the show

What’s Bugging You?

air date: May 13, 2017

Most of our insects are doing us a big favor! For pests out of control, Wizzie Brown, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension-Urban IPM, shows how to identify damage and steps to take. On tour, what do you do when your house comes with a regulation tennis court? See how Drs. Bill Nemeth & Suzanne Novak now serve fresh vegetables, flowers and even fruit from their orchard. Daphne examines failing desert willow trees and shows off hummingbird-lover, Salvia penstemonides. John intrigues us with tiny fairy gardens.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Tennis Court Turned into Gardens

When Suzanne Novak and Bill Nemeth bought their house, it came with a regulation-sized tennis court. They don’t play tennis! They’re also busy physicians and love to get outside to grow healthy food and fragrant flowers after hours. Enter Landscape Architect Tait Moring, who designed beautiful gardens where the couple now serves up fresh vegetables and fruit from their orchard. In their shady front courtyard, they relax to the sight and sound of a recirculating stream and pond.

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Question of the Week

Desert Willow: What’s wrong?

Thanks to JoQuita Schremmer for her great question and picture!

She writes that the tree was planted three years ago but has never done well. Last year she cut it down, level to the ground, and although it has since grown quite a bit, it still looks very unhealthy.

Well, JoQuita, my initial thought is that your desert willow doesn’t really look bad at all, so I’m not sure if there are any problems to solve.

But since the photo was taken when the tree was dormant and there aren’t any leaves to look at, I could be missing the symptoms altogether.

In general, desert willow trees do pretty well in our area, but when they don’t, it’s usually down to soil and drainage issues.

Desert willows are not willows at all, and so, they aren’t riparian species. They’re most definitely more at home in arid western regions, where the native soil is sandy and even rocky.

If you’re having an issue with a desert willow, the first thing to check is soil drainage. Desert willows do not like to be waterlogged. If you have clay soil or other permeability issues, you should consider digging up your tree while it’s still relatively young, and building a berm to increase drainage, then replanting it.

Or, if it continues to struggle and you can’t really increase the soil drainage through changing the topography of the landscape, you might need to replace with a different species of tree.

Definitely watch for signs of re-leaf this spring and see how it does before taking any drastic measures.

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Plant of the Week

Big Red Sage

Big Red Sage

Salvia Penstemonides

Salvia penstemonides, commonly known as big red sage, is a great Central Texas native plant that gets its species name from the fact that it looks a lot like a penstemon. It has a large, mounding habit that isn’t common among the salvias, with larger, glossy, deep green leaves as well. Big red sage produces towering, deep pinkish-red flower stalks, from late spring though summer. Said to be deer resistant, Salvia penstemenoides is hardy to zone 6, making it a perennial in Central Texas gardens. As they do with most plants with similar spiky floral displays, hummingbirds flock to this plant when in flower. Full sun is best, with perhaps a little protection from the harsh rays of the late afternoon. And be very careful not to overwater big red sage, especially if you have clay in your soil, or it could rot. Consider amending the soil with a bit of porous material such as decomposed granite, but don’t overdo it; big red sage doesn’t like to completely dry out, either. Adding a little organic matter, such as compost, would help keep the soil porous and moist at the same time: an ideal balance for this striking plant. Big red sage gets about two feet tall and half as wide in most gardens and as with other perennials, will need to be sheared back in late winter to reinvigorate them and encourage new growth. Viewer pictures this week show off gorgeous early spring blooming trees. From April Rose:  sweetly flowering roughleaf dogwood. From Joe Wagner: fragrant mountain laurel. From Heather Jefts: a bee and Red Admiral butterfly on her lovely Mexican plum. AND from Stephen Heineke:  indoor beauty with long-blooming Christmas cactus.