Plant at Your Risk


This is the time of year when I spend many hours in my yard.  It’s hot, but not too hot.  I try to avoid working in the sun–for lots of reasons.  After many years of experience I have discovered several plants to avoid because of their invasive nature.  Some of these are great plants and can be used in a controlled space which means an area where they can’t escape!

Several years ago I planted Wedelia which is a fast growing ground cover that has yellow blooms.  It went everywhere!  Before that I begged my parents to bring me liriope from their yard.  My plan was to edge my beds with it.  I will spend the rest of my life trying to get rid of it.  The reason I don’t like it is because it spreads by sending a shoot underground which pops up in the middle of anything and everything.  One year I planted indigo which blooms well in the shade.  (I’m always looking for that.)  It too fills a bed in no time at all.  And then there’s Ruellia.  There are several varieties.  You are probably most familiar with Katie ruellia which has purple, white or pink blooms.  They are all very hardy and tenacious.  I particularly dislike the tall, upright variety (which I coveted in my art teacher’s garden).  It has that same spreading pattern:  sending shoots underground and popping up who knows where–usually in the middle of another plant.  I also have reservations about Tahitian bridal veil.  It is a wonderful filler in shady areas, easy to grow, no pests, but it does take over if allowed.  One year I was interested in native Texas plants.  I searched for spiderwort, dug it up and planted it in my beds.  Another mistake.  Like most wild flowers it can show up almost anywhere. I just planted Monarda also known as bee balm.  Will I regret that?  Finally the bane of my gardening existence is Oxalis.  I did not plant it.  Somehow it migrated to my yard.  It is extremely difficult to remove.  If one little seed escapes when you dig it up, you have it again, invariably in the middle of something else.  I consider it a weed, but some gardeners actually cultivate it.  Seems risky to me.

Light green oxalis leaves growing in mondo.  Ugh!

Light green oxalis leaves growing in mondo. Ugh!


Garden Update


My garden got off to a slow start.  There was so much to tend to in my beds at home that I delayed planting my vegetables.  Because of the very hard freeze a couple of nights in Jan., my neighbors and I had an abundance of dead plants,  branches, leaves, fronds, etc. to cut back and remove.  Something I did or failed to do conspired to provide excellent growing conditions for WEEDS–literally thousands of them.  A layer of compost and the product Preen has helped to keep them down, but they are a persistent nuisance.

Bell pepper

Can you see those little peppers?


Looking forward to cherry tomatoes.

I finally planted tomatoes and bell peppers.  Herbs fill the remainder of the space.  Those include parsley, oregano, thyme, cilantro and basil.  A pot of mint will be added.  My neighbor has had a very large vegetable garden for several years.  He has already harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and onions.  He credits his success to “compost tea”which he concocts.  My garden boasts an incredible parsley plant, but how much parsley can one person eat?  I found a recipe for Parsley Pesto which I’m going to try.  It really calls for flat leaf parsley.  This is curly leaf; so we’ll see.

Parsley Pesto

2 c. parsley                                                                                                         2 T. toasted pine nuts

1 1/2 T. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shredded                               1 t. olive oil

1/4 t. salt

Combine all in food processor.

Vegetable Gardening


Last September I leased a 10 x 10 garden plot.  I’ve done quite a bit of gardening, but I’ve never grown vegetables because I have very little sun in my yard.  My friend and I attempted to grow seeds in those tiny “plantable” containers.  I had them on a table on my patio.  Some had begun to sprout.  Unfortunately we had a torrential rain which poured off my roof onto the table (and seedlings) and washed most of them away.  A disaster!  Next we bought plants at a feed store.  I bought lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radicchio, kale and several herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley, cilantro and mint).  I also tried planting seeds directly into the soil because I couldn’t find the plants.  With the help of my sisters we planted everything except the mint which we left in a pot.  Like all of my gardening efforts I’ve met with some success and several failures.  The spinach seeds did not come up.  Some critter ate the kale.  The carrots and beets should have been thinned.  (Next time.)  I had too much lettuce.  How much lettuce can a person eat?  The greatest success has been with the herbs and radicchio which isn’t a vegetable that’s on everyone’s list of favorites.  I’ve harvested some broccoli and several heads of radicchio, and yesterday I pulled up three beets.  I’m hoping to get some cabbage.  We’ll see.

When the fall/winter garden disappears, I have several packets of poppy and larkspur seeds to scatter.  I’m looking forward to enjoying a showy plot before it’s time to shop for summer vegetables.



Daylilies–One of My Favorites

Great Color!

Great Color!


According to few plants are as rugged, widely adapted, or versatile as daylilies (hermerocallis).   They require little care, multiply freely and tolerate a variety of conditions–full sun to light shade, dry or poor soil.  The colors are myriad:   pale yellow (almost white), gold, orange, bronze, rusty red, purple.  There are many daylily collectors that know the names of their special plants.    While I can appreciate those special blossoms and their often creative names, I’m not a collector.  I value daylilies for their impact on the landscape.  I love the splashes of color that a clump of daylilies adds to the garden.  May is the best month for them in Texas.  I prefer the yellows, bronzes and oranges.  Their blooms are particularly nice when paired with the blue lily of the nile (agapanthus) or plumbago if you have a sunny spot.  I have finally learned that it’s most effective to repeat plants in your garden.  I have daylilies scattered throughout.  They are so rewarding, blooming dependably every year, and since they multiply and need to be divided periodically, there are often plants to share with friends and neighbors. They can be planted at any time of the year but preferably February through April or September and October.  Regrettably the individual blossom lasts only one day (hence the name), but  usually one bloom follows another for a colorful show.  If you don’t already have this great plant in your garden, find someone who does and ask them to share.  I believe the blossoms are edible.  Hmmm, I’m afraid deer may know that too!

Trees in the Fall


I live in a wooded part of the state of Texas.  The woods are filled with several varieties of oak, sweet gum, hickory, pine and magnolia.  Every year about Thanksgiving, which is coming up this week, the leaves of the deciduous trees turn all sorts of glorious colors:  yellow, bronze, copper, gold, orange, red and maroon.  The view of the trees from my house is fabulous!  I know the northeast is known for spectacular fall color, but this is pretty impressive.  Crepe myrtles are commonly planted here, and they can be quite vivid.  There are a couple of other trees that should be mentioned:  the Chinese tallow and the ornamental pear.  The tallow tree is not a native and is really a trashy tree and not long lived, but it redeems itself every fall with its showy leaves.  The ornamental pear is not particularly long lived either, but the white blossoms in the early spring and beautiful fall color make it quite popular.  Another of my favorites for its color is the bald cypress. It’s actually a conifer that’s deciduous.  The bald cypress is fast growing and lives a long time.  I have one in my yard which I planted.  The only thing I don’t like about it is its “knees” which come up in inappropriate places!

I’ve tried growing a couple of Japanese maples with no success.  That maple is an under story tree.  I made the mistake of planting one in an area that receives intense afternoon sun.  Its leaves sort of fried every summer.  In another attempt, I planted a maple near my front door.  It seemed to thrive for several years but suddenly died.  I don’t think I’ll try another one.

There are many folks that love the desert and others who like an expanse of sandy beach, but I’m very pleased and thankful to live in the forest– particularly at this time of year.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Gardening in the Fall

Angel trumpet in the landscape.

Angel trumpet in the landscape.


For most Texans fall is a very welcome season.  That first cool front is invigorating.  The plants perk up too.  Of course fall has its chores in the garden, but getting them done when the temperature is lower is much more pleasant.

Fall is the time to divide and transplant lots of things.  I’ve been digging and dividing daylilies, society garlic and onion chives.  I have LOTS of Louisiana iris which could be shared.  Any takers?  Martha and I have been transplanting Mexican petunia to one of the beds at our church.  We’re also creating a daylily bed there. As always, I’m trying to rid my yard of liriope–and weeds!

Fall is also a time to assess the effects of a long, hot summer on the things I planted last spring.  I’m resolving to avoid planting begonias again.  They are rather fragile and just don’t seem to do well in my garden.  The plant that has really performed well is angelonia.  It tolerates both sun and partial sun locations.  I’m giving pentas a mixed review this year.  It seems like mine were healthier and showier last year.  My native chrysanthemums are covered in buds which are still very tight.  Hurry up!  Another small shrub that is blooming now is shrimp plant.  I prefer the variety that has sort of rusty brown blooms, but the yellow is nice too.  I also have quite a few naked ladies or hurricane lilies (lycoris).  They are always a pleasant surprise when they pop up in the fall.  Oh, that ground cover (green and gold) that I tried this year is doing well.  Hope it spreads.  I will probably plant dianthus and snap dragons for the winter months.  Just waiting for cooler weather which they say is on its way!

Epsom Salt


A recent search for a list of  shade loving shrubs in one of Howard Garrett’s gardening books, Plants For Houston And The Gulf Coast,  reminded me of the use of Epsom salt for plants!
Apparently Epsom Salt  is a well reputed and popular supplement in organic gardening.  Since this is my preferred method of gardening, I did some searching for more details.   There are many good sites for learning  about the benefits of using Epsom salts for gardening, with the recommended  proportions, and the scientific basis for doing so.  I am eager to learn more and  use it.  From what I have learned thus far it is beneficial to plants indoors and out.  I will give it a try and report back!


Passion Vine


Passion vine blossom.

Passion vine blossom.

At a plant exchange with some neighborhood friends I received a passion vine and an angel trumpet.  Both of those plants have exotic and unusual blooms.  They both become dormant in the winter but return with vigor when the weather warms.

The passion vine (Passiflora) is described as being “interesting for curious flower formation”.  It requires sun and blooms June through August.  My fear is that it’s going to pop up in other places.  I just discovered one in the middle of a monkey grass border!  For me one passion vine is plenty.

My angel trumpet (Datura Arborea) came back from the roots this spring and is already five feet tall.  It too likes sun and is supposed to be drought resistant.  I read that “it’s best used as a specimen tree”.–No angel trumpet hedges.  The blooms vary in color:  white, pink, yellow and look sort of like dangling trumpets.  Again, one angel trumpet is enough for my garden, but it does add interest.  Perhaps it could be considered a thriller–among the fillers and spillers.

Ground covers continued


Thyme                                                                                                  Oregano

Well. I wanted to follow up on the sister’s post about ground covers. I do agree that empty space can get filled with weeds. But, I don’t live where there is lots of rain. We have sun, not much rain & DEER!! Also. I redid my beds recently so have quite a bit of space between plantings. I like to put in annuals: vinca in the summer & snapdragons in the winter. They provide a nice touch of color & deer don’t eat them. I am trying out a couple of herbs, thyme & oregano, for filler. Oregano is particularly hardy & spreads nicely. It can get a little tall in spots but very easy to control. I have lots of both in my vegetable garden. I also like the way rocks of all sizes & colors are being used. Very low maintenance & can be very handsome. Also good for a slope where erosion might occur.

Ground Covers


Shade loving ajuga.

Shade loving ajuga.

Asparagus fern

Asparagus fern



I’ve been gardening for a long time, and most of what I’ve learned has been through trial and error.–Mostly error.  If you’re looking for a list of invasive plants to avoid, I’m your source!

One of the things I’ve finally realized is that something will grow in most soils.  A lot of the things that will grow are undesirable.  We call these WEEDS.  You know the old adage, “To give up a bad habit, you must replace it with a good habit”?  It’s become apparent to me that exposed soil must be covered with something desirable to avoid the alternative.  I’m always looking for ground covers–something attractive that will cover the soil so weeds can’t flourish.

One of my favorite ground covers for shaded areas is ajuga also known as bugleweed.  It has a spike of small blue flowers in the spring which is pretty under your trees.  It’s very hardy and generally pest free.  I also use a lot of asparagus (springeri) fern which will tolerate sun as well as shade.  I love maidenhair fern but have a really hard time keeping it looking good in the heat of the summer. I’m trying a new ground cover called green and gold (chrysogonum virginianum).  It’s recommended that it be planted in partial sun or dappled shade.  So far so good.  There’s also a form of Mexican petunia which is a ground cover that spreads slowly.  The other varieties of Mexican petunia (Katie ruellia) are very invasive.  I think that will not be the case with this variety.  It too has a purple bloom.  A couple of others include wandering jew and wood violet although wood violets have a tendency to come up in the lawn.

My goal is to one day have my beds filled with what one master gardener called thrillers (something that catches the eye), fillers (good background plants) and spillers (those things that fill the beds and give them that natural but tended look).    Guess I’d better grab my gloves and get out there!