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Brenda's Garden
by Brenda Beust Smith

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Angels spreading their petals in Brenda's Garden
 Angel trumpet

falling leaves
hide the path
so quietly

~John Bailey, "Autumn," a haiku year, 2001, as posted on

DEAR BRENDA: A friend was cutting back her angel trumpet tree and she gave me a cutting. What do I do with it?  Sally

Angel trumpetDEAR SALLY:  A friend of mine was cutting back her angel trumpet tree too, and she gave me a cutting (the pink flower pictured here). First one I'd ever gotten.

I guess I should have been more worried/careful about planting it, but it was a busy time. 

I took it home and stuck it in the ground.  Literally!

I dug a deep hole, poked it down in the ground with one end sticking out.  By that time, I couldn't even remember which end was up.

I covered the whole thing with a thick mulch of leaves and pine needles, with just the tip sticking out.

That was in the spring of 2007.  It didn't bloom the first two years. It grew slowly at first, then exploded and is now about seven foot tall, multi-trunked but mostly a tree shape. 

It bloomed sporadically last year, but absolutely beautifully this fall with a continuous supply of flowers.  I'm absolutely awed at how quickly this thing has grown so large.

Actually the principle is the same no matter what the plant cutting.  Everywhere a leaf comes out above ground, a root might come out if that section is placed below ground.  I say "might" because a lot of different factors come into play.

The soil texture, moisture levels, etc., all play a part.  But getting as many of those leaf nodes below ground, then mulching well, is a key trick to encouraging rooting.

DEAR BRENDA:  I have more monarch butterflies this year than I have ever had! Can you publish a picture of the caterpillars that I can then forward to my @#$%^&*( neighbor who has one of those pesticide-spray things?  She can't seem to get the point that if you kill caterpillars, you won't have butterflies! Karen

DEAR KAREN:  I agree totally on those spray devices.  Folks use them to discourage mosquitoes, certainly an understandable goal.  But I don't care what the sales folk say, whether a pesticide is organic or not, it's going to kill your caterpillars.

Butterflyweed with monarch catepillarHere's your monarch caterpillar.

The real sad thing is that by killing all the insects in a yard, you actually encourage infestations down the line. Chances are excellent that you are killing off the natural enemies of damaging insects that will be passing through. 

The best way to discourage mosquitoes is to 1. remove all standing water and 2. encourage insects, such as dragonflies, that eat mosquitoes.  The best way to do this is with a pond or water source with moving water (recycling fountain).  Mosquitoes only lay eggs in stagnant water.

Hope the picture helps.

DEAR BRENDA: Are you coming back to the
Galveston Home & Garden Show?  The cuttings you gave away last year are all growing.  Thanks so much but I'm not sure what they are!  Thought I'd bring in some sprigs in the spring so you can identify them for me. Will you be giving away different plants?  J.T.

DEAR J.T.  So glad they worked but don't say thanks!  There's an old wives tale that says if you say thanks for a cutting, it won't grow.  So we don't want to jinx them.  Much better to say that once they get going, you'll be sure to give away some of the cuttings too.

I'll be glad to ID them.  I'll be at the
Galveston Home & Garden Show March 13.  At 11 a.m. I'll again be doing a cutting give-away following my talk on "What's Blooming in the Lazy Gardener's Garden." 

No way of knowing now what I'll have.  I promote plants that survive despite my neglect and nature's challenges and after Ike, followed by this past summer's extraordinary heat and drought, I too am curious about what will be worth sharing.

In fact, life's been so strange lately, I renamed a PowerPoint presentation I do (no cuttings at this one):
”If it can’t survive Gulf Coast heat, drought, floods, hurricanes, bugs, diseases, occasional blue northers or my neglect …
it doesn’t belong in my garden!”

Black-eyed Susan vine

Among the plants that I find are almost indestructible are plumbago, duranta, Mexican orchid tree, bush daisy (Europys), experanza (Tecoma stans), bleeding heart vine and black-eyed Susan vine, to name just a few.

I'll also be at the
Cy-Fair Home & Garden Show Feb. 27-28  and the Spring (Woodlands) Home & Garden Show March 27 — both with cuttings (whatever's available at that early date)!

Brenda Beust Smith (Features > Brenda's Garden)
Email Brenda for list of area gardening/environmental speakers ($5) andlist of her topics for garden club presentations ($250-$300)

"THE LAZY GARDENER'S GUIDE ON CD" — a gardening book on CD offers gardening tips plus 12 pre-designed gardens for butterflies, hummers, sun, shade and more. Monthly what-to-do reminders for Greater Houston/Gulf Coast gardens. $20 each. Make checks payable to Brenda B. Smith & mail to: Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD, 14011 Greenranch,
 Houston, TX 77039-2103.

Gorgeous view condo in Galveston for rent/lease)

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