December 27, 2006

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Out with the old, in with the new

By Michael Bettler
Lucia's Garden

The new year is fast approaching, and typical of Texas in winter, in different parts of this Great State, you don't know whether to pull out the row cover or buy some watermelon at the grocery store. But this is the new year, a time for new beginnings, new resolutions and new promises, or at least a chance to review last year's garden resolutions.

New Year's Day is a quiet time in the garden. The soil is cold and it's not a day to begin turning compost. It's a day to kick back and relax. The garden may be calling you from outside your window, but stay inside. Pull out your yellow legal pad and "pencil-garden" this year's new design. Find your design books and seed catalogs. Pile them on your lap, lean back deeply into your favorite chair and just take a nap. Plans for great things always begin with dreams. If anyone asks you what you are doing, tell them "I'm dreaming up my garden."

"Dreaming up the garden" is as old as the first intentionally planted seeds, thousands of years ago, when the only imperative was to feed all the members of the family, when tribes of nomads settled as hunter-gatherers to form communities. We plowed up pastures and planted crops. We watched the seasons come and go, read the clouds for rain, the sun for warmth, the moon and stars for predictions of seasons for planting, harvesting, storing and knowing when to begin the cycle all over again. Life was continuously reborn in the garden.

Jim Nollman, author of Why We Garden, says that gardening is sacred work, a way of "cultivating a sense of place." He says it is a way to "recreate a bit of paradise within an imperfect world."

Hal Borland, the naturalist, wrote about observing the differences between natural time and industrial time. In his book Sundial Of The Seasons, for New Year's Day he writes, "The old year is gone, the new year begun, and those who set store by the calendar draw a line...count the minutes and days. Nature, of course, has her own map of time, and (we) miss the mark repeatedly."

So dream your garden, and keep in mind a few other words on design. Pogo, that wonderful cartoon character, back in 1959 said "Nature abhors a vacuum." James Arscott, an art instructor at Stephen F. Austin State University, circa 1965 said, "In nature, there are no straight lines."

Monty Python said, "Surprises...always let your garden have surprises." And Gertrude Jekyll, the master garden designer in the late 1890s in England said, "The main purpose of a garden is to give its owner the best and highest kind of earthly pleasure."

Part of gardening design came from "intention," whether to feed the family, enhance the flavors of that food or to place a bouquet of flowers on the table. We assumed dominion over animals, birds and fish and the land around us. We sought better grains, greater yields of healthier crops, and more practical farming practices. We studied, imitated, replicated, taught and prescribed, developed special tools, implemented more successful methods, changed varieties in crops, formulated more effective land use, and eventually western agriculture was born.

Lines of property were drawn and we moved as a culture from battle fields to public parks. The English built ruined castle keeps on their estate grounds, stubbed in forests where none existed before, created water features in their landscapes with brooks, ponds, rivers and waterfalls.

Plants became the palette of a new art expression. Poppies filled Flanders' fields. Roses defined the English thrown. Leeks became the symbol of Wales. The Shamrock represented Ireland, and the Thistle was celebrated in Scotland. The Dutch hybridized the Turkish and Persian tulip. Tea came from China and coffee from Ethiopia. New food came from the New World. The height of formal design was seen in the gardens of Versailles in France. And those who did not own gardens painted them. From them, "Impressionism" was born with its intense interest in capturing the natural light of the garden.

In the 1890s "West" met "East" in trade with China and Japan. Western eyes saw that art could imitate life, as art, and small urban gardens began to appear. The formal garden border that once separated crops and properties soon softened to flowing walkways and soft intrusions of herbaceous florals. These led back to simple pastures of wild grasses and meadow flowers. The full circle of gardens and gardening was completed.

Now it is the time to dream, and in dreaming, to design. Your garden can be planted anywhere and everywhere. It can be in gallon tomato sauce cans or in window boxes on balconies and porches. It can be in back yards, front yards and on the sides of houses. It can be a community project in a school garden, in church parking lots, hospital green spaces, restaurants and office buildings, circled around mail boxes, and in old abandoned tractor tires that guard the entrances to rural driveways across the land.

Whether you move from one home to another, move fence posts or garden shapes, or just carry seeds with you from a good friend's garden to your own, you are carrying the whole history of gardening with you. So take it easy today. Spend New Year's Day with your yellow legal pad, your seed catalogs and pencils, napping in your favorite chair, and "dreaming up your garden."

  Readers' Gardening Tips

"If you notice green moss growing on the soil surface of your house plants, it is a sign of poor drainage," writes Paige Lane. "You can correct the situation by re-potting the plant into a mixture with sand or perlite added. Also, try adding a few small rocks to the bottom of the container before filling with potting mix to improve drainage."

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 T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

Adding extra fertilizer (more than recommended) will not make extra strong plants. Plants fed with high nitrogen fertilizers will produce more foliage and less blooms and flowers. Plants that are "pushed" like this will be more susceptible to disease and insect damage. For best results use an organic fertilizer that is naturally slow release and formulated for your specific use. Apply according to recommendations.


  Upcoming Garden Events

Houston: Festive sights and sounds will fill Moody Gardens, Galveston, at the fifth annual Festival of Lights November 18 through January 6. This entertainment-filled celebration will kick off the holiday season on November 18, with Santa Claus parachuting in to switch on the lights. Transforming its lush garden setting into a winter menagerie of lights, Moody Gardens will be adorned with more than a million twinkling lights and dozens of light displays. In addition to experiencing the lights, guests can also strap on a pair of skates and slide across the ice at the Outdoor Ice Rink or listen to holiday music performed by area bands. Indoors, visitors can take pictures with Santa or see the giant poinsettia tree. Moody Gardens will show a variety of holiday-themed films during the Festival of Lights. Several special holiday packages are also available for groups of 30 or more that can include luxury bus transportation, event admission and the holiday buffet. Special Festival of Lights packages are also available at the Moody Gardens Hotel November 18 through January 6. For more information, please call (800) 582-4673 or visit

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host "Coffee Day," Saturday, January 13, 2007, 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Just in time for the crisp wintry air, this annual family day event features coffee tastings and other exotic treats. Coffee Day is a celebration of tropical plants for edible pleasure and medicinal purposes, derived from the jungle. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit

Houston: Harris County Master Gardener Fruit Tree Sale & Symposium will be held Saturday, January 13, 2007, at the Harris County Extension Office, 3033 Bear Creek Dr. Houston. Preview 8 a.m.; workshops 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.; sale 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.; lecture and demonstration topics and times TBA. For more information, call (281) 855-5600 or visit

Waco: The Texas Cooperative Extension will host the 45th annual Blackland income Growth Conference January 16 and 17, 2007, at the Waco Convention Center, Waco. Among the sessions of interest to gardeners are "Rainwater Harvesting for the Homeowner" led by Billy Kniffen, county extension agent, and "Controlling Weeds in Lawns, Flower Beds, and Vegetable Gardens" led by Dr. Paul Bauman, extension weed specialist. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Admission fees vary. For addition information, see

Lubbock: Texas Cooperative Extension will offer Master Gardener in Lubbock County January 16 through March 8, 2007. Classes will meet weekly on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The 50 hours of instruction will also include at least one field trip. Extension faculty, research specialists and garden club members teach Master Gardener students about botany, soils, lawn culture, vegetables and fruits, landscaping, water gardening and other horticulture topics, said Brant Baugh, Extension integrated pest management agent in Lubbock County. Those who complete this training are Master Gardener interns. Interns who wish to become a certified Master Gardener are required to complete 50 additional hours of volunteer service in horticulture education. Most interns fulfill their volunteer service by working in Extension demonstration gardens; serving as a horticulture advisor for a community garden; helping with school gardens; helping other community service agencies such as Habitat for Humanity; or by returning telephone calls to the county Extension office about horticulture and related projects. Master Gardener tuition costs $150 per person, plus $10 for a mandatory background check. Registration is first-come, first-served and the class size is limited. The registration deadline is January 9, 2007. Checks for registration should be payable to the Lubbock County Master Gardener Association. For more information, or to register, call the Texas Cooperative Extension office in Lubbock County at (806) 775-1680. More information on the Master Gardener program is available online at More information on the Lubbock County Master Gardeners is available at

Houston: Urban Harvest will host its annual fruit tree sale Saturday, January 20, 2007, 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Emerson Unitarian Church, 1900 Bering Drive, Houston (West of Loop 610 between San Felipe and Westheimer). A pre-sale talk discussing the fruit trees available at the sale begins at 8:00 a.m. and continues until 9:20 a.m. There will be a large selection of citrus trees, as well as trees that produce peaches, plums, apples, pears, figs, pecans, grapes, blackberries, persimmons, and more. For more information on fruit varieties and directions to the sale, check the Urban Harvest website beginning in December.

Mesquite: The Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association will present the 6th annual Texas Conference on Organic Production Systems, "The Local Food Revolution: Bringing Texas Home" January 24 through 27, 2007, in Mesquite. Speakers include Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow from the Leopold Center and Jessica Prentice, chef, educator and author of Full Moon Feast. Included among the activities will be farm tours, a new farmers workshop, and an organic home gardening workshop. For additional information, call (877) 326-5175 or visit

Canyon: Vegetable growers, processors and gardeners can renew their production and marketing skills at the fifth annual High Plains Vegetable Conference in Canyon. The January 25, 2007, conference will feature information relevant to marketing, pest management, food safety, biosecurity and agriculture. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. at the West Texas A&M University Alumni Banquet Facility at the corner of North Third and 25th streets in Canyon. The cost is $25 per person before Jan. 15, and $30 per person at the door. This fee covers all materials and lunch. Door prizes donated by agribusiness exhibitors will be awarded. The morning session will focus on marketing strategies, potato breeding, head and moisture stress, and integrated disease management. The afternoon session will address weed and insect control, a Texas Department of Agriculture pesticide update, biosecurity and agriculture, foodborne diseases and food safety. For registration or exhibit information contact Russ Wallace or Wendy Durrett at (806) 746-6101.

Marble Falls: Highland Lakes Master Gardeners and Texas Cooperative Extension will offer classes to become a Master Gardener starting February 1, 2007, on Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m. for 11 weeks in Marble Falls. Class size is limited so call the extension office at (512) 756-5463 or go to to get additional information on the classes and the Master Gardener program. Answers to additional may be obtained by calling Robert Yantis at (325) 388-8849 or Carol Kowing (830) 693-5377.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host "Chocolate Day," Saturday, February 10, 2007, 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Activities include chocolate tastings, chocolate mint plant giveaway, exotic fruits tastings, and children's crafts. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit

Longview: Gregg County Master Gardeners are hosting their Spring Garden and Landscape Seminar, Saturday, February 24, 2007, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at First Methodist Church Faith Center, 400 N. Fredonia St., Longview. Garry McDonald, Horticultural Research Associate, Texas A&M University will present "Beautiful Plants for Hot, Humid Summers" and "Future Texas Superstars-Maybe." Daniel Duncum, District Forrester with Texas Forest Service, will address "What's Killing My Trees and What Can I Do About It?" Garden related vendors, door prizes and refreshments are offered. Advance tickets $10 and $12 at the door. Call 903 236 8429 for more information or visit

Houston: Volunteers with Texas Cooperative Extension in Harris County will present a gardening workshop 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. February 27 in the Extension auditorium, 3033 Bear Creek Drive, Houston. Members of Master Naturalists' Gulf Coast chapter will present "Green Home and Garden Workshop." The volunteers will give presentations that will include selecting low-cost plants, planning neighborhood beautification projects, identifying invasive plants and designing landscapes using plants that require less water to thrive. "The Master Naturalists have developed this program to help any homeowner make his home an oasis," said Wayne Thompson, Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Harris County and the coordinator of the Master Naturalist program. "However, they are also inviting housing developers, builders and boards of directors from homeowners associations. Many individuals in these groups are not only homeowners, but they also are responsible for planning and landscaping public areas in subdivisions, so the information will benefit many." The $20 registration fee will cover the program and lunch. For registration information, call Diana Todd, (281) 855-5600. A registration form can be downloaded from the Harris County Extension agriculture and natural resources events calendar at

Bonham: The Fannin County Master Gardeners are hosting their 3rd Annual Garden, Lawn and Home Expo on March 31, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Multiple Purpose Complex in Bonham. One of the speakers, Mark Chamblee of Tyler's Chamblee's Rose Nursery, will talk about Earthkind Roses. The educational event also features varied vendors for plants, garden crafts, and more. For more information, call (903) 583-7453 or visit

Marble Falls: The Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association will sponsor the Ninth Annual Hill Country Lawn & Garden Show March 31, 2007, at the Lakeside Pavilion in Marble Falls. It is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free Admission and seminars. It features garden related vendors, demonstrations, a children's booth, raffle and seminars by Malcolm Beck, Bill Luedecke and the Antique Rose Emporium. For more information go to or call (325) 388-8849.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host a Spring Plant Sale, Saturday, March 31, 2007, 9 a.m. until sold out. Purchase healthy, hardy plants suitable for the San Antonio environment and get expert advice from SABG volunteers, many of whom are Master Gardeners. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit

Rockport: The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group will present the Third Annual Rockport Herb Festival Saturday, at the Rockport-Fulton High School Commons, 1801 Omohundro, Rockport, April 7, 2007, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The festival will include a variety of herb programs, herb cooking demonstrations, herb booths with lots of information and products for sale, and a plant sale that will include herbs, roses, heirlooms, orchids, bromeliads, tropicals, palms, garden art and pottery. There is no admission fee. For additional information, contact Linda T. Collins at or visit

Nacogdoches: The annual Spring Garden Gala plant sale at Stephen F. Austin State University’s Mast Arboretum will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 14, 2007, at the intramural field on Wilson Drive, Nacogdoches. “We will offer a great selection of rare, unusual, and Texas-tough trees, shrubs, succulents, and herbaceous perennials, as well as many heat loving tropicals,” said Dawn Stover, Mast Arboretum research associate. “All of the plants are produced at SFA by the staff, students and volunteers.” Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate, will have a number of his introductions available as well, including the pink flowered ‘Pam Puryear’ and large flowered ‘Big Momma’ Turk’s cap. “Many of the rare Aromi hybrid deciduous azaleas will be offered, as will a good number of the rarely available native East Texas red buckeye,” Stover said. Proceeds from the plant sale help support the SFA Mast Arboretum, the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, the Pineywoods Native Plant Center and educational programs. For more information, call (936) 468-4404 or visit

Waco: The EarthKind Rose Symposium, hosted by McLennan County Master Gardeners and Texas Cooperative Extension, will take place in Waco, Saturday, April 21, 2007, at Texas State Technical College, 3801 Campus Drive. Among the speakers will be Dr. Steve George, Professor and Landscape Horticulture Specialist, Texas Cooperative Extension, Dallas; Mark Chamblee, owner Chamblee Rose Nursery, Tyler; Gaye Hammond, President, Houston Rose Society; and Steve Huddleston, Senior Horticulturalist, Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Admission is $56 per person and pre-registration is required. For more information, call (254) 757-5180 or visit

Ft. Worth: The Greater Fort Worth Herb Society presents its 21st Annual Herb Festival May 19, 2007, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens in Fort Worth. The Festival will feature the sale of herb plants and herb-related products. There will also be a silent auction, crafts, music, demos, food and much more. Special event speakers will be Randy Weston of Weston Gardens and Mary Doebelling of Our Thyme Garden. Admission is $5 for adults. The Botanic Gardens are located at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd Dr., Fort Worth. For more information, please visit or call (817) 966-7126.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden is sponsoring a trip to Italy September 4 through 15, 2007, featuring Italy's villas and gardens. Escorted by Bob Brackman, the Director of the Garden, an exceptional itinerary has been designed for lovers of leisurely travel and beautiful homes and gardens. Famous for their gardens, Italians still build on their ancestors' legacy with the creation of exquisite country villas surrounded by terraced, fountain-filled gardens that have become symbolic of Italian style. Experience the rich cultural heritage of Italy. Visit special gardens, famous museums, the important cities of Florence and Rome, plus the Lake District, and the small villages which make Italy so charming, such as Cinque Terre, Santa Margherita and Tuscan villages. Feast on fabulous Italian cuisine and enjoy la dolce vita. Land cost per person sharing is $3550 plus air, which includes a $100 tax deductible donation, most meals and gratuities. For more information, contact Marianne Martz of Fuller Travel at (210) 828-6311 or

Garland: 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: 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

Dallas: 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

Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events.

  Pesky deer featured in January/February Texas Gardener

Contributing Editor Skip Richter writes about "Gardening in Deer Country" and the many ways to keep deer away from home gardens.

Also in the January/February issue of Texas Gardener: Managing Editor Michael Bracken writes about Houston's Urban Harvest; Ann McCormick describes some popular Mexican herbs suitable for Texas; and Lana Robinson tells readers about the benefits and many types of labyrinths. Also included: tips on growing lettuce and early tomatoes, information about four attractive beauties from Argentina and Chile, and much, much more!

Subscribe on-line.

  Fiber Row Cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

 $30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

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

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


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