the show

Austin Garden Conservancy Tour 2017

air date: October 21, 2017

Whatever your garden goal, discover ideas on The Garden Conservancy’s 2017 Austin Open Days tour. Designer Patrick Kirwin spotlights formal and casual designs in small and large spaces for drought, flooding water, wildlife, outdoor living, herbal love, and community value that restored homeless lives to dignity. Visit a gorgeous makeover designed by landscape architect Curt Arnette and landscaper John Gibson to turn lawn into wildlife habitat and serene outdoor living. See how a viewer hand pollinates pumpkin flowers (same for squash!) to promote fruit production. Get Daphne’s tips to grow native rock penstemon, a surefire hummingbird plant. John sharpens our skills to keep tools ready for digging and pruning ahead.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Goodbye Lawn: Hello to Wildlife & Serene Courtyard Living

Contemporary meets naturalistic in an updated design by landscape architect Curt Arnette and landscaper John Gibson. In front, they banished dried up, flat line lawn into dimensional destination trails of succulents, flowering perennials and shrubs to restore wildlife. In a serene courtyard, a water rill and small pond brings wildlife up close in a formal design structured by succulents and native boulders, softened by cascading native plants for wildlife.

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Question of the Week

How do I hand pollinate squash, pumpkins and cucumbers?

We thank Jeanine Starkenberg in Venus, Texas for sending a fabulous video of how she and her grandkids Brody and Piper pollinated their pumpkin patch by transferring pollen from the male flowers to the female ones!

Hand pollination may be necessary if there aren’t enough pollinators around to do the job naturally. Or, you might also have to lend a hand if you’ve had to cover your plants with row cover to keep out insects like squash vine borers, thus limiting access by pollinators as well.

If the flowers aren’t properly pollinated, very few seeds will be produced, which will inhibit the fruit from developing properly. Squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and many other fruit of all types, produce a lot of seeds in each fully-developed fruit. So a lower pollination rate will mean a lower number of seeds, which will mean smaller fruit, or maybe none at all. The fruit may start to develop, but without enough seeds, will remain small, or even be dropped by the plant to conserve resources, before it gets very far along.

Hand pollination ensures that quite a bit of pollen is transferred from a male flower to a female flower, and more pollen means fertilization of more embryos, which will lead to more seeds and a better reason for the plant to expend resources on that fruit.

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Plant of the Week

Rock Penstemon

Rock Penstemon

Penstemon baccharifolius

Perennial rock penstemon is an extremely xeric perennial that grows to about 1.5’ tall and wide in full sun to part shade. Native to areas with rocky limestone outcrops and virtually non-existent soil, it will not last long in good, fertile soil or heavy clay. But if you’ve installed a dry creek bed or rain garden, with mostly rock, or if you’ve installed xeric areas with decomposed granite or gravel and elevated berms, you can be successful with this gorgeous plant. Many people are installing these types of areas now, and many of our viewers that live in western areas naturally have the perfect rocky setting for this and other xeric plants to thrive. Water sparingly in extreme drought. Blooming spring through summer, rock penstemon’s bright red tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. It dies to the ground most winters. Even if it doesn’t, shearing completely each year, in very early spring, will reinvigorate the plant and encourage more vigorous and robust growth. Not deer resistant.