August 23, 2006

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Tough Late Summer Bloomer

Salvia reptens (commonly known as West Texas Grass Sage) is an amazing native sage originally collected in the Davis Mountains of west Texas by plantsman Pat McNeal. The plant’s stiff stems have finely textured foliage that gives the plant a wonderful grassy appearance. But come late summer, hundreds of cobalt blue flowers remind you that it is a very special flowering sage. The foliage is pungently scented and resists browsing animals. Pair this plant with Zauschneria garrettii (Hummingbird Trumpet) for a delightful show of late summer color. For more information visit

  High fire danger in north and central Texas

Firefighters have seen an increase in fire occurrence across much of North and Central Texas this summer and hot, dry, windy weather continues to plague the state.

"The conditions are bad, and they're only going to get worse," said Gary Bennett, Texas Forest Service incident commander. "With all the fire activity in the western United States, firefighting resources are already scarce, and they are getting scarcer. People need to be aware that anything that could possibly cause a spark could ignite a wildfire. That includes equipment such as hay balers and large mowers."

As of August 1, North Texas had suffered a more than 20-inch deficit of rainfall over the previous 19 months, which puts it at 60 percent of normal. Denton and Collin counties had an even greater deficit. As if that wasn't enough to stress vegetation, DFW had already hit the triple digits 17 times prior to August 1. The 30-year average is sixteen 100-degree days for the entire year.

Texas Forest Service recommends making sure your home has at least 30 feet of defensible space around it, which means making sure all combustible materials, such as wood piles and dead vegetation, are removed, grass is mowed short and watered, and trees are limbed up at least six feet. Using fine-gage wire mesh to screen under porches and behind attic vents is an effective way to keep burning embers from igniting your home. For more tips, log on to or under fire protection.

Although their growth potential is limited, rocks are all-weather hardy and may be "planted" individually or grouped together in pleasing combinations. (Photo by Chris S. Corby)

  The lighter side of gardening:
Gardening rocks

By Michael Bracken

Always one to accept a challenge, I recently invested my tax refund in a new gardening project.

After careful consideration of my previous experience, I figured only the hardiest of plants could survive endless days of neglect, which my wife claimed was actually better than any attention I might give them.

While spending much of the afternoon at my local garden shop where a "you kill it, you buy it" policy has allowed me to single-handedly put the owner's oldest children through A&M, I realized that cactus might be the ideal plant for my gardening skill level. I promptly selected two trays of prickly pear seedlings.

I fashioned a rock garden on the far side of my yard by removing the only two tufts of bermudagrass that had survived my last attempt at yard maintenance. Since my neighbor on that side hand-washes his dualie every Saturday morning, I figured the overspray from his hose would keep the cactus from dying of thirst, even though it hadn't been enough for the lawn.

Transplanting the cactus turned out to be a lesson in acupuncture. I had no garden gloves and my wife refused to let me borrow hers because she claimed I still hadn't returned her backhoe.

By the time I finished transplanting the prickly pear, my hands and arms looked like I'd bear-hugged a porcupine. On the up side, I haven't suffered from migraines since.

The cactus thrived for less than a month. Then they started looking puny and before long even the spines began to droop. I knew I had failed to sufficiently neglect the prickly pear, and I did my best to avoid that section of the yard for the rest of the month. Even avoidance didn't help and soon neighbors were stopping by offering to adopt my cactus.

Then two uniformed officers showed up at my door, followed by television cameras from H.O.P.S. (Horticulturalists On Patrol). I tried to run, but the cameraman followed me across the yard. I made it to the driveway before I was winded and had to stop to catch my breath. The two officers confiscated my prickly pear and issued me a written warning to avoid all succulents for 36 months or face possible restocking fees.

The rock garden has remained barren ever since, but I think I'm growing accustomed to it.

I've even decided that a rock garden might actually be ideal for me because it'll take thousands of years of erosion to do to the rocks what I can single-handedly do to a lawn in 7.3 seconds.

And the nicest thing about growing rocks is that I can't kill them.

Reprinted from Senior News, October, 2005. Reprinted by permission of the author.


  Readers' Gardening Tips

Chris Seifert writes: "During this season of stage 4 drought in Texas Hill Country, consider using condensation from your air conditioner to water potted plants. When I switched from my super hard tap water to condensate, all my plants seemed to breathe a sigh of relief! Using water collected from the air is also 'guilt free' as it does not use precious ground water."

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will seed you a free Texas Gardener cap. Here's a chance to get published and keep your head in the shade! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

Many old-fashioned flowers are open-pollinated, not hybrids. That means they will grow true from seed and can be collected and replanted with confidence. Hybrid plants are the result of crossing two different plants together. The resulting seed will not grow true from seed. If you want to propagate hybrid plants, take cuttings or divide the plants instead.

  Upcoming Garden Events

The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will hold their 2006 Master Gardener Class from August 2 through November 15, at Niemietz Park in Cibolo. Classes will be every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will include at least one Saturday field trip. Registration fee is $170, with $50 refunded after completion of 50 volunteer hours. For more information please contact Ross Risz, Class Coordinator, at Or you can call the Guadalupe County Extension Office at (830) 379-1972.

The Texas Bamboo Society will host the 14th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin, on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 through 27, from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Darrel DeBoer will present a program entitled "Bamboo Architecture Around the World." The festival will also feature bamboo plants, crafts, musical instruments, poles, presentations, demonstrations and educational information about bamboo. Admission is free and parking is $3. For more information, visit or call (512) 929-9565.

The Gregg County Master Gardeners are offering a Rose Workshop led by Mark Chamblee of Chamblee Roses on September 9, 8:30 a.m.-noon, at the Gregg Country Extension Office, 405 E. Marshall, Longview. Seating is limited. $20 admission includes a container grown rose for each participant. Tickets must be purchased in advance. For more information, call (903) 236-8429.

The Herb Society of Waco will host Ann McCormick, the Herb 'n Cowgirl, September 12, 9:30 a.m. in the Whitehall Center at Carleen Bright Arboretum in Woodway (east of Waco). Regular readers of Texas Gardener will recognize Ann McCormick as a frequent contributor on the subject of herbs. Ann will be speaking on "Passion in the Garden," a discussion of the symbolism of herbs and flowers. The meeting is open to the public. For directions, contact the Arboretum at (254) 399-9204.

The Herb Association of Texas and the Antique Rose Emporium will host A Celebration of the Herbal Harvest: A Focus on Culinary Herbs, September 22 through 23, San Antonio. The event will include a road trip, cooking classes, herbal refreshments, lectures and a vendor fair featuring locally grown herbs and related products. To register or for more information, contact Beth Patterson at (830) 257-6732 or e-mail

The Garden Conservancy will host a tour of five private gardens in Dallas, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., September 23. The tour is self-guided. The conservancy will also sponsor similar tours in Galveston, October 14 and Austin, October 21. Admission to each garden is $5, no reservations required, rain or shine. For more information, visit or call toll-free (888) 842-2442.

The Arbor Gate will sponsor “Kindergarten for Rose Lovers...Learn About Teachers' Pets!” presented by Mark Chamblee on Saturday, September 23, at 10 a.m. Admission is free. The Arbor Gate 15635 FM 2920 Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851 or visit

ArtScape, September 23 and 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., is the Dallas Arboretum's first ever fine art show and sale. The two-day art fair is a family-oriented event that will kick off the Dallas Blooms Autumn festival. ArtScape will feature artists from around the country, the Tour de Fleurs race, the Ultimate Tree Houses exhibit, entertainment and many exciting classes. ArtScape will complement Ultimate Tree Houses, a juried exhibit of 12 tree houses that will be on display throughout the garden. In addition, this year's event will kick off with Tour de Fleurs a 10k, 5k and 1 mile fun run. What a great way to start the weekend! For additional information, please email

The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners will sponsor the annual Hidden Garden Tour September 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Rockport. Enjoy touring Rockport and the surrounding area and tour some of the area's private gardens plus Green Acres Demonstration gardens. Bus tours will be available for $15 and tickets must be purchased ahead. Self-guided tours are $10. A plant sale will occur at Green Acres on the day of the tour. Green Acres Demonstration gardens, located at the Aransas County Extension Office (611 E. Mimosa — behind Monroe's Furniture on Hwy 35) is the start of the tour on September 30. Maps and additional tour information for the Hidden Garden Tour can be obtained by contacting the Aransas County Extension Office at (361) 790-0103.

Castro Garden Club's "Fall Tour of Homes" in Castroville will take place October 7, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets will be available September 1 and can be purchased in advance by writing Castro Garden Club, P.O. Box 10, Castroville, TX 78009. Tickets will be sold the day of the tour at the Landmark Inn State Historic Site. Ticket price will include admission to the Landmark Inn State Historic Site, courtesy of The Friends of the Landmark Inn, to visit the newly renovated Gristmill. Proceeds from the tour will benefit Castro Garden Clubs special projects. Admission: $12.00 per person. For more information contact: Priscilla Garrett, (830) 931-2262; Bonnie Keller, (830) 931-2614; or Joan Menard, (210) 677-8979.

Ernesto Velez Koppel of Colombia will lecture on his country's flower industry October 11 at Texas A&M University. His talk is the second in the Distinguished Lecture Series on International Floriculture. Koppel is the Association of Colombian Flower Growers and Exporters board of directors chair. The lecture series is sponsored by the Texas A&M horticultural sciences department's Ellison Chair in International Floriculture. The presentation will include background on what led to the formation of the Colombian flower association, known as ASOCOLFLORES, its current activities and its plans for the future. Koppel also will describe the group's global impact. For further information, contact Tammy Landry, program coordinator, at or (979) 845-7342.

The Austin Herb Society celebrates Herb Awareness Month in October with HerbFest, Saturday, October 21, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, located in the Burger Center, 3200 Jones Rd., off I-290 between Brodie Lane and Westgate Blvd. No entrance fee for shoppers, free parking. For additional information, call (512) 468-9126.

The San Antonio chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will host the groups' annual symposium Convergence and Diversity: Native Plants of South Central Texas, October 19 through 22, San Antonio. The symposium will feature guided tours to natural areas, seminars on native plants and a special program on cooking with native plants. For more information, contact (210) 733-0034, (830) 997-9272 or visit

The Johnson County Herb Society will hold its Herbal Thymes Show and Symposium, October 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cleburne Senior Center, Cleburne. The event will feature speakers, demonstrations herb plants and related products. For more information, contact Esther Chambliss at (817) 263-9322 or visit

The 2006 Annual Garden Tour in Victoria County will take place on Saturday and Sunday, October 28 through 29, showcasing five gardens at historic homes in Old Victoria. Imagination will be fulfilled beyond garden gates with the theme "Nature's Beauty Beyond the Gate" in fall and pre-Halloween garden settings. Highlighted garden plants will be catalogued in educational materials and for plant sale identification on the weekend of the tour. Guided tours at $18 per person are scheduled from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Sunday. Individual garden tours are $5 per garden. Workshops will be conducted on culinary cooking and holiday decorating from the garden for additional fees. For further information, contact Victoria County Extension Office at (361) 575-4581.

The Texas Gourd Society will hold its 11th annual "Show and Tell" at the Waco Convention Center, Waco, November 11 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The two-day show will include gourd artists, seminars, demonstrations and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 free. For more information, visit

The Garland Organic Club meets the first Sunday of each month in the little red school house at 1651 Wall St., Garland. All interested gardeners are invited to attend. For more information, call (972) 864-1934 or (800) 864-4445.

Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7:00 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit

The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 676-4326 or visit

  What's a gardener in deer country to do?

Vincent Drzequcki, Jr. answers this question in Gardening in Deer Country by presenting descriptions of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, groundcovers, herbs, bulbs and vines that deer don't like to eat. More than 130 plant descriptions and illustrations are included and an additional 100 plants are rated by their attractiveness to deer from "best" to "forget it." The author also discusses the problems, possible solutions and planting techniques that every gardener who lives with deer should know.

 $10.62 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

 *Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of August and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

  Two hats are better than one!

Let your friends and neighbors know that you are proud to be a Texas Gardener with this top-quality cap. Heavy construction, six-panel, pro-style brushed cotton twill, low-profile khaki with dark green bill and logo. Buy one cap and received a second at no additional charge.

 $17.07 (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2006. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

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Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

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