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Making a Difference

Recycling at its best: bird food making new bird food! Sun-sational sunflowers gleefully pop up in the hottest, driest nooks in my garden, and for that I’m as grateful as the butterflies and birds that feast on them.

Mexican oregano’s (Poliomintha longiflora) lavender flowers offer tasty rewards to larger butterflies and hummingbirds who can reach to the end of the tubular journey.

Everybody likes Big Momma Turk’s cap, brought to us all by ever curious horticulturist Greg Grant, now doing his Extension thing in Tyler. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are like bulls when they see those red flowers unfurl.

In these hot, dry, breezy days, every raindrop is precious. Witty and wise #waterudoing Horticulturist and Project Director Daniel Cunningham from Dallas Texas A&M AgriLife Research Water University saves water from a rainy day by turning 55-gallon food grade drums into rain barrels. (Mark Morrow behind one camera).

We taped at Travis County Extension, where Horticulture Program Assistant, Cindy Haynie (who works with Daphne) extended a hand to run an extension cord inside the door for Daniel’s power tools. How’s that, punster Daniel?

In your community, go online to find inexpensive food grade drums that haven’t been used for oils.

Watch how to make a rain barrel now!

Next week, we’ll show how to paint or cover your barrel with wood to prevent algae.

Check out Water University’s site for fabulous detailed graphics & how-to on making rain barrels and rainwater harvesting. And be sure to check out their extensive plant list, soil, turf, and design tips along with events in their neck of the woods.

Small barrels can’t handle your whole yard, but rainwater collection is the best for your container plants and seedlings. This week, Debby Boyd from GreenLife Nursery & Landscaping in Waco reveals her famous tricks for container wow-appeal sure to elevate style from classical to whimsical.

Debby starts with an inspiration: a container she loves, a fun object, or a sculptural accent.



Design like a pro with height, texture, and contrasting colors.

With a picnic basket, Debby quickly pulled together a July 4th centerpiece with salvia, white cascading periwinkles (vinca) and red penta. Of course, move your small containers to a large container or to the ground later.

She and husband Brett Boyd have worked side by side about a gazillion hours a week since 1999, though Brett started this award-winning nursery in 1985. Along with the nursery and making custom containers for clients, they design landscapes from scratch. Here’s one of their gorgeous front door container presentations.

Watch now for all her ideas!

On tour at the EmilyAnn Theatre and Gardens in Wimberley, a community united to create new life through gardens after the death of teenager Emily Ann Rolling in 1996.

Her absolutely charming parents, Ann and Norm Rolling, joined by countless helping hands, turned the now-12 acres of donated scrub land into outdoor performance theaters and gardens.


The Hays County Master Naturalists and gardens clubs advised and assisted planting of hundreds of native and adapted species to attract birds, bees, and pollinators.


Every April, the Butterfly Festival brings together hundreds of families to connect fun and nature, inspired by a child’s gift of a chrysalis to honor Emily Ann’s birthday. “And so I thought, butterflies, how best to describe what, really, loss and remembrance could look like,” Ann says.


The Hill Country Unit of the Herb Society of America spices things up with a walk-around herb and succulent garden that’s renewed butterfly, bee, and bird populations.

Renowned herbalist Sara Holland loves passing along her knowledge to the next generation.

Member Linda McDowell says, “It appeals to children, because they’re experiencing the plants through their senses. And actually that appeals to children of all ages.”


Music unites all ages, especially when performed under ancient live oak trees by very enthusiastic “unplugged” artists!

In this public garden, where we met so many people strolling about, often with children, community members have built outdoor engagement for every age.


The Rotary Club built the chess and checker board and the musical garden.

Families garden their own small niches to swap stories and memories.


At a family’s request, energetic Norm builds them waterfalls, streams and little ponds to share the joy with safely harbored wildlife.

Entire families volunteer to build trails, prune trees, enlist volunteers and supporters, and whatever else needs to be done. Scot Brinkley and Juli Dearrington work alongside their mother, Mary Helen Brinkley (Momz to everyone).

Norm built their garden when they lost Popz.

Eagle Scouts built Justin’s Castle in honor of child Justin Rodriguez, who lost his life to leukemia.

Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient Rodger Parker was a good sport to row the boat in the moat, built by the Girl Scouts.

He’s also the force behind the beautiful Veteran’s Memorial Plaza that represents all the service units.

Commemorative bricks honor veterans past and serving.

The first memorial garden atop a flower-adorned hill overlooking Hill Country majesty is the Children’s Memorial Plaza.





EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens hosts events and performances throughout the year, but the Christmas Trail of Lights is one of the most magical.


History in the making begins at the betrothal tree, an ancient live oak that witnesses new engagements. Couples often have bricks inscribed in honor of their special day.

“How did the magic begin? I can’t really tell you. I know that we wanted to reinvest in the dignity of the human spirit. We had no way of knowing what that looked like. But guess what? This is what it looks like,” Ann says.

Watch this inspiring story now!

And thanks for dropping by! See you next week, Linda

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