January 3, 2007
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The garden reader:
Of glory in the flower
By William Scheick
William C. Burger. Flowers: How They Changed the World. Prometheus Books, 2006. $23.00. 337pp.
Consider figs. They are so easy to grow that many of us plant them in our backyards without much thought. We call figs fruit because they look like fruit. But they aren't.
They're inflorescences, a pretty sounding word for plant structures bearing a number of flowers on a series of stems. The fig tree's hidden tiny flowers actually bloom inside these hollow structures we call figs.
A clandestine drama ensues inside a fig. A particular species of female wasp wiggles through a bract-protected opening so small and tight that the insect's wings break off as she enters. She's not going to need them anymore. In fact, she’s never coming out again.
Inside the fig, the wasp accidentally fertilizes some seed-producing female flowers with pollen she has carried since she was born. She also lays eggs in other, non-fertile female flowers found inside the fig. Then she dies.
Male wasps hatch, fill the inflorescence chamber with enabling carbon dioxide, fertilize the emerging females, and then chew a hole in the fig wall. But the escape-way is not for them. Their extraordinarily short life is over.
Their winged sisters, on the other hand, benefit from the release of carbon dioxide through the male-chewed opening. These young female wasps collect pollen from the male flowers now blooming inside the fig, and then pass through the wall outlet to venture off into the world. Their mission: to find another fig of the right kind to enter.
If the exposé of this hidden drama makes the ordinary fig seem more mysterious — and our eating of figs a far less familiar experience — then William Burger has made headway in his own "winged" mission in Flowers: How They Changed the World.
Whereas Charles Darwin puzzled over what he once irritably referred to as the "abominable mystery" of the origin of flowers, Burger is hardly nonplused by this and other still unanswered questions about flowers. Burger simply revels in their wondrously multifarious ways. He’s the consummate flower-snoop who loves to gossip, in over-the-fence conversational manner, about their best-kept secrets.
No floral shenanigan escapes his keen detection. He catches flowering plants scamming insects looking for mates, bilking naive pollinators in search of nectar, hoaxing butterflies miscued by faux caterpillar eggs, chemically signaling for help from nearby insects and surreptitiously communicating with other plants. Flowers can indeed be deceptive tricksters, hardly what they appear to be, but tell-all Burger easily exposes their wiles — and he does so simply for the sheer tattletale joy of it.
If flowers can be deceptive, so can the 7.25 x 5.25 inch size of Flowers: How They Changed the World. This hardback book may fit snugly in the hand, but its insider buzz transports the reader to an immeasurably marvelous world not too far removed from Alice’s wonderland.
Perhaps, as William Wordsworth wrote, "Nothing can bring back the hour / Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower." But as Burger's book bears brilliant witness, it is at least possible to celebrate and memorialize such captivating short-lived glory.
Types of community gardens
The January/February issue of Texas Gardener features an article about Urban Harvest, an organization that helps establish community gardens throughout the Houston area.
While community gardens come in all shapes and sizes, Urban Harvest concentrates on serving five types of gardens:Neighborhood or Allotment Gardens are gardens where neighbors join together to grow food in individual family plots or as a group gardening effort. These may be located in a neighborhood park, a vacant lot, or on land provided by a local organization.
School Gardens are located on school property and used to teach science, math and other subjects through garden projects.
Donation Gardens are often located at places of worship and the produce grown at these gardens is donated to food pantries.
Therapy Gardens are gardens located at hospitals, clinics or special needs schools to provide therapy to the disabled in addition to providing an inexpensive source of produce for the institution’s residents.
Market Gardens provide income for low-income residents and entrepreneurs who sell produce.
For more information about Urban Harvest and community gardens, visit www.UrbanHarvest.org.
The Compost Heap
Darrel Mayers writes, "Please pass on my congratulations to Michael Bettler for his new evocative, new year's pontifications about why we garden. It is rare to read such beautiful writing in a web newsletter like this. Thank you, and happy new year to... well... to both Michaels!"
Readers' Gardening Tips
"When shopping for onions to transplant, it is tempting to select the largest plants you can find," writes Shayne Culver. "However, onions will bolt or form seed heads as a result of temperature-induced dormancy. To avoid this problem, use plants that are pencil size or smaller."
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...
Spinach consumption in the United States rose 33 percent after the Popeye comic strip became a hit in 1931.
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 www.moodygardens.org.
San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host "Coffee Day," Saturday, January 13, 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 www.sabot.org.
Houston: Harris County Master Gardener Fruit Tree Sale & Symposium will be held Saturday, January 13, 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 harris-tx.tamu.edu/hort.
Waco: The Texas Cooperative Extension will host the 45th annual Blackland income Growth Conference January 16 and 17, 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 http://stephenville.tamu.edu/BIG/.
Lubbock: Texas Cooperative Extension will offer Master Gardener in Lubbock County January 16 through March 8. 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. 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 http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu. More information on the Lubbock County Master Gardeners is available at http://lubbockmastergardeners.tamu.edu.
Houston: Urban Harvest will host its annual fruit tree sale Saturday, January 20, 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 www.urbanharvest.org 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, 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 www.tofga.org.
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, 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, 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 http://hillcountrylgshow.com 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, 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 www.sabot.org.
Longview: Gregg County Master Gardeners are hosting their Spring Garden and Landscape Seminar, Saturday, February 24, 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 visitwww.greggmastergardeners.org/.
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 athttp://harris-tx.tamu.edu/anr/events.htm.
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 www.fannincountymastergardeners.org.
Marble Falls: The Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association will sponsor the Ninth Annual Hill Country Lawn & Garden Show March 31, 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 hillcountrylgshow.com or call (325) 388-8849.
San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host a Spring Plant Sale, Saturday, March 31, 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 www.sabot.org.
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, 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 email@example.com or visit www.rockportherbs.com.
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, 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 http://arboretum.sfasu.edu/.
Waco: "Easy-Care Roses for Busy People," an EarthKind Rose Symposium hosted by McLennan County Master Gardeners and Texas Cooperative Extension, will take place in Waco, Saturday, April 21, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., 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; Steve Huddleston, Senior Horticulturalist, Fort Worth Botanic Garden; and Rachelle Kemp, Landscape Design Instructor, Texas State Technical College, Waco. Registration is $56 per person and pre-registration is required. Registration includes snacks, beverages, all course materials, and a two-gallon rose. For more information, call (254) 757-5180 or visit www.mclennanmastergardeners.org.
Tyler: The 6th annual Spring Home Garden Tour, sponsored by the Smith County Master Gardeners, will be held Saturday, May 5. Area gardens will be showcased and will afford visitors ideas an inspiration for their own garden, large or small. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions or discuss planting ideas.
Ft. Worth: The Greater Fort Worth Herb Society presents its 21st Annual Herb Festival May 19, 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 www.greaterfortworthherbsociety.org or call (817) 966-7126.
San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden is sponsoring a trip to Italy September 4 through 15, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 www.main.org/aog.
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) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.
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.
Go wild over
Wildflowers of Texas
Written by Geyata Ajilvsgi, this classic by one of the pioneers in the discovery of native Texas plants has been completely revised and expanded to feature 482 species of native Texas wildflowers. It includes full-color photographs, botanical descriptions and special notes for each plant listed.
$21.30 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 January and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)
Fiber Row Cover
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.
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Publisher: Chris S. Corby ● Editor: Michael Bracken
Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ● www.TexasGardener.com