deer-proof

Plant This: Esperanza is a garden showstopper

Showstoppers-Yellow-Bells-Esperanza

In spite of our schizophrenic weather extremes, many native and adapted plants perform beautifully in Central Texas gardens. One of my favorite showstoppers is Esperanza, Spanish for ‘hope,’ also known as yellow bells. It comes back reliably year after year — a dramatic garden showstopper that doesn’t mind the abuse our gardens suffer with periodic drought, heat and floods.

Native to Mexico, the tropics and West Texas, the variety Tecoma stans ‘Gold Star‘ thrives in our 100+ degrees and produces masses of large 2 – 3 inch blooms that look like yellow bells. This medium-sized shrub is xeric, low maintenance, and relatively pest free. This is the variety you see most around Central Texas.

They are generally cold hardy to zone 8b or 9; for most of Central Texas, they are perennial and reliably return from the roots. They thrive in hot sun and can tolerate a variety of soils, particularly our alkaline limestone. They typically begin blooming in the spring and bloom non-stop until late fall. Depending on how much sun they get, here they can grow as high as 6-8 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Although they go dormant in the winter, they shoot up quickly when the weather warms and consistently reach that height for me, in spite of being cut back completely at winter’s end. And, they are of no interest to the deer that like to browse my landscape beds.

Very popular with pollinators, bees and hummingbird are drawn to their nectar. I love watching them disappear into the deep throats of the bright yellow blooms to get a drink.

In the last few years, growers have developed a number of new Tecoma hybrids that give gardeners more choices in color and growth habit.

Showstoppers-Esperanza-Bells-of-Fire

Last year, I tried one of the newer varieties of Esperanza, ‘Bells of Fire.’ With high expectations, I found the perfect spot for this reddish-orange blooming sun lover. Like its yellow cousin, the new ‘Bells of Fire’ didn’t let me down. It didn’t bloom as early in the year as the yellow bells, but came into its own in early summer. Unlike ‘Gold Star,’ its blooms are slightly smaller; it is shorter, and more compact, reaching only 3-5 feet tall and wide so it can serve a different role in the landscape.

Also available at nurseries around Austin is the variety, ‘Orange Jubilee’ which is a lighter shade of orange, more like a creamcicle.

According to Michael Cain, owner of Vivero Growers Nursery, this orange variety is more like the ‘Gold Star’ in its growth habit.

“‘Orange Jubilee’ is more upright and sends up shoots up to 7 feet tall, “ said Cain. “It blooms a little later than the ‘Gold Star’ and does very well here – it’s really tough.”

Another variety new to the market is ‘Lydia,’ which has a more compact form and brighter yellow flowers. It grows to 5-6 feet tall and wide and blooms from early spring through fall. It’s a sterile variety, so it has fewer seedpods than the ‘New Gold.’

If you were thinking of including more heat and drought-tolerant plants to your garden this fall, any one of these Tecoma bells would be a great addition.

Local Landscape Designer and Garden Coach, Diana Kirby, provides landscaping tips on Facebook at Diana’s Designs, at www.dianasdesignsaustin.com and writes a garden blog at www.dianasdesignsaustin.com.

By | September 16th, 2015|Articles|Comments Off on Plant This: Esperanza is a garden showstopper

May tip: there is no such thing as deer proof.

gardening-with-deers

You plan, you carefully select plants, you dig (which, in our area requires a major commitment), you mulch, you water and then you stand back to enjoy your newest landscaping project.

And, the next morning you find that the fruits of your labor must have tasted like fruit to the deer that browsed your buffet the night before, leaving nothing standing but stalks.

Even though some plants are thought to be deer resistant, each and every plant, garden, year, and deer, means a different situation fraught with risk if you live and garden where deer like to play.

My advice: Buyer beware.
Encroaching development continues to remove more natural wildlife habitat around the Central Texas area. Compound that with the horrific drought and it’s tough being a deer. During stressful times like these, deer will eat almost anything. And, trust me, your garden looks awfully tempting.

First, there is no such thing as deer proof. Even with plants that deer are known to dislike and generally avoid, the smell of freshly turned soil and mulch can entice a young deer into your garden. And while the deer may not actually eat the plant, they may paw at it until it comes up out of the ground and then simply leave it lying there, roots exposed, to dry up and die before you even notice. They even pulled the same little plant out of my bed three separate times this spring.

Deer resistant plants do exist. Read the full article.

By | May 23rd, 2015|Tips|Comments Off on May tip: there is no such thing as deer proof.

September Tip: Consider Euphorbia for our climate

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'

In Central Texas, rain brings gardeners out into the streets to dance.  And dance I did, last week.

But I know that the drought isn’t over and the sun will return to beat upon our backs. Most summers, we live in a clay, cracked-earth and sometimes scorching environment.  Not the best conditions for gardening.

So, I am always on the lookout for another plant that will thrive here.  At the moment, I am taken with several species of Euphorbia and am trialing several of them in my garden.

The genus Euphorbia contains more than 2,000 very diverse species of plants.  They grow around the globe in warmer climates; some of the succulent species are very similar to cacti and can handle the heat and drought challenges of Central Texas gardens.

Read the full article here.

By | September 20th, 2014|Tips|Comments Off on September Tip: Consider Euphorbia for our climate

Consider Euphorbia for our climate

txaas_masthead

Euphorbia rigida aka ‘gopher plant’ or ‘silver spurge'

In Central Texas, rain brings gardeners out into the streets to dance.  And dance I did, last week.

But I know that the drought isn’t over and the sun will return to beat upon our backs. Most summers, we live in a clay, cracked-earth and sometimes scorching environment.  Not the best conditions for gardening.

So, I am always on the lookout for another plant that will thrive here.  At the moment, I am taken with several species of Euphorbia and am trialing several of them in my garden.

The genus Euphorbia contains more than 2,000 very diverse species of plants.  They grow around the globe in warmer climates; some of the succulent species are very similar to cacti and can handle the heat and drought challenges of Central Texas gardens.

Euphorbia rigida has emerged as my favorite thus far.  Popular in many hill country gardens, this perennial plant, also known as ‘gopher plant’ or ‘silver spurge,’ is drought-hardy plant and will survive even the toughest conditions.  Native to the Mediterranean basin, it thrives in full sun and has low water needs.  It likes drainage but will do fine in rocky soils as well.

Growing 2-3 feet wide and 1-2 feet tall, gopher plant is evergreen and produces bright chartreuse blooms with red bracts in early spring.  The pretty, long-lasting little blooms seem to pop out all over this semi-spiky grey plant.  It’s Mother Nature’s answer to neon in the landscape palette.

If you have a large space to fill, it will seed out and spread but is also easily controlled. They begin growing upright and then bow down to the ground in a delicate mounding form. With their sculptural shape, these Euphorbias look nice paired with contrasting soft native plants like salvias or grasses.

Happy in a rocky, hill country wild environment, it also has the added bonus of being deer-proof.  That’s because it contains a milky sap that can be caustic and irritating to both the skin and eyes. Be sure to wear rubber garden gloves when pruning or handling them. But it’s worth the extra caution if it keeps those pesky deer away.

These leafy Euphorbias are often called “spurges,” because their common name is derived from the Latin word expurgare, which means “to purge.” The sap of some of these plants has traditionally been used as a purgative, or laxative.

Some of the other Euphorbias growing my garden include Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' and Euphorbia amygdaloides.

Some of the other Euphorbias growing my garden include Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and Euphorbia amygdaloides.

Ascot rainbow has dramatic variegated foliage – grey leaves with a bright yellow edge.  And it can take our heat and full sun. Its growth habit is more upright and the leaves are not as close together as those of the gopher plant, though the blooms are almost identical.  It is slightly smaller than that of the gopher.

My Euphorbia amygdaloides didn’t fare as well this summer.  Its struggles were caused by operator error, however.  Filling several empty spaces in a bed, these plants were supposed to live in the shade of another new, but larger plant that didn’t make it.  Because this species is shade loving, it choked when left out in the open with full sun. It will be moving sometime next week to a friendlier location with dry shade.  Its leaves darker green and the stems are a striking deep red.  This variety can spread quickly, so give it room or be prepared to prune periodically.

With more than 2,000 species, there are many more that can do well in Central Texas, including smaller plants suitable for pots.

Some of the other, more well-known Euphorbias include poinsettias, crown of thorns and pencil cactus.

So, if you’re looking for a xeric, drought-tolerant and deer-proof plant that will bring you hours of enjoyment in your landscape, give one of these a try.

Local Landscape Designer and Garden Coach Diana Kirby provides landscaping tips at http:/www.dianasdesignsaustin.com and writes a garden blog at http://www.dianasdesignsaustin.com

By | September 20th, 2014|Articles|Comments Off on Consider Euphorbia for our climate