February 6, 2008

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Indian paintbrush is a familiar spring wildflower, but what are you actually seeing? (Photo by William Scheick)

The garden reader:
The dirt on wildflowers

> By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

Elizabeth Silverthorne. Legends and Lore of Texas Wildflowers. Texas A&M University Press, 1996. $16.95. 240pp.

Elizabeth Silverthorne's Legends and Lore of Texas Wildflowers has remained in print for over ten years so far — and with good reason. It is virtually timeless. It is as resistant to dating as are the 40 or so wondrous wildflowers it celebrates.

The reader of Ms. Silverthorne's book soon realizes that there is much more to wildflowers than usually meets the eye.

Consider the Indian paintbrush. It is native not only to Texas but also to various western states. In fact, it is the state flower of Wyoming.

But Wyoming's paintbrush is scarlet Castilleja linariaefolia, not the pink-orange C. indivisa seen each spring along Texas roadsides. There are many species of paintbrushes, with a host of popular names, ranging in color from cream, yellow, orange to red.

These colors are certainly eye-catching. But the parts of the plant sporting these colors are not quite what we think we see.

They are definitely not flower petals. They are bracts, which are modified leaves produced just below a flower.

The actual paintbrush flower is white, tiny and lackluster. All of the plant's flashiness results from modified leaves looking like flower petals — similar to the design of poinsettias. A close look at paintbrush reveals that the bright colors occur on the upper portions of otherwise distinctly green leaves.

This bract "trick" hints at paintbrush's darker side. The plant is a master of deception. Its sham petals are designed to dupe pollinators, such as hummingbirds.

That we also get fooled into thinking we see flowers is just a biological accident. Even so, it's a fortunate accident for the plant. Because we (like the hummers) are attracted to paintbrush's artful deception, it gets propagated by us.

A still darker secret lurks beneath paintbrush’s beauty. Beneath the surface, where we can't see, paintbrush roots penetrate those of neighboring plants. Then they loot water and minerals.

Paintbrush especially likes to partner with and steal from bluebonnets. But it isn't choosy. Particularly during draughts, it will pilfer nutritional resources from grasses and trees.

Such underground hemiparasitic behavior is paintbrush's dirty little secret.

For getting the dirt on such secrets, Legends and Lore of Texas Wildflowers is the go-to tell-all book. Its inside stories include how paintbrush and other wildflowers got their popular names. Revealed, as well, are Native American flower tales as colorful as the paintbrush's bracts.

  Gardening tips

"Before you get started planting this spring, buy a simple pH testing kit," suggests Billy Williams. "Seven is neutral on the pH scale. Soils below that number become increasingly acid and usually occur in areas of high rainfall such as East Texas. Soils above 7 become increasing alkaline and generally occur in the western two thirds of Texas. The addition of lime will help neutralize acid soil and the addition of sulfur and compost will help balance alkaline soils."

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...

Soapwort makes a very good soap. In fact, it is often used in some museums to cleanse delicate textiles. Horsetail, known in the old days as pewterwort, was used as an abrasive cleaner for pots and pans.


  Upcoming garden events

Houston: Texas AgriLife Extension Service will sponsor the 16th Annual Gulf Coast Grape Growers' Field Day on February 8 at the Cat Spring Agricultural Society Hall. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. The field day is held annually to inform new and experienced growers, as well as others involved in the wine-grape industry, about the latest products and practices for the vineyard. The field day will feature speakers from Texas A&M, Texas Tech, the University of Houston, AgriLife Extension and the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. Specific topics to be addressed include: alternative grape varieties for the Gulf Coast; grape berry moth research and control strategies; physiology of grape diseases in wet growing seasons; vineyard research updates on a phosphorous acid trial and blanc du bois fruit set study; and a pesticide price survey. Three continuing education units will be given to all pesticide applicators. Registration cost, which includes lunch and beverages, is $15. Registration may be completed online or at the door. To register online and for more information, visit http://agrilifevents.tamu.edu/events, or contact Westover at (281) 855-5608 or FAWestover@ag.tamu.edu.

Clifton: Beginning Saturday, February 9, Master Gardeners from the McLennan County Chapter will present a series of gardening classes at the Bosque Conservatory in Clifton. Saturday, February 9: 10 a.m.-11 a.m., Perennials; 11 a.m.-Noon, Native Plants. Saturday, February 16: 10 a.m.-11 a.m., Rainwater Harvesting; 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Vegetable Gardening. Saturday, February 23: 10 a.m.-11 a.m., Rose Garden Design; 11 a.m.-Noon, EarthKind Specialists (Plants that are drought and heat friendly). Saturday, March 1, 10 a.m.-11 a.m., Propagation; 11 a.m.-Noon, Container Gardening. Registration is $5 per session at the door or $30 for entire series if paid in advance. Call the Bosque Conservatory in Clifton at (254) 675-3724 to register. For more information on the Master Gardeners of McLennan County, visit www.mclennanmastergardeners.org. For more information on the Bosque Conservatory, visit www.bosqueconservatory.com.

Rosenberg: The Fort Bend Master Gardeners will host their annual Fruit Tree Sale on Saturday, February 9. Heidi Sheesley, owner of TreeSearch Farms, will give an overview of plants at the sale at 8 a.m. The program is free and open to the public. The sale will open at 9 a.m. and will last until 1 p.m. or until all stock is sold. The sale will be held at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds-Building D, 4310 Highway 36S, Rosenberg, and will feature citrus, blueberries, pomegranates, mulberries, mangos, avocados and much more. Visit www.fbmg.com for more information on varieties that will be at the sale. For more information on events or to get answers to gardening questions, contact the Fort Bend Master Gardener Hotline at (281) 341-7068 or FortBendMG@ag.tamu.edu.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden will host a "Children's Vegetable Garden Program" from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., Saturdays, February 9 though June 7. Dig in your own vegetable garden and learn the techniques and joys of gardening from soil preparation to planting and harvesting. For children for ages 8 through 13. Parents are welcome to join their children for a family-friendly outdoor experience. Fee: $10. Applications are available at www.sabot.org. For more information, contact Siri Lindholm at (210) 207-3270 or siri.lindholm@sanantonio.gov.

Houston: Hear Brenda Beust Smith, the Houston Chronicle's Lazy Gardener Columnist, speak on "Downsizing Your Lawn" at The Gulf Coast and Coastal Prairie Master Naturalists' 2nd Annual Green Home and Garden Workshop, Saturday, February 16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Bear Creek Extension Office, 3033 Bear Creek Dr., Houston. Other speakers include Karl Pepple, "City of Houston Environmental Goals"; Wayne Thompson, "Fate of Pesticides in the Environment"; Keith Crenshaw, "Urban Wildlife and Homeowner Regulation"; and Glenn Olsen, "Native Plants & Lawn Alternatives." Native plants for sale. $20 per person includes lunch, door prizes and exhibits. Registration deadline is Feb. 8. Flier and registration form at http://gcmn.tamu.edu/greenhome&gardenflyerfebruary2008.pdf. For more information, contract Sarah Smith at sarahbethsmith1@aol.com or Linda at (281) 558-3710.

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.

College Station: Landscape professionals and enthusiasts are encouraged to attend the first of a four-part design study course February 18-19. The course, presented by Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Garden Clubs Inc., will be at Christ United Methodist Church-College Station, 4201 State Hwy. 6. Additional course segments will be taught every six months. Participants may take the four courses in any sequence. Garden Club members, Master Gardeners, nursery professionals and others who are interested in furthering their knowledge of landscape design are welcome. "Native Grasses on the Texas Rural and Urban Landscapes" will be February’s course topic and includes a lecture by Dr. Barron Rector, AgriLife Extension rangeland ecologist and management specialist. Master Gardeners who complete a course may apply 12 hours of credit for continuing education requirements. Texas Garden Club members who pass the examination for all four courses are eligible to become nationally accredited landscape design consultants. Texas Certified Nursery Professionals who pass the course may apply this to their requirement for recertification with the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association. Registration for the course is $85 and includes two lunches and course materials. The text for all four courses is "Stewards of the Land," which may be purchased for an additional $40. For registration materials, call Tammy Landry at 979-845-7342 or e-mail t-landry1@tamu.edu.

Friendswood: The Gulf Coast Gardener's Forum will meet on Wednesday, February 20, at the Marie Workman Garden Center. 112 W. Spreading Oaks, Friendswood at 9:30 a.m. "Interplanting Herbs and Flowers in Your Garden" will be presented by Lana Simms, Master Gardener. Light refreshments will be served and the public is welcome. For additional information, call Nancy Busko at (281) 332-5294.

Navasota: The Grimes County Master Gardeners will hold a Landscaping and Planting Seminar on Saturday, February 23 from 8 a.m. until 4 pm at Martha's Bloomers in Navasota. Speaking at the seminar will be Dr. Doug Welsh, Designing and Accessory Your Landscape; Dr. Elmer Krehbiel, Garden Preparation and Water Systems; Anita Nelson, Water Features in the Garden; and Diane Cabiness, Landscaping for Wildlife. For a registration form and information, please contact the Grimes County Extension Office at (936) 825-3495 or email Grimes-TX@tamu.edu, or contact Sandra Stuckey at (936) 873-2181 or email sandrastuckey@aol.com.

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.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold its "Spring Plant Sale" Saturday, March 15, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Purchase those much wanted plants that you have been wanting to buy and can't find anywhere. 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. This event is open to the public. For more information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.

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.

Boerne: The Cibolo Nature Center (www.cibolo.org) sponsors its 18th Annual Mostly Native Plant Sale Saturday, April 5, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Kendall County Fairgrounds. Find native and non-invasive plants that are tried and true for the Hill Country. Enjoy demonstrations and programs on a variety of  subjects related to gardening in this special region of Texas. For more information, contact the Cibolo Nature Center at (830) 249-4616 or nature@cibolo.org.

Rockport: Fourth Annual Rockport Herb Festival presented by the Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group will be held Saturday, April 5, at the Rockport-Fulton High School Commons, 1801 Omohundro, Rockport, 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. The Herb Festival will provide an array of herb programs, herb cooking demonstrations, a food court, herb booths with lots of herb information and products for sale, and a plant sale which will include herbs, roses, orchids and a few other plants. For more information, contact Linda (361) 729-6037, Ruth (361) 729-8923 or Cindy (979) 562-2153 or visit www.rockportherbs.com.

Kingsland: The Kingsland Garden Club will hold their Spring Plant Sale on Saturday April 5. The sale will open at 9 a.m. at the Kingsland House of Arts and Craft Spring Show behind Wells Fargo Bank off FM 1431 in Kingsland. A wide variety of plants will be available for sale at reasonable prices so arrive early for the best selection. Master Gardeners will also be there to answer gardening questions.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardeners Association (http://www.tcmastergardeners.org/) will host the Inside Austin Gardens, 2008, tour Saturday, April 19, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Inside Austin Gardens is a unique educational tour of seven gardens, including demonstrations, plants for sale, and experts on hand to answer gardening questions. $10 per ticket; children under 12 free. For additional information, visit http://www.insideaustingardens.org.

Galveston: Moody Gardens and the International Oleander Society will host the Earth Day and Oleander Festival at Moody Gardens on Galveston Island April 26-27. The Oleander Festival is an annual event dating back to 1921 that honors the beautiful flower and educates guests about the history of the oleander on Galveston Island and throughout the world. Area plant societies, clubs, and vendors are invited to set up booth space to display and sell their plants. There will be a floral design competition were professional, amateur and child participants can display their work to be judged. Earth Day celebration activities by Moody Gardens and its community partners will include arts and crafts, entertainment and presentations great for the whole family. "We are pleased to bring these two events together here at Moody Gardens in Galveston," said John Zendt, General Manager of Moody Gardens. "We are excited about promoting the environmental conservation missions of both Moody Gardens and the International Oleander Society and inviting the public to have some fun while learning about global and local environmental issues." Admission to the Earth Day and Oleander Festival is free to the public. For more information, call Moody Gardens at (800) 582-4673.

Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardeners will hold their 6th Annual Home Garden Tour, rain or shine, on Saturday, May 3 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Five private gardens in Tyler will be showcased on the tour. Tickets will be available April 1 and are $8.00 in advance. They can be purchased from The Smith County AgriLIFE Extension office at 1517 W. Front St., Suite 116, Tyler, TX 75702 or by mail from Andie Rathbone, 13270 Oak Hill Lane, Flint, TX 75762. Tickets will also be available on the day of the tour for $10.00 and can be purchased at any of the gardens on the tour. For more information, visit http://grovesite.com/mg/smg.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold its annual “Hidden Gardens Tour” Saturday, May 3, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Arrive at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport, and get your tickets and maps for this one-day event. Receive maps 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. This event is open to the public. The cost is $10.00. For pre-registration tickets or for more information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.

Denton County: The Denton County Master Gardener Association presents the 2008 Walk Through the Gardens Tour of private gardens in Southern Denton County on Saturday, May 10, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information, call (940) 349-2883 or visit http://www.dcmga.com.

Santa Fe, N.M.: The 12th annual Santa Fe Botanical Garden tours will take place Sunday, June 1, and Sunday, June 8, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Featured gardens include Xeriscape, shade gardening, hearty perennials, roses, great estates and an historic compound. $35 per person per tour; $60 for both tours; under 16, free. Tickets on sale May 1 through the Lensic Box Office, (505) 988-1234

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold a "Fall Plant Sale" Saturday, September 27, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Purchase those much-wanted plants that you have been wanting to buy and can't find anywhere. 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. This event is open to the public. For additional information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.


Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at a new eco-farm in Kilgore. 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.

Friendswood: The second Tuesday of each month the Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold a free evening educational program for the public, called the Green Thumb Series, at Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 W Bay Area Blvd., Friendswood, about 1 mile west of I-45 and Baybrook Mall. For more information visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu or call (281) 991-8437.

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 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.

Longview: The Northeast Texas chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets the third Thursday of each month at St. Mary's Parish Hall in Longview. For more information, call Logan Damewood at (903) 295-1984.

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.

  Go wild over Wildflowers of Texas  

Written by Geyata Ajilvsgi, this classic by one of the pioneers in the discovery of native Texas plants has been completely revised and expanded to feature 482 species of native Texas wildflowers. It includes full-color photographs, botanical descriptions and special notes for each plant listed.

 $21.30 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 February 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.)


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