November 4, 2009

Welcome to Texas Gardener’s Seeds, the weekly newsletter for Texas gardeners. Please do not reply to this e-mail because 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:
Sidebar reading

By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

Most of this month's column identifies books related to articles in the just released November-December issue of Texas Gardener. Think of these works as recommendations for sidebar reading.

And perhaps think of them as good prospects for the approaching gift-giving season, although I reluctantly mention that occasion this early.

Matt Warnock Turner. Remarkable Plants of Texas: Uncommon Accounts of Our Common Natives. University of Texas Press, 2009. 352 pp. $29.95.

The article on eryngo in the current issue of Texas Gardener includes quotations from Remarkable Plants of Texas by Matt Warnock Turner, an Austin member of the Native Plant Society of Texas. This richly designed and well-illustrated book proves that there is more to our native plants than meets the eye.

Turner gathers information from various sources, old and new, to tell the generally overlooked inside story of 80 plants' ethnobotanic place in our state. As he details our past interaction with local plants, Turner expertly recovers cultural memories that we have nearly lost.

Turner’s fascinating book is Texas history told through plants.

Brian Loflin and Shirley Loflin. Texas Cacti. Texas A&M University Press, 2009. 312 pp. $24.00.

The new issue of Texas Gardener features winter-hardy succulents. For still other garden possibilities, turn to Texas Cacti by Austin residents Brian and Shirley Loflin.

They profile 150 or so native cacti in exquisite photographic and textual detail. Each entry lists a plant's features (spines, flowers, fruits and seeds), habitat, flowering season and other pertinent information.

One unfortunate oddity, though: the photo-transfer process used in producing this book has made some of the depicted species appear hyper-natural in their color, texture and overall impression.

Even so, Texas Cacti is a very handy field guide that includes some rare specimens. This well-done book is obviously a labor of love.

Jim Stanley. Hill Country Landowner’s Guide. Texas A&M University Press, 2009. 114 pp. $19.95.

For the Hill Country letter-writer published in the November-December issue of Texas Gardener and for others in his vicinity, there's Jim Stanley's Hill Country Landowner's Guide. The chapters of this book cover brush control, grazing, erosion, cedar management, oak wilt, fire, deer and exotic plants.

The author's position, echoing Henry David Thoreau, is straightforward: "Regardless of what the laws and the books in the courthouse say, we don't really 'own' the land, we are just the current tenants who are taking care of the place for a brief time before passing it on to the next generation. Common sense and common courtesy require that we leave the land in at least as good a condition as we found it."

Stanley, a Kerrville member of the Native Plant Society of Texas, especially emphasizes land restoration. He encourages the fostering of native grasses, tree health and songbird habitats.

Adam Leith Gollner. The Fruit Hunters A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession. Scribner, 2008. 288 pp. $25.00.

Texas Gardener features Richard Ashton's "yes-you-can" articles on growing fruit in our state. Each article is eye opening, to say the least, and his series is unique.

But I don't think I am going out on a limb in predicting that Ashton is never going to write about naughty and forbidden fruits.

For those peculiar delicacies, you can turn to The Fruit Hunters, which documents Adam Leith Gollner's relentless quest to indulge his personal "fruity" tastes. In his search for exotic fruit, Gollner's passion matches that of the lost-civilization searchers of yore.

The eccentric people Gollner meets, including organizers of fruit tourism, attest that he is not alone in his fixation. Personal obsession aside, however, Gollner's intriguing, even dizzying, consideration of fruit results in a book full of "juicy" surprises.

There is so much more about fruit than most of us ever imagine and, yes, there are such things as naughty and forbidden fruits. It turns out that I unwittingly mentioned a particularly notorious one, the biggest known seed in fact, in my September column. Oops.

Karen Platt. Black Magic and Purple Passion: Third Edition. Black Tulip Publishing, 2004. 240 pp. $28.00.

In turning to Karen Platt's Black Magic and Purple Passion, I am looking forward to a future issue of Texas Gardener, which will cover plants with so-called black flowers and foliage. Such plants have recently become very popular.

A richly illustrated, author-published book, Black Magic profiles more than 1,400 plants. Although it would have benefitted from professional editing, this outstanding encyclopedia of gardening possibilities is written with enthusiasm and enhanced by firsthand knowledge

It's the go-to book on "black" plants.

Paul Bonine. Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden. Timber Press, 2009. 160 pp. $14.95.

Paul Bonine's Black Plants includes several plants not profiled in Karen Platt's Black Magic. But it also lacks design tips and any indication of the author’s personal engagement with “black” plants.

Still, as a handsome small paperback, Black Plants provides a highly polished, eye-pleasing presentation.

New garden plants and products win 2010 MGA Green Thumb Awards

Five new plant varieties and five new gardening products have won 2010 MGA Green Thumb Awards presented by the Mailorder Gardening Association. Bringing home awards in the Plants, Bulbs and Seeds division were Agave neomexicana 'Sunspot' from High Country Gardens, Advantage Cell Grown Transplant from Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, Double Phlox 'Tiara' from Van Bourgondien, Spice Zee Nectaplum from Nature Hills Nursery and Botanical Selections Seed Packet Line from Botanical Interests.

Honored in the Tools, Supplies and Accessories division were Eleanor’s Garden Container Kit from Eleanor's Garden, Territorial's Tasty Tomato Collection from Territorial Seed Company, FreezePruf Frost Protector for Plants from The Liquid Fence Company, Iron X Selective Weed Killer for Lawns from Gardens Alive! and Critter Chaser XR Deer and Rabbit Repellent Strips from Gardens Alive!

Winners of the 2010 MGA Green Thumb Awards were chosen by an independent panel of garden writers and editors. The winning products were selected based on their uniqueness, technological innovation, ability to solve a gardening problem or provide a gardening opportunity, and potential appeal to gardeners.

The MGA Green Thumb Awards recognize outstanding new garden products available by mail or online. The awards are sponsored by the Mailorder Gardening Association, the world's largest nonprofit association of companies that sell garden products directly to consumers. For more information, visit the MGA website at

  The compost heap
Fire ants

"How can I get rid of fire ants in my compost pile?" asks Mickie. "I tried diatomaceous earth to no avail and prefer not to use poison if possible."

The best way to get rid of those pesky fire ants in and around your compost pile is to use a bait product, and the safest one we know of would be one that contains Spinosad, a natural substance that is produced by fermentation. Spinosad is a relatively new insect killer that must be ingested by the insect in order to be effective. Spinosad is fairly fast acting — usually the insect will die within 1 to 2 days after ingestion. It will not persist in the environment and is classified as an organic substance by the USDA National Organic Standards Board. Fire ant baits should be applied on a sunny day when ants are foraging. Be sure to follow all label directions. — Chris S. Corby, Publisher


Gardening tips

If you have been on the hunt for perennial color for those shady areas, be on the lookout for columbines at your favorite, local nursery. Fall is the very best time to find and plant these spring blooming beauties.

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 copy of Texas Gardener's 2010 Planning Guide & Calendar. Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

Did You Know...

Many folks think that turnips and rutabagas are different names for the same vegetable. Not true. Turnips and rutabagas are closely related but distinctively different species. The rutabaga is believed to be a hybrid offspring of the turnip, probably the result of a genetic cross between the turnip and some type of cabbage.

Upcoming garden events

Kingsland: Learn to make beautiful flower arrangements at a class on "Principles of Floral Design" with Barbara Braunns at a free presentation by the Kingsland Garden Club on Friday, November 6 at 1:15 p.m. at the Kingsland Library, 125 W. Polk, Kingsland. Visit for more information.

Uvalde: The Texas Pomegranate Growers Cooperative, in conjunction with Texas AgriLife, will hold the first Texas pomegranate tasting from noon until 2 p.m., Friday, November 6, in the auditorium of the Texas AgriLife Research Station, 1619 Garner Field Road, Uvalde. The fruit of different pomegranate cultivars from around the world will be available for tasting. The fruit tasted is being grown in Texas, at the Uvalde and Pecos AgriLife stations and by TPGC members. Dr. Larry Stein is the advisor for the event. For additional information, contact Richard Ashton at or (325) 646-6857.

Waco: World Hunger Relief, Inc., will host its Fall Farm Day Festival from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., Saturday, November 7, at 356 Spring Lake Road, Waco. There will be farm-fresh food, tours of the farm, hayrides and demonstrations. Plants, grass-fed meat and seeds will be available for sale. Directions: From Waco, go north of I-35. Take Exit 342B and follow the signs to World Hunger Relief Farm. For additional information, call (254) 799-5611 or email

Glen Rose: The Somervell County Master Gardeners Association will host Carrie Smith, Staff Forester I with the Forest Resource Development & Sustainable Forest of the Texas Forest Service, who will present a program on trees for Somervell County at 6:30 p.m., November 9, at the Somervell County Citizens Center, 209 SW Barnard, Glen Rose.

Pearland: Dr. John Jacob, Harris County Extension Specialist, will present a program on soils and composting part of the Harris County Master Gardener Association's Green Thumb Gardening Series, from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m., Tuesday, November 10, at Bass Pro Shops, Highway 288 at the Sam Houston Tollway, Pearland. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, visit

Georgetown: The Williamson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will meet at 7 p.m., Thursday, November 12, at the Georgetown Public Library, 2nd floor. Guest speakers are Brian and Shirley Loflin, who will be presenting their new book "Texas Cacti: A Field Guide." Visitors welcome. For additional information, contact Billye Adams, (512) 863-9636, or visit

Austin: Learn to plant cool season vegetables with the Travis County Master Gardeners Association, 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., Friday, November 13, at the Travis County AgriLife Extension Office Demonstration Garden, 1600 "B" Smith Road, Austin. Learn how to plant seeds, which seeds need soaking, and proper transplanting methods. Planting using the square foot method and straight rows will be discussed during this hands-on session. For additional information, call (512) 854-9600 or visit

San Antonio: The Texas Invasive Plant & Pest Council will host the third statewide conference on invasive species, November 13 and 14, at Trinity University in San Antonio. The 2009 conference will be a professional-level meeting including keynotes, concurrent sessions, posters, field trips and symposia. This conference is designed to serve scientists, land managers, state and federal agents, local governments, the green industry, and other professionals interested in invasive species issues in Texas. To register or to learn more about the conference program, call for papers, abstract submissions, or sponsors and exhibitors, visit the 2009 Conference Web site at

Burnet: Join Master Gardener Sheryl Yantis for a free class on "Principles of Landscape Design Featuring Hill Country Gardens" in a Highland Lakes Master Gardener Green Thumb Program on Saturday, November 14 at 10 a.m. at the Herman Brown Free Library on the Town Square in Downtown Burnet. Visit for more information.

Houston: Urban Harvest will host "Food for Thought," a new, thought-provoking series of panel discussions on today's hot topics that support growing and eating locally. The panels will be lead by local and regional experts, and are scheduled for the third Wednesday of each month beginning November 18. Each evening will begin at 7 p.m. with a brief period to socialize, then a panel discussion from 7:15 until 8:15 followed by a Q&A session until 8:45. The scheduled dates and topics are: November 18, "Edible Plants in the Urban Garden"; December 16, "Fresh Fruit Year-Round"; January 20, "Living the Locavore Life"; February 17, "Tools of the Trade." The November 18 lecture will be held in the Multipurpose Room of the Oberholzer Residence Hall, 108 Oberholtzer Hall, University of Houston. The location(s) for the subsequent events will be announced later. For additional information, call (713) 520-7111.

Seabrook: Dr. Anthony Camerino, Commercial Horticulture Agent for Harris County, will present "Top Ten Tree Myths" as part of the Harris County Master Gardener Association's Master Gardener Lecture Series, beginning at 10 a.m., November 18, at The Meeting Room at Clear Lake Park (on the lakeside), 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. For additional information, visit

Houston: Urban Harvest's annual fruit tree sale will take place from 8 a.m. until noon, January 9, at the Rice University Football Station Concourse, Houston. The 2009 sale featured almost 6,000 trees and berries and the organizers except even more tree for this sale. For additional information, visit

New Braunfels: Comal Master Gardeners are now accepting applications for their Spring 2010 Training Class beginning January 27 and ending May 12. Applications are currently on the Comal Master Gardener Web site at: Applications will be accepted until December 15; however, the class is limited to 30 people and applications are accepted in the order they are received. The class usually fills to capacity, so early registration is important. The class meets each Wednesday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. beginning January 27. The cost of the 16-week course is $150 and includes the Master Gardener Handbook published by Texas A&M, propagation supplies, and all other materials. The $150 is payable on the first class day in January. Topics covered in the class include Plant Growth and Development; Compost, Soils, Irrigation, and Fertilizers; Roses; Annuals, Perennials, and Bulbs; Organic Vegetable Gardening; Landscape Trees; Propagation; Fruit and Nut Production; Wildscapes and Native Plants; Pests and Diseases; Xeriscapes; Turf Grass; Home Landscapes and more. Speakers include professors from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System; Texas State University faculty and retired professors, specialists in the gardening field, and Master Gardener specialists. For additional information, call (830) 620-3440 or email Classes are held at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, 325 Resource Drive, New Braunfels.

Houston: The River Oaks Garden Club will host the 75th Anniversary Azalea Trail. March 5, 6, and 7. Azalea Trail features tours of four private homes and three well-known historic sites: Bayou Bend, Rienzi and River Oaks Garden Club Forum of Civics Building and Gardens. Tickets for seven admissions: $15 before March 1, $20 during the event, or $5 per location. For additional information, visit or call (713) 523-2483.


Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners meets at 9 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the AgriLife Extension Office - Aransas County, 611 E. Mimosa, Rockport. For additional information, e-mail or call (361) 790-0103.

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 at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, February through December, at the Allen Heritage Center, 100 E. Main St., Allen. For more information, visit

Orange: The Orange County Master Gardeners meet at the Salvation Army in Orange on the first Thursday of each month. A covered-dish dinner at 6:30 p.m. is followed by a speaker and business meeting at 7 p.m.

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

Pearland: 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 Bass Pro Shop, Highway 288 at Sam Houston Tollway, Pearland. For more information visit or call (281) 991-8437.

Schertz: The Guadalupe County (Schertz/Seguin) Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) meets the second Tuesday of each month except July and August at the library, 798 Schertz Parkway, Shertz. A plant exchange and meet-and-greet begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by a program at 7 p.m. For additional information or an application to join NPSOT, contact

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

Beaumont: The Jefferson County Master Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at the AgriLife Extension Office, 1225 Pearl Street, Suite 200, Beaumont. For more information, call (409) 835-8461.

Brownwood: Brown County Master Gardeners Association meets the second Thursday of each month, from Noon to 1 p.m., at the Brown County AgriLife Extension Office, 605 Fisk, Brownwood. For additional information, call Freda Day (325) 643-1077, or Mary Engle (325) 784-8453.

Georgetown: The Williamson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. 8th Street. Georgetown. For additional information, contract Billye Adams at (512) 863-9636 or visit

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

College Station: The A&M Garden Club meets on the second Friday of each month during the school year at 9:30 a.m. at the Senior Circle Rooms, College Station Professional Building II, 1651 Rock Prairie Road, College Station. Expert speakers, plant sharing, and federated club projects help members learn about gardening in the Brazos Valley, floral design, conservation topics, and more. For more information, visit

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

Cleburne: The Johnson County Master Gardener Association meets at 6 p.m. on the third Monday of each month. The public is invited to attend. There is an educational program each month preceding the business meeting. For information on topics call (817) 556-6370 or visit

Sugar Land: The Sugar Land Garden Club meets on the third Tuesday of each month, September through November and January through April at 10 a.m. at the Sugar Land Community Center, 226 Matlage Way, Sugar Land. The club hosts a different speaker each month. For more information, visit

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.

Glen Rose: The Somervell County Master Gardeners meet at 10 a.m., the third Wednesday of each month at the Somervell County AgriLife Extension office, 1405 Texas Drive, Glen Rose. Visitors are welcome. For more information, call (254) 897-2809 or visit

Granbury: The Lake Granbury Master Gardeners meet at 1 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the Hood County Annex 1, 1410 West Pearl Street, Granbury. The public is invited to attend. There is an educational program each month preceding the business meeting. For information on topics call (817) 579-3280 or visit

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

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

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

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month,  except December, at the Texas AgriLife Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak, Seguin. An educational program preceeds the business meeting. The public is invited to attend. For topic or other information, call (830) 379-1972 or visit

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.

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

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.

Texas Wildscapes:
Gardening for Wildlife

By Kelly Conrad Bender

NEW EDITION of the popular Texas Parks & Wildlife book, now with fully searchable DVD containing all the plant and animal information you need to customize your backyard habitat.

Whether you have an apartment balcony or a multi-acre ranch, the Texas Wildscapes program provides the tools you need to make a home for all the animals that will thrive in the native habitat you create.

In Texas Wildscapes, Kelly Conrad Bender identifies the kinds of animals you can expect when you give them their three basic needs: food, water, and shelter. She then provides guidelines for designing and planting your yard or garden to best provide these requirements for the many birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates the environment will attract.

$31.88 includes tax and shipping

Order online with credit card at or call toll-free 1-800-727-9020.

Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted.

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? These new CDs provide easy access to all six issues of
volume 20 (November/December 2000 through September/October 2001),
volume 21
(November/December 2001 through September/October 2002),
volume 22
(November/December 2002 through September/October 2003),
volume 23
(November/December 2003 through September/October 2004),
volume 24 (November/December 2004 through September/October 2005),
volume 25 (November/December 2005 through September/October 2006),
volume 26 (November/December 2006 through September/October 2007),
volume 27 (November/December 2007 through September/October 2008) and
volume 28 (November/December 2008 through September/October 2009)*.

$16.99 per CD includes tax and shipping

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

*Other volumes will be available soon.

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 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 or order on-line.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

Texas Gardener’s Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2009. 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

Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

Texas Gardener’s Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ●