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Brenda's Garden
by Brenda Beust Smith

Monday, April 05, 2010

Spring is bursting out in Brenda's Garden

Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"  ~Robin Williams

Yellow coreopsis and pink poppies are bursting out all over Texas.

April is a busy month for gardeners.  Garden sirens are at work, using a million different tricks to lure us out into the garden.  The weather's (usually!) great, flowers are starting to bloom, no point in fighting the plant gods!

Everyone predicts this will be the very BEST wildflower season in decades.  We're taking off for Cotulla where, a couple of  years ago, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Yellow coreopsis stretched for miles, pink and white poppies turned into six-foot shrubs. 

If wildflower experts are predicting even better wildflowers than we saw then, well, I'm not sure my heart can take it. 

From there we'll swing up to see what's blooming at Wildseed Farms ( in Fredericksburg (and maybe climb Enchanted Rock) and then at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center ( in Austin.

This isn't, unfortunately, a good time to sow most wildflower seed.  One exception: cosmos.  But seed for most other wildflowers should be sown in fall.

Still, you can enjoy them temporarily, and solve some major garden problems in the process.

The same question keeps coming in, so I'm going to repeat advice given before.

Don't give up on a supposedly-dead shrub. It had a pretty hard blow this past winter (didn't we all!). If it does come out, it's going to be slowly, slowly.

If it does comes back, you've got one tough root system there and no point in tossing it out if it's still alive!

Prune ALL dead shrubs back slowly.  When you reach live wood, stop.  If you hit the ground and still no live wood, new shoots might come out from the roots. 

Leave a small stump above ground.  Then plant all around the stump with spring wildflower plants (not seeds!) or hollyhocks, larkspur, petunias, snapdragons ... all the spring bloomers now so beautiful in nurseries.

These will die when it gets hot, say, in June.  If your shrub's not back by then, give up on it.  But be patient. 

Allamanda vineDEAR BRENDA:  I had the most beautiful allamanda vine that was doing so well.  Now, of course, it's dead.  Do you think it will come back? SH

Dear SH. Unfortunately allamandas are probably among the tropicals that we have been lulled by our string of warm winters into thinking are hardier than they really are.  These are true tropicals like plumerias and bougainvillea. 

Will it come back?  It all depends on how hardy the root system is.  Follow the advice above.  Give it time.  If it does come back, that root system is certainly worth keeping!

DEAR BRENDA:  Can you give me any suggestions for improving the look of my container plants?  I have limited space and i like having the plants up higher because it's hard for me to bend too far down.  But they look like little soldiers out there all lined up.  SUE

DEAR SUE:  Think variety.  Use different colored, sized, shaped containers.  Think outside the box when it comes to containers.  Garage sales are great places to find inexpensive, fun pots.  Or you can spray paint some of your containers a different color.

The key to success (which you probably already know):  Make sure there are drain holes in the bottom of every one!

Whether you're planting different varieties in the same pot or grouping pots, remember the rule of three. Something tall with something medium sized and something cascading.

One of the least expensive ways of adding texture and eye-catching shapes is to shop the houseplant section of plant retailers.  Often these areas will have sale plants as well.

Most of these plants are normally winter-hardy for us.  Poke them in the sides of already planted containers.

You might also try adding a little "hardscape" in there, just for eye interest.  A child's lawnchair, fun statuary.  I have a tiny frog house grouped in with some off my pots.

April is also an incredible month for finding great plants and for learning more about gardening in your area. 
The Houston Chronicle Garden Website calendar
( is the only widespread area calendar of which I am aware.

You can post your own event notices.  Click on Garden Calendar at the top of the page and see what's coming up or follow directions to post your events.

P.S.  Don't miss new posts. Make the
Lazy Gardener blog your home page.

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.

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