Sleuth Solutions

Spring Planning leads to Garden Goodness

The Garden Sleuth shows you how to create beautiful Spilled Pot Gardens.

Learn about creating your own water feature.

The Garden Sleuth shares ideas for creating your own wheelbarrow planter.

BONUS - December Plants of the Month

Yuletide Camellia

yuletide cammellia 2The end of the year is filled with celebration but there is little to celebrate out in the garden.  Plants are either dormant or dead.  Very little is going on in the garden; however, the Yuletide Camellia is the one bright spot.

Additional information about Yuletide Camellia:

This is a wonderful evergreen plant that makes a great hedge or specimen tree. It is also low maintenance.  But the most rewarding thing about this plant is that when everything outside is cold and dismal, Yuletide Camellia's bright red blooms will bring great color to your garden and will always lift your spirit and brighten your day!

Santa Clause Dahlia

Santa Clause DahliaChristmas in July?  Yes,  it's possible with this spectacular Santa Claus Dahlia! The enormous and colorful blooms are show stoppers that will demand attention in any garden.

Additional information about the Santa Clause Dahlia:

Santa Clause Dahlias are a fun and interesting plant to add to your garden.  However, they do not just grow anywhere, so check with your local garden centers for the best results.  If they do not grow in your area, then try them in a container.  What a great way to celebrate Christmas in July!

Lanai Candy Cane Verbena

candy cane verbenaLanai Candy Cane Verbena is new as of 2013. This Verbena brings fun, candy striped color to your garden.  And if you think it looks good enough to eat, then you're in luck as the blossoms are edible.

More information about Candy Cane Verbena:

For an easy, fun to grow annual with very showy flowers try the new Lanai Candy Cane Verbena in your garden.  Remember, if you wish to use in a yummy summer salad the blooms are edible.

winterizing_CUWinter is fast approaching and we all think about wrapping pipes, protecting potted plants, and of course our pets.  However most people don’t realize that landscapes need to be protected as well. Proper winterizing of your landscape will help plants survive the gray cold days ahead, and be better prepared for the “spring rush”.  There are several ways to protect your landscape for the winter ahead.

Most areas in the United States have four seasons and fall allows plant the time to prepare for winter, whereas here in the south we have basically summer and winter.  When you live in an area that has four seasons, plants have the opportunity to “harden off”.  This process is when plants began to prepare themselves for the colder weather, very much like animals prepare for the colder months.  Plants know winter is coming because the nights began to cool down and daylight becomes less.  Gradually they began to “winterize” themselves. In the south it may be 85 degrees one day and freezing the next.  Plants have not had the time to prepare for the cold and so they are susceptible to freeze damage.

The best way to protect your plants from freeze damage is to water, water, water.  I know this goes against what most people think to do, because we associate water with winter_landscapeice and ice means damage. But the opposite is true.  If you water 12 to 24 hours before a hard freeze the roots absorb the water and release it as heat to protect their own root system. It’s a long scientific explanation, I won’t bore you with the details, but it works. So if we don’t get any rain ahead of a freeze, then go ahead and water thoroughly and help protect your landscape from freeze damage.  This one simple step will save you from having to replace plants in the spring which is very costly and will keep your landscape healthy for next season.

ChristmasTreeA few years ago,  I broke down and bought an artificial Christmas tree.  For years I fought the temptation of buying one, because I loved the process of buying the perfect tree and bringing it home to decorate.  As soon as Thanksgiving was over I was looking for my tree.  I’m one of those who loves Christmas and if I go to all the trouble to decorate everything, I want to enjoy the season for as long as possible. After going out to buy a real fragrant Christmas tree, I decided to check out the artificial trees one more time.  I finally found one I really liked, so I decided to go ahead and get it.  I have enjoyed the ease of it much these last few years, but the one thing I miss the most, is the wonderful smell you get from a live Christmas tree. I have bought the Spruce air sprays and Fir fragrant hangers and they help, but it’s just not the same.  Last year as I was buying some fresh garland I noticed a pile of Christmas tree branches in a pile that ChristmasDecorationshad been removed from trees. I asked the sales person what they were going to do with the branches and was told they sell them.  I bought several branches from several different types of trees.  When I got home I cut them into 10” pieces and added them to my Christmas tree. Now this helped bring some of the Christmas tree fragrance I had been missing back into my home.

I then began to think about all the ways I could incorporate fresh greenery into my artificial decorations and so I added live branches to the artificial greenery on my mantel and it blended in so well that it's hard to tell whats real and what's not except that the wonderful smell of Christmas permeates my home.

HollyThere are several standard landscape shrubs that also work great in holiday arrangements this time of year.  The first is Holly. Now there are several varieties of Holly out there, so I think the best ones have big shiny green leaves along with red berries.  Some varieties of Holly shrubs with berries are Dwarf Burford Holly, Dazzler Holly and Berries Jubilee. NandinaThen there are tree varieties like the Yaupon Holly tree, Nellie R. Stevens Holly and Savannah Holly that also will have red berries. So if you want the Holly look, think about varieties with berries, not only are they fun to use at Christmas but they provide good color in your landscape when most plants are dormant.  There are a few other shrubs that have red berries during the winter months and they are Nandina and Pyracantha.  Although less conventional they would still add great color to any Christmas arrangement.

winterizing_CUA few other plants that are used for greenery in Christmas arrangements are Boxwood, Cedars, and Junipers, And if you have a Magnolia tree, they are used in garland and wreaths.  So look around your yard and see if you can’t add a little "real" to your artificial Christmas.


Yaupon Holly

Ilex vomitoria

YauponHolly_WSYaupon Holly makes a great specimen tree.  And if your not sure what a specimen tree is, it's a tree that will grow about 20’-25' tall. Specimen trees are also referred to as ornamental trees.  Crape Myrtle, Rose of Sharon, Vitex and Lilac trees are some of the more popular ornamental or specimen trees used in landscapes. Ornamental trees are used to draw attention to a certain area or highlight an architectural features.  But they are most commonly used to add height to certain areas in the landscape like corners of a home.

There are two good reasons to use Yaupon Holly tree in your landscape and they are…

First reason is that it is native to most of the south-eastern part of the United States.  It is very adaptable to most landscape conditions.  It does well in the Houston area where soils are more acidic and it rains. It does equally well in the Austin/Hill Country where soils are more alkaline and drought is an ongoing condition.

The second reason I love this tree is for winter color.  The berries are bright red, spectacular and a much needed source of color when all else is dormant in the winter months. I love to cut several branches At Christmas time to add to my wreaths or any Christmas arrangements and the berries will last the entire Christmas season. The berries also attract wildlife and provide food for some of the birds.

yaupon_featuredFemale varieties are the only trees that will produce berries so make sure you are getting a female tree.  I think it is best to buy in the spring when you can see the blooms of the small white flowers or in the winter when you can see the berries on the trees.

Yaupon Holly is an evergreen tree with small shiny green leaves without the typical spines that most Holly trees have. If left natural it will look more like a large shrub but most are trained into a multi-trunk trees.  They can get rather wide at about 10’-15’ across, so if you use them close to your home make sure you leave plenty of space for them to grow, however, they are easy to keep trimmed.

They will grow in sun or shade and look good in gardens that are formal or natural. There are many shrubs that are compatible with the Yaupon Holly so don't be afraid to add the very hardy ornamental tree to your landscape design and enjoy the benefits of a Yaupon Holly year around.