Luck, loss, plus lawns

For years, I struggled to get poppies to come up. Don’t know the magic formula, but now I have them, even in the grass. In the beds, some returned from last year, but I scratched in a few safety seeds last fall.

Poppy bud
Maybe it’s because now I don’t dig them in. I scratch the soil, throw them out, lightly scrape a little soil back on top, and gently water. Plus, turn around three times, tap garden shoes, squeeze eyes shut and think Judy Garland. Hey, you never know!

Red poppy Austin Texas
I didn’t get around to collecting seeds of Baby Blue Eyes last spring, but some of my passalongs from Zanthan Gardens returned on their own. This one is with Variegated Japanese sedge (Carex Morrowii ‘Aurea-variegata’), which, by the way, didn’t suffer from freeze at all.

Baby Blue Eyes with variegated Japanese sedge
Native BBB makes a wonderful combination with yellow columbine, mine just starting to bloom. There are many species, and I just bet you can pick up seeds at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Spring Sale April 9 – 10.

Native pink and lavender spiderworts join this bed, along with the first passalong lavender iris.

Lavender iris
One big question the past few weeks: are my plants dead? Some may be, indeed, but every day, I see a sprout on one that I thought was a goner. So hang in there a little longer!

We thank Kathleen Lorsbach for asking about frozen cactus plants and others. This week on CTG, Daphne explains that if your Opuntia cacti have healthy pads, gently cut them off, let them dry for a few days, and replant in gritty soil. That’s what I’ll do with my Santa Rita prickly pear.

Freeze damaged Santa Rita opuntia cactus
Agaves may be dead or just have mushy leaves. Cut off the bad leaves. If the center is still firm, they’ll be okay. In the case of Daphne’s artichoke agave, it’s still alive.

freeze damaged artichoke agave daphne richards photo
But my Echinopsis didn’t make it. After a few weeks, it simply collapsed.

Echinopsis freeze damaged austin texas
I asked Richard Blocker from the San Antonio Cactus and Xerophyte Society about these plants.  “People can cut frozen parts of cacti down to the level of good flesh if there’s any left.  If these plants are outside I cut them at an angle, then put rooting powder or sulfur on the angled cut, so that if water gets on the cut it doesn’t sit on it.  I’ve had yuccas rot to the ground and cut them off and have then regrow from ground level!

Not sure what I’ll do about my misshapen Agave celsii. It still has leaves, and now it looks like it’s going to flower!

Agave celsii about to flower
The other top question is about lawns. So, this week on CTG, Tom meets with Mike Piwonka from The Grass Outlet, a family business over a few generations. He has fabulous ideas for you if you need to renovate or start over!

One is with drought-tough zoysia. I took this picture of Palisades zoysia last fall. It’s a lovely choice for sun and partial shade.

Palisades zoysia in strips
Here it is with the St. Augustine it’s replacing.

Palisades zoysia compared to St. Augustine
Mike compares fabulous zoysias to select, and also a good St. Augustine for you, Palmetto—more cold and drought hardy than the one we most know.  For hot sun and lots of traffic (kids, dogs, gardeners) check out 419 Tifway Bermuda (if it can work at Zilker, it can work in your garden) and Celebration. Mike says that these are not as invasive to garden beds as the standard Bermuda.

And, when well-managed and with the right selection, grass doesn’t need to be a hassle or water hog. Often, it’s simply the best option. The trick is to treat it right.

So, here’s my CHANCE AT LAST to vent on mowing practices! It just kills me that in spring, people let weeds go to seed and don’t mow. Then, in summer, they are determined to mow the life out of their grass, cutting so short that the roots get stressed. That just opens things up for the weeds to germinate with the first cool, fall rains. Mow weeds in spring; take a break in summer! Or at least, set that mower really high by June 1.

On tour, we re-visit a garden: Kenneth Paynter in San Antonio and his brother, Michael Paynter, in San Marcos. They’ve chosen two different garden styles but what unites them is their dad’s legacy of lawn and the happy kids who played on it.

John Dromgoole does Part One of making a nifty propagation box. This is so cool! Certainly, you can do it in a dish pan or other plastic container, but a pretty box nabs every gardener with scrap lumber!  This technique makes it super easy to root many plants, including tomato cuttings later. Even when you’re going to be out of town.

John Dromgoole propagation box
Until next week, Linda