the show

Perennial Fun

air date: October 25, 2014

Meet under-the-radar native perennials for wildlife with Barbara and Bobby Wright from organic Wright’s Nursery in Briggs. On tour in San Antonio, Ragna and Bob Hersey turned a flat-scape into vibrant outdoor rooms fun with art, passalong plants and creative recycling.  Mulching trees is great unless we do it the wrong way. Daphne illustrates fatal mulching mistakes around trees. Her plant of the week is native coral honeysuckle, an evergreen perennial for sun to part shade that brings on the hummingbirds. Houseplants getting too crowded? John Dromgoole shows how to divide for friends who would just love to have one.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Make-Over Garden For Reduced Lawn

In San Antonio, Ragna and Bob Hersey had the standard yard until Ragna gave it wonderland flair with dimension, secret coves, vibrant waterwise plants, and art. Bob built structures and laid paths. Ragna dressed up her design with clever ideas using recycled scavenges, including mirrors, washing machine tub pots, and even old paintings. Since Ragna went totally organic, wildlife has returned to complete her joyous picture.


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Question of the Week

What is the wrong way to mulch a tree?

Mulch is a good thing for new trees, since it holds in moisture and insulates the soil. It’s especially good for new trees to give them a buffer zone to protect their young trunks if you’re mowing around them.

BUT, incorrect mulching can be detrimental to tree health. I bet you’ve seen mulch piled up against the trunk like a volcano. Don’t do it!  Trunks of trees need light and air. Mulching against the trunk or climbing up it can kill your tree.

The right way to mulch: leave breathing room around the trunk of your tree. Away from the trunk, add about 3″ of mulch. It’s good to create a small berm of mulch at the edges to keep any rainfall or hose irrigation near the tree.

Try to expand the circle of mulch out to the drip line, which is where the farthest branches extend from the tree.  The feeder roots, those that take up water and nutrients, will be located at and beyond this point, so this is the most critical area to protect.

Finer aggregate mulch tends to pile better, creating a better barrier against evaporation and soil erosion.  Plus, finer aggregate mulch will break down better over time, adding organic matter to the surrounding soil.  Since it does break down, mulch should be replenished or replaced; spring and fall are good times for that.

With the lack of rainfall and extreme summer heat in the last few years, young trees need all the help they can get during the first decade or so of their young lives.

With older, large trees, it’s still a good thing but not so essential. Once a tree is well established, it’s more efficient at taking up water.  Also, maintaining mulch around such a large area is challenging, but as long as you’re watering slowly and deeply, mature trees will be just fine in those situations.


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Plant of the Week

Coral Honeysuckle

Coral Honeysuckle

Lonicera Sempervirens

Coral honeysuckle is a native perennial vine that takes the drought with ease, though extra moisture is appreciated in long stretches without rain. A non-aggressive usually evergreen trailer to 20 feet or more, it’s a good one to twine through chain link fences, trellises, or arbors. Give it sun to part shade in any soil that’s fairly rich and well-drained. More sun will mean more flowers. Coral honeysuckle gets rather woody, especially at the base, so you might consider some medium height perennial plantings in front of it to liven it up a bit. Aside from its interesting leaves, the real show-stopper is the coral tubular flowers that attract hummingbird, butterflies and bees from March to June. Deer: fairly resistant depending on the deer. They will eat the flowers. However, on a high trellis or arbor that they can’t reach, the pollinators and hummingbirds can dine without concern.