the show

Invasive Plant Replacements

encore date: March 31, 2016

original air date: April 2, 2016

Nathan Unclebach of Hill Country Water Gardens and Nursery dumps invasives like Japanese honeysuckle, ligustrum and nandina for beautifully beneficial options.  Native shade-loving groundcover pigeonberry, Daphne’s Plant of the Week, blooms and berries to feed pollinators and birds. On tour in San Antonio, Pat and David Mozersky went for water thrifty, low care plants in a shady courtyard and outdoor dining room. Daphne analyzes an Arizona ash and explains why to remove it now.  Bring the garden indoors, at home and in the office, with John’s houseplant tips.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Pat Mozersky shady, low care courtyard garden

Under graceful oak trees, Pat and David Mozersky’s San Antonio courtyard garden revels in sun-dappled serenity. They opted to build a compact house after leaving the family-sized home where they raised their sons, Joel and Jason.  But there’s plenty of room to cook and entertain. That’s important to Pat who wrote the popular San Antonio News-Express column, Chef’s Secrets, for 22 years. To match the resourceful new house, Austin garden designer Mark Word rendered a stylish, low-care, water thrifty composition outside.


Watch more "On Tour" videos on YouTube →

Question of the Week

My Arizona ash has lots of peeling bark. Should I cut it down?

Thanks to Tania Derington for this great question and picture! Tania is concerned about a very large area of peeling bark on the main trunk. This photo of the tree was taken recently, during the tree’s natural winter dormancy, so the lack of leaves is to be expected at this time of year, and may be completely normal.

However, the key will be to watch the tree when it begins to leaf out, or not, this spring. With an Arizona ash of this size, I would venture to guess that there may be a large amount of limb die-back in the upper canopy of this tree, which may be a safety hazard, especially if any of the limbs are hanging over a house or driveway.

Arizona ash trees are notoriously brittle and short-lived, so this one is most likely just reaching the end of its natural lifespan. From the photo, the damage does not appear to be due to any sort of disease or insect issue, the tissue appears old and brittle, but shows no sign of fungal or bacterial infestation.

The size of the trunk indicates that this is a large, mature tree, quite large, in fact, for an Arizona ash. As already mentioned, they tend to be short-lived, so many don’t get this large. I would recommend watching the tree very carefully this spring and pruning out all of the dead limbs, at a minimum.

If the tree is close to a structure such as your home or a neighbor’s home, or if any of the limbs branch out over a driveway where they could cause damage to your home, car, or a neighbor’s property, you should seriously consider complete removal.

With a tree this large, complete removal is going to be a hard task to swallow, and may be devastating, but you should weigh the potential consequences against what most likely is only a few more years of life anyway.

The size of this tree necessitates that you have an arborist to help with the removal, so consider consulting with a few different companies, to see what various professional opinions are. If you live in the city of Austin, the tree may fall under the city’s heritage tree ordinance, which would mean that you’d need to get special permission to remove it.

Note: She did have to get permission. It took about 48 hours and she reports that the process was very efficient. Here are the regulations.

Watch more Question of the Week videos on YouTube →

Plant of the Week



Rivina humilis

Pigeonberry is one of my absolute favorite groundcovers for shade. This lovely little Central Texas native has many attractive qualities, not the least of which is that it flowers and fruits almost continuously throughout the growing season, a quality which is quite rare. Very few plants flower and produce fruit at the same time, or even produce fruit for extended periods, and pigeonberry fruit are a great food source for many different species of birds.  Deer resistance is moderate but we’ve seen it in deer browsed gardens. Each pigeonberry plant will grow to only about 12 to 18 inches tall and equally as wide, so in order to cover a large area in your garden, it might be best to start pigeonberry from seed directly in your yard. A typical seed packet is listed to cover about 20 square feet, making this plant a very economical choice if you need to fill in a lot of shady space. Pigeonberry can take full shade, partial shade, and dappled sun, but shouldn’t be planted in super bright or full sun areas. It needs very little care or maintenance once established. During its first year, you should water pigeonberry once a week or so if we’re not getting any rainfall, but once established, you’ll only need to water sparingly, if at all. During times of heavy drought, even if you don’t water pigeonberry at all, it will simply go dormant and reemerge once rain comes or water is given. Listed as hardy to zone 7 and hardy well below freezing, pigeonberry will be deciduous in light winters, and reliably perennial after even the harshest Central Texas cold snaps. Pigeonberry makes a great addition to both formal garden beds and to wilder, more natural areas of the landscape. We have two great viewer pictures this week!  Not only will Hutto gardeners Jessica and Lance Romigh get luscious peaches this year, they fed the bees on emerging flowers. AND, Jackie Dye’s poignant story about her miracle Christmas-blooming brugmansia, a passalong from her beloved Aunt Jean who passed in April.