>One of the delights of being a gardener in Austin promoting environmentally friendly gardening practices and choices of native and adaptive plants is all the FREE help that is available to us, thanks to the City of Austin Grow Green program. Austin is truly unique in this regard, a leader and prime example of how cities around the country can help educate gardeners in making the right choices.

The absolute coup-d’etat of resources available to us is the 52 page “Native and Adaptive Landscape Plants – an earthwise guide for Central Texas”, fondly known to us in the gardening world as the “Grow Green Book or the Austin Gardening Bible”. A new 2010 edition was released in February which is more comprehensive than prior versions. This is FREE at any nursery within the City of Austin. I would gladly pay $10 to have this in my repertoire of gardening references. We have used this to guide us into greater use of xeriphytic, care free, plants to use in our landscape and ornamental gardens. It tells you everything you need to know about 225 perfect plant selections for our area with full color pictures of each for visual identification by categories of trees, small trees/large shrubs, shrubs, yuccas/agaves/succulents, perennials, ornamental grasses, vines, ground covers, and even includes specialty lists of good plants for rain gardens, bulbs, water plants and turf grasses. Furthermore, it includes a list of plants to avoid due to their invasiveness and harm to our native environment. The index is also outstanding.

Information on each of the 225+ plants listed includes common and botanical name, texas native by location, height, spread, light requirements, evergreen/deciduous, seasonal interest, color feature, water needs, availability, maintenance, wildlife attraction, deer resistance, and other valuable comments. What a litany of valuable information this is in selecting the right plant for any location. We recently did a curbside xeriscape and used this valuable resource to do just that. Every plant selected has thrived without any supplemental watering or care. Every homeowner who enjoys their landscapes and gardens should have a copy of this book! The price is right, the information is invaluable.

If that weren’t enough, the Grow Green program also introduces 8 new full color pamphlets showing actual landscape designs of public gardens in Austin using environmentally friendly plants and practices, plant selections for them including full color pictures of each plant, and the location of each so you can go by and see for yourself a demonstration garden in each category. The pamphlets include the following designs: Classic, Child Friendly, Pool Friendly, Drainage Solutions, Low Maintenance Shade, Sun and Color, Contemporary, and deer resistant. Locations for these demonstration gardens include Austin City Hall, Zilker Botanical Garden, One Texas Center, and Howson Library .

And if that weren’t enough, the City’s Grow Green program also produces informational “earth-wise guides” on over 40 gardening topics covering outdoor garden pests, diseases, lawn problems, how to diagnose problems, weeds, and miscellaneous topics.

The Grow Green website also has these on line at http://www.growgreen.org . It is a wealth of information that any gardener can use whether a novice or experienced. So you too can be an environmentally friendly gardener with a little help from our environmentally conscience City government.  Isn’t living and gardening in Austin great!