Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

Category Archives: Garden Design

TX Bluebonnet wildflower ‘hell’ strip beauty

Remember that we removed 5 agaves along the street and replaced it with a wildflower seed mix? See it here: https://zilkergardens.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/plant-some-wildflowers-theres-still-time/

This year, it’s bluebonnet heaven. Take a look!


Participate in the Fall Hancock Native Plant Swap – Oct 24, 2015

A big reason to have the swap:
  • a mass quantity of Tropical milkweed seeds donated
  • this morning picking up a large quantity of native Antelope Horn milkweed seeds
The gardeners who attend the swap are the best way to distribute and successfully grow these seeds far and wide.
Location: Mother’s Cafe & Garden
Date: October 24th, time TBD (early).
If you’ve never been, here’s how it works:
  • pot up and label some transplants, cuttings, or bring seeds
  • set them in the appropriate area: Sun, Shade, Part Sun/Shade, or Water
  • look around for plants that you would like or ask one of the experts (they will wear badges)
  • Take as many home as you brought
Many people just hang out the whole time talking about plants, helping others id mystery plants, and generally enjoying their coffee, free doughnut holes, and all things gardening.  Master Gardeners and NWF Habitat Stewards will also be there to assist with plant identification.
Our mission is to make all yards in our neighborhoods more beautiful and easier to maintain, while consuming less water…for free!  
Now more than ever, we need to reproduce the plants that do well in our hot Texas summers.  Bring the plants that did well this summer so our yards will have less of the “California Golden” color next summer.
Do you have zero plants? Come anyway, we’ll send you home with some.

TWO Habitat Talks on garden prep, design, & planning – Free 1/10/15

JANUARY 10 (2 Sessions)

(9:30-11am) Winter Garden Maintenance and Prepping the Garden for Spring
Learn how to assess shrubs and small trees for health and beauty and learn how to trim overgrown areas (and what to trim) as necessary to make way for spring blooms.
Instructor: Cathy Nordstrom, Sans Souci Gardens

(1-4pm) Design and Planning for a Successful Habitat Garden
Learn the basic elements of site assessment and how to transform a traditional “lawn-scape” into a haven for wildlife. If you have one, please bring a copy of the survey of your property to class.
Instructor: Marya Fowler, National Wildlife Federation

“Habitat Talks” happen at Discovery Hill Outdoor Learning Center located at the Science and Health Resource Center in Austin ISD. Discovery Hill is a National Wildlife Federation premier demonstration habitat that NWF funded and implemented in AISD in 2013.

For more information about the sequence of talks in 2014-2015, go to http://www.nwf.org/South-Central-Region/temp_event_AUS_HabitatTalks.aspx

Agave Flower – Preservation

Agave plant with shootOur last agave along the street, shot up its flower this summer. Early on, my husband and I were betting on how tall it would get. It seemed to be growing a foot every few days. Luckily, it grew up straight and tall and did not grow that high – only about 8-10 feet high. As it neared the end of its life, the flowers spent, I wanted to do something so I could save the agave flower stalk. I googled around and found very, very few ideas. The Master Gardener in Arizona suggested cutting it off and putting it in your garden surrounded by rocks so it could serve as a home for bees. Mr. Smarty Plants from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center also entertained some similar questions. Mr. Plants indicated that you wouldn’t want to cut the stalk while it is blooming because the whole plant would die all the sooner, and you’d be removing the longevity of the flowers which are food for all sorts of insects. Well, I waited until my agave stalk had flowered and the whole plant was decaying in on itself. I thought burying the cut stalk in the garden Agave stalk cut(surrounded by rocks) could be a cool idea. But we felt we’d need a pretty deep hole. These agave stalks are HEAVY. Instead I decided to cut it and put it in a vase of sorts with rocks. This proved to be somewhat difficult to find the right container. But ultimately I bought a clear glass, large vase from Michael’s (on sale for $15). We cut the stalk off, put it in the jar on a bed of moss (also purchased at Michael’s) and carefully dropped rocks in all around the stalk. We had the rocks extra from other landscaping projects. I chose to put it on our upper balcony. Here’s what it looks like:

Agave PreservedRock containeragave containerThe gardenerRemoving the agave took some heft, but it wasn’t too bad since it was dead.

I planted a Mexican Red Bud tree in its place.

Mexican Red Bud Tree


Fall Native Plant Sale at Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center – this weekend

Choose from nearly 300 species of hardy Texas native plants that thrive in our Central Texas climate, provide habitat for wildlife and can help make your garden look like Texas.


Friday, October 10, 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.

11:30 a.m.: Presentation by renowned Texas architect Ted Flato about his book “Lake-Flato Houses: Embracing the Landscape.” A signing will follow in the store until 2:00 p.m. Reserve your copy in advance by calling 512.232.0130.

11 a.m. – 3 p.m.: Travis County Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions.

Become a member today to take advantage of the Members-Only Sale!


Saturday, October 11, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

All Day: Make Ecopots in the Courtyard.

11 a.m. – Noon: Drought-tolerant plants garden tour with Jackie O’Keefe, NPSOT.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Book signing for “On the Road with Texas Highways” with J. Griffis Smith.

Noon: Presentation by James Truchard, author of “Memories from a Hill Country Garden.” Signing follows until 2 p.m.

Noon – 4 p.m.: Texas Yaupon Tea sampling in the store with Maridel Martinez.

1 – 2 p.m.: Hill Country Ecology garden tour with the center’s Michelle Bertelsen.

2 – 3 p.m.: Deer-resistant plants garden tour with Patricia McGee, Capital Area Master Naturalists.

Sunday, October 12, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

All Day: Make Ecopots in the Courtyard.

11 a.m. – Noon: Hill Country Ecology garden tour with Michelle Bertelsen.

Noon – 4 p.m.: Yaupon tea sampling with Maridel Martinez.

1 – 2 p.m.: Drought-tolerant plants garden tour with Jackie O’Keefe, NPSOT.

1 – 3 p.m.: Learn about seedballs from David Werth and Jolyn Piercy.

1 – 4 p.m.: Thomas Koschmieder in the store signs his “Common Tree & Shrub Leaves of Central Texas” guide.

The Fall Garden in Texas

There’s been a lot of action in my garden lately. I’ve seen hummingbirds visiting the firebush. A squirrel(s) has been eating the flowers of my tall rosinweed, must the dismay of my dog! The birds have been bathing in the bath (and drinking). I caught a squirrel there the other evening, too, getting a quick drink. The bees and bumblebees are hard at work dawn through dusk. They seem to love my native poinsettia (despite it not seeming to have flowers), the salvia, the globe mallow, and others. Butterflies have also been flitting around. I caught a few of a Gray Hairstreak in the pictures below.

Lest you think the fall garden is moving towards “winter” and the plants dying back. Yes that will happen some. But the wildflowers have already started to grow. See a picture of a bluebonnet below. These wildflowers will start to grown now, but barely make it a few inches above the ground. They will spend the winter growing DOWN into the soil, their roots going quite deep. Then in the spring, they’ll start growing UP. So lest you think a mulched area has nothing there, take a closer look;  you might see some wildflowers.

Picture of Grandma's Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Grandma’s Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Picture of Grandma's Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Grandma’s Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Texas Bluebonnet, budding

Texas Bluebonnet, budding

Texas Hibiscus, blooming

Texas Hibiscus, flower blooms for one day



View of one side of the garden

View of one side of the garden

Salvia in bloom, abuzz with bees

Salvia in bloom, abuzz with bees

Salvia, with Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Salvia, with Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Gardening for Birds and Butterflies – mid-day Classes

Mark Klym is offering a course of  8 classes on Gardening for Birds and Butterflies​, beginning Sept. 16.  They will be from 1:30 to 3:30 P.M. Tuesdays at Christ Lutheran Church at 300 Monroe Street East, Austin, TX 78704, USA in south central Austin, 78704.  The fee for the whole course is only $20, through Lifetime Learning Institute of Austin.  There are still some places available.  For more information and the registration form, see www.lliaustin.org
Mark is coordinator of the Texas Hummingbird Roundup and Texas Wildscapes programs at Texas Parks and Wildlife.  He is coauthor of Hummingbirds of Texas by Texas A&M Press and is an excellent instructor.​
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