Garden Designs by July Moreno

Right now, things are pretty quiet in the garden.  Since there is not that much going on I have been out visiting with gardening friends.  I truly believe that the best way to become a better gardener is to go and listen to, and see how, other people grow things.  Each and every time I talk to another gardener I learn something.  Because of that I try and visit with as many gardeners as possible.

An absolutely adorable birdhouse made by July Moreno of Sweet Dreams Home Decor

I recently had the opportunity to visit with July Moreno of San Marcos, Texas.  July is a great gardener and she has a knack for landscape design.  Her design skills are the reason I wanted to visit.  Even though I can grow just about anything, I am greatly lacking in design skills.  My daughter and son-in-law had been telling me about how cute July’s yard was for a while so I decided to take the camera and stop by for a visit and hopefully pick up a few tips.

A red gate and purple bird feeder made from an old lamp stand let me know that a very colorful garden was coming.

Kate and Moose’s recommendation was right on target.  July’s yard was cute!  We entered through a plain old chain link fence gate that she had painted red and flanked with a purple bird feeder made from an old lamp stand.  Who does that?  These pops of color let me know that I was about to enter a very creative place!  Even though her yard is relatively small, it was perfectly set up for entertaining.  Her garden was full of fun and whimsical creations made by her.  July is one of those people that can take just about anything, slap some paint on it and make it look like a million bucks.  July has combined her love of gardening with her love for craft and created a bright and cheery backyard oasis right in the heart of San Marcos.

Add some turquoise paint, a little stain and some Mexican tiles to your patio to create the perfect place for outdoor dining

July has a passion and gift for taking stuff that other people consider trash and “upcycling it” into very attractive yard art and garden furniture (she also does this with items for the home).  She makes bird baths, reflecting balls, stepping stones, swings, tables and anything else that moves her.  July is very proud of her Mexican heritage and it shows in her creations.  In fact, she calls herself the “Happy Chica”.  Her designs incorporate the bright turquoises, oranges, blues and greens of Mexico.  This love of color makes her creations the perfect punch of color to brighten up the garden.

An adorable birdbath in July’s yard. She made the column and then covered it in tiles that she hand cut and glazed. She then attached a talavera bowl for instant cuteness.

July started making her Mexican inspired “jardin del arte” as a hobby.  However, it was so cute that when her friends visited they wanted to take it home.  So, encouraged by these friends, she started making colorful creations for everyone.  If you would like to buy some of her art for your home or yard, you can contact her through her website Sweet Dreams Home Décor or you can find her on Etsy.  She has ready made things for both your home and garden plus she is available for custom creations.  If you like what you have seen here, give her a call.  She can also help you design and decorate your entire casa!

July does amazing things with spray paint. She even paints her terra cota pots

Best Wedding Flowers Ever

A stunning bridal bouquet created by my daughter Whitney. See the rest of her creations on the Ruffled wedding blog.

I am so happy to be able to share with you some truly fabulous wedding flowers.  These pictures are courtesy of the Ruffled wedding blog.  Now it is not uncommon for Ruffled to showcase truly stunning wedding flowers, its what they do.  However, what makes these arrangements better than most is the fact that they were created by a young Master of Horticulture named Whitney White.

Whitney is my daughter and I am very proud of her.  I know where she got her love of flowers but I have no idea where she got her ability to arrange them into such beautiful designs.  I am truly in awe of her talents.

Whitney works for the hippest floral design firm in Dallas.  Bows and Arrows is a small Dallas design firm (voted best in DFW last year) that is getting a lot of big press.  They have been featured in Martha Stewart’s Wedding magazine, several other local and national publications, and on the largest wedding blogs on the web.  This video is from today’s post on Ruffled.  Ruffled is one of the top ten wedding blogs and it receives thousands of hits per day.

Whitney came up with the theme for this shoot, found the location, arranged all of the participants and did all of the floral work.  As you can see from this link the results were amazing (click the link to see the full shoot at “Ruffled”

I am very proud of Whitney.  She has worked very hard for very long to get to this point.  She had a dream and she did what it took to see it through.  I love you Whit and I am so proud of you!

Red and Yellow Kill A Fellow

Yesterday was a very sad day for me.  You see, I lost the best gardening partner I have ever had; my wife.  Now before you get all teary eyed, realize that she did not die.  No, Sally is still very much alive.  However, something happened yesterday that has me convinced that her gardening days are over.

Since yesterday was an uncharacteristically cool and cloudy July day, Sally and I decided that it would be the perfect time to catch up on some much needed weeding in the flower beds.  Sally and I are a great little weed pulling team.  We have worked these beds enough together that we can very quickly and efficently strip a bed of all unwanted plant material.  Yesterday was no exception.  Spurred on by the cool temps, we quickly built up a nice pile of weeds.  The pile was bigger than either of us could comfortably carry to the burn pile so I went to the garage and got out the wheelbarrow.  When I reached down and picked up the pile I was VERY surprised to find a CORAL SNAKE slithering through the pile of weeds in my hand!  Now I am not a snake hater.  Heck, I am not even scared of most snakes.  But this was different.  This one could kill me and that realization occured to my brain as soon as it saw those bright bands of color gliding through my hands.

Luckily for me, coral snakes are not very aggresive.  If there had been a copper head or rattler in that pile of weeds I would have been very bit very quickly.  However, this little guy only wanted to get as far away from me as quickly as he could.  Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t fast enough.  I never kill snakes; unless they are poisonous!  And since coral snakes are the most poisonous snake in North America, this guy had to die.

There are lots of myths and wives tales concerning coral snakes.  The most common one goes like this “Because of their small size, they can’t bite you except in little skinny places on your body like a little finger or the flap of skin between your thumb and index finger.” THIS IS FALSE!!!!  A coral snake can and will bite you anywhere you give him an opening.  If you try and pick up a coral snake by its tail, it will climb its own body to give you a bite that is at the least, painful and at its worst, deadly.  So never, ever try and pick one up by the tail, even if you think it is dead.  Also remember that when a snake dies, it’s muscles twitch and contract for quite a while after you kill it (this guy twitched for over an hour).  Because of this, snakes can actually still bite you after they are dead.  Due to this, you should never, never, never pick one up by the tail unless you are certain it is “dead still” or it’s head has been removed and disposed of.  It would be awfully embarrassing to get to heaven and have to explain to St. Peter that you got killed by a bite from a dead snake!

All joking aside, finding this snake in my flower bed is very bad news for me.  Because of this little incident, I am certain that I have forever lost my wife as a weeding partner.  Sally is deathly afraid of snakes.  I can no longer brush off her fears and tell her there is nothing out there to worry about.  She now knows very well that there are things out there that can kill her and she is in no hurry to die.  So, thanks to this brightly colored, 25″ long snake, my gardening work load has been increased. Not only have I lost my partner, but my own output will be greatly reduced because now, each time I get on my knees to pull weeds, I will be doing just as much snake hunting as weed pulling!

No Rest for the Weary-Summer Gardening Chores by Patty Leander

Well, is it hot enough for ya?  The sweet corn ain’t so sweet anymore, the spider mites have set up camp on the underside of my green beans, the squash vine borer has mutilated my zucchini and the mockingbirds keep beating me to the tomatoes. It’s a jungle out there and usually by late June or early July I’m ready to pull out these weary spring plantings and give most of the garden (and the gardener) a well deserved rest. Take advantage of the summer ‘dormant season’ to dream, plan and prepare for the upcoming fall season.  


A planting of buckwheat makes a good summer cover crop, the blooms also attracts pollinators. Photo by Bruce Leander

If you are not the type to hibernate in air-conditioned comfort for the next few months there is still plenty to do in the vegetable garden. Summer tasks might include removing spent crops, planting a cover crop of cowpeas or buckwheat or mulching fallow beds with leaves, hay, dried grass or compost. Organic matter burns up quickly in hot weather and a layer of mulch or compost will help add and/or conserve organic matter in the soil so it will be ready to receive your plants in the fall. Red Ripper or Iron & Clay cowpeas make vigorous summer cover crops – I get mine from Heavenly Seed ( Johnny’s ( also carries Iron & Clay, buckwheat and a wide selection of green manures.


A compost bin located in the garden row makes for easy distribution later. Photo by Bruce Leander

Be sure to keep your compost pile going through the summer, and if you don’t have one why not start now? Composting has many benefits for the soil and is an excellent way to reduce, reuse and recycle waste from your garden, yard and kitchen. Most compost guides suggest placing the compost in an inconspicuous corner of your yard, but over the years my compost piles (yes, I have more than one) seem to inch closer and closer to the garden where they will eventually be used. Sometimes they inch so close that they end up IN the garden – I place a square or round compost bin, made of chicken wire or fencing material, right in an empty garden bed or in the row. Over the summer I fill it with kitchen scraps, grass clippings and garden trimmings, keeping it moist to encourage microbial activity (if it’s in full sun cover with an umbrella, tarp or shade cloth to help hold some of that moisture). Come fall I’ll loosen the bin and remove it, freeing up the contents for incorporation into the soil or for mulching crops.


The author using bricks to secure a layer of plastic for solarization. Photo by Bruce Leander

Another task that is well-suited to our hot days and warm nights is solarizing nematode infested soil with plastic.  Use clear plastic that is 2-4 ml thick and anchor it in place with bricks, U-pins or bury the edges with soil. Before putting the plastic in place, turn or till the soil, rake it smooth and water well. The moist soil covered with clear plastic will create a greenhouse effect that will elevate the soil temperature enough to kill nematodes. Leave the plastic in place for 4-6 weeks during the hottest part of the summer. It may get too hot for soil microbes under that plastic so after solarizing be sure to amend the area with 2-3 inches of compost, turn it under and you’ll be ready to plant for fall. To discourage nematodes even further, I’ll usually follow solarization with a nematode resistant crop, such as onions, garlic or corn.


The author’s cat reminds us that sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, water and cooler with cold washcloths will help keep us cool and safe while working in the Texas heat. Photo by Bruce Leander

I know you know this, but it is worth repeating: if you do work in the garden this summer, wear sunscreen, take breaks and drink plenty of fluids.  It is easy to fall victim to heat exhaustion this time of year. If you are going to spend some time working outside, try this tip – wet some wash cloths, roll them up and put them in a cooler with ice or a couple of ice packs. Then when you take a break, you’ll have a nice, cold cloth to wipe down your face and neck or drape over your head. Ahhhh, sweet relief.

Growing Potatoes

This weekend I had one of those experiences that remind me again why I love to garden.  My daughter Heather came out for Father’s Day.  Since she loves going into the garden with me I always make sure she has something to pick.  This weekend, I saved her a special treat; blue fingerling potatoes.

Of all of the things I harvest in the garden, potatoes are my absolute favorite.  Each time I dig them it reminds me of an Easter egg hunt.  I get so excited when I stick my fork in the ground and turn over the soil and find all of those spuds.  Since I like doing this so much, I knew she would too.  And, since they were blue, I knew it would make our dig a little more like an Easter egg hunt for her as well.

My daughter is fueling up on fresh peaches before we started digging the potatoes

I have absolutely no idea what type of potatoes we harvested.  I got them from my mentor Cynthia Mueller last fall.  I tried to grow them in my potato box and they didn’t seem to make.  However, this March, I looked in the box and I saw several little potato vines popping up so I immediately dug them up and moved them to my row garden.

Potatoes of all sorts are pretty easy to grow.  There are well over 800 varieties of potatoes in the world so there is a variety that will grow in just about any condition.  Basically, potatoes come in three maturity types; short season, mid-season and long season maturation types.  To determine which ones are best for you, pick one that will mature between a planting date of three to four weeks before your last freeze and a harvest date before temperatures get up into the 90s.  Potatoes can take some cold but they shut down completely in high heat.  Since it gets so hot so quickly where we are, the mid length maturation types seem to do best.  The two I most often grow are Kennebec whites and La Soda reds.

Digging with a shovel. I prefer to use a spading fork but this was handy and we didn’t have too many vines to dig.

The rule for planting potatoes is three to four weeks before your last frost date.  In reality, here in the Gulf South, we can plant our potatoes anytime after Christmas.  In fact, a friend of mine grew up next to an older gentleman that “planted” his potatoes on December 26 each year.  I say “planted”, because he would scatter his seed potatoes on top of the ground and then cover them in about a foot of spoiled hay.  I tell that story for two reasons.  One, it shows that you really can plant potatoes very early here and it also says something about how adaptable potatoes are.

Freshly dug!

I have heard people say that you have to plant potatoes in sandy soil.  Not true.  While sandy soil allows potatoes to grow a little bigger and makes them a whole lot easier to harvest, you can grow them in clay (or on top of the ground heavily mulched in hay).  Potatoes have just about everything they need to grow stored in that tuber so if you can figure  out a way to get them covered and watered, they are usually going to produce something for you

Last year I tried growing potatoes in a box. I constantly “hilled them up” with compost. I think the compost gave them too much nitrogen. As you can see I got great vines and exactly one potato.

For best results when you plant your potatoes, plant them in loose, well worked soil.  If your soil has a good amount of organic material in it, don’t worry about adding any supplemental fertilizer.  While they appreciate nitrogen as much as any plant, too much of it will cut your tuber production.  Too much nitrogen will result in great big healthy looking vines but very few potatoes.

Some of our “blue” potatoes in my favorite Texas Ware bowl. My wife roasted these with fresh rosemary and thyme from our garden, a little EVOO, salt and pepper. They were awesome!

When your plants get about a foot tall, you should “hill” them by pulling soil or mulch up over the base of the plant.  Cover leaves and everything but leave at least half of the plant exposed.  Continue to do this until your plant is about 2’ tall.  Hilling does a couple of things.  First, if your variety is the type that will produce potatoes all along the submerged stem then hilling will increase your yield.  This works great for some varieties and not so well for others.  However, no matter what type of tater you have, it is good to keep sunlight away from the developing tubers that try to grow at or above the surface of the soil.  If sunlight hits these developing tubers they develop a green “rind” under the skin.  This rind is full of solanine.  Solanine is a toxic substance that can give you a tummy ache in small amounts, or kill you in large amounts.  There is not enough in a potato to hurt you but it is a good idea to peel that green layer off before you eat it.  BTW, potatoes are not the only plant to produce solanine.  All members of the genus Solnum produce it.  Members of this family include potatoes, tomatoes, egg plants and the deadly Night Shade.

Very few vegetables are as productive and easy to grow as potatoes.  Plus they are incredibly good for you.  If you have a milk cow and pile of potatoes you can keep yourself and your family alive indefinitely.   With so many varieties out there, and their adaptability to soil types and pH, there is surely one out there for you to grow.

Tree Town USA Supports Relay For Life

I work for the MD Anderson Cancer Center.  It is the finest cancer hospital in the world and I am proud to work there.  However, I hope I never have to come to the campus for any reason other than work.  I just cannot imagine what it would feel like to hear someone say “You have cancer”.  Unfortunately, a whole bunch of people hear those very words each and every day.

My friend and cancer survivor Janice McBride stands with the trees donated for gifts to survivors by my friends at Tree Town USA

A few years ago one of my oldest friends (not in age, in length of time we have known each other), heard those words.  Like 226,000 other women that year, Janice had her world rocked by a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer.  Now Janice was lucky.  She was young and healthy and she caught it fairly early.  However, it was a very aggressive type of cancer and there were times when she didn’t think she would make our 30th Class Reunion.  Janice persevered.  Thanks to great treatment, a positive attitude and the support of her loving family, Janice is now a survivor.  And because she is a survivor, she is honored to be able to participate in “Relay for Life” each and every year. 

A very happy survivor and caregiver pick their tree

This year, thanks to the generosity of Tree Town USA, Janice and her husband Morgan (my botanical brother) got to do a whole lot more than walk at the Grand Praire Relay for Life event.  Tree Town USA donated a variety of very nice trees as gifts for the survivors.   Morgan and Janice had so much fun distributing the trees.  They got to meet and share experiences with several wonderful people who had all gone through cancer treatment and lived to tell the tale.  They were moved by those stories and humbled to meet people that were enduring things that no one should ever have to endure.

Go to the Relay For Life website and find out how you can help.

If you would like to take part in a fun and healthy activity that raises money to cure a disease that will eventually effect one in three of us, consider participating in a local Relay for Life event.  Relay for Life events happen all over the country in the spring.  Groups of people agree to walk all night (because cancer never sleeps) to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.  My wife does one in Brenham each year and the girls all dress up in theme costumes and have a ton of fun raising money and honoring all that have struggled with cancer.

MD Anderson has a new president.  His name is Dr. Ronald DePhino and it is his strong belief and goal that during his tenure, MD Anderson will finally be able to cure several types of cancer.  Research and science have now progressed to a point that his dream is actually possible.  However, all of that research and science costs money.  Generous donors like Tree Town USA, great organizations like Relay for Life and scores of volunteers are all helping Dr. DePhino and MD Anderson “Make Cancer History”.   Thanks to all of you that do so much to help us fight this deadly disease!

Three Easy Dinners from Dad’s Garden by Heather White

While my husband and I were away on vacation our little doggies stayed a la maison de l’Yupneck (this is what I call my Dad’s house).

When we returned we visited Brenham to collect our petit chiens. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch as well as a tour of the gardens. We were sent home to Houston with our sweet pups and a bag full of tomatoes, green beans, garlic, onion, and kale from my dad’s garden. As I made our meal plan and grocery list for the following week, I incorporated dad’s organic veggies and thus barely had to buy anything at the store. Here are the three easy and delicious recipes we enjoyed.

Whole-Grain Spaghetti With Garlicky Kale and Tomatoes

From the Garden:

  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • garlic
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced into one inch cubes

From the Cupboard:

  •  6 ounces whole-grain spaghetti
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  1/3 cup chopped roasted almonds
  •  1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus more for serving

Sautee the onion and garlic with the olive oil, then add the kale and tomatoes and cook until tender. Toss with the cooked pasta, almonds, and 1/3 cup parmesan. Serve with more freshly grated parmesan.

 Ravioli With Sauteed Zucchini

From the Garden:

  • 3 zucchini, sliced into thin half-moons
  • garlic

From the Cupboard:

  • 1 pound cheese ravioli
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

Sautee the garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper, then add the zucchini and cook until tender. Toss with the cooked ravioli and parmesan.

Chinese Green Beans with Rice and Miso & Dumpling Soup

  From the Garden:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 6  cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced


From the Cupboard:

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Miso soup, we like the carton available at Whole Foods
  • Frozen Dumplings


Sautee garlic with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil then add the green beans and cook until soft. Stir in sugar and soy sauce and continue cooking until beans reach desired tenderness. I usually remove a bean occasionally and bite into it, not the most sophisticated way to determine when they are ready, but this method always ensures perfectly cooked beans.


Sautee the garlic and onion with remaining sesame oil. Add miso soup and bring to a boil, add frozen dumplings and simmer until cooked throughout.

 Pour the sauce from the bottom of the bean pan over cooked white rice and serve.   

 These delicious meals were easy on our time and our wallet. Thanks dad for adding locally grown, organic produce to our diet. It was a wonderful week of home cooked and home grown goodness.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

When I select plants for the potager, I select on two criteria; form and function.  In my row garden, plants are always selected for function.    I grow food in those beds and I plant what I like to eat.  If I can make it look attractive, that is a bonus but it is not what I select for.  When I plant a bed or border around the house I select solely on form because I am designing something that looks good.  The potager is where my two styles come together.  I want the potager to be beautiful but I also want it to produce food.  So, a lot more thought goes into the plants for the potager.

Young borage in my potager. I planted this at the end of March and this picture was taken on May 25

One of the annuals that almost always makes its way into the spring potager is borage.  Borage is a large scale, leafy herb that produces beautiful little star shaped, corn blue flowers.  The leaves have a mild cucumber taste and can be used in salads and drinks.  As the plant matures, those cumber tasting leaves become “fuzzy”.  A lot of folks, me included, do not like the texture of the leaves when they get to this point.  However, since I don’t grow it primarily for food, I don’t really care about the stiff fuzz on the leaves.  I grow it in the potager because it makes a very lovely three foot tall cone shaped bush.  Plus I love the tiny flowers.

I love the fuzzy white flower buds

Borage is a great choice for containers, the garden and the flower bed.  It is fairly drought tolerant.  Botanists believe it originated in Syria so it is perfectly designed to take high heat and low water.  It is also fairly pest and disease resistant.  Like most herbs it prefers a loose, well draining soil.  I plant from seed in March in full sun and give it about an inch of water every five days or so.  This treatment makes it thrive.  There are some bugs that nibble on the leaves, but what plant doesn’t have a few leaf munching predators?  Borage is also a great companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries.  Some say that it is actually a deterrent to hornworms.

The blue, star shaped flowers are lovely

As I mentioned earlier, the flowers are really why I grow this plant.  I love those little blue stars (the fuzzy white buds are almost as cute)!  These pretty blue flowers are edible and they also have the mild cucumber flavor of the leaves.  Add them directly to your summer salads for a quick way to liven it up.  You can also freeze the flowers in ice cubes and add those flower filled cubes to your summer drinks.

Growing Beans

Right now I am eating green beans just about every night.  Which is fine by me because I love them.  Plus, my wife is a really good cook and she knows about 100 different ways to prepare them.  The beans I am eating now are a bush variety called “Contender”.   I grow Contender every year because it is a reliable bush that produces tons of flavorful, firm podded beans that are three to four inches long.

Contender Bush Beans are very productive and tasty green beans for your spring garden

Beans are a staple all over the world.  In places where meat is scarce or expensive, beans provide the protein needed for healthy bodies.  Because of their high nutritive value, people have been growing them for about as long as there have been people.  According to the National Gardening Association almost 40% of all gardeners in the U.S. grow beans.  There is good reason for that; they taste good and they are good for you.  Plus, they are good for your garden too.  All beans are legumes which means they have the ability (with the help of the bacteria rhizobia) to turn atmospheric nitrogen into a soil based plant soluble nitrogen that will improve your soil.  Because of this, beans are often grown as a rotational crop to replenish the nitrogen taken up by plants that are heavy nitrogen feeders.

I space my beans about 4" apart in a single trench

There are basically two kinds of “green beans” that we grow in our gardens; pole beans and bush beans.  Pole beans grow long vines and do best if supported on a fence or trellis.  They are very prolific and usually take the heat better than bush beans.  It is not uncommon for some varieties to continue producing in the Texas heat well into July.  Generally, pole beans are grown as “snap’ beans or dried beans.  While you can pick them young and use them as a green bean, many varieties must be “snapped” and have the “string” that holds the pod together removed before eating in this manner.  Bush beans on the other hand, are designed to be eaten pod and all.  Bush beans are generally planted a little earlier than pole beans and they stop producing once daytime temps are in the 90s and night time temps stay above 75.

The simple little flowers forming on your bush mean that you will have beans in about a week.

To grow bush beans simply place the seeds in well worked soil once it has warmed up to around 70 degrees.  I planted mine on March 31 and picked my first “mess” on May 20.  Beans should be spaced at about 4” to 6” and planted 1” deep.  Since my rows are 33′ long I dig a trench with my Cobrahead hand hoe, scatter and cover.  If you are planting smaller quantities you can quickly plant an area by scattering the seeds and then using your finger to  push them into the soil past the first joint on your index finger.  If conditions are right they should sprout in 3 to 4 days and grow into small bushes that are about 18″ tall.

Beans develop quickly and it is not uncommon to harvest your first beans 45 to 50 days after planting.  Since most bush beans are designed to be eaten pod and all it is best to harvest them before the beans begin to fill out.  The longer they stay on the vine the tougher the pod gets.  Also, many of the beans from bush varieties do not taste all that great.  So, to get the best green bean experience possible pick your beans when they are young.

My raised beds are 3' feet wide and 33' feet long. I plant tomatoes on the cattle panels in the back and bush beans in the front. The nitrogen fixing quality of the beans ensure that my tomatoes have plenty N available

Very few vegetables are as easy to grow as beans.  They do have a few pest issues that you need to watch for.  There are several beetles that love the foliage and a few more that will even drill into the pod and eat the beans.  A regular, weekly application of BT or neem oil will repel many of them.

Beans are an important source of protein all over the world.  They may have also been the reason you became a gardener.  Do you remember your first horticultural experiment?  I am willing to bet that it involved a bean, a paper towel and a Dixie cup.  Watching that little bean sprout was our first introduction to the mystery and miracle of life.  So, if you love growing things from seed, be sure and thank your first or second teacher and beans.  Both of them are probably more responsible for your love of growing things than you realize!

A Visit With Greg Grant

This past weekend Sally and I went to deep East Texas to spend a day with the noted horticulturist, historian, speaker and all around good guy, Greg Grant.  Greg and I share several friends and we both write for Texas Gardener.  However, because of our crazy schedules, we have never had the opportunity to just hang out.

My wife with Greg in front of Camellia sinensis. If you are not familiar with the Latin, this is the bush that gives us tea! This is one of many rare and interesting plants you can see at the SFA Mast Arboretum.

I was very excited to get this opportunity because I have so much respect for Greg.  In my opinion, he is the best horticulturist anywhere.  In fact, if my website gave awards he would be in the Hall of Fame and he would hold the honor of Master of Horticulture of the Century!  No kidding, Greg really is that awesome.  Here is an excerpt from his speaker’s bio:

To me, nothing says "Southern Garden" better than a tire garden. Here, Dawn Stover's students in the SFA School of Agriculture have made a very productive and attractive vegetable and herb garden out of discarded tires

“In addition to horticulturist, Greg is a conservationist, writer, and seventh generation Texan from Arcadia, Texas.  He is the author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, In Greg’s Garden-A Pineywoods Perspective on Gardening, Nature, and Family (2010-Kindle), and  co-author of Heirloom Gardening in the South-Yesterday’s Plants for Today’s Gardens, Texas Home Landscaping  and The Southern Heirloom Garden.  He also writes the popular “In Greg’s Garden” column for Texas Gardener magazine and contributes regularly to Neil Sperry’s Gardens magazine.  He also writes a monthly gardening blog for Arbor Gate Nursery ( In addition to all of this, he still finds time to serves as a part time research associate for garden outreach at Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Greg has degrees in floriculture and horticulture from Texas A&M University and has attended post graduate classes at Louisiana State University, North Carolina State University, and Stephen F. Austin State University.  He has past experience as a horticulturist with the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, Mercer Arboretum, and San Antonio Botanical Gardens, an instructor at Stephen F. Austin and Louisiana State Universities, an award winning horticulturist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, director of research and development at Lone Star Growers, and on the staff of Naconiche Gardens and The Antique Rose Emporium.

Greg with a mass of John Fanick Phlox. This is one of many plants Greg has introduced to the nursery trade

Greg has introduced a number of successful plants to the Texas nursery industry including: Blue Princess verbena, dwarf pink Mexican petunia, Gold Star esperanza, Laura Bush and VIP petunias, John Fanick phlox, Stars and Stripes pentas, Pam’s Pink honeysuckle, Lecompte vitex, Henry and Augusta Duelberg sages, Big Momma and Pam Puryear Turk’s Cap, Peppermint Flare Hibiscus, and the Marie Daly and Nacogdoches (Grandma’s Yellow) roses.  He was presented the Superior Service Award by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and the Lynn Lowery Memorial Award by the Native Plant Society of Texas for horticultural achievement in the field of Texas native plants.

He has traveled extensively to hundreds of botanical gardens throughout the United States and Europe and has given over one thousand entertaining lectures.  He is a graduate of the Benz School of Floral Design, a member of the Garden Writers Association of America, and a lifetime member of the Native Plant Society of Texas, the Southern Garden History Society, the Texas Bluebird Society, and the Big Thicket Association.  His garden, farm, and plant introductions have been featured in a number of magazines and newspapers including Texas Gardener, Texas Live, Texas Co-op Power, Woman’s Day, Farm and Ranch News, The Dallas Morning News, The San Antonio Express News, and The Houston Chronicle

Sally explores quilts made by Greg's grand mothers. Greg has not only loving restored both of his grandparent's homes, he has preserved and still uses, many of their furnishings.

Greg lives and writes in deep East Texas in his grandparent’s dogtrot farmhouse that he has lovingly restored.  He tends a small cottage garden, a vegetable garden, a patch of sugar cane, a flock of laying hens, and over one hundred bluebird houses.”

As you can tell, Greg is the kind of guy that anyone would love to spend a day with.  As his bio shows, he is VERY accomplished.  However, the bio doesn’t tell the whole story.  Greg is as open, friendly, and funny as he is accomplished.  Even though we had only met in passing, Sally and I both felt we had known him our lives.  He was such a great host and he never seemed to tire of endless questions. 

Greg showed us so much during our visit that there is no way to cover it in one post.  So, check back over the next few days to hear all of the amazing things that Greg shared with in Nacogdoches, at Stephen F. Austin University and in the thriving metropolis of Arcadia, Texas.

If you want to learn more about how to grow just about everything  or explore how our Southern history and culture is reflected in, and shaped by, the plants from the past, buy one or more of Greg’s books.  With six in print and one on kindle, this Master of Horticulture is sure to have something that is perfect for you.  Two of my favorites are featured in my sidebar!