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Time for Trees

encore date: December 18, 2014

original air date: November 8, 2014

It’s tree planting time, so let’s pick a few trees for sun or shade with Crystal Murray from Far South Wholesale Nursery! On tour, a young couple framed their garden-on-a-budget around native trees that came with their land. Find out how to grow bald cypress, Daphne’s Plant of the Week. Plus, she explains why trees turn color in fall. John Dromgoole shows how to protect beds or container plants in freeze with row cover.

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Episode Segments

On Tour

First Garden

April and Cliff Hendricks wanted wide open spaces filled with native plants and wildlife. They wanted close-up gardens, too, where they could fulfill their imaginations and hand-crafted artistry. With family, friends, and innovative scavenges, they created their paradise in Liberty Hill, uniting their home with the natural world.

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Question of the Week

Why do leaves turn color?

We all know that plants have chlorophyll, which is the pigment that gives them their green color. Chlorophyll is also the pigment responsible for the bulk of photosynthesis, which is the chemical process whereby plants produce carbohydrates, their source of food.

But plants also have secondary pigments, which have some involvement in photosynthesis, but also are involved in other biochemical processes, some of which involve UV light. And when, during the normal process of shedding their leaves in autumn, deciduous plants with higher amounts of these pigments have color in their leaves, since the plant breaks down chlorophyll first, which it won’t need during the winter, leaving the anthocyanins temporarily behind.

Unfortunately, here in Central Texas, we aren’t able to grow many of the species with spectacular color change, such as most species of maple. But we do have a few choices, such as the native flameleaf sumac, red oaks, cedar elms and bald cypress.

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Plant of the Week

Bald Cypress

Bald Cypress

Taxodium Distichum

This rather stately deciduous conifer is most often thought of as at home in swampy areas, which it most definitely is. But surprisingly, bald cypress can also be quite successfully grown in drier conditions. At maturity, it’s a large tree at maturity to possibly 75 feet wide and a spread of 25 – 50 feet, so it’s best not planted in a small yard. The key issue that I see with many struggling bald cypresses in Central Texas is a struggle with our alkaline soil.  You can fertilize with a product designed for acid-loving plants. These products contain micronutrients like iron and manganese that are not as soluble in alkaline situations, so the plant can’t take them up naturally, even if they are present in the soil. This fertilization practice is not a once-and-done solution, but will have to be repeated throughout the life of the tree, if there are issues with micronutrient deficiencies in your soil. If you’ve been to swampy areas of east Texas, or to the San Antonio Riverwalk, you’ve seen the famous “knees” that bald cypress produce.  This is an adaption that occurs only in wet, swampy conditions, so they won’t form those knees in your yard. I often get calls during very hot, dry summers, which we’ve had quite a few of lately, when bald cypress invariably drop all their leaves and look dead. This is especially shocking since we aren’t accustomed to seeing conifers completely bare. But like other deciduous species, bald cypress drops all its leaves in stressful situations, such as heat and drought, to conserve precious water and energy, so that it can “hibernate” and regrow when situations are better.  Another great thing about bald cypress is fall color, which we don’t have a lot of around here. Before leaves are shed, they turn a coppery bronze that adds real interest to your autumn landscape.

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