the show

Native Perennials for Wildlife

encore date: August 25, 2016

original air date: July 30, 2016

Barbara Wright of Wright’s Nursery pumps up wildlife attraction with native plants for sun and shade. On tour, the Gee family took out dusty lawn for food, easy-care plants and neighborhood connectivity. Daphne identifies fire blight and explains what to do. Plant of the Week is fragrant David Austin rose, Abraham Darby. Trisha brings on the butterflies with heat-loving annual zinnias.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Front Yard Makeover

Ryan and Havilah Gee had the typical grass and foundation shrub front yard. Not their style. When their oak trees fell to oak wilt disease, they worked with land designer Elizabeth McGreevy to create “Austin chic” with a front yard patio and terraced beds that retain rainfall for vegetables, herbs, succulents, and wildlife plants.


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Question of the Week

What causes bacterial disease fire blight?

Thanks to our unusually wet, cool spring in 2016, I’ve noticed lots of bacterial and fungal issues in local landscapes and gardens. And with unusual weather comes unusual, or at least less common, questions about plants with unusual symptoms.

Cool, wet conditions are perfect for the growth of many fungi and bacteria that we don’t see most years, so we forget about them. But the spores are there, just waiting for conditions to be right, then they burst onto the scene, to take advantage of their uncommon good fortune.

Oak leaf blister was rampant on our live oaks again this year, and black spot on our roses was also particularly bad.

And in Adkins, some of George Byrnes’ cotoneasters have browning branches, while others look fine. This damage looks like fire blight, a bacterial disease common to certain plant families, and devastating to some fruit trees, such as pear and apple.

George has had these plants about 10 years and pruned them this spring. Well, George, the pruning likely did not have anything to do with your fire blight problem. This bacterium normally develops in cankers in the woody tissue, then moves to infect tender new growth as it’s developing and more vulnerable to invasion.

When it rains in spring, spores get bounced from stems and branches onto flowers and new growth, infecting the tissue and starting the process over again. Fire blight is cyclical, with alternate plant hosts, so it may not even be a problem most years.

In your situation, I’d recommend pruning out the affected areas, making sure to clean up any leaf or branch litter around the plant. Late winter next year, check the bark for any oozing cankers, and prune out those areas, making sure to toss all of that infected plant material in the garbage.

With regular checking, you should be able to get the issue under control and make it manageable, without having to do anything more than cultural maintenance.

Fire blight is also common on spiraea, which we’ve seen in other gardens. After years of extended drought and heat, we forget that diseases were ever even an issue in our gardens, and when they return, they catch us by surprise and we wonder what we did wrong, or how we could’ve prevented the problem in the first place.

But take heart, in most cases, there isn’t much we could’ve done, outside of planting less susceptible species. So if the problems persist, consider removing these plants and replacing them with species that are not susceptible to fire blight.



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Plant of the Week

Abraham Darby David Austin Rose

Abraham Darby David Austin Rose

In winter 2016, Kristen Rosin won her Abraham Darby rose in our online contest.  Since then, she can’t resist stopping to smell the roses! Indeed, this is a very fragrant shrub rose, with lovely, delicate pink /apricot flowers. This rose was named to celebrate inventor Abraham Darby, who, with his son and grandson, played an important role in the industrial revolution. Most roses bred by English plantsman David Austin are breath-taking, and many will do well in our climate, so if you’re planting roses, you should consider them. But do your research. Some are not as tolerant of our heat as they would need to be to survive here, and others have challenges that you need to be aware of. Like this ‘Abraham Darby’, which needs support in order to look its best. A garden obelisk, with an open center for the rose to grow through, would be best. But if you’re a picky gardener like me and can’t find one to suit your aesthetic, consider arranging three or four trellises into a circling to contain your rose. As with most roses, you’ll need to plant ‘Abraham Darby’ in bright sunlight and water it regularly, and it will benefit from protection from the heat of late afternoon blasting sun. It should be pruned regularly, but not as hard as hybrid teas and many other roses. Shrub roses prefer to be just that: shrubs. Viewer pictures this week feature butterflies. Kyla Rodgers discovered a newly opened Gulf Fritillary chrysalis on her red yucca. Soon after, it flew off to get its first meal in her lovely garden. And Kerstin Chapman has been raising Monarchs at home and in her classroom. This one was #42 of the Monarchs raised in her butterfly cage at home. Here’s another on a Gregg’s mistflower. She’s got lots of native wildflowers in her backyard and in May discovered many leaves with eggs and early instars of Monarch larvae.