October 24, 2007

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  Gardeners, as plants turn brown, get green

By Kathleen Philips
Texas Cooperative Extension

Though a hint of fall is in the air, at least one more gardening task remains – take the online EarthKind Challenge.

Whether you score a piddly one frog or a hopping five, the site provides feedback about how to be a better steward of the land through gardening and landscape practices, according to Dr. Don Wilkerson, Texas Cooperative Extension horticulturist and EarthKind advocate.

"The more frogs you score, the more you are doing to help preserve and protect the environment in which we live," Wilkerson said. "And the other thing that's cool is that for each response you give, the test responds with ideas of what you might do to be even better at environmental stewardship."

EarthKind is an Extension program that "combines organic and traditional gardening and landscaping principles to create a horticultural system based on real-world effectiveness and environmental responsibility," he noted.

The test, at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/EarthKind/EKChallenge.html, asks about a person's landscape design, mulching habits and use of irrigation. It also queries one's habits in fertilizer and pesticide use, composting, rainfall harvesting and provisions for wildlife habitats.

Throughout the 25-question test, links to Extension fact sheets provide information for quick learning, he said.

"That way, if you score a 70-80 (three or four frogs) like most of us, you get some instant messages about what can be done to get a higher score," Wilkerson said. "A person can find out where they stand in the environment and figure out what to do better. It may be as simple as reducing yard waste by composting."

A three-page flyer on composting, for example, is linked to the question about what percent of yard wastes are bagged and placed curbside for disposal, he noted.

"If a person admits to placing most grass clippings and leaves in bags bound for a landfill, a low score might lead him or her to click on the information to learn how to make use of such waste in a way that will improve the soil," Wilkerson said.

Such a test with a useful guideline could simplify the gardening experience at a time when keeping consumers interested in growing plants is critically important, according to Anna Ball, president and CEO of Ball Horticultural Co.

"Here we are the 'green industry' and most of the elements of gardening are seen as negatives: chemicals, water, energy, time and physical work," Ball said at the Distinguished Floriculture Lecture held recently at Texas A&M University. "Sustainability is the next wave. Plants grown this way are prettier, they attract the young generation, and they breathe new life into our industry."

As chief executive officer of a 100-year-old family horticulture business, Ball said, using "green" practices both internally for company practices and externally for consumers will help the industry grow while helping the environment.

"We need to make it easy for our customers," Ball added.

Wilkerson said the EarthKind test is but one feature available from Extension for people who want to learn ways to beautify living spaces while not harming the environment.

An online EarthKind plant selector lets the user enter particulars such as "red flowers, grows in shade and gets 3-feet tall," Wilkerson said. The database then provides a list of the best landscape plants, specific to the user's region, with the best drought, heat and pest tolerance, he said.

The EarthKind site, http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/EarthKind/, also has links to beneficial insects, rainfall harvesting, EarthKind roses and Texas urban landscapes. Visitors to the Web site also can subscribe to a free monthly newsletter for tips, watch 'green' how-to videos and download podcasts.

Morning glory can be an "everlasting gift." (Photo by Chris S. Corby)
  Everlasting gifts

By Bobbie Shafer
Freelance Writer

About 10 years ago, my husband and I decided to look for a place we could call our own. It would be our retirement home. We stored our furniture and rented a space at the nearby lake campground to stay while we search for the perfect property.

The campground owner's mother had a camper there and came out to the lake almost every weekend. We became fairly good friends. When we found our retirement acreage and made plans to move our travel trailer out to the property, she came over with several small stems of a plant that she had in her garden by her camper. I put it in a small pot and took it with me when we left. I had bought a large garden bench that had two planters, one on each end, and I planted a piece of the plant she had given me in each planter. At the time I didn't know what it was and neither did the lady who gave it to me. It was Yarrow. As the plant matures, it produces large groups of tiny pink and salmon flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. As the plant grows older, the stems grow heavy and fans out from the center. All you have to do is snap off the top of the stem about halfway down, stick a spade in the ground about 3 or 4 inches deep, make a small space, and stick the broken off piece in the ground and it will produce a brand new plant. It has been 10 years since I planted that first little plant. I have filled about a dozen flower beds with Yarrow and I have given many stems away to friends and family. The plant actually never dies. It is rejuvenated from each piece of stem that is planted and will grow in every type of soil I've ever put it in and in almost any climate. It looks lovely in a flower bed or in a pot. Whenever I have a spot that need a little sprucing up, there is where my Yarrow goes. It blooms in the spring and again in the fall, starting in August, and lasts until the first hard freeze. Every one of my neighbors and each of my children have a piece of that plant, and I look forward to sharing it as the friend at the lake shared it with me.

Another giving plant is morning glory. My daughter brought me two small packages of peppercorn-size seeds a couple of years ago. I didn’t have much hope for success at the time as my attempt to landscape was trial and error, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. Not only did the seeds produce hundreds of flower-covered vines that hid old posts and unsightly fences, they also produced many, many beautiful blossoms. At the end of their lifespan, the morning glories produced hundreds of seed pods that contained five and six seeds each. They, too, have been shared with family and friends, and I always save myself a fruit jar of them for my own personal use. They are guaranteed to fill your mornings with beauty and give your yard a glorious effect.

It is wonderful to find the right gift for someone you care for. It is special to find a gift that keeps on giving. Flowers and plants are personal and heartfelt. They show the recipient that you are sharing a piece of what makes you happy and what brings you joy. It shows them that you want their happiness and joy to give them days, weeks, and even years of enjoyment. Who could not be impressed with a gift like that? A giving gift that they, too, can share with others.

  Gardening tips

"I've devised a method to keep track of my many caladiums when I store them over the winter," writes Marcia Richardson. "I take pictures of all the different colored leaves, then tape the pictures onto a large brown grocery bag. I dig and dry the rhizomes, wrap them loosely in newspapers, then store them in their own pictured bags in the garage. The next spring it is easy to decide how I want to plant and arrange them in their planters, according to colors, etc. I save the bags and reuse them each year."

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...

Wood ash mulch is an old remedy to prevent frostbite. It is high in potassium and sodium, which together help lower the freezing point of plant sap. However, wood ash can create salt imbalances in the soil so it should be avoided.


  Upcoming garden events

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.

League City: The Kemah Bay Area Garden Club will hold its next meeting at 9:45 a.m., Wednesday, November 7, at the Amegy Bank, 303 East Main Street, League City. The program will be "Orchids: Secrets of Success" presented by John Stubbing, Horticulturist. A light lunch will be served and the public is invited. For additional information, call Nancy Busko at (281) 332-5294.

Orange: The Leaf and Petal Garden Club and the Orange County Master Gardeners have partnered to sponsor a presentation by Chris Wiesinger. Wiesinger is the founder and owner of the Southern Bulb Company, a flower bulb farm in East Texas that offers perennial flower bulbs for warm climates. Most SBC bulbs are time-tested heirlooms once forgotten in the trade and now rescued from old home sites destined for commercial developments and highway expansions projects. Wiesinger and his Southern Bulb Company seek to recapture something that was once "lost" to the Southern gardener: heirloom and rare flower bulbs that thrive in warm climates. Wiesinger, a 2004 Horticulture graduate from Texas A&M and now known as the "bulb hunter," will lead a journey through time and the South, delighting listeners with adventurous stories and information on perennial bulbs for Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana gardens. The open-to-the-public event will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, November 8, at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center, 602 Green Ave., Orange. For additional event information and/or directions, contact Susan at chefsuz1212@gt.rr.com.

League City: The Gulf Coast Garden Forum will hold its next meeting on at 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, November 13 at the Amegy Bank, 303 East Main Street, League City. The program will be "The Lowly Mushroom" by Ellen Hutto, Saltgrass Science Program. Light refreshments are served and the public is invited. For additional information, call Nancy Busko at (281) 332-5294.

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 jpanza@swbell.net, 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 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.

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