May 2, 2007

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Nuts to us, says the young man in this photo. Imagine Texas without the pecan, its State tree, a possibility if global warming continues, say the authors of a new report from the National Wildlife Federation.

Gardeners can play an important role in reducing global warming

According to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation, A Gardener's Guide to Global Warming, there are many things people can do in their gardens that will help combat this serious and potentially devastating environmental problem caused by our voracious appetite for fossil fuels.

As gardeners, we are both guardians and stewards of our environment, says Patty Glick, author of the report and Global Warming Specialist for the National Wildlife Federation. There are many simple and thoughtful ways we can manage our gardens that can make an enormous difference in reducing the impacts of global warming.

A report from international climate scientists released in February of 2007 projects that the Earth's average temperature will rise by 4-11 degrees before the end of this century if our dependency on fossil fuels continues unabated. Another report from this same prestigious group of scientists says that changes are happening faster than expected and the harmful effects of global warming on daily life are already apparent.

As any gardener knows, even just one degree difference between 32 and 33 degrees Fahrenheit over a period of time can make a huge difference in a garden. Scientists are now finding what many gardeners have already been noticing: earlier leaf out and bloom times, earlier emergence of butterflies and other insects, and arrival of new bird species at the backyard feeder.

Many of the hardiness zone maps that gardeners rely on to identify which plants to choose for their gardens are already being adjusted to account for the impacts of global warming. The Arbor Day Foundation recently shifted Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and part of Michigan from Zone 5 to a warmer Zone 6 along with other zone changes.

In many states, the climate change may be so intense that states may no longer have a favorable climate for their official state tree or state flower before this century is out. Imagine Virginia or North Carolina without the flowering dogwood; Louisiana without bald cypress and magnolia; Kansas without the sunflower; Ohio without the Ohio buckeye, or Texas without the pecan.

Changes in climate due to global warming will no doubt create some enormous new challenges for gardeners given the strong relationship between our garden plants and climate variables such as temperatures and rainfall. As numerous studies show, any potential benefits from a longer growing season will only be outmatched by a host of problems.

Heavier downpours and more intense storms will lead to extensive flooding in vulnerable areas. At the other extreme, severe drought conditions plaguing parts of the nation over the past few years lead to watering restrictions for our gardens. With global warming, lack of sufficient water for gardens will become even more of a problem. Droughts and heat waves also encourage some of the most damaging garden pests such as aphids, spider mites, locusts and whiteflies. Garden weeds such as dandelion and lambsquarters are expected to thrive with global warming.

While weeds and pests in the garden can be frustrating and time consuming to control, the invasive species encouraged by global warming can wreak absolute havoc in a garden as they gain more of a foothold. Scientists estimate that global warming will enable 48 percent of the invasive plants and animals in this country to move further north as temperatures rise.

While predictions for global warming are dire, they are not inevitable. With ninety-one million households engaged in lawn and garden activities in this country, gardeners are both guardians and stewards of our environment. The National Wildlife Federation's report demonstrates that gardeners can play a big part in the solution to global warming.

The National Wildlife Federation report will help gardeners understand the predicted impacts of global climate change on plant species, and gives them practical tools to address this urgent problem, says Marian Hill, Conservation Chairman of the Garden Club of America, who wrote the Foreword to NWF's report.

While the following conservation practices aren't new to many gardeners, they are made ever more important now given the threat of global warming.

Reduce the threat of invasive species and incorporate a diversity of native plants into your landscape. Global warming will contribute to a dramatic expansion of invasive, non-native plants and animals, which are able to take advantage of weakened ecosystems and out-compete native species. Gardeners can play an important role in minimizing the threat of invasive species expansion by removing invasive plants from the garden and choosing an array of native alternatives.

Higher average temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns will enable some of the most problematic species, including kudzu, garlic mustard, purple loosestrife and Japanese honeysuckle, to move into new areas. In addition, global warming will contribute to more severe infestations and habitat damage from both native and exotic insect pests, including black vine weevil, gypsy moth, bagworm and mountain pine beetle.

Contact your local/state native plant society to find out what plants are native to your area or check out NWF's web site for a listing at

Limit water consumption. In many parts of the country, more severe heat waves, droughts and declining snowpack due to global warming will cause a considerable reduction in available water resources. There are a number of ways to reduce water consumption in your garden, which will be particularly important when water resources become scarce. Actions that can help include mulching, installing rain barrels, watering only in the morning and evening to avoid mid-day evaporation and using drip irrigation.

Compost kitchen and garden waste. Composting kitchen and garden waste can significantly reduce your contribution to global warming pollution, especially methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. It also provides an excellent source of nutrients for your garden, which reduces the need for chemical fertilizers that pollute water supplies and take a considerable amount of energy to produce.

Establish a green roof and plant trees around your house. Planting rooftop gardens and planting trees near your home can significantly shield your home from the elements, reducing energy use for air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter. One study showed that shade trees can reduce energy use for air conditioning by up to seventy percent. Trees also absorb and store carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the gas primarily responsible for global warming. Over an average life-span for a tree, it can remove a ton of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Develop a rain garden. Gardeners can reduce water pollution associated with heavy downpours by developing rain gardens, which capture storm water runoff and help prevent it from entering local lakes, streams and coastal waters.

Reduce the use of gasoline-powered yard tools. Another important change you can make is to avoid using gasoline-powered tools such as lawn mowers, weed eaters and leaf blowers. Instead, use electric-powered or, better yet, human-powered tools such as push mowers, hand clippers and rakes. If this seems daunting, you might consider replacing some of your lawn with low maintenance shrubs, bushes or a native wildflower patch.

Improve your energy efficiency. One of the best ways to reduce your contribution to global warming pollution is to use more energy-efficient products. In your backyard alone, there are a number of actions you can take, including replacing regular outdoor light bulbs with compact fluorescents, installing outdoor automatic light timers and purchasing solar-powered garden products. You can increase the availability of energy efficient garden products as well as native plants by encouraging local home and garden retailers to carry these items.

Contact your elected officials. Gardeners can voice their concerns about global warming to their local, state and federal government representatives urging them to implement strong action plans to combat global warming. These actions can include: placing mandatory limits on global warming pollution, raising fuel economy standards for cars and SUVs, investing in clean and efficient energy technologies, requiring utilities to generate a share of their electricity from renewable energy sources, developing programs to reel in suburban sprawl and expanding recycling programs.

The more global warming pollution we allow to build up in the atmosphere, the greater the risk that we will disrupt the natural systems on which humans and wildlife rely. Fortunately, solutions are readily at hand and gardeners can make a major contribution to implementing those solutions so that the beauty and utility of our gardens will endure for future generations.

According to Suzanne DeJohn with the National Gardening Association, who wrote the Afterword for the report, individual gardeners may think they can't make a real difference. But imagine if all or even half the estimated 91 million gardeners nationwide took steps to reduce their energy consumption. Each of us can do our part in our own landscape.

The complete Gardener's Guide to Global Warming can be found at

The flower business is more than bouquets. (Photo by William Scheick)

  The garden reader:
Do you call that a rose?

By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

Amy Stewart. Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers. Algonquin Books, 2007. $23.95. 306 pp.

Last month's column reported a handful of books featuring people's all-consuming obsession with plants. There are plenty more from where those books came from, including James Raimes's Gardening at Ginger: My Seven-Year Obsession with Designing and Planting a Personal Landscape (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), Des Kennedy's The Passionate Gardener: Adventures of an Ardent Green Thumb (Greystone, 2006) and Aurelia Scott's Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Obsessive and Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening (Algonquin, 2007). Surely the title alone of William Alexander's The $64 Tomato (Algonquin, 2006) sums of the nature of his affliction.

This month we turn to a book by Amy Stewart, who also confesses to "a smutty sort of lust for flowers." But instead of delving into her personal floral fixation, Ms. Stewart's Flower Confidential divulges the inside stories behind those supermarket flowers we often find so irresistible.

Even if you are admirably strong-willed and manage to refrain from impulse purchases of cut-flowers while grocery shopping, it is more likely than not that you have at some time bought flowers for a birthday, a wedding, a funeral, a prom, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day the list for possible flower purchases is very lengthy.

So the cut-flower industry not only has a long history, it is today an economically enormous and highly competitive market, raking in $40 billion dollars a year internationally.

My first peek into the behind-the-scenes world of this market came with a Dallas Morning News assignment a year ago to report on the creation of the world's first true-blue roses by Florigene, an biotech company in Melbourne, Australia. Already by 1996, after years of research, this company had produced a true-blue carnation, the world's first commercial genetically modified flower. Today Florigene's unique blue carnations are a popular, if pricey, item in the cut-flower trade.

Why blue? Blue blooms are commercially very popular, but unfortunately they are limited to only a few cut-flower selections, such as iris. So for the flower-market industry, the creation of new blue flowers is seen as an obvious economic opportunity.

It wasn't smooth sailing for Florigene during the last decade, and Ms. Stewart provides an inside look into what it takes for such companies to compete in the cut-flower marketplace. She offers an eye-opening account flawed only by her tendency to soft-"petal" the harsher realities of the industry: outsourcing, low wages, child labor and pesticides banned in the U.S.

It is a bit disappointing the learn from Ms. Stewart that the U.S. does not get the best flowers available or even the widest choice of selections. The problem is that we are a low-end consumer of cut-flowers, even though we buy 10 million of them every day. Chrysanthemums and carnations top our national list because they are the easiest to grow and to keep. As the floral enticements at my local grocery stores reveal, too, Peruvian lilies have recently become very popular.

Particularly interesting is Ms. Stewart's investigation of how the increased vase-life of flowers has been engineered. Since 75% of the cut-flowers on today's U.S. market are imported, mostly from equatorial Latin America, growers continue to look for ways to extend a flower's transport and shelf life. High-tech flowers are designed to withstand harvesting, possible shipment by jet to a Dutch auction, reshipment to worldwide retail outlets and then placement in containers inside neon-lit stores. Next, of course, they are expected to last for about a week in someone's home.

One price paid for this state-of-the-art floriculture is that during the last 10 years large numbers of American cut-flower growers have gone out of business. They were unable to compete with the market demand for ever-cheaper, ever-longer lasting flowers grown elsewhere.

Another price paid is the absence of a natural look, not to mention the lack of distinctive floral smell, in flowers genetically engineered to meet a single standard in appearance and to last an abnormally long time. Today's rigid, waxy-looking, changeless and odorless supermarket roses sometimes make me think of monster "Franken-flowers" seemingly resulting from a bizarre cross between a real garden plant and a craft-store artificial flower.

It is not Ms. Stewart's fault that I respond this way to high-tech roses. It is fair to say, though, that her Flower Confidential did not make it easier for me to appreciate them, especially when they are dipped in pesticide before being shipped to market. The more I know about all the "bits" that go into their production, perhaps the more I become like Ruth, a strange character in Alan Ayckbourn's play Table Manners (1975): "If you give Ruth a rose, she'd peel the petals off to make sure there weren't any greenfly. And when she'd done that, she'd turn around and say, do you call that a rose? Look at it, it's all in bits."

I don't wish to be ungrateful for what state-of-the-art floriculture can offer, but sometimes I think simpler is better, at least with flowers. I can't help but remember, for instance, the long-vanished spring-weekend sales in Austin of bud-roses from Tyler, Texas. These small roses didn't last long at home, but their buds opened, smelled faintly sweet and then faded. They were cute all-natural cute in their little allegory of life's course.

  Anniversary quiz answers and winners

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of Seeds, last issue, we asked six gardening questions. The first five readers who responded with the correct answers received a Texas Gardener cap. Here is the quiz again, with the correct answers in bold.

Green Thumb Teaser

1. What makes gardening in Texas different than "Up North"?

A. Hot Summers
B. Difficult Soils
C. Water Quality
D. All of the above

2. The 1015Y onion is named for which of the following?

A. A famous aircraft from World War II
B. The year onions were discovered in the wild
C. The proper planting time for onions in the Rio Grande Valley

3. The City of Tyler is best known for which of the following?

A. Roses
B. Earl Campbell
C. Pine trees

4. Which famous person do most Texans associate with wildflowers?

A. Lady Bird Johnson
B. Willie Nelson
C. Roseanne Barr

5. What is the State tree of Texas?

A. Walnut
B. Pecan
C. Filbert

6. Which state grows the biggest and the best tomatoes in the United States?

A. California
B. New Jersey
C. Texas

Sixty-four readers responded, and the winners are: Becki Howard of Kerrville, Connie Janise of San Antonio, Claudia Wilson of Chireno, Barbara LeCompte of Santa Fe, and Henry Brent of Austin.

We were chided by some readers for making the test too easy, but only 51 readers had perfect scores. No reader had more than one wrong answer, and the first question proved to be the most difficult with eight readers selecting an answer other than "All of the above."

Next time we prepare a quiz, we'll ask more difficult questions, such as:

What do you get when you cross a cantaloupe with Lassie?

The answer: A melancholy baby.

  Gardening tips

"I shred all of our junk mail (except glossy paper and envelopes w/cellophane windows)," writes Misty Panzino, "and add it to our compost pile. Not only am I sure that ID thieves won't get personal information, we're keeping it out of landfills, and creating valuable garden soil, too."

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...

When to start seeds depends on your soil temperature more than the air temperature. Just follow the old English saying for planting warm season crops and you can't go too wrong: "If you can sit on the ground with your trousers down then sow your seeds." Just make sure you pick a spot with no poison ivy before trying this.


  Upcoming garden events

El Paso, Fort Worth, Dallas: Visit America's very best, rarely seen, Private Gardens. The Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program has been opening the gates to America's best private gardens since 1995. The 2007 season features more than 350 gardens across 21 states. Learn about gardens participating in your area through the Open Days Directory, an annual publication listing open gardens with garden descriptions, open dates and hours, and directions. To purchase a Directory or for more information, call (888)842-2442 or visit The $5 admission fee supports the expansion of the Open Days Program around the country and helps build awareness of the Garden Conservancy's work of preserving exceptional American gardens such Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead. 2007 Texas Open Days: El Paso: May 5 & 6; Fort Worth: October 14; Dallas: October 20.

Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardeners will host the 6th annual Spring Home Garden Tour May 5, Tyler. Area gardens will be showcased and will offer visitors ideas an inspiration for their own garden, large or small. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions or discuss planting ideas. For more information, call (903) 894-7950.

Austin: It's About Thyme, 11726 Manchaca, Austin, will host "It's About Thyme Herb Festival," an afternoon of cooking and gardening demonstrations with vendors and music, Saturday, May 5, noon until 6 p.m. For more information, call (512) 280-1192 or visit

Elmwood: The Anderson County Master Gardeners are hosting their third Annual Spring Conference "Let's Talk Water" Friday, May 11 from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Elmwood Gardens, 680 ACR 446, Elmwood. Speakers include Dr. Monty Dozier, Dr. John Nielson-Gammon, Keith Hansen, and Dr. Dottie Woodson. For more information, call (903) 723-3735 or visit aggie-horticulture.tamu/anderson.

Denton: The Denton County Master Gardeners will hold their 6th annual Walk in the Garden Tour and Plant Sale on Saturday, May 12, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Five gardens will be featured, ranging from expansive country acreage to smaller scale city gardens. There is a focus on vegetable gardening. Information on tickets and garden locations may be obtained at or the Denton County Extension Office, (940) 349-2883.

Houston: The Westbury Garden Tour Great Backyards in Westbury will take place Saturday, May 12 from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. See five gardens for $7. Tickets may be purchased at 5506 Briarbend.

Salado: The 4th annual Salado Yard and Garden Tour, a tour of yards and gardens in the historic village of Salado, will highlight characteristic and varied private and public gardens for the Central Texas landscape. From large to small, rambling to organized, annuals to perennials, water wise planting to courtyard container gardens, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The tour will be Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sunday, May 13 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. Gardens will be self-guided with volunteers helping to answer questions when needed. Tickets will be $15 to view all gardens and are good for the two days. Maps will be available leading to each location with a description of each garden. Tours will be conducted rain or shine. The tour is sponsored by the Salado Garden Club and the Public Arts League of Salado. For further information, visit the Village of Salado website at or call (254) 947-8300.

Victoria: The Victoria County Master Gardeners Spring Plant Sale will be held May 19 at the Victoria County 4H Activity Center (at the airport) 259 Bachelor Drive, Victoria, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. or until sold out. The plants for sale have been raised by the Master Gardeners themselves. You know the plants will grow in our area because they come from our area! Come also to see the Victoria Educational Garden along with its newest expansion.

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 or call (817) 966-7126.

Austin: It's About Thyme, 11726 Manchaca, Austin, will host "Choosing the Perfect Crepe Myrtle for Your Garden," a free clinic for gardeners to learn about disease resistance, choices of size, and length of bloom time, presented by Hays County Free Press columnist and crepe myrtle expert Chris Winslow, Sunday, May 27, at 2 p.m. For more information, call (512) 280-1192 or visit

Austin: The Fifteenth Annual Texas Bamboo Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, August 25 and 26 at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin. Sponsored by the Texas Bamboo Society, the event will celebrate the wonders of bamboo with presentations, demonstrations and education information, including Bamboo 101, a Bamboo Kite Making Workshop led by Greg Kono, and Bamboos of Southeast Asia presented by Harry Simmons. Bamboo plants and crafts will be for sale. For additional information, call (512) 929-9565 or visit

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

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 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit

Rockport: An herb study group founded in March 2003 meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit

Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member's homes and garden centers around the area. 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) 824-2448 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.

  Plants to pass along

Passalong plants have survived in gardens for decades by being handed from one person to another. In this lively and sometimes irreverent book, 117 such plants are described, giving particulars on hardiness, size, uses in the garden and horticultural requirements. Although Steve Bender and Felder Rushing live in and write about the South, many of the plants they discuss in Passalong Plants will grow elsewhere.

 $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 May and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

  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.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. Suntex Communications, Inc. 2007. 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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