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Show #32/1706
Texas - A Convergence of Plants


Diverse Flora In Texas
Texas is a huge state. When looking at the overall picture IT REPRESENTS THE CONVERGENCE OF SEVERAL GREAT FLORAS. One will find the eastern deciduous hardwood forest coming in on the east side, the Great Plains kind of petering out through the Panhandle and Central Texas and the elements of the Rocky Mountains coming in, then in West Texas the Mexican Forest coming in from the south, in the middle of this is the Edwards plateau where a lot of unique plants are found that can be found nowhere else.

Click here for more info

East Texas Area
Paul feels THE FIRST AREA (EAST TEXAS) is why he got his job here. He was going to school at the time at Stephen F. Austin in East Texas, Nacogdoches, and they needed someone with an East Texas background to help develop this area. They brought in 6,600 cubic yards of sandy loam and sandy clay to replicate an East Texas profile. At that time this project had more detractors than it had proponents, everyone was a critic because they said these plants will grow through the sand, hit the native alkaline clay and they will all die. In fact, the plants have done very well here. They normally wouldn't grow without sandy soil but have done well. Importantly, they've tried to reflect the vegetation that was present during earlier times and how that vegetation influenced the early architecture and life style of the settlers. In East Texas they had the luxury of having logs, thus there were logs for a cabin.

Click here for more info

The Hill Country
THE NEXT AREA IS THE HILL COUNTRY. Depending on who you talk to the Edwards Plateau either uplifted or the surrounding countryside subsided and it created an island of limestone. The erosional features on the eastern two-thirds of the state is what's called the Hill Country and is considered by many to be the most beautiful part of Texas. It's all spring fed, because of the limestone springs and creeks and rivers. These have created little pockets of plants that are found nowhere else other than the Hill Country. Thus, there are a lot of endangered species in the area.

Click here for more info

South Texas Area
THE NEXT AREA REPRESENTS THE SOUTH REGION OF TEXAS (SOUTH TEXAS), although the northern most limit of the Mexican scrub flora. It's essentially a very inhospitable, austere environment where everything is either poisonous or has spines to keep things from eating it because moisture is in short supply in this area. Most of the southwestern cultures were fiber based. Yucca baccata var. Spanish dagger is indicative of the area. It's strong, with time and inclination one can peel it down resulting in a needle and thread which has been used for sutures and other things.

Native Plants by State




Click here for more info

Children's Garden
PAUL IS REALLY PROUD OF THEIR CHILDREN'S GARDEN. He believes it's the oldest in the nation. It opened in 1982 and was sponsored originally by the Men's Garden Club. That has now been phased into the Master Gardener's program but they still work with the Men's Garden Club who are mostly Master Gardeners. There are 2 kids per plot and 1 adult supervisor for 2 plots. The age range is 8 to 13, some of the teenagers go on to become Plowback instructors. It's totally organic, there are no chemicals involved. The Extension Agent told Paul it's one of the best organic gardens he's ever seen. There are 125 kids currently involved and there's a waiting list.

Click here for more info

What's Growing In The Children's Garden
THERE'S A LOT GROWING IN THIS GARDEN. They've started pulling potatoes, they have Bush beans and there are cucumbers. Cucumbers are fast growing, so much so that once they turn yellow they're done. One must keep on top of their growth. It wouldn't be San Antonio without peppers, so they have those. Next to those are Sweet Bell peppers. A lot of people don't know that if left on the vine long enough they'll change from green to either red or yellow but then they cost a lot more. Joe likes trellising a Tomato plant and everyone wants to grow tomatoes but most have limited space. Putting them on a trellis not only supports the plant but makes very efficient use of space. They notice the onions. Some don't realize that when the foliage starts to turn brown, that's the time for the onions to come out of the ground. Next to that is Eggplant. Although probably not everybody's favorite fruit to eat, it's a fun plant to grow and very pretty in the garden and carries all through summer.

Click here for more info

Water Saver Lane
JOE AND PAUL NEXT VISIT WATER SAVER LANE. The premise here was to educate the public allowing them to come here and get ideas about alternatives to some of those thirstier plants. It was found that over 50% of urban water use goes to landscape irrigation. San Antonio operates on a finite water system, there is an underground aquifer and nobody knows how deep it really is. So after it's gone, it's over with, so they're trying to introduce people to low water usage plants in an effort to bring down the water usage and it's been fairly effective. There are several demonstration areas on Water Saver lane. The first 2 are indicative of the average homeowners lawn, with all the watering required to keep it looking green as well as all the very thirsty plants.

Click here for more info

Texas Hill Country Landscape
ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION AREA IS AN EXAMPLE OF A TEXAS HILL COUNTRY LANDSCAPE. With the exception of a little bit of turf, everything else is plants and shrubs. To Joe it's more interesting. The Hill Country is short on available top soil so they've minimized the turf and concentrated on woody elements, things like trees, shrubs and the perennials, the woody perennials. Paul's favorite is Sophora secundiflora 'Silver Peso' Silver Peso Texas Mountain Laurel because the new growth is a silvery color, then it fades back to dark green. Another favorite is Cercis canadensis var. texensis Texas Red Buds.

Click here for more info

Spanish Courtyard Exhibit
The next garden the guys visit is THE SPANISH COURTYARD EXHIBIT. Here there is no turf area, they've used a lot of mulch and perennials, more of the succulent type plants are used here. This is clearly regional specific. Paul's favorites are: Poliomintha longiflora Mexican oregano, which is a great oregano substitute and a pretty plant. Cordia boissieri Texas wild Olive is durable and a beautiful plant. The Bromelia balansae Heart-of-Flame is a plant that can defend itself, in fact in tropical areas its used as a living impenetrable fence. Joe likes the look. Although these plants are regionally specific the same concept could be used anywhere in the country. Just replace these plants with native plants from your area and you would get a similar, great look.

Click here for more info

Wildscape Design Area
THE NEXT AREA IS THE WILDSCAPE DESIGN. Here they're trying to bring in songbirds and butterflies. To accomplish this they're using plants like Asclepias curassavica Tropical Milkweed. The Blood Flower is for Monarchs and the birdbath is an essential element for attracting birds. They also showcase deer resistant plants like Rosmarinus officinalis (LINN) Rosemary. Rosemary is one of the most deer resistant plants known. As an herb it's a great plant and it's drought tolerant. Mulch has been used in this area as well.

Click here for more info

Cottage Garden
Paul feels he left the best for last. THIS IS THE COTTAGE GARDEN. It has a little bit of turf but the point here is to show that if one wants some turf, just use a smaller amount. This results is decreased water usage. Less is better. There are plenty of herbs in this area. Tagetes lucida Mexican Mint Marigold is a favorite of Paul's. His wife will only eat catfish if he uses it. In the fall it's covered with flowers. They also have annuals like Beta vulgaris subsp. Cicla Swish Chard Bright Lights. Many think it is Rhubarb.

Click here for more info

 


LINKS:

Drury Plaza Hotel (Riverwalk)

San Antonio Botanical Garden

Native Plants by State

Garden Smart Plant List



Complete transcript of the show.


In a state as big as Texas it's easy to see why there are several unique growing environments. Garden Smart visits the San Antonio Botanical Garden where they incorporate much of that unique flora in one location. And, many of the lessons learned here can be applied across the country.
The San Antonio Botanical Garden is a wonderful display garden and an excellent educational resource. Bob Brackman is the Garden Director and welcomes Garden Smart. This garden is one of the highlights in San Antonio, which Bob reports is the 7th largest city in North America. The San Antonio Botanical Garden has 3 main components. The first, is comprised of the Formal Gardens, which are right at their front door, the Rose Garden, the Old Fashioned Garden, Herbaceous Perennials from our grandparents era and before, the Japanese Garden and the Garden for the Blind. The 2nd area is the Conservatory Complex, which was designed by Emilio Ambasz from Argentina. He designed very contemporary structures with 5 different glass houses, showcasing different plant groups in each of those houses. And the 3rd component of the property is 11 acres devoted to Texas natives, and appropriately named the Texas Natives Trail. It showcases those plants that come together in the San Antonio/South Texas area - the Texas Hill Country, the South Texas Plains and the East Texas Piney Woods. The Gardens are a great place to enjoy 12 months of the year, no matter when one visits, there is something to see and something to enjoy.
Paul Cox is one of the founding staff members, dating back to 1980. Paul is the Assistant Superintendent and welcomes Joe. Paul came here when the Gardens were under construction, before they opened. He was here, literally, when they were scrapping dirt, before the sunflowers and Johnson Grass. He's seen the trees grow up, these are his buddies, they all have a story and Paul knows those stories. For example, they're standing next to a huge Taxodium mucronatum Montezuma Baldcypress. It was a cutting he took from a tree in McAllen.
Paul believes this garden is the complete package - they have ambience and it is special to see what can grow in Texas and what can grow at your home. Texas plants are notoriously Texas tough, accordingly this garden provides an idea of what can grow at many homes across the country. Paul will often see people with notebooks writing down ideas for their yard, quite often they're looking for low water use plants. Therefore they have water saver gardens. In addition, since Texas has 10 distinct vegetational regions they have picked 3 of the most diverse regions to represent here. A lot to see.
Texas is a huge state. When looking at the overall picture IT REPRESENTS THE CONVERGENCE OF SEVERAL GREAT FLORAS. One will find the eastern deciduous hardwood forest coming in on the east side, the Great Plains kind of petering out through the Panhandle and Central Texas and the elements of the Rocky Mountains coming in, then in West Texas the Mexican Forest coming in from the south, in the middle of this is the Edwards plateau where a lot of unique plants are found that can be found nowhere else. They are fortunate in Bexar county that it rests at the juncture of 4 of those areas. One can drive to the outer loop and look at 4 different vegetational areas. They chose 3 of the most diverse and represented those here.
Top


Paul feels THE FIRST AREA (EAST TEXAS) is why he got his job here. He was going to school at the time at Stephen F. Austin in East Texas, Nacogdoches, and they needed someone with an East Texas background to help develop this area. They brought in 6,600 cubic yards of sandy loam and sandy clay to replicate an East Texas profile. At that time this project had more detractors than it had proponents, everyone was a critic because they said these plants will grow through the sand, hit the native alkaline clay and they will all die. In fact, the plants have done very well here. They normally wouldn't grow without sandy soil but have done well. Importantly, they've tried to reflect the vegetation that was present during earlier times and how that vegetation influenced the early architecture and life style of the settlers. In East Texas they had the luxury of having logs, thus there were logs for a cabin. They have a log cabin from earlier times that was found in the East Texas area. The cabin, seems particularly small and people often ask why? Back then they didn't have Nintendo and TV, one either ate in he house or slept there, that was about it. Everything else was outside. The big porch provided the air conditioning because of the shade it afforded. It was a spartan life.
Some of the plants that they lived off are thriving here. Back then one couldn't just go to the grocery or the pharmacy, thus people relied on plants for much in life. Many had vegetable gardens but they also relied on native plants for medicinal and other uses. For instance Ulmus fulva Slippery Elm provided good fiber from the bark, but the inner bark was good for sore throats. In fact, one can still buy Slippery Elm in lozenges in stores today. Pinus palustris Southern Yellow (Long Leaf) Pine had many uses. The needles were used for basketry and the big seeds were eaten like pine nuts. Gumbo fillet, is what made Emeril famous. It is made from Sassafras leaves, Sassafras albidum Sassafras which is another plant in this location. With Phytolacca Americana Poke Weed one can make Poke salad. The leaves must be boiled several times to make it edible, however. Even the weeds were put to use.
Top


THE NEXT AREA IS THE HILL COUNTRY. Depending on who you talk to the Edwards Plateau either uplifted or the surrounding countryside subsided and it created an island of limestone. The erosional features on the eastern two-thirds of the state is what's called the Hill Country and is considered by many to be the most beautiful part of Texas. It's all spring fed, because of the limestone springs and creeks and rivers. These have created little pockets of plants that are found nowhere else other than the Hill Country. Thus, there are a lot of endangered species in the area.
Paul describes the buildings in this area. The early settlers in this area were predominately Germans and their buildings were originally constructed with mud and sticks, which evolved to complete limestone walls. These people were also living off the land, which contained ample Oak, Willow, mud and limestone. There was also a disjunct population of Pinion Pine and one of the cabins here today is made from Pinion Pine.
The Texas Hill Country is famous for its wildflowers. The Lupinus texensis Texas Blue bonnet was for a long time considered very difficult to grow from seed. Now one can grow it and even buy it in pots in nurseries. Castilleja indivisa Texas Indian Paint Brush is another favorite. It used to be thought to be parasidic on grass, that thought has been dispelled and now one can readily buy it. Hemerocallis 'Little Wine Cup' always provides a good display. Indian Vinca is a very reliable plant. On the tree side Quercus shumardii Shumard (Texas) Red Oak is the only reliable source of fall color here. Cercis canadensis var. texensis Texas Red Bud performs much better than the eastern variety because it has a thicker, shiner leaf. The Diospyros texana Texas Persimmon is totally different from the eastern persimmon. The Clematis texensis 'Duchess of albany' Texas Scarlet Clematis is one of the parents to the big gaudy hybrids one sees in catalogues. Paul has had Japanese breeders come here just to see this plant before they died. It is a beautiful plant.
Top


THE NEXT AREA REPRESENTS THE SOUTH REGION OF TEXAS (SOUTH TEXAS), although the northern most limit of the Mexican scrub flora. It's essentially a very inhospitable, austere environment where everything is either poisonous or has spines to keep things from eating it because moisture is in short supply in this area. Most of the southwestern cultures were fiber based. Yucca baccata var. Spanish dagger is indicative of the area. It's strong, with time and inclination one can peel it down resulting in a needle and thread which has been used for sutures and other things.
The building here was not a live-in structure, like the others discussed. This represents different construction techniques appropriate for the area. It has a post and then sticks stuck in between. It's made from indigenous plant material. Mesquite would be the main posts.
The plants were also austere. Opuntia ficus Prickly pear cactus became a very important food source. It was abundant, again, every one lived off the land back then. One would eat the new growth. The Opuntia have ripening fruit which were eaten. After eating this, one would need something to quiet an upset stomach so one would get Estafiate which can even be purchased in little packets in the pharmacy today. Leucophyllum frutescens Barometer Bush, Texas Sage is also a medicinal plant, it blooms about 2 days before rain, that's why it's called a barometer bush. The emblem of south Texas would have to be the Prosopis glandulosa Texas Mesquite Tree. Back then it was used for lumber, today we use it for barbecue. Also the seed pods were ground up and used as a flour substitute. Joe says these are tough plants and a tough climate, he's ready for a climate change.
The Conservatory is next. Having a conservatory allows Paul to grow a lot of different plants in the same area. San Antonio has climate extremes. It will freeze here, sometimes they have really wet periods and then long dry periods. The conservatory is great at controlling the climate. It opened in 1988, was designed by the world famous Emilo Ambasz. It consists of 5 independent structures. There is the Exhibition Room, the Desert Pavilion, the Tropical Room, the Palm and Cycad House and the Fern Grotto. These buildings and plants put the San Antonio Botanical Gardens on the map internationally.

Native Plants by State



Top


PAUL IS REALLY PROUD OF THEIR CHILDREN'S GARDEN. He believes it's the oldest in the nation. It opened in 1982 and was sponsored originally by the Men's Garden Club. That has now been phased into the Master Gardener's program but they still work with the Men's Garden Club who are mostly Master Gardeners. There are 2 kids per plot and 1 adult supervisor for 2 plots. The age range is 8 to 13, some of the teenagers go on to become Plowback instructors. It's totally organic, there are no chemicals involved. The Extension Agent told Paul it's one of the best organic gardens he's ever seen. There are 125 kids currently involved and there's a waiting list. They're pretty strict, if you miss 2 or 3 times you're out and the next person takes your place. The Garden is on the end of its spring cycle, in a few days they'll be pulling everything up and the next cycle starts at the end of August, the fall gardening season.
Top


There is plenty here to keep children busy, THERE'S A LOT GROWING IN THIS GARDEN. They've started pulling potatoes, they have Bush beans and there are cucumbers. Cucumbers are fast growing, so much so that once they turn yellow they're done. One must keep on top of their growth. It wouldn't be San Antonio without peppers, so they have those. Next to those are Sweet Bell peppers. A lot of people don't know that if left on the vine long enough they'll change from green to either red or yellow but then they cost a lot more. Joe likes trellising a Tomato plant and everyone wants to grow tomatoes but most have limited space. Putting them on a trellis not only supports the plant but makes very efficient use of space. They notice the onions. Some don't realize that when the foliage starts to turn brown, that's the time for the onions to come out of the ground. Next to that is Eggplant. Although probably not everybody's favorite fruit to eat, it's a fun plant to grow and very pretty in the garden and carries all through summer. They also have cucumbers growing up a trellis. This is another great use of vertical space. Plus, when one trellises plants it not only saves ground space, it helps provide better air circulation so many times things will ripen faster and they'll stay healthier because of the better air circulation. The Broccoli sums up the program. When it's finished, the season is finished and this plant is about on it's last flush.
Joe asks Paul about his background. Paul is senior author of Texas Trees: A Friendly Guide, now in it's 7th printing and 20 years old. He's also senior author of McMillan's Wildflower Guide to Gardening. He now is in charge of research and plant conservation and does a lot of educational outwork and tours to special interest groups of plant people. He's involved in plant introductions and has introduced the Bubba Desert Willow and the Sentido Cypress. He has also introduced a Byron Viburnum, which he foolishly named after his oldest son. It was foolish because he now has 5 other kids that need to have plants named for them.

Texas Trees: A Friendly Guide



Top


JOE AND PAUL NEXT VISIT WATER SAVER LANE. The premise here was to educate the public allowing them to come here and get ideas about alternatives to some of those thirstier plants. It was found that over 50% of urban water use goes to landscape irrigation. San Antonio operates on a finite water system, there is an underground aquifer and nobody knows how deep it really is. So after it's gone, it's over with, so they're trying to introduce people to low water usage plants in an effort to bring down the water usage and it's been fairly effective. There are several demonstration areas on Water Saver lane. The first 2 are indicative of the average homeowners lawn, with all the watering required to keep it looking green as well as all the very thirsty plants. Other vignettes provide great alternatives. With these one wouldn't need to have so much lawn, but still have great looking plants that require much less water. The water board, which sponsored this area, thinks St. Augustine grass is a big water user and they're happy when the St. Augustine dies during the summer. It has died twice and they won't let Paul replace it because they want to show people how it is not appropriate.
Top


ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION AREA IS AN EXAMPLE OF A TEXAS HILL COUNTRY LANDSCAPE. With the exception of a little bit of turf, everything else is plants and shrubs. To Joe it's more interesting. The Hill Country is short on available top soil so they've minimized the turf and concentrated on woody elements, things like trees, shrubs and the perennials, the woody perennials. Paul's favorite is Sophora secundiflora 'Silver Peso' Silver Peso Texas Mountain Laurel because the new growth is a silvery color, then it fades back to dark green. Another favorite is Cercis canadensis var. texensis Texas Red Buds. It would be difficult to name a more durable plant than Hesperaloe parviflora Red Yucca. It attracts hummingbirds, comes in all shapes and sizes. Gaura lindheimeri White Gaura, Salvia farinacea Mealycup sage and Verbena sp. are all great plants and would work in many gardens all across the country.
Top


The next garden the guys visit is THE SPANISH COURTYARD EXHIBIT. Here there is no turf area, they've used a lot of mulch and perennials, more of the succulent type plants are used here. This is clearly regional specific. Paul's favorites are: Poliomintha longiflora Mexican oregano, which is a great oregano substitute and a pretty plant. Cordia boissieri Texas wild Olive is durable and a beautiful plant. The Bromelia balansae Heart-of-Flame is a plant that can defend itself, in fact in tropical areas its used as a living impenetrable fence. Joe likes the look. Although these plants are regionally specific the same concept could be used anywhere in the country. Just replace these plants with native plants from your area and you would get a similar, great look. Joe also likes the material used on the paths. Gravel, which is a permeable surface, is used. It allows water to drain and percolate, thus reducing and preventing runoff which is smart no matter where one lives.
Top


THE NEXT AREA IS THE WILDSCAPE DESIGN. Here they're trying to bring in songbirds and butterflies. To accomplish this they're using plants like Asclepias curassavica Tropical Milkweed. The Blood Flower is for Monarchs and the birdbath is an essential element for attracting birds. They also showcase deer resistant plants like Rosmarinus officinalis (LINN) Rosemary. Rosemary is one of the most deer resistant plants known. As an herb it's a great plant and it's drought tolerant. Mulch has been used in this area as well. They use bark mulch for the most part. It keeps moisture in the soil, helps keeps the weeds down and if they do pop up they're easily pulled out.
Top


Paul feels he left the best for last. THIS IS THE COTTAGE GARDEN. It has a little bit of turf but the point here is to show that if one wants some turf, just use a smaller amount. This results is decreased water usage. Less is better. There are plenty of herbs in this area. Tagetes lucida Mexican Mint Marigold is a favorite of Paul's. His wife will only eat catfish if he uses it. In the fall it's covered with flowers. They also have annuals like Beta vulgaris subsp. Cicla Swish Chard Bright Lights. Many think it is Rhubarb. Rosa hybrid is included as is Senecio cineraria Dusty Miller which is next to the Frangula dianthes. Stachys byzantina Lambs' Ear is included and attractive with its grey-green foliage which is a good indicator of drought tolerance.
Paul has used a tumbled glass on the pathway. Once handled, you realize it's smooth. It's attractive, a good way to recycle and a great way to allow water to drain through, rather than running off.
Joe asks Paul - In the 30 years you've been here, you have undoubtedly learned a lot, what is your advice for our Garden Smart audience? Paul feels that if one has gardening, horticultural or botanical questions, consult your local botanical garden. They're an underutilized resource.
If it works for the Botanical Garden it can most likely work for you. Great advice, we've learned a lot here and hope many in our audience get a chance to visit. It's a great botanical garden. Thanks Paul.
Top



LINKS:

Drury Plaza Hotel (Riverwalk)

San Antonio Botanical Garden

Native Plants by State

Garden Smart Plant List

 
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By Spring Meadow Nursery, photos courtesy of Proven Winners

What's the secret of transitioning from a competent gardener to a confident one? Pruning! Though pruning shrubs strikes fear into the hearts of many, it is actually a simple and rewarding process. All you need to do to master it is to understand a few basic principles behind the why, when, and how of pruning shrubs. Read more...


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