September 5, 2007

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Llantana bonsai. (Photo by William Scheick)

  The garden reader:
Confessions of a bonsai klutz

By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

Peter Adams. Bonsai with Japanese Maples. Timber Press, 2006. 156 pp.

Phan Van Lit with Lew Buller. Mountains in the Sea: The Vietnamese Miniature Landscape Art of Hon Non Bo. Timber Press, 2001.

Gordon Owen. The Bonsai Identifier. Charter Books, 1990. 128 pp. 232 pp.

Let me start with a confession: during my gardening life I have killed three bonsais.

They were small ones. The time between their deaths was respectable. I cared about and for them — I really did — but I failed to keep them alive.

I should also confess that I always visit the yearly bonsai show in Austin, not out of repentance but out of irresistible attraction. It's hard for me to stay away from bonsais. So I indulge myself with this single annual close contact.

And while I'm confessing, let me add that I own nearly a dozen bonsai books. These books are full of good advice, but their appeal for me, I realize in the wake of my bonsais, is less their practical value than their fantasy-fulfilling beautiful images.

Although I will not, I promise myself, acquire another bonsai, I know I will continue to collect bonsai books. For me, the next best things to actually growing bonsais are the most perfect examples of them timelessly preserved in book photographs.

The Bonsai Identifier was very inexpensive, one of those bargain-books designed to keep browsing customers in a store. It's an American edition of an English publication, a pattern typical of bargain garden books. Usually I ignore these works because English garden books have limited value for the American gardener. Their U.S. readers will need good fortune, for instance, trying to find many of the cultivars named in these books or trying to calculate the difference between European cultivation advice and growing plants in Texas.

But The Bonsai Identifier isn't area specific. It is a slender book with full-page images of 40 species prevalently used in bonsai culture. The "care" section on every plant is small, leaving the bulk of each entry devoted to plant description and style. In other words, a perfect book for the bonsai voyeur.

Whereas The Bonsai Identifier is now available only as a used book, Bonsai with Japanese Maples is more recent and still in print. Its glossy illustrations also surpass the quality of the images in the older English book.

Bonsai with Japanese Maples is definitely a how-to manual, an excellent one. My regard for this work, though, stems from the exquisite miniature maple cultivars of Acer palmatum so beautifully on display in color photographs and drawings. How gorgeous, for example, is the triple-trunk 'Deshojo.'

For most of us in Texas it is hard to have a healthy maple in our lives, particularly a Japanese maple. Yet here in Peter Adams's book the maples thrive. These miniaturized beauties sit right in my hands, and I can't harm any of them.

If I could own only one bonsai book, Mountains in the Sea would be my easy choice. No other bonsai book comes close. It is out of print now and only available as a discount or used book. When I see how cheaply it is selling for today, I don't wince. It was and remains worth every penny of its original price of $34.95. I'd buy it again.

This is one of those books which can't be adequately described. It has to be seen.

And what radiates from its brilliant glossy photographs hardly seems believable — miniature islands of tiny mountains covered by petite trees and surrounded by water. There are even mini-waterfalls and teeny animal figurines.

Technically, the landscape art of Hon Non Bo is distinguished from bonsai. It is a unique art reflecting the influence of the mountains, coastal scenery and vegetation of Vietnam. To my more generalist eye, though, it is bonsai at its most majestic — bonsai gone entire natural landscape. Hon Non Bo offers complete fantasy islands in mere dishes.

Mountains in the Sea pleases me in more than one way. Yes, it's very beautiful. But it also sets the bar so high that it makes me feel somewhat less bad about my bonsai blunders. Had I ever succeeded with my mini-junipers, I now know, I would have thought them rather puny compared to the lush island forests depicted in Mountains in the Sea.

Even so, I'm still in the market for bonsai books. Texas native plants have been showing up at the Austin bonsai shows. Perhaps it won't be long before someone publishes a book specifically devoted to Texas native bonsais. I'm ready to buy that one as soon as it appears.

This west Texas garden may look haphazard or natural, but good planning and design helps it look that way. (Photo by Robert Dailey)
  Design for waterwise gardens: The arid zone

By Robert Dailey
Freelance Writer

When designing a waterwise garden, keep in mind that there are three zones: an oasis, a transitional zone and a “low-water-use zone” or arid zone.

The arid zone is usually located farthest from the house, and in areas of lowest use. In the arid zone, you may need no supplemental water or, in the case of prolonged drought, infrequent waterings.

In fact, if you utilize "found" water, or "harvested" water techniques, you can even lessen the need for supplemental water during a drought. Look at harvesting water from roof runoff and paved areas. Since some water harvesting requires grading to channel the water where you want it to go, you probably want to look at planning water harvesting during the initial phases of landscaping.

You also need to understand that even in the "arid" zone, you can have an interesting, beautiful and colorful garden.

Some perennials you might want to consider in your "desert" or "arid" zone include red valerian, Maximillian's sunflower, dotted gayfeather, toadflax, prairie coneflower, gray santolina, partridge feather, Western spiderwort and prairie zinnia. You might also be interested to know that daffodils, narcissus and a number of other bulb perennials will flourish in the "arid" zone.

Shrubs might include black sage, sand sagebrush, four-wing saltbush, mountain mahogany, fernbush, chamissa, Mexican cliffrose, winterfat, apache plume, rock spirea, threeleaf sumac, wax currant, roundleaf buffaloberry, soapweed and datil yucca.

Here are some groundcovers for your "arid" garden zone: mat daisy, fringed sage, hardy iceplant, myrtle euphorbia, Mexican phlox and sedums.

In your "arid" zone, you might want to have some conifers, and there are some which require no supplemental water after they are established.

Ornamental grasses also look great in the "arid" zone. Indian ricegrass, big and little bluestem, blue avena grass, fountain grass, blue fescue and maiden grass are excellent additions to your desert garden's "arid" zone.

For more information on waterwise gardening, please see

Originally published on

  Gardening tips

"If your soil is poor and has bad drainage," writes Doug Smith, "dig in some compost before starting your fall gardening activities. You can also improve drainage by mounding your garden soil with a hoe to form a raised bed."

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...

Goldenrod (Solidagospp.) is often blamed as a primary cause of hay fever. Since hay fever is caused by airborne pollen, goldenrod can’t be to blame since it is pollinated by insects rather than the wind. Goldenrod blooms in the fall when the real culprit, ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia), a less showy member of the same family, also blooms.


  Upcoming garden events

Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardener Association will sponsor its annual Fall Gardening Conference at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, 400 Rose Park Drive, Tyler, on Saturday, September 8, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. A plant sale and expo will be held at Harvey Hall and Convention Center following the conference, from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Conference speakers are Steven L. Chamblee. chief horticulturalist for Chandler Gardens in Weatherford, and Keith Kridler, cultivator and merchant of daffodil varieties including antique daffodils that are no longer or not commonly produced. Admission to the conference and to the plant sale is free. For additional information, call (903) 590-2980.

Independence: The Herb Association of Texas is hosting its annual conference September 14 and 15 at the Antique Rose Emporium in Independence. "Explore the Senses Through Herbs" is open to the public. Jim Long of Long Creek Herb Farm is the featured speaker. Register via or call (830) 257-6732 for details and to have registration material mailed to you.

Tomball: Learn basic welding skills as you design and construct your own garden trellis with noted artist Charles Strack, Saturday, September 15 at 10 a.m., and Sunday, September 16 at noon at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. Registration is $185. Enrollment is limited. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Tomball: John Ferguson, owner of Nature's Way Resources, and Michael P. Amaranthus, associate professor (adjunct), Oregon State University and president of Mycorrhizal Applications Inc., will lead "Organics Made Easy," Tuesday, September 18 at 10 a.m. at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Tomball: Mary Herr explains how to incorporate roses into every bed in your garden when she teaches "Landscaping with Roses," Saturday, September 22 at 10 a.m. at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Tomball: Tom Leroy, Montgomery County extension agent, and Bill Adam, extension agent emeritus, teach "Fall Vegetable Gardening," Sunday, September 23 at 1 p.m., at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

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.

Nacogdoches: The annual Fabulous Fall Festival plant sale at Stephen F. Austin State University’s Mast Arboretum will be from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, October 6, at the intramural field on Wilson Drive, Nocogdoches. A great selection of rare, unusual, and Texas-tough trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous perennials, and grasses will be available. Staples of the fall sale include asters, garden mums, and sages, as well as several outstanding varieties of ornamental grasses. Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate, will have a wide range of native trees available including oaks, pines, red maple, and black walnut, with fall being the best time to establish trees. There will be a number of hard to find items including native and hybrid coral bean, crinum lilies, the rare Brazoria sabal palm, the new hybrid coneflowers, variegated sky vine, giant Farfugium, and the rare Hibiscus hamabo. They will also offer a line of drought resistant plants like snake herb, wooly stemodia, bamboo muhly grass and heliotrope. 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

Lewisville: The Denton County Master Gardener Association Garden InfoFest will be held Saturday, October 6, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Upper Trinity Regional Water District, 900 N. Kealy Ave. Gardening seminars, educational demonstrations, plant sale, garden shopping, tour of gardens, children's activities. Admission is free. For more information, call (940) 349-2883, or visit

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: Fort Worth: October 14; Dallas: October 20.

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.

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

Independence: The Antique Rose Emporium at 10,000 FM 50 in Independence will host their 20th Fall Festival of Roses November 2 through 4. Speakers, who will present a variety of garden related topics, include Dave Wittenger, Dave’s Garden Web; Stephen Scaniello, Heritage Rose Foundation; and Chris Carley, National Arboretum Horticulturist. All seminars are free to the public. Old Garden roses, including Earthkind and Pioneer Roses, herbs, perennials, and Texas natives will be available for sale. For additional information, visit or call (979) 836-5548.

New Braunfels: Hill Country Orchid Society's "Wurst Orchid Show & Sale" will take place Saturday and Sunday, November 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the New Braunfels Elks Lodge, 353 S. Seguin, New Braunfels. Admission is free. For more information, call (830) 629-2083.

Waco: Many composers have been inspired by the sounds of nature, and the Waco Symphony Orchestra will present three inspired compositions Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 (Pastorale), Copland's "An Outdoor Adventure" and Respighi's "Pines of Rome" — in "Musical Landscapes," an all-orchestral celebration of the out-of-doors on Thursday, November 15. The concert, held in Waco Hall on the Baylor University campus in Waco, begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets go on sale October 1 and may be purchased by phoning (254) 754-0851 or on-line at

Galveston: Festive sights and sounds will fill Moody Gardens at the sixth annual Festival of Lights November 17 through January 5. This whimsical celebration will kick off the holiday season on November 17, with Santa Claus parachuting in to switch on the lights. Festival of Lights is celebrated Thursday through Sunday November 17 through December 16, and daily beginning December 17. Transforming its lush tropical garden setting into a winter wonderland, 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 glide across the ice at the Outdoor Ice Rink at Moody Gardens. Indoors, visitors can take pictures with Santa or even gaze upon a giant poinsettia tree. Moody Gardens will feature a variety of holiday-themed films during the Festival of Lights. Three films will be playing at the IMAX 3D theater and two films will be playing at the Ridefilm theater. The Garden Restaurant will feature a delectable holiday buffet, offered from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Group rates of $20 per person are also available for groups of 20 or more, and include admission to Festival of Lights and the holiday buffet. Admission into the Festival of Lights is $5.95, and tickets to additional attractions including the Rainforest Pyramid, holiday IMAX 3D film, holiday Ridefilm, Outdoor Ice Rink and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, can be purchased for only $4.00 each. For more information, call Moody Gardens at (800) 582-4673 or visit

Lake Jackson: For several years John Panzarella has hosted a citrus tasting and open house in his backyard, 404 Forest Drive, Lake Jackson, which is about 50 miles south of Houston. The next open house will be Saturday, December 15 from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Taste 40 to 50 citrus varieties and see different varieties of fruit trees. Panzarella has approximately 200 different varieties of citrus, 50% to 70% fruiting, plus several varieties of persimmon, sapote, guava, pawpaw, loquat, pomegranate, avocado, papaya, fig, peach, passion fruit, mango and pecan trees growing in his backyard. You are invited to visit, taste the citrus, and see one of the largest citrus collections in the state of Texas and the largest collection north of the Texas Rio Grand valley. See the giant Panzarella orange and the giant 10 lb. Panzarella cluster lemons. You will also have the opportunity to view a multi-grafted tree which has grapefruits, tangerines and oranges growing on it. For more information, call (979) 297-2120, e-mail, or visit

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

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

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets the third Thursday of each month at the Texas Cooperative Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak at 7 p.m. Our guest speaker for September 20 is Susan Jaime of Lazarus Coffee. Susan will discuss organic coffee, how it is grown, harvested and roasted. A member of the Fair Trade Federation, she will also discuss her visits to South American coffee farmers. For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or visit

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

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.

  Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard with welcoming landscapes  

Roll out the welcome mat for butterflies and hummingbirds. In this lavishly illustrated book, author Sally Roth reveals the secrets for creating irresistible gardens and welcoming landscapes that lure these amazing creatures up close and personal.

 $18.09 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 September 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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