Olive trees, garden stretches, no-lawn makeover

In 24 hours, my Mexican plum burst into song. Bees, as heady over the fragrance as I, went into feeding frenzy, along with more Red Admiral butterflies than I’ve ever seen.
Red Admiral butterflies Mexican plum Central Texas Gardener
Red Admiral butterfly Mexican plum Central Texas Gardener
It’s not unusual for my tree to bloom in February, but what about bearded irises in December? I spotted this one on my way to work before Christmas and it’s still going!
yellow bearded iris Central Texas Gardener
And what’s the deal with daylilies blooming in February? Mine have been in bud for weeks, opening last weekend. The earliest for me has been mid- March, but it’s usually May.
daylily Central Texas Gardener
Light, as we all well know, determines what we can grow. How does photosynthesis factor into our locations? My billbergias retain more of their deep red when not hit by too much sun; just enough here for winter narcissus.
narcissus billbergia Central Texas Gardener
Daphne illuminates us this week: Shade-loving plants are usually darker green than full-sun plants. Shade plants, like farfugium (ligularia), that grow as understory specimens, need quite a bit more chlorophyll to produce a sufficient amount of sugars to feed themselves and grow.
ligularia shade plant Central Texas Gardener
She explains why shade plants, like evergreen potato vine (Solanum laxum), generally have smaller flowers. I love mine since it blooms in winter.
white blooming evergreen potato vine Central Texas Gardener
And, variegation is more common in shade plants like dianella: those white-striped areas on variegated leaves lack chlorophyll. Find out more.
dianella shade plant Central Texas Gardener
Never have I met a gardener without aches and pains, especially after “warrior weekends.” We forget that gardening is akin to any sport where we can damage ourselves with repetitive actions. Hard clay or rocky sites make it even worse! So, we headed to Lake Austin Spa, where Trisha and Amanda Alvarez join Fitness Professional Paul Smith for easy stretches before, during, and after garden dates. Note: these stretches great after too many hours on computers!
stretches for gardeners Central Texas Gardener
Watch and stretch right now!

As we flock to nurseries this spring, another thing to keep in mind is mature size of plants. Sabal mexicana (Texas palmetto) starts out quite small. Here, it’s the young palm on the far left.
poolside gorgeous garden Central Texas Gardener
In time, it’ll look like the ones at historic Mayfield Park, once home to avid gardeners.
Sabal Mexicana at Mayfield Park Central Texas Gardener
Daphne explains how to grow this Rio Grande Valley native palm.
Sabal mexicana, Texas palmetto Central Texas Gardener
Viewer video goes to Diana Saunders for this amazing catch last fall of a Zebra Longwing butterfly laying eggs on passion vine!

Silvery fruiting olive trees really glisten in the garden, even if we don’t get enough olives to press. This week, we were thrilled to meet again with Monte Nesbitt, Pecan/Fruit/Nut Program Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Before you plant, get his advice on varieties and cultivation.
Monte Nesbitt Texas A&M Central Texas Gardener
On a past CTG, here’s his list of the cold hardiest citrus and why to fertilize with high nitrogen (starting now).

Kid, dog, and wildlife friendly: that’s what Stephanie and Tom Sloss wanted when they updated their garden for water conservation and control in deer country.
no lawn front yard xeric wildlife design Central Texas Gardener
On tour this week, landscape designer Robert Leeper turned anxious footing into surround-around family outdoor living and stylish reduced-lawn native plant diversity.
landscape architect robert leeper Central Texas Gardener
In front, he changed the tempo from static lawn to energetic plants for wildlife.
no lawn garden energy efficient house Central Texas Gardener
But first, Robert tackled the speed of runoff on the slope with French drains and levels of poured-in-place concrete blocks that also make navigation easier. Gravel disperses rainwater to nourish, rather than flood, xeric plants.
no lawn front yard water control Central Texas Gardener
no lawn front yard pathway wildlife plants Central Texas Gardener
Robert says, “The interior of the home has concrete floors, very contemporary style, so we wanted there to be an indoor outdoor transition.”
front walkway Central Texas Gardener
Every viewpoint generates a sensation, from ground huggers to sky walkers. At the sunbaked curb, where grass withered, a Mexican sycamore presides over content perennials.
curb bed no lawn wildlife xeric design Central Texas Gardener
Sotols diversify with evergreen intensity. Their summer-to-fall blooms don’t end their lives. Robert’s given each new plant lots of room to fill in.
front curb xeric garden blooming sotol Central Texas Gardener
In back, precarious slopes limited the young family’s access. Robert designed patios for outdoor entertainment. On the shady slope, he added native and adapted plants to slow down water and erosion.
limestone steps patio water control Central Texas Gardener
French drains, concrete stepping stones, and gravel also keep water in check.
pathway curbs gravel water control Central Texas Gardener
Raised limestone beds, this one filled with native frogfruit, bank the slope.
frogfruit limestone raised beds patio Central Texas Gardener
Robert softened the steep grade with walkways that wrap around the property, seasoned with native evergreens and flowering perennials.
pathway down hill Central TExas GArdener
A sunken spots hosts the only turf grass. Here, their energetic young boys and family dog race around or swing across for a birds-eye view on their zipline.
backyard zipline Central Texas Gardener
There’s much more, so watch right now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda #ctglinda