GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2009 show23
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Show #23/1610
The Gardens Of The Alamo


The History of the Alamo
THE HISTORY OF THE ALAMO GOES BACK OVER 300 YEARS. Ector and Sherry join Joe. They're part of the Education Department at the Alamo. Sherry tells Joe about her outfit. She's dressed as a frontier woman would have been dressed in Texas in 1836. She has a long dress which was the fashion of the time, she also has heavy petticoats underneath which no woman would have been complete without. She also has a wide brim straw hat to protect her from the Texas sun. Ector is ready to fight. He has a Brown Bess Musket and is also carrying a cartridge box at the back of his belt that would have the individual cartridges that could fire.

Click here for more info

Director's Courtyard
JOE AND MARK START IN THE DIRECTOR'S COURTYARD. Only a few people get to see this area. This area has walls protecting the area which create a sense of intimacy, there is a little turf area and the plantings are stunning, very lush. Joe notices the containers both on the ground and on the wall. As one comes through the main entrance to the Courtyard, a fairly narrow area, there are containers on the wall. If they were on the ground it would be crowded, making one move way over on the sidewalk. By putting them on the wall it has accomplished several other things. It has softened the wall and they lift the eye.

Click here for more info

Shady Area Under An Oak
The guys MOVE INTO THE MAIN AREA AND UNDER THE SHADE OF A GIANT QUERCUS COCCINEA OAK. When Mark arrived here this was pretty much the only plant here. He's taken the area and made it beautiful which is impressive considering the deep shade. One of the standouts is Justicia carnea Jacobinia. It will bloom 3 times a year, a real workhorse. Mark may trim it now and then to clean it up but otherwise it's not a lot of work.

Click here for more info

2nd Shady Area
THE NEXT AREA IS STILL SHADY. Here Mark has Ixora coccinea Flame of the Woods, an intermediate plant. It stands above the Monkey Grass but below the Cycad revolut sago Palm and it offers great color. This plant has a wonderful red orange bloom but also comes in pink and yellow. Many plants chosen for shady situations that have flowers tend to mound closer to the ground, such as the Ophiopogon japonicus Mondo grass underneath. This stands up and therefore really stands out.

Click here for more info

Combination Sun and Shade
We've seen full shade situations, THE NEXT AREA HAS SOME SUN AND SOME SHADE. Here Mark has Jatropha hastate Jatropha. It blooms from early spring until it gets cold. It puts on a show for most of the year right up to the point it does get cold. This plant would normally be found further south but Mark has a micro climate here which has probably added 10 degrees to what is reported at the airport and that is the equivalent of one growing zone. San Antonio is Zone 8, the micro climate makes it a Zone 9. This plant has been in the ground for 5 years and is a real workhorse. The bright red blooms are very nice, they really catch the eye. Odontonema strictum Mexican fire spike also has a long bloom period. It begins blooming in mid-July when few other things are in flower.

Click here for more info

Area With Full Sun
MOVING TO FULL SUN reminds one of a typical situation a homeowner might find in a new subdivision where all the trees have been leveled. But there are a lot of plant choices for full sun situations. Galphimia glauca Thyrallis is one. This is yellow and will bloom continuously from spring to autumn. It's a great backdrop allowing one to plant annuals or perennials in front. It's hardy to Zone 9 or root hardy to Zone 8. Thus if it freezes back to the ground as long as the root ball doesn't freeze it will come back the next year. Erythrina bidwillii Fireman's Cap has a red bloom and is reminiscent of the old time fireman cap at the station. That's how it got its name. It can get really tall, 20 to 30 feet, has red spired flowers that command attention above everything else.

Click here for more info

Area By The Road
Mark shows Joe AN AREA BY THE ROAD. It is a treat for those driving by and is a high traffic area. Here Mark has tropical Nerium oleander Oleander. It is probably good to 15 degrees. It's a fairly common plant anywhere south of San Antonio. Joe has tried to grow it in his garden, Zone 6, and it didn't work. But Joe likes the plant, it has a long growing period, more so than normal. The tropical Oleander has a blooming period longer than normal Oleanders which bloom for only about 3 weeks. This variety blooms for months. Delonix regia Royal Ponciana tree is also beautiful and presently in full bloom. It is a hot color thus really grabs ones attention. It, too, is root hardy here.

Click here for more info

Cactus Scale Used For Red Dye
Mark next shows Joe his Cactus bed. Dactylopius coccus Cochineal SCALE IS EVIDENT ON THIS CACTUS. It appears as a little white pustule on the leaf. Mark pops it and it looks like blood. In old Mexico this was used as dye and was then used in textiles. It was such an important export for Mexico that they prohibited its exportation. Joe sees that as an interesting twist. Scale is something one normally wants to eliminate, in this case people were trying to export it. But if one wants to make red dye, there is plenty here.

Click here for more info

Turf Care
THE GUYS NEXT LOOK OVER THE TURF AREA. Joe would rather not have turf but what's here looks great. Mark needs the turf for the kids that visit and for other tourists that like to lounge on the grass. But Mark admits it is labor intensive. They spend 2 and 1/2 hours every day doing something to the grass. They blow it clean everyday and mow it twice a week, ensuring the manicured look. When they cut it, they take off no more than 1/16 of an inch each time. At home we're probably not going to mow that often but it is important to take off no more than 1/3 of the blade each mowing. If more were removed it would stress the plant, potentially creating pest and disease problems for the lawn. Here they water 2 times a week, about 35 minutes each time. When the weather is warmer they up the watering time. All grass prefers about an inch of water per week. Since Mark is watering 2 times a week that means he's watering approximately 1/2 inch each application. They also feed the lawn once a month using ammonium nitrate, a basic nitrogen fertilizer for lawns. But Mark's secret weapon is aerification.

Click here for more info

Take a Chance With Plants
MARK'S PARTING WORDS ARE: Take a chance, push those climate zones just a little. What's the worst that can happen? You lose a $3 plant. Yet the potential reward could be great, you may find new or different plants that will work in your area. And that can add to the enjoyment one receives from their garden.

Click here for more info

 


LINKS:

Drury Plaza Hotel (Riverwalk)

The Alamo

Garden Smart Plant List



Complete transcript of the show.


The expression, "Remember the Alamo" has a new meaning after Garden Smart visits San Antonio, Texas and the Alamo. In addition to the history of the building there is a lot to see in the way of plants and horticulture.
THE HISTORY OF THE ALAMO GGOES BACK OVER 300 YEARS. Ector and Sherry join Joe. They're part of the Education Department at the Alamo. Sherry tells Joe about her outfit. She's dressed as a frontier woman would have been dressed in Texas in 1836. She has a long dress which was the fashion of the time, she also has heavy petticoats underneath which no woman would have been complete without. She also has a wide brim straw hat to protect her from the Texas sun. Ector is ready to fight. He has a Brown Bess Musket and is also carrying a cartridge box at the back of his belt that would have the individual cartridges that could fire. Also he has a Bowie knife at his belt and a bayonet that will go on his Brown Bess Musket.
The Alamo began as a Spanish mission but later became a fort. In 1803 Spanish troops moved in and the soldiers stayed here. Over the years Spanish troops, Mexican, United States, Texan and Confederates, all used this as their home and fort and that continued all the way through 1876.
In 1836 there was a famous battle here that was part of the Texas Revolution. On March 6th General Santa Anna, the President of Mexico, attacked this fort. He had more than 3,000 men outside the walls but there were only 189 defenders. They fought for about an hour and a half but in the end the Mexican army prevailed and all of the Alamo defenders lost their lives. However, in spite of the tragedy there was good that came out of the event. This defeat led to ultimate victory. At the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, the tables were reversed. General Santa Anna once again faced the Texas army but this time they defeated him, in a battle that lasted 18 minutes. They had won their independence from Mexico.
Today the Alamo is run by a group of ladies known as the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. They operate the Alamo and have been doing so for over 100 years, in fact, in 1905 the Texas legislature gave them this right through law. They run the Alamo without accepting any tax dollars and without charging an entrance fee. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas run a gift shop and they have donation boxes throughout the grounds and have been handling business this way since the early 1900's.
The horticulturist at the Alamo is Mark Nachutz. Mark believes that Alamo plants are tough, just like the heroes of the Alamo. Mark started gardening at the age of 12 when his parents moved to the country. It was there he first he gained gardening experience and techniques while doing their yard. He enjoyed gardening, went to Texas A & M to learn the technical aspects of horticulture, graduated and his first job was with the city parks department. After that he went into private practice as a landscaper, did some design work and did that for 12 years. He answered a small ad, not even knowing it was for the Alamo, interviewed and got the job. He has now been at the Alamo for 11 years.
Once hired he hit the ground running and spent everything in his budget. There is always more to do than there is money but Mark has done a great job. The Alamo sits on 4.13 acres and the grounds are stunning.
Top


JOE AND MARK START IN THE DIRECTOR'S COURTYARD. Only a few people get to see this area. This area has walls protecting the area which create a sense of intimacy, there is a little turf area and the plantings are stunning, very lush. Joe notices the containers both on the ground and on the wall. As one comes through the main entrance to the Courtyard, a fairly narrow area, there are containers on the wall. If they were on the ground it would be crowded, making one move way over on the sidewalk. By putting them on the wall it has accomplished several other things. It has softened the wall and they lift the eye. In these containers Mark has used Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri' Asparagus Fern which cascades down. He also used Pennisetum setaceum Purple fountain grass as the full plant with the Callicarpa Americana 'American beautyberry' Callicarpa Crow in the middle providing color.
In a corner Mark has used Citrus reticulata var. Satsuma 'Satsuma orange'. It was introduced from Japan in the late 1800's and grows all over Texas and most likely most of the rest of the country. It's not winter hardy in many places other than the deep south but what a great opportunity to have citrus in a container. It has wonderful smelling blooms in early spring, then about October or November it develops fruits, the Satsuma Orange. Just past that plant is a Pachypodium lamerei Madagascar Palm, which is blooming. It has 3 different levels, it's columnar. Typically container plants require a lot of water but that's not the case with this plant. Mark waters it less than once a week. In another area is a Tibouchina laxa Climbing Tibouchina, which is also in a container. It too, is a great looking plant and provides height relief, plus it has great looking purple flowers. The foliage is soft, almost like a Lamb's Ear. The purple flowers, once the plant becomes established, can actually become pink and orange, providing some great variety. It's a large shrub or even a small tree and does well in a container. Mark has done a nice job of dressing up the base of the plant, hiding its legs with Asparagus Fern which ties the garden together because the fern has been used elsewhere. It's a good plant in a bed, in a container, outdoors, a versatile plant.
Top


The guys MOVE INTO THE MAIN AREA AND UNDER THE SHADE OF A GIANT QUERCUS COCCINEA OAK. When Mark arrived here this was pretty much the only plant here. He's taken the area and made it beautiful which is impressive considering the deep shade. One of the standouts is Justicia carnea Jacobinia. It will bloom 3 times a year, a real workhorse. Mark may trim it now and then to clean it up but otherwise it's not a lot of work. This plant wouldn't typically be all that hardy in this area but this is a micro climate because of the surrounding walls and the protection they provide. As well they haven't experienced extremely low temperatures during the past few years, thus it just keeps coming back.
Cornus drummondii Rough-leaf dogwood is not the typical dogwood that most are familiar with. It's a Texas native and blooms after it leafs out, which is different from most typical Dogwoods. Mark planted it principally for the height relief that it offers.
Top


THE NEXT AREA IS STILL SHADY. Here Mark has Ixora coccinea Flame of the Woods, an intermediate plant. It stands above the Monkey Grass but below the Cycad revolut sago Palm and it offers great color. This plant has a wonderful red orange bloom but also comes in pink and yellow. Many plants chosen for shady situations that have flowers tend to mound closer to the ground, such as the Ophiopogon japonicus Mondo grass underneath. This stands up and therefore really stands out. Another great addition is the Crossandra infundibuliformis Firecracker Plant, a real eye catcher. It's nice to have a flowering plant in the middle of the bed, especially in shade. It's rare to see a plant this tall in this situation. It's a fairly tropical plant, thus won't thrive in most of the country but in Zones 9 or 10 it's a great plant. Mark feeds it once a month with an all purpose fertilizer to keep it going.
In the 4.13 acres there are full shade areas, 50/50 areas, then full sun areas making it challenging to find the right plant for the right location. Mark works very hard to ensure things look good.
Top


We've seen full shade situations, THE NEXT AREA HAS SOME SUN AND SOME SHADE. Here Mark has Jatropha hastate Jatropha. It blooms from early spring until it gets cold. It puts on a show for most of the year right up to the point it does get cold. This plant would normally be found further south but Mark has a micro climate here which has probably added 10 degrees to what is reported at the airport and that is the equivalent of one growing zone. San Antonio is Zone 8, the micro climate makes it a Zone 9. This plant has been in the ground for 5 years and is a real workhorse. The bright red blooms are very nice, they really catch the eye. Odontonema strictum Mexican fire spike also has a long bloom period. It begins blooming in mid-July when few other things are in flower. Joe likes the height, it is more of a tropical plant and likes warm weather. It has died back to the ground twice but it grows so fast it would get a show the next year because it blooms on new wood. As long as the roots don't die out, it will provide a continuous show even in Zone 8/9.
Callicarpa Americana American beautyberry actually does better in cooler weather. They're not normally found in botanical gardens but are very much at home in woodland settings. It is an early bloomer, blooms in March, thus provides garden interest early on and the magenta berries are very attractive. It has delicate flowers, is not a dense plant, especially in shady situations.
Top


MOVING TO FULL SUN reminds one of a typical situation a homeowner might find in a new subdivision where all the trees have been leveled. But there are a lot of plant choices for full sun situations. Galphimia glauca Thyrallis is one. This is yellow and will bloom continuously from spring to autumn. It's a great backdrop allowing one to plant annuals or perennials in front. It's hardy to Zone 9 or root hardy to Zone 8. Thus if it freezes back to the ground as long as the root ball doesn't freeze it will come back the next year. Erythrina bidwillii Fireman's Cap has a red bloom and is reminiscent of the old time fireman cap at the station. That's how it got its name. It can get really tall, 20 to 30 feet, has red spired flowers that command attention above everything else. It is hardy to Zone 9 and is a low water user, thus a good xeriscape plant. One must remember that the varieties with seeds, if ingested, are poisonous. This variety doesn't have seeds, thus doesn't produce fruit, is hardy and isn't poisonous. The Tecoma 'Sunrise' Texas Yellow Bells is another plant that requires little water. It blooms continuously from May until cold. It is roughly Zone 9 hardy which is San Antonio south. It is fast growing, blooms on new wood, so if it were to die back to the ground it would have new growth coming up and a whole new display. Even when they freeze to the ground by the end of the next growing season they'll be about 3 to 4 feet tall. If someone in a colder climate, say Cape Cod, saw the plant and liked it there is no reason why they couldn't find the plant on the internet or through a catalogue, order it, plant it in the spring after the risk of frost has passed, grow it out, because it is a fast grower, enjoy the display and worst case scenario it will die, roots and all. If that happens simply replace the plant the next year. The plant costs $3, fairly inexpensive, yet it will provide a lot of interest.
Top


Mark shows Joe AN AREA BY THE ROAD. It is a treat for those driving by and is a high traffic area. Here Mark has tropical Nerium oleander Oleander. It is probably good to 15 degrees. It's a fairly common plant anywhere south of San Antonio. Joe has tried to grow it in his garden, Zone 6, and it didn't work. But Joe likes the plant, it has a long growing period, more so than normal. The tropical Oleander has a blooming period longer than normal Oleanders which bloom for only about 3 weeks. This variety blooms for months. Delonix regia Royal Ponciana tree is also beautiful and presently in full bloom. It is a hot color thus really grabs ones attention. It, too, is root hardy here.
Top


Mark next shows Joe his Cactus bed. Dactylopius coccus Cochineal SCALE IS EVIDENT ON THIS CACTUS. It appears as a little white pustule on the leaf. Mark pops it and it looks like blood. In old Mexico this was used as dye and was then used in textiles. It was such an important export for Mexico that they prohibited its exportation. Joe sees that as an interesting twist. Scale is something one normally wants to eliminate, in this case people were trying to export it. But if one wants to make red dye, there is plenty here.
Top


THE GUYS NEXT LOOK OVER THE TURF AREA. Joe would rather not have turf but what's here looks great. Mark needs the turf for the kids that visit and for other tourists that like to lounge on the grass. But Mark admits it is labor intensive. They spend 2 and 1/2 hours every day doing something to the grass. They blow it clean everyday and mow it twice a week, ensuring the manicured look. When they cut it, they take off no more than 1/16 of an inch each time. At home we're probably not going to mow that often but it is important to take off no more than 1/3 of the blade each mowing. If more were removed it would stress the plant, potentially creating pest and disease problems for the lawn. Here they water 2 times a week, about 35 minutes each time. When the weather is warmer they up the watering time. All grass prefers about an inch of water per week. Since Mark is watering 2 times a week that means he's watering approximately 1/2 inch each application. They also feed the lawn once a month using ammonium nitrate, a basic nitrogen fertilizer for lawns. But Mark's secret weapon is aerification. This is very important for a healthy lawn. It provides oxygen for the roots, allows water to penetrate and takes nutrients down to the root zone. It removes compaction which is very important when one has 2 and 1/2 million people walking across the lawn each year, like they do here. They also perform a soil test once a year. They have found that to be very helpful. This year, for example, they found they were deficient in magnesium and calcium so they added that to their nutrient list. The test should only cost $6-$10 at home. A small price to pay for very important information because, as Mark found out, we may very well have nutrient deficiencies. The soil test will tell you where those deficiencies are and how much to add. It's also important because it tells you the proper PH range and what adjustments are needed to bring those into line. So, again, for $6-$10 dollars one can't beat the investment for having a great looking lawn.
Top


MARK'S PARTING WORDS ARE: Take a chance, push those climate zones just a little. What's the worst that can happen? You lose a $3 plant. Yet the potential reward could be great, you may find new or different plants that will work in your area. And that can add to the enjoyment one receives from their garden.
Joe thanks Mark. The Alamo grounds are spectacular, well worth a visit, and Mark has had a lot to do with that. Thanks Mark.
Top



LINKS:

Drury Plaza Hotel (Riverwalk)

The Alamo

Garden Smart Plant List

   
 
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By Heather Rhoades, GardeningKnowHow.com, Photographs courtesy of GardeningKnowHow.com

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