the show

Hummingbird Plants & Backyard Native Micro-Prairie

air date: October 14, 2017

Hummingbirds are sure to zoom in on these nectar-rich plant ideas from Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. On tour, John Hart Asher and Bonnie Evridge replaced invasive plants for a native plant micro-prairie that restores wildlife habitat. Plus, see how they included vegetable beds, chickens and family playground. Daphne explains why once-popular plants are now considered invasive. Attract loads of pollinators with native perennial four-nerve daisy. Jeff Ferris from The Natural Gardener explains why it’s important to take your soil’s temperature before planting seeds.

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Episode Segments

On Tour

Backyard Micro-Prairie, Vegetables, Chickens, Playground: John Hart Asher & Bonnie Evridge

A backyard once home to invasive plants and energetic weeds now hosts countless wildlife eager to nectar and feed on native perennials, wildflowers, and grasses. Even though it meant backbreaking digging and lots of soil restoration, a native plant micro-prairie was paramount to John Hart Asher and Bonnie Evridge. After all, John Hart restores prairies as an environmental designer for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Bonnie works for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in their air permits division program.  Their creative design includes a bisecting boardwalk that leads to organic vegetables, rain collection, and chicken coop. For their young son and dogs, they included shady, comfy playgrounds. Then they added a native fish pond where birds come to drink every day. Working with Thoughtbarn Architects, their top-rated LEED home respects and connects to the land that greets them morning and night.

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Question of the Week

Why are formerly promoted plants now on the invasive list?

A viewer recently asked about why certain trees or other plants that were once highly promoted are now on the invasive plant list? And, many of them are still sold in nurseries.

Well, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the interpretation of the term “invasive” is subjective, and often depends on the environment. A plant that is invasive in one situation may be much less so in others. Rainfall and soil type will influence this quite a lot.

A plant that is invasive here in Central Texas may be much less so, or not at all, in the sandy soils and xeric climate of far West Texas, and those same characteristics that lead a species to earn the “invasive” label here, may be prized in areas where other plants are challenging to grow.

Most plant species that are labeled “invasive” are not native to the region where they’ve been given this negative description.

So then, are native plants not considered invasive? Not usually. In the case of native plants, instead of “invasive,” you will often hear the label “aggressive” used.

Now, to the untrained ear, those two adjectives may not sound all that different. But to plant people, they are. One big difference is that “invasive” species are known to escape confinement, into unwanted areas. And when they get out of your yard into your neighbor’s or a greenbelt, they tend to take over and choke out native species, thereby effecting the entire microclimate in that area, and most likely also effecting the delicate balance of wildlife living there.

Again, in far West Texas, where there is much less rainfall, an “invasive” plant may thrive with very little care or supplemental irrigation. Although we’ve received adequate rainfall this year, it hasn’t been that long since Central Texas was in a severe drought and we were all rethinking our landscapes for water conservation.

Which leads us full circle back to the question of why many “invasive” species are sold in nurseries. The situation is a delicate balance, and in general, we should avoid plants that are considered invasive where we live. And as a final note, we should mention the category of “noxious weed,” which is a designation given to plants that are illegal in certain regions. Those species have been shown to severely affect not only the natural areas, but also commerce. Just think “Kudzu.”

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Plant of the Week

Four-nerve daisy

Four-nerve daisy

Tetraneuris acaulis, also Hymenoxys

Native perennial four-nerve daisy does great in full sun or afternoon shade, with very little water or maintenance. They prefer rocky, well-drained soil, so if you have heavy clay, you may find them a challenge. If that’s the case in your garden, consider building berms or raised beds with sandy soil and some added organic matter, but not too much. Or even containers, where again, you can control the soil and drainage, will work with this beautiful perennial. The bright yellow, cheerful flowers will greet you from spring all the way through the heat of summer. And you’ll need several plants for grouping, since four-nerve daisy stays a petite 6” by 6” in size. Water sparingly and don’t mulch heavily, as these plants easily rot if they stay too wet.