the show

Perennials That Pack a Punch

air date: April 8, 2017

Yay, it’s planting time! Jeff Ramert from Round Rock Garden Center primes perennial ideas for pollinators and screening in sun and shade. Daphne sparks summer with pollinator-loving perennial orange shrimp plant (Justicia fulvicoma), and explains why lichens populated on ash trees. On tour, after living in Santa Fe, Kathy Lund wanted a water thrifty design. She and landscape designer Bud Twilley updated her front yard with low-care plants for structure and pollinator appeal. Spare those aches and pains with pre and post garden stretches along with Trisha and Paul Smith,M.Ed. / Fitness Professional at Lake Austin Spa.


Episode Segments

On Tour

New Idea for Old Front Yard: Kathy Lund and Designer Bud Twilley

After living in Santa Fe, Kathy Lund wanted a water thrifty design. She and landscape designer Bud Twilley updated her dull front yard with low-care plants for structure and pollinator appeal. After tackling drainage and flooding issues, they sparked up front door entrance and curb appeal with succulents and flowering perennials. A front porch “wine bar” invites neighborly chats to watch the bees and hummingbirds.

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Question of the Week

What is this strange growth on my ash trees?

Thanks to Barbara and Paul Lloyd in Fredericksburg for this great question!

Well, these interesting little creatures are lichens, complex organisms that are composed of a fungus in symbiotic union with an alga or cyanobacterium. They’re unusual among living organisms, but are fairly common on trees, especially in wild or natural areas, and also commonly grow on rocks. If you pay attention while hiking almost anywhere, you’ll see many different lichens, in lots of different shapes and colors. They aren’t, in and of themselves, harmful to trees, but are simply using the trees as a support surface.

We reached out to Guy LeBlanc of Tree Care by Guy, to get the Certified Arborist scoop. He confirmed that the lichens are harmless, since they don’t invade the plant tissue.

But, as with ball moss, another common interloper in our Central Texas deciduous trees, if enough lichens are present, they do stunt growth by covering the surface of the bark and inhibiting branching and the production of new leaves.

Lichens tend to be more problematic on trees that are stressed for other reasons, like our past few years of drought, which caused many trees to lose more leaves and have more of an open canopy than usual.

With more sunlight getting to the lichens, they’re able to thrive, reproduce, and spread. If these are Arizona ash trees, they are a riparian tree, meaning they need more water and tend to be more prone to drought stress, dropping more leaves and struggling more in general, making them more susceptible to secondary issues, than native ash.

The best course of action would be to water your trees well during hot, dry periods, and hope for them to recover and put on more canopy. If they’re too far gone, the trees may continue to struggle to put on new growth, which would, in the end, lead to their early demise.

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Plant of the Week

Orange Shrimp Plant

Orange Shrimp Plant

Justicia fulvicoma

Orange shrimp plant is a dwarf relative of the more common shrimp plant, Justicia brandegeana. This lovely low-growing perennial makes a beautiful addition to any garden, especially in the front of beds and along walkways. Orange shrimp plant gets only about two feet tall, but spreads twice as wide, so give it plenty of space. The bright orange flowers do indeed resemble actual shrimp, and they cover the plant all summer long. In milder climates, orange shrimp plant is said to be evergreen. Listed as hardy to zone 7, it’s reliably perennial in our garden, but does die back each winter. It reemerges from the roots in early spring, as soon as temperatures begin to warm up, so be sure to shear to the ground by mid-winter, to ensure full, bushy growth each year. Even after an unusual cold snap of several days below freezing and nights in the teens, this plant cheerfully returned in our Travis County Extension demonstration garden this year. Shrimp plant easily handles full sun, but also does fine in light shade and even heavy shade, if given morning sun for at least a few hours. If planted in shadier spots, it may form fewer flowers and get a bit taller. Water well to establish, then regularly throughout the dry times, especially if planted in full sun. I would consider orange shrimp plant a medium water-use perennial. Hummingbirds just love the color and shape of these flowers, so be sure to plant where you can observe them easily. You’ll also find butterflies visiting them. Orange shrimp plant also does quite well in containers.