We are members of Texas Garden Clubs and National Garden Clubs, and the Garden Club year typically runs from September 1st through May 31st. On the second Friday of August we will have our “Membership Social/Pot Luck” at our regular location, the College Station Waste Water Facility, 2200 North Forest Parkway, College Station, TX 77845, starting at 9.30 am. You are welcome to join us and find out who we are, and what we do! Find us on Facebook, and check our website amgardenclub.com
Ever wonder where those names that end in “ii” come from? What do they mean? Some of the answers are easy to find on the internet, others pretty much impossible. However, inquiring minds want to know, and if you have the curiosity and the time, there’s a lot of information “out there”!!! Interestingly, much of this plant exploration took place in the so called “Age of Enlightenment” during the 18th Century. So, here are six well known names to start with.
Drumondii: -Thomas Drummond ca. 1790-1835
Many plants (including Phlox drummondii) were named for Thomas Drummond, Scottish Naturalist. In 1830 he made a trip to America to collect specimens from the western and southern United States. In March, 1833, he arrived at Velasco, Texas to begin his collecting work in that area. He spent twenty-one months working the area between Galveston Island and the Edwards Plateau, especially along the Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe rivers. His collections were the first made in Texas that were extensively distributed among the museums and scientific institutions of the world. He collected 750 species of plants and 150 specimens of birds. Drummond had hoped to make a complete botanical survey of Texas, but he died in Havana, Cuba, in 1835, while making a collecting tour of that island.
Wrightii: -Charles Wright 1811-1885
Charles Wright, American-born world-wide botanical collector collected extensively in Texas (1837-1852), Cuba, and his native Connecticut. Plants named for him include Datura wrightii, the genus Carlow wrightii (wrightworts) and Geissorhiza wrightii (Baker). George Engelmann named a small cactus after him, Wright’s fishhook (Sclerocactus uncinatus var. wrightii.) He is also commemorated in the name of the grey flycatcher (Empidonax wrightii ) found near El Paso. Tropidophis wrightii (Wright’s dwarf boa) was also named after him
Anthonyanus: -Dr Harold Anthony (Can’t find image of Dr. Anthony!)
Rick Rack Cactus, Devils Backbone Cactus, Fishbone Cactus – is named for Dr. Harold E. Anthony, who first flowered this species in June 1950. The former generic name Cryptocereus (literally, “hidden cereus” recalls the fact that the species remained long unknown in a region that had been thoroughly investigated. Mr. Thomas McDougall found this species in 1946. He thought he had found a close relative of Epiphyllum anguliger. When it flowered in the greenhouses of Dr. Harold E. Anthony in Jersey in 1950 it was obvious that this was a great novelty. The species is rarely collected and most plants in cultivation descend from this first collection.
Greggii: -Josiah Gregg 1806-1850
Josiah Gregg was a merchant, explorer, naturalist, and author of Commerce of the Prairies about the American Southwest and Northern Mexico regions. He collected many previously undescribed plants on his merchant trips and during the Mexican-American War after which he went to California. He reportedly died of a fall from his mount due to starvation near Clear Lake, California, on 25 February 1850 after a cross-country expedition which fixed the location of Humboldt Bay.
Fortunei: -Robert Fortune 1812-1880
Born in Scotland, he took a 2-year trip to China about 1845 and wrote a travelogue which captures the imagination of Victorian Society; he was approached by the Dutch East India Company to return to China on a “secret” mission. He came back with more plants, and more importantly …………. TEA!!
Four of the best-known plants that were named for him are:
Euonymous fortunei – Winter Creeper
Trachycarpus fortunei – Windmill Palm
Osmanthus fortunei – Tea Olive
Thunbergii: -Carl Peter Thunberg 1743-1828
Carl Peter Thunberg, also known as Karl Peter von Thunberg, Carl Pehr Thunberg, or Carl Pet Thunberg, was a Swedish naturalist and an apostle of Carl Linnaeus. He has been called “the father of South African botany”, “Pioneer of Occidental Medicine in Japan” and the”Japanese Linnaeus.”
At 18 Thunberg entered Uppsala University i Sweden where he was taught by the famous Carl Linnaeus. He was skilled in botany and medicine, and joined the Dutch East India Co. as a surgeon in order to travel to South Africa. He is credited with naming some 254 species of plants and animals, including:
Allium thunbergii, Amarantus thunbergii, Berberis thunbergii Geranium thunbergii, Pinus thunbergii, and Spirea thunbergii!!
My last post was about the Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, probably one of the most popular and well known Euphorbia in the world, especially at Christmas! Such an interesting plant family, Euphorbia is a very large and diverse genus of flowering and non-flowering plants and commonly called Spurge.
Three more Euphorbias that I am currently growing are Pencil Cactus, Crown of Thorns, and African Milk Tree – none of which resemble the Poinsettia in appearance, but all of which have the irritating milky sap (irritating not in the sense of annoying, of course, but as a potential irritant to the skin!!)
Euphorbia tirucalli – Pencil Cactus:
Like many succulents, tirucalli is easy to propagate by cuttings. Sometimes I leave the cuttings out in the air to callous over the cuts, sometimes I stick them in with the sap dripping. It doesn’t seem to make much difference! Pencil Cactus can grow into large bushes and trees in it’s native habitat of semi-arid tropical climates, but is easy to control in less hospitable climates by taking cuttings. Chop off it’s head, stick in potting soil, and share with your friends!! I have never seen flowers on this plant, only teeny-tiny leaves.
Euphorbia milii – Crown of Thorns, Corona de Cristo
Again, easy (but not fast!) to grow from cuttings. These come in several colors, and have vicious thorns. It is easy to see where it’s common name “Crown of Thorns” came from. Care (and gloves) is required when handling this plant.
Euphorbia trigona – African Milk Tree
This plant will grow to a decent sized spiny shrub or tree, with it’s origin in Central Africa. It is easily grown from stem cuttings – most sources recommend letting the cut edge callousing over prior to planting to prevent rot. Interesting to see the color change in the second picture. The bottom of the plant is scarred from excess sun I think, so now I’ll be keeping it in afternoon shade once it goes back outside for spring and summer.
The best thing about these plants is that they are “pass alongs”; E. Tirucalli came from a friend at church who knew I was looking for some starts for a friend; E.millii came from the Rector at my church; E.trigona came from a dear friend.
Before coming to the United States, I was not familiar with the tradition of Poinsettias at Christmas. I was used to plants such holly, ivy, cyclamen, Christmas cactus and amaryllis. Research sources such as Wiki, cactus/succulent websites and Brookwood Community where they grow thousands each year, has helped explain!!
Euphorbia pulcherrima is a shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 0.6–4 metres (2–13 ft). The plant bears dark green dentate leaves that measure 7–16 centimetres (2.8–6.3 in) in length. The colored bracts—which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or marbled—are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colors, but are actually leaves. The colors of the bracts are created through photoperiodism, meaning that they require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change color. At the same time, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color. The flowers of the poinsettia are unassuming and do not attract pollinators. They are grouped within small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch, and are called cyathia.
The poinsettia is native to Mexico. It is found in the wild in deciduous tropical forests at moderate elevations from southern Sinaloa down the entire Pacific coast of Mexico to and. It is also found in the interior in the hot, seasonally dry forests of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl, meaning “flower that grows in residues or soil” Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as Flor de Noche Buena, meaning Christmas Eve Flower. In Spain it is known as Flor de Pascua, meaning Easter flower. In Chile and Peru, the plant became known as Crown of the Andes. In Hungary, it is called Santa Claus’ Flower, and is widely used as a Christmas decoration.
The plant’s association with Christmas began in 16th-century Mexico, where legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus. In the United States, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day. The poinsettia has been cultivated in Egypt since the 1860s, when it was brought from Mexico during the Egyptian campaign. It is called bent el consul, “the consul’s daughter”, referring to the U.S. ambassador Joel Poinsett. There are over 100 cultivated varieties of poinsettia.
In areas outside its natural environment, it is commonly grown as an indoor plant where it prefers good morning sun, then shade in the hotter part of the day. Contrary to popular belief, flowering poinsettias can be kept outside, even during winter, as long as they are kept frost-free. It is widely grown and very popular in subtropical climates such as Australia, Rwanda and Malta. The plant requires a daily period of uninterrupted long, dark nights followed by bright sunny days for around two months in autumn in order to encourage it to develop colored bracts. Any incidental light during these nights (from a nearby television set, from under a door frame, even from passing cars or street lights) hampers bract production. Commercial production of poinsettia has been done by placing them inside a greenhouse and covering the latter completely to imitate the natural biological situation. To produce extra axillary buds that are necessary for plants containing multiple flowers, a phytoplasma infection—whose symptoms include the proliferation of axillary buds—is used. The discovery of the role phytoplasmas play in the growth of axillary buds is credited to Ing-Ming Lee of the USDA Agricultural Research Service.
Poinsettia tree growing in Guatemala
In the United States and perhaps elsewhere, there is a common misconception that the poinsettia is highly toxic. This misconception was spread by a 1919 urban legend of a two-year-old child dying after consuming a poinsettia leaf.While the sap and latex of many plants of the spurge genus are indeed toxic, the poinsettia’s toxicity is relatively mild. Its latex can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. It is also mildly irritating to the skin or stomach and may sometimes cause diarrhea and vomiting if eaten. Sap introduced into the human eye may cause temporary blindness.
“Garden Catalogs, Mini Horticulture Guides”
By Suzanne Milstead
Winter arrivals of plant catalogs bring expectations, and many hours of contentment to all of us gardening enthusiasts. We can’t wait to thumb through the mirage of old and new favorites, and new trials of hybrids.
Before ordering give careful consideration to the special conditions of your own yard:
- The most important information to know is your plant zone (USDA Hardiness Zone). The Bryan/College Station area is zone 8b.
- What kind of soil and water do you have? (Soil testing is available at AgriLife Extension http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/.)
- How much sun does it receive? Full sun, Morning or afternoon sun?
What you need to know about the plant itself:
- Is it an annual or perennial?
- What’s the mature size, blooming season, and special features of this plant?
- Do I want to experiment with something new or use the tried and true favorites?
After placing your order and receiving the seeds or plants, what then? My advice–don’t toss those catalogs. They are a wealth of information for planting successful gardens. Place a sticky note on the front of the catalog and list the items with page numbers. Circle in bold permanent markers, those plants you did order so you won’t forget.
However, best of all, seed and plant catalogs put faces to names. Colorful, plant pictures help to make good choices for the landscape and garden along with the description. I really like the new introductions and unique colors of a commonly, grown plant and those designated as All-American. (All American Winners have been tested by a network of independent judges who determined their garden performance was superior, usually consistent and reliably good varieties.) Catalogs may also offer ‘heirloom’ plants with desirable traits for growing. And if these advantages aren’t enough, consider this: seed catalogs put in your hand a mini-horticultural reference. As with anything, beware of descriptions that seem too good to be true. If it claims to grow 25 feet in one year-will it take over the entire garden and be difficult to eradicate? Also seed companies that are based in northern states are usually describing how a plant performs in northern states.
Catalog highlights might include any of the following:
- Time to plant-Planting dates depend on site location and geographic weather patterns. Dates for planting are gauged on seasonal rainfall in your area rather than by temperature.
- USDA Plant Hardiness Map-Present a range of average annual minimum temperatures for each zone with recommendations for spring or fall planting. Variations within each zone are factors to be considered such as altitude, exposure to wind, proximity to bodies of water and excessive or minimal rainfall. Best bet is to contact your county extension agent for local information on planting considerations.
- Starting from Seed-Consider site location, soil type, hours of sunlight and shade, drainage, weeds or nearby trees. Select a site that drains well. Germinate in trays or out in the flower beds?
- Seed Germination– Depth, germination days, optimum soil temperature.
- Controlling the Elements– Watering frequency by hand or irrigation; fertilization, sunlight.
- Factors Causing Poor Results-Impatience, poor drainage, deep soil planting covering too deep, inadequate watering, and planting at wrong time of year.
- What do the Symbols Mean? Life cycles of plants indicated by A=annual; An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in one year. P=perennial; A perennial plant is a plant that lives for more than two years. B=biennial; A plant that completes its life cycle within a two-year period. Germinates in the spring, overwinters, flowers the following spring or summer and dies back the following fall.
- Herbicides which are safe to use with your plants.
- Special Collections-Examples such as butterfly and hummingbird seed blends and mixes usually in larger quantity and how much to use per square feet.
- Additional Information-Latin name and cultivar, description, size, suggested use, range map.
- Disease Codes refer to what diseases the plant is resistant to. A rule of thumb, the more letters or codes after the plant, the better. Usually, definitions of each letter are referenced in the catalog. Example: In tomatoes, “F” or “FF” means the plants are resistant to the Fusarium oxysporum fungi that cause Fusarium wilt.
Catalogs help you make better choices at purchase, but also later when the seeds or plants arrive, you can use it as a reference for where to plan, how to plant, what color to expect, when it should flower, and how to care for them. Keeping the ‘free’ catalog guide helps you become a more successful gardener while saving money.
On-line Catalog Resourses:
All American Selections: www.all-americaselections.org/
Free catalogs: https://www.thespruce.com/free-seed-catalogs-1357756
Ten Seed Catalogs: http://www.birdsandblooms.com/gardening/gardening-basics/10-seed-catalogs/
Pinterest: search for seed catalogs
So many wonderful plants and designs to share, but will only include a few so you can get a taste of what you missed not attending the show in person. Our Facebook page has a good collection of people pictures from the show.
Flower shows with extensive horticulture entries are a great way to get more educated on different types of plants, including ones that grow well and look good in your area. Exhibitors have to include the common name of plants they enter and are in their designs and/or the scientific name. Crowd favorites of this show included an elephant ear plant that sadly wilted within a few hours, but we learned from experts at the show that to enter such a large cut leaf it may need to be conditioned by soaking it in a bathtub full of water to keep the leaf rigid enough to last through the show. Do you have any tips on how to keep cut specimens looking their best? Please share in comments.
Floral designs in National Garden Club Shows often take viewers by surprise as these designs are more intricate and creative than what you would get delivered from a florist. Often having more space in the design is key to pleasing the judges. Designers use rules and tips published in “The Handbook for Flower Shows” 2017 revision published by National Garden Clubs, Inc., to help them know what to do. Many designers attend classes or undergo the rigorous requirements for getting the flower show judge credential.
The shows usually look so easy to the casual observer, but many hours of volunteer work happen behind the scenes to make it such a pleasure to attend, not to mention the work designers and growers of horticulture entries put in to be able to enter an exhibit. Sometimes gardeners get lucky and have something blooming and in top condition without putting much work into it, but usually special attention is given to a few plants a month or more in advance that they think might be show worthy. Horticulture entries must be in the possession of person entering it for at least 3 months prior to the show.
What was digging every night in different beds at the community garden? Inquiring minds want to know. The garden is closed at night, so there is not a way to stay up all night and wait out the visitor. As an organic, certified wildlife habitat garden, the welcome mat for critters is out, maybe even a red carpet if you are a bee, lady bug or butterfly. A trail camera, of the type often used to photograph deer at feeders put out by hunters, can come in handy for learning about wildlife visiting an area while you are home safe and snug in bed.
Our woodland friends rabbit and skunk like locally grown organic vegetables and gardens, too!
Luckily, the fence around the garden will at least keep deer out.
What critters have you caught causing havoc in a garden?
Flower Show Judge, Master Gardener, National Garden Club Instructor for Gardening and Landscape Design School Beth E gave plenty of tips at our September A&M Garden Club meeting on making container gardening easy, despite Texas summer high temperatures. Watering containers at the same time each day with the same amount of water helps. This can be easier if a drip irrigation system on a timer is set up to water all your containers. Including a coleus plant or plants in one or more containers also helps with watering because it wilts when the soil is dry and signals that all the containers need to be watered. Coleus recovers from wilting quickly after being watered. Use larger rather than smaller containers. Hanging baskets can be challenging to keep watered enough during our Texas summers.
When setting up a combination of plants in a container, the classic inclusion of a plant to thrill, a plant to fill, and a plant to spill is still recommended. Be cautious about including more than one variegated variety as it can be distracting. Sweet potato vine is an example of a commonly used “spill” plant in containers, but there are many others. Consider putting in some landscape cloth at the bottom of the container to keep dirt from escaping while allowing for drainage. Some gardeners recommend adding a layer of rocks at the bottom of pots to help with drainage. Before adding plants to a combination planter, soak the small pots with your plants you will add to a larger container in water for about 2 minutes. As you assemble your plants in small pots for your combination planting, consider taking the plants with soil around the roots out of the pots they came in after soaking the whole thing and setting the plant with soil aside briefly while you nestle the empty smaller pots around in the larger container to mark where plants will go and so there is space for them after you fill in soil around the empty pots nestled in the larger container. After lightly packing down soil around the empty pots in the larger container, you are ready to quickly add your thrill, fill and spill plants once you lift out the empty pots. Giving the empty place marking pots a slight twist helps as you remove them from the larger container to make way for your transplants and keep the space ready for the plants you are adding.
Some plants to think about growing in containers all by themselves because they just do not do so well with other plants in the same container are grasses and rosemary.
Succulents are especially popular as of late and a tip to make their containers more attractive is to put chicken grit, which can be purchased at feed stores, on top of the soil to make it neater and help your succulent to really stand out visually. Some crafty ideas for making a snazzy looking container for your succulents is to spray paint a pot you already have or spray paint a large PVC pipe end cap that has holes drilled in the bottom for drainage. If you have not visited the spray paint department at your favorite hardware store lately, you’ll be delighted at the variety of multi-color and textured spray paints available to jazz up your craft projects, including succulent containers.
For gardeners entering judged flower shows, there are things you can do to make your specimen more blue ribbon worthy such as covering the surface of the soil with something like chicken grit, using a real pot as opposed to a black plastic pot or putting the black plastic pot inside a real pot making sure the inner pot sits below the top of the outside pot, cleaning your pots of all dirt and grime and price tags, removing dead leaves or trimming damaged leaves in the same shape of healthy leaves.
One last tip about container plants that might be surprising to some is to under pot rather than over pot. What this means is that it is better for plants to be root bound than have extra soil.
Time to get planting.