|The mission of the Montgomery County Master Gardener Association is to educate the community through fellowship and demonstration using research-based gardening information.|
Plant of the Month
Evening Primrose, Showy Evening Primrose
Pink Evening Primrose (aka Buttercup) is one of our beautiful native Texas wildflowers. It is a perennial, with light to medium pink cupped flowers. Often the blooms look white to pale pink and once opened turn a darker pink. The name Buttercup comes from the powdery, yellow pollen inside of the opened flower. The seed capsules are attractive to birds, especially finches. According to the Xerces Society, (xerces.org), Evening Primrose are of special value to native bees.
If you have an open area and want a showy, early spring field of pink, the Evening Primrose is for you. It grows upright to 1-1/2 ft. tall and spreads easily to form colonies to form a nice groundcover. This showy species makes a beautiful statement,so give it plenty of room.
As the name suggests, the flowers usually open in the evening then are closed in the morning. In southern ranges of their growing area, Primrose may open and close differently. The flowers release a scent at dusk. It is a hardy, drought tolerant and deer resistant plant, which makes it especially attractive. It will die back or go dormant in extremely dry conditions but may bloom again after substantial rain in the summer months, if we have any! Evening Primrose has a long blooming period, anywhere from February through June, depending upon the weather, of course.
Evening Primrose can be grown from seed, along with other Texas wildflowers and should be sewn in late summer or fall. It will grow in just about any type of soil; however, probably the best location is a large, meadow-type area with no additional cultivation. Including this showy pink species in your garden will only add to the growing effort to support our pollinators.
You may recall seeing Evening Primrose growing along the highway or in ditches around our area, but now you know this lovely native wildflower will grow in your garden too.
Flip the calendar page and leap into February, thankful for an extra day to finish winter gardening chores and prepare for Spring.
Pruning is essential to train plants, control growth, create more eye appeal and increase production. And February is an excellent time to prune most plants before spring growth begins.
Make sure your tools are sharp and sterile, to avoid introducing plant disease from another location into your environment. If you are new to gardening and not sure exactly how to tackle pruning, check out these helpful tips:
With 2020 off to a warmer and dryer start in Montgomery County, don’t delay in completing dormant season pruning of trees and shrubs like vitex, oleander, rose of Sharon, gardenia and hydrangea. The same is true for ferns, ground covers, vines and small shrubs like autumn sage, mistflower, and lantana. Wait to prune azaleas, bridal wreath, and other spring-blooming plants till after bloom cycle is complete.
February is a great time for maintenance pruning on older multi-stemmed shrubs that are showing signs of decline. Remove as much as 20% of the oldest stems where they emerge from the ground to encourage new growth.
Let’s not forget to show true love for roses as well. Grandmother’s advice to complete rose pruning by Valentine’s Day is still sound as long as your roses are varieties that repeat bloom through the season. Know what variety of rose you have – as climbers, miniatures, floribundas, grandifloras, hybrid teas and shrub roses have different pruning requirements. If you’re not sure what variety you have, the American Rose Society website may be a good place to start https://www.rose.org/single-post/2018/06/11/Rose-Classifications.
Last, but certainly not least, this is the best time to plant and prune fruit trees. Training young trees for proper growth and maintaining older trees dramatically improves production. A great fruit tree reference site is https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fruit-nut/. Just click on the fruit tree you have and find everything you need to know about that variety.
You may want to visit the MCMGA’s demonstration orchard at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension at 9020 Airport Road in Conroe to compare pruning techniques.
Keep your new year’s resolution to eat more vegetables and plant a final crop of cold-loving root crops beets, carrots, radish, turnips and leafy greens. Check out this vegetable planting guide by entering your zip code: https://garden.org/apps/calendar
Critter of the Month
The Robin’s cheery chirp is one of the first one you hear just before dawn. Often described as cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up, it brings a smile to your face knowing that all is well, and Spring is just around the corner.
The American Robin belongs to the North American Thrush family and is a fairly large bird measuring about 10 inches with a gray, almost black upper body color and reddish-brown breast. Besides, being a beautiful bird, it is also the state bird of Michigan, Wisconsin and Connecticut.
Although, a common bird in the North-East in Texas they are most often found in the Pineywoods, Post Oak Savannah, and Panhandle where they live year-round. In winter, those that live up North migrate to warmer regions in Texas and Mexico. Robins can live in colder regions as long as there is enough food to sustain them during the cold winter months. They feed on insects and berries (omnivorous), and you may well have seen a picture of a Robin pulling an earthworm out of a lawn in spring and summer. In Winter, when earthworms and snails are hiding in the ground and other invertebrates are scarce, they feed on berries, such as, chokecherries, hawthorn berries, dogwood berries, sumac and juniper berries.
If you see a flock of Robins in your area it is probably because they have found a food source that will sustain them during winter. They will even eat apple slices, raisins, blueberries and strawberries. They don’t do birdseed so you will not see them at your bird feeder. Instead, by providing an environment with lots of earthworms, snails, berries and mealworms, which are easily obtained at pet stores you can attract these lovely birds to your backyard. They love bird baths.
In Spring they will search for a place to nest. The selection of the nest site is the responsibility of the female where they will build their nest on a strong branch. The nest is usually made of grass stems, twigs, and mud.
The American Robin may be ubiquitous in North America but it is a lovely bird and worth attracting to your backyard.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com
Step Into Our Gardens….
By Pat Sheridan, Master Gardener
A garden organized around a unifying theme is a theme garden. Ideas for theme gardens are limitless. There are Japanese gardens, butterfly gardens, rose gardens, and vegetable gardens, to name just a few. Here at the AgriLife Extension, we have several examples of theme gardens: the children’s discovery garden, the square foot garden, the fairy garden, and the culinary herb garden, and more.
Checkout the Shakespeare Garden…
Within the Herb Area lies the Shakespeare Garden:
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows…” A Midsummer Night’s Dream
“Rosemary, that’s for remembrance…” Ophelia
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…” Romeo and Juliet
Did you know that herbs and other plants were frequently mentioned in the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare? It seems that he was very knowledgeable of the characteristics and uses of many plants. In his day (the 1600s), plants had symbolic significance. Every mention is thought to be important to the story. His writings speak about more than 30 different herbs and flowers and the settings were sometimes in gardens.
Our Shakespeare garden features bronze fennel, creeping thyme, chamomile, yarrow, rosemary, bay laurel, tansy, rue, the red rose, but plants may vary with the season and weather conditions. We even have a bust of old Will himself to watch over the plants in his garden.
Some well- known public gardens in America that contain areas dedicated to Shakespeare are located in Central Park in New York City, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and on the Folger Shakespeare Library grounds, Washington, D.C. Closer to home, Festival Hill and Mercer Botanical Gardens are worth a visit.