Garden fiesta and Viva Tequila!

What’s your favorite garden color or combination? Mine change with the season, week, and even the hour.

rock rose (pavonia) and Calylophus berlandieri

Right now, it’s hard to resist that current cat cove combo—how’s that for alliteration—pink rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetela) and Calylophus berlandieri, where sun beats down on them many hours.

I’m just as joyful about this little group in the new front bed.

cosmos with artemisia and black pearl pepper

I seeded annual pink Cosmos to fill in while the perennials grow up. Already, I’m a fan of it with perennial artemisia and annual ‘Black Pearl’ pepper (though it returns in mild winters).

The den bed goes for a yellow/orange ensemble in daylily season, while ‘Patrick’ abutilon carries my orange torch almost all year. Okay, I admit, I love orange and its various hues.

yellow daylily and 'Patrick' orange abutilon

I’m a real fan of ‘David Verity’ cuphea, too, though I don’t have any, until I can snag the sun and good drainage that cupheas like.

David Verity cuphea

Daphne makes Cuphea her pick of the week, since they feed butterflies, bees and hummingbirds in summer. Bat-faced (bat face) cuphea (Cuphea llavea) is a darling combo of red and purple that hovers at this garden’s border.

batface cuphea, bamboo muhly, cotoneaster

It was in Lucinda Hutson’s garden long ago that I fell for abutilons. I also fell for her Herb Garden Cookbook, my go-to book for plant info, recipes, and Lucinda’s vivacious stories. Every page encourages my culinary and plant creativity. Tom reports that her Mustard and Mexican mint marigold chicken is one of his “book mark” faves.


Her latest adventure takes us on a spirited tour of Mexico’s agaves, their history, and very tasteful recipes from cantina to cocina.

Viva Tequila Lucinda Hutson

Lucinda joins Tom this week for a fiesta of folklore, the inside story of how agaves turn into tasty drinks, and which one is tequila’s exclusive.

Tom Spencer and Lucinda Hutson

On her Life is a Fiesta site, check out her upcoming events, recipes, and links to articles, including her monthly feature in Edible Austin.

We’ve taped Lucinda’s garden a couple of times, including her poignant Day of the Dead celebration. In 2014, we’ll take you on a current tour, since our first was pre-YouTube! For now, here’s a cute succulent presentation from an upcycled toy bed frame she found on a curb.

Succulents in cute miniature bed frame

Since succulents tend to fiesta a lot, Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents demonstrates how to control the party and pass it along to friends before the wayward plant police step in.

Eric Pedley East Austin Succulents on Central Texas Gardener

Critters can party down on your succulents, too, like on my Macho Mocha mangave.

yucca bug and snail damage on Macho mocha mangave

But who is the real culprit behind this damage? Daphne has the answer, joined by detective (aka Extension entomologist) Wizzie Brown. The little yucca bugs created small spots with their piercing and sucking.

yucca bug damage on mangave

The party hounds that trashed the place?

Snail on mangave

Daphne explains when to find these secretive warriors and why not to use snail baits.

On tour, let’s head to a romantic garden where web designer Bob Atchison and “The Wine Guy” Rob Moshein host the neighborhood every day and night.

Every week, Central Texas Gardener passes along knowledge, inspiration, wonder and friendships. So now, the CTG team asks for your support to keep this garden growing!

You can pledge online ANYTIME for fabulous gifts, including Lucinda’s The Herb Garden Cookbook, Viva Tequila, a Go Local card, and a Roku to watch your favorite PBS and KLRU programs anytime you want!

On Saturday, we continue the inspiration after our usual broadcast with two recent favorite gardens: Meredith Thomas and Robin Howard Moore. Join me, Tom, and Daphne from 12:30 to 1 p.m. and 4:30 – 5, to support your CTG team!

MANY THANKS from me, Tom, John, Trisha, Daphne and ALL the gardeners who have been able to share their stories and inspiration thanks to KLRU.

See you next week, Linda

Structure + Soft = Powerful Designs

Although I’m fond of tidy, highly structural gardens, mine doesn’t make that list. I do have many non-fussy anchors, but I wouldn’t be content with an essentially static garden. I’m a drama queen and I like surprises! This sure was a surprise:  my Iceberg rose blooming its head off with thryallis and cenizo.

Cenizo, Iceberg rose, thryallis
That group only gets water once a week in summer if rain veered past us (yet again!). A few years ago, I replaced the red tip photinias in this AC side yard with these and other sun lovers that I relocated from too much shade.

My altheas/Rose of Sharon that came with our 1950s house have hung around through many a dry year. This new beauty is a passalong from Bob Beyer.  In a few years, this large shrub will be big enough to complete the “living wall” that I’m creating for our patio cove “enclosure.”

Pink althea, Rose of Sharon
This part of the back “prairie” is in riot-mode with milkweeds, Turk’s caps, pavonia, lantana and passionvine. It’s a wildlife riot, too!

Milkweed, Turk's cap, rock rose, lantana
Old-fashioned fragrant petunias in patio containers are heading into summer break, though not quite ready to give up their perfumed performance. I’ve been cutting them back a little and feeding with a seaweed/fish emulsion/molasses drink which they appreciate.

Old-fashioned pink petunias
In a fence bed, this spring I added some red billbergias. They get shade mixed with blasts of sunlight. I just love this color and their tidy form that so beautifully complements the spilling plants beyond them.

Red billbergia
On CTG this week, that’s just one of many plants that Tillery Street Plant Company’s Jon Hutson highlights in his talk with Tom.

Jon Hutson Tillery Street Plant Company
I’ve known Jon since he ran innovative Floribunda in south Austin. We were thrilled when he opened equally innovative Tillery Street in east Austin! It’s just across the street from Boggy Creek Farm and down the street from Springdale Farm. Since many talented artisans have located nearby, this is the latest go-to place for food, plants, and art!

On CTG, responding to viewer requests, Jon combines structural and softer forms for sun and shade. He explains how to diversify our gardens with drought-tough companions that strengthen our designs with contrasting forms.

Tom Spencer and Jon Hutson at Central Texas Gardener
One he brought along is native candellia (Euphorbia antisyphilitica). Isn’t this nicho at the Wildflower Center just so appropriate? A plant “candle.”

Candellia at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Cent
Get Jon’s list for outstanding additions from upright yuccas to floppy yellow firecracker fern and silvery native groundcover woolley stemodia. I grabbed this shot at Mueller on a cloudy morning. In sunlight, its silver absolutely shimmers!

Woolly stemodia
Another on his plant list is foxtail fern. Mine (this one in a pot) are soft-structure perfect in psycho lighting: dry shade peppered with a brutal spear of afternoon sun. Beyond are inland sea oats and potato vine (Solanum jasminoides) on an obelisk.

Foxtail fern and inland sea oats

Jon brings along a Mangave ‘Bloodspot’, a cross between Manfreda and agave. Since these are great non-fussy structures, Daphne makes Manfreda our Pick of the Week with her insight and planting tips. Gardener Brent Henry has clay soil, so he mixes in decomposed granite to improve drainage.  His Manfredas get partial sun with most of the sun in the afternoon, but shaded by a bur oak.

Manfreda bloom stalk
Gardener Matt Jackson snapped these pictures of native Manfreda virginica for CTG.

Manfreda virginica

Manfreda virginica flower buds

When I first heard about ‘Macho Mocha’ years ago, it was considered a Manfreda. By the time Pam Penick divided some of hers for me, it was categorized as a Mangave.
Manfreda (Mangave) 'Macho Mocha'

Whatever. You’ll see them as both names. As Daphne tells us, the native Manfreda maculosa is considered the Texas tuberose. That’s on my list!

So, once you have your structural succulents, how do you divide these vigorous plants? Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents shows us how.

Eric Pedley East Austin Succulents Central Texas Gardener
In 2011, Eric met with CTG for astounding design ideas with succulents. Now, he’s joined spaces with Jon’s Tillery Street Plant Company. In one visit, you can fulfill your garden dreams, encouraged by two hard-working home-grown owners who are passionate about plants and ready to share their knowledge with you.

To complete our east Austin tour of innovative ideas that combine structure with softness, take a tour of Lee Clippard and John Stott’s garden.

Many gardeners, like Russell Bauer, have asked us about blossom end rot! Daphne explains why this happens and what you can do.

Tomato blossom end rot Galveston Texas AgriLife
Thank you to Dr. William Johnson, Texas Agrilife Extension/Galveston for sharing his picture! Usually, the second crop comes out clean, as Russell shows us with his second harvest.

homegrown tomatoes
Certified Backyard Habitat gardener Susan Brock shares this picture from her organic garden: another reason to diversify your garden. Cardinals selected her Knock Out to raise a new family!

cardinal nest in Knock Out rose
Stay cool until our visit next week, Linda

Plants that fooled drought

Yessiree, we all got spring early when many plants bloomed a month ahead of schedule. But I got one last blast with this Dutch iris on April 1. Guess it wanted to fool us.

Dutch iris yellow and lavender (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Peggy Martin is not fooling around this year. She’s finally got her feet in the ground to cover a trellis to hide the chain link fence.

Peggy Martin rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Thanks to William Welch, who discovered this Katrina survivor, and growers like The Antique Rose Emporium, I have this drought and flood-proof rose myself!

Peggy Martin rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
It’s a little crazy out there right now with poppies, spuria irises, and Maggie rose to her left.

Peggy Martin rose with Maggie rose, poppies, spuria irises

Since Peggy and this Maggie were brought into the trade thanks to dear William Welch, I call it my Welch garden.

Maggie rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Thanks to the Antique Rose Emporium, I have a young  Republic of Texas rose, a low grower I’d planted in front of the den window.

Republic of Texas rose (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
But she didn’t get as much sun as she liked, so I moved her in late February. In the back area, I’d already pulled out the border stones several feet and did the newspaper/mulch routine over former grass.  I plopped her in this sunnier spot with little ceremony, and off she went!

Some plants find the right spots for themselves. Years ago, Greg built this decomposed granite walkway alongside our carport. Gulf Coast penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) and Mexican feather grass seeds headed right over to fluff it up. Beyond represents some work on hold when I can snag a day.

Gulf penstemon and Mexican feather grass seeded on pathway

It’s not irrigated and never even gets a hose, so you’ve got to give them credit for making it through last year.

Gulf penstemon seeded in pathway near driveway
In the backyard crape/mountain laurel island, the Knock Out rose deflects our attention from straggly poppies. I’ll resist the urge to tidy up for a few more weeks. It’s worth it to fill a bucket of poppy seeds to pass along.

Knock Out rose, lamb's ears, poppies to seed

I love floppy, fluffy plants, but I love structural plants, too. Here’s my combination of Agave striata with ‘Hot Lips’ salvia.

Agave striata with 'Hot Lips' salvia
This week on CTG, we go for plants that stand up to drought and stand out in your garden with Michael Cain from Vivero Growers Nursery.

Tom Spencer and Michael Cain, Vivero Growers Nurser
For years, innovators Katherine and Michael connected with contractors and designers in the wholesale trade to toughen up landscapes in low-water times. In 2011, they opened to the rest of us with their fabulous nursery in Oak Hill, next door to Geo Growers. Here’s Katherine at the nursery. She wanted to come, too, but when you’re a mom and pop local nursery, someone’s got to mind the store!

Katherine Cain at Vivero Growers Nursery

Tom and Michael showcase structural plants like agaves and echeverias to pair with softer forms and ongoing flowers. A new one to us is large leaf Jerusalem sage. No fooling, it’s a knock-out with super-sized leaves! Thanks to Katherine for all these great pictures!

large leaf Jerusalem sage, Vivero Growers Nurse

Have you ever considered Lion’s tail or Lion’s ear (Leonotis menthifolia) ‘Savannah Sunset’ that attract hummingbirds to stand-tall plants that hover with the hummers over foreground plants?

Leonotis menthifolia 'Savannah Sunset', Vivero Growers Nursery

At ground level, ‘Bath’s Pink’ dianthus entices with sweet fragrance. Its delicate silvery demeanor belies its drought-tough strength.

'Bath's Pink' dianthus, Vivero Growers Nursery
Katherine and Michael work long, hot, hard days at their nursery. Then Katherine musters the energy to share her passion about plants, personable stories and great photographs on Vivero’s blog!  I’m in awe.

Daphne’s Pick of the Week, thryallis (Galphimia glauca) is certainly energetic as a structural screening shrub with flowers from spring to frost. Perfect to accent silvers, purples, and whatever your imagination throws your way!

Thryallis flowers (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
But I bet you’ve never imagined this on your oak trees. Please thank Larry Kuehn for bringing it to our attention!

Crown gall on oak tree (c) Larry Kuehn

Daphne and I consulted arborist Guy LeBlanc who nailed it as crown gall. Find out what that means for your trees.

It’s a great time to propagate plants!  Get a few new tricks from Merrideth Jiles from The Great Outdoors, another fabulous local nursery that works online with great tips when they’re not online with you in person.

plant propagation with Merrideth Jiles, The Great Outdoors

On tour, Paul Lofton in Pflugerville shows that you don’t need a ton of money to create a fabulous garden! Thanks to Matt Jackson for connecting us to Paul.

Follow Paul on his Facebook page with what’s up in his garden. And, in his first time on camera, here’s his 1 minute tip on how to propagate a plant in a recycled soda bottle.

Thanks to Paul, I now have a cobweb spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana) that he sent home with me in a bottle! Unlike its spring cousin, this one thrives in summer and takes a break in winter.

Cobweb spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana)
See you next week!  Linda

Drought and freeze survivors|Big Red Sun|No-kill trees

By golly, I have more plants in the ground than in the compost pile. Some look a little winded after this hard run, but if they made it through 2011, they can handle anything. One is my Salvia microphylla ‘La Trinidad Pink’.

Salvia microphylla 'La Trinidad Pink'
It’s only been here since after last Thanksgiving, but with a hard freeze and drought in its first young year, it plans to to stick around for more!

I’ll share other survivors in the next few weeks. For now, my Hymenocallis ‘Sulphur Queen’ spider lilies and bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) wear a weather badge of merit. SQ didn’t bloom this summer as always, but her strappy leaves indicate she’s banking on the future with work underground.

Hymenocallis 'Sulphur Queen' with bamboo muhly

My Chrysanthemum pacificum started as a tiny passalong division. I really feared for its fate, but it sure didn’t. Since I’m always on the lookout for silver, its edges won me over!

Chrysanthemum pacificum
For many years, I hesitated about yuccas since I’m on clay soil. But since I’ve amended it over the years with leaves, compost, and mulch, I took a chance. Plus, I just had to have some more silver!  Yucca pallida and this one, Yucca rupicola x pallida, bounce off whatever freeze or drought comes their way.

Yucca rupicola x pallida Central Texas Gardener
This week on CTG, they’re two of the plants that Tom and Justin Kasulka from Big Red Sun include in their conversation focused on some stalwarts that won’t let you down in trying times.

Justin Kasulka Big Red Sun on Central Texas Gardener
Yes, Big Red Sun is back!  They’ve just moved down the street, ready to share their great ideas with you!

Big Red Sun Austin Texas Central Texas Gardener
Justin shows off some designs and plants that make it through drought AND freeze.

I love this image of one of Justin’s designs: Agave parryi with Knock Out roses and dwarf yaupon.

Agave parryi with Knock Out roses Big Red Sun

Justin has lots of tips for you!  I was thankful to find out that yuccas aren’t thrilled about being moved, so I was really glad that the guys who fixed my sewer pipe carefully worked around it.

Daphne’s pick of the week is Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), a drought tolerant succulent that sniffs at cold, too. It does require perfect drainage, so for me, I would put it in a pot where it can cascade its silver. For you folks on well-drained spots, its form, texture and silver are delicious complements to Justin’s design above or softer upright grasses and flowering perennials.

Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) Daphne Richards

On tour, we head to Mueller to visit Betsy Hilton and Joe Denton, who didn’t give up much when they traded a large rental garden for a National Wildlife Backyard habitat in their new (smaller) digs.  I love Joe’s creativity for a birdbath stand!

bird bath on limb stand Joe Denton
You’ll also appreciate how he and his son took out the backyard grass, dealt with drainage issues and created a multi-tiered garden and convivial space for this neighborhood of true community gardener neighbors.

Joe Denton garden Central Texas Gardener

Joe Denton garden design Central Texas Gardener

Joe Denton garden design Central Texas Gardener

Joe Denton garden design Central Texas Gardener

Update: here’s an October  vase of their waterwise roses Joe brought from their former house:  Maggie, Perle de Jardin, Excellenz von Schubert, Dome deCouer, and The Fairy.

Heirloom roses, Joe Denton
Drought or no, it’s time to plant trees. With hand-watering, it’s much better to establish them in cool weather. But, so many people kill their trees the first day they bring them home. For sure, it can take a couple of years, but it’s easy to avoid future grief with Trisha Shirey’s tips this week, part 1 of how not kill your trees!

Two things I’ll mention from Trisha: Remove burlap and wires from balled and burlap trees. The roots will just wind around and around and eventually suffocate the tree.

Girdled tree roots Guy LeBlanc
The same applies to container plants with girdled roots. Ideally, leave them at the nursery. Since many do have winding roots, be sure to cut them off and spread them out.

Cutting girdled tree roots Guy LeBlanc

Years ago, I let someone else plant a tree for me (I usually do it myself). It took 7 years for me to learn that the roots were girdled. To make it even worse, it had been planted too deeply—the root flare below ground. It languished for two years before its demise. Figuring it needed more water, I provided it. Finally, I brought in an arborist to analyze it and he gave me the sad truth. So, that’s a painful lesson we want to spare you!

Next, check to see how big the tree will grow to avoid a future collision with power lines. As we all know, the consequences can be disruptive if not downright disastrous.

Trees growing into power line Guy LeBlanc

So, what about those lawns?

Live and dead grass drought Central Texas Gardener
Indeed, this is a hot topic, but well-managed lawns are not off the chart as soothing spaces and play areas for children and pets.  Every fall, we get questions about “winterizer” fertilizer. This week, Daphne answers Mark Banigan’s great question about what that means, when should we apply fertilizer, and should we do it this year?

Until next week, Linda

Succulents pests with Wizzie Brown

Warning! Some of today’s images are scary. Here’s a preview, taken by CTG viewer John Shearer.

Damage from agave snout weevil

So far, I haven’t had any trouble with my agaves and yuccas.  In fact, I plan to add a few more. I really like my soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia), the perfect dynamic in bright shade with a few hours of torturous sun.

soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia)
I’ve kept my Agave striata in a pot for years, rather than deal with my drainage issues.  Supposedly it’s hardy to 15° or even lower. Mine sure did fine last winter. I may add some to the ground, since I dearly love it.  It will only get about 2 – 3′ tall. When I bought it from Yucca Do, they said it also did well in dry bright shade as well as full sun. For years, I had it on the patio where it got shade a lot of the day.Last year, I put its pot in the hot spot of the crape bed to see if I liked it there. I do.

agave striata

I have three gray yuccas in front: this one is Yucca pallida. It gets bright shade with some poignant sun. I just coveted that silvery form, and so far, they’ve all been fine in my heavy soil amended over years with compost.

Yucca pallida

My only cactus is the Santa Rita prickly pear (Opuntia santa-rita) which returned from the dead after winter’s ” weather event.”

Santa Rita prickly pear cactus repotted after freezing

A lot of it was black and mushy, but with other things to attend, I left it. When it started showing signs of renewal, I cut off the icky parts, let the “neutered” pads dry for a week, and replanted.

My spineless prickly pear succumbed to cactus bugs/cactus coreids (Chelinidea sp.).

Cactus bug on spineless prickly pear

I got rid of them, but due to their damage, combined with hail and freeze in 2009, I tossed the whole thing into the compost pile. By golly, those little devils took root and now I have a healthy cactus factory amongst the potato peelings and bunny litter.

Cactus bugs are one of the insects Tom investigates this week with Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Extension Program Specialist- IPM.

Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension entomologist

A few years ago, most of us had never seen or heard of them. Then they came marching in to get our attention. Like this cactus bug, (Hesperolabops gelastops), they’re easy to control if you start early and stay on it! Strong blasts of water will do it. Or spray with a soap or horticultural-based product like Neem.  But avoid using in hot temperatures!

Cactus bugs (Hesperolabops gelastops)

A few months ago, viewer Linda Avitt wrote in about the Yucca plant bug (Halticotoma valida) on her soft leaf yuccas.  Her question prompted this segment with Wizzie!

Yucca plant bug (Halticotoma valida)

Like the cactus bugs, this one sucks the plant. Use the same water blast/soap/horticultural oil treatment.  She did this morning and evening and got it under total control. Thanks, Linda, for the update!

Another little sucker is Cochineal scale, related to mealybugs.

Cochineal scale, Dactylopius coccus

But many people cultivate this one by diving under its protective cover to squish the insect for red dye.

Red dye from cochineal insect

I actually have a wall hanging woven with plant and cochineal insect dyes!

Wall hanging rug with plant and cochineal insect dyes

Wizzie’s got even more, including how to avoid problems, but let’s get down to the really scary one, agave snout weevil. I’m sorry that Philip Leveridge met their acquaintance in East Side Patch, but thanks for the great pictures!

Agave snout weevil

John Shearer kindly took pictures of its wide-spread damage, if you’ve been lucky enough to not see it person.

Agave dead from agave snout weevil

The female agave snout weevil lays her eggs at the base of a leaf. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the plant, eating out its heart, and providing entry for bacteria, fungi and viruses. The plant soon collapses, never to recover.

Agave snout weevil damage on yuccas

Right now, the only control for home-owners is imidacloprid. This is HIGHLY toxic and will kill off everything.

Sorry to be such a pooper here, but it’s true: “Know your enemy.”  For more about insects (good and evil) follow Wizzie’s informative and insightful blog for updates on what’s bugging you!  I relied on a blog post last year for pesky indoor fruit flies.

On tour, we repeat Jeff Pavlat’s outstanding succulent garden design, home to hundreds of species, with nary an insect problem. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s beautiful inspiration for your own drought-tough designs.

Jeff Pavlat garden

And you can meet Jeff and other members of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society at their show & sale on September 3 & 4 and get tips from the experts on how to grow them. Don’t be scared off by our scary stuff. These plants have been around a long time!

So have Texas tree lizards, and we thank Robert Breeze for this week’s Garden Pet of the Week: The Dude!

Texas tree lizard
He likes to join Robert every morning to get misted, along with the tomato plants.  You know it’s hot and dry when lizards need water!  And what a wonderful connection to make, too.  Most of our wildlife is extremely beneficial, like The Dude. Robert’s story reminded me of the anoles that follow me around as I water plants. Not only do we want to observe the evil in our gardens, we want to observe, protect, and enjoy the ones that give us delight.

On succulent plants, the question CTG often gets is about aloe vera. It’s an easy plant to grow and very handy when a fire an or “a cooking event” gets you. It’s also easy to kill with too much love. This week, Daphne explains how to keep your garden first-aid in good health!

Aloe vera

And get Daphne’s answer on “how and why to pinch a plant?”

how to pinch a plant

John Dromgoole concocts a well-draining soil mix for your succulent plants, and demonstrates how to move a prickly one without needing first-aid attention!

John Dromgoole pots up a prickly cactus

Also, in case you missed last week’s post, Wizzie LOVES the MiteYFine sprayer to get the bugs off your succulents!

Until next week, Linda

Freeze-dried meets sunbursts; Succulent design; Kale nom noms

Well, geez, here we go again.

frozen cycad leaf (sago palm)

Hottest summers, coldest winters, what’s a gardener to do? For one thing, don’t freak out! Wait a month or more to prune back those frightened cycads (sago palms).

Garden designer Sue Nazar (who will be on the Master Gardener’s tour in May) has a tip to restore your palms and cycads this spring. “I use palm food (has magnesium and manganese, and other good stuff for palms), alternating with a good soil drench of fish/seaweed emulsion, and application of compost too. This makes for a happy sago and many flushes of leaves each year.” She also likes to add Super Thrive with the seaweed to help out plants in distress. Thanks for the tips, Sue!

I did go ahead and chop back my Barbados cherries (Malpighia glabra).  They took a hit last year, but came back just fine. The bay laurel beyond: no damage.

Barbados cherry browned by freeze

This Freesia laxa, like all of mine, withered in the extended freeze, but they’re all racing to catch up, since they hate to miss an appointment.

Freesia laxa emerging from freeze damage

The roses actually got burnt this time, but are already back in business, like this skyward bound Lady Banks.

Leaf bud on Lady Banks rose

She needs some shaping, but since she flowers but once a spring, I’ll wait. I did prune the rest of the roses on Sunday, snipping off their fried foliage. With all the rosy leaf buds shooting out, they’ll be wearing party dresses by this weekend.

Okay, everyone needs spring starflower (Ipheion uniflorum)!  Can’t believe I forgot to get more last fall. Somebody’s already heels over head in love.

Ipheion uniflorum

Like the postal service, neither snow nor whatever deters summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum).

summer snowflake, Leucojum aestivum

Or Narcissus ‘Gigantic Star’. I highly recommend this one that returns every spring.

Narcissus 'Gigantic Star'

I love, love my first Iris reticulata: this one J.S. Dijt that I got at The Natural Gardener last fall. I only got 5, but they’re on my hit list for next fall’s budget. I think I first saw them on Jenny’s Rock Rose blog and made a note. Hers were a different color but I want all these diminutives!

Iris reticulata J.S. Dijt

Since drought is more in our forecast than bizarre freezes, creative design with succulent plants is still new to many of us. So, this week on CTG, Tom meets with Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents for his passionate energy to create succulent magic.

Tom Spencer, Eric Pedley

And, since his passion started with just a few cuttings, he shows you how to do it, along with his favorite potting mix for succulent and cactus plants. Meet Eric at the Zilker Garden Festival March 27 & 28 and at the San Antonio Cactus & Xerophyte Society show & sale April 14 – 16.

On tour, architecture, architectural plants, and organic crops come together on rooftop gardens that please the eye and the environment in this lakeside setting designed by Patrick Kirwin and project architect Thomas Tornbjerg of Bercy Chen Studio.

Patrick Kirwin, Bercy Chen rooftop garden design

Even if you don’t have a rooftop garden, you can “steal” some of Patrick’s ideas, which I’m certainly doing.  One idea to steal from Daphne is her featured plant, soft leaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia).

Soft leaf yucca, Yucca recurvifolia

I know some of yours got freeze-bitten, but mine made it through drought and extended freeze just fine. I love it because it’s the perfect easy-care structure in a bed that gets more shade than sun. It does get a few hours of hot blast sun, which makes for a troublesome area. It’s a keeper for me, even in my clay soil!

We thank Linda Ritzen for her great question: Do we need to water our lawns in winter? Well, it depends on your soil and rainfall. The roots are still growing, so if your soil is very dry, you may want to water once a month.  Otherwise, take a break!

The CTG gang is still talking about Trisha’s crispy kale chips for this week! Yeah, yeah, do lots of healthy things with the beautiful kale varieties that Trisha features, like her kale and bean soup. Then go for the chips! By the way, recently I was at It’s About Thyme, and Diane and Chris are growing lots of kale, enough to make bags of chips.

Also, while at IAT, I nabbed some Crocus sativus, in hopes for strings of saffron. My current ones keep coming back,  though haven’t given me a fall bloom yet. But I wanted more for their cute foliage and maybe saffron from the red stigmas one of these days!

Until next week, Linda

Succulents for kids, Blocker's garden tour, red oak troubles, beneficial wasps

My garden’s a little out of control.

Rock rose gone crazy in Austin garden

It’s kind of a big mess. Someone needs to keep an eye on things.

Sunflower looking over turks cap Austin Texas

For now, it can’t be me. Workload is on steroids. So are the butterflies!  I guess it’s a good way to justify a messy garden.

Gulf frittilary butterfly on purple lantana

When that Gulf fritillary is fueled up, I bet there will be some eggs on the nearby passion vine that’s crawling all over the place. How can I justify pruning it now?

Passionvine Austin Texas

This week on CTG, Daphne reminds us that every insect has a reason, even when it makes you want to stamp it into goop. If you can open your heart to a few tomato hornworms, you may get a  nursery for beneficial braconid wasps!

Braconid wasp cocoons on tomato hornworm

They’re so tiny you may not even see them, but they rely on your caterpillars to feed their young. Give them a chance and you’ve got free help.

Milkweeds, including Asclepias tuberosa, tend to attract Oleander aphids. They only bother oleanders and milkweeds, but will attract beneficials to eat them. Summertime picnic for ladybugs and green lacewings!  Mainly, they’ll entice the Monarch butterflies to your ever ready camera, since it’s their essential larval food. Lots of butterflies like the nectar.

Asclepias tuberosa Daphne Richards

Insects are a surefire way to get kids intrigued outside. Another is to get them their own plants, with fun names like Cub’s Paw or Panda Paw.

Panda paw succulent Desert to Tropics

This week on CTG, sweetheart Cindy Arredondo from Desert to Tropics joins Tom to show off soft succulents that spark imagination with the kids. And hey, with us old-timers, too!

In San Antonio, Carol & Richard Blocker fell so in love with cactus and succulent plants that they designed their entire garden around them.

Carol and Richard Blocker San Antonio cactus & succulent garden design

This week, our featured video visits their outstanding garden. Ed Fuentes even taped some of their blooming cacti in April for our special 2011 documentary on wildflowers. (My first high definition project).

Richard also answered my question about why my Santa Rita prickly pear (a division from Tom) dropped its first little flower this spring before it opened. I was just dying to take a picture for you. Plopped right off. You can see the stub.

Santa Rita cactus

I hadn’t watered it, since I didn’t want to over water. Well, that was a mistake. While it’s putting on flowers, it needs a little extra help, especially when it’s still so young. There ya go!

Join the Blockers at the San Antonio Cactus & Xerophyte Society meetings and events to learn even more.

PLUS, you can meet Cindy and the Blockers in person at the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society’s show & sale on Labor Day weekend.

I thank viewer Phillip Smith who sent us this picture of his troubled red oak.
Iron chlorosis on red oak tree Arborist Guy LeBlanc said this was an excellent example of iron chlorosis that plagues some of our red oaks. At Mueller, I’ve since noticed that the red oaks in the median are deep green, while the ones on the other side are almost chartreuse. Anyway, this week, Guy explains why this happens, what to do about it, and how to tell the difference between iron chlorosis and nitrogen deficiency.

Until next week, Linda