Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Its Winter in Central Texas and Loquat Trees are Blooming!

This is the hardy Loquat tree, Eriobotrya japonica, a large member of the rose family. Loquats have been blooming in the Austin area since November. I am telling you, there is always something going on here in the landscape. These hardy adapted trees provide a fragrant splash of evergreen backdrop for medium to large gardens.

The loquat, as can be seen in these photos, has large dark green leaves. They radiate around the flower clusters. A benefit of these flowers is how long the blooms persist. As mentioned above, they have been blooming for nearly a month. There are a few little insects that visit these flowers for their benefit and pollination, including bees. Bees are active in this part of the state year 'round. Generally the days warm up above their required 60 degrees so they can be out and about enjoying local gardens. And yes, the insects will help these flowers produce loquat fruits! They are quite sweet and tasty. Don't be confused, however, between these and kumquat. Kumquat is a citrus and can be very tangy.

Loquat trees are medium to fast growing depending on the conditions. The more water the faster the growth. They do not like standing water. Full sun can sometimes burn over exposed leaves (this would be a day of 8+ hours of sun). But a mostly sunny spot to part shade is fine for them. They could make a large specimen tree if shaped nicely on their own, or can be part of a grouping of trees with taller ones behind. Loquats in central Texas grow to about 15 or 20 feet tall and almost as wide. They require very little care once established and small ones under 4 feet transplant quite easily. Loquats rarely exhibit signs of chlorosis or any soil deficiency. They are planted from east Austin to West Lake Hills. So one can infer they are highly adaptable to soil conditions. However, adding some compost in the hole when planting a loquat or any tree is advised. Be sure to mulch in the spring to keep the soil cooler and moist longer in the summer.

The loquat's soil adaptability makes it a good alternative to Southern Magnolia, as far as the large dark green leaf look is concerned. Though they do not have the huge showy flower, they are fragrant none-the-less. Magnolias really struggle in the thin, alkaline soil, especially west of central Austin. If you like this look, the low maintenance aspect, a winter bloomer, then plant one now! Or at least by February if you find one. The sooner you get it in the ground, the sooner its roots can adapt to its home before the top gets hit by the summer heat. It is best to plant all trees and larger shrubs here in the winter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Now Blooming

One of the biggest show stoppers of the fall is Copper Canyon Daisy, Tagetes lemmonii. A little orangier than lemon, but radiant like the fruit none-the-less. Copper canyon daisy takes its common name from its home range in Mexico, around the Copper Canyon. This profusion of daisies is an herbaceous perennial. This means most of its above ground parts are non-woody and therefore usually freeze in Austin area winters. Being a trustworthy perennial from a dry mountainous area, it dutifully returns from the roots year after year. This plant also layers well. Layering is the term for reproduction by roots sprouted from branches. The long thin weak stems will stretch out then fall to the ground. Were the branch touches the soil it will root, thus creating a whole new plant.

Copper canyon daisy has been a new mainstay of the drought resistant garden in Texas. This plant should be found in nearly every nursery center west of Columbus, Texas. It certainly has had no problem adapting to the central Texas climate or soil. This perennial likes to live in well drained soil and can survive on very little water. The best time to plant this perennial is early spring if you can find it. Plant up until April so it can get a good start in the ground to grow through summer. It will bloom best with nearly full day sun. With anything less than 6 hours of sun, it will be thin leaved, and sparsely flowered. Copper canyon daisy grows rapidly after the last frost and then flowers are borne on the ends of the branches in early fall until the first freeze. The bush can be trimmed as needed up until about August. It is not wise to trim later due to the flowers being on the outer edge of the plant. Cut the plant back to the ground after it freezes in winter.

Copper canyon daisy is an important color perennial for deer resistant gardens. What deters the deer from eating this plant is its extreme pungent aroma. Most people either like the smell or can’t stand it. It is not subtle at all! While deer have lowered their standards of browsing choice due to the drought and over population, there are no reports of them eating copper canyon daisy as yet. Remember the deer avoidance rule of thumb: either stinky or stickery, they stay away from. Use copper canyon daisy as a shield to protect plants that may be marginally attractive to deer. The harsh aroma of the foliage will overpower any other plants around and hopefully the deer will not find your special items.

Pictured here, copper canyon daisy is with Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia leucantha. A partner in hardiness, this sage is also an herbaceous perennial. It can be a little more sensitive to cold, if the temperatures are too cold, the roots can be damaged. Mexican Bush sage also grows completely after the last frost to produce flowers in the summer. Sometimes it starts blooming mid summer, sometimes later. It is usually blooming before the copper canyon daisy. Cut this one back to the ground too in winter after it freezes.

Both Mexican bush sage and copper canyon daisy have quite long lasting blooms. This makes them dependable fall bloomers in the landscape. It also means they are good long lived nectar sources for insects. The foliage of copper canyon daisy can be used as a seasoning in cooking or in teas. Mix the foliage with that of Mexican Mint Marigold, Tagetes lucida, and your other favorite herbs for regionally flavored meat or dip seasoning.

©2009 Ginger Hudson

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tribute to Fall Color

Who says there is no fall in Central Texas? I hope everyone, plant lovers, art lovers, season lovers, are seeing what this wonderful early cool spell has cast on our hillsides. The Hill Country is being blessed with a brilliant splash of color typically relegated to the northeast. Yellow, orange, and bright red leaves are glowing in the grey overcast days, and radiating on the blue sunny days. While meteorologists still speculate on what makes the perfect fall for leaf lookers, it seems the early and sustained cool spell has certainly made an impact in the local plant pallet.

All the usual suspects have made a miraculous appearance on short notice with rain only just hitting them in September after a year of rain missing in action. These native perennials and annuals made a grand appearance: Rough leaf sunflower (or daisy as some may know it), liatris, maxamillian sunflower, goldenrod, and native grasses. Adapted plants that have provided a good show include: roses, butterfly weed, plumbago, and pride of Barbados. And how about these spring bloomers that have a sudden sense of urgency to reproduce: pomegranate, Bradford pear, and even an errant Carolina Jessamine. Crazy Love! Just a fabulous example of how nature will find a way to survive.

As for the trees that are radiant on the hillsides, their show is practically a jaw dropper. The deciduous ones, those that lose their leaves in winter, are the trees giving us the wonderful color. On wild or native hillsides look for: redbud, cedar elm, shumard oak (close relations: Spanish oak, Texas red oak) rough leaf dogwood, Mexican plum, Texas buckeye, a little bit of sycamore and cottonwood. Along the water ways look for bald and Montezuma cypress, Mexican buckeye, and sycamore.

If you are looking for a specimen tree to make a show in your landscape, investigate these small trees: Texas redbud-not only is it the star of the show in early spring with intense pink blossoms, it also provides a bright yellow nearly heart shaped leaf in the fall. Mexican plum is another spring show stopper-covered in somewhat fragrant white flowers on bare branches it provides loads of nectar for bees, then in the fall the leaves gradate in colors from yellow to peach to reddish. And, for the bonus, a few thumb size pinkish plums. Texas buckeye is a small tree with spring and fall interest. In spring, it shows clusters of tubular flowers yellow or red or crossbreeds in between at the same time as the leaves appear. In the fall it shows great yellow color leaves. Here is one for nearly year round enjoyment, Mexican buckeye. This small vase shaped tree sprouts pink flowers on bare branches at about the same time as the redbud, although redbud holds its flowers longer. The Mexican buckeye displays yellow to copper leaves in the fall, then after the leaves drop, the tree is left with large triangular and bulbous seed cluster. The seeds inside looks like a buck’s eye, hence the name.

For a large specimen tree, the favorite is the Texas red oak. Species include Shumard and Spanish red oak. These trees do not provide showy flowers, but make up for it in the fall with deep rich wine red to orange red leaves. The red oak can grow up to forty feet tall. A large tree for wet areas, near a creek, river or body of water is native cypress: Montezuma or Bald. These trees grow in a stately conical shape-christmas tree like-with very straight horizontal branches. In the fall, the small needle like leaves are some of the first to turn orange, gold, and coppery. Stunning! The cypresses can be upwards of sixty feet tall at maturity. Rusty blackhaw viburnum (pictured here) is sometimes considered a smaller tree but can get large given the ideal circumstances. This tree is even more brilliant that the red oak in its redness due to the glossy nature of the leaves.

Standard shade and common trees found already growing on many city lots are cedar elm, red oaks, burr oaks, and redbud. These are yellow to copper to brown. Easy to grow, good shade, and accent additions to the fall landscape.

Tree Folks produces a Tree Growing Guide for Austin and the Hill Country that illustrates trees appropriate to this area and their relative size to one another. This guide is available at most local nurseries for around three dollars, and from them directly, www.treefolks.org. The booklet produced by the city of Austin Grow Green program, Native and Adapted Landscape Plants, includes color photos of plants and growing information on each species. This publication is free at most garden retailers in Austin. Or, look at their web site: www.growgreen.org

For up close and personal tree viewing, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center where plants are labeled individually. Also, Zilker Botanical Gardens is a great display garden to see plants in groups of who likes to cohabitate with whom.

Winter is the time to plant trees in the Austin area. Getting them in the ground while the weather is cool enables the trees to get their roots established before the brutal onslaught of summer heat. Trees put their energy into developing a strong foundation while the upper parts are dormant in winter. Admire the trees, pick one out and get home and plant it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Water Quality Makes a Difference

By Plantsy Drew

Did you notice how the grass greened up after the rain? Even after watering restrictions, which included the city of Austin limiting landscape irrigation to 1 day a week? Does that tell you anything? Using all that treated water in your landscapes was not necessary. Most of our plants are resilient to environmental stressors. Think about it, the plants are also somewhat resilient to all that treated water with its salts, chlorine and chlorine by-products. Lawns that had gone dormant and turned brown immediately turned green, practically the day after the rains began. This is due to two factors.

The first of which is natural rainwater. Rain is a slight bit acidic, it has a slight bit lower ph than our treated water and local water after it has sat in the lake or from our wells. Our lake and well water is higher in ph due to the limestone container. In addition, the ground around central Texas is more alkaline (higher ph) so a slight elevation of acidity in the form of rainwater is excellent nourishment to our landscapes. As a result of a wonderful rain, our plants returned to a vibrant healthy green glow.

Secondly, with the rain came reduced temperatures, day and night time. The lower night-time temperature really makes a difference. Most of our natives are thoroughly adapted to the climate, no matter what. Some natives are happier with a lower night-time temperature. Most of the non-native plants we use greatly appreciate a lower night-time temperature. With the prolonged heat this summer, everything was warmed up: soil, roads, buildings and plants. If the temperature does not drop a reasonable amount at night, then the stress in greatly increased on the plant’s living system. Think about it, weren’t you stressed, angry, more tired than usual because of the extended hot temperatures this summer? (oh, was that just me?) Weren’t you confounded when you walked outside at 10pm expecting to enjoy night air, or take that evening stroll but it was still 95 degrees? It makes a huge difference, physiologically and psychologically.

Although all the rain has improved the appearance of our surroundings, it has not significantly raised our lake levels which provide our drinking water. Therefore, water restrictions are still in effect. But it is my advice, that you not worry about watering at all. Save the money and energy needed to treat water. With the lower temperatures there is far less evaporation from the ground and plants and therefore more water remaining available in the landscape.

Enjoy the weather!

© 2009 Ginger Hudson

Upcoming Landscape Classes

There are classes in the Austin area to help you understand how to plan a successful garden at your home. Here are a few I am involved with:

Garden Design at the Art School at Laguna Gloria
October 26-November 9, one night per week

GoNativeU program at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, through UT Informal Classes
Planning your Native Plant Garden Novermber 7, 10am
Native Plants, November 7, 14
Native Plant Garden Maintenance November 21

All of these classes will also be offered in the Spring of 2010

Reliving Rain, what is this stuff in my rain barrels?
(originally written on September 12th after first rain of the season)
By Plantsy Drew

While working inside, I could hear a tick, tick, tick like a small smack. I looked all through the house thinking squirrel, bird in the attic, something broken. Finally I looked outside–after taking off the insulating layers of curtain, blinds and plasticboard installed to keep the heat out–I viewed the glory that was rain! Water falling from the sky, life giving, heat calming, seed sprouting natural water!

Oh thank the heavens for the relieving rain! Such a glorious end to a brutally hot, dry summer. I hope everyone was dancing and oogling the wet stuff falling from the sky as I was. Quickly I lined up all my spare 5-gallon buckets along the roof line, flip flop feet splashing in the puddles, and neighbor kids jumping up and down in the mud. And oh, what a relief with the toned down light, a few days of cloud cover to break the eye strain from the glaring yellow orb of life. The long sustained turmoil of the atmosphere was such a complete change from the sky we had been living with for the past four months–and really for the past year!

Why was there flooding? Will there be more? If there is more, how can we best plan for it and use the rain to benefit ourselves and our surroundings? Now that the environment has changed, what to do?

The ground has been so dry for so long, it had really hardened. Not quite but almost rock solid. So, when the rain falls, as it has a tendency to do here, all at once, the water just runs off the ground to the low creeks and washes. Then these gullies fill up to capacity rushing to the next low spot, the nearby river. If a road happens to be in the way, it gets a wash out. Let the ground soak in the moisture and after this first rain, get ready to plant!

There is so much we can do in the garden now, and the rain reminds us to plan for future downpours. It is time to disperse wildflower seeds, plant winter gardens, most important of all-install a rain barrel!

Wildflower seeds to sow now are spring and summer bloomers, especially bluebonnets-get them in by September if possible, October if you forget. All the other standards too, Indian blanket, Mexican hat, coreopsis, skeleton leaf golden eye, showy primrose, get a mix, get them all!

Get ready to plant hardy perennials-yellow bells, lantana, salvia greggii, trees especially. Any tree planting you want to do, get it done by February!

And lastly, install a rain barrel. The city of Austin offers rebates for small barrels, over 75 gallons, and large rebates for rainwater harvesting systems, 500 gallons or more. Go to their website to check out details

Enjoy the coolness. Your plants will. You are going to notice a big change. Some plants that had started to fade to yellow will re-green (rosemary, bamboo, some trees) And everything is going to bust out blooming. Even plants that normally bloom in summer have been in a holding/dormant pattern due to the continued heat and lack of moisture. It will be a pleasant few days.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What to do in the September Garden

Ok, watering is limited, eating dinner outside- still not an option, and don’t even think of planting. What’s a gardener to do in August and September?

There is some routine maintenance necessary. Trim dead material off plants. Put trimmings in compost pile. Turn the compost pile. Use your kitchen sink grey water to soak the compost. Do this only if you use environmentally friendly soaps, i.e. low to no salts, no phosphates, no artificial dyes or perfumes. After trimming non-necessary plant material, give your garden a good shower. Fill a hose end sprayer with liquid seaweed and spray the garden down for heat stress relief. Plants can take water and nutrients in through openings in the leaves. This is like us drinking electrolyte filled sports water after working outside all day. A good boost for the weary.

Mulch your larger woody plants. Soak soil around needy plants and then mulch around their base. Soaking first is important so the mulch can do its job and keep the soil moist. Do not put mulch right up next to trunk, smaller shrubs and trees start 2-4 inches from base. Large shrubs and trees, 4-6 inches from the base. Mulch out as close to the drip line as possible (drip line being the edge of the leaf span) and mulch 2-3 inches deep. No deeper or the mulch will absorb all water before it gets down to the roots when watering.

Prepare your fall/winter vegetable garden for planting. Remove spent summer plants, add fresh compost, and till or stir the soil up. Spray it down with water and cover with mulch to let rest while you make your list. Use a larger mulch such as shredded cypress or seedless hay. Many nurseries have fall veggies in stock. Its ok to plant now. Just be sure to water every other day. If temperatures climb back up to the 100s, you may have to put a shade cloth over the new babies.

Drink water! Just because the temps have dropped below 100 does not mean we are at less risk of overheating. The relative humidity is still low, and though it feels better, 97 is still pretty hot.

Take note of beautiful fall bloomers:
Yellow bells
Gayfeather (liatris) is starting to pop
Mexican honeysuckle
Autumn clematis!!!!
Coral vine
Trumpet vine
Coral honeysuckle
Texas sage (when the barometric pressure changes)
Spider lily (if you find a wet spot)
Mexican oregano
random lantana

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blue and White Mistflower are Hardy

There is no reason to reiterate that it is hotter'n heck in Central Texas. Two years behind in rainfall, trees are dropping like flies. Look at it this way, less mosquitos than normal, people learning to conserve water, and the hardiest of the hardy plants are getting loving affection! Here is a flower to plan on adding to your garden next year. Blue and White mist flower. Two different plants, do not be confused. Blue mist, Conoclinium coelestinum, has been blooming off and on over the summer, its kind of in a lull now in most areas but should bloom again. White mist, Ageratina havanensis, is hanging in there and should blow out for us any day now. End of summer, fall is normal bloom time for white mist. White mist is found growing wild along the Texas Colorado, in shady areas under small trees, in the creek banks and woodland edges. It is stunning when paired with purple lorapetalum. White mist is a shrubbier flower as opposed to wildflower.

Blue mist is more of a wildflower, herbaceous plant. It grows about 12-18 inches tall and spreads readily. Both are very low water users. And, as you can see, both are great butterfly attractors!

Other hardy babies blooming and growing now: flame acanthus, pink scull cap, and rough leaf daisy is soon to come!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Tale of the Tough Tecoma
Tecoma stans, Yellow Bells, Esperanza

Trumpets of yellow in tortuous heat

Here is a question I receive every year. “What is the plant with all the yellow flowers on it?” I teach classes on garden design and maintenance through out the year. Therefore, this question can arise summer, fall, and even into winter if Central Texas is late to freeze. This is good for landscape choices, a long-lived bloomer. However, it can be a challenge for the plant person, as there are numerous hardy yellow bloomers in Central Texas. Additionally, the description of the plant in question can be as varied as the number of people asking the question. In defense of the queryier, the plant itself can vary greatly in size.

Searching for clues to help define the plant begins with first asking if there is one nearby we can see. If not, what condition was the plant growing in? What other plants was it near? How long has it been blooming? Usually, the description of the cluster of bright yellow, trumpet shaped flowers defines the suspect as yellow bells, Tecoma stans, AKA Esperanza.

How did this bright yellow gem become such a reliable landscape item? Its all in the genes, yellow bells is a Texas native. The Austin area is at the center of the range for Tecoma stans. It grows to the west as far as Arizona, the east as far as Florida, and to the south into Mexico. Our yellow trumpeted flowering small tree sometimes is a large shrub. Yellow bells, as with most plants, will respond to environmental conditions by growing larger, more water, or staying small, less water. The fabulous attribute of yellow bells is its flowers. It will flower profusely regardless of size and in a wide range of rainfall amounts.

As it was moved around and adored in landscapes at its fringe, Tecoma stans became accustomed to its new homes. Sometimes, when the winters are really cold, the little tree will freeze to the ground. Sometimes, just parts of the tree freeze. As we have populated the continent, and temperatures have risen, the Tecoma has found winters to be more and more comfortable. In years of mild winters, yellow bells rewards aficionados with mid to late spring flowers. It will go through a regeneration period, then bloom profusely summer through to frost. No matter how mild the winter, the little tree will lose its leaves.

In its wild habitat, Tecoma is found in ground drains well. These areas are usually semi- to desert-like, gravelly and sandy. And since areas of low rainfall tend to be alkaline, the soil composition of Central Texas suits the little tree just fine. Rarely does it need any soil amendment, but giving it a good helping of compost during planting will only benefit growth. Though it has lived for generations in the desert climes, moving into areas with more rainfall has not hurt it a bit. Having the genes of the hot, dry origins gives us the confidence to welcome it into our landscapes without the need of regimented watering.

Having grown up with neighbors such as mesquite and Texas persimmon, Tecoma was passed over as fodder for deer. These friends are not the shadiest of trees, so Tecoma was not overly protected from the sun. In fact, the more sun it can enjoy, the more it will bloom, and the fluffier it will grow. During the summers (and years) of 2008-2009, Yellow bells has been one of the hardiest bloomers around. Its brilliant yellow clusters of trumpets stand tall in the heat of the relentless 100 plus degree days of Central Texas. Low water consumer, profuse bloomer, tough sun bather, deer resistant–this plant is definitely on the Hardier than Heck for Texas list. Plant it, love yellow, enjoy hummingbirds, and relax!

© 2009 Virginia Lee Hudson

Sunday, August 16, 2009

LCRA elevates water conservation

For those in the City of Austin, TX, the LCRA (wholesale water supplier to Austin) has increased water conservation restrictions. Where we previously were able to water twice per week, Austin residents and commercial properties may only water once per week as of August 24. No adding to pools, no use of ornamental fountains. See the Austin Water website for more information: www.cityofaustin.org/watercon/stage2.htm

This makes it even more critical to consider plant and landscape materials selections.

To learn how you can effectively plan an adaptive garden in the Austin area, look into the classes I teach in the area:
Art of Gardening at The Art School at Laguna Gloria
Select the Home and Garden title

Go Native U at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
This is a native plant gardening series through The University of Texas Informal Classes program. Six classes taught by experts in each field.

Visit the Native Plant Society website for monthly meetings on native plants, this month is Denise Delaney from the City of Austin's Grow Green Program

The Story of the Sick Spirea

© Ginger Hudson

Spirea, Bridal wreath, Spirea cantoniensis, S. japonica, S. nipponica, S. prunifolia, S. thunbergii

Spirea in full sun, thin alkaline soil

Once upon a time, before air conditioners, before water conservation, there were fabulous homestead gardens that boasted plants brought from home (the east or Midwest) or attempted to replicate English gardens. The replication effect came from garden books of the time, written by the English or by successful gardeners along the east coast of the U. S. As gardening expanded to become a show of aesthetics not just food production, the homes wanted a rich display of vegetative color and life. Homeowners in the central United States and Texas in particular wanted to have ‘fluffy’ lush gardens just like homes in the longer established states and towns of the time. My once-upon-a-time is ambiguous because this could be the late nineteenth century, the early turn of the century, or classic mid-century landscaping practices.

One of the mainstays of the old fashioned garden was Spirea, also known as bridal wreath with its arching, cascading white flowers. This member of the rose family is usually implemented as a shrub. Most varieties originate from Europe, China and Japan–regions with much more even keeled weather than that of Central to North Texas (note the latin names above for obvious clues). Although many gardening books produced in the U.S. claim Spirea are not particular about soil, I am going to disagree with that claim.

As evidence, I present the story of the sick Spirea which inhabit Central Texas. These subjects do grace the garden with wreaths of white flowers in the early to mid spring. Paired with a purple lorapetalum the combination is spectacular. However, as the year wears on temperatures climb, water supply weakens, and the alkaline affects of the soil eat into the plants causing their health to decline. The leaves of the Spirea yellow through their life with the classic sign of chlorosis, lack of access to iron in the soil. Yellow leaves with green veins. This can be corrected and symptoms treated in the short term with addition of ironite to the soil. Acidic compost blends or sulfur can be added to the beds and results will be seen in weeks to months after application. But the symptoms re-appear year after year.

Additionally, the heat stress exacerbates the yellowing effect as days on end of 90 to 100 plus degree temperatures stress the shrubs. With low rainfall totals in the Texas areas of question, the Spirea struggle to maintain their whole. They will let entire branches die off in the effort to save the heart of the plant. The summer gardener will rotate between watering and trimming of dead plant parts for three to four months of the year. This becomes a difficult chore in communities where water conservation efforts restrict landscape water usage to twice a week and eventually to once per week. Some communities on well-based water supplies may out-law landscape water usage altogether. In the end, the sickly Spirea are leaf-bare, and dried out. A wet winter may bring about new suckers and shoots for a season of spring blooms. But the headache of routine fertilization and watering is not worth the effort in a region where tougher plants should be selected for their adaptability.

In closing the case, gardeners have two choices in a soil and water challenged environment. First is to build up garden beds with rich, well-rounded composts. This can be accomplished with the addition of locally produced and blended garden soils, or with creation of the gardener’s own compost. Also, try to place the specimen in a zone of the landscape that naturally collects water you will face less of a heat stress issue. After a few seasons or couple years of build-up of a balanced soil, the Spirea will enjoy a healthy life in the garden. The second choice is to opt out of the Spirea selection altogether. If, however, you live in an area with higher rainfall, such as generally east of I-35 in Central Texas–Elgin, Bastrop, Columbus, and on into the Houston area, your soil may naturally be a little more acidic. Also, these areas tend to contain pine trees or the like that have produced a slightly lower ph soil base. In these regions the gardener will have more success with the Spirea family.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Trees are beginning to drop their leaves due to heat stress. They will drop leaves in order to conserve energy. Most trees are not dying, they are just stressing. Do not attempt to water them to save them, unless you have a recently planted tree-planted within the last year. If this heat goes on the rest of the year, with no rain, small branches may die off, this is natural pruning and adaption to the heat. So now is the start of our "Fall" where we have to start collecting leaves. Sweep them, rake them, and put them in the compost! Some trees may put on new leaves if by some chance the area gets a good long rainy spell. But otherwise, they probably will not.

Conifers are very susceptible to this heat. Patches will start to die brown. Unfortunately, these branches that die will not put out new leaves ever. These twigs and branches will have to be cut off. If you are intent on keeping your conifer alive, shower it every morning with a water spray. Add a hose end sprayer with liquid seaweed for extra heat stress nourishment. Think about it, most conifers come from places where IT COOLS OFF AT NIGHT!!!! And/or places where there is a little morning mist or dew. It is NOT like that in Central Texas. Trees especially prone to heat death: Italian Cypress, blue point Juniper, just about any pine tree, especially long leaf and Japanese varieties, and Arbor Vitae to some degree.

Plants on the way out in Central Texas-don't spend your valuable time and water on these:
any conifer-pine trees, foreign cypress
mop head hydrangea

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What's Blooming in Central Texas July 2009

Though Texas is behind several inches in rain this year, compounding a deficit from last year, there still are flowers and plants to be found blooming. This will be the beginning of my "Hardier than Heck" list for Central Texas.
Palo Verde
Turk's Cap
Morning Glory, native and non-native
Trumpet Vine
Yellow Bells
Pink Skullcap
Butterfly weed
Coral honeysuckle
Coral vine
Pride of Barbados
Pink Pavonia
American Beauty Berry
Antique Roses and Knock-Out Roses
Chili pequin
Desert Willow
Purple Coneflower
Thai ruellia
These are blooming in managed landscapes and ultra-low maintenance landscapes!!!! And I mean we are low on water! Last year the area was short nearly 50% and this year looks to be the same so far.

And here is a list of what's just plain living despite the high temperatures and low humidity (relatively-for us).
Mountain Laurels
Agaves, agaves, agaves
Yaupon Holly
Native Pecan
Prickly pear
Bear grass
Little blue stem
Texas sage
Lindheimer muhly
Inland Sea Oats (Wood Oats)
Pomegranate Trees
Fig Trees-if well established
Hackberry-can't be avoided
Cedar Elms
Red Oak
Babmoo muhly
Salvia greggii
Mexican Buckeye
Mexican Plum
Trailing Rosemary seems to be better than upright
Spanish Lavender

Here's what is not living in this climate
Turf grass of any kind! Stop spending good money on treated water for St. Augustine, Bermuda, and really even Zyosia. Try Buffalo Grass for sunny areas. Create more gardens, surround them with borders to hold water when it does rain. Let anything go that you are finding yourself watering everyday!
Dwarf and thin Liriope
Japanese Maples
Japanese Auralia
Cast Iron plant-get it out of the sun