the show

Outside the Box with Tricky Plants

air date: February 15, 2014

Tempted to push the box with tricky plants like Japanese maple? Amanda Moon from It’s About Thyme has the tricks for success. On tour, Bob Atchison and Rob Moshein united their neighborhood with a romantic garden that stops traffic on a busy street. Daphne explains when to prune those frozen and dormant plants. Find out why she picks native coneflower as her Plant of the Week. See what Brandi Blaisdell from The Natural Gardener stuffs into a garden mailbox to keep things handy.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Romantic street side garden | Bob Atchison & Rob Moshein

Live on a busy street corner? See how Bob Atchison and Rob Moshein romantically framed their 1927 Spanish Revival House named “Palazzo di cani di neri,” Italian for the palace of the black dogs, in honor of their two dogs. They defined privacy in their outdoor living room with enchantment for the passersby and the neighbors who come calling nightly to visit among the flowers, sculptures, and spilling water troughs.


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Question of the Week

Frozen plants, how soon can we prune?

January and February are tricky months for us. One day it’s over 70 degrees and sunny, and then just 24 hours later, freezing with a chance for sleet!

Pruning, especially combined with warmer temperatures and bright light, encourages growth, and exposes those tender new stems and leaves, making them more vulnerable when polar blasts returns.

Note:  don’t tidy up too fast since seeds on grasses and perennials feed birds. They provide cover for all kinds of beneficial creatures like butterflies.  Dense dormant growth also shelters the living roots underneath. We do want to prune before new growth is on its way.

So, when do we do it?

Any time after freeze
Woody dormant plants like flame acanthus, turks cap and others that are complete sticks
Rosemary (just to shape: January and February) Cut leaves any time of the year.
Herbaceous salvias like ‘Black and Blue’ and ‘Indigo Spires’ that are sticks
Salvia greggiis (cut back several inches, depending on plant size)
Asters, native salvias like reglas, coneflowers, mums: cut to their rosettes
Copper canyon daisy, mistflowers and other natives that are dormant; prune to ground

Clumping grasses (shear to 3-6” above ground), Inland sea oats (cut to rosettes)
If bamboo muhly froze, cut this grass to the ground for new shoots

Individual microclimates and weather make a difference with the more tender plants. Some of us can prune plumbago and lantana in February. Others may want to wait until March.

March to Mid-March
Evergreen shrubs, unless they are spring bloomers like viburnum
Shrimp plant
Tecoma stans (Esperanza)
Barbados cherry (though possibly earlier)

Succulents like purple heart. Since succulent leaves are full of water, once they freeze, the cell walls burst when they thaw, meaning that lovely new growth will be fried in the almost inevitable late winter blast of polar cold.

Bid goodbye
Annuals like native Salvia coccinea will not return after super hard freezes.  But the seeds they set may come back in warm weather, though perhaps not where you wanted them!

Flax lily, Dianella. Below 25 degrees and it’s gone.

AGAIN! Get to know your microclimates, even in your own yard.


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Plant of the Week



Echinacea purpurea

This strikingly pretty perennial is such an easy-care plant, and goes so well with most any landscape style, that it really does deserve a place in every garden. It loves full sun, but can take bright shade, and is extremely drought-tolerant. The entire stem grows underground, so be sure to be plant in well-drained soil, not heavy clay, unless you can amend it to be super loose. If you need to do that, use decomposed granite, or other small aggregate substrate. Pea gravel would be too large, and sand too small for most very heavy clay situations, since it can create an even worse situation. Our specialists at AgriLife Extension have done some research that shows that expanded shale is very good for loosening clay soil. You'll see on the tag that Echinacea gets up to 3 feet tall, but that includes the flower stalk, which shoots up far above the leaves. The actual plant is usually around a foot tall and wide. Since they spread quite nicely, they look great planted in groupings of 3 to 5 in pockets of garden beds with other native plants. The native species Echinacea has light purple ray flowers, which droop slightly and resemble petals, and tiny disk flowers, which create the cone-shaped center, from which this plant gets its common name. That central cone creates the very small seeds that are a great fruit source for songbirds. It also attracts bees and butterflies. Echinacea a must-have plant in any wildlife garden. If you're adventurous, there are also other Echinacea cultivars with more striking flower colors, from white to lime green, although these plants are usually not as hardy, and sometimes peter-out after an especially harsh summer. You can plant Echinacea from seed, but it's easier to get 4 inch containers, or dormant rhizomes, and plant in early spring or fall.