the show

Healing Plants & Edibles for Us and Wildlife

encore date: May 7, 2015

original air date: May 9, 2015

Have you ever bought tea tree oil for its antiseptic healing? What about growing your own? Jay Beard from Lone Star Nursery picks a few under-the-radar edible and beneficial plants for us and the Monarch butterflies.  On tour, the Compost Pedallers cycle to recycle household scraps to fuel local food. John Dromgoole shows how to nourish soil with edible summer cover crops, even from the grocery store! Hummingbirds love our native coral honeysuckle. Get Daphne’s tips on how to prune this evergreen deer-resistant vine.  You’ll attract lots of bees to deer-resistant almond verbena, Daphne’s Plant of the Week.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Compost Pedallers

On cargo bikes, the East Side Compost Pedallers are sparing the landfill and diesel fuel by picking up residential and commercial compostables. The compost is taken to nearby local organic farmers and community gardens who, since 2012, have reaped 30,910 pounds of compost from their neighbors’ “scrapple.” Through these sustainable practices, The East Side Compost Pedallers hope to create a better Austin by reducing waste, connecting neighbors, and also transforming ‘waste’ to strengthen the local food system.


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Question of the Week

How prune native coral honeysuckle vine?

Native coral honeysuckle, a deer-resistant vine, is a favorite with hummingbirds.  It grows in sun to part shade, blooming mostly in spring to early summer.

Viewer Kathy Faul from Moody, Texas, loves her coral honeysuckle gifted by a generous bird. Trellised on her patio, she can even watch hummingbirds from indoors. And every year, cardinals and mockingbirds build their nests in its dense shelter.

But, this twining vine can get sparse without some gentle pruning. When deciding when to prune, Kathy carefully balances the needs of the wildlife with her own needs to have a beautiful, well-kept landscape. Pruning only lightly, and when absolutely necessary, Kathy illustrates a great point:  as with most vines, coral honeysuckle does require regular pruning to keep it in check, but when and how will depend not only on the plant’s growth, but on your personal preferences.

You can either leave the vine shrubby and a bit wild for most of the growing season, or you can shear it back into shape regularly, to give it a more refined appearance. It’s best to do any hard pruning in the late fall or winter, once flowering is done and the birds have eaten most of the berries.

As coral honeysuckle moves into dormancy, winter is the best time to get flowering vines back into shape and prepare them for new spring growth next season. By their very nature, vines are rampant growers, so you’ll need to stay on top of any errant runners and offshoots in the early spring.

Just prune those all the way back to the ground if you don’t want your vine taking over any new garden real estate. Vigorous vining plants such as coral honeysuckle also produce offshoots all during the summer, so if you want to keep your vines in bounds, you’ll need to make a regular visit to the garden with your pruning shears. This is the price we have to pay in exchange for all that boundless expansion—plants that grow this easily will quickly take over, if you don’t watch out.


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Plant of the Week

Almond verbena

Almond verbena

Aloysia virgata

Almond verbena is a must for anyone who loves summertime fragrance!  This large, shrubby, deer-resistant  plant is an should be planted in full sun, or only light shade, and given plenty of room to grow. This plant does get very tall, usually very quickly. My experience has been in the range of 10 to 12 feet tall and about 3 to 4 feet wide. Be sure to plant near a patio or porch to get the full effect of its strong, but lovely, delicately sweet fragrance. Almond verbena is a repeat bloomer, usually from late spring all the way through fall, maybe taking a break during the hottest time of an extremely hot, dry summer. And when in flower, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds will be attracted to it like magnets. Listed as hardy to USDA Zone 8, in most warm climates, almond verbena will be deciduous, especially in mild winters. But even if it doesn’t die back to the ground, it will perform best if you treat it as you would other root-hardy perennial shrubs, shearing it back to the ground in late winter. This hard pruning forces almond verbena to put on all new growth, making it fuller, greener, and bushier. A little light pruning in mid-summer can reinvigorate the plant for fall growth. Plant almond verbena in well-drained soil and water sparingly, but regularly. Once a week watering should be fine, and fertilizer is not needed. This easy-care, root-hardy shrub would make a great addition to any low water-use garden.