Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

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

Category Archives: Shrubs

Native Plant Swap 5/3/14

Another great event is coming in about a month: PLANT SWAP! This is hosted up in the Hyde Park neighborhood but all are welcome. Start potting up some of your natives to exchange for others. See you there!

CONFIRMED DATE for 2014 Spring swap: Saturday, May 3rd
Location: Mother’s Cafe and Garden Parking Lot; 4215 Duval St, Austin, TX 78751
Time: Around dawn until 9:30am

Attached is a picture of a small sampling of plants that I have so far for the swap: Fall Aster, American Elderberry, Mexican Feathergrass, Skullcap, Cowpen Daisy, LOTS of milkweed to be given away to swap participants (will send pics of milkweed seedlings later).

Spread the word…the more people that know about it, the more great plants to choose from!
Hancock resident
NWF Habitat Steward
Picture of native plants in pots on rack

Natives potted up

Hummingbirds have arrived!

In a recent post on wildlife, I indicated we had only recently seen birds, bees, and butterflies. I was hoping to see hummingbirds.
Guess what? On Sunday evening while sitting on our upper deck, I spotted a hummingbird and he flitted around near the birdbath and then headed to the Firebush plant, which was planted with hummingbirds in mind. SUCCESS!

Firebush flowers year-long (unless it goes dormant due to cold weather here).

Firebush plant

Photographer: Cywinski, Rachel
City: Round Rock
County: Williamson
State: TX
Location Notes: Robb Lane
Filename: RC1_IMG0012.JPG
Slide Index: photos 2009 fall 2010 summer 1363.jpg
Restrictions: Unrestricted
Collection: Wildflower Center Digital Library
Original Format: Digital
Orientation: Landscape
Shot: Early fall flowers. Plant regrows from roots each year due to winter cold in this area.
Date Taken: 2010/10/06
NPIN Image Id: 28464

Soil Solarization … Update on the New Garden


In March, I wrote about solarizing a new planting bed in the front of my house. In that post, I described with pictures our process of scalping the lawn, watering the area, and covering it tightly with plastic (black or clear is fine; generally clear is better). I put the plastic down around mid-March and it lasted just fine through June. Occasionally a blade of grass might poke a hole through the plastic (didn’t know grass was that sharp!) but I would just readjust the plastic and put more rocks down on that area to cover the hole.

In June, I finally had time to tackle the bed. The first job was figuring out what I was going to plant. I had measured out the front yard and made a paper layout of the garden bed, to size, so I knew how many inches equaled a foot of space. I read up about native plants, pouring through resources I have, books, and checking against LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center’s native plant database. I considered the plants that were already planted in the front yard on the other side as I hoped to create some symmetry of color. I also wanted a little bit of height, but not as tall as a tree because this bed sits immediately in front of the front door of the house. I did not want to block the sight-line of the front door from the stree/sidewalk with a tree. The area is in full-sun, so I had to choose plants that could withstand the heat.

I came up with the following plan. The plan includes:

Front Garden Plan

  • Lamb’s Ear
  • Purple coneflower
  • Silver ponyfoot
  • Black-eyed susan
  • Gayfeather
  • Henri Duelburg Sage
  • Jerusalem Sage
  • Mexican Feathergrass
  • Firebush
  • Texas heartleaf hibiscus
  • Tall Rosinweed
  • Grandma’s Rose (yellow)
  • Martha Gonzales Rose (red)
  • Globemallow
  • Yarrow (white)

On my paper version, I take care to estimate out the plant’s mature size in order to give it enough room. Thus, when you plant initially, your planting bed might look a little spare. But don’t worry, plants seem to grow so fast here in Texas that your garden will soon be lush. I was going for a color scheme, from front to back, of white, red/orange, orange, yellow, purple, white, purple. It didn’t quite work out exactly like that but good enough. The yarrow introduces white at the front, then the globemallow (orange), red roses and hibiscus, and firebush have reds. The yellow comes from Grandma’s rose, Tall Rosinweed, black-eyed susans. Purples come from Jerusalem sage and Henri Duelburg sage, gayfeather, and purple coneflower. (Note: Gayfeather was not available at time of planting.)

Once I had my plan, I decided that this time I’d hire some strong people to dig out the dead grass for me. I killed myself the last time and my husband was not too keen on doing it either. What a good decision! It took 2 men about 2 hours to completely dig out the grass and turn the soil a bit.

Here’s what the area looked like when we removed the plastic and after the dead grass had been dug up.

Area underneath the plastic

Dead grass revealed after plastic removed (above)

    Area after dead grass dug up

After dead grass dug out (above)

After amendments

Soil amendments added (above)

After the hired guys dug through and rid the area of most grass, I went through and broke up big pieces of dirt and also checked for grass roots (they are so invasive!). We added a lot of compost, green sand, and corn gluten as I recall. We raked the amendments into the soil, catching more pieces of grass root. My husband installed edging along the grass side of the bed in order to reduce the invasion of grass, which is inevitable.

We had this work done on Saturday. After the bed was prepped, I went out and bought my plants and planned to plant on Sunday after the sprinklers had moistened up the soil.

Planting was super fun! I bought all 4″ pots if I could find them. The plants grow SO fast – there is no need to buy bigger plants unless you are impatient. The roses were a splurge and I did buy larger roses. Here are the pictures of the garden planted in mid-June.

Bed planted

Purple coneflowers and Lamb’s Ear (left, above)

Bed planted, front of bed near sidewalk

Front of bed. Mexican Feathergrass, Lamb’s Ear, Yarrow (left to right, front)

Globemallow (center); roses (right center)

Symmetry at last

Symmetry in the beds at last. Getting closer to my semi-formal garden.

The last task, of course, was to put mulch around all the plants and on the bed to reduce weeds and to retain moisture. Lucky for us, Home Depot had a great sale on mulch. I also designed in a small, dry creekbed. On the other side of the sidewalk (not in picture), a gutter downspout had typically dumped water onto the driveway which flowed to the street. I added a different endpiece and now the downspout dumps water onto the sidewalk that flows into the small creekbed within the planting area. Silver ponyfoot is planted at the right corner of the sidewalk/driveway near the creekbed.

Native Profile: Cenizo (Barometer Bush)

Picture of cenizoThe native of the week is cenizo (Leucophyllum candidum), which is a shrub. This plant has silvery leaves that are soft a little bit like Lamb’s Ear (non-native) but the leaves are much smaller and tougher. This plant can add silvery foliage to your yard which is a nice change from the normal green, and this plant is a perennial so you’ll have that color year-round. Cenizo as hedge

Cenizo likes almost any soil type including gravely areas or clay. It has low water requirements and can also tolerate part-shade. The coolest part of this shrub is a feature that underlies its name “barometer bush.” When we get heavy rains, the bush will push out purple flowers, thus showing an indication of the barometer. This shrub can provide nesting site and cover for birds and animals, and the flowers provide nectar for insects.

You can grow this plant into a hedge, as is depicted in one of the photos. Or, you can make it more a taller, rounder shrub amongst a collection of other plants.

Cenizo in bloom

Photographer: Wasowski, Sally and Andy

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