Oak leaf galls, raised bed drainage
While we often receive questions about leaf galls from concerned gardeners, rarely does anyone first point out just how truly lovely these odd growths are. Nature creates its own intricate artwork, as Sarmita Chatterjee discovered, sending us this photo of galls on leaves of her live oak tree.
The structure of the gall is an outgrowth of plant tissue, induced by a tiny insect when it lays its eggs, to protect the growing larvae inside. Once the larvae mature, they’ll emerge and fly away, leaving the tree to carry on and recover just fine. In most cases, like with these galls, they do not harm the tree.
In Houston, Dave Sherron wants to try a Salvia pachyphylla in a raised bed, and wants to know what kind of soil mix should he use for this xeric plant, which is native to the mountains of Southern California?
We checked with Houston garden designer Laurin Lindsey, of Ravenscourt Landscaping, who tells us that although she hasn’t grown this one, they do raise soil levels for xeric plants that require super good drainage.
She recommends decomposed granite, expanded shale, and a sandy, rose-soil mix, and waiting until spring, after all danger of cold/wet weather has passed, to experiment with this plant.
I’m not familiar with this salvia either, but am completely in favor of experimenting in the garden, especially with xeric plants. My favorite salvia, Salvia clevelandii, is also a Southern California native. Known as chaparral sage, I brought this plant with me from El Paso and enjoyed it in my yard for about three years before it succumbed to our Central Texas climate, which has colder and much wetter winters than its native home. Even though it didn’t live forever, I will happily plant chaparral sage again, if I ever find it locally, and enjoy it for as long as it lasts.
From San Antonio, Debbi Walker nails our topsy-turvy seasons with witty perfection. She quips that we have two unofficial seasons. One is “Sum-more.” Sum-more, with temperatures over 75 degrees, collectively dominates our weather for six to eight months. Although concentrated around traditional summer months, sum-more’s heat regularly shows up during the second unofficial season: “fall-inter-pring.” While we expect temperatures below 75 degrees at this time of year, “fall-inter-pring” is an undependable season, quite often overshadowed by the more dominate sum-more. And as we all know, we can get summer, fall, spring, and winter, all within 48 hours!
Even in early November, Monarchs were showing up on Shelly McDaniel’s pentas in Houston. Pentas can’t take hard freezes, but are great butterfly-beloved perennials in warmer zones, and as summertime annuals in Zone 8 or colder regions.
And in mid-November, quite unexpectedly, many of us were surprised by early record low temperatures that harmed some plants. But Susie Epstein’s almond verbena was still blooming profusely all the way into December! She was thrilled to see a wasp out enjoying the summer-like day and sipping nectar from the blossoms. Almond verbena is a hardy perennial shrub with amazingly fragrant flowers, that normally dies back to the ground in winter. But if planted in warmer areas of a landscape, known as microclimates, will obviously last much longer.