December 5, 2007

Welcome to Texas Gardener's Seeds, the weekly newsletter for Texas gardeners. Please do not reply to this e-mail as the sending address is not monitored. See the bottom of this newsletter for information on how to subscribe, unsubscribe, or contact the editor.


  The garden reader:
Gifting the wintering gardener

By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

The gifting season has arrived once again. So it's time to think about what to give the wintering gardener. The good news is that there are many handsome new books to consider as possible presents. The bad news is that it might be hard to choose only one or even two.

Here are six recommendations.

Jill Nokes. Yard Art and Handmade Places: Extraordinary Expressions of Home. University of Texas Press, 2007. $29.95. 170 pp.

Jill Nokes' fascinating new book is aptly named. It profiles 20 people whose extremely unusual yards express "a search for larger meanings in small personal landscapes." Ranging from a "forest of ornate birdhouses" in San Antonio to a "cathedral of junk" in Austin, the entertaining stories behind these yards describe, in Ms. Nokes' opinion, the intersection of the "mundane and sublime."

These stories are captivatingly strange. "Strange" can sometimes mean zany. At other times it can refer to the deeply sacred.

Well-illustrated and designed, Yard Art will appeal to anyone who feels that gardens are about more than vegetables and flowers. The book is also sure to please readers drawn to accounts of atypical people doing extraordinary things in unlikely places.

Jérôme Goutier. Roses. Éditions Flammarion, 2007. $29.95. 192 pp.

Michael Viard. Orchids. Éditions Flammarion, 2007. $29.95. 192 pp.

In the category of amazingly gorgeous gardening books it is hard to beat either Roses or Orchids. Similarly formatted, each 2-volume set is tucked into an attractive sturdy slipcase secured by a ribbon.

Each first volume provides illustrated historical background and horticultural know-how, while each second volume highlights specific cultivars (one per page). The breathtaking photographs by themselves are worth more than the very reasonable price of admission.

Nancy J. Onda. Foliage: Astonishing Color and Texture Beyond Flowers. Storey Publishing, 2007. $24.95. 304 pp.

Sumptuously illustrated, Foliage is at once useful and attractive — in other words, the perfect gift for either the avid or the armchair gardener.

Ms. Onda's book "leaves" no doubt that plants grown for their foliage can be as strikingly colorful as flowers. They can be even better than flowers, Ms. Onda contends, because foliage lasts much longer.

Foliage offers many practical features, but as a possible present it is also a feast for the eyes and the imagination.

Dianna Hutts Aston. A Seed Is Sleepy. Chronicle Books, 2007. $16.95. 40 pp.

For the budding gardener, ages 4 to 8, A Seed Is Sleepy would make an outstanding gift. Sylvia Long's watercolor illustrations stunningly complement Dianna Hutts Aston's exquisite prose.

Ms. Aston's narrative is poetically spare. Its strategic silences should enable little insights to bloom within a child's mind. Here's an example of the author's deft manner: "A seed is sleepy. It lies there, tucked inside its flower, or its cone, or beneath the soil. Snug. Still."

For the older reader, there are paragraphs, in smaller print, providing more detailed botanic information. Parents will enjoy sharing A Seed Is Sleepy with their children. Parents will likely also find their own private delight in this deceptively tiny book.

Susan Warren. Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever. Bloomsbury USA, 2007. $24.95. 247 pp.

While Backyard Giants is a fascinating peek into the lives of people fixated on growing record-breaking winter squash, this book could be considered a stealth gift — especially if given by desperate spouses to the obsessed gardeners in their lives.

Although there is more than one cautionary tale embedded in this account of the 2006 quest for a 3/4-ton pumpkin, the theme of the lost spouse is hard to miss. Consider the message on one grower's T-shirt: "My life is giant pumpkins — just ask my x-wife."

Given to a fanatical gardener by a spouse, Ms. Warren's book could be an unnerving hint or warning. Given to a normal gardener — whatever that might be — the book offers amusing winter fare.


  Prevention is the key to decreasing oak wilt spread

Texas Forest Service is encouraging Texans to be careful when collecting and purchasing firewood at this time of year. Transporting and storing diseased wood is a known means of spreading the devastating oak wilt fungus to previously uninfected neighborhoods. Utilizing these prevention steps is the key to safeguarding against spreading the disease through the selection and use of firewood:

Select well-seasoned firewood. Well-seasoned wood is cut before the summer and is typically dry with loose bark and cracked ends. Avoid oak wood that appears unseasoned, that may have tight bark and cut ends which show no cracks or signs of aging. The extreme heat and drying of a full Texas summer effectively destroys the fungus in cut firewood.

Safely store unknown sources of firewood. If the oak wood comes from an unknown source and it is not well seasoned, cover the woodpile with a clear piece of plastic. Burying the edges of the plastic will prevent the entry or exit of insects that might have been attracted to diseased wood and fungal mats.

Destroy diseased red oaks. A knowledgeable arborist or forester should diagnose red oaks (i.e., Texas red, blackjack or shumard oak) that die rapidly (2-3 weeks) or in groups (2 or more trees over several years) for oak wilt. Trees suspected to have died recently from oak wilt should be destroyed by burning, burying or chipping. The heat of a fire destroys the fungus and the smoke emitted poses no threat to healthy trees. When planning to do any outdoor burning, be sure to check with local officials to see if an outdoor burning ban is in place for your county and take care not to burn on windy days with low humidity.

Avoid wounding oaks during vulnerable seasons. The general recommendation is to avoid injuries to oaks from February through June. The best times for pruning of oaks are during the heat of summer (minimal spore production) or the cold of winter (minimal insect activity).

Paint all oak wounds including pruning cuts. Throughout the year, immediately apply a thin coat of latex or pruning paint to all fresh wounds and other injuries that expose the inner bark or sapwood of oaks. This prevents contaminated sap beetles from infecting the wound with oak wilt spores.

Oak firewood is an important commodity to Texans, whether it is used for firing up the barbecue pit or for warming up the home on a cold winter day. By selecting well-seasoned, disease-free firewood and by following other disease prevention guidelines, homeowners are taking the correct steps to prevent a new oak wilt disease outbreak in their neighborhood. Please visit www.texasoakwilt.org for more information on this devastating tree disease.


  Gardening tips

"Wood chips are attractive and durable mulch but they will tie up soil nitrogen as they decompose," writes Barry Wood. "Instead, consider using autumn leaves which are free for the picking and slowly provide nutrients and organic matter to the soil."

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...

Squash, corn and beans have been grown in the Americas for ages and are often called the "three sisters." There is no magical association between the three plants but they do benefit from each other as they grow. The beans fix nitrogen in the soil for growth, the cornstalks proved support for the vining beans, and the lush, spreading vines and leaves of the squash plants provide a cool mulch to all three. Ultimately, the "three sisters" produce a crop that provides a diet balanced in healthy nutrients.


 

  Upcoming garden events

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.

Tomball: The annual Fruit Tree Sale and Seminar presented by Heidi of Treesearch Farms will be held at The Arbor Gate, 15635 FM2920, Tomball, on Saturday, January 27. The day begins with a free seminar at 9 a.m. The sale begins at 10:30 a.m. For additional information, contact (281) 351-8851 or visit http://www.arborgate.com.

Tyler: The 15th annual East Texas Spring Landscape & Garden Conference will be held February 16, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Drive, Tyler. Featured speakers include Dr. Jerry Parsons, Joe Novak, Aubrey King, and Tim Lanthrum. Topics include "Texas Superstars in Your Garden," "Secrets of Successful Vegetable Gardening," "Gardening for a Lifetime," "Landscaping with Texas Native Plants," "Common Problems with Small Engines and How to Prevent Then," and "Calibrating Sprayers and Spreaders." Cost: $15, which includes lunch. For additional information, contact Keith Hansen at (903) 590-2980 or khansen@ag.tamu.edu, or visit http://EastTexasGardening.tamu.edu.

Houston: River Oaks Garden Club will host its 73rd annual Azalea Trail Friday through Sunday, March 7, 8 and 9 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day. Azalea Trail, 2008, will celebrate the 51st anniversary of Miss Ima Hogg's gift of her beautiful home and gardens, Bayou Bend, to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The trail will feature four private houses and gardens, as well as Bayou Bend, Rienzi and the River Oaks Garden Club Forum of Civics Building and Gardens. Tickets for seven admissions are $15 before March 7 and $20 during the trail. Single admissions are $5. For additional information, call (713) 523-2483 or visit http://www.riveroaksgardenclub.org.

Tomball: The Arbor Gate will host its third annual Rose Festival March 8. More than 100 varieties of old and antique roses will be available, as will guest speakers and informative booths. The Arbor Gate is located at 15635 FM2920, Tomball. For additional information, contact (281) 351-8851 or visit http://www.arborgate.com.

Burnet: The Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association will sponsor the 10th Annual Hill Country Lawn and Garden Show, March 22, from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Burnet Community Center on E. Jackson in downtown Burnet. The show features garden-related vendors, a children's booth, a raffle, and seminars. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://hillcountrylgshow.com or call Paula Montandon, Show Chairman, at (830) 693-0163.

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.

League City: The Kemah-Bay Area Garden Club meets the first Wednesday of each month at the Amegy Bank, 303 East Main Street, League City. For additional information, contact Nancy Busko, president, at (281) 332-5294.

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: The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, meets the second Wednesday of each month, with the exceptions of June and July, to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including historical uses and tips for successful propagation and cultivation, meets at 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. Sometimes they take field trips and have cooking demonstrations in different locations. For more information, contact Linda (361) 729-6037, Ruth (361) 729-8923 or Cindy (979) 562-2153 or visit www.rockportherbs.com.

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.


  Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac

Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac is a giant monthly calendar for the entire state — a practical, information-packed, month-by-month guide for gardeners and "yardeners." This book provides everything you need to know about flowers and garden design; trees, shrubs, and vines; lawns; vegetable, herb, and fruit gardening; and soil, mulch, water, pests, and plant care. It will help you to create beautiful, productive, healthy gardens and have fun doing it.

$26.63 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 December 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