Poinsettias

The Christmas season is here!  I enjoy using plants and natural elements to decorate my home, and during the Christmas season that means poinsettias and Christmas greenery.

Poinsettias are a neat plant to grow, and they have an interesting history as the Christmas flower.  Poinsettias are native to Mexico and were cultivated by the Aztecs for their bright colors.  The flowers were used by Franciscan priests in the 17th century for nativity processions since it blooms near Christmas.

In 1828, Joel Roberts Poinsett, US Ambassador to Mexico, saw the brightly colored plants in bloom, and he sent some plants to his greenhouse in Charleston, North Carolina. (more…)

Pansies

One of my mom’s favorite flowers to grow is a pansy.  Every year in the fall, we went on a search for the perfect tray of pansies.  Some years she liked to plant a mix of colorful pansies, and other years she planted a solid color for a big impact statement.

Pansies are in the Violaceae family, which has more than 500 species.  Violas originally come from Europe, and our modern-day pansy is a hybrid cultivar that was developed in the mid-1800’s. (more…)

Texas Arbor Day

Texas Arbor Day is coming up on November 4, just in time to kick off tree planting season.  Many of the cities in Williamson County are celebrating Texas Arbor Day with tree planting events, so be sure to look up your local city information to find out how to participate.

One of my favorite things about Texas is the wide variety of trees that are native to our big state.  Texas boasts as many as 281 native tree species, from the pines in East Texas to the southern live oaks in Central Texas to the sabal palms in the Rio Grande Valley to the mesquites in the Panhandle.

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Green Magic Broccoli

The weather is finally starting to feel a little more like fall, or maybe I am trying to convince myself that 89-degree temperatures are fall weather in Texas.  The shorter daylight hours are making a difference in the weather, and I am ready to enjoy some fall vegetables.

I always enjoy planting salad greens and lettuce in the fall, and this year I am looking forward to the results of a broccoli trial in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden.  A couple of our Master Gardeners will be attending an Advanced Training Class in Texas Superstar plants, and they are getting a head start on the class by planting Texas Superstar Green Magic Broccoli. (more…)

What Is the Sticky Mess in Pecan Trees?

Have you parked your car under a pecan tree lately?  You might get a fresh coating of honeydew!  In fact, just about anything that walks under a pecan tree or sits near a pecan tree might be covered in this sticky coating.

The real culprits behind the honeydew are aphids.  Aphids are soft-bodied insects that suck sap from plant leaves.  Many species of aphids exist and attack various plants, but two types of aphids attack pecan trees and secrete honeydew, the yellow pecan aphid and the black-margined aphid. (more…)

Dividing Irises

The month of September has rolled by quickly, and I am somewhat behind on my monthly garden task list.  September is a great time to divide and re-plant irises.  I have some beautiful white irises that need a little more room, and I will be moving some of them to a new spot in my yard. (more…)

Fall Weed Control

The recent rains are a great boost to my lawn and garden.  I really am amazed at how quickly plants can recover from drought after a good, soaking rain.  My salvia plants are already blooming again, and my fall tomatoes are really growing a lot of foliage.  The rain also helped the weeds kick into gear, and they are growing like…well, weeds.

With fall just around the corner, this is a good time to talk about preventing cool-season weeds.  Winter weeds such as henbit, dandelion, annual bluegrass, rescue grass, and ryegrass will be germinating soon. (more…)

Starting Seeds for Fall Crops

August is an interesting time for Texas gardeners.  We are trying to keep our plants alive in the heat and drought, but we also start to look forward to fall gardens and flowers.  I wrote about fall tomatoes last month, and I continue to plant fall crops of butternut squash, zucchini, Zipper Cream peas, and a few peppers.  If you have not had the privilege of a bowl full of Zipper Cream peas with ham, some sliced tomatoes, and a big piece of sweet cornbread, you have not lived.  You need to find an old-timer and fix this problem soon.

Dr. Larry Stein, Texas A&M AgriLife Horticulture Specialist, puts out a great list of monthly garden tasks, and first on the list for August is a reminder to plant seeds for cool-season plants.  We enjoy a wide variety of plants to grow in the fall and winter, everything from pansies and zinnias to broccoli and cabbage.  I planted sweet basil seed last week to get some fresh basil this fall to go in my salads. (more…)

Spider Mites

When you have been gardening for a while, you start to notice that the weather affects all kinds of things in the garden.  It is easy to see the effects of the heat and drought on our plants as they wilt in the sun, but the weather also affects disease and pest problems.

During a rainy season, I know that we will get a lot of calls about fungus like take-all-root-rot and large patch in lawns.  Lots of rain and high humidity makes the perfect conditions for those fungal pathogens to multiply.

The heat and drought might make you think that all the pests are dying or in hiding until it cools off, but one pest really makes itself known during hot weather.  Spider mites increase in hot weather, and that is certainly true this year! (more…)

Watering Trees through Drought

In Texas, we love our trees.  Live oak trees spread out wide to make a beautiful shade tree.  Pecan trees are the official State Tree of Texas, and we all love their shade and nuts.  Who can resist a pecan pie made from fresh pecans in the fall?

Most trees in Texas do well with minimal care, but our trees have faced some challenges over the last few years.  Winter Storm Uri was a big stress on trees.  We saw broken limbs, limb dieback, cracks in the bark from internal freeze damage, and thin canopies.  This year, the drought is an additional stress on our trees.  These stresses accumulate over the years and can lead to tree decline and an increase in pest and disease problems. (more…)