the show

Zoom In On Hummingbirds

encore date: March 24, 2016

original air date: February 13, 2016

Create a hummingbird flight path to your garden with Mark Klym, co-author of Hummingbirds of Texas. Hummingbirds head straight for native coralbean, Daphne’s Plant of the Week. Plus, she answers: “Should a new homeowner remove an existing chinaberry tree?”  So, what about those “weeds” popping up everywhere? Before you pluck, Certified Herbalist Ellen Zimmermann joins Trisha to explain how they’re good for you. On tour, designer Amy Voorhes magnified her tiny courtyard with stylish raised beds and drought tough plants that bring wildlife fingertip close.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Amy Voorhes Courtyard Garden for Wildlife

When designer Amy Voorhes traded Boston for Austin, she swapped months of snow for drought.  She bid farewell to former plant loves, adapting to a new palette of water thrifty and wildlife wise perennial beauties. At home, out front she removed lawn and updated its 1950s landscape.  She banished invasives from the tiny interior courtyard, magnifying its space with stylish raised beds. Flowering vines, herbs and perennials fragrance it up and bring wildlife fingertip close.


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Question of the Week

Chinaberry tree at my new house: should I remove?

Thanks to Robyn Squyres for this great question and picture! Recently, she bought a house and is starting a wildlife garden.  Unfortunately, the house came with one of my worst nightmares: a large chinaberry tree in the backyard.

Robyn’s concerned about it, since she knows that it’s an invasive species. She’s already pulled up two chinaberry seedlings.

On the other hand, it does provide shade and the birds do love it. Should she cut it down now? Or, should she plant a sapling underneath to grow up a few years before removing the chinaberry?

Something else to consider:  chinaberry is toxic to dogs.

Although I usually don’t recommend complete removal of a mature tree, even an unwanted one, before you can plant another one and get it well on its way, in this case, that is exactly what she should do.

I’m normally not a reactionary to many of the plants listed as “invasive species.” The “invasive” nature of some plants is in the eye of the beholder. An aggressive nature, in the right spot, could be a benefit, since “aggressive” plants are pretty tough in the face of adversity, for example, our extreme drought and heat of the last few years.

It also depends on the planting location, and its proximity to water and natural areas. No species listed as invasive should be planted in landscapes that abut any greenbelt spaces, streams, or other nature-spots.

But Chinaberry is invasive no matter where it’s planted, thanks to birds that scatter the seeds.

Final recommendation: Cut it down!

Then, be prepared to fight a fierce battle with seedlings and root sprouts.  The only answer to keeping the tree from returning is vigilance and sweat equity. Also, check with an arborist to have the large stump ground out.

Check out Texas Invasives’s plant database for other invasive plants.


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Plant of the Week



Erythrina Herbacea

Native coralbean is a rambling, lanky shrub with strikingly beautiful, dark red blooms in early summer. The floral spikes can be up to one foot long, jutting out into the sky like a hummingbird antenna. Those flowers turn into long pods, and the bright red seeds inside are poisonous if ingested, so if you have children or pets, it would be safest to remove them as quickly as possible. Coralbean is also pretty thorny, which may be hard to notice behind its attractive, glossy green, heart-shaped leaves. Listed hardy to USDA Zone 7, it will easily take the roughest of Central Texas cold snaps.  However,  when temps get below freezing for any extended period of time, coralbean will be a perennial, dying back to the ground. Simply clean it up from the base after the last frost date. In warmer areas, coralbean is deciduous, and can get up to 25 feet tall if conditions are ideal. But when it’s perennial, it normally only gets about 5 feet high. As it matures, it will come back wider each year, potentially spreading to 20 feet across once fully grown. Coralbean can take the hottest, driest of spots, and isn’t picky about soil type, making it a great choice for most gardens. Viewer Picture goes to Jackie Baltrun for her outstanding shot of a bumble bee on mealy blue sage. Hummingbirds love this plant, too! But deer avoid it, which makes it a great plant for Jackie in her deerly beloved neighborhood!