>Look for Us on Central Texas Gardener

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We are privileged to have had the opportunity to appear on Austin PBS, Station KLRU’s show “Central Texas Gardener” The show can be seen on Youtube.com. The first segment of the show called “On Tour” features our garden and the next segment is an On-Set interview with host Tom Spencer talking about Variegated Plants for Austin Gardens.

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>Xeriphytic Landscaping in Central Texas

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Xeriscaping means using native and adaptive plants that can grow and sustain themselves with low water requirements and tolerate heat and drought conditions.
This does not translate into cacti and thorny succulents found in arid environments, but to ANY plant that meets that criteria including soft ornamental grasses and flowering perennials. You can have a xeriscape without sacrificing color, texture or structure – the normal elements of any landscape.

The advantages of Xeriscaping include:
– Substantial cost savings on water bills
– Conservation of diminishing water resources during drought periods
– Prevention of pollution of surface and ground water, from environmentally harmful runoff.
– Reduced yard maintenance requirements.
– Pride in knowing you are doing something substantial to protect our fragile environment.

Non-turf areas can contain a decomposed granite, ground hardwood mulch, crushed limestone, flagstone, or loose stone material for a ground cover that is maintained to prevent weed growth without using toxic or environmentally harmful chemicals. Concrete surfaces should be limited to driveways and sidewalks only. Use plants adapted to the the pH created by your choice of inorganic ground cover – e.g. don’t use a plant requiring acidic soil with an alkaline ground limestone surface.

Hardscapes can include large boulders, dry river rock beds, or other natural materials that are used as part of xeriscape landscaping design. Water features, Urns, ornamental plant containers, and other man-made ornamentation can add variety. For public safety, no boulders or large rocks exceeding 12” should be used on strips between public sidewalks and the street curb. Also for public safety, no plant with thorns, spines, or sharp edges should be used within 6’ of the public sidewalks.
Perennials which die back during winter should be cut back to remove dead materials during winter. This includes ornamental grasses and other flowering perennials. Any xeriscape should include a blend of evergreen plants along with deciduous.

If you have narrow strips of turf between sidewalk and street, you should seriously consider converting those from turf grasses to xeriphitic areas as these areas are difficult to water without significant street runoff.

There are no turf grasses ideally suited for Central Texas. St. Augustine, a warm weather grass requires moderate amounts of regular watering, is disease prone,but it does choke out weeds when actively growing. Bermuda is drought tolerant but a rampant and invasive grower invading your bedding areas. Zoysia is another warm weather grass that is high maintenance and doesn’t compete well with weeds. The most drought tolerant is Buffalo grass, but that turns brown in winter and doesn’t compete well with weeds. So, with that in mind, doesn’t xeriscaping make good sense!

For information and recommendations on plants to use, pick up a copy of the new 2009 edition of the City of Austin’s free 52 page booklet Native and Adaptive Landscape Plants, an Earth Wise Guide for Central Texas, commonly known as the “Grow Green” book. These are free at any garden center or plant nursery. This booklet contains photos and a wealth of information about plants from Trees to Turf that are recommended for our area in order to have “water wise” landscaping.

As global warming appears to be the future trend and vital water supplies become threatened, we as gardeners can help tremendously by going xeriphytic.

>Sharing Plants and Garden Ideas

>Gardening is a social activity. Gardeners are about the friendliest people you will ever meet. They enjoy sharing. Here are some ideas to extend your gardening pleasure beyond your own back yard and to get out to meet other gardeners. I share these ideas based on personal experience in being actively involved in each of them.

1. Organize a neighborhood Garden Tour. All it takes is someone willing to coordinate, organize, and publicize it, and recruit garden hosts. Don’t make it a competition. The purpose is to get to know your neighborhood gardeners, share landscaping ideas and gardening experiences with each other as well as get to see the unique gardens created by others. This activity costs nothing other than a little time and willingness to organize it and/or open your garden to others and be present to talk about your gardening ideas on Tour Day. You can spice it up by inviting some horticultural experts to be present to talk about topics of interest (e.g. Master Gardeners), have a drawing for some door prizes (e.g. some plants), etc. Best time to have a Garden Tour is late spring, thru early fall..


2. Organize or participate in a plant swap. This is a periodic gathering of gardeners who bring their surplus plants to a designated location for swapping with others. The more informal it is, the more fun it is. It’s a great way to share and eliminate your surplus plants and/or get some new plants to try in your garden. Some plant swaps have a covered dish lunch and door prizes. A coordinator is necessary who arranges for the site, sends out notices to all who wish to be notified of when and where the next swap will be and any other details. Good times to have them are spring and fall.

Unless you are participating in an already organized event, it may take a few years for each of these to really catch on beyond the first year, but once the word gets out and gardeners know about them as recurring events, it becomes part of their gardening experience. Give it a try.

>Variegated Plants for Central Texas

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A variegated plant is any plant that displays two or more distinctively different foliage colors which are variant from a parent plant source.

Variegations are derived from sports or mutations that naturally occur, random seedlings with generic variations, or a harmless virus which causes variation.

Variegated forms can be marginal, centered, striated, blotched, speckled, veined, patterned, or randomly variable.

Recommended Variegated Plants to try in Austin Gardens:

Agaves and Yuccas (Hardy)
Agave americana ‘albo medio-picta, ‘aureo striata’ & ‘aureo marginata’
Agave sisalana ‘medio-picta’
Agave x ‘Cornelius’
Agave meridensis ‘Joe Hoak’ & ‘ aureo marginata’
Agave lopantha ‘variegata’ syn. A. univittata variegata
Yucca rotundifolia ‘margaritaville’
Yucca filamentosa ‘color guard’, ‘bright edge’, ‘golden sword’ & ‘old gold’
Yucca elephantipes ‘silver star’
Yucca gloriosa ‘variegata’
Yucca aloifolia ‘variegata’

Hardy Shrubs – Evergreen
Viburnum tinus ‘Bewley’s variegated’
Abelia grandiflora ‘white marvel’ (other variegated varieties also available)
Eleagnus pungens cvs. Hosoba fukurin, gilt edge, and maculata
Citrofortunella mitis ‘variegata’
Buxus sempervirens arborescens variegata, aka American Boxwood
Myrtus communis variegata
Ilex cornuta ‘O. Spring’ (may need to mail order – difficult to find)

Nerium oleander ‘Mrs. Runge”

Hardy Shrubs – Deciduous
Hibiscus syriacus “variegata’, aka Rose of Sharon
Malvaviscus penduliflora ‘variegata’& M. aboreum ‘variegata’, aka Turks Cap
Buddleja davidii ‘harlequin’ or ‘strawberry lemonade’ aka Butterfly Bush
Weigela florida ‘variegata’
Duranta spp. – three variegated varieties

Hardy Ornamental Grasses and Related Plants
Miscanthus sinensis ‘cabaret’ ‘gold bar’ & ‘variegata’
Tulbaghia violaceae ‘variegata’, aka Society Garlic
Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’ + other variegated bamboo
Ophiopogon japonicus nana variegata,
Phalaris arundinancea ‘variegata’
Loriope muscari ‘aztec’

Vines, Ferns, and Roses
Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘variegata’, aka Confederate Jasmine
Lonicera japonica ‘aureo reticulata’, aka Japanese Honeysuckle
Athyrium niponicum ‘pictum’ , aka Japanese Painted Fern (shade only)
Rosa verschuren – a naturally variegated rose

Hardy Perennials
Barleria cristata, aureo and albo variegata – aka Philippine Violet
Dianella tasmanica variegata
Thryctis, cvs ‘lightning strike’ & ‘gilt edge’ and other variegated cvs’ – aka Toad Lily (shade)
Pentas lanceolata ‘variegata’
Crinum asiaticum ‘variegata’
Canna cvs ‘nirvana’ & ‘tropicanna’
Aspidistra eliator ‘variegata’ – aka Cast Iron Plant (shade only)
Farfugium japonicum ‘argentea‘ & ‘aureo maculata’ (shade only)
Hedychium x ‘Dr. Moy’ gingers (afternoon shade)
Alpinia zerumbet ‘variegata’ (afternoon shade)

Tropical Plants for Seasonal Color (non-hardy)
Monstera deliciosa cvs ‘alba, aureo, & maculata’ (shade only)
Acalypha wilksiana – aka Copper Leaf Plant
Codaeium variegatum cvs. – aka Crotons
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cvs. ‘Gen. Corteges’, ‘variegata’, & ‘Heat Wave’
Fucrea gigentea ‘variegata
Pereskia aculeata ‘godseffiana variegata’
Carissa macrophylla ‘variegata’
Bromeliads, esp. variegated cvs of Neoregelias
Bougainvillea, cvs Raspberry Ice, Mardi Gras, Vickie, & White Stripe

Other Variegated Succulents to Consider (hardy and non-hardy)
Sedum erythrostictum ‘mediovariegata’ and ‘frosty morn’
Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi ‘marginata’
Opuntia vulgaris ‘variegata’

A variegated plant to avoid: Artemesia vulgaris ‘oriental limelight’

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS………….

NOW YOU ARE NO LONGER DEPENDENT ON FLOWERS ALONE FOR YEAR ROUND SEASONAL COLOR IN YOUR GARDEN.

BLEND VARIEGATED PLANTS WITH OTHER PLANTS TO CREATE A PLEASANT PALETTE AND VARIATION OF COLOR AND TEXTURES.

TOO MANY VARIEGATED PLANTS CAN BE AS BORING AS SOLID GREEN FOLIAGE ALONE.

ALWAYS CONSIDER MICRO-ENVIRONMENTS FOR SPECIFIC PLANTS.

FOR MORE GARDENING INFORMATION GO TO OUR WEBSITE
“CENTRAL T TEXAS GARDENING” at http://www.centraltexasgardening.info/