Bromeliads have a passionate following

Pineapples and Spanish moss illustrate the wide spectrum of varieties that make up this plant family, with some species looking hard and spiky like yuccas while others look like leafy grasses. “Once we saw his collection and acquired a few plants of our own, we were hooked,” says Rick Richtmyer. [...] we’ve become very involved and have a collection numbering in the thousands. In many ways, they are the perfect plant for beginner gardeners, or for those who want plants in their home or office but don’t have time for anything very complicated or needy. Bromeliads come in three main types: terrestrial plants grow in soil; saxicolous plants grow on rocks and cliffs; and epiphytic species, like Spanish moss, which grow on other plants, such as trees or shrubs. Bromeliads generally grow in a spiral-leaf pattern, or rosette, and the leaves in some varieties overlap to create a small water reservoir, or tank, in the center of the plant. Epiphytic plants should be watered, too, either by watering into the tank, watering the leaves or even by soaking the plant (and whatever it’s connected to) if conditions are very dry. The bloom may be single or multiple, depending on the variety, and it may come with leaflike appendages that are as colorful as the blooms.

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When it rains, let it pour – straight into a rain barrel

Most of that water will run off houses, streets and parking lots and into storm drains, where it will flow through pipes, ponds and creeks until it hits Galveston Bay.

Sarah Cunningham, water quality outreach coordinator for the foundation, said the group’s rain-barrel education program began in 2013 to help conserve water, reduce runoff and prevent bacteria from reaching Galveston Bay through storm drains.

[...] the foundation has put 1,100 rain barrels in the community, potentially cutting 1.9 million gallons of runoff a year.

[...] rain barrels also can help reduce flooding in your yard, which, given our recent weather, can be a huge benefit.

The foundation’s rain barrels, donated by the Coca-Cola Co., are food-grade barrels that make a “closed system” rain barrel.

Simply use one of the several nontoxic mosquito dunks, or pour a tablespoon of vegetable oil into the water to create a seal on the surface that mosquitoes can’t penetrate. …read more

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Beauty and versatility of daylilies grow on gardeners

Paula and Leon Payne own and operate Paynes in the Grass Daylily Farm in Pearland, where they grow over 800 registered cultivars, plant 5,000 seedlings a year and hybridize plants to create new varieties. People always ask me my favorite, and it’s usually what is blooming that day. From their origins in Asia in both wild and cultivated form, daylilies have spread throughout the world and now come in 58,000 recognized varieties – with more added every year. Daylily enthusiasts sometimes call daylilies “the perfect perennial” because they grow in lots of different conditions, require little maintenance and come in myriad shapes, sizes and colors. Some with longer, pointed starlike petals, others with broad, overlapping, frilly petals that change colors on the edges as they curl downward. [...] daylilies provide a full palette of color and dimension for the garden, and they have few rivals, if any, on that score. Home gardeners who want to add this versatile plant to their gardens should consider a few factors as they make their choice of varieties. If you’re planting into the clay-based soil native to our area, Payne says to beware of phosphorous buildup over time.

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Pruning can refresh Indian hawthorns

If necessary and possible, prune any overhead branches that have grown and now cast the hedge in more shade.

Spread a quality compost along the hedge, and mulch with pine needles or native bark mulch.

Steganosporium canker causes black, crusty pustules to form, generally on a tree that’s stressed by other problems.

Make sure there’s good drainage, mulch with compost but avoid piling this or any mulch up around the trunk.

Look for dark, bumpy scale insects that secrete honeydew, a substance that, in turn, attracts sooty mold, creating black areas on a tree.

Sapsuckers create bands of holes around tree trunks. …read more

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Water gardening: It’s not as complicated as you might think

Ponds create a relaxing environment where plants and fish live in harmony Today, the surface of the pond – the size of a hot tub – is bare except for a lonely water lily leaf around which orange and white goldfish make lazy circles. Water gardening, that is, growing plants with water as the medium, is something anyone can do, says Dusty Culp, owner of, a Waller company that sells and ships water plants to gardeners. The stems reach up through the water from the planted rhizome (its root) and produce blooms and round leaves that float on the water’s surface. Tropical lilies are another variety; its flower stems grow past the water’s surface, and its leaves are oval and serrated. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but my opinion is that the tropical lilies look and grow better than hardy varieties,” Culp says. [...] how much space do you plan to use? (A corner on a patio or half of a big lawn?) Second, how much sun does that space get? (Some lilies bloom on three to five hours of daily sun, but most need full sun, or six to eight hours.) If you have little to no sun, do a fountain instead of a water garden. “Water gardening runs the whole gamut, from a classic old whiskey barrel or you can dig up your whole yard,” Nelson says. A small, 35-gallon-size pond can be kept healthy with the right number of plants and kinds of plants, like oxygenator plants that help balance the environment, keep the algae down and keep the water healthy. Nelson, however, recommends bog filtration, whereby water from the pond is diverted into a gravel bed area planted with water-tolerant plants, like certain varieties of irises, spider lilies and others.

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‘Downton Abbey’ characters inspire garden roses

If you aren’t ready to let go of “Downton Abbey,” which concludes its sixth and final season March 6, you could add a bit of the manor’s English garden to your own back yard.

When selecting varieties for the collection, Weeks looked for “outstanding roses that reflected the strength and personality of the characters in the show,” Christian Bédard, the company’s research director, said in a statement.

A medium-tall grandiflora with golden petals that blush pink, with a glowing bronze reverse, it has a fruity fragrance with notes of apples and grapefruit. …read more

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Landscape with plants that are good enough to eat

“There are plenty of ground covers, vines, trees and container plants that will not only beautify your landscape but will also produce a bountiful harvest of herbs, vegetables, fruits and nuts,” said Barrett, editor and publisher of the organic gardening magazine Homegrown and gardening columnist with the Austin American-Statesman.

[...] you don’t want to use these chemicals because they’ll get into your food.

[...] use only well-aged compost and manure that’s free of any potentially dangerous pathogens.

If the thought of having to dig up the ground to plant your fruits and vegetables gives you preemptive pain in the back, consider planting a wheelbarrow garden.

Because wheelbarrows are higher, they’re also a good choice for gardeners who have difficulty getting low to the ground.

[...] before filling it with dirt, drill drainage holes in the bottom of the wheelbarrow to help keep the soil from getting – and staying – too wet.

Aromatic and pungent, the leaves are used to flavor lamb, focaccia, tomato sauce, pizza and pork.

Many have such fascinating foliage they make interesting additions to beds normally reserved for flowers and other ornamentals.

[...] ornamental sweet potato vines are popular for their attractive leaves, but the sweet potato tubers they produce tend to be bitter.

To ensure you plant a tree adapted for our area, talk to local nursery people or the local extension service. …read more

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Schedule of area gardening events

Brazoria County Master Gardeners’ 10th Annual Fruit and Citrus Tree Sale: 8 a.m.-noon at the Brazoria County Fairgrounds, 901 S. Downing, Angleton; 979-854-1558, ext. 110,

Starting a Community or School Garden Workshop: sponsored by Urban Harvest. 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the University of St. Thomas, room 108, Hughes House, 3921 Yoakum Blvd.; 713-880-5540, $20.

Basic Fruit Tree Care & Planting: sponsored by Urban Harvest. 6-8 p.m. at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Moran Hall, 5555 Hermann Park Drive; 713-880-5540, $35 members, $45 nonmembers.

Basic Fruit Tree Care & Planting: sponsored by Urban Harvest. 10 a.m.-noon at Houston Museum of Natural Science, Moran Hall, 5555 Hermann Park Drive; 713-880-5540, $35 members, $45 nonmembers.

Houston Botanic Garden Master Plan: with Adriaan Geuze of West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture.

Nancy Stallworth Thomas Horticulture Lecture sponsored by the Garden Club of Houston. 10 a.m. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 717 Sage. …read more

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