Spotlight on Shade & Top Tree Mistakes

Come September, we scout daily for signs for oxblood lilies. Not only did August rains prompt generous red bouquets this year, I pulled up one day after work to an October bonus!
oxblood lily fall blooming bulbs Central Texas Gardener
The bees were as thrilled as I am for another flush of flowers on my Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana).
bee on Mexican Bird of Paradise Central Texas Gardener
I wouldn’t plant this one as we head into winter, but fall is really the best time to plant native trees. Consider adding flowering and fruiting understory small trees/shrubs like evergreen sumac and possumhaw holly to your shade tree list.
Redeemer Lutheran school native plant and food garden Central Texas Gardener
But sigh, after years of tending prized shade trees and understory companions, we discover that we made some mistakes. Limbs are crowding our roofs or falling on power lines. In recent rains, many trees tilted or actually uprooted entirely.
Mexican sycamore tree tilting after rain Central Texas Gardener
Thais Perkins, Executive Director of TreeFolks, is here to spare that angst!
Thais Perkins TreeFolks Central Texas Gardener
Get her tips to start out right and how to deal with those tilting trees. Watch now!

Check out TreeFolks’s website for resources, their timely blog, how they’re reforesting the Blanco River and Bastrop, and if you’re in Austin, how to get free trees.
TreeFolks re-planting Blanco River Central Texas Gardener
TreeFolks Neighbor Woods tree program Central Texas Gardener
And, of course, to volunteer!
TreeFolks tree planting neighborhood Central Texas Gardener
This fall, what about adding a native honey mesquite? Daphne explains how to plant this pollinator and bird-loving tree for graceful dappled shade. Find out more.
lacy leaves native honey mesquite trees Central Texas Gardener
Got shade? Barbara Wise from Crescent Garden joins Trisha at Lake Austin Spa for really bright ideas, in deer country, no less!
Trisha Shirey and Barbara Wise shade plants Central Texas Gardener
Shrubby cestrum, this one ‘Orange Zest’, adds leafy flair to light-catching flowers late spring through fall.
Orange Zest cestrum Central Texas Gardener
Hummingbirds will flit on over for a taste!
Orange Zest cestrum hummingbird flowers Central Texas Gardener
Native American beautyberry is a must-have for understory spring flowers and fall berries for birds.
American beautyberry flowers Central Texas Gardener
Native white mistflower (Ageratina havanensis) is one of my favorite native perennials. It can bloom in spring but really sparkles in fall to attract flocks of native pollinators and migrating butterflies.
native white mistflower Central Texas Gardener
I include this picture of evergreen Mahonia aquifolium to illustrate how well it handles shade with burning blasts of sun. Mine are incredibly drought tolerant and trouble-free.
Mahonia for shade and texture Central Texas Gardener
Even though Trisha’s got lots of flowers going on (some not in bloom when we taped), one secret to an interesting shade garden is mixing in diverse textures and leaf forms.
Shade garden Lake Austin Spa Central Texas Gardener
For groundcover, you really can’t beat evergreen sedges. That wispy foliage beautifully counterpoints broad-leaved plants and needs such little care.
Sedge dappled light groundcover Central Texas Gardener
Japanese variegated sedge diversifies the all-green palette.
variegated Japanese sedge shade garden Central Texas Gardener
Sparkler sedge is another favorite, though it can be hard to find.
Sparkler sedge in container Central Texas Gardener
Commonly available and tough-as-nails Aztec grass (Liriope muscari ‘Aztec Grass’) is a very reliable, drought-tough evergreen.
Aztec grass in container for garden contrast Central Texas Gardener
Native wavy scaly cloakfern puts a spin on made-in-the-shade texture.
Wavy Cloak fern Central Texas Gardener
Trisha layers seasonal bulbs under dormant perennials, including herbaceous salvias. Even in shade, she’s got something to attract wildlife all year.
Trisha Shirey and Barbara Wise talk shade plants Central Texas Gardener
Get their shade plant list and watch now for more ideas!

On tour, Valerie and Master Gardener Kirk Walden renewed dimension, shade and wildlife habitat while including playgrounds for their active, rescued dogs.
Valerie and Kirk Walden Central Texas Gardener
When they bought their razed property overlooking Lake Austin, it looked like this.
Austin lakeview garden before renovation Central Texas Gardener
Before Kirk dug in, he consulted Annie Gillespie and Rachael Beavers from Botanical Concerns for architectural structure and berms for captivating views from many perspectives. Note that the smaller limestone pool is patterned after the one at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
garden view to Lake Austin Central Texas Gardener
Kirk tells us: “That then feeds into the pool and the berm allows it to look like a natural fall. You’ll see not only does the water come down into the pond it also comes from the side into the pond as if it were coming from limestone rock.”
Hill Country lakeview garden Central Texas Gardener
natural looking pool Hill Country garden Central Texas Gardener
Garden art limestone pond Central Texas Gardener
Terraced beds and berms partner texture, color, and wildlife habitat without obstructing the lake view.
Hill Country garden berms and terraces Central Texas Gardener
Hill Country garden patio berms Central Texas Gardener
Hill Country garden texture Central Texas Gardener
Hill Country garden textures Central Texas Gardeners
Botanical Concerns chose deer fencing that practically disappears against the seasonally changing perennials to attract wildlife all year.
low profile deer fence for native plants Central Texas Gardener
Along the house, raised beds allowed them to go without railings that would have obstructed the view. From one end to the next, it gravitates from sun to shade, so they matched textures, color and forms along the way with different light-needs plants.
Raised bed along porch Central Texas Gardener
They installed low-water use Palisades zoysia since energetic dogs Cooper and Belle Haven need lots of family run time. We nabbed a superb high-in-air catch on tape!
palisades zoysia dog frisbee field Central Texas Gardener
Valerie, an artist, helped paint the garden’s vision. Now, their renewed wildlife habitat inspires her art.
Valerie Walden art studio Central Texas Gardener
Valerie Walden painting mockingbird in flight Central Texas Gardener
Her artistic eye saw potential in a beam that didn’t work out. Rather than haul it off, she installed it as a tribute to the 360 bridge.
360 garden art Central Texas Gardener
Overall, their first challenge was redirecting the hillside’s flooding waters via the berms and dry creek beds. Starting in front, Botanical Concerns diversified and channeled runoff to the back for slow dispersal.
pathway stones dry creek bed main walkway Central Texas Gardener
Walkway drainage control Central Texas Gardener
pathway stones connect to dry creek Central Texas Gardener
walkway stones to dry creek bed Central Texas Gardener
dry creek bed back of garden Central Texas Gardener
Curbside, a terrace prevents erosion and trickles water down through its layers.
curb terrace slow rainwater Central Texas Gardener
Since deer roam the unfenced front yard, layers of least-preferred munchies at the front porch include
Caesalpinia gilliesii, pink skullcap, and silver ponyfoot.
front bed dichondra bird of paradise Central Texas Gardener

And here’s Kirk Walden’s plant list!

Well, there’s so much more! Let’s just watch it all right now.