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

New look at lawns, watering tips, plant performance flamboozle

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

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

Lindheimer muhly and deer muhly Central Texas Gardener

Lindheimer seed heads.

Lindheimer muhly seed heads Central Texas Gardener

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

Lindheimer muhly Central Texas Gardener

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

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

Tom Spencer and Patrick Kirwin Central Texas Gardener

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

Patrick Kirwin garden design

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

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

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

Southern wax myrtle Daphne Richards Central Texas Gardener

Two are compost.

dead wax myrtle too much sun Central Texas Gardener

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

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

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

Aster winter rosette

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

Merrideth Jiles The Great Outdoors

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

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

Until next week, Linda