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Plant Rant: Which Texas Sage is it Really?

Oct 11, 2017

I have to have a bit of a horticultural temper tantrum this morning, which has to do with plant labeling...or rather incorrect plant labeling. Plant imposters, if you will. When you're planting blooming shrubs, it can take a years for plants to establish and begin to fill in to a more mature growth habit and size. So it's pretty frustrating after all that time only to end up with the wrong plant species. Such is the saga of my Texas sage.

While there are many beautiful varieties of Texas sage, my particular favorite happens to be Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Rio Bravo'. Varieties of this species differ in growth and blooming habits from the more common Leucophyllum frutescens varieties. The former having a wider base, sprawling growth habit and heavier blooming, versus the later having a wider growth habit at the top of the plant - often developing naked knees syndrome.

About 4-5 years ago I purchased and planted 3 more specimens of what was supposed to be 'Rio Bravo' Texas sage. I have plantings of a few types of Texas sage in my front yard and the 'Rio Bravo' is always the most stunning bloomer and the pollinators adore it. Adding a few more to my hellstrip would help fill out the space and provide more color and food for insects.

Early on, I suspected something wasn't right, as the small plants began to differentiate and the foliage didn't look similar on all three. As the three plants continued to grow and become larger, it became apparent that one plants was definitely 'Rio Bravo'...but the other two? Not sure...because they never bloomed. And I mean, never bloomed. It was bizarre. After doing some research, the best I could figure was that perhaps these two non-conformers were some sort of parent species of 'Rio Bravo'...or maybe 'Lynn's Legacy'...but again, without any flowers, I couldn't be sure. I thought, ok, whatever this variety is, maybe it has a juvenility period and it needs to mature longer before it will bloom? .

It really peeves me when nurseries and garden centers get their plant labeling wrong...it has long-term and expensive consequences for the home gardener.

By now of course, the three large shrubs have grown in somewhat different forms and don't "match"...which is highly irritating. The one real 'Rio Bravo' in the bed blooms it's head off like it's supposed to...while the other two grow in a different shape and don't bloom. Which throws the entire planting off whack. And again, I was really confused as to why these two Texas sage just refused to bloom. I've spent the last three years grappling with the idea of ripping them out and starting over. Finally last year, I got the first few blooms showing up on the two non-conformers - just a hand full in late fall. While the adjacent 'Rio Bravo' was buzzing with pollinators, not a single insect would touch the flowers on the mystery plants. So..gee...is this variety photoperiodic...a short-day plant maybe...which is why it's only putting on a few flowers in fall? I've been grasping at straws here. About a week ago I committed to just ripping the now large established shrubs out this winter and starting over.

And then THIS happened two days ago, just ahead of some rainstorms that passed through (Texas sage develop flowers in response to increased humidity, changes in barometric pressure, and rainfall):

What the??!! It's like it heard me tell it I was going to rip it out...so it got to blooming in fast order! Only took 5 years. So both of these mystery plants are now in full bloom and pollinators were visiting the flowers - for the first time in my observation. Again, best I can figure these are 'Lynn's Legacy'.

The flower are a bit too pink for my taste (I prefer the deeper violet on the 'Rio Bravo')...but now that plants are actually blooming, I have to decide if they'll stay or go. Grrr.

I've noticed a few sites online that are listing this plant as 'Rio Bravo'...so beware. Alright...plant rant over, I need to go have more coffee!

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Succulent Cuttings

Oct 7, 2017

Fall and winter are seasons that compel me to make more plants...be it by seeds or vegetative cuttings. Succulents are some of the easiest plants to propagate; all you need is one leaf and you can generate new plantlets.

I was gifted this lovely pile of echeveria "muffin tops" that were left over from some wedding floral arrangements. There's no need for them to go to waste, they can be rooted as brand new plants!

If you turn over the succulent tops, you'll see a stub leftover from the original stem. This section of stem can generate new roots. You want to let the cuttings dry, or cure, for a bit before you set the tops in new soil. Once they've begun to seal over, you can simply take the tops and set them on top of some potting soil in a tray or a new pot, making sure that the base/stem section is in contact with the soil (it doesn't need to be buried much). You can add a little moisture to the soil, but do not keep it wet or your succulents will rot before they root. Within a week or two, new roots will begin to develop from the base of the stem.

As I mentioned before, you can also grow new succulents from a leaf. When leaves fall naturally from a succulent, they can develop new roots from the base of the leaf tissue, and generate a new plantlet, as you can see in the photo above. So cute! All you need to do is set the leaf on top of soil, you don't need to bury it.

If you remove a leaf from a succulent to root it, make sure the entire original base of the leaf structure is intact, not broken or cracked. Again, it's best to let the leaves sit out to dry/cure a bit so the exposed leaf base isn't wet when you set it on top of the soil.

Making more plants? Always a good idea!

Collecting & Saving Seeds

Oct 6, 2017

It just so happens that as I'm working on my new book on plant propagation, it's also the perfect time to collect and save seeds. During the fall season many plants form their final seed heads that are prime for the picking. Sowing seeds is one of the simplest and most inexpensive ways to grow more of the plants you love. But if you don't pay attention to the garden right now, you may miss out on collecting some of your favorites.


Orange Cosmos Flower and Seeds

Some plants are prolific seeders, such as orange cosmos; one of my favorite orange annual flowers. Right now plants are absolutely covered in mature seeds ready for the taking.

Plants I'm collecting seed from in my garden right now:

  • Cosmos
  • Tassel Flower
  • Clematis
  • Basil
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Garlic Chives
  • Borage
  • Malabar Spinach
  • and more...


Orange Tassel Flower - flowers and seed heads

When collecting seeds it's best to allow seeds to mature and dry completely on the plant (unless of course you're harvesting tomato seeds, which are wet seeds that benefit from fermentation prior to storage). Keep your seeds in a dry sealed container. You can keep non-tropical seeds in the refrigerator to preserve them longer, but they must be kept dry in a sealed water-tight container. Be sure to mark your seed container with the date you collected the seeds, as over time germination rates wil decline.

So, if you want to collect seeds, now is a great time to look around your landscape for freebies!

Book Update: Gardening Under Lights

Sep 11, 2017

It has been a whirlwind the last few months with speaking engagements around the country and finishing up my book edits. Gardening Under Lights is geared towards new and experienced gardeners & growers (even industry folks) who want to learn about grow lighting and gear, extending their growing seasons, and growing all sorts of edibles and ornamentals indoors.

The book is now heading into art production and layout. Start looking for promotion and pre-ordering on Amazon this winter with release date the spring of 2018. Kindle pre-ordering is already up on Amazon. Woo! You are getting a sneak peek of the cover, which could still change slightly before pre-order. I'll update you here on any updates once finalized.

Gardening Under Lights details everything a gardener or hobbyist needs to know to garden indoors. Part One starts with the basics of photosynthesis, the science of light, and how to accurately measure how much light a plant needs. Part Two provides an overview of the most up-to-date tools and gear available. Parts Three and Four offer tips and techniques for growing popular ornamental plants (orchids, succulents, bonsai, and more) and edible plants (arugula, cannabis, oregano, tomatoes, and more) independent of the constraints of volatile outdoor conditions. Gardening Under Lights is a highly-detailed, accessible guide for seed starters, plant collectors, and anyone who wants to successfully garden

And new news, I just singed on for another book with Timber Press, tentatively titled  Propagation, Simplified, set for release in spring 2019. Stay tuned for details.

MOON CARROT: I’m freaking out over this plant!

Aug 17, 2017

Every time I visit new gardens, I always end up obsessed with at least one plant. On my most recent trip to Denver for the Perennial Plant Association Symposium, I came across just such a plant at several gardens through out my stops around the area.

MOON CARROT!!

This plant is killing me. I must have it. My precious.

I mean...look at it:

No...look at it!

The space orb blooms atop the beautiful blue/silver foliage is just too much. Not to mention, Seseli gummiferum was covered in pollinators. They were just as crazy about this plant as I was. I love the feathery silver foliage of artemesia, but inevitably 'Powis Castle' overgrows its welcome and I end up ripping it out. Perhaps this is my solution plant...

So, what is it? Well, Moon Carrot is a biennial, or short-lived perennial, that grows about 30" tall. It prefers rocky alkaline soils at high elevations...but I'm pretty sure as long as soils are well-drained, we can enjoy this beauty here. I'm gonna make it happen. I'm on a quest for seeds at the moment, but I'll report back once I have Moon Carrot in my garden.

New Plants: Keep your eyes out for these new silver beauties!

Aug 14, 2017

If you love plants like I do, then you're probably just as easily excieted as I am to get the skinny on the latest new plant releases from the world of horticulture. Summer is always filled with lots of work travel for me, including visits to a number of high-profile industry events. At such events, breeders and brokers put on their new plant dog and pony show so us plant geeks get a preview of what's to come.

My very, very, very favorite new plant at all of the shows this summer is Senecio 'Angel Wings'. Now, I'm easily swayed by silver foliage, but there is just something about the these big floppy leaves - I can't take my eyes off of them. Now, the scoop on this baby is that quantities will be limited next year...but I suspect demand will be big.

Silver seemed to be en vogue in the new plant offerings, with at least one other Senecio on display, 'Crushed Velvet'...

Another fabulous silver overing was Calocephalus brownii...

I'm in love!

Pilea peperomioides plugs have arrived!

Aug 10, 2017

If you're into houseplants, you may have found yourself hunting for the ever elusive Chinese Money Plant, or Pilea peperomioides. This succulent foliage plant's popularity has exploded in Europe, but supplies are terribly limited here in the States. Even for someone like myself who works in the horticulture industry, it's been tough to get my hands on this beautiful plant.

I had to work pretty darn hard and do some serious networking to finally score some babies...but they are here! Thanks to D.S. Cole Growers, I'm now coaxing along some pilea plugs in the indoor plant lab.

The plugs were rooted out, but according to their source, were being a bit stubborn about putting on any new growth. So I bumped them into 2" pots and put them under HO T5 supplemental lighting for 12-hours a day.

The little buggers are still being stubborn for me too...but hopefully soon we'll see some plantlets sprouting. Stay tuned!

Hot Summer Harvest; in-season edibles

Jul 10, 2017

Dallas weather might be blazing hot right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still harvest fresh flavors from the garden or from your local farmer’s market. Summer recipes are easy and flavorful when you use fresh ingredients that are local and in season.

My favorite in-season vegetable (technically a fruit) right now is the heat-loving pepper. Peppers don’t start maturing in the garden until things really heat up. Once they do, peppers such as jalapeno, habanero, pablano, Anaheim and many other hot peppers, will produce en masse. Sweet peppers can be a bit more challenging to grow in our hot summers, but you can still find them in season at the market.

Sweet or hot, you can never have too many on hand. Pickling peppers and making a variety of salsas that include both roasted tomatoes, tomatillos and fruit are all easy and delicious. Think outside the box when it comes to salsas and include unusual flavors from the garden including sweet peppers, basil, or cucumbers.

There are plenty of other in-season fruits and vegetables for the summer table. The hot days beg for cooling recipes that include sorbets, summer salads, and chilled soups. Or, eat your veggies raw to cool yourself down.

Look for these edibles that are also in season now:

Okra
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Summer Squash (and blossoms!)
Green Beans
Figs
Eggplant


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