February 5, 2015
Growing Grapes & More + Tait Moring’s Artistic Hillside Habitat
Ever wanted to be your own micro-vintner? First, let’s leave those Concord grape vines to wither on the box store shelves! Instead, go for the grapes that appreciate Central Texas, like Victoria Red.
This week, see which ones to grow and how to do it when Texas A&M Agrilife Extension’s expert Jim Kamas joins Tom to toast a few tips from his new book, Growing Grapes in Texas.
Is homegrown asparagus on your “bucket full” list, too? Instant gratification it is not, except for lovely feathery leaves that should be cut to the ground now on existing plants. If planting for the first time, John Dromgoole explains how to grow this long-term perennial.
Front end soil prep is essential since we’re talking three years until dinner. After that, like fruit trees and grapes, you’ll be filling that bucket for years! Find out more.
So, how long does it take to harvest blueberries in Central Texas? Well, actually, never. Stepping in for Daphne this week, Jim Kamas takes on that oft-asked question.
For one thing, blueberries need an acidic pH, while ours hangs out in the 7.5-8.5 alkaline range. Jim tells us: “And the reason why that is important is because blueberries are one of the few plants that have no root hairs. They’re entirely dependent on a mycorrhizal affiliation with a fungus that infects the plant that actually benefits both organisms. So when you plant blueberries in our soil and use our water, the mycorrhizal fungi simply die and the blueberry plant will show you every single nutrition deficiency known to plant-kind.” Find out more.
But pears are easy darned good eats for us! In Central Texas, Jim recommends Ayers, Warren and Le Conte.
We’ve got plenty of chilling hours (hours below 45°) and it’s rare for spring frost to harm them. For pollination, you WILL need two trees of different varieties that bloom at the same time. Find out more.
Now, what about a FREE tree this spring? TreeFolks is offering 8 species to Austin Energy customers, including mountain laurel, pecan and fig trees. If you’re eligible, they’ll select appropriate ones for your garden and then deliver 5-gallon pots right to your front door! To find out more, visit www.treefolks.org/neighborwoods.
On tour, landscape architect Tait Moring grows food for the wildlife on his rocky hillside habitat restoration. I’ve known Tait since CTG’s inception. We taped his garden 10 or so years ago, so it was fun to record how it–and Tait’s philosophy–has evolved.
Native sunflower goldeneye (Viguiera dentata) brings on the pollinators, along with small birds that treasure its seeds.
As he thinned ashe junipers (cedar), surprises turned up, like native evergreen sumac, lusted after by birds.
For organic food of his own, he ripped out a hillside of primrose jasmine and terraced for raised vegetable beds, constructed from leftover project stones.
Tait envisions art in every recycled object. With on-site native stones and ashe juniper branches, he frames his home with respect for the earth.
What’s also special about Tait’s designs is the way he builds in memories. With stones collected from childhood, he acknowledged his early architectural inspiration in a destination cove near the house.
On the other side, he created a nicho to honor the home’s original owner, whose daughter was one of Tait’s high school chums (and from whom he brought the property).
Inspired by early Spanish and Mexican stone artisans, Tait loves the intricacy and intimacy of working with native stones. Behind the new pool, he creates lively dimension with a triumvirate of stone, ashe juniper and layers of textural narrow plants.
A foundling carved pillar from an old quarry, topped with a truly lucky nursery find, anchors one end.
Two more pillars from that quarry adventure define the garden’s open space. He chose agaves as their toppers, per Mexican gardens.
Native Virginia creeper clambers over this one, sporting its fall color, with berries to come for the birds.
To deepen spatial dimensions, Tait’s not afraid to cluster plants, like this group of Agave bracteosa (squid agave) in a semi-shade area. I plan to duplicate this in my “what should I do here” spot.
Tait gracefully achieves one of the hardest things to do: amplify broad visions while recognizing the immediate charm of details.
He carries the experience indoors, planning viewpoints from either side of the glass.
Even though he spares water on his plants, he doesn’t want to leave the wildlife parched. Even at the front door, he added a cinder block pond where birds can perch on the concrete toppers. And Tait can enjoy them on his way in or from inside.
On the other side of the driveway, he crafted recycled materials into a stock tank pond.
This backyard pond is a recycled horse trough underneath the stones.
The special favorite for birds is this secretive bubbler, inspired when Tait found the perfect large stone.
That’s just the teaser to this fabulous garden. Take the whole tour now!
Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda