GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show21
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To some, Dallas is affectionately known as the land of cactus and cows. That image is long past, especially when one considers places like the Dallas Arboretum. Although just 22 years old, it's truly an oasis in the city. They're all about color and it is apparent year round. Imagine a place so beautiful that 500 brides choose to have their weddings here and countless visitors choose this place for a variety of reasons, such as great views, education or just a great place to relax. There are a multitude of bulbs and bedding plants, there are 2 trial gardens that test over 3,000 plants each year for toughness. To accomplish this there are 22 full time gardeners keeping the Dallas Arboretum looking great. There is a lot to see at the Dallas Arboretum and in this show we get a good start.

Mary Brinager is the President and CEO of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Mary welcomes Garden Smart and is delighted to share this garden with its viewers. The Dallas Arboretum is a combination of 2 historic estates, encompasses 60 acres, has 8 main gardens and is located on the shore of White Rock Lake. Several notable gardens are: the Johnson Color Garden, the Lay Ornamental Garden, the historic DeGolyer Gardens, the Sunken Garden and The Women's Garden. The Women's Garden is the newest addition and was completed in 2006. It was designed by Morgan Wheelock from Boston and Palm Beach. He took the symbolism of the strength of women and interpreted it in a garden setting. All of these gardens provide new ideas for combinations ideal for your own home.

Jimmy Turner is the Director of Horticulture Research and is in charge of the design and the display combinations for which the Dallas Arboretum is truly known. Although this garden has only been in existence for 20 years, many think it has been much longer because the garden is so developed and because of the beauty of the trees, many of which are over 100 years old.

The Arboretum is open for viewing throughout the year, is welcoming to all generations and provides a full day of excitement. Mary invites all to come and visit and tell their friends. It's something you shouldn't miss.

Jimmy Turner, as mentioned, is the Director of Horticulture at the Dallas Arboretum. He is a native born Texan, which isn't something one would think would be a huge addition to a resume but when it comes to horticulture, Texas is a land of extremes. It can have 100 + degree summer days, extremes of clay, soil, rain and drought and, all of those can happen in 1 week. He received his bachelors degree from East Texas State, then went to Penn State for a Masters in horticulture. He took a detour the next 10 years and was involved with a company that was a major supplier for the Arboretum. For 3 years after that, he was general manager for a landscape architecture and maintenance firm. This gave him an opportunity to work with the design part, which he likes. When this position opened the Arboretum tracked him down, asked him to come to work and said write your job description. He said, "Sure, I'm coming."

He does all the purchasing of plant material, all the design work, picks the colors and plant combinations and heads the trial gardens, which he likes the best. They test about 3,000 plants a year: bulbs, perennials, annuals, shrubs, even trees. There is a shortage of information about plants and the extreme Texas climate. Jimmy says he gets paid to kill plants. Their motto is "If we can't kill 'em, no one can."

This is a 60 acre Arboretum. Many homeowners feel this large facility or any large park or garden doesn't relate to their yard but, Jimmy says, "Look at something small, pay attention to details, look at small areas, look at containers. You can always take an idea from somewhere." He says he has plagiarized many ideas here. Many don't know where to start, they feel they can't design a flower bed, they can't pick colors. He feels that if you can dress yourself in the morning, if you can match colors, if you can put on makeup, you can definitely match colors. If you can pick out cushions or fabric swatches, or choose paint colors for a room, you can pick out flowerbed colors. He feels that when in a room in the house and you see the garden, pick a color that's in the room. If there is a piece of art, it's the same principle. Look at that piece of art, break it down into colors, even percentage of color, that's what is needed for a flower bed. If you like something, interpret it in color. People once over this obstacle then say they don't know what to get at the nursery. They now need 5 different colors of purple, violet, white and silver but don't know what plant to use. If you're really lost buy 1 plant in 5 different colors, which is what he has done in one bed. Then he added Dusty Miller for a silver background. If you have a large area and are lost, just plant one solid thing. By doing this it will show up well from a distance, it will be easy to maintain and if something dies, just replace it. Also, be aware, pale and pastel colors need to be seen up close; hot vibrant colors need to be seen from a distance. Those are Jimmy's easiest tips. Remember that gardening is learning by trial and error. One of his favorite lines is "My garden is built on the compost of my failures." Whatever you mess up this year, save it and bury it in the flowerbed next year.

If one wants color in a garden but doesn't want the maintenance issues that flowers create, consider foliage. Jimmy feels that the number 1 neglected element in any color garden is foliage. People often overlook Coleus and Elephant Ears and the Copper Plant. These plants offer less maintenance and easier growing. As a matter of fact, some of these plants are a little too easy to grow, easy to root and easy to plant. When visiting a public garden, pay attention, probably about 50% of the plant material is foliage. If you buy a bouquet of roses, you always get ferns or greenery or something to make those flowers look better. It works the same way in a flowerbed or container. It's a great hint for any gardener, for any bed - use about 50% foliage and your flowerbed will always look great, even if the flowers are out of bloom.

People think that foliage is green. It also is burgundy, it's bright chartreuse, it's purple. It can even be bright green and upright and shiny. Foliage is available in a multitude of colors and shapes. People are afraid to use foliage because it isn't flowers. But, it looks good and if you have an area that gets beating hot sun in the afternoon and shade in the morning, foliage sails through where flowers couldn't take it. As an example, the Copper Plant will be taller than Jimmy by the end of the summer, it'll be 8 feet tall, straight up and it doesn't need staking. It can be cut back, it doesn't matter, pinch it, it gets bushier, it just grows up. Big, blonde Coleus will take 107 degree full, hot Texas sun. Low humidity, high humidity, it doesn't matter, it just grows. If it gets too big, beat it back with a weed eater, it'll come back. It roots in a glass of water, you can't kill the plant. The Sweet Potato Vine is another example and it is grown all over the country. It's a wonderful, tough plant and comes in purple, pink and chartreuse.

Coleus is great and grows in shade, allowing one to get foliage and color in shade. And, it's available in bright colors. The bright green Sweet Potato Vine or Coleus provides a spotlight in the shade. Plant them with some yellow flowers, some lemon hollyhock and white impatiens, and that dark corner will pop.

We next visit the trial garden at the Arboretum. The plants in this area could be in the home garden and in display gardens next season. Joe wants to know if he could take these home. Jimmy assures him that he could. Anything in the trial garden, if it has a name on it it can be purchased somewhere. It may not be available locally but could be purchased on the internet. Most of the annuals are available locally, when in season. Any plant that's completely new, rare or unavailable they keep hidden from the public until it is available. Jimmy does this because it saves phone calls and much frustration on everyone's part.

We look first at some of the best plants from last year. Jimmy gave Helenium 'Dakota Gold' the Flameproof Award last year. It is one of those plants you can't kill. Another is Bitterweed (Hymenoxysodorata), a Texas native. Nothing will eat it - deer won't eat it, cows won't, nor will - spider mites, grasshoppers or aphids, nothing bothers this plant. Mow it, let it do what it wants, it always flowers. Full 100 degree sun, it doesn't care, it will grow in a crack in the concrete.

Another great plant is fanflower (Scaevola aemula). Most are familiar with the big new 'Blue Wonder', it has a bigger flower, which is great in hanging baskets. But for a bedding application or a small pot this blooms more frequently, stays more prostrate, is nice and compact. If you live in zone 8 south it's a perennial. However, you will get your moneys worth in 1 season of bloom because it blooms its little head off.

Another great plant is the Zinnia, the Profusion series. This company took a big grandmother cut flower, Zinnia and crossed it with Zinnia linearis, narrow leaf zinnia and the result is this disease proof, 18 inch mounding plant that blooms constantly with orange, red, orangish-red, white or pink flowers. The pink is the only one of the series that Jimmy doesn't really like. It's great in the spring but as soon as it turns 90 degrees, it fades out. Some like the fading, but for Jimmy it turns brown and the little brown flowers hang on, which is not attractive. It is a tough plant, mildew, powdery mildew and black spot, resistant. It can take drenching rains and still keep going. It's a great plant.

Joe notices a wishbone flower (Torenia) but doesn't see shade. Most expect it to grow in shade. It is normally a shade plant. Jimmy reminds us this is Texas and they don't have shade. It was 107 degrees last week yet this plant is very tall. This in the Moon series. The Summer Wave series is a trailing type and is also great in full sun. They'll mound up, if they get too tall, mow them down. Torenia fournieri 'Purple Moon' and the new Torenia fournieri "Golden Moon' is a lovely yellow and purple combination. It is a great plant for full sun or shade, hanging baskets or containers. It's like a flowering Kudzu.

Jimmy refers to the next plant as a "silver bullet." If you have sun and shade in 1 bed and 1 plant to cover the whole thing; go with the Star Flower (Pentas lanceolata), also known as Egyptian Star Cluster, it's a great plant. It will grow where Impatiens grow and it'll grow where Lantana grows. The Kaleidoscope Series gets about 3 feet tall, never needs staking, never goes out of bloom. It takes full sun, light shade, is always in flower and comes in great colors. For something shorter there is the Graffiti Series from the same company. It is 2 feet tall with perfect little basketballs of color, all summer long, and it thrives in sun or shade. If you want something bigger, go with the Butterfly or Galaxy series, they grow to about 4-5 feet tall. Just decide on the height you want. It's a wonderful plant. Angelonia, called Summer Snapdragon is a great choice. As is 'Serena white', the best Angelonia on the market in Jimmy's mind. 107 degree weather, full sun, the white flowers look perfect and clean, it never turns brown, is always in flower, doesn't flop and doesn't need staking. Another favorite is Phlox 'Intensia'. This plant was bred from 2 varieties of Phlox, one a Texas native from Padre Island. It starts flowering about March and will bloom until July. It will then rest, then bloom again. Some have said theirs just flowered to death, which it does here occasionally. But for 6 months of heavy blooms and $1.50 per plant, you can't beat it. It's a bouquet in the garden. Another favorite is Arctotus, the African daisy which, as southerners know, daisies don't live where it's hot. This started out as 2 plants, it's now 6 feet across. 2 plants can cover the whole bed.

One of the newest plants looks like Gypsophila or Baby's Breath but it's a Euphorbia, 'Diamond Frost'. Euphorbias are like poinsettias or pencil cactus, extremely drought tolerant, grown in full sun they give the lacey Baby's Breath look all summer long. They can grow in torrential rain or drought conditions, it doesn't care. It, too, is a wonderful plant.

These all are versatile plants, they're Jimmy's Flameproof plants. They will move into his palate in his gardens and be widely used in other's gardens next year.

Joe asks about the big cracks in the ground and the big rocks. Jimmy tells him that those aren't rocks. That is their soil, this is what they have to deal with. When he says extreme gardening he isn't kidding. It is hard as a rock when dry, Joe could break a knuckle when hitting it with his knuckles. When it's wet it'll stick to your shoes, it'll stick to a shovel. You can't scrape it off, can't sling it off, or shake it off. There might be 1 day when it is perfect and everyone thinks it's rich black soil. It is black. It is the most expansive clay soil and will actually crack open 3 inches wide, 6 feet deep. They water the foundations of their homes to keep the foundations from cracking during the summer. That is why there are a lot of raised beds in Dallas. There is organic matter in those beds which is why the Celosia is doing well.

This particular cockscomb Celosia (Celosia cristata 'Kurume Corona') is a cut flower type. It is on the market, and can be purchased from seed. One probably won't find it in a nursery because it looks terrible in a container, but is great in the garden. It gets about 2 feet tall, makes perfect little cut flower globes of Celosia, brain type or coral; whatever you want to call it. Use it as a cut flower, dry it or leave it alone. It does get heavy and will fall over. Every flower stem along the way will make another one and it keeps doing that all summer long. Another option is Armor, which is basically the same thing, but doesn't have the side branching, but it makes 1 giant brain, bigger than a basketball. It will get 2 feet across and about 2 and 1/2 feet tall. It likes full sun. A great tip for celosia: if you're going to the garden center to buy 1 and it is small, cute and root bound, when you take it home, 6 months later it will still be the same height yet kind of brown. People then say celosia is a bad plant. No, celosia's a bad plant to buy in a root bound pot. Once it gets root bound, it doesn't grow back out. Buy it as a tiny plant or buy the seed. If you can't grow celosia yourself directly from seed, you must really have a black thumb. Just throw the seeds on the ground, it's extremely easy to grow.

Another of Jimmy's favorites is arrowhead plant (Syngonium or Nephytis). If you've grown colladiums you know they grow great in shade, but they need a lot of water. They're expensive, they come up late and the moment they dry out, they fall over and never stand up again. This is a plant he found by accident. He planted some here because they had an emergency, a tree had fallen in their shade garden, and they needed something fast. He visited the nursery and decided to try it. They're now trialing it but have used them for years in the garden. They come in pinks, whites and greens. The plant is subtropical, people have used it in their houses for years. If it can grow in a living room with either too much water, no water, never any sunlight in its entire life, even grow in a bottle of water in a window; it'll grow underneath that deep Live Oak shade or anywhere in your garden you have deep shade. If you forget to water it, it'll lie down; water it, it stands right back up. One plant will send out runners when the long days of summer come. It's great in containers, great in beds, economical and a great deep shade plant.

The Women's Garden is a tremendous place to get away from the heat. This is the only garden Jimmy knows of that was built to symbolize women and it was paid for by the Women's Council of Dallas. It is basically a garden about women and is a series of lovely gardens, full of fountains and shade.

The first we visit is the Poetry Garden, meant to symbolize a woman's voice in the garden, or a woman's voice in general. A poetry garden is an English concept but they've done it Texas style. It has a place to sit in the shade, smell the roses, get away from the heat, it has a spot to look at the sun or to contemplate while one listens to poetry. It is a great place to relax. It's a little hard to interpret in the Texas heat, so one of the things they must look for is plants that are versatile. Plants that will thrive even in the corners - heat, shade or sun. One of Jimmy's favorite plants in here is the Star-leaf begonia, (Begonia heracle ifolia). It is a great plant for full sun or shade, lasts from March until November. It takes the heat; most Begonias lose their leaves in the middle of the summer, this doesn't.

Jimmy shows us another shady area. There is a specimen Oak above. It never loses its leaves, it's evergreen, thus there is no sunlight in this area year round. There are some great plants in here that highlight mistakes that many gardeners make. They think, "It's shade, I need color." Oftentimes for shade, the best thing is to just have green. Green provides a serene spot to sit and cool off during the heat of the day. Here, Hydrangeas provide some color in the spring, the rest of the year, they're a bright green. Jimmy likes the Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus). If you're in the Northeast or Northwest you do yew, but in Texas or anywhere in the south you need to use this variety. It has great heat tolerance. Lenton Rose (Helleborus orientalis) is also an attractive addition. It blooms in February and March and is almost indestructible. It easily reseeds and grows across the U.S., if not the world.

The Genesis Garden is the heart and soul of the Women's Garden. It's meant to symbolize the origin of the garden, the origin of life in general. It's a water garden. They like water features; it's a place to cool off in the afternoon. Joe comments that every garden in Texas seems to have a water feature. Jimmy believes that when you come from a climate where the summers are hot and blasting and dry, the sound of water cools you off, just the sight of it. Jimmy tells us that every lake in Texas is man-made with the exception of Caddo Lake and it was caused by a log jam. They bring the same water concept to their gardens.

But with water one gets mosquitoes. Here they control them. Jimmy feels one of the best controls is fish. They use the Texas native guppy but they're used all over the world. They can have, like, a million babies every year. The fish are everywhere in this pool. A mosquito lands on the water to lay its eggs, it's lunch. It doesn't even get a chance to make little larvae. They also use mosquito dunks to attack larvae in the water.

Jimmy shows us a unique area that utilizes Vitex. This is an application of a usual plant used in an uncommon way. Vitex is basically a large flowering shrub and they've used it as an 'allay of trees' plant. Originally, the architect had called for Olive trees to provide a gnarly overhead canopy, kind of a tunnel effect. Oren Johnson, the local architect, suggested Vitex. It adds a twisted growth look and the application turned out beautifully. This is something that could be utilized in a home garden. They have carefully pruned it and limbed it up to get the effect. In the summertime, when in bloom, it has a wonderful purple color. It attracts butterflies and bees. It's spectacular.

Joe comments that although we didn't see the whole garden, what we did see was spectacular. Jimmy is a wealth of knowledge. We sincerely thank him for the tour and his hospitality.

Update ::

All-America Selections is honored to announce Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Society, an AAS Flower Display Garden since 1982, and an Official AAS Trial Ground since 2002, as the Category III Exemplary Education Award winner.

The Dallas Arboretum Trials program is run by Jimmy Turner, Director of Horticulture Research and official AAS Judge, with the aid of Denise Robb - Trials & Greenhouse Manager. They may be reached directly at or

Award background

This is the fifth year the AAS Board has provided the opportunity for AAS Display Gardens to achieve national recognition for outstanding education featuring the AAS program and AAS winners. Entries were judged on event substance, educational content and quality of event publicity. Presentation style, originality, materials and garden display were also considered.

Three award categories were established based on the estimated number of visitors to a garden during their growing season.

Category I: up to 4,999 visitors Category II: 5,000-99,999 Category III: 100,000 or more visitors.

All-America Selections

All-America Selections is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2007. This non-profit organization tests new flowers and vegetables for home gardening. AAS is fortunate to have over 180 Display Gardens in North America. These gardens grow AAS Winners for the public to view, promote gardening, and provide educational programs or events. A listing of AAS Display Gardens is available on the AAS website.

Website: All American Selections

Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Society

The Dallas Arboretum, with over 375,000 visitors annually, hosted 500 professionals at the Plant Trials Field Day held June 28. The all-day event included presentations by Wayne Pianta of PanAmerican Seed and Jimmy Turner, Dallas Arboretum Director of Horticulture Research. Jimmys Extreme Gardening Trial by Flower! presentation included 2006 AAS Award Winners, Cool Season Annuals, Warm Season Annuals, Perennials, and Un-New-usuals! The event also featured a New Plant & Product Open Forum, New Plant Showcase, lunch, tradeshow, Q&A, and tours of the trials and AAS Garden. Growers, retailers, and home gardeners are encouraged to visit the display garden and trials to observe how AAS Winners perform in the drastic Dallas climate. Visit their Trials Website at www.DallasPl for more information.

Website: Dallas Arboretum

Links ::

Gaylord Texan Grapevine Resort and Convention Center
Dallas Arboretum

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By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

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