2015 Bluebonnet Report

This weekend the kids all came for Easter.  Sally and I absolutely love it when the kids come for a whole bunch of reasons.  However, one of my favorites is my son in law Ramez Antoun’s camera.  Ramez is a dang fine amateur photographer.  Each time he comes he leaves me with a ton of outstanding photographs.  This weekend the bluebonnets of Washington County were at their peak.  He took tons of great shots of the bluebonnets and all of the other wildflowers in our yard.  I was so impressed with them that I thought I would share.

bluebonnets-lake

Our little house sits on a long, narrow two acre lot.  We have a ranch in front of us and one behind us.  One of the ranches has a 56 acre lake on it.  This shot is from our yard looking toward the lake.  I love the way this picture captures the swaths of bluebonnets that lead down to the lake.

Bluebonnets-yorkie

All of our kids are dog lovers.  Kate and Ramez are the owners of the Yorkie in the picture above (my apologies for the ugly sweater they forced her to wear) .  Our daughter Jessie and her husband own the three labs below. The two black labs are retired guide dogs.  While Jessie was in college she and Cameron worked with a group of people that socialized and trained dogs for the seeing impaired.   They got these dogs when they were six weeks old and kept them for the first year of their lives.  They then turned them over for further training.  Finally, the wound up with a seeing impaired person who loved and depended on them for several years.  When it was time for them to retire, the foundation offered them back Jessie and her husband.  How could they refuse?

bluebonnets-labrador

Here is a great shot of our little guest house/bed and breakfast.  I love the mural that my wife had done last year.  If you are planning a trip to Washington County, Sally and I would love to be your hosts.  Click on the link below to tour “The Nest” and/or book your stay.

bluebonnets-guest-house

 

Finally, bluebonnets aren’t the only wildflowers that are blooming now in Washington County.  I leave you with this great shot of an Indian Paintbrush.

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop!  Stop by the hop and see what gardeners and homesteaders across the country are doing.

indian-paintbrush

Tip of the Week – Week 6 in the Zone 9 Garden

I know that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but I think his prediction is wrong.  As I drive the back roads of Washington County, I see signs of an early spring everywhere.  Now I don’t want to jinx anything, but we are quickly approaching the date when a freeze is highly unlikely.  Because of this, there are many, many tasks to be done in the February zone 9 garden.  Below are the things I will be doing this weekend

potato-planting

Most years I grow La Soda reds and Kennebek whites. This year I was only able to find La Soda seed potatoes.

Vegetables

There are lots of veggies that can be planted this week.  For a complete list check out Patty Leander’s planting calendar on the sidebar of the blog.  Since I have planted about all of the seeds I can I am moving on to planting potatoes.  A couple of weeks ago I bought ten pounds of red La Soda.  I cut them into pieces and have allowed them to “scab” in the kitchen.  Plant them 4” deep in loose soil that is in full sun.

larkspur

Larkspur is so pretty and so reliable. Plant this self-seeding annual once and you may be able to enjoy it for a lifetime.

Ornamentals

It is not too late to plant snap dragons (but is getting close).  Place these transplants about a foot apart in full sun.  Give them an extra boost with blood meal.  Blood meal is a great source of organic nitrogen.  The recommended rate is one cup per five feet of row.

If you have not cut back your ornamental grasses, cannas, gingers, asters, salvias and woody perennials, do it now.  It is also a great time to start mulching.  I love mulch and use it extensively.  It suppresses weeds, conserves moisture and insulates roots.  Plus, if you use natural mulches, they turn into compost that will feed your plants.

I have tons of poppies, larkspur, marigolds and bachelor buttons (gomphrena) that come back every year.  Be careful not to cover these self-seeding annuals with mulch or pull the tender starts while you are weeding.

acetic-acid-weed-killer

Concentrated acetic acid makes a great organic weed killer

Lawns

My wife mowed for the first time this past weekend.    While the stuff that passes for grass at my house is not growing, lots of weeds are.  A weekly mowing will prevent lots of these weeds from going to seed and spreading their problems into future years.  For weeds that can’t be reached with a mower use acetic acid as a good natural herbicide.  Don’t think you can get by with household vinegar.  Real weed killing power is found in the concentrated form at your local garden supply center.

If you are into organic weed control, start putting out corn gluten meal (CGM) now.  A weekly application during February is a very effective pre-emergent for all broadleaf weeds.  Besides cost, there is absolutely no down side to CGM.  Apply CGM at a rate of 20 lbs per thousand square feet of lawn.  If you have more lawn than money you can also use CGM as a natural fertilizer.  Apply 10 pounds per 1000 square feet to give yor lawn a great boost of natural nitrogen.

 

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 5 in the Zone 9 Garden

Between the threat of rain and the Super Bowl it may be hard to get out into the garden this weekend.  However, Thursday is supposed to be gorgeous and Friday will be nice.  If you can get outside on those days here are some tasks that can be done now: 

Vegetables

Right now is a great time to plant your salad fixings.  While lettuce (check out my in depth discussion of growing lettuce here)and spinach are the stars, don’t forget that the supporting players like radishes, beets, carrots, kale and mustard greens also can also be planted now.  These quick growing greens will be ready for harvest in about 45 days.  At that time you will be ready to thin your onions and use them in the salad.

buttercrisp_lettuce

Now is a great time to replant lettuce. My favorites are buttercrisp and black seeded Simpson

Right now is also a good time to start adding compost to your beds.  I sprinkle a couple of inches over the areas I am going to plant in March and cover with spoiled hay.  It is not warm enough for the compost to start breaking down.  However, in conjunction with the hay, it acts as a great mulch that will suppress many spring weeds.  It will also feed the worms that will begin taking it down into the soil for you.

Ornamentals

As you know I am a big supporter of field grown flower farmers.  Right now my friend Mike at Prickly Pair Farm is planting ammi, stattice and dianthus under cover.  You can start the same flowers indoors now.  Growing from seed is the best way I know to have a ton of flowers for spring planting without spending a ton of money.

finished_compost

Right now is a great time to begin adding compost to the beds that you will be planting in the March

Lawns

I have a couple hundred daffodils planted in my yard.  As I walked around yesterday looking to see if they had broken ground I noticed lots of some very bad weeds beginning to make a stand.  Dandelions and thistles are beginning to come on strong.  These are easy to take care of with a good sharp hoe.  However, my true weed nemesis is Queen Anne’s Lace.  Queen Anne’s Lace is actually wild carrot.  Right now it is forming its cluster of leaves on the ground.  I leave it alone until it sends up its flower stalk then I pull it up, white carrot root and all.

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  Tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 4 in the Zone 9 Garden

We got over an inch of rain at my house last night.  We are expected to get another inch today.  I am thankful but I hope the sun comes out tomorrow.  If it is not too muddy there are tons of tasks to take care of this weekend.  Here are some of the things I am doing:

Vegetables

Week 4 in the Zone 9 garden is a very busy time.  It is time to replant all of your brassicas.  The brassica family includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and others.  Click on each veggie above to read Patty Leander’s tips for growing the best brassicas possible.

Patty also wrote a great post about sugar snap peas.  It is time to plant those as well.  This year she has had great luck with “Amish” heirlooms.  Get all the info you need to succeed with peas by reading her post  “Make Room for Cool Season Peas”.

Week four is also the time to plant potatoes.  The two varieties that do best for me are Red LaSoda and white Kennebecks.  Buy now, cut into pieces preserving the eyes and allow to cure for a week or so before planting.  Check out my post “Growing Potatoes” to learn all the other tips and tricks you need.

Cauliflower doesn't have to be white!  Try some of the colored varieties.  Photo by Bruce Leander

Cauliflower doesn’t have to be white! Try some of the colored varieties. Photo by Bruce Leander

Ornamentals

Patty’s latest post reminded me that it is time to cut back your cannas (and ginger).  Cut them to the ground.  Here’s another canna tip.  When they start blooming, cut their flower stalks out at the base of the plant.  This will encourage them to bloom more.

It is also a good time to trim up woody perennials.  My bougainvillea has shed its leaves so it is ready for its annual haircut.  Trim up other deciduous vines like coral honeysuckle, cross vine and wisteria.

If you want lots of flowers in early spring, start their seeds now.  Two years ago I grew 100 marigold transplants.  My beds never looked better.  This weekend is a good time to start marigolds, petunias, begonias, periwinkles and many others.

marigolds

Fruit

It is still a good time to plant bare root fruit trees.  It is also a great time to plant container grown fruit trees.  Container grown fruit trees can be planted anytime of the year but they will root in and become established quicker if you plant them now.

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  Tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 3 in the Zone 9 Garden

There are two things that really need to be done in January in the lower two thirds of our state–starting tomato, pepper and egg plant seeds for transplant and planting asparagus.  It is also time to start pruning fruit trees, grapes and perennial ornamentals that have been killed by the freeze.

Vegetables

I don’t want to sound like a nag, but this week is THE PERFECT TIME to plant your tomato seeds.  You can also start your pepper and eggplant seeds too.  Eggplant will germinate much like the tomato seeds but be prepared to give you pepper seeds a little extra time to sprout.

Besides tomatoes, asparagus is my absolute favorite vegetable to grow and eat.  Plant year old crowns now.  My favorite is the heirloom “Mary Washington”.  However, I have had much luck with many varieties of the “Jersey” series.  For more information on planting asparagus check out my post “Growing Asparagus”.

planting-asparagus-crowns

When planting, spread the roots of asparagus crowns over a mound of compost

Ornamentals

Now that we have had a freeze, it is time to trim back some of our perennials.  Clumping grasses can be cut back to about ten inches.  If your grass clumps did not bloom this year consider dividing them in February.  Salvias can be cut back to half of their size.  Root Beer plant (Hoja Santo) can be cut to the ground.

ornamental-grass

Cut clumping grasses back to 10 to 12 inches

Fruit

January and February are the best times to plant bare root fruit trees.  Plant them at the depth they were grown.  Determine this depth by noticing where the color changes at the top of the roots and the bottom of the trunk.

January is also a good time to prune fruit trees and grapes in the lower two thirds of our state.

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  Tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

peach-blossom

January is good time to prune fruit trees. Definitely do a little research before you start cutting.

PERENNIAL GARDEN BULBS FOR CENTRAL TEXAS by Cynthia W. Mueller

Today’s post comes from my friend Cynthia Mueller.  Cynthia and I became friends while I was working on my masters degree at A&M.  She is a volunteer in the horticultural extension department and one of the most knowledgeable plant people I have ever known.  She is also the first person to ever publish any of my garden writings.  Cynthia is an expert on so many things.  However she has a special love for bulbs.  Cynthia recently spoke to a local garden club and she sent me her talk.  It is the most comprehensive list of the best bulbs for our part of Texas that I have ever seen.  While you are sitting inside this winter dreaming of your spring garden, why not peruse her list of the best bulbs for our central Texas gardens.  These bulbs are perennial in our area and will brighten your garden for years.

Amaryllis Johnsonii or Hardy Red Amaryllis.  This was one of the first amaryllis to be hybridized in England, around 1812.  It is more cold tolerant than Dutch or florists’ amaryllis, or hippeastrums.  But in our climate gift bulbs of florists’ amaryllis can be recycled into the garden where they will live except after the coldest of winters.  These are classic hand-me-down Southern bulbs, good in climates to about 7b.

crinum-bulbispermum-1

Lovely bulbispermum crinum in my front bed

Crinums are truly indicative of Southern gardens.  They are found in many different forms.  Everyone has heard of “milk and wine lilies” but these are not just one plant, but any crinum with stripes of pink on a white background, so there can be quite a variety.  These can be crosses between C.bulbispermum, the tough old Orange River crinum and C. zeylanicum, a more tender plant from the tropics. C. x baconi is composed of crosses between americanum and zeylanicumC. x gowenii are composed of crosses between bulbispermum and zeylanicum.  C. x herbertii are crosses between C. scabrum and bulbispermumC. digweedii are crosses between americanum and scabrum.  We are sometimes dismissive of the “ditch lilies” or C. bulbispermum found in abandoned gardens or in cemeteries in Texas, but they have given their toughness and cold hardiness to many crinum hybrids which we do enjoy.

Daffodils – Tazettas – Jonquils

In the South, almost anything yellow might be called a jonquil!  Narcissus are usually multi-flowered, and daffodils single flowered.  Most daffodils cannot be kept permanently here, but some of the narcissi are classics. N. jonquilla x odorus ‘Campernelle’ is the “Campernelle” of Southern yards and graveyards, N.  ‘Papyraceous’ is the ‘Paperwhite.’(1600s).  Very old tazetta hybrids include ‘Grand Monarque,’ (1600s) Soleil d’Or and the old cross ‘Italicus.’  These bulbs need very little help to survive.  Moving them out from under the shade of evergreen trees or dividing them every so many years will aid them in blooming more.  ‘Erlicheer’ and ‘Winston Churchill’ are also good choices for our area.  The Chinese Sacred Lily, N. tazetta orientalis has also been cultivated since the 1600s. The old hybrid ‘Intermedius’ such as Texas Star is yellow and starry looking with narrow foliage.

Paperwhites look perfectly at home in the old cemetery of Calvert’s Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. They are the only plantings here.

Only one of the Leucojums is really at home in Central Texas: L. aestivum, or Summer Snowflake.  It’s called SS even though it blooms in the spring.  None of the Snowdrops (Leucojum vernum) will really survive here.

luecojum

I love the small flowers of luecojum or “Summer Snowflake”

Philippine/Formosa lilies – an old-fashioned favorite with a mixed pedigree from both Philippine and Formosan strains.  It is extremely vigorous, and can flower the same year the seeds are sown.  Cut the stalks after flowering to keep small seedlings from filling your flower beds.  There is a dwarf variety called ‘Pricei’ but the five foot tall stalks with as many as a dozen flowers truly makes a cottage garden-like scene.  Other lilies that may become permanent in your garden are Easter lilies (L. longiflorum) and Tiger lilies (L. henryi).

Rain lilies we usually grow in Central Texas may be either Zephyranthes or Habranthus.  They are quite tough and drought tolerant once they are established.  Take care that rain lilies are not planted in an area where garden sprinklers keep them too wet, as they usually are stimulated to bloom within days of a good rain shower.

Z. grandiflora

  1. candida

Z. x La Buffarosa

H. robustus

Crosses such as Z. x Grandjax, Ajax, Sunset Strain, etc.

Grand-Primo-1

Grand Primo are one of the prettiest and most reliable narcissus for our area.

Scilla peruviana – not really from Peru, but from the Mediterranean, this bulb can bring welcome blue color into the garden.  After the leaves die down the bulb can be lifted and stored in the garage to keep it dry.  This seems to help flowering the next year.

Tigrida or Mexican shell flower, needs a warm, sunny and well drained place in the flower bed.  Some commercial varieties don’t last as well as others – experiment.  Each bloom lasts but one day, but they are a marvel of intricacy.

Iris: Not very many of the German bearded iris do well in our area, or towards the coast.  However, everyone has seen the white Cemetery iris, I. albicans.  It  was brought from North Africa by the Moors to Spain, and travelled to Texas with the earliest Spaniards.  It’s another plant that has established itself almost everywhere, but does not bear seeds.

Siberian iris need more cold than we can offer, but sometimes varieties such as ‘Caesar’s Brother’ can be grown. Louisiana iris, spurias, and some of the small species irises are nice companions in our flower beds.  Iris fulva, cerulea, prismatica, and virginica.

‘Walking Iris’ are more tropical in origin but can grow outside in sheltered places, or in containers that are brought in during the winter.  Trimezia has yellow flowers dotted with brown, and the Neomaricas have fugacious flowers in shades of white to blue, sometimes with darker brown dotted patterns.  Tufts of new offsets grow on the ends of their stems, and ultimately bend down to ground level, where they take root.

Agapanthus – our commercial varieties are hybrids between several species of African bulbs.  If possible, choose ‘evergreen’ rather than ‘deciduous’ varieties.  Agapanthus may be blue, blue-violet, light blue, or white.  Some are much shorter than others.  Be sure to give them full sun and protection from heavy frosts.  They’ll enjoy the alkaline conditions in our area.

Members of the Onion Family, or Alliums, are not very plentiful in our gardens.  The large, ornate and decorative ornamental onions with great balls of purple or white on the ends of 3-5’ stalks, cannot grow here well.  We must make do with the old fashioned Neapolitan onion, flowering garlic, Tulbagia violacea (Society Garlic), or flowering chives.

pink-rain-lily

Lovely pink rain lilies from Cynthia’s front yard

Crocus – Most of the Crocus family are not a good match for the College Station/Bryan area, because of problems with chilling requirements.  The Saffron Crocus, C. sativus, has a long history going back to Egyptian and Minoan times, and not just as a spice but as a medicinal herb too.  Grow these for fun in containers, so that you can keep them dry during the summer.  I have heard of one family living near Somerville, Texas who claims to grow these in the garden, and that they are multiplying.  The scarlet-orange stamens are the part that is picked and used as a flavoring.

Cannas sometimes suffer from the bad publicity of being called weedy, tall and eaten up by leaf rollers.  This doesn’t have to be the case.  There are many attractive shorter hybrids on the market now that can provide excellent summer color.  Just remember that, in a way similar to German iris, once a canna stalk has finished blooming it won’t bloom again, so cut it off at ground level.  Several caterpillars of the “skipper” type of butterfly feed on emerging canna stalks.  This helps in keeping things neat. They can be controlled by policing the plants, or by spraying a little insecticide into the rolled up coil of an emerging stalk.  Some varieties of canna seem to be unattractive to leaf rollers.

Day lily ‘Kwanso’ is an antique double form of Hemerocallis fulva that is still found in Texas gardens.  It does not set seed, but manages to multiply and be discovered in garden after garden.  There are many, many modern day lilies to choose from – let your personal taste decide – but if possible choose the ‘evergreen’ forms over ‘deciduous’ forms, which were bred for colder climates.

Byzantine gladiolus, with their spikes of fiery magenta flowers, are a sought after item in bulb catalogs.  The ones offered from Europe are really not the same bulb at all, and usually disappear after a year or so in the garden.  The Byzantine glad does not set seed for us, but multiplies at a fast rate, and is really a permanent garden resident.

byzantine-gladiolus

In my opinion, byzantine gladiolus are the most romantic of all the old garden bulbs

‘Tropical Giant’ is a large sterile hymenocallis with glossy, dark green leaves that no insects seem to want to eat.  It has spidery white flowers during the summer, and is an excellent permanent garden subject.  C. americanum and C. erubescens are two other good candidates for growing near water.

Anemones grow from small, claw-shaped roots and if care is given to their situation in the garden, they will survive for several years.

Achimenes, natives of the area between Mexico to Panama, can be kept out of doors permanently in larger containers, sometimes in the flower bed if it does not stay wet for long periods of time in the winter.  They can be purchased in almost any floral color.  They benefit from light shade and moist conditions.

Oxblood lily (Rhodophiala bifida) is a native of Argentina.  All those we see in old gardens and vacant lots descended from those imported in the late 1800’s by Peter Oberwetter, a German horticulturist from the Austin area.  And they did all this without the benefit of plentiful seeds!  They rarely set any, because they are all derived from one single clone.  Occasionally a pink form is found.

Calla lilies are usually hardy here for us.  They do not have to be planted near standing bodies of water, but will thrive in fairly moist soil.  The smaller florists’ varieties are better as houseplants, larger varieties outside, preferably where they will receive sun in the morning, shade in the afternoon.

Tulips need more winter chilling hours than we can offer, but there are several species tulips that might last: T. chrysantha and T. clusiana (lady tulip).

hymenocallis-1

Hymenocalis, or Spider Lily, has large upright foliage that can be used as a hedge. Plus it is resistant to just about all pests

For further reading:

Bulbs for Warm Climates, by Dr. Thad Howard.  UT Press, Austin, 2001.

Garden Bulbs for the South, by Scott Ogden.  Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, 1994.

Perennial Garden Color, by Dr. William C. Welch, Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, 1989.

I shared this post on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by and check out some of the best garden and homesteading tips and tricks from some of the best bloggers on the web!

Surprises

I don’t know anyone that does not like surprises.  The fact that someone thought enough of you to do something nice for you is enough to make even the grumpiest among us smile.  This past Wednesday I was feeling particularly grumpy.  My work had been one problem after another.  I did not get out of the office until late so I did not get home until it was almost dark.  I was both stressed and exhausted by the time I pulled into the driveway.  As I walked out to the mailbox I could see that something was different.  Since it was beginning to get dark I couldn’t immediately put my finger on what the difference was but I had that uneasy feeling that I always get when my wife says “Do you notice anything different about me?”  As I got closer I was able to determine that the “something different” was a five gallon hibiscus sitting in the middle of my yard.  I couldn’t help but smile.

hibiscus1

The lovely blooms of this hibiscus will always remind me of the kindness of a friend

As I walked toward the plant I tried to figure out who would leave me such a lovely gift.  As I came up to it I realized there was more!  Whoever left the hibiscus also left a lovely book on Texas Natives, a touching little inspirational book called “The Dash” and a native Texas coral bean called Erythrina herbacea.

My gifts came from a long-time reader from Giddings, Tx.  He is what I like to call a serious hobbyist.  He loves horticulture and he grows a variety of ornamentals, Texas natives and unusual succulents.  He also has a knack for finding odd and rare plants growing in his local area.  Over the past few months we have become big e-mail buddies and he has even dropped by to visit.

hibiscus4

The buds of the hibiscus are almost as attractive as the flower they release

This act of kindness made my day.  Since both of the plants he left me are perennial, I will enjoy them for years and remember his kindness each time I look at them.  I truly love the plants and I was touched by his thoughtfulness.  However, I enjoyed the books just as much.  The little inspirational book is based on a poem by Linda Ellis called “The Dash”.  “The Dash” is a lovely poem about striving to live a good life.

This poem has been around for a while.  However, it is truly inspirational and it picked me up, and reminded me of what is truly important, just when I needed it most.  Many thanks to my friend from Giddings for this thoughtful gesture.  I am very glad that you decided to share a little of “your dash” with me.

hibiscus3

Sometimes the back of the flower is just as lovely as the front

 

 

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop.  Hops are a great way to quickly gather lots of gardening and homesteading information from bloggers across the web.  Please check it out!

Purple Bindweed – The Thorn in My Side

In II Corinthians, Paul talks about enduring a “thorn in his side”.  While no one knows exactly what the thorn was, most agree that God gave it to Paul so that, despite his many blessings, he would not become too prideful in his faith.  That story comforts me because each year the Lord “blesses” me with some new gardening “thorn” that keeps me humble about my garden and my gardening abilities.  This year, my thorn came in the form of a beautiful (but noxious) vining plant called purple bindweed!  While the flowers of this noxious weed are truly beautiful, that beauty does not make up for the overall nastiness of this weed.

purple-bindweed-flower-2

The flowers of purple bindweed are definitely beautiful

Purple bindweed is a native Texas morning glory.  It is also an aggressive vining plant that will literally grow over anything in its path.  One plant can send out trailing, twisting vines that stretch out over 15 feet.  While I have to admit, when those vines cover a fence and explode with flowers, the effect is very beautiful.  However, when they creep up your sugar cane or get twisted in with cucumbers and cantaloupes, the effect is not so nice.

purple-bindweed-flower-3

Purple bindweed is a native Texas morning glory.

Even though this plant is literally driving me crazy, I have to admire its shear survivability.  Each plant can produce 500 or more seeds.  The seeds have a very thick seed coat that can lay dormant in the soil for 20 years (some say 50 years or more).  The plant develops an extensive root system that can grow 10 feet or more into the soil.  Because of this, you can pull it, dig it or plow it and it will still come back.  In fact, research shows that a 2” piece of root can produce a new plant.  In addition, all of those deep roots make this plant very drought resistant.

bindweed-blooms

The twisting vines of purple bindweed will be covered in its lovely, lavender blooms.

All of the survival traits that the plant has developed make it very hard to control organically.  The only real option you have is frequent pulling or smothering.  If you decide to pull, realize that you will need to pull every shoot that pops up every three weeks or so for the next three years!  If you want to try and smother it you are going to need to use something like a large sheet of plywood or hardi-plank and you are going to have to leave it in place for years.  However, since the seeds can remain dormant for years, smothering and pulling is really only going to slow down the spread of this weed.

bindweed-vines-1

The vines of bindweed will wrap around anything-even its own vines!

The only way to effectively kill bindweed is with an herbicide.  Even though I do not personally like chemicals, the reality is that some weeds will never be fully contained with organic methods.  If you don’t mind spraying chemicals try Glyphosate (Round Up) or Tripcloyr (Remedy).  Both work well against bindweed.  For the best effect, many recommend mixing up a combination of both Glyphosate (2-3%) and Remedy / Triclopyr (0.25%).   These chemicals will definitely kill the bindweed if you spray it while the plant is actively growing.  For bindweed, the absolute best time to spray is when it is blooming.  NOTE:  These chemicals will definitely kill the bindweed.  Unfortunately they will also kill just about everything else that is actively growing.  Be careful to avoid overspray when applying this (or any) herbicide.  Also, apply just enough herbicide to wet the leaves.  There is no need to soak the plant. There is also no benefit to mixing them in higher concentrations than are listed on the label.

bindweed-flower-5

Even though this plant is driving me crazy, it does attract hummingbirds and other pollinators

The purple bindweed is beginning to bloom at my house.  This means that despite my best organic control efforts, it has beaten me.  This “thorn in my side” is one of just a few plants that have made me question my commitment to organic control methods.  Thank goodness I have St. Paul for inspiration.  Although his “thorn” tormented him his whole life he persevered; and so will I.  However, I have to admit, when I am out there pulling this weed in the Texas heat the thought of spraying it with an herbicide is very tempting!

Farm to Market Flowers

Debbie-Thornton

Debbie Thornton is one of a growing number of people in this country that are doing something I think is very important.  Debbie is the owner of Farm to Market Flowers (FM Flowers) and she is sustainably growing fresh cut … Continue reading

Vitex-TheTexas Lilac (Vitex agnus-castus)

It has now been a whole month since I finished my horticulture degree at A&M.  In that time I have had three people approach me to do landscapes for them (it is interesting to me that people think all horticulturists are landscapers).  One horseman wants me to landscape his two entry gates, my family cemetery wants me to landscape their entrance and another person wants an “LSU Garden” in their yard.  While all three of these projects are very different, all three will feature a very lovely and durable plant – Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus).

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The 12″ flower spike of the Vitex are beautiful and irresistible to butterflies and hummingbirds

Vitex is a small flowering tree that is, in my opinion, one of the best ornamental trees you can own. Its long, curvy, purple-blue flower spikes have earned the vitex the nickname of “The Texas Lilac”.    In addition to its beautiful flower spikes, this little tree can take the heat, endure the drought and is resistant to most pests.  It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and deer do not like it.  With all it has going for it, this drought resistant tree really is a perfect choice for the Texas homeowner.

Vitex are typically grown as a multi trunked tree.  The multi-trunk look is achieved through pruning.  When grown as a tree they  grow to about 15 feet.  However, some varieties can get as tall as 35 feet.   If left alone from seed, the Vitex will grow into a lovely shrub that makes a stunning hedge that can, with regular deadheading, produce those long, lovely flower spikes throughout the summer.

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My Hyperion daylilies pair nicely with a Vitex I have left in a shrub form

You can find Vitex with pink flowers, mauve flowers and white flowers.  However, most of the Vitex sold in the trade have a purple-blue colored flower that is often called lilac.  The three most common varieties sold here in Texas include Shoal Creek, Montrose and Le Compte.  My friends at Tree Town USA are about to release a new, and as of yet unnamed, dark blue flowering variety.  Look for them this fall at all of the major nurseries or your local big box.

If you want to grow your own Vitex, plant it in the fall.  Like most trees, the cooler weather of fall will allow the plant to establish itself with much less water.  You can also plant it in the winter when it is dormant.  If you miss both of those opportunities you can still plant it in early spring.  Just remember though, the longer you wait, the more effort and water it will take to fully root.

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Since all of these lovely little flowers produce seeds, Vitex can be a bit invasive

While I do love this tree, it does have a couple of small problems.  First, each of those little flowers on those 12” flower stalks will produce a little seed.  Because of this it can be a bit invasive.  This is not a huge problem for the homeowner.  The weed eater and mower can easily control all of the volunteers that sprout in the yard.  However, if planted near a creek or tank, the plant can easily escape and create enough of a problem that it is currently listed as an invasive species on the Texas Invasives website (http://www.texasinvasives.org/plant_database/detail.php?symbol=VIAG).  You can control the spread of this plant by diligently deadheading each spent flower spike before the seeds develop.   The other little problem is allergies.  If you have a sensitivity to tree pollen you may want to avoid this tree.  All of those flowers produce pollen and many people claim to be allergic to it.

vitex-flowers-4 As I drive around I notice more and more Vitex in yards, commercial landscapes and along the roads and highways of our great state.  I think this is great.  Vitex is a beautiful and versatile plant that blooms throughout the summer and thrives on average annual rainfall.  It is no wonder that the Texas Highway Department has added them to their list of preferred plants.  If this plant thrives along the hot and dry roadsides and medians of our great state, imagine how well it will perform for you in your yard!