June 4, 2008

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Opuntia macrocentra 'Black Spines,' a new cultivar of the long-spined purplish prickly pear.


Pereskia aculeate, leafy lemonvine gives us a glimpse of how the earliest cacti may have looked. (Photos by
William Scheick)

  The garden reader:
The brute beauty of Texas cacti

By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

Cacti of Texas: A Field Guide. By A. Michael Powell, James F. Weedin and Shirley A. Powell. Texas Tech University Press, 2008. $24.95. 400 pp.

It's hard for a Texan not to know a thing or two about cacti.

Every county of our state has at least one native cactus. So a mere stroll in a local field means a possible encounter with a cactus. In fact, wild cacti can pop up even in the most manicured of our yards.

Mention "cactus" to a Texan, and more likely than not he or she will imagine a prickly pear. To most of us a prickly pear is well a prickly pear. What else is there to know about this ubiquitous spiny menace with pretty flowers?

Actually there is more to prickly pears than meets the eye a point made in the current (May/June) issue of Texas Gardener. We tend to use the expression "prickly pear" in a general sense, referring to what actually is a variety of different padded species of Opuntia, the genus or group name for these cacti.

Readers of Cacti of Texas will discover not only how many members of this cactus group inhabit our state but also how distinctive from each other they can be. The eye-opening photos of flowers and fruits in this new book leave no doubt that prickly pears are indeed a varied bunch.

Of course, prickly pears are only part of the Texas cactus story, which includes at least 132 species, subspecies and varieties each also expertly documented and illustrated in Cacti of Texas.

Some, such as the triangle cactus (Acanthocereus tetragonus) and the star cactus (Astrophytum asterias), are one of a kind lone representatives of their genus. The most fascinating isolate just might be lemonvine (Pereskia aculeate), a tropical leafy cactus unknown as a Texas plant until 1996.

Lemonvine was found climbing a few trees "on a wooded tract of land surrounded by cotton fields" in Willacy County, report the authors of Cacti of Texas. The authors could have added, as well, that this unusual plant is truly special because its clambering stems and fleshy leaves are primitive succulent characteristics, giving us a glimpse of how the earliest cacti may have looked.

And, yes, you can grow lemonvine at home and eat its yellow fruits, too.

Lemonvine is not the only wild plant profiled in Cacti of Texas that might tempt gardeners. In fact, this so-called field guide could easily become a gardener's wishbook. After reviewing all of the "brute beauty" of Texas native cacti at once so prickly and so lovely it's easy to wish to grow some of them at home.


Gardening tips

If you are adding new container plants to your landscape this summer, be sure to do so late in the day so the plants have the cooler evening temperature to help them adjust to their new environment.

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 send 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...

The belief in planting by the moon happens in many cultures. The New Zealand Maoris believe that the moon protects their crops and they only plant sweet potatoes on the 11th, 27th and 28th days of the lunar month. They use long spades with crescents carved into the handles for good measure.


Upcoming garden events

San Antonio: Gardening Volunteers of South Texas will hold their monthly Night Class on Wednesday, June 4 at the Lion's Community Center, 2809 Broadway, San Antonio. "Xeric Vines for San Antonio" will be presented by Sir Oliver Smith. A light mixer begins at 6:30 p.m.; the presentation begins at 7 p.m. For additional information, contact Greg Salyers, Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, at (210) 522-9220.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardeners Association in partnership with the Travis Country AgriLife Extension will present a seminar on pond building at the Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin, from 10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, June 7. Among the topics covered will be small pond construction, pond plants, fish selection, and general pond maintenance. Although the seminar is free, the Austin Parks Department charges $3 for parking. For additional information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardener's desk or visit www.tcmastergardeners.org.

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.

San Angelo: Texas AgriLife Extension Service's Concho Valley Master Gardeners Association is hosting "Water-Wise Landscaping," at 7 p.m. June 10 at the Tom Green County 4-H Center, 3168 N. U.S. Hwy 67. Kay Thompson, Master Gardener program coordinator, said the workshop should put to rest some popular misconceptions about low-water-use plants. "This workshop will teach homeowners how to have the lush landscape they've always dreamed of one that will not only look good, but perform the way they want it to." Thompson said once such a landscape is installed, immediate results will include reduced irrigation and lower water bills, less maintenance and a tougher, higher quality landscape that is adapted to West Texas weather conditions. There is no charge for the workshop, but organizers ask that participants call the AgriLife Extension office in Tom Green County at (325) 659-6528 by June 6, so enough printed material can be made available.

Amarillo: The Amarillo Area Master Gardeners will present Gardening Basics from 10 a.m. to noon, break for lunch on your own, then continue 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., June 14. Hear lectures and see demos on many gardening topics: soil prep; Panhandle plant descriptions and choices; easy irrigation methods, materials and how-to's; composting; tool choices and more. Class will be held at the Potter County AgriLife Extension Office, 3301 E. 10th (Tri-State Fairgrounds), Amarillo. To register, or for more information, call (806) 373-0713. Limited enrollment. Cost $10.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Greater Fort Worth will present a Natural Urban Living Symposium June 21 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, 3220 Botanic Garden Drive, Fort Worth. Presentations include "Rainwater Harvesting," presented by Pam Daniel, Rainwater Solutions; "Natural Home Cleaning," presented by Larry White, That Orange Stuff; "Nutrition & Aromatherapy," presented by Judy Griffin, Ph.D.-Nutrition; and "Organic Gardening," presented by Coleen Thornton, Heaven Sent Produce. The symposium is free.

Georgetown: Junior Master Gardener Specialist Training will be presented June 11-12, at the Williamson County Extension Office, 3151 SE Innerloop Road, Georgetown. For additional information, contact Donna Colburn, at (512) 943-3300 or dmcolburn@ag.tamu.edu.

Austin: Kim Lehman will discuss bees and honey products on Saturday, June 14, from 10:30 a.m. until noon at the Will Hampton at Oak Hill Branch Library, 5125 Convict Hill Road, Austin. For additional information, call (512) 892-6680.

Blanco: The Blanco Chamber of Commerce will host the fourth annual Blanco Lavender Festival June 14-15. The entire town of Blanco and the surrounding countryside will be bathed in lavender during the Lavender Festival. The Lavender Market, on the grounds of the historic Blanco County Courthouse, is always a must-see highlight of the festival. Selected vendors and artists from across the Hill Country will offer lavender-related pleasures and treasures from the finest craftsmen. At the courthouse, speakers give lavender-related educational programs. Texas Lavender Hills Farm & Market will be part of the Blanco Lavender Festival tour each day from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Events at the farm include lavender crafts, pick-your-own lavender, live music, picnic lunches, lavender lemonade, lavender peach tea, lavender goats milk ice cream, lavender products for sale and more. For more information about the festival, visit www.blancolavenderfest.com/festival/index.php. For more information about Texas Lavender Hills Farm & Market, visit http://www.texaslavenderhills.com/.

San Antonio: Gardening Volunteers of South Texas will hold their monthly Essentials of Gardening Class on Monday, June 16 at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 New Braunfels Ave., San Antonio. Sessions include "July in the Garden What To Do When, Why and How" and "Enter the World of Worm Composting" presented by Dr. Tom Harris, and "Recommended Palm Trees for South Texas Landscapes" presented by John Volk and Richard Travis of the South Texas Palm Society. Bring a brown bag lunch; light refreshments will be served. For additional information, contact Anne Schiller, Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, at (210) 522-9220.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardener Association in partnership with the Travis County AgriLife Extension will sponsor "What is Wrong with this Plant?" a seminar to help gardeners understand the causes of plant problems, the process for diagnosing plant problems, and techniques and strategies to help plants overcome problems, from 10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, July 12, at the Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. A Plant Clinic will be open during the seminar, and expert guidance will be available to examine diseased or bug-eaten plants that attendees bring to the seminar. Attendance is free. For additional information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardeners desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

Schertz: Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will hold their next Master Gardener training class from August 6 to December 3. Classes are on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Schertz Civic Center, 1400 Schertz Parkway, Schertz. Registration is $170 with a 10% discount if received with payment by July 10. Speakers include Malcolm Beck, Flo Oxley from the LBJ Wildflower Center, Bob Webster, Patty Leander and more. For more information, an application and a list of speakers, e-mail jlbruno@gvec.net or call (210) 363-8380.

Austin: The 16th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, August 23-24, at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin. The festival will include a live plant auction on Saturday afternoon and two full days of bamboo activities and lectures with bamboo plants and crafts for sale and show. Guest speaker Robin McBride Scott will conduct a workshop on Weaving Cane Mat, using native American Bamboo that she has personally harvested, prepared and dyed. She will also do a presentation about her work with basketry and native American bamboo. The 16th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival is sponsored by the Texas Bamboo Society. For more information, call (512) 929-9565, e-mail bamboo@bamboocentral.net, or visit http://www.bamboocentral.net.

Houston: The Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 are accepting applications for Master Gardener Certification Training Classes. Classes will be held at The Precinct 2 Road Camp, 1202 Genoa Red Bluff, Houston, from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning September 16 and continuing through October 28. For additional information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

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.

Fredericksburg: Texas Gourd Society will present the 13th annual "Lone Star Gourd Festival" at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds October 18 and 19. There will be door prizes, raffles, classes, demonstrations and an opportunity to meet Bill Decker, 2008 TGS Artist of the Year, and Bonnie Gibson, nationally-known author and artist. The show is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 and free to children under 12. For additional information, call (806) 523-9092 or visit www.texasgourdsociety.org.

MONTHLY MEETINGS

Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Wildwood 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.

Houston: The Native Plant Society of Texas Houston (NPSOT-H) meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except for October (4th Thursday) and December (2nd Thursday). Location varies. For locations, for more information on programs, and for information about native plants for Houston, visit http://www.npsot.org/Houston.

Rosenberg: The Fort Bend Master Gardeners meet at 7:15 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except December at the Bud O'Shieles Community Center located at 1330 Band Road, Rosenberg. For more information, call (281) 341-7068 or visit www.fbmg.com.

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets the third Thursday of each month at the Texas AgriLife 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.

Edna: The Jackson County Master Gardeners present their "Come Grown With Us" seminars on the fourth Tuesday of each month, January through October, beginning at 7 p.m. at 411 N. Wells, Edna. The seminars are free, open to the public and offer 2 CEU hours to Master Gardeners or others requiring them. For additional information, contact the Jackson County Extension Office at (361) 782-3312.

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.

Seabrook: The Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold an educational program at 10 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at The Meeting Room (on the Lakeside) at Clear Lake Park, 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. The programs are free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

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. To ensure inclusion in this column, please provide complete details at least three weeks prior to the event.


Wish you'd saved them?

Are you missing an important issue of Texas Gardener? Or, perhaps, just tired of thumbing through stacks of back issues looking for the tips and techniques you need to make your garden grow? Two new CDs provide easy access to all six issues of volume 25 (November/December 2005 through September/October 2006) and volume 26 (November/December 2006 through September/October 2007)*.

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  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.

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Fiber row cover valuable year-round

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Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2008. 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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Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ● www.TexasGardener.com