June 13, 2007

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Smith County Master Gardeners donated hundreds of hours of work to make the annual Overton Horticultural Field Day possible. More than 800 varieties of bedding plants can be viewed at this year's field day on June 28.

This vinca is an example of many of the new heat-tolerant varieties being tested at the 2007 Horticultural Field Day.

This 2007 Horticultural Field Day will feature a good selection of heat-tolerant lantana, all potentially perennial. (Texas Cooperative Extension photos by Robert Burns)

  Hundreds of flowering bedding plants to be showcased at upcoming Horticultural Field Day

By Robert Burns
Texas Cooperative Extension

On June 28, nursery growers, greenhouse managers and gardening enthusiasts can view field tests of flowering bedding plant varieties at the annual Overton Horticultural Field Day.

"We have over 800 varieties this year and that includes 180 varieties in the container trials," said Dr. Brent Pemberton, horticulturist with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

The field day will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Texas A&M University System's Agricultural and Research Center's North Farm site. The tour will continue at the North Farm site until about 10:30 a.m., then move to the Overton Center's headquarters building where a demonstration garden is located. Lunch will be served at about 11:30 a.m.

Pemberton began trials of bedding plants at the Overton center to serve the commercial greenhouse and bedding plant industry. In recent years, the industry has had a $500 million annual economic impact on the region, according to the Texas Agricultural Statistics Service.

Before Pemberton began his trials, there were few if any tests under East Texas conditions of the many new varieties released by seed companies each year, he said.

Since the first field day with less than 100 varieties, the event has grown to include vinca, ornamental peppers, trailing petunias, verbenas, begonias, portulaca, zinnias, geraniums and ageratum. This year, there will be an emphasis on impatiens, including regular impatiens, New Guinea varieties and some miniature types, Pemberton said.

"There's also a good selection this year of angelonia and cuphea," he said.

The field performance trials are now replicated at the Texas A&M University Dallas Center.

"We also coordinate trial results with the Dallas Arboretum," Pemberton said. "Over 5 million consumers in the northeast Texas region now have the opportunity to see how promising new plants from all over the world perform in our climate."

Preparation for the trial has also become a way for local Master Gardeners to fulfill their requirement for community service. Moreover, with the ever-increasing number of entries by seed companies, the trials could not have grown to be so all inclusive without the volunteers, Pemberton said.

"The Smith County Master Gardeners Association is an integral part of these trials," he said. "They provide hundreds of hours of labor every year. They are how we get these things planted and how we get this done."

Registration is free and will include a lunch. The Overton center is located 1 mile north of downtown Overton on State Highway 3053.

The North Farm site is about 4 miles north of the center on State Highway 3053. For an online map, go to http://overton.tamu.edu/flowers/fieldday.htm.

  Strawberry jars forever

By Michael Bettler
Lucia’s Garden

If you are a casual gardener I do not recommend those "pots with pockets," also known as "strawberry jars," unless you have time and patience to carefully make the initial planting. Once planted, they are low maintenance.

A. Purchase a TERRA COTTA (flower pot material) strawberry jar.

B. Choose your plants carefully: mints, thyme, oregano, prostrate rosemary, or any small perennial flowering plant varieties. Line them up in the order in which you want them to be planted in the strawberry jar, bottom to top. The choices are yours to make. If you want to plant annuals (Globe Basil, stivia, chives), you can plant two to four on the top, to finish the jar. Planting them on the top assures the plants in the pockets that they will remain undisturbed.

C. Prepare your soil mix as 1/3 playground sand; 1/3 potting soil (without the water-saving crystals); 1/3 fine compost. Mix thoroughly.

D. Make some ice tea or have a lot of your beverage of choice ready as planting will take some time!

E. To properly plant a "strawberry jar":

(1) Cut a piece of 1" to 2" wide PVC pipe the interior height of the strawberry jar; drill 1/4" holes in it every 2" to 3" along its length. Cap one end of it. This will be the "bottom end."

 (2) Soak the pot in water for at least 15 minutes. Totally soak the pot...deep bucket...kitchen sink...bath tub. This is to assure that the pot does not absorb water from the soil on the initial planting and dry out the root system. (CAUTION: be certain you are planting the strawberry jar outside, near the garden, because it can get very messy, especially the first couple of times. It is also a good idea to place the strawberry jar where you want it to remain [deck, patio, porch, walkway] as it will get heavy, depending on the size.)

(3) Place a layer of gravel on the bottom of the pot with a pot-shard over the drain hole to assure that the pot drains and breathes properly.

(4) Stuff a few pieces of paper toweling in the "top end" of the PVC pipe to form a temporary plug.

(5) Stand the capped PVC pipe on top of the pot shard ("bottom end" down) and begin to place soil into the pot. (The paper towel is to keep soil from entering the PVC pipe.)

(6) Fill the strawberry jar with soil until you reach the level of the first (lowest) pocket.

(7) Un-pot the plant you want to go into that pocket and place it into the hole by reaching into the mouth of the jar and placing the leaves OUTSIDE the pocket, leaving the root ball inside the jar, roots facing the PVC pipe. COVER THE ROOT BALL with soil, but DO NOT PACK THE SOIL DOWN. (Is it getting crowded in the pot?)

(8) Unplug the PVC pipe briefly to add some water and start the "internal irrigation" system. (DO NOT WATER HEAVILY as you will be watering again and again with each successive pocket.)

(9) Let the soil around the roots settle, replug the PVC pipe and prepare for the next pocket.

(10) Plant that second pocket and fill that side of the jar to cover the roots, unplug the PVC pipe, water it and replug the PVC pipe. Then work on the next pocket, then the next pocket and the next pocket working your way to the top with plant - soil - unplug - water - replug - plant - soil - unplug -water - replug - plant - soil - unplug - water - replug (etc.) until you have filled the top-most pocket.

(11) Bring your soil line up to about 1" below the top of the strawberry jar/PVC pipe level, withdraw the paper towel plug at the top and give it one more watering.

(12) Now replug the top of the PVC pipe and plant the top level of the pot, careful not to get any soil in the PVC pipe.

(13) Sprinkle the top planting and add a layer of course sand (contractor sand) or pebble gravel to just below the level of the PVC pipe.

(14) Unplug the PVC pipe and give it another light filling of water and then just let it sit. Take a picture so you can show it to your friends while the plants are small; they'll grow into their environment.

You are done. Sit back and enjoy the results of your labor. And in a few days, the appreciative plants will respond to your care and you'll have a pot that you can be proud of for a long time to come.

NO HEAVY WATERING! (You could "wash-out the pockets.") When it looks a bit dry (remember the roots are in the middle of the pot), give the pot a "drink" (or two) down the PCV pipe, with a good "sprinkle" to the plants on the top.

You can also "cap" the top of the PVC pipe to keeps snails, slugs, dead leaves and dirt from falling into it, but try not to have it stick up too high above the gravel line. And remember that the plants on top will fill in their space, so the ugly pipe won't show too long.

  Foxtail barley
Hordeum jubatum l. (Grass Family)

By Robert Dailey
Freelance Writer

Foxtail barley is possibly one of the most beautiful "weeds" in existence, if not the most beautiful, particularly in its younger stages.

Susceptible to any breeze, its soft green or purplish plumage sways gently. Stronger breezes ripple the tops, while bending the stalks. It is truly a dramatic perennial as well.

Although classified as a weed — see Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science) — the flowering and mature plant is simply majestic.

Plant it in your garden, as an accent piece, and you’ll never regret it. There may be volunteers, and you may want to replant these in specific areas.

Foxtail barley thrives in low-to-mid-elevation areas but it also has populated subalpine areas (such as the Colorado Plateau). It likes poor soil, particularly saline and alkaline soils, and can often be found in poorly drained areas, such as the edges of animal ponds, ditches, and draw-down reservoirs.

The plant flowers from June to August, depending on when the seeds germinate. During that period, until the seedhead forms, the plant is great food for cattle, mule deer and elk, and even moderately for sheep.

However, when the seedhead forms, the sharp, jointed spikes of the seeds can stick in the noses and mouths of browsing animals. The seedheads also get into the wool of sheep and can dramatically reduce the value of the wool.

Most browsing animals will avoid the plant after the seedhead forms.

Growing Foxtail Barley

The plant reproduces readily by seed, although some nurseries do offer mature plants.

They like poorly-drained soil, high in alkaline and/or saline content, so should do very well in the caliche (adobe) soil, and alkaline soils of western and southern Texas.

  The compost heap

"I enjoyed the bit on Water from Stone ("A Hill Country nature-western")," writes Beverly Nord. "If you haven't visited Selah, I suggest that you do. It is amazing what Mr. Bamberger has done and is continuing to do there. Fortunately Bamberger likes to tell the story, and never tires of questions."

  Gardening tips

"Planning a vacation this summer but can’t find a neighbor to water your valuable plants?" asks Jimmy Johnson. "Just add extra mulch to your vegetables and flowers and water well before you leave. Move container plants temporarily into the shade and set them in pans of shallow 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 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...

One bat can find and devour more than 500 mosquitoes an hour. So if you are looking for an organic mosquito control product or technique, the best one we can think of is to install a bat house to encourage bats to work your landscape at night while you sleep.


  Upcoming garden events

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 www.bamboocentral.net.

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 marianne@fullertvl.com.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association “Hidden Gardens Tour & Fall Plant Sale” will be held Saturday, September 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Hidden Gardens Tour and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Fall Plant Sale at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Get your tickets and maps at Green Acres for this one-day event in addition to purchasing those much-wanted plants that you can’t find anywhere. The maps will lead you to wonderful Hidden Gardens in both Aransas County and San Patricio County. Be sure to take the time to wander through the demonstration gardens at Green Acres, which are continuously being updated and maintained by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association. Admission is $10.00. For pre-registration tickets and/or questions contact the Aransas County Texas Cooperative Extension, Rockport, at (361) 790-0103.

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 www.opendaysprogram.org. 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: Fort Worth: October 14; Dallas: October 20.

St. Francisville, La.: The 2007 Southern Garden Symposium will be held October 26 and 27 in St. Francisville, La. Friday workshops held at Afton Villa Gardens include "Creating Interior Focal Points through Floral Design," led by Dr. James DelPrince; "Pruning for Plant Health," led by Martha Hill; "21st Century Gardening: Plants, Products and Practices," led by Nellie Neal; and "Timeless Tips for Fool Proof Landscapes," led by Mary Palmer and Hugh Dargan. The Friday evening cocktail buffet will be held at Live Oak Plantation. Saturday lectures held at Hemingbough include "Hot New Flowers and Captivating Combinations," led by Norman Winter; "Furnishings for the Garden: 1750-1900," led by H. Parrot Bacot; and "Garden Design Inspirations: Seeing Art Design Elements in Nature and Applying them to Southern Garden Designs," led by Edward C. Martin. $60 per person, per day admission includes lunch. Admission to the Friday evening cocktail buffet is $35 per person. For registration and additional information, contact Lucie Cassity at (225) 635-3738 or write to Southern Garden Symposium, P.O. Box 2075, St. Francisville, LA 70775.

Waco: The Texas Gourd Society presents its 12th annual Lone Star Gourd Festival October 27 and 28, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, at the Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Ave., Waco. Featured will be gourd artists and crafters, demonstrations, seminars and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 are free. For additional information, visit www.texasgourdsociety.org.

Belton, Temple, Killeen: The Bell County Master Gardener Association will host the Fall Glory garden tour Saturday, October 20, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Gardens in Belton, Temple and Killeen will be showcased. Admission is $5 for adults. For additional information, contact Sue Morgan at (254) 698-8668.

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.

Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., Allen. For more information, visit www.allengardenclub.org.

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 www.main.org/aog.

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 www.sanantonioherbs.org.

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 www.RainbowGardenClub.com.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.

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.

  The New Book Of Salvias features 15 new species

Fifteen new species have been added to the revised edition of Betsy Clebsch's time-honored guide that covers more than 100 species of salvias in one colorful book. Blooming cycles, cultural practices and companion plants are listed. This is a great gift for those wishing to add low-maintenance plants to the landscape.

$31.97 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 June 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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