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
“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.
The College Station Cemetery and many other cemeteries are another place to find joy or get comfort from a public garden. The A&M Garden Club planted many of the crepe myrtles at the College Station Cemetery, including the row along the fence, in memory of garden club members who have passed on. Arbor Day often marks the day trees are planted in memory of garden club members and this year the club plans to put in a tree or two at Richard Carter Park in memory of garden club members we lost this past year.
In addition to the crepe myrtles bringing blooming beauty of pinks and white, there are many flowerbeds at the College Station cemetery, as well as interesting plants growing among the blades of grass throughout the cemetery. Many years ago, the club helped install rose bushes in the beds along the front, which are reported to be Martha Gonzales roses. Wildflowers mostly crowd out the rose bushes now. Day lilies were also planted at some time in the past there and a wild passion vine was spotted during my visit which was food for a caterpillar.
The club also used to maintain the designated children’s area of the cemetery, although as club members came and went, maintenance is now done primarily by the City of College Station to keep the gardens and plants watered and groomed at the cemetery to keep it looking nice for all who visit.
If you have additional information to share about this garden, please comment below or share what you know at our next garden club meeting.
The A&M Garden Club has a long history of community service in the Bryan/College Station Community, with many gardens in public areas the club has helped with over the years. Another garden many may not be aware of is located at the Carnegie Library in downtown Bryan, 111 South Main Street. Look for Xeriscape friendly plants including Turkscap, Malvaviscus arborerus var. drummondii, which blooms throughout the summer, attracting hummingbirds with red flowers. Some rose bushes and crepe myrtles also remain of the original plantings at the Carnegie Garden that A&M Garden Club contributed to. A large granite marker at the site lists A&M Garden Club as a contributor to this garden.
Any other club members have details to share about when this garden was established in 1995? or know about other hidden public gardens in the area our club helped make happen?
Next time you are in downtown Bryan, consider visiting this small, out of the way garden to enhance your exploration of the area and knowledge of A&M Garden Club history.
Late summer in Texas is a little like the middle of winter when temperatures outside keep gardeners indoors more. Both are good times for planning new things for the garden, just like the middle of winter is when it is too cold to linger outside for many, depending on where you live. Garden plans with flowering plants to help benefit pollinators, butterflies and bees and moths and others, is rewarding when pollinators are seen enjoying the fruits of our labor. Helping out our ecosystem and in many cases, our food crops, in the process is a bonus we all benefit from. The thrill of seeing a new type of bee or butterfly visiting flowers in the garden is unmatched. There are so many more types of bees around than just honey bees, it is amazing to see them thriving. Seeing monarch butterflies visiting flowers in the garden during their migrations is magic and can be a great way to introduce children to gardening in ways that will stick with them through life.
Tips for butterfly/pollinator gardening from my Mom:
-include a flat light colored rock for warming up on cool mornings. Butterflies move faster as they warm up
–include a dish of wet soil containing some manure which some butterflies, especially males, like to sip from for minerals.
Hiking trips in National Parks on trails where horses also go confirms this tip as butterflies are almost always spotted on piles of horse manure in the middle of the trail, as well as a few birds.
-include some over ripe fruit, like bananas, for those butterflies that like that rather than nectar. Hackberry butterflies really like those rotten bananas that do not make it into homemade banana bread.
-use organic, pesticide-free, gardening methods. Really important to follow this one to prevent harm to our pollinators. Read retail plant labels carefully or ask where you shop for plants to make sure plants are butterfly safe and pesticide free. Plant milkweed by starting from seed, especially for some of the harder to find varieties, or by using pesticide free plants from retailers
-plant large groupings of the same type of flowers together to make them easier to find. Sure, butterflies can “smell” plants from a long way away, but they waste less energy fluttering around when there are large groupings of flowers. It is more magical when there are many butterflies fluttering around, which happens when many nectar flowers are blooming in a large planting area. Large plantings also make it easier to share some when the plants are a host plant for caterpillars, as there will be enough for all to enjoy. Bees also tend to gather together around large plantings of the same type of nectar flower.
-consider planting native plants which are easier to care for and mesh well with the rest of the ecosystem
-sunny locations are best for butterfly friendly plants
-plant to have flowers available year round. Early emerging Spring butterflies will appreciate having more to choose from than dandelions coming up in unwanted places in yards.
-install a mason bee house
Happy Gardening! Got additional tips to share? Sign in and leave a comment.