fragrant flowers and can’t wait for its slightly sour fruits a few months down the road.

calamondin green fruits

In the ground, my Satsuma ‘Mr. Mac’ is going gangbusters, thanks to the temperate winter and a little high nitrogen fertilizer in March.

satsuma orange new fruits

On tour in Liberty Hill, April and Cliff Hendricks harvest Improved Meyer lemons, along with dreams, in close-up gardens bordering their wide open land. With scavenges, imagination, and artistry, they created a paradise without spending a ton of money.

By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about ollas to water plants in conservative times. John Dromgoole gives us the scoop.

ollas

Find out more at Dripping Springs Ollas.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Minus Lawn Equals Plus

My knee can tell you how much grass I’ve dug up over time! My shovel moans, too, if we count the holes we’ve dug to fill the blanks. Actually, one shovel committed suicide. The pain is worth the gain, like when The Fairy rose—instead of fried grass– romances our hot front curb.

The Fairy rose lawn alternative

Past or current grass gets only the minimal water I give everybody else. Fertilizer? Not for me. Mainly, I’ve diversified because I want this:

golden groundsel packera obovata bee

At some point, I decided if I was going to turn on the spigot, it had to be for plants that re-populate wildlife as their food sources diminish. That golden groundsel (Packera obovata) does a fine job in early spring. Texas betony extends the buffet for months to entice hummingbirds that will stick around for Turk’s cap on the horizon.

texas betony and packera obovata wildlife plants

Gulf penstemon and poppies are booked up with springtime diners.

gulf penstemon with poppies wildlife plants

Even bulbs, like my Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanicus), attract the paparazzi.

spanish bluebells central texas gardener

In the new vegetable bed, native Baby blue eyes came along in my home-made compost. They’re not all about looks: the bees will hang around to pollinate my new tomatoes and squash.

baby blue eyes native annual with bee

Designer Pam Penick shows you how to capture your own version of reduced or no-lawn magic in her book Lawn Gone!

lawn gone pam penick central texas gardener

This week, she joins host Tom Spencer to share a few of her DIY tips, techniques, and lovely alternatives for outdoor living minus grass.

Tom Spencer and Pam Penick, Central Texas Gardener

With plant options, practical design ideas, ponds, and HOA wrangles, she makes it easy to go Lawn Gone!

Lawn Gone

This week’s viewer question comes from Diane Salazar: how to get rid of weeds and make gardens in her new house left vacant for months.

Getting rid of lawn weeds

Get Daphne’s answer on first steps for Diane’s soil restoration and the best way to smother weeds with newspaper.

Since food is replacing lawn for many gardeners, Daphne’s Pick of the Week is deliciously productive tatume squash, an heirloom variety less troubled by the evil squash vine borer. CTG thanks Master Gardener and blogger Caroline Homer for her hands-on tips and a picture from her crazy abundant harvest last summer.

Tatume squash The Shovel-Ready Garden

On tour, see how Meredith Thomas banished lawn for family food by recycling “pre-owned” materials to build beds, including a hugelkulter/keyhole concept, and artwork. She doesn’t buy fertilizer—you just have to see what she does in her own fabulous words. Dear thanks to composer Freejay MacLoud who shared his music that just so perfectly matches Meredith’s truly organic philosophy.

I’ve got the best arugula ever, thanks to Meredith’s passalong seeds of Rocket (also called Rocquette).

Flea beetles on Rocket arugula flowers

Those little insects on it are flea beetles. That’s fine by me because eventually “someone” ate them. You’ll only get long-term predators if you have seasonal prey. Leafy holes didn’t matter a bit in our salads and bunny dinner treats. I’ll be collecting seeds:  to paraphrase Meredith, nature provides our own little seed packets!

And what about those wildflower seed packets?  The party doesn’t end in spring, especially for wildlife that relies on us all year long. So, Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center shows off a few seeds to scatter now, like native partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata).

Partridge pea

Heads up: Get native seeds, perennials (like hard-to-find golden groundsel), shrubs, trees and a lot more at the Wildflower Center’s spring plant sale April 13-14. Member’s day on April 12, but you can join that day to get the first picks! They also have a list online for available plants, so gear up that little red wagon.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Banish Bermuda grass for gardens

Over the years, I’ve whittled away grass, because there are so many fun plants out there! I’m keen on bulbs, especially for endearing combinations, like my long-term Narcissus ‘Erlicheer’ and 3-year-old Yucca pallida.

Narcissus Erlicheer with Yucca pallida

This leucojum (Leucojum aestivum) surprised me by popping up in my Texas sedge (Carex texensis). How cute!

Leucojum with Texas sedge
Overhead in back, the Mexican plum carries on the white theme.

Mexican plum flowers Austin
Little spring starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum) touch it up with lavender in a spot that was once plain old grass.

Ipheon uniflorum

Last spring, we tackled one area where grass never had a chance as our path to the front door from the driveway.

Remove grass for path

pathway instead of grass

Recently, we completed the next step of the picture. Last year, I simply layered newspaper, compost, and mulch around the tree and thought about things. Thanks to very talented help, my little vision became real last week. In January, I’d already moved some Salvia greggiis that needed a sunnier position and added some asters to match the window bed (currently cut back, so not visible). In the next few weeks, I’ll do some “shopping” in my garden to fill it out, along with a few new nursery plants to widen the botanical adventure.

new flower bed instead of grass
The bottom slope: still thinking about that one. Already, Mexican feather grasses have seeded themselves. It may be a combo of them and more sedges.

Many times, I’ve banished St. Augustine with the newspaper (or cardboard) technique. In evil spots where Bermuda grass showed up, that’s been a task, though I will say that my newspaper technique worked well for me in a few places. An old-fashioned dandelion puller assists when a stray shows back up.

But I’m sure you all have seen something like this! Not in my garden, thank heavens; I’m very cautious about planting spiky ones if there’s even a sniff of Bermuda around.

Agave smothered in Bermuda grass
This week, Design My Yard garden designer Liz Klein joins Tom to explain how to avoid disaster when replacing Bermuda lawns with gardens.

Tom Spencer and Liz Klein
Find out how she did it in this garden makeover!

Liz Klein Design My Yard makeover

Liz Klein Design My Yard makeover

Liz Klein Design My Yard ridding Bermuda grass

Liz Klein Design My Yard makeover

On tour, Dani & Gary Moss turned an oak wilt disaster into total enchantment with wildlife gardens, a Chicksville chicken coop, and English style conservatory. When they want to add a touch of art, they make it themselves. Gary welds to suit the purpose and Dani catches the light with her stained glass. Here’s a sneak peek, but I know you’ll want to meet them in person on this year’s Austin Funky Chicken Coop tour on March 30!

Now, with this crazy warm weather, it’s tempting to add some things that really need to wait a bit. This is an excellent time to plant almost  everything–except warm soil lovers. Daphne explains why soil temperature makes a difference.

soil temperature for planting
Firespike (Odontonema strictum) is one perennial that we want to plant after the last freeze date. But it’s Daphne’s pick of the week, since gardeners like to plan ahead!

firespike Odontonema strictum
Like the ones at Dani and Gary’s, and the one I have, firespike is a dramatic addition for shade gardens. Mine didn’t even freeze back this year. In harsh winters, I thought I’d lost it. I kept my patience, and as soon as the soil warmed again, back it came!

On comebacks, Trisha shows how to extend your broccoli and fennel past the first big harvest. Plus, she explains how to deal with the pesky insects that arrived early this year to eat our food.

how to cut broccoli plants Trisha Shirey
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

Px3: Perennial, Pollinators, Powerful

I absolutely fall for fall, when everything explodes at once! A few white-blooming ‘Silverado’ cenizo (Texas sage) flowers hooked up with re-blooming Iceberg roses and hot weather thryallis.

White blooming cenizo, Iceberg rose, thryallis

White mistflower (Ageratina havanensis) will pop us a few flowers in spring, but it goes for the gusto as the days get shorter and cooler, attracting migrating and residential butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds.

White mistflower Ageratina havanensis
Daphne makes this native perennial her pick of the week. This wildlife favorite can grow as tall as 6’ but usually I’ve seen it in the 2-3’ foot range. Late winter shearing will encourage shrubbier growth and more flowers, since it blooms on new wood. The ones I planted last fall are now among my favorites! This one’s in the front bed with Yucca ‘Margaritaville,’ pink skullcap, purple heart, daylilies, bamboo muhly and soon to bloom Copper Canyon daisy.

white mistflower yucca 'Margaritaville' pink skullcap, dayliles
I include plants for pollinators in every season, since one of the top secrets to a healthy garden is abundant wildlife. Plus, you’ll be “on tour” every day to a thankful crowd!

To show off a few, Crystal Murray from Far South Nursery joins Tom this week.

Crystal Murray Far South Nursery Central Texas Gardener
Far South is a wholesale nursery, so don’t show up at their doorstep! Instead, ask for these plants at your nursery, since they supply many in Texas. But, do check out their great plant list for details about some of the tried and true plants they grow.

A new one to me is Indian mallow (Abutilon palmeri), with silvery velvety leaves on a plant that can get 5’ tall. It wants full sun and good drainage. Since it’s only hardy to 25°, it may be a re-seeding annual in cold winters.

Indian Mallow Abutilon palmeri Central Texas Gardener
Another for sunny dry spots is native Gray golden-aster (Heterotheca canescens) that gets about 1’ tall to attract small butterflies from July to September.

Gray golden-aster (Heterotheca canescens)

Whoa, check this out: a pink-blooming Anisacanthus (Anisacanthus puberulus).

Anisacanthus puberulus Central Texas Gardener

Unlike the orange flame acanthus beloved by hummingbirds in late summer/fall, this one blooms in spring, with a more arching habit, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and moths.

A little one I relish in spring is native blue-eyed grass (many species). This member of the iris family actually showed up in my desert-like yard long ago. As soon as I amended the soil, off if went. Now, I’ve got a return every year with transplants in the sunny cat cove, where I’ve dug in a few bags of decomposed granite, assuring good drainage.

Blue-eyed grass flowers Central Texas
A perennial evergreen groundcover that doesn’t like much water and well-drained soil is groundcover creeping germander (Teucrium cossonii). I planted my first ones this year to cover the ground under The Fairy roses (set back by drought, but quickly returning).

Creeping germander with The Fairy rose
This well-drained curbside bed gets the west afternoon sun, reflected street heat, and minimal water.

Creeping germander Teucrium cossonii

Someday, mine are going to look like these at Shoal Creek Nursery.

Creeping germander Teucrium cossonii Shoal Creek Nursery
When I stopped by Shoal Creek last week, they were starting to bloom. I bet the bees are all over them by now!

Creeping germander Teucrium cossonii flower
Crystal also promotes Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra). Blooming and fruiting from spring to frost, these drought-tough shrubs/small trees are evergreen except in extremely cold winters.

Barbados cherry Malpighia glabra flowers and green fruit
That’s just the quick version! Watch online for all of Crystal’s plants and explanations and get her list.

On tour in Kyle, see how Ida Bujan reduced her lawn thumbprint and turned her small garden into a native habitat.

Native plant garden Kyle Texas

She’s got the most glorious Barbados cherry ever!

Barbados cherry Malpighia glabra ripe fruits
Crystal recommends native frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora). I love how Ida replaced lawn with this white-flowering, evergreen groundcover on this side slope.

Frogfruit lawn replacement Kyle Texas
See how Ida did it!

Herbs also attract many beneficial insects. Right now is prime time to plant cool weather yummies for us, like cilantro, parsley, dill and fennel. This week, Trisha shows what she’s planting and how to divide crowded nursery transplants for even more to flavor your recipes.

Winter herbs Trisha Shirey

Certainly, you’ll want extras of parsley, fennel, and dill to attract swallowtail butterflies to lay their eggs. A few caterpillars eating your plants late next spring mean lots of butterflies all over the place!

It’s also the best time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. But what’s the best way to water them? Daphne answers Mary Riley’s great question: Do I water my shrubs to the drip line, like for trees? Find out how.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Garden Conservancy tour, what's up with redbuds, edible containers

Is this a fun fall or what?! It’s also crazy with springtime redbuds blooming alongside autumn asters. What’s up with that?

Redbud tree blooming in fall
Thanks to D. Kirkland for Daphne’s question this week! Daphne explains that it’s all about weather—trees stressed once again this summer.  As a safety valve to carry on their legacy, they flower to re-seed themselves, just in case. Get Daphne’s complete explanation.

Despite our indecisive weather (jeans or shorts today?), it’s time to plant cool weather crops and flowers. Some of us only have room to grow in containers. Even if we tend garden beds, it’s fun to spice up our patio or front porch with a mini-garden, easy to snip for the kitchen on snippy wet days.

See how Trisha creates tasty containers with edible flowers and food (a perfect gift, too), plus how to “coddle” nursery pot roots for quicker growth.

edible container gardens

Now is also the best time to plant trees. Daphne’s Pick of the Week is Mexican olive (Cordia boissieri), a small tree/large shrub for us, depending on how you prune it. It’s a fabulous screening plant if you’ve got full sun and good drainage. It doesn’t want much water after the first year.  I don’t have one (yet) but my neighbor’s thrives in a hot curbside bed against the street.

Mexican olive Cordia boissieri

Luscious flowers come on for months, starting in late spring to attract all your neighbors, along with butterflies!

Mexican olive Cordia boissieri flowers
Even out of bloom, its velvety leaves are gorgeous.

Mexican olive Cordia boissieri leaves
Its fruits are edible, but not really yummy for us. The birds will thank you for them, though.  Deer like the fruits, but supposedly not the leaves.

Mexican olive Cordia boissieri fruits
Do protect with mulch if you plant this fall, since harsh winters can cause it some trouble. But my neighbor’s made it through 14° and I’ve seen other show-stoppers in established gardens.

Cooler weather always gets us back in gear with ideas!  The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour on November 3 is sure to spark your imagination for plants and concepts to try at home. This week, Tom meets with Austin coordinators Charlotte Warren and Laura Bohls for a sneak preview.

Tom Spencer, Charlotte Warren, Laura Bohls The Garden Conservancy
This year’s tour offers diverse perspectives, from plants to spaces.

Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Christy Ten Eyck Garden Conservancy Austin 2012

Jeff Pavlat garden Garden Conservancy tour

Jeff Pavlat garden Garden Conservancy tourJeff Pavlat garden Garden Conservancy tour

Here’s where to get tour details and advance ticket information.

Our video tour visits one of them: landscape architect Curt Arnette’s hillside renovation that respects the interface of land, family engagements, and wildlife.  Here’s a sneak preview!

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you next week! Linda

On tour with the Travis County Master Gardeners

How can you reduce lawn, combine edibles, flowers for wildlife, living spaces, and art?

no lawn edible ornamental front yard
The best ideas come from fellow gardeners! That’s why you won’t want to miss the Travis County Master Gardeners’ “Inside Austin Gardens” tour on October 20. This year highlights hands-on gardeners who tuck in food with their salvias and succulents, like Ann & Robin Matthews, who even take it all out front.

no lawn edible ornamental front garden
They unite their garden with neighbor Donnis Doyle, also on tour.

hot curb strip garden
In back, find out how they got rid of grass in favor of paths, coves, and a labyrinth-style vegetable garden.

labyrinth vegetable garden
See how they screen a view with Hardiboard imprinted with ancient Native American rock art they’ve seen on excursions throughout Texas.

Hardiboard garden screen

On tour, you can also see how Donnis screened her view of a daycare center for a soothing spot to hang out with her neighbors.

galvanized steel patio screen

Here’s a sneak preview with CTG’s video visit.

I love the natural screen the Matthews chose on one side: bay laurel!

bay laurel hedge

Daphne makes bay laurel her Pick of the Week to explain how to grow this Central Texas evergreen as a screen or accent. Why buy expensive bay leaves when you can pluck some of your own?

bay laurel leaf

When I got my bay laurel in a 4” pot, I potted it up as a patio container.  It barely grew (though it’s fine in a pot if you have just a small space). Then, I ran into large bay hedges in long-term gardens. I saw Trisha’s huge one at her Lake Austin Spa garden. So, I stuck mine in the ground to shield a so-so shed. It shot up like a fiend in blasts of hot sunlight (not all day) and very little water.  In 14°, it suffered a little leaf damage, but spring pruning flushed it right back out. The Barbados cherry in front died to the ground, but returned, too.

Barbados cherry bay laurel screen

I just pluck a leaf when I need it for the pot. When I prune to tidy and shape, I bring in some to dry. If you missed Trisha’s segment on how to dry and anchor herbs, and the ones to choose, watch it now!

To preview the other gardens on tour, Tom meets with Travis County Master Gardeners Carolyn Williams and Holly Plotner.

Tom Spencer, Carolyn Williams, Holly Plotner Master Gardeners

Here’s just a tease of the diversity on tour this year!

Stock tank vegetable beds Travis County Master Gardeners

No lawn backyard habitat
Cute garden shed Travis County Master Gardeners
Garden fountains Travis County Master Gardeners

Renee Studebaker isn’t officially a Master Gardener (though she’s a master at it!). If you’ve ever wanted a closer look at her garden, here’s the chance! She’s even going to be serving homemade treats from her harvests.

Renee Studebaker's front yard garden

And find out where Daphne hangs out with a visit to the Texas AgriLife Extension Office demo gardens! She and Augie will be on hand (paw) all day to answer your questions!

Not only will you have a chance to talk with the gardeners to see how they did it and where they got it, each site includes educational talks and plant and book sales.  All this for just $20 or $5 per garden, to support their many free workshops throughout the year. Find out more about upcoming workshops and details of the tour.

Since we all like to recycle, a viewer asks: “Can I spread used kitty litter on the grass or non-edible gardens?” Get Daphne’s answer about why this isn’t a good idea—it’s not what you might think. Telo and Camille Farber already watched this on their iCatfonz to pass along to their moms, sisters Galia (KLRU’s production coordinator) and Naomi.

Galia's cats in sink
In the next few weeks, it’s time to plant wildflower seeds like Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella).

Indian blanket Gaillardia pulchella
Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center shows how to sow for the best success. Since bluebonnets are tops on the list, she explains how to improve germination the first year.

plant bluebonnet seeds
Note: the inoculant she mentions has become very hard to find, so go with one of her other techniques to start your bluebonnet patch. Trisha sometimes moves bluebonnet plants to a new area (or you can buy transplants) to inoculate the soil, too. I’ve always had great luck without the inoculant.

Happy planting until next week! Linda

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

Make a Fall Resolution to Get Growing!

It’s a sure sign that fall is really coming when Oxblood lilies bloom! Mine started showing up two weeks early near the  patio Turk’s cap, thanks to the bit of rain I got. We’re finally turning the corner, folks.

Oxblood lily with Turk's cap
So, that means it’s time to get a jump on holiday ornaments—at least for those who don’t wait until the last minute (I’m raising my hand). One that even a non-craft person like me can handle is the dried seed pods from butterfly vine (Mascagnia macroptera), Daphne’s Pick of the Week.

Butterfly vine seed pods as Christmas ornaments
She explains how to grow this drought-tough perennial for brilliant yellow flowers that bloom all summer to feed beneficial insects. When the green pods dry to brown, you’re ready to go.

Butterfly vine flowers and green seed pods
Now, here’s something truly fantastic with them and poppy seed pods. The artisans behind these creations just hit a landmark age: 10 years old!

butterfly vine crafts for kids
Thanks to Nina Matts and her friend Tylar for sharing, and to mom Maria Matts for sending along to inspire your little artists!

I bet many of you have seen this, due to the healthy population of black-margined pecan aphids, crape myrtle aphids and whiteflies.  Even other trees in my garden got hit this year. Thanks to Felicia Kongable for this picture of her blotchy pecan tree leaves affected by aphids. Daphne explains what is going on, why sooty mold then develops, and what to do about it.

Sooty mold on pecan leaves
My lamb’s ears and other plants suffered from sooty mold, the “byproduct” of insect honeydew secretions “raining” on them from the overhead crape myrtle. They’ve all recovered just fine.

Lamb's ears with sooty mold
My list of fall projects is longer than my arm, but here’s the site of one back-to-business coming soon.

linda project

I’m digging out the primrose jasmine and wayward passion vine (there’s tons more, so the butterflies are good) to build a new fall vegetable garden with 2 levels of 6×6 dry stack stone. It’ll be around 3 x 10; I’ll leave room between it and the turk’s cap.

That’s because it’s time to gear up for fall vegetable planting! This week, Tom joins Randy Jewart from Resolution Gardens for tips for your table.

Randy Jewart Resolution Gardens
Resolution Gardens started in 2009 as a project of Austin Green Art. Their motto is “Grow Food. We’ll Help.” to implement their mission to bring local organic food into everyone’s kitchen.

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

They’ll build and plant it for you or just come give you a weekly hand.

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

They also do landscape design, water features, outdoor sculpture and even tree trimming! Isn’t this just lovely? Food for the family & the wildlife!

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

Visit them at 5 Miles Farms, 5213 Jim Hogg Avenue, to see what and how they’re growing. If you just want to pick up some fresh food, current farm stand hours are Friday & Saturday noon –6 p.m. and Sunday noon – 3. You can also sign up for their CSA. Membership includes free admission to their delightful dinners and hands-on workshops.

5 miles Farms Austin Texas

On September 22, Resolution Gardens is conducting two workshops: Fall Planting Demo and Build Your Own Salad Garden Workshop.  Find out more.
October 20, you’ve got to bring the whole family to make a 21st Century SCARECROW that actually works to repel garden pests! Randy shows off a super cool one on CTG to inspire the artist in you and your kids. Randy invites everyone to #SCARECROW to join the collective goal to promote local, healthy and sustainable food.

Resolution Gardens Austin Texas

And find out how they’re engaging local gardeners in 5 Miles Farms (add your name!), an innovative concept that contributes to their CSA produce. Follow the growing seasons with them via their blog.

On tour, we head to Brenham, where Sally and Jay White built a charming potager on a former Coastal bermudagrass ranch.

Brenham potager Central Texas Gardener
See how they managed to keep the tenacious grass out of their year-round garden of food and flowers. Plus, get Jay’s tips for such a bountiful organic garden!

Brenham potager

Also, check out his freelance stories for Texas Gardener magazine, and his blog, The Masters of Horticulture, for edibles and lots more.

Hey, the next time you’re in Brenham, be sure to stop in at JW’s Steakhouse in nearby Carmine!

JW's Steakhouse

Ed Fuentes, Steve Maedl and I thank Sally & Jay for this yummy recommendation.

fried chicken at JW's Steakhouse

Since it’s still too hot to direct sow some vegetables, John Dromgoole shows how to start seeds in containers.  His tips are great, too, to jump-start summer crops this winter.

How to start seeds with John Dromgoole
Finally, take a look at these Black Spanish grapes that viewer Jason Lantz and his girlfriend are growing. They have a very delicious garden!

Black Spanish grapes
Happy planting and see you next week, Linda

Wicked (and wonderful) Bugs

We’ve been invaded!

Katydid © Paul Alvarado Lenhart

At least temporarily. This week on CTG, Daphne identifies the culprit: the Central Texas Leaf-Katydid (Red Katydid). She explains that in cyclical outbreak years like this one, the red form predominates. Thank you to Paul Alvarado Lenhart, Ph.D candidate in the Texas A&M Entomology Dept. for pictures and information.

Katydid red form © Paul Alvarado Lenhart

They’re defoliating oak trees and singing their little forewings out. Not to be confused with cicadas, these insects are Paracyrtophyllus robustus. Lee Franzel, Comal County Master Gardener, has seen a lot of them!

Katydid damage live oak (c) Lee Franzel

On Mike Quinn’s Texas Entomology site (fabulous insect resource) he notes some factors for this year’s abundance of many insects: the 2011 drought that killed off natural predators, and our warm winter with above average rain. Many thanks to him for his assistance on this segment!

Here’s one more, taken by Alan Brown, an entomologist himself, though we usually meet the whole family through Texas AgriLife Extension’s Wizzie Brown’s Urban-IPM blog, a great resource for what’s bugging you!  Most of the time, she’s answering gardeners’ questions and conducting free workshops, like this one on July 14 to identify good bugs and bad ones.

Katydid (c) Allan Brown

Hear some spine-tingling tales about Wicked Bugs with author Amy Stewart when she joins Tom this week!

CTG Tom Spencer and Amy Stewart, Wicked Bugs

Amy astounds us with captivating stories from insect strategy to why Tom got nabbed by a black widow spider. And did you know that locusts are actually certain grasshoppers under stress? From Phylloxera that almost wiped out a wine industry to zombies and bed bugs, Wicked Bugs is full of intriguing true tales of the insects that changed history, from Napoleon to families under attack by the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug today.

Wicked Bugs, Amy Stewart

Amy emphasizes that most insects are beneficial and deserve our respect (no pesticides) and our nurture (a diverse habitat to attract them). Most important: if we don’t edit who gets to come in, we have far less work to do. Generally, the creatures will “work it out” themselves and we don’t mess up the valuable predator-to-prey balance or destroy beneficial pollinators.

Skeleton-leaf goldeneye daisy

If you must step in, do it with your foot or your hands. This spring, when insects exploded all over, you may have spotted this one on your mint or lamb’s ears.

White-Margined Burrower Bug (Sehirus cinctus) on lamb's ears

It’s the White-Margined Burrower Bug (Sehirus cinctus). But any damage they did has recovered nicely by now.

In Wicked Bugs, Amy notes that “Lepidopterophobia” is fear of butterflies. But since most of us love them, Daphne’s pick of the week, native Gaura lindheimeri, attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds.

Gaura lindheimeri

Gaura’s pretty much no care, too. Once established in well-drained soil, it needs little water and no fertilizer to bloom from late spring through summer. It loves sun, joined here with native Zexmenia (Wedelia texana) in this Hyde Park garden.

Gaura with Zexmenia

Gaura can take some shade too, but mine didn’t fare well once my trees grew up too much. Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’ is another beauty.

Gaura lindheimeri 'Siskiyou Pink'

In winter, you can cut them back to encourage bushier growth in spring. In blooming season, cut off spent flowers to encourage another flush.

Succulent plants don’t attract too many wicked bugs (usually). This week Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents demonstrates how to divide by leaf cuttings and beheading. Yikes, “beheading” sounds scary, doesn’t it? Note: no blood was shed on this episode!

Eric Pedley divide succulents

On tour, this garden designed by Travis County Master Gardener Link Davidson for neighbor Wendy Brennan restored wildlife habitat in a very small space. See how they used recycled materials to repurpose the former lawn, on a wickedly low budget.

See you next week! Linda