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Plants that Multitask

We know it’s not good to multitask, though plants do it all the time without winding up in a straitjacket. This firebush, (Hamelia patens) gladly screens a patio, feeds all kinds of bees—including carpenter bees—and sustains hummingbirds, too.

carpenter bee on firebush hamelia patens central Texas Gardener

Everybody’s thrilled that white mistflower (Ageratina havanensis) is finally blooming. This winter-dormant perennial multitasks as a part-shade shrub for us, a fall nectar source for butterflies and bees, and a larval host for Rawsons Metalmark butterfly.

native white mistflower central texas gardener

Garlic chives, Daphne’s Plant of the Week, provides strappy green texture all year to flavor our recipes. Drought & freeze tough in some sun to part shade.

garlic chives central texas gardener

In October, its edible flowers (great to dry for flower arrangements or wreaths) are equally nutritious for pollinators. Find out more.

garlic chives edible flowers central texas gardener

Summer annual pentas get raves from us who want non-stop color and lots of butterfly and bee activity. Viewer Picture goes to Brien Parker who spotted these pentas at a mobile home park!

summer annual pentas for butterflies and bees

Forced amaryllis bulbs charm our holiday interiors. Trisha shows how to do it and then replant outside.

forcing amaryllis bulbs plant outside central texas gardener

And about those fall-blooming bulbs, like Oxblood lily. A viewer asked how soon she could move them since neighbors were trampling them on a common strip.

when divide oxblood lily central texas gardener

Daphne explains why it’s best to wait until the foliage has yellowed (same deal with spring bulbs) and why they may not bloom the next year.

when divide oxblood lilies central texas gardener

If you must move them now, here’s the word from Chris Wiesinger, The Bulb Hunter at The Southern Bulb Company: “If you’re quick enough, you can move bulbs just about any time of the year, but I mean QUICK.  Oxblood lilies have set out their roots for the growing season, and this is the absolute worst time to move them.  If you must move them, prepare the site to which they are going so you can quickly get them planted back in the ground.  Don’t dig too much. Start in smaller chunks until you eventually have the clump moved.”

Now, did you know that some of our favorite plants can help what ails us? Tom meets with Gayle Engels from The American Botanical Council to pick a few.

Since 1988, Mark Blumenthal has directed the American Botanical Council in east Austin to report research and educate us about responsible use of plants and their benefits.

American Botanical Council Central Texas Gardener

ABC is open to the public Monday – Friday or you can schedule a special tour. Demonstration gardens group plants by purpose and/or origin with creative designs to try at home.

American Botanical Council tea garden

Human systems garden.

Americal Botanical Council Human Systems Gardens web

You’ll pick up lots of creative ideas, too.

American Botanical Council mullein and rock sculpture sculpture in dead tree american botanical council

On CTG, Gayle explains how lemon verbena assists digestion.

American Botanical Council benefits of lemon verbena

‘Kapoor’ holy basil multitasks: analgesic, anti-anxiety, and tea for colds and flu. In their experience, this is the best holy basil for us to grow.

American Botanical Council 'Kapoor' holy basil

Hibiscus sabdariffa is a natural refrigerant to cool us down, even though this perennial likes the sun!

American Botanical Council Hibiscus sabdariffa hedge

It’s the calyces that make hibiscus tea which helps hypertension–like if you’re overloaded on multitasking.

American Botanical Council  Hibiscus sabdariffa calyces

Bacopa from India, a trailing plant covered with flowers in summer, assists cognition and memory. Find out more.

American Botanical Council bacopa summer flowering plant

They’re always looking for volunteers, a great way to learn so much. And you won’t want to miss their fabulous May plant sale and educational tour!

succulent garden at American Botanical Council

On tour, we visit Vicki Blachman, Master Gardener, culinary expert, blogger at Playin’ Outside, and writer for Texas Gardener magazine.

vicki blachman reduced lawn garden central texas gardener

When she married Steven and moved to the grassy grounds of suburbia, she whittled the lawn a few feet of house brick edging every year. When she’s happy with the placement, she digs them in so you don’t see the holes. A great technique, since she keeps on moving them out more!

vicki blachman reduced lawn garden central texas gardener

To dress up their fence and the new strip bed, artisan Bob Pool designed a trellis, here with yellow flowering cestrum.

bob pool metal trellis with yellow cestrum central texas gardener

They’ve kept some grass for their fun loving dog. Lots went away, though, for herbal beds and the patio pond, which she and Steven, confirmed DIYs, dug into really hard soil.

Vicki Blachman pond and patio central texas gardener

The soil was so bad that they joked: “Forget a liner. Just glaze that stuff!”

Vicki Blachman DIY pond central texas gardener

At first, she simply added compost when she added plants, like the Peggy Martin rose. Quickly, she discovered her error. Why would roots want to leave that comfy spot? Gradually, she turned in compost everywhere.

Peggy Martin rose and insect hotel vicki blachman central texas gardener

Below it is her 4-star insect hotel for Mason and leaf cutter bees installed into an old soda bottle holder. Fellow Master Gardener Sheryl Williams and husband Ed Kimball helped drill holes to the right sizes.

insect hotel vicki blachman central texas gardener

As Vicki created a haven for her family, she realized that more beneficial wildlife was joining them.

birdbath bubbler vicki blachman central texas gardener

Now a Certified Backyard Habitat, Pollinator Habitat and Monarch Waystation, she devised a bubbler fountain attached to a rain barrel to refresh small insects and creatures. (They have a 1660 gallon DIY install on the other side of the house).

wildlife water bubbler on rain barrel vicki blachman central texas gardener

Throughout the garden, Vicki’s installed Mason bee (solitary bees) houses that you can buy.

mason bee houses vicki blachman central texas gardener

A confirmed recycler, though, she repurposed this tub into even more housing.

bee house from recyle vicki blachman central texas gardener

Vicki’s a great chef, so she’s always cooking up places to add food in the garden, even on the patio. An allium peeks up against a potted passalong kumquat.

allium with kumquat vicki blachman central texas gardener

She kept grass in the side yards to slow down runoff from the street. In this sunny spot, she harvests annual and perennial herbs and vegetables.

vegetable beds vicki blachman central texas gardener

Bob Pool improved that entrance with a gate and trellis where Lady Banks rose invites another reason to hang out there in spring when it’s  showered with tiny yellow flowers.

bob pool trellis gate vicki blachman central texas gardener

In front, just this year Vicki took the plunge to remove all the grass. It’s still growing in, but already she’s created another habitat under shady conditions. Plus, she’s given the front so much more dimension and fascination with plants that require less maintenance than mowing.

no more lawn front yard vicki blachman central texas gardener

And don’t you agree that Bob’s address sign is a lot better than those curb spray-painted versions?

bob pool metal address sign no more lawn front yard vicki blachman central texas gardener

Garden beneficial predators green lacewings like it so much that they laid their delicate eggs on it.

green lacewing eggs bob pool metal address sign vicki blachman central texas gardener

So, take a look for yourself!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

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