Like taking risks? Hey, you’re a gardener!

It’s natural to be a little wary when treading on new ground, especially when it means keeping something alive. My young Copper Canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) gave me a scare last summer. Oh yes, we ARE taking risks if we don’t water even drought-tough plants their first year. This one forgave my negligence by blooming this spring. I was lucky.

copper canyon daisy austin

I finally cut it back several inches, since I want it to lush back out: not just for my visual preference, but to cover itself in flowers for migrating and resident butterflies this summer and fall.

Weird years (and that’s most of them), keep us coming back for more. Many weird years ago, I took a risk when I dug up a huge stretch of lawn. At one end, I decided to have a rose arbor. I couldn’t decide between New Dawn or Buff Beauty, so I took a design risk and put one on each side. Well.

New Dawn and Buff Beauty roses arbor

I wasn’t so lucky when I planted an Iceberg rose in the den bed, where I figured it would get “just about enough” sun. Nope. I moved it to a really hot spot that I rarely water and never fertilize. Now, it’s almost always in bloom. It reminds me: the odds are better by following SOME of the rules.

Iceberg rose Austin

Peggy Martin loves her hot spot trellised on my chain link fence as a little privacy and to share with our beloved neighbor.

Peggy Martin rose Austin

Known as the “Katrina rose,” here’s the story of how Dr. William C. Welch brought us this intrepid rose, since he’s a man who thrives on a good plant risk.

Recently, Saliva farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’ joined Texas betony in the island bed. I found it in a nursery, thanks to horticulturist Greg Grant, who collected seeds in a La Grange cemetery and named it for the headstone nearby. I also thank the Texas growers who took a risk to take it public.

Saliva Henry Duelberg and Texas betony

And what about avocados, allspice, cinnamon, hibiscus for tea, and other tropical edibles? Amanda Moon from It’s About Thyme joins Tom this week to entice us to follow this delicious trek.

Tom Spencer and Amanda Moon, It's About Thyme

Amanda gives us the few simple rules to take this risk for yummy rewards. Here’s her list for your future adventures.

I snagged this picture of allspice in Lucinda Hutson’s garden last fall. She does overwinter its container in a garage with a Grow Light when she remembers to turn it on! Like all plants protected in a garage, gradually bring them back out into the light to avoid sunburn.

Allspice in Lucinda Hutson's garden

On tour in San Antonio, Ragna and Bob Hersey are all about risks in a glorious garden that Ragna rescued from total boredom with scavenges,  invention, and many passalong plants. Thanks to Shirley Fox, gardener and blogger at Rock-Oak-Deer, for this connection! Take a look to be dancing all day.

Ragna went totally organic since butterflies and other beneficial wildlife matter more than a few pests. Oh, and since then, she doesn’t have many pests! One way to attract butterflies is with summertime annual, Mexican tithonia, Daphne’s pick of the week.

Mexican tithonia

Our viewer question this week comes from garden blogger Robin Mayfield who wants to know if she can mulch over live oak leaves.

mulch over oak leaves

Yes, says Daphne, unless there’s been a past problem with oak leaf rollers. She also explains why oak leaf drop happened earlier this year for some of us. Have we mentioned watering trees in drought?! Don’t risk your trees: do water.

Not every plant wants the same kind of mulch. Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center explores the pros and cons of several options to keep everybody happy.

mulch options Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

From Central Texas Gardener’s Face Book page, heads up to Tamara Dextre on the best advice ever: “I am getting fearless…after all, it is about gaining experience and having fun.” Well said!

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to have some risky fun until next week! Linda

What's your plant personality? How does it heal you?

Quick, tell me, pick a word to describe the personality of a plant in your garden. My word for newly opened Narcissus ‘Erlicheer’: “Dreamy.”

Narcissus Erlicheer

My silver germander? Hmm. . . “Convivial.”

Silver germander

I bring up this word game thanks to Antique Rose Emporium founder, Michael Shoup, who matches rose personalities with our gardens in his ground-breaking new book.

Empress of the Garden

He and Tom have a blast comparing notes on drought-tough roses with monikers like “Whimsical,” “Greedy” and “Romantic.”

Tom Spencer and Michael Shoup Antique Rose Emporium

Can’t you just imagine Michael’s fun with categories like “Reliable Showgirls,” “Tenacious Tomboys,” or “Big-Hearted Homebodies?”

Mutabilis rose Antique Rose Emporium
In Empress of the Garden, Michael makes it easy to select the right rose for you, how to grow it, and how to do it organically. I see that my tough-as-nails fragrant Buff Beauty falls into “Balloon-Skirted Ladies.”  I agree with Michael’s tag words for her: “Versatile, languid, warm-hearted.”

Buff Beauty rose Central Texas Gardener

So, let’s see: how would we describe Daphne’s pick of the week, Grandma’s Yellow rose, a Texas Superstar plant brought into cultivation thanks to Greg Grant?

Grandma's Yellow rose

This shrub rose is fragrant, blooms without missing a beat in Texas heat, and isn’t easily troubled, as it certainly isn’t at the Travis Extension office.

Grandma's Yellow rose, Daphne Richards and Augie
It does have thorns. Essentially, it’s like a grandma who showers the love and pinpoints all your troubles with gentle advice or a well-timed verbal swat ala Downton’s Dowager Duchess. What word would YOU pick?

‘Grandma’, like our other “Tenacious” shrub roses, doesn’t need fancy pruning. But since all roses gain a lot more personality with a yearly haircut, Daphne explains why we prune them in February.

spring buds on The Fairy rose

Since roses and many of our plants want good drainage, especially in heavy soils, Merredith Jiles from The Great Outdoors shows what to do. If starting from scratch, definitely check out his explanation of expanded shale, something I rely on now for new succulents and any new plant in my clay.

Improve soil drainage The Great Outdoors

All our plants, whatever we select, are “Healing.” On tour, get ideas to inspire your healing design from the Tranquility Garden at University Medical Center Brackenridge, where TBG landscape architects turned asphalt into gardens of recovery.


Thanks for checking in! See you next week, Linda

Obsessed With Fascinating Plants

Plants fascinate me! With no internet connection whatsoever, they know exactly what to do when the time is right. My Byzantine gladiolus corms  always greet winter with tidy upright leaves.  They time their vivid flowers for April to make sure we notice them in spring madness.

Byzantine gladiolus (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Usually the larkspurs hang around to join them.

Byzantine gladious with larkspur (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
The cat cove rose arbor is a little out of control. I’ll tame it after I get my quota of homegrown perfume.

Rose arbor Buff Beauty and New Dawn roses
When I planted my Christmas present arbor a few years ago, I couldn’t decide which roses I wanted most.  So on one side, I planted Buff Beauty.

Buff Beauty rose
On the other, New Dawn.

Rose New Dawn
They’re good friends that astound me with their self-sufficiency and tenacity through flood, freeze, and drought, with fragrance so rich you can almost see it.

Equally self-motivated: Marie Pavie rose and Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) in the patio cove. If I could bottle their fragrances (with a cute label, of course) I’d be rich, rich, rich!

Star jasmine and Marie Pavie rose near patio fountain

I’ve trained my Star (Confederate) jasmine into a shrub form. You can also use it as a groundcover or as a vine to hide a chain link fence. Or on a trellis to hide the neighbor’s boat!

Star jasmine trained in shrub form

The white theme continues on the garden side of the patio with blackfoot daisy, winecup, and my new native frogfruit, already blooming tiny white flowers. They are too small to see in this view; will post pictures when they go into full gear.

Winecup, blackfoot daisy, frogfruit
This front bed got out its post-Easter whites, too. The stem of my Yucca pallida fell over in excitement to hunker down with purple heart.

Yucca pallida flower with purple heart

Yucca pallida flowers

One of the most fascinating plants in the world is the orchid. This week on Central Texas Gardener, I’m thrilled to meet with Susan Orlean, staff writer for The New Yorker, and author of The Orchid Thief.

Susan Orlean on Central Texas Gardener

If you’ve always wanted to meet her, now you can connect to this passionate writer who chronicles for us her journalistic exploration into the botanical intricacy of orchids. Susan also explains what started her obsession that drove her to swamps, abandon normal life, and ultimately inspire the movie Adaptation! Personally, I like the book much better!

The Orchid Thief

On tour, meet orchid grower Monica Gaylord, who just steps outside her bedroom doors to an orchid greenhouse that soothes her soul and intrigues her mind.

Meet Monica in person and soothe your own soul at the Heart O’ Texas Orchid Society’s show and sale on April 28 and 29 at Zilker Botanical Garden.  Like Susan Orlean, I bet the rest of the world will vanish as you gaze into flowers so intricate that they could inspire a book!

And what about this fascinating growth that’s showing up in gardens all over?

Slime mold (c) David Mcniel
It’s slime mold, Daphne’s question of the week. Thanks to David McNiel for sending this in!  Is it harmful?  What should we do about it? Daphne reports that bacteria are their preferred food source.

Slime mold occurs when there is high relative humidity and warm temperatures—exactly our conditions lately.  And no, they are not harmful. Enjoy them for their oddity or throw them in the compost pile.

Before you throw all your (non-seeding) weeds into the compost pile, turn them into nutritious fertilizer!  Trisha Shirey explains how to make weed teas for your garden and container plants.

Trisha Shirey makes weed teas
Get Trisha’s instructions and extensive list, which includes the nutrients and trace minerals from various weeds, old Swiss chard, comfrey, eggshells, coffee grounds and more.

Lots of events this weekend but here’s another: It’s About Thyme invites you to their free workshop on Sunday, April 22 at 20 p.m. George Altgelt from Geo Growers presents this Earth Day Special: “Realizing the Principles of Food Safety and Self-Reliance
within the Texas Home Gardening Tradition.”

See you 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

Homegrown perfume factory

Right now, my garden is a perfume factory working overtime. Mountain laurel blossoms mingle with the sweetness of bridal-gowned Mexican plum.

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Beneficial insects swoop between them and ‘Spring Bouquet’ viburnums.

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta
As I pruned ‘Maggie’ at last, I had to stop now and then to “smell the roses.”

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Narcissus ‘Falconet’ beckons a tête-à-tête to catch a gentle whiff.

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta
I have to get even closer to catch the scent of spring starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum) and the few grape hyacinths I have. These are actually Muscari, though I have no clue which one.

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta
White summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) and the flowers of silver bush germander (Teucrium fruticans) are too subtle for my allergy-stricken nose, but they sure are pretty.

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Here’s a wider shot that includes snapdragons, the first I’ve planted in years. I’m loving it!

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Perennial Scotty’s Surprise oxalis (discovered by Scott Ogden) and winter annual snapdragons appeal more to the eye than to the nose.

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta

This bed is more structural than fragrant, with young pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia), shrimp plant, Yucca ‘Margaritaville’, pink skullcap, dwarf Jerusalem sage, purple heart, heartleaf skullcap, and winter annual stocks.

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Still, the Jerusalem sage has a slight sage-y scent, and the stocks are nose-stoppers!

(c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Sadly, the 89° last week means that my stock of stocks is about to run out. Fun while it lasted! In April, I think I’m going to install Texas Superstar angelonias in their place.

Event of the week: The First Austin African Violet Society hosts its 44th judged show and sale “African Violets and Other Wonders of the World” on March 17 and 18 at Zilker Botanical Garden. Guaranteed to make your indoor garden as glamorous as the one outside!

See you 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

Fragrance, flavor + fun with gourds

Since my roses are trouble-free, I’m on aromatic overload without worrying that soon I’ll be under work overload.

Marie Pavie rose

If I dally about dead heading my Marie Pavie rose framing the patio, doesn’t matter much. Blackspot never blackens my on-going view, either.

On the cat cove arbor, equally self-reliant New Dawn and Buff Beauty are taking up where Lady Banks left off. Here’s fragrant BB.

Buff Beauty rose
Beyond, blackfoot daisy joins purple winecups, rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) and oregano that creeps between the flagstones.  The oregano loves when I nip it and strip its leaves for the kitchen, since that keeps it lush.

Blackfoot daisy, winecup, rock rose and oregano
In my early garden days, I dedicated one spot for herbs. But that’s like putting all your favorite plants in the same spot. Each herb has its specifics to be happy. Now, I include them sited to their preference, (sun or shade, moist or dry), and mingle their diverse forms and textures among the perennials. There’s feathery southernwood in part sun and fuzzy lemon balm in shade.  Silver-leafed society garlic wants sun and good drainage, so I paired my new ones against cat cove winecups. In any garden spot, when other fragrant plants are out of bloom, you can grab an herbal handful to whiff or plop into drinks or dinner.

Since herbs are so easy to grow, even for the first-time gardener, this week on CTG, Tom meets with Amanda Moon from It’s About Thyme.  Wow, she has such great new insight and ideas!  I’d never even considered pairing Swiss chard with red-veined sorrel, but now I must try it! 

Also, check out It’s About Thyme for all their fabulous free workshops.

* April 17: Success with olive trees
* May 1:  Ponds and water features: a beginner’s guide
* May 15: Incorporating edibles in the garden (even blueberries!)

Then, go out of your gourd with Trisha’s tips on growing gourds.

Gourds with Trisha Shirey

This is the ultimate DIY fun: flowers, shading vines and cool stuff you can make.  Trisha brought along some of the gourds she’s painted and decorated, but I added my beloved apple gourd and little pears I got at the Texas Gourd Society show a few years ago. Here’s good news: this fall, their show is in Fredericksburg Oct. 14-16. I’ve already marked my calendar because I want one of the gorgeous lamps!  And I sure hope they have the popcorn bowls this year–too beautiful!

You’ll also go crazy on this week’s garden tour to Elm Mott! Against acres of wide open fields, energetic Cathy Hejl created a series of cozy family destinations, one weekend and evening at a time. Behind every artistic project, she had a good reason, too.

Cathy Hejl garden

She has it all: flowers, chickens, ducks, vegetables, a pond and water fountains, wonderful walkways and entryways: all done with her own two hands. When I met her, she said “No more projects.”  Then, recently, she told me about three more that have my head spinning! I dearly thank Waco Master Gardener Judy Tye for connecting us to such inspiration.

Cathy goes for tough plants that don’t need a lot of babying. I know she’d approve my gold bearded iris blooming near a Salvia lyrata in the crape bed. As long as you don’t drown them and divide them every few years, they top the list as no-care plants.

Yellow-gold bearded iris
Here’s Salvia lyrata, a native perennial groundcover that flowers in spring, just as tough and enduring.

Salvia lyrata
And to keep the gold and lavender theme in the crape bed:

Lavender bearded iris

Gold columbine

Daphne answers Liz Clark’s question, one I often get: Why didn’t my possumhaw holly produce berries? Does it need a pollinator?  Unless Liz got a male plant at the nursery, her female will be pollinated by other hollies in the neighborhood. It may just be too young to produce “offspring.” Let’s hope she gets flowers soon!

Don’t forget: send us your question or a plant picture from your garden to feature on Central Texas Gardener!  What is your favorite plant and why would you recommend it to fellow gardeners as Plant of the Week?  Send ‘em on to llehmusvirta@klru.org.
Until next week, Linda

Designs by us, modified by nature

Bizarre Central Texas weather is the master of garden design. This Agave striata made it.

Agave striata
But these may be the last pictures of my beloved Agave celsii.

Agave celsii in snow
It’s too early to tell.

Agave celsii in snow

This growth does seem to be turgid, but the rest of the leaves are in various states of mush.

Agave celsii possibly turgid growth after freeze

Last year, it lost several bottom leaves, which didn’t harm its overall appearance. This may have been too much, though.

Agave celsii in snow
And it’s a bit early to diagnose the Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’ (variegated flax lily) beyond. But it doesn’t look promising.

You’d think I’d learned my lesson last year. But NO! I love the dianellas so much that I just had to have more. And you know what, I’ll probably try again!

By the way, I’ve already heard from viewers about their cycads. Mine is snow-white, too, as it was last year. Once things warmed up last spring, it grew a new set of fronds. So I’ll wait, once again, to clean it up and hope for the best.

Native heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) hates summer as much as it loves winter.

Heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata)
Weather “events” like drought, extended freeze, and Texas-style monsoons rule us in the end. Sometimes we can go for years with a plant before extreme conditions send us back to the drawing board.

Ultimately, that’s where it starts. If we have a good design, occasional plant change-outs simply give us the “push” we need to try something new. So, this week on CTG, Tom meets with Sharon St. John, Horticulture and Landscape Design Coordinator at Austin Community College. She introduces us to ACC’s fabulous continuing education classes geared for designers and horticulturists.

Austin Community College garden design

Plus, she illustrates a few design concepts and how to adapt to your garden. Note: at ACC’s classes, you can learn how to make renderings like this!

Austin Community College garden design

Austin Community College garden design

Well, a few weeks ago, I jumped the gun on Daphne’s question of the week from viewer Joan Wade. In case you missed it, it’s excellent, since I often hear from viewers that their good-choice roses aren’t doing well. Almost always, it’s due to lack of enough sun.

Roses in too much shade
Joan’s trimmed back the oak tree that was creating too much shade. She scratched in a compost/rose mix and drenched with liquid seaweed with iron. Already, they’re doing great. They did get burned a bit in last week’s extended freeze, as did my roses, but they’ll rally. In the next few weeks, we can prune and feed our roses to stimulate new healthy growth. Note: Joan reports that her roses are climbing versions of shrub roses, which are more appropriate for her narrow space.

Daphne’s featured plant is Mutabilis, one of the Earth-Kind roses.

Apricot Mutabilis rose flower
If you a have a large space and need a beautiful screen, this shrub rose is the one for you. No need to bother with fertilizer, either. For years, I’ve just added mulch to mine, and it performs like a champ even though it gets only 4 or 5 hours of sun (more is certainly recommended!)  There are smaller Earth-Kind roses that are just as easy to grow. Really, you can have roses without the hassle!

On tour, we visit herbalist Ellen Zimmermann’s garden, where she combines roses, herbs, perennials and annuals that are beneficial to us and our wildlife. Check out her classes and fabulous herbal insight at the Austin School of Herbal Studies. You can even see why you should treasure those cleavers showing up in your garden! Also, Ellen’s got a new Apprentice Program starting in March; a great opportunity to study with her.

If you don’t want to use your weeds, but just get rid of them, this week Sweetpea Hoover explains what to do.

Since we’re planning our summer vegetable beds, don’t miss the best vegetable plant sale around at Sunshine Community Gardens on Saturday, March 5, from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. They always have hard-to-find varieties along with standby faves.

This Saturday, Feb. 12, the Travis County Master Gardeners host a free workshop on planting your vegetable garden. If you miss that one, these busy bees have something just about every weekend!

By now, you’re sick of snow pictures, but just hang on for a few more!

cat paws in snow

Snow bunny

Snow heart

Until next week, happy Valentine’s Day early!  Linda

Moving Day + Tomatoes with Renee Studebaker

Last Sunday’s misty day had me moving. I ran around like crazy, since now’s the perfect time to move trees, shrubs, hardy perennials, and roses that need a new spot. My garden diary reminds me that it was two years ago in January that I renovated my Iceberg and Mrs. Oakley Fisher roses by hauling them to the sunlight they want.  It’s the side of the house by the air conditioner, where we rarely travel, but it’s the late blasting sun spot that they like. That’s also where I planted the thryallis and the silvery cenizo I  really wanted,  and my Satsuma orange. It’s not a “focal point” destination, but now it does get us out there to take a look.

Iceberg and Mrs. Oakley Fisher roses with thryallis

Right away, they went from straggly wimps to exuberant performers.  Here’s Iceberg cooling down last summer’s heat.

Iceberg rose closeup

Here’s Mrs. Oakley Fisher, who I’d thought was a goner. She’s so tall right now that pruners are all she needs.

Mrs. Oakley Fisher rose

This time, I had my eye on a Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) and a passalong cassia (Senna) that needed more light. I’m pleased about their new location in the back bed that pumps it up. Sometimes a move is good: not just for the plant, but to stretch our ideas! I’m renovating their former spot, and will send pictures once I figure out what in the heck I’m going to do.

Next, I’m moving plants from what’s left of the grass, like this Gulf Coast penstemon.

Gulf Coast penstemon rosette

In my documentary, Wildflowers|Seeds of History, that’s ALMOST finished, Damon Waitt from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notes Mrs. Johnson’s observation that “Every seed needs to find its home.”

That is so true. Have you ever noticed how seeds that defy your attendance show up where they want? Usually, they have a better handle on design than I do.

That’s my case with some surprises that aren’t native, but dear to me. No telling what this poppy is, but it preferred to plant itself  in the lawn rather than deal with me.

poppy rosette seeded in grass

I don’t always have great luck germinating seeds of my beloved perfumed old-fashioned petunias that I grow in patio pots. Anxious to escape my hovering, they leaped several feet away to the granite mulch of my potted  squid agave (Agave bracteosa). By the time I took this picture, I’d already lifted some to patio pots; they aren’t yelling at me yet.

Petunia seeded in squid agave pot

Onto tasty subjects: It’s time to plan those luscious summer tomatoes.  Since Renee Studebaker of Renee’s Roots is the ultimate homegrown tomato expert (who even sun dries Juliet’s in her truck!) she joins Tom this week on CTG to get you in on harvests like this.

Renee Studebaker tomatoes

Renee notes some of her reliable favorites, how to collect seeds from rare, beloved heirlooms, and how to start early when weather can still be frosty. Get lots more of Renee’s tips on growing tomatoes on Renee’s Roots.

Renee’s nemesis, shared by all tomato growers: the dreaded leaf footed bug. Viewer Patricia Finch asked CTG if we had any new insight. Unless you want to nuke yourself and all your beneficials, you’ve just gotta do what Renee & Patricia do: go out early in the morning while they’re sleepy and dump them into soapy water. Also, be sure to keep an eye on the clusters of red nymphs that show up early. Bag ‘em before they grow up!

Still, Patricia got 1600 tomatoes from her 25 Celebrity tomato plants last summer, and made 15 gallons of spaghetti sauce that made her “favorite neighbor of the year!”

Celebrity tomatoes

Her secret is Garden-Ville’s rose soil and Rocket Fuel fertilizer. She also adds diatomaceous earth around each plant.

Daphne answers Joan Wade’s question about her roses that weren’t performing well.

rose with slight iron chlorosis

She also only has a narrow space to grow them.

trellised roses in narrow space

Joan’s  selections are good ones, like David Austin Graham Thomas and Leander, plus Monsieur Tillier, an Antique Rose Emporium favorite.  One problem is an oak tree that shaded them (obviously, I’ve had the same problem!). Joan had it trimmed back, and now they’re getting lots more sun. Her roses (like mine) can also use some iron, organic fertilizer in a few weeks, and amended soil with compost or rose soil right now.

Late-breaking report from Joan: sun, soil amendment, and liquid seaweed with iron have already worked. Her roses are leafing out like champs with healthy growth!

Daphne’s caveat for gardeners starting from scratch: Joan’s design is beautiful, and she’s selected good varieties, but they are large shrub roses. For new rose growers in a narrow space like this, look for tame climbers or miniature climbers that won’t outgrow the space too fast!

What else drives gardeners crazy? Pill bugs! They’re mainly a problem around seedlings. Get Trisha Shirey’s insight and how to make peace with them.

On tour, we revisit the teenaged farm interns at Urban Roots, who are growing lots more than organic tomatoes.

Help here! Can you identify this plant for a viewer who spotted it at an office building?

mystery plant

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