Hello world! We hope you will enjoy our posts, which will coverall aspects of our Garden Club life! Read here for news of our many activities and events!

We are members of Texas Garden Clubs, South Central Region Garden Clubs, and National Garden Clubs; 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 new meeting location, College Station Medical Center, 1602 Rock Prairie Rd, 4th Floor, 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

“Skeeter Beaters”

“Skeeter Beaters”

We’ve had lots of rain!  My gardens are lush, green, and covered with blooms.  But, with those rains, we are bombarded with mosquitos everywhere, buzzing in our ears and landing on our body.   So, how can we banish mosquitoes?  Battle plans include taking many actions.  

Get rid of all standing water.  Anything that can hold even the smallest amount of rain must be removed.  Our dog bowls are easy targets.  I’m frequently out emptying the water to add fresh.  If not, hundreds of larvae frolic, waiting to hatch.  Even plant trays are perfect breeding places so turn them over. Mosquito rings can be used virtually anywhere you have standing water. Be diligent!

Light repellent candles with scents like citronella, peppermint, and cedarwood.  I’ve got 2 large, citronella pots placed strategically near the patio furniture.  Scents and smoke do wonders. 

Surround the area with mosquito-repelling plants.  Place these plants into your garden and patio for their colorful and fragrant display, but also their ability to keep those uninvited mosquitoes out.

 Lavender      lavender

  • A lovely fragrance which comes from the plant’s essential oils
  • Tough and drought-resistant once established
  • Needs full sun and good drainage
  • Thrives in warmer areas
  • Plant a pot and place strategically in a sunny location.

 

Marigolds    marigold

  • An ornamental annual flower
  • Emits a smell that deters mosquitoes
  • Easy-to-grow
  • Does well in pots, borders or the vegetable garden

 

Citronella Grass    citronilla

  • Most commonly used natural ingredient in mosquito repellents
  • Lemon-scented
  • Does best in large planters and a sunny area in the ground

 

Scented Geraniums     scented-geranium

  • Lemon is the favored scent for keeping mosquitos away
  • Beautiful blooms with a strong fragrance
  • Fast growing
  • Likes warm, sunny, and dry climates

 

Catnip  catmint

  • From the mint family
  • Very easy to take care of
  • Can become invasive (Keep contained in a pot.)
  • Found to be ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET

 

Rosemary   rosemary

  • An herb with a woody scent
  • Does best in hot and dry climates
  • Will thrive in containers
  • Toss a few bunches of this herb on the pit when grilling

 

Basil  basil

  • An herb that keeps flies and mosquitos at bay
  • Likes to be kept damp, needs good drainage, and enjoys lots of sun
  • Plant in containers or in the garden
  • All types of basil work as mosquito repellents

 

Lemon Balm    lemon-balm    

  • Member of the mint family,
  • Strong lemon scent
  • Apply the crushed leaves to your skin for personal repellent

It’s time to take control of our own yards and protect it and ourselves .  These uninvited squads of mosquitoes, can be controlled.  Be on guard and prepare now. Get ready!

Texas A&M Leach Garden Exploration: Principles of Design

Leach Garden Sign

The more design principles become ingrained, the more they are seen. The Leach Garden incorporates many design principles, often in surprising ways, helped along by nature doing so also. Thinking about design principles while touring the garden adds interest, although anyone can enjoy the gardens even with a cursory view. All those garden club programs, flower shows, and design minutes since I’ve joined garden club are starting to have a serious impact on my point of view while touring gardens.

Color: Our Handbook for Flower Shows points out yellow advances the most. Orange and red are also advancing colors. White is listed as advancing and some say white helps adjacent colors stand out better.  Green, blue, black, and gray are all receding colors, called cool colors. Monochromatic colors are also appealing.

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“Clean up your dirt!”: This principle is seen throughout the garden to advantage. Mulch and rock cover dirt and add to visual appeal by adding space, pattern, and texture, as well as decrease water needs.

“Put things together in threes or odd numbers”

Lines to give rhythm and direction as the design is viewed

lines in plantsmulch and cool colors

Contrast

contrast dark mulch light mulch colors
advancing color red against retreating color green. light mulch vs dark mulch. bright flowers versus vegetables. lines in the fence.

Pattern and texture

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Dominance

dominance
fountain structure dominates this view. Notice how your eye is drawn to the yellow and pink and orange colors

A visit, and repeat visits, to the Leach Garden is recommended if you are in the area. A&M Garden Club helped make the Leach Garden a reality through monetary contributions and has participated in a community event for children to enhance the educational aspect of the garden. Some of our members are a part of the garden through their work on the A&M campus. Although I always enjoyed a visit to the old demonstration garden on campus that some might remember, the Leach Garden has those rectangular, mostly uniformly planted beds that were in that old demonstration garden, beat. More blogs looking at different aspects of the Leach garden are planned, so stay tuned.

Five popular landscape plants that are potentially poisonous to people and pets. (Part 1)

The intent of this article is not to scare, but to raise awareness of “what could happen” – exercise caution at all times and research plant characteristics before buying!

 

  1. Oleander – Nerium oleander

Its use as a poison is well known. In fact, oleander is reportedly a favorite suicide agent in Sri Lanka, where oleander poisonings exceed 150 per 100,000 each year. That’s a high number. Approximately 10% of these ingestions are fatal.

Despite the danger, oleander seeds and leaves are used to make medicine. Oleander is used for heart conditions, asthma, epilepsy, cancer, painful menstrual periods, leprosy, malaria, ringworm, indigestion, and venereal disease; and to cause abortions.

Oleander is one of the most poisonous commonly grown garden plants and is toxic when eaten by dogs.  These plants contain a cardiac glycoside poison which produces symptoms similar to those seen with foxglove poisoning. Oleander poisoning is often caused by the ingestion of dead or dried leaves which apparently are more palatable to animals than the green leaves.

Oleander

2.  Castor Bean – Ricinus communis

Perhaps as a child you might have been given castor oil to ease intestinal problems.  This oil is made from Castor Beans, so you might be surprised to learn that castor beans contain one of the most poisonous substances in the world, ricin. Just one castor bean has enough ricin to kill an adult within a few minutes.  Throughout history ricin has been used in assassination attempts!   Despite this grim quality, castor bean plants are frequently grown for decorative purposes, even in parks and public places.  The ASPCA warns that castor bean plants are highly poisonous to dogs, cats and horses. The beans of the plant are particularly dangerous, although the poisonous factor, the ricin protein, exists throughout all of its parts.

3   Daylily – Hemerocallis sp.

 Daylily poisoning in cats is caused by the consumption of plants of lily variety, particularly Easter Lily, Stargazer Lily and Tiger Lily.)   While not a true Lily (Lilium sp.) the pollen, stem, leaves and petals of many varieties of daylilies are poisonous to felines in even the smallest amounts. Direct consumption of the plant or simply grooming the fur after making contact with the plant can pose a threat for daylily poisoning in cats, causing kidney failure.   Dogs do not appear to be affected, and of course Daylily roots and flowers are edible for humans.

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4   Datura

Datura is a genus of nine species of poisonous vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. They are commonly known as daturas, but also known as devil’s trumpets, not to be confused with angel’s trumpets, its closely related genus Brugmansia. (Datura flowers face upwards, Brugmansias hang down.)  They are also sometimes called moonflowers, jimsonweed, devil’s weed, hell’s bells, thorn-apple and many more.

.Since this is a night-blooming plant, (flowers usually last into the day) its flowers must be pollinated by nocturnal visitors. Various species of sphinx and hawk moths are common pollinators. During the early morning hours, species of bees and even hummingbirds aid like to visit.

Sacred Datura is still used by some Native American cultures in religious ceremonies. Medicine men, holy men, spiritualists and even self-proclaimed witches have used it since ancient times. Thankfully, accidental ingestion by animals or humans seldom occurs, because all parts of the plant are extremely bitter, but the warning is warranted because accidental ingestion could be fatal.

 

5   Duranta – Duranta erecta and Duranta repens

Duranta is in the same plant family, Verbenaceae, as lantana.  While it is popular     nursery plant, it is highly poisonous to pets and children, with many documented deaths.  Duranta erecta‘s toxicity has been known since the late nineteenth century when ingestion of its fruit killed a two-year-old boy in Queensland, Australia.   In 2006 it was designated a Texas Superstar – I would question “why”, except it has pretty light blue or lavender flowers, and the fruit is a small yellow or orange berry, sometimes with both appearing at the same time.   In many places it is now considered invasive, with birds freely redistributing the ingested berries.

Road Trip Garden Report on the Georgetown Garden Club Flower Show

A visit to the Sunken Garden in Georgetown, Texas is always rewarded with blooming beauty and the Georgetown Garden Club’s Flower Show on May 7, 2019 added up to be a powerful plant pilgrimage. An herb tasting educational exhibit allowed participants to try out delicious recipes made from home grown kitchen herbs. This herb theme was a nice companion to the lavender herb beds that are now part of the sunken gardens outside. For those looking to find plants to take home, there were many young plants and tastefully done succulent dish gardens made out of re-purposed containers including cowboy boots and a margarita glass.  Fun May theme floral design categories included derby hats, Mother’s Day and barbecues, and Cinco de Mayo. Horticulture entries took center stage with many native and unusual plants on display including a native milkweed, antelope horns, which is an important plant for our monarch butterflies and a pitcher plant in bloom. Our garden clubs really shine when they host a flower show, and this one certainly shined brightly.

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How it was back then ……

This is just a little 6 point reminder about  ancient practices which might still be relevant today!  Things change so rapidly – when I was growing up in England we didn’t grow tomatoes outside, only in the greenhouse.  Varieties and cultivars have changed so much that nowadays anything is possible!!!  You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs!!  I hope readers will understand that there really are no relevant images to go with this post!!!  This time you’ll have to “google” 🙂

Fruit and ornamental trees not producing?  Beat them with switches!  It was thought that this makes them think they are going to die and in the interests of preservation of the species they put on fruit and blooms!  (I have never tried this – I prefer to talk to my trees and plants!)

Bees not producing honey?  All your bees dying?  Perhaps you forgot to share with them the news of a family member’s death or other life events.  Adopt the ancient practice of sharing your news with them!  Back in the day my grandfather would take his mail each day to the orchard where we kept the hives and read all the letters to the bees.  Of course, that was when people wrote letters, and we didn’t have advertising fliers!

Vegetables not thriving?  Try “Moon Planting’ – moon-based planting calendars and old-timey gardening lore suggest sowing seeds for crops that yield an aboveground harvest when the moon is increasing (going from new moon to full moon). Root crops, on the other hand, are best planted during the waning moon (going from full moon to new moon).  You might also try Companion Planting (read “Carrots love Tomatoes & Roses love Garlic” by Louise Riotte).   I recall, from experience, Onions definitely DO NOT like Peas and Beans!!!

Planting beds being plagued by invasive woody vines like Carolina Snailseed and lighter ones like Morning Glory (Bindweed)?  Many plants will be much happier in raised beds and containers, provided they are deep enough!  Even fruit trees and ornamentals!  If the vines do penetrate from below, they are relatively easy to pull.  This is also good if you have nasty soil!

None of your favorite plants thrive?  Make sure you are planting those that are suited to your “Zone” and soil type.  If you have alkaline soil don’t be tempted by azaleas and rhododendrons!   If you live in zone 8b don’t plant anything that is recommended for zones 4 – 6!  Get a soil test evaluated by your local Extension Office.

If “they” say “it won’t grow here” try it anyway, once.  Maybe twice, but then try something else!  Although, I remember many years ago someone looking at my vegetable garden in full production stage and saying “of course, nothing will grow in this blackland clay!!!  There are many beautiful flowers, scrumptious veggies and fruits in every region, Enjoy “local’, what is in season, and above all avoid invasive non-native  plants!!!

 

 

The downside of sharing plants!

Who doesn’t love going to plant swaps, and sharing plants with (and from) friends?  The great thing is that you can increase your plantings for few or no dollars, and and soon become a recipient of the local “Garden of the Month”!!!

I don’t know how to write this without giving offence to some, and I have been guilty of the actions I am about to “expose”.  When you have a plant that does particularly well in your garden, has beautiful flowers, and everyone wants a cutting or a start, of course it feels good to share.   Over the years, there has been a push in the horticultural and natural world to eliminate “invasives” and promote natives.  I have become much more aware of the dangers of invasives, what they are, and the damage they can do.  These “enthusiastic” plants (as my best friend in England once described them during a live session of the program Gardeners’ Question Time) are by default the ones that do best in your own garden.

Invasives can choke out and eradicate native species.  This applies to insects too – especially when the native insects can’t find the native plants which they were intended to pollinate; they go into decline and the non-natives take over.  Texas has something like 4000 native bees, but the European Honey Bee makes money for entrepreneurs by producing honey!

Anyway, here are the top five plants I wish I had known about beforehand:

  1.  Ruellia simplex & other sp.  (Mexican Petunia)  A neighbor gave me a pot of these over 30 years ago and now the whole neighborhood is infested.  Very pretty, but indestructible !
    Garden.Invasives.Ruellia
  2. .Chasmantium latifolium, (Inland Sea Oats)  Very attractive, low growing grass with pretty seedheads, useful for drying and in flower arrangements.  A Master Gardener gave me a start of these.  Grrr.
    Garden.Invasives.Chasmanthium
  3. Canna indica (Canna)  No idea where mine came from, but in the past I have dug up the roots and tossed them on top of the brush pile where they continued to live and now from the street it looks like I have 20 ft tall cannas!Garden.Canna.4.JPG
  4. Lagerostroemeria indica (Crape Myrtle)  Much loved small tree of this area – sneaky tree that sends out roots underground in an attempt to take over the world.  (No pic at present!)  New shoots are easy to remove but who has the time to keep up with this?
  5. Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle).  Heavenly perfume, beautiful flowers, but since it escaped from Japan it has naturalized and the native honeysuckles are now overpowered and facing extinction!
    Garden.Honeysuckle.April.JPG

There ought to be a law!!  At plant sales/swaps each plant offered should have a full disclosure on labels.  One of the reasons a plant becomes “invasive” is because someone else has too many and is sharing by  thinning the forest!!!   Look at plant names for a clue “sinensis”, “japonica”, “indica” for example – these ain’t Texas natives!!!

If you decide to plant invasives, be prepared to spend a lot of time controlling them, and always explain what you are giving away at plant swaps!!!  If in doubt, google Texas Invasives!  Best practice – don’t share without disclaimer on label; even better practice, don’t plant!!!

 

Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Weed

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) is native to North America (some say specifically Missouri) and has a long history of medicinal uses by Indians  and pioneers.  Butterfly Weed is also known as Canada Root, Pleurisy  Root, Silkweed, Swallowwort, Tuber Root, Wind  Root.

These brilliant splashes of pumpkin-orange color in fields and along roadsides during the heat of midsummer are aptly known as Butterfly Weed, because monarchs, swallowtails and other butterflies are especially attracted to the plant when it is in flower.    Butterfly Weed favors open, dry  fields and can be abundant, particularly in the southern United States.  Like all other milkweeds, butterfly  weed produces pods, which open in autumn to reveal rows of silky  seeds that  drift with the wind, but unlike most milkweeds, does not have a milky sap.

A.tuberosa.seed

Powdered and mixed into a paste, the root was spread on sores.  The Indians  of several regions brewed a tea from the leaves to  induce vomiting in certain rituals.  Both settlers and Indians made a tea from the root to induce perspiration and expectoration in severe respiratory ailments,including pleurisy, whooping cough, and pneumonia.  Stronger doses were given as an emetic and purgative.  In the 19th century the U.S. Pharmacopeia listed the plant.

A.tuberosa.root

NOTE:  BECAUSE BUTTERFLY WEED CONTAINS TOXIC CARDIAC GLYCOSIDES, ITS USE IS NO LONGER RECOMMENDED, BUT IT CAN BE PLANTED FROM SEED OR TRANSPLANTED AS A SHOWY ORNAMENTAL TO ATTRACT ALL KINDS OF BUTTERFLIES, BEES AND OTHER POLLINATORS.  THIS SPECIES IS RARE OR PROTECTED IN SOME STATES! 

Asclepius was the god of healing in Ancient Greece.  His sign was a snake curled around a staff – the caduceus, still a symbol of medicine today.  Medicine in those days was practiced by secular physicians, called sons of Asclepius.   The sick sought these doctors’ help in temples built in Asclepius’ honor.  But that’s another story!!!!