Summer romance, sizzling color, The Grackle on tour

I’m in love with my first little potatoes. I always get some from the compost pile, but these were “sort of” planned planting.

homegrown potatoes

I didn’t do this the right way at all. In late January, I had grocery store taters sprouting. So, I cut them up, let them dry a few days, and stuck them in the lettuce bed.  Within seconds (well, seemed like it), up popped the leaves.

potato leaves
I planted way too early, and most of them froze, even though under lettuce row cover.  The leaves returned, but no go at harvest. In February, I stuck in more. This was so easy that I’m planning a spot to do this right next winter!  Here’s Trisha to show you how if you like to plan ahead, like me.

Right now, I have a crush on my kiddie pool. Plumbago and ‘New Gold’ lantana will cover that side eventually.  Like when we get some rain.

Plumbago and lantana around kiddie pool
I planted that lantana about 100 years ago when that area was sunny and ‘New Gold’ was the hottest thing as a Texas Superstar plant. When that spot got shady, it disappeared. Last year, it showed up again.  Sort of like the sock you thought was gone for good.

There are two things you can say about this kind of heat. One: it’s bound to cool off eventually. Two: summer’s drama queens take over.  Well, there’s a third, but not appropriate on a blog.

Let’s go positive with drama! Tom meets with Amanda Moon from It’s About Thyme for sizzling summer romance and how to keep the passion alive.  She’s got tips to keep that bougainvillea boogie.


For a hanging basket under a tree or on a patio, what about soothing Angel Wing begonia?

Angel Wing Begonia

Go for fragrance with plumeria. With its tidy habit, it’s perfect for a large container on your sunny patio or poolside. Ahh, whiff!

Pink plumeria
I kept mine in the plastic-covered patio this winter. In early March, I cut it in half to have potted ones on each side of the cat cove and for lower branching.  In early April, I planted the new one.  Following It’s About Thyme’s instructions, I didn’t water for three weeks.  Leaves are slowly emerging on the new one.

new plumeria leaves

Amanda reminds us of the lovely shrub duranta, hardy to Zone 9 and usually for us. Depends on its location and what winter brings our way.


I think I’m going to add it to the shed wall that frames one side of the cat cove. I imagine its graceful shape as a background to my entrance  plumerias.

Imagine mandevilla for a knockout annual vine, suitable even for a medium pot with a mini-trellis or cute support you craft. Or winding up a patio post. I’m most familiar with the pink, but this white would show up so nicely on patio nights.

To fend off summer lethargy, you can’t beat Pride of Barbados, a favorite with beneficial insects too.

Pride of Barbados
Amanda also shows off native Tecoma stans. Note the different leaves from the hybrids we usually find in nurseries. This one gets more MPG in winter, too.

native tecoma stans
Every year, CTG gets questions about how to get them to bloom. Full sun! Brutal sun! Here’s a duo I love in my neighborhood every summer.

Tecoma stans on street
Get Amanda’s plant list for your own summer fling.

On tour, we’ve got a COOL garden! Meet Lee Clippard and John Stott of The Grackle fame, where they chronicle their hands-on work and revelations since they made east Austin home in 2006.

Lee and John
Inspired by Japanese design, native plants, and significant milestones in their lives, see how Lee and John changed their viewpoint.

The Grackle garden design The Grackle garden The Grackle garden

We dearly thank Austin musicians, Balmorhea, for the music that Lee and John love.  I think you’ll agree that “We Will Rebuild with Smooth Stones” was the perfect choice for this garden composition.

There’s one good thing to say about the lack of rain: fewer stinkbugs on our tomato plants.  That’s not really such a great thing, since the drought affects all our wildlife. But we thank Mark and Janna Wilkerson for Daphne’s Question of the Week about their tomatoes: is there a problem?

Heat-stressed tomato leaf
Relief here: their plants are okay. There may be some insect damage, but mainly, it’s simply heat and drought stress. To help our tomatoes get through all this, foliar feed with liquid seaweed. Spray underneath the leaves, too, to fend off spider mites, which is what can get ’em in such dusty, dry times.

Daphne’s Plant of the Week is heat-loving beebalm, Monarda fistulosa x bartlettii ‘Peter’s Purple’.

Beebalm Monarda 'Peter's Purple'
Commonly known as beebalm, there are many native monardas, like Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot), which are great naturalizing perennials for your drought-tough garden. As its name implies, its flowers attract bees, but also hummingbirds and butterflies.

Beebalm Monarda 'Peter's Purple'
‘Peter’s Purple’ is a new hybrid, so you may only find it online. But with its long flowering success without powdery mildew, I bet we’ll find it on nursery shelves in the near future.

Since hanging baskets and containers need lightweight soil with perfect drainage, John Dromgoole shows how to mix up your own. Even if you don’t want to start from scratch, you can lighten up the load with perlite, coir fiber, and compost.

Until next week, Linda