the show

Firewise Gardens

encore date: August 4, 2012

original air date: July 7, 2012

Get firewise garden tips with Patrick Allen from the Texas Forest Service. Find out more for planting lists and landscape tips. (click on the pdf icons to download). Firewise Communities is another great resource. Plant lists from other states include Texas plants. On tour, visit a restoration that created outdoor living spaces and restored native habitat in a firewise design. Daphne analyzes how close to trees we can install hardscape. Pick of the week is native datura. John Dromgoole explains how to fend off mosquitoes.

Question of the Week

How close to trees can we add pavers or other hardscaping?

Thanks to Emily Keith for this great question! Many of us want to reduce lawn area. But when removing turf and replacing with hardscaping around trees, you should be very careful.

First, you want to leave some space around the trunk, about 2 feet on each side should be sufficient, and use bark mulch in that area, if possible. You want to limit soil compaction over the larger roots of an older tree.

When removing the turf, be very careful not to damage any of the tree roots, which are hopefully deeper in the soil. Using rocks as mulch around the tree is fine, since there is space between the rocks for water and air to penetrate the soil.

But be careful if using pavers or other hardscaping around a tree. You can use pebbles or sand between the pavers, which would allow for some water and air to work their way into the soil, but not as much as rocks or other mulch. So the soil underneath pavers will become more compacted and when the roots grow, the pavers will buckle and be unattractive and are also a potential tripping hazard.

The smaller roots, which have root hairs, occur out at the drip line of the tree, at and beyond the furthest branches, are where the tree takes up water, so you want to be sure that any construction that you do leaves this area permeable for air and water to get down to the root zone.

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Plant of the Week



Datura wrightii

This lovely native plant is also called Jimsonweed or angel trumpet. It has large, gorgeous trumpet-shaped white flowers that open at night. The most common way to get this plant is by having a friend share some seed with you. Once the flower has been pollinated, a very large, spiky seed head forms, containing hundreds of seeds. If you don't collect those seed heads before they burst, you'll find lots of Datura seedlings coming up all over the place next year, although the plant really isn't invasive and the seedlings shouldn't escape too far. Datura is listed as hardy to zone 9 and so it may be perennial in your garden. But most likely it will reestablish from seed, so be sure to collect and save some so that you can plant them where you want them next year, and give some to jealous friends. Datura only gets about 2 feet tall, but may spread very wide, up to 10 feet, especially if it's getting plenty of water. It doesn't need much water at all and prefers well-drained, coarse soil, but if given a little supplemental irrigation, it will get a bit larger and flower more prolifically. Datura needs full sun to grow and produce those gorgeous white blooms, which usually start to show in late May or early June and cover the plant all summer long. Be very careful when handling this plant. All parts of it are poisonous if ingested. Some people are allergic and have a reaction when touching its fuzzy gray-green foliage. Datura is a great plant for xeriscaped areas in your garden, and requires very little care or attention to be beautiful all summer long, even in the extreme heat.