Don’t Kill Your Trees + Drought-Pretty Design

It’s the Great CTG Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! Actually, our annual pumpkin is the handiwork of ever clever director Ed Fuentes.
halloween pumpkin Central Texas Gardener
What a treat to be on the road again, taping stories about our creative neighbors. Last week in Dale/Lytton Springs, we met up with Alicia and Joe Thornton, who escaped Houston for 20 peaceful acres.
Artisansbydesign garden art Central Texas Gardener
Combining engineering and design skills (and Alicia’s background in antiques), they can re-imagine a discarded object in a flash. Along with artful destinations, they styled up a chicken coop that’s as charming as their rescued chickens, ducks, and geese.
chicken coop Central Texas Gardener
But two years of flash drought on the heels of flash flood has been no treat for plants, including our trees. Daphne came home one day to find her 5-year-old Monterrey oak toppled over from the roots.
why oak tree fell over at roots Central Texas Gardener
She staked it for 9 months, and now it’s straight again, but the roots have a long way to go before the tree is truly stable.

Then, at the Travis County Extension Office demonstration bed, a Texas mountain laurel crashed for good, despite attempts to save it when one side snapped off at the base.
mountain laurel branch break Central Texas Gardener
What’s going on here? Daphne tells us: “Years of drought have kept trees from growing a healthy, widely-dispersed root system, so even though they’re most likely branching and putting on top growth, they aren’t able to develop and sustain much root mass to support that growth. Then, more recently, we’ve had an overabundance of rainfall, leading to wet, unstable soil.” Get her complete answer about toppling trees.
mountain laurel fall over branch break Central Texas Gardener
Flash flood and drought contributed to early leaf drop this year, too.
cedar elm losing leaves early Central Texas Gardener
This week, Paul Johnson from the Texas A&M Forest Service explains more about early leaf drop and out-of-season fruiting, and how to avoid common pitfalls when planting new trees. He also keys us into the latest insect to keep on our radar: the destructive emerald ash borer.
Tom Spencer, Paul Johnson A&M Forest Service Central Texas Gardener
We asked him, “What about planting around trees?” That’s one thing that felled the Travis Extension mountain laurel: too much vegetation near the base.
why mountain laurel tree rotted Central Texas Gardener
Paul tells us: “One of the challenges with putting plants around the base of the tree, is you have to water those plants, and so we’re often concentrating water right around the trunk of the tree, which isn’t the best place to water a tree, you can increase some fungal disease issues if you keep that root crown too wet.” Get his complete answers right now!

At the Texas A&M Forest Service site, learn more about planting and caring for trees, along with a by-the-region tree planting guide and tree identification, which I’ve used a LOT!

And don’t miss Paul’s Trees Are Key podcasts to answer all your questions and look for him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for constant updates.

Since Texas Arbor Day is November 4th, Daphne picks native possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua) as CTG’s Plant of the Week.
possumhaw holly native shrubby tree Central Texas Gardener
This one’s a real treat for birds in winter, when berries ornament the blank branches.
possumhaw holly leaves winter berries Central Texas Gardener
Grow this multi-trunked tree in sun to light shade in just about any soil. At maturity, it can be about 15- 20’ tall and just as wide, so give it some room. (In fact, Paul Johnson reminds us to check mature size before planting any tree to avoid problems later on). Find out more about possumhaw holly.
native Possumhaw holly winter berries Central Texas Gardener
One chore on my lengthy list is to shovel into my compost pile and spread the wealth all around. Whether leaves drop early or late, I rake them onto beds and add to the compost pile. Over the years, I’ve turned rock-hard soil into plant livelihood.
asters, eyelash salvia, pavonia Central Texas Gardener
So, on our road to zero waste, Trisha reminds us what we can include in the compost pile and how to speed things up.

On tour, we repeat our visit to Linda Peterson’s contemporary water-wise garden and outdoor living courtyard, designed to protect heritage oaks. Read my original post here.
drought no lawn contemporary design Central Texas Gardener
oak tree courtyard bench Central Texas Gardener
contemporary courtyard entrance drought no lawn Central Texas Gardener
Courtyard garden Central Texas Gardener
courtyard outdoor living fireplace Central Texas Gardener
And watch right now!

Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for alternatives to cut Christmas trees. See you then! Linda