October 3, 2007
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Gardening without tears
By William Scheick
Doug Welsh. Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac. Texas A&M University Press, 2007. $24.95. 512 pp.
Each January it appears at grocery store checkout lanes, and each year I buy one even though it costs $6.99 for a mere 129 digest-sized pages.
I refer to the annual Gardener's Almanac, an attractive package published by Country Gardens. It is particularly hard for me to resist the promise on its cover to introduce me to the "Best New Plants." This feature always turns out to be too brief, and in 2007 "Best New Plants" printed on the cover mysteriously morphed inside into "Favorite Plants."
I suspect a deeper reason for my attraction to this little periodical. With double columns of well-spaced print, lime-green sidebar boxes and soft-hued photographs, Gardener's Almanac is a model of pleasing order — a beautiful order that I imagine but never attain in my unruly gardens. At least everything goes right with the plants inside the world of this trim little almanac.
Truly serious gardeners, I am sure, prefer the September appearance of The Old Farmer's Almanac, which traces its ancestry to a 6-pence American pamphlet which Robert Bailey Thomas published in 1792 for the year of 1793. Between the covers of this year's edition there are weather, tidal and celestial charts combined with all manner of interesting information not entirely devoted to gardening.
Readers of Texas Gardener receive Skip Richter's "Activity Checklist," a horticultural almanac appearing in bimonthly installments. Unlike other almanacs designed for general use, Skip's smart and detailed column offers advice related specifically to Lone Star gardening.
Sometimes more of a good thing is appropriate. This is especially true in Texas, generally recognized as a gardener-challenging state.
So I find it easy to appreciate Doug Welch's Texas Garden Almanac, a new month-to-month illustrated horticultural guide. More than just a how-to manual, this information-laden compendium earns its title designation as an almanac.
This book includes the usual plant charts and expected discussions of lawn care and pest control, among many other basic subjects. But it also includes bonus topics, such as gardening with children, preparing the yard for your vacation and learning how to dry and freeze herbs.
There are, as well, valuable tidbits of information, including a note on the effect of scarecrows on deer. In this case, unfortunately, scarecrows don't work. But there's hope — impact sprinklers with motion sensors.
In another example of garden wisdom, Mr. Welch reveals that, contrary to common belief, "Texas has six state flowers." The reason? Our bluebonnets come in several different species.
With a book as big in scope as Texas Garden Almanac, it is always possible to find something to quibble about. Heirloom gardeners, for instance, might raise their eyebrows over the slippery identification of cypress vine with cardinal vine (p. 135). Heirloom gardeners distinguish between Ipomoea quamoclit and I. x multifida, and in fact their leaves are very different.
When the poet Elizabeth Bishop wrote in "Sestina" (1965), "Time to plant tears, says the almanac," she meant more than the tender tear-shaped bulbs we plant each autumn. For her, these bulbs represent the vulnerable hope we repeatedly "plant" throughout our lives.
Gardeners are full of such hope. Hope does spring eternal in their breasts. And now, for gardening without dashed hopes and tears — or at least far fewer of them — there's Texas Garden Almanac.
The color of Axcella 2, an annual winter turfgrass, is much darker green than forage-type annuals, such as Gulf ryegrass. Managers of sports fields typically avoid using annual winter turfs because they believe they won't stand up to traffic as well as perennials. This isn't necessarily the case with Axcella 2, said Dr. Lloyd Nelson, the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station scientist who developed the turfgrass. (Photo courtesy of Texas Agricultural Experiment Station)
.No shortage of new A&M dwarf turfgrass seed this year
By Robert Burns
After a seed shortage last year, supplies this year should be plentiful of Axcella 2, a winter turfgrass developed by the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.
"They had a good growing season in Oregon, where most turfgrass seed is grown," said Dr. Lloyd Nelson, the Experiment Station scientist who developed Axcella 2.
Axcella 2 is an upgrade from an earlier released turf grass, Axcella.
Axcella 2 is even "dwarfier" than Axcella, which was the first dwarf ryegrass released, he said. This means that though the grass produces a thick, green rich carpet, it doesn't grow tall and therefore seldom requires mowing, Nelson said.
"Leaf color of Axcella 2 is much darker green than forage type annuals, such as Gulf ryegrass, but it is not as dark green as many perennials," he said.
Axcella 2's other advantage is that it starts growing when warm-season turfgrasses such as St. Augustine or bermudagrass stop growing in the late fall, Nelson said. Axcella 2 maintains its green color even when temperatures drop below freezing. And it stops growing in the spring at the time warm-season grasses come out of winter dormancy and begin growing again.
"So it's possible to have a green lawn all winter long without a lot of work and without competing with your summer turf," Nelson said.
Nelson developed Axcella 2 not only with home lawns in mind but for sports fields as well. Some athletic field managers have been slow to adopt winter annuals because they fear they won't stand up to heavy traffic as well as perennials.
This is not necessarily true, particularly in the case of Axcella 2, Nelson said.
"When comparing a turf-type annual versus perennial ryegrass there are advantages for either depending on how the turf is to be used," he said. "Axcella 2 should withstand traffic or the athletes throughout the fall, winter and spring equally if not better than the perennial. However, during the late spring, or from mid March to mid May, the perennials will withstand traffic better."
But unlike most perennials, Axcella 2 will not crowd out summer turfgrasses such as bermudagrass, he said.
"This is because it transitions out much earlier — mid-April through mid-May — compared to perennials, which keep growing until late-May or even late-June."
The late-spring die-off of Axcella 2 means managers of sports fields won't have to use herbicides to kill Axella 2 as they do with perennial winter turfgrasses, he said.
Also, Nelson said, Axcella 2 has more seedling vigor than even the best perennials. This means that with good management, it will develop a good stand in about seven days, compared to two weeks or longer for a perennial, he said.
"If we define the use for sports fields and in particular for either football fields or soccer fields, I believe the recently released variety Axcella 2 has more advantages than do perennials," he said.
Axcella 2 should be seeded around Oct. 15 when the soil temperature has cooled and rainfall is expected, Nelson said. It can be seeded as late as mid-November with success. The seed should be uniformly spread at from 10 to 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
The seeded turf should be watered by sprinkler irrigation for at least 30 minutes per day for five to seven days, he said. At least a five-day watering plan is essential for the seed to germinate and establish itself in warm-season sod.
"The warm-season sod needs to be mowed close, or at about 1 inch or less, but does not need to tilled up before over-seeding," Nelson said.
In Texas, Axcella 2 seed is distributed by Estes Inc. and available at many local seed companies or feed stores.
ideal for growing fruit trees
More northern parts of the U.S. are ideal for growing pears, apples, peaches, nectarines and plums. More tropical places in the world are ideal for growing citrus, mangoes, avocados and many other tropical fruit trees. However, Houston is one of the few places in the U.S. where outstanding varieties of all these fruits can be successfully grown.
With a little bit of knowledge and effort, everyone in metro Houston can be picking and eating fruit 12 months of the year. A few key growing techniques are required.
First, fruit trees do not like standing water, so plant where water does not stand after a rain. If the place needed to plant has standing water, build a mound, dig a hole in the center of the mound, and plant the tree. Then, fill in with the soil removed when digging the hole.
Second, plant citrus and other tropical trees in the spring after the last chance of a freeze, usually mid to late March. Plant all other fruit trees in the winter when they are dormant.
Third, it is necessary for the fruit tree to be watered about once a week the few years. This can be accomplished either by rain or by manual watering, whichever is needed.
Fourth, a good organic fertilizer needs to be applied in the spring and early summer after the first year.
Fifth, most citrus and other tropical fruit trees have to be protected from winter freezes for the first couple of years. This usually means placing a large bucket of water at the base of the tree and wrapping a blanket around the tree trunk and bucket. This will keep the temperature at or just above freezing for those few hours where there may be a freeze, thus protecting the tree. This is only done on those few days when there is a freeze.
Sixth, some fruit crops require pruning during the winter, including peaches, nectarines, plums, blackberries and grapes. Most others don’t. However, pruning takes only a short time for each tree, and is only done once a year.
Seem simple? Well it is. Growing fruit trees is much less labor intensive than vegetable and herb gardening. And the results are often spectacular. It is not uncommon for a tangerine or orange tree to produce 600 or more fruit a year, or a fig thousands of fruit annually, or a persimmon 150 fruit. And this continues year after year.
Many people purchase fruit trees that are on sale or offered by local nurseries, and there are some local nurseries that carry excellent varieties of fruit trees that will produce well in Houston. But determining good sources to purchase the right varieties of trees can be tricky. The Urban Harvest fruit tree sale is a place that always carries thousands of outstanding varieties of fruit trees selected specifically for the climate of metro Houston.
Enrich your life. Plant fruit trees. Visit www.UrbanHarvest.org for descriptions of the best varieties to buy, as well as how to plant and care for them in order to have maximum success.
See "Upcoming garden events," below, for information about Urban Harvest's January 19 fruit tree sale.
"October is a great time to add aged animal manure to your garden soil," writes Ken Kellison. "It will make it more fertile, add moisture retention in sandy soil and lighten heavy clay soil. Poultry manure is the best of all farmyard manures and is readily available in most areas. Never apply fresh manure to the garden."
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...
Some of the plants you may already have growing in your garden for their ornamental appeal also have culinary value. Dahlia, jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaem triphyllum), spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) and sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) all have edible underground parts and all have been part of the diets of folks in different parts of the world.
Upcoming garden events
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 http://arboretum.sfasu.edu/.
Houston: The Houston Museum of Natural Science Fall Plant Sale will be Saturday, October 6, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at 1 Hermann Circle Drive, Houston. All plants are pesticide free because they were grown to be used in the Cockrell Butterfly Center. The perfect place to buy plants for a butterfly garden! The sale will be on the 7th floor of the parking garage at the greenhouses. For additional information, call (713) 639-4729.
Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association “Hidden Gardens Tour & Fall Plant Sale,” rained out last weekend, will now be held Saturday, October 6 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. for the Hidden Gardens Tour and 9 a.m. to 4 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 and tickets may be purchased the day of the sale. For additional information, call the Aransas County Texas Cooperative Extension, Rockport, at (361) 790-0103.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 www.dcmga.com.
Quitman: The Wood County Master Gardeners will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the Gov. Jim Hogg Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at 518 S. Main Street, Quitman, Thursday, October 11 at 10:30 a.m.
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.
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 www.texasgourdsociety.org.
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 www.weareroses.com 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 www.wacosymphony.com.
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 www.moodygardens.org.
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 email@example.com, or visit http://johnpanza.googlepages.com.
Houston: Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale will be held Saturday, January 19, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. A class describing all varieties for sale, as well as providing vital information on how to plant and care for each type tree will be held January 5 and 12 (your choice), from 2 to 4 p.m. A nominal fee of $10 is charged for the class. Register for the class by calling Urban Harvest. Sale and classes at Emerson Unitarian Church, 1900 Bering Dr., Houston. For detailed information about the sale as well as about fruit trees, check the Urban Harvest website www.urbanharvest.org.
Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at a new eco-farm in Kilgore. If there is enough interest, we will also start a Sunday afternoon monthly meeting. For more information, call Carole Ramke at (903) 986-9475.
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.
Denton: The Denton Organic Society, a group devoted to sharing information and educating the public regarding organic principles, meets the third Wednesday of each month (except July, August and December) at the Denton Senior Center, 509 N. Bell Avenue. Meetings are free and open to the public. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. and are preceded by a social at 6:30. For more information, call (940) 382-8551.
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. For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.
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 October 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.
(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)
Missed an issue? Back issues of Texas Gardener's Seeds are available at www.texasgardener.com/newsletters.
Publisher: Chris S. Corby ● Editor: Michael Bracken
Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ● www.TexasGardener.com