Gardening in El Lago

Trowels & Tribulations in a Suburban Garden - December Issue

By: Donna J. Ward, Certified Texas Master Gardener (Note: This is a reprint of Donna’s article that appears in the La Ventana del Lago.

This may not be the year we all want to join the crowd inside at the Mall, but have you considered heading to your favorite nursery - outside? Their advertisements contain one of our favorite words –”SALE.” Most plants are selling for 1/4th of their original price as nurseries don’t want the expense of over-wintering those unsold plants.

Recently I spotted some miserable looking chrysanthemums at a local nursery. They looked as though they might have had an altercation with an errant weed-wacker. Growers forced them into early bloom to entice the gardener looking for instant gratification. They’ll bloom again if you give them a bit of fertilizer, adequate water and lots of sun. You gotta admit, the price is tempting.

The potted amaryllis is gorgeous, but if you pot up a few bulbs, they make a great holiday gift for a friend, neighbor, employee and maybe yourself. After blooms are spent put them into the garden. A morning sun, afternoon shade site is best, and they will perform for you again next year.

Azaleas and camellias are bargains these days, and the timing is perfect to get them into your landscape. If you are putting in new specimens or moving older ones, remember that promoting root growth is the name of the game. They can’t accomplish this without adequate water. Our winters are usually mild, but we can’t second guess Mother Nature. If a freeze is forecast (it could happen) remove those protective covers the next morning unless of course Old Man Winter is still hanging around. Row cover weighs practically nothing but does provide protection from cold while still allowing light to penetrate.

Most evergreen shrubbery is sale priced too. If you want to gather berries for future holiday décor, plant some yaupon, Buford or Savannah hollies. Be sure and purchase female specimens if you want showy berries. Possomhaw holly is also a good berry producer. They are deciduous, so drop their leaves in November and December, but their arching branches are covered with orange, red and yellow berries much loved by the many species of song birds known to feed on their fruit. If you want to attract feathered friends to your garden, you can also entice them with wax-myrtle, beautyberry or elderberry in your landscape. Just don’t purchase more shrubbery than you can water and care for.

If you really want to be one of Santa’s helpers, you could make an effort to help an elderly or disabled relative, friend or neighbor. How about planting a tree or shrub for someone unable to do it for themselves – or pruning some small trees or shrubbery, or setting up a simple drip watering system, or cleaning out a flower bed, or removing plants killed by an occasional drought? Maybe you could secretly tuck some of those tulip bulbs you’ve refrigerated into their flower bed for a spring surprise. I’m sure there’s something you could do that would be appreciated by them and put you on Santa’s ‘Nice’ list. And remember you don’t have to go to the mall or hobby shop to buy holiday decorations for either your indoor or outdoor display. Branches of holly, ligustrum, yew, juniper, bay laurel and magnolia cut from your own yard will do nicely. Throw in some pine cones, a few red bows and you’re ready for the holidays. Well, almost – there’s still cookies to bake, last minute shopping, gifts to wrap, another trip to the post office……..Happy Humbug……….

Did you know that Trowels & Tribulations is published on the city site on the first of the month? Under Our Community you will find Trowels & Tribulations listed.

Savannah Holly Berries