the show

Rustling Roses and History

encore date: March 3, 2018

original air date: January 20, 2018

Our ancestors adorned their newfound homes with cuttings from beloved roses. Many have survived without care for decades, remaining nameless until intrepid horticulturists discovered, identified and propagated them to carry on their hardiness in today’s gardens. William C. Welch, Professor and Extension Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulturist, rustles up the stories behind them through his latest book with Greg Grant, The Rose Rustlers. Daphne answers, “Does ice on plants protect them in hard freezes?” Find out how to add native penstemons to your wildflower garden. On tour, Syd Teague’s on a quest to try every plant that grabs her curiosity. But her first job tackled flood water control on rocky land. Jeff Ferris reveals how a simple 5-gallon bucket is your garden’s cheapest tool.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Tantalizing Tiers for All-Year Beauty: Syd Teague

When Syd Teague moved from Tucson to Austin, she wanted a water thrifty garden. As she shaped her land, it became her outdoor laboratory from succulents to flowering perennials. After corralling rainwater runoff in multiple berms and swales, she patterned rambling wanders and broad sweep views that converge in shady hideaways. Now, she and husband Lary Evans watch the seasons evolve as colors and textures follow the calendar.

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Rose Rustler with William Welch

William C. Welch, Professor and Extension Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulturist, rustles up the stories behind them through his latest book with Greg Grant, The Rose Rustlers.

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Question of the Week

Does ice on plants protect them?

Thanks to Chris Ostertag for this great picture he snagged when ice covered plants one morning.

So, does ice actually protect plants during a freeze? Well, it only applies in certain circumstances, and, it’s only a technique that commercial growers should use; it isn’t a feasible choice for homeowners.

The physics behind why this works has to do with the fact that water releases heat, albeit a very small amount, as it freezes. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense, because frozen water requires heat to melt.

In instances of short freezes, growers can spray their crops with water, using overhead sprinklers, in order to keep the plant tissues just warm enough to mitigate the damage that would be caused if the plants were frozen solid for several hours. But the water has to be constantly applied, over the entire window of freezing temperatures, in order to be effective. This ensures that the ice forming on the plants is always at least partially in the liquid phase, and so, would constantly be releasing just a little bit of heat.

As you can gather, for homeowners, this extreme measure, which uses a very high volume of water and would require a large enough irrigation system that could accomplish the task properly, isn’t recommended. And when ice naturally forms on plants, as is the case here, that doesn’t protect them.

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Plant of the Week



Our plants this week are a couple of Penstemons: Brazos, Penstemon tenuis, and prairie, Penstemon cobaea. Although these two beardtongues, as both and many of their relatives are commonly known, have slightly different growing conditions, they have many similarities. Both have large, bell-shaped, purple flowers, occurring in stalks that shoot up from the base of the plant, which serve as a food source for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Both are perennials that are hardy to zone 7 or below, both love the full sun, but can take partial shade, and both flower in spring, with Brazos penstemon normally blooming a little earlier than prairie. Brazos is also known as Gulf Coast penstemon, where it is native in Texas, and so prefers a bit heavier soil and a bit more water, while prairie is native to drier regions, and prefers a bit more soil drainage and a lighter touch with the irrigation. In the proper soil conditions, both are low-water use plants, requiring supplemental irrigation only during the driest, hottest times. Plant in fall or early spring, and prune to the ground after seed heads are dried, if you’d like to collect the seeds or to let them spread themselves! Otherwise, you can prune them to the base of the plant after blooming. Seed heads are slow to mature and they may not dry until mid-summer. Mature height for both plants is listed at one and a half to two feet, which includes the flower stalk, with prairie penstemon spreading to only about 12 inches in width, while Brazos spreads to about 18 inches. Both have a very different appearance than their summer-to-fall blooming relative, rock penstemon (Penstemon baccharifolius) that sports bright red flowers irresistible to hummingbirds and bees. It’s a bit more compact and absolutely needs well-drained, rocky soils and little water.