Monday, February 28, 2011

It's All About the Color....Leaf that is !!


This is a good basic article about one of my faves and that would be the caladium, tons of color and great growers. Purchase your bulbs soon but do not plant till chance of last frost is well past...ENJOY!!!!


by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.

Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service in San Antonio

There is no caladium-testing program in this area but the Dallas Botanical Center has been conducting tests of about 100 varieties for nearly a decade. Results of their extensive testing program should give us some idea of the true winners in the caladium kingdom.

Flamboyant foliage is the hallmark of these remarkably versatile garden plants. Lush as the Amazon jungles of their origin, caladiums can add unique tropical flair to summer gardens anywhere in the country. The leaves attain their fullest size and deepest colors when grown in 60 percent shade - spots where filtered or morning sun falls only 3 to 4 hours daily.

"Fancy Leaf" caladiums are the most useful in home landscapes. Derived from Caladium bicolor, a Brazilian species, the broad heart-shaped foliage usually is a riot of pink, red, white and green splotches. Some varieties are solid red or white with deep-green trim along veins and outer edges. The pinkish flowers are short-lived, but leaves remain fresh and vibrant all summer long.

Planted in naturalistic clusters, the one-foot-tall foliage outshines traditional ground covers. Caladiums also enliven shaded foundation plantings and shrub borders. Deep shade is not advisable for caladiums, but full sun is fine as long as soil is kept sufficiently moist.

"Lance Leaf" caladiums (derived from Caladium picturantum) are smaller and more compact. Their pretty, ruffle-edged foliage seems tailor-made for window boxes and patio planters. These plants also thrive indoors near bright windows.

Caladiums are closely related to the popular and almost indestructible philodendron --and are just as resilient despite their delicate appearance. In fact, few garden plants are easier to grow.

Foliage sprouts from bulb-like tubers, which are available during spring and early summer, as are caladium seedlings and full-size plants. Gardeners have dozens of multi-colored varieties to choose from. For economy --especially when mass planting --go with tubers. Delay planting until all danger of frost has passed and soil begins to warm. (That's now folks!) Caladiums tolerate most soils but perform best in earth that is richly organic. If soil is sandy or heavy with clay, spade in peat moss or compost at planting time.

Place tubers bud side up in furrows or individual holes 9 to 15 inches apart. Cover with 3 inches of soil, tamping firmly around each tuber to eliminate air pockets. Water immediately. Thereafter, moisten only when the soil surface becomes dry. A 2 to 3-inch mulch of wood chips, ground bark or other organic material helps retain soil moisture and discourages weeds.

Want to try something different on your caladium bulbs this year? Try cutting their eyes out! It will result in more leaves and remember, leaves of brightly colored foliage is what caladiums are all about. Just take a sharp spoon or knife and scoop or cut off the apparent eyes or buds on the tubers before planting. Such a procedure delays emergence for a few days but it causes the tuber to sprout more dormant buds rather than the fewer main buds. The result is an abundance of foliage rather than a few shoots. Try some and leave some -see which gives the better results.

Depending on soil conditions, the first leaves break soil 3 to 6 weeks after planting, setting shaded areas aglow. Keep the caladiums glowing by applying fertilizer around emerging plants. A good rule of thumb is 2 pounds of 19-5-9 per 100 square feet of planting bed. Re-apply monthly. As plants fill out, a liquid fertilizer drench may be more convenient. Standard houseplant food suffices for container-grown caladiums.

So which are the best caladium varieties? I will list the variety name, the 4-year average survival period (in weeks) and the 4-year average height (in inches).

The best of the standard, "fancy leaf" types are Candidum (21) (19), Carolyn Whorton (23) (22), Fire Chief (21) (20), Florida Beauty (22) (24), Galaxy (24) (21), Miss Chicago (21) (20), Pink Shell (21) (15), White Christmas (21) (19), White Queen (22) (21).

The best of the strap or "lance leaf" types are Caloosahatchie (23) (14), Candidum Jr. (21) (14), White Wing (22) (18), Pink Gem (24) (23).

All of the above varieties were chosen because of their ability to survive for 21 weeks or more. If you can spare a week or two, the following are the most commonly sold varieties and their endurance (in weeks): Aaron (20), Blaze (18), Fannie Munson (19), Festiva (20), Freida Hemple (18), John Peed (18), June Bride (19), Lord Derby (18), Pink Beauty (20), Pink Cloud (20), Red Flash (18), Rose Bud (18).

There are other superior varieties which should be sold but are not commonly available. They include the "fancy leaf" varieties Jubilee (25) (21), Pink Lady (22) (18) and Sea Shell (23) (13). Other superior strap or "lance leaf" types include Jackie Suthers (26) (17), Mumbo (23) (16), Pink Symphony (23) (15), Red Frill (21) (11), and Lady of Fatima (24) (14).

If you purchase one of these superior varieties and want to try to save the tubers for planting next spring, dig them in the fall and store them for spring replanting. When foliage begins to yellow and daytime temperatures drop and remain below 60 degrees F, the time is right to dig caladium tubers. Air dry tubers for several days on a flat sunny surface. Allow leaves to fall off by themselves. This way they keep supplying tubers with needed nutrients.

Store tubers in dry peat moss or dry sand. Choose a well ventilated spot where temperatures ideally remain between 70 and 75 degrees F. Do not refrigerate. Within 8 weeks new growth may sprout, indicating tubers are healthy and prepared in advance for spring garden action.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Red and Spring...Must Be a Geranium!!!!


If there is one plant that heralds the advent of Spring for me it is the timeless classic Geranium. My favorite color is red of course, but there are cultivars of pink, white, and there are also trailing geraniums. These are classic beauties to be used in bed plantings and pots for the patio or for a stunning high visual impact for front entrance pots. They love the cool nights and moderate days. But will need rich well drained soil, plant after last frost date and they will last till mid May or till the days reach desert temperatures....which could be February in Texas.....(just kidding....but not much). They are eye candy for the Spring.... do not expect them to be a summer color plant.  I have included a partial article by Jimmy Turner from the Dallas Arboretum on Geraniums and his take on the values of the plant........Enjoy!!!

Jimmy Turner
Director of Research & Garden Designer
Dallas Arboretum

Nothing satisfies that early-spring itch like a geranium!
I’m going to share with you a little horticultural secret that all great gardeners know. “It’s OK if some plants don’t live forever, or even all summer.” I know this may be hard to accept. I’ve even known some new gardeners to cry over the death of a petunia or marigold, but this is the true purpose of annual bedding plants – to make a huge flower show, and then fade away. It’s important to recognize that this or that plant may not be there all summer, but only in your garden as temporary filler-what I term a “long-lasting outdoor floral arrangement.”

We test several varieties of plants in the Dallas Arboretum Trial Program that won’t flower all summer for us, but that’s OK. They are beautiful enough to compensate for the limited time they grace our gardens. One of the most popular of these plants is the familiar geranium or pelargonium.

Although geraniums may not flourish as well for us as for northern gardeners, Texans can’t resist them. The big, round orbs of bright red and other colors are traditional spring showoffs in our containers and gardens. Their true niche is late winter and the early part of spring, when we start having warm days, but a late frost is still possible. That’s when the “garden itch” hits Texas gardeners, and we head to retail nurseries in droves.

The one plant that is always waiting for us is geraniums, their bright flower clusters beckoning us to take them home. As many of you know from experience, they flower wonderfully through those cool days and cold nights, but when July hits, the flowers stop, and if the plants get too dry or hot, they die. But, as noted earlier, that’s OK. Be calm, take a deep breath, and go get some lantana for the rest of the season.

Excerpts from this article are courtesy of Jimmy Turner and the Dallas Arboretum. Visit for information on the Dallas Arboretum Trial Gardens

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author. Permission to use an article is given if the author is attributed and a link back to this article at is included.

Thank You Very Much and Enjoy the Life


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Green, Green, Grass Of Home

The condition of your lawn is usually the defining factor of how you feel about your yard. The greener your grass and more robust it is...... the happier most people are....hence a multi-billion dollar lawncare industry. Grass and seasonal flower color...the two big guns in the residential landscape.
Surprisingly..... green grass and colorful beds are fairly easy to have and with minimal maintenance easy to maintain. Okay here is the big secrete to a beautiful lawn..............water and fertilizer.  Yep..... that is it, everything in moderation. Do your research and place the proper plant in the right location, according to light and drainage requirements........ then water, fertilize and enjoy.......Okay....maybe a little bit more work than that but not much. The article below is from the extension service here in Texas...these guys are the best! This article is packed full of information about lawn fertilization in Texas...enjoy...Spring is coming.....


R. L. Duble, James A. McAfee, and A. C. Novosad

Extension Turfgrass Specialists

Lawn quality is generally measured in terms of color, density and uniformity. Cultural practices, particularly fertilization, largely determine lawn quality. A fertilization program should include timely fertilizer applications in amounts and formulations that meet the requirements of your lawn. Excessive nitrogen applications stimulate production of leaves and stems and increase the mowing requirements. Higher water requirements, increased thatch and increased susceptibility to insects and diseases also results from excessive application of nitrogen. Poor timing of fertilizer applications, such as mid-summer and early fall applications of soluble nitrogen, also increases the likelihood of chinch bug and brownpatch problems in St. Augustine lawns.

Fertilizer Requirements

The amount and formulation of fertilizer to apply depends on soil test results, grass species, environmental conditions and mowing practices.

Soil tests provide information on the availability of major fertilizer nutrients. Some soils contain phosphorus and/or potassium in amounts adequate for the maintenance of turfgrasses. Additional applications of these nutrients through fertilization would not improve the quality of the lawn. On the other hand, grass growing on soils deficient in one or more of these nutrients will respond to fertilizers containing these nutrients. Soil tests also suggest the need for lime or other amendments to correct soil acidity, soil salinity or alkali soil conditions.

Grass species differ in fertilizer requirements in the following order:

Total nitrogen required

(lb/1,000 sq ft/year) Grass variety

5-7........... Hybrid bermudagrass

(Tifway, Tifgreen,Tifdwarf)

4-6........... Common bermudagrass


3-5........... Zoysiagrass

2-5.......... St. Augustinegrass

Tall fescue

1-2.......... Centipedegrass


Environmental conditions such as shade, soil type and rainfall also influence fertilization requirements. Moderately or heavily shaded areas should not be fertilized as much as areas in full sunlight. Grass growing in shade is more succulent and has a weaker root system than grass growing in full sunlight. Fertilizer tends to make the grass more succulent and increases its susceptibility to disease, drought and other stresses. Nitrogen fertilizer also stimulate leaf growth at the expense of the root system. St. Augustine growing in moderate to heavy shade should be fertilized in the spring and fall only, at a rate of 1 1/2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Turfgrasses growing in sandy soils require more frequent applications of nitrogen than those growing on clay soils.

Lawns in areas subject to high rainfall require more total pounds of nitrogen per year (the higher numbers in the above table) than lawns grown under dry conditions (the lower numbers in the table). Thus, St. Augustine lawns in East Texas may require 4 to 5 pounds of nitrogen compared to 2 to 3 pounds in Southwest Texas.

Mowing practices, such as regular removal of grass clippings, also influence fertilizer requirements. Grass clippings contain 3 to 4 percent nitrogen on a dry weight basis, which is recycled through the soil if grass clippings are not removed. Regular removal of grass clippings will add at least one fertilizer application annually to lawn requirements.

Fertilizer Applications

Timing and distribution of fertilizer applications, as well as rate of application, are important considerations in a lawn fertilization program. Timing applications to corresponds to grass requirements rather than to the convenience of the homeowner can reduce maintenance problems (figure 1). Generally, spring and fall fertilizer applications are adequate for St. Augustine lawns.

In early spring there is usually enough residual nitrogen to maintain grass through several mowings. The first application of fertilizer should be made after the second or third mowing.

If the lawn appears vigorous and healthy at that time, delay the first application until May. In the absence of soil test information, apply a fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 2-1-1 ratio at a rate equivalent to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Bermudagrass lawns require supplemental applications of nitrogen at 45- to 60-day intervals between spring and fall fertilizations. These applications should not exceed 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per application. .Occasionally, St. Augustine grass may need a supplemental application of nitrogen to enhance color during the summer. Use organic or slow-release nitrogen sources on lawns during the summer. Summer fertilization of St. Augustine grass growing in moderate shade should be avoided because of increased disease activity.

St. Augustine lawns may require periodic applications of iron sulfate or iron chelate to prevent iron chlorosis. A foliar application of iron sulfate at a rate of 6 to 8 ounces per 1,000 square feet effectively eliminates the symptoms of iron chlorosis. These applications may be needed several times during the growing season.

Iron chelates should be applied according to the manufacturer's directions.

Fertilizers can be distributed with a broadcast (cyclone) or drop-type spreader. Uniform distribution is essential to prevent light and dark streaks across the lawn. For better distribution, divide the fertilizer to be applied into two equal lots. Apply one lot lengthwise and the other crosswise over the lawn (figure 2).

Fall Fertilization

Fall fertilization is the key to prolonging fall color and promoting early springs recovery of lawns. It also helps to produce a dense turf which resists winter weeds. Fertilizers used in the fall should be high in nitrogen and potassium and low in phosphorus. A 2-1-2, 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 analysis is preferred over a balanced fertilizer such as a 12-12-12 for fall application. Grass fertilized in the fall with nitrogen and potassium have shown greater survival during winter months and faster spring recovery than grasses fertilized with high phosphorus materials in the fall.

Avoid using straight soluble nitrogen fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate or urea during late fall because they increase the susceptibility to disease and winterkill.

Make fall applications in September for Regions 1, 2 and 3 (see map) and in October for Regions 4 and 5. Application rates should not exceed 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Type of Fertilizer

Choice of the type and grade of fertilizer material to use depends on soil test recommendations. Table 1 shows some analysis, ratios and equivalent applications rates of various fertilizers. In every fertilizer analysis (such as 12-4 8), the first number represents the percent nitrogen (N), the second number represents the percent phosphorus (P2O5) and the third number represents the percent potassium (K2O).

A complete fertilizer can be used in accordance with soil test results for the spring and fall applications. Additional nitrogen needed between the fall and spring applications for complete fertilizer can be supplied from one of several sources, as shown in table 2. Slowly available sources of nitrogen, such as ureaformaldehyde, IBDU, processed sewage sludge or cottonseed meal, are more desirable for summer applications of nitrogen than soluble sources such as ammonium nitrate, urea or ammonium sulfate. Slow-release and organic fertilizers usually cost more, but they are available to the grass over a longer period of time and help avoid the excessive growth produced by soluble nitrogen fertilizers. Soluble nitrogen sources should be applied in small amounts and more frequently than slowly soluble or slow-release types. Also, soluble nitrogen fertilizers are more likely to burn the grass than slow-release nitrogen fertilizers.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Scabiosa.....Pincushion Flower

The Perennial Plant Association has awarded the title Perennial Plant of the Year 2000 to Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue'.

I love this pale blue little flower it just kinda peeks up at you on it's stem..have been planting these for about 3.5 years now...and yes I can certify them as dog tough...they have been tromped on...watered from the male dog and just in general have been used and abused...and they just keep coming back. As with all perennials give them time to grow in and you will be pleased with the results. I once had a client ask me why perennials always look so weedy....Well....... as Emerson has said "a weed is just an undiscovered plant." Cut them some slack and enjoy the
natural beauty.....

Let's read what the experts say about this beautiful little plant...............

A member of the Dipsacaceae family, the nearly flat gray-green basal foliage of the pincushion flower hugs the ground. Lacy lavender-blue, two-inch flowers bloom on slender 12- to 15-inch stems from late spring through early fall. Flowering begins in mid-spring with repeated flowering throughout the growing season when consistently deadheaded. In some climates 'Butterfly Blue' flowers until late December. Pincushion flower derives its common name from the stamens which stand above the petals resembling pins stuck in a pincushion. The leaves are hairy, ovate to lance-shaped, with the upper foliage smaller and finely divided creating a mounded rosette six to eight inches high and 12 to 15 inches wide.


Forty years ago Farplants grower, David Tristram, admired this exceptional plant in a garden in Ireland. Mr. Tristram obtained cuttings and grew the unique Scabiosa in his Irish garden for 15 years before moving to England where he grew the beloved plant in his Sussex garden until the early 1980s. Marketing cooperatively, Farplants and the English nursery, Blakedown, selected Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' for their first venture in promoting plants. Indeed, 'Butterfly Blue' has become an international winner.

Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' can be propagated by stem cuttings. Two-node tip cuttings of soft vegetative growth should be taken before flowering. Cuttings are placed under mist for approximately two weeks with 68F bottom heat. Roots will form in about eight weeks at which time the cuttings can be transplanted to quarts or gallons. After transplanting, quarts should be ready for sale in four to six weeks, and gallons in six to eight weeks. Cuttings taken during the winter should receive a one-percent IBA or KIBA drench to enhance rooting. Botrytis may occur on stem cuttings during cloudy weather.

An excellent cultivar of an old-fashioned favorite, this long-blooming perennial for full sun to light shade grows best in well-drained soil amended with organic matter and a neutral to slightly alkaline pH. 'Butterfly Blue' pincushion flower requires moist soil during the growing season. Very well-drained soil is a requirement for winter survival. This lovely perennial does not appear to be fazed by summer heat and will bloom throughout the growing season when regularly deadheaded. No insect or disease problems have been reported on well-grown, healthy plants. Bare-root plants or divisions should be planted so the emerging buds are just below the soil surface. Container-grown plants can be planted anytime during the growing season 12 to 18 inches apart. The crown of 'Butterfly Blue' should be planted at the depth it was growing in the container to prevent crown rot. It is recommended that the basal foliage not be cut back in the fall. Winter-damaged foliage should be removed in the spring.
Landscape Uses

Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' is an excellent front-of-the-border plant to use in combination with annuals, bulbs, and perennials. The foliage remains clean and unblemished throughout the season. The delicate blue flowers add softness to the garden when massed with bolder-colored plants of yellow, bright pink, or red. They also work well with cooler tones of white, silver, and blue. Despite its delicate appearance, 'Butterfly Blue' is a sturdy plant. The plants do not require staking. During the summer butterflies find the nectar-rich flowers. 'Butterfly Blue' may be combined with Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam', Dianthus 'Bath's Pink', and Pennisetum alopecuroides for a three-season, carefree garden. The cool lavender-blue flowers of 'Butterfly Blue' shine against the warm, burnished tones of fall as one of the last blue-flowering perennials. With its long-lasting blossoms, 'Butterfly Blue' is an excellent choice for smaller flower arrangements either as cut flowers or grown in decorative containers. The outstanding attributes of Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' are sure to place this underused perennial in the top group of favorite long-blooming perennials.

(information taken in part from Perennial plant association....thank you vey much)


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Achillea millefolium.....Yarrow

Achillea millefolium or yarrow is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to the Northern Hemisphere. In Spanish-speaking New Mexico and southern Colorado, it is called plumajillo, or "little feather", for the shape of the leaves. In antiquity, yarrow was known as herbal militaris, for its use in staunching the flow of blood from wounds.[1] Other common names for this species include common yarrow, gordaldo, nosebleed plant, old man's pepper, devil's nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier's woundwort, thousand-leaf (as its binomial name affirms), and thousand-seal.

Common yarrow is an erect herbaceous perennial plant that produces one to several stems (0.2 to 1m tall) and has a rhizomatous growth form. Leaves are evenly distributed along the stem, with the leaves near the middle and bottom of the stem being the largest. The leaves have varying degrees of hairiness (pubescence). The leaves are 5–20 cm long, bipinnate or tripinnate, almost feathery, and arranged spirally on the stems. The leaves are cauline and more or less clasping. The inflorescence has 4 to 9 phyllaries and contains ray and disk flowers which are white to pink. There are generally 3 to 8 ray flowers that are ovate to round. Disk flowers range from 15 to 40. The inflorescence is produced in a flat-topped cluster. Yarrow grows up to 3500m above sea level. The plant commonly flowers from May through June, and is a frequent component in butterfly gardens. Common yarrow is frequently found in the mildly disturbed soil of grasslands and open forests. Active growth occurs in the spring.

Yarrow has seen historical use as a medicine, often because of its astringent effects. Decoctions have been used to treat inflammations, such as hemorrhoids, and headaches. Confusingly, it has been said to both stop bleeding and promote it. Infusions of yarrow, taken either internally or externally, are said to speed recovery from severe bruising. The most medicinally active part of the plant is the flowering tops. They also have a mild stimulant effect, and have been used as a snuff. Today, yarrow is valued mainly for its action in colds and influenza, and also for its effect on the circulatory, digestive, excretory, and urinary systems. In the nineteenth century, yarrow was said to have a greater number of indications than any other herb.

Now a small personal note, I love the leaf structure of this plant even more than the flowering ability...but best of all it survives in a "dog heavy" yard and each spring it fights it way back to survive.

(Information taken in part from wikipedia....thank you very much)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hot Fun In the Summer Time!!!!

Summer Time

Can anyone remember the Texas summer of 1980? We had 42 straight days of temperatures over 100 degrees and over 1250 people lost their lives that year due to heat related situations. I was commuting between Denton and Mesquite on a daily basis watching car after car overheating on the side of the road. And what about the supposed gasoline shortage and the ridiculous lines just to purchase gas, well that is hard to imagine now with the outdoor temperatures well below freezing and a forecast of 9 degrees for a low in parts of the DFW metro-plex tonight.

Summer is coming and we will endure heat waves, cold waves, high winds, low winds, and no winds, and so will our pets and plants…so today….. give that pet or plant just a smidge of TLC they will be so grateful.

Remember when we were kids …….. WE

• spent most of the summer barefoot,

• drank water right out of the water hose

• Caught fireflies and put them into clear mason jars at night for light   

• Drank sweet ice tea from these same mason jars the next day

• Thought a pair of 7 dollar PF Flyers tennis shoes were the coolest thing ever

• Went on picnics with fried chicken…… actually fried at home

• Going out to eat was a rare treat and not something owed to us

• Dairy Queen food was the best food in the world

• Knew the smell of new pencils, crayons, elmer's glue, and new jeans meant the end of summer

Summer is coming and we will make it through the winter......Yea!!!!