Garden Rehab: Re-Invent, Restore, Renew

I don’t need a calendar to know when it’s February! Since last week, my Mexican plum’s sent bees into euphoria and “scent” me out for perfume that’s bottled in my memory.
bee on Mexican plum Central Texas Gardener
But this February fascinates me (sort of). After brutal cold punches, we soar into the upper 80s. Very quickly the waiting game of “dead or dormant” was over. My fried firecracker ferns are unfurling fast.
firecracker fern emerge after freeze Central Texas Gardener
Ligularia popped right out, much to my surprise, since it’s the first freeze since I planted it in my shady bed.
ligularia emerge after freeze Central Texas Gardener
The next several weeks are the busiest for us as we tidy up and pop out those weeds so wisely hiding under browned foliage.

Garden rehab is often a bigger event. We buy a house that comes with a weedy, overgrown yard. Or, we’ve let shrubs get out of control or we just need to update. Designer Leah Churner from Delta Dawn Sustainable Gardens explains how to restore and renew.
Tom Spencer and Leah Churner Central Texas Gardener
Leah tells us that sometimes we’ve gotta do some housekeeping after we analyze what’s good to keep. As in: yank stuff out!
start garden from scatch Leah Churner Central Texas Gardener
Leah Churner Delta Dawn garden design Central Texas Gardener
raised garden design Leah Churner Delta Dawn Central Texas Gardener
Overgrown shrubs? Sometimes you can cut them to the ground, like with abelia, primrose jasmine and spiraea. Usually, we want to only take about 1/3 at a time. Here, Leah restored an abelia crowding the porch by cutting back to about 3’. Watch now!
Abelia cut back Leah Churner Central Texas Gardener
Here’s an excellent pruning how-to guide by Texas A&M Agrilife’s Doug Welsh.

Constantly I refer to the American Horticultural Society’s Pruning and Training manual. Even if the plant you have in mind isn’t listed, its concepts are covered. Excellent guidance for rehabilitating and overall pruning.
American Horticultural Society Pruning and Training Central Texas Gardener
In case you missed it, watch our small space gardening segment with Leah!
balcony design Leah Churner Central Texas Gardener
BUT, patience is key right now, since many browned plants won’t show new growth just yet. Scrape the bark to see if it’s green, like I did on my native Barbados cherry.

My Peter’s Purple bee balm (a Monarda hybrid) sent out an underground scout this week from its ever-expanding clump. By May, tall beacons of tubular flowers send food alerts to eager hummingbirds and bees. Deer “should” avoid.
Peter's Purple bee balm monarda Central Texas Gardener
Monarda citriodora, often called purple horsemint, is an equally beloved native.
Monarda (Bee balm) Austin texas prairie
But, as Daphne tells us, Peter’s Purple is resistant to powdery mildew. Grow it in full sun to part shade in clay to well-drained soils. Find out more.
Peter's Purple bee balm Monarda hybrid Central Texas Gardener
It won’t be long before we see blossoms on our citrus plants. Now’s a great time to fertilize with nitrogen.

For six years, Chris Lalich has harvested lots of Meyer lemons from his trees. But every year, the lemons are covered with small black spots. They don’t affect the fruit’s quality.
fungal black spots on Meyer lemon Central Texas Gardener
We checked with Monte Nesbitt, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension fruit specialist, who confirmed that the large scar is the result of a bird pecking, very common when birds are looking for moisture. The black, peppery spots are a fungal disease called Melanose. Daphne explains how to control it.

Even houseplants need a little rehab now and then. John Dromgoole shows how to graft leggy plants to make new ones to pass along or add to your indoor collection.
grafting houseplants Central-Texas-Gardener
On tour, Syd Teague explains how she reshaped flooding, weedy land when she moved from Tucson to Austin.
gorgeous water thrifty garden design Central Texas Gardener
Although she wanted water thrifty gardens, first on her design drawing board was to manage storm water runoff from uphill. A series of rocky dry creek swales slow down and deflect rain bombs.
dry creek bed swale converge cactus garden berm Syd Teague Central Texas Gardener
Then she brought in good soil to build berms that help push water away from the house.
dry creek swale succulent berm garden rainwater control Central Texas Gardener
As she shaped her land, it became her outdoor laboratory from succulents to flowering perennials.
dry creek bed swale plant berms Central Texas Gardener
“Since I’m using the rocks for grass, it’s the space holder that most people would put grass in. Then I put an edge around it so that you can contain your eye if you don’t want to look at the rocks,” Syd tells us.
crape myrtle screen path garden Central Texas Gardener
Next up was to build walkways to travel safely around and through the garden. Shelf rock she’d originally bought for a pond that never happened was just the ticket.
patio flagstone path to focal point garden perennials Central Texas Gardener
patio path flagstones perennial garden entrance Central Texas Gardener
Laying only 20-30 feet per year, it took some time. As each new path evolved, so did her design. Along the way, Syd discovered the power of plant repetition.
flagstone path perennial borders to succulent garden Central Texas Gardener
Syd dedicated one berm in back to the succulents she loves. She amended her clay soil with a well-draining, gritty cactus mix.
flagstone path to succulent garden Central Texas Gardener
succulent garden Syd Teague Central Texas Gardener
succulent garden raised berm Central Texas Gardener
Here’s back to the house on that path, where roses, perennials and small shrubby trees prompt a new view every month. Dodging rain spurts, Billy Driver popped the umbrella to protect the camera. Director Ed Fuentes loves rain as much as I do. The camera: not so much!
flagstone path through perennial borders Central Texas Gardener
In the far back, more shelf rock and little rock bridges over dry creek swales gravitate to shade gardens.
flagstone path over dry creek stone bridge Central Texas Gardener
flagstone path into shady garden Central Texas Gardener
Syd tucks in colorful destinations to repose among bird twitters in the “forest.”
orange and blue bench containers shady garden theme garden art Central Texas Gardener
Always experimenting, Syd finds new spots for plants that pop up in her garden. When a neighbor’s crape myrtles moved over, she gathered them into a row that lightly breaks up the view from the bedroom. A Christmas tabletop stone pine turned out to be an everlasting tree.
stone pine patio cove Syd Teague garden Central Texas Gardener
In a courtyard patio protected by a shade sail, Syd grows a gallery of intricate cacti and other succulents.
cactus container garden courtyard cactus fountains Central Texas Gardener
Now, she and husband Lary Evans watch the seasons and wildlife evolve with each turn of a calendar page.
raised planter clustered pollinator perennials dry creek bed Central Texas Gardener
Syd Teague and Lary Evans Central Texas Gardener
Syd’s a VP of the Austin Area Garden Council and board member of Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy. We both invite you the 60th annual Zilker Garden Festival March 25 & 26!
Zilker Garden Festival
Watch now for Syd’s whole story!

Thanks for stopping by and see you next week for gardens by moonlight! Linda