Click here to view and download January 2020 Plant List
|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
Bearberry, Deciduous Holly, Winterberry
Possumhaw Holly is a native deciduous, medium-sized shrub that can be trained into a small, multi-trunked tree. With striking red berries present all winter, the Possumhaw holly brings beauty to what might otherwise be a bland winter landscape. Those bright red berries are also a great winter food source for birds. Also known as winterberry, for obvious reasons, Possumhaw holly does well with very little care or maintenance, although you might want to prune it a bit, to shape it.
Plant in full sun or light shade, and water sparingly once established. Getting only 15 to 20 feet tall and branching to almost as wide at maturity, Possumhaw holly tends to have a twiggy growth habit that some may not find attractive. But if you have an area that you tend to leave a bit on the natural, even wild side, this shrub will look right at home. It is a deciduous tree, so the twiggy growth during the winter means no leaves. You might be wondering how this is different from Yaupon holly, well leaves are one big difference. Yaupons are evergreen. The leaves are also different – Possomhaw has a pointed leaf, while Yaupon is more rounded and oval shaped.
Possomhaw is the widest ranging of all Texas hollies and can adapt to a wide range of soil conditions. It can be grown in shade, but it fruits best in partial shade to full sun. Females need a male pollinator for good fruit set.
Plant Habit or Use: large shrub small tree
Exposure: sun partial sun
Flower Color: yellow-green, not ornamental
Blooming Period: spring
Fruit Characteristics: on female plants, outstanding red, orange, yellow-orange, or pale yellow, effective throughout fall and winter
Height: 8 to 12 ft., can occasionally reach 20′
Width: 6 to 10 ft.
Plant Character: deciduous
Heat Tolerance: very high
Water Requirements: medium
Soil Requirements: adaptable
January is the time to look through seed catalogs and online sites to order seeds for the spring garden. Seeds will be slow to sprout in the cold of winter, so you may want to start them indoors. Cool season crops include all the lettuces and greens, as well as root crops.
Mid-January: order seeds and supplies, if you are going to start your warm-season vegetables indoors under lights. You can start most vegetables indoors to transplant to the garden except for root crops, which generally do not like to be transplanted. Wait until February to plant these.
Plant vegetables from transplants like broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, collards, and lettuce.
Plant seeds for lettuce, radish, and carrots. Begin seeding spring tomatoes inside.
Plant rosebushes in prepared soil where they receive 6-8 full hours of sun every day. Prune rosebushes in February.
Plant fruiting plants and trees, such as blueberries and black berries, Peach, Plum and Pear trees, as January is a good time to get them established.
The ground doesn’t freeze in many parts of Texas, and numerous things can be planted at this time of year. At the top of the list are fruit trees and vines. These plants are dug by growers while they are dormant and shipped bare-root. The quicker you make your selection and get them in the ground, the faster they will establish a root system, which means better growth in the spring and summer. Don’t let them dry out! Roses and other dormant, deciduous flowering plants are also available this month. You can also be preparing the soil now for new flower, rose or shrub beds by mixing in plenty of organic material like compost and fertilizer. This way the soil is ready for immediate planting when the plants arrive.
Start seeds indoors now for planting in late winter and early spring: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, parsley, petunias and begonias. Tomato, pepper and eggplant seed should be started in late January for transplanting in March.
Be sure to mark your calendars for the MCMGA January Fruit and Nut Tree Sale on January 25, 2020. The pre-sale presentation starts at 8:00 am and the sale is from 9:00 am until 12:00 noon.
The sale location is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension at 9020 Airport Road in Conroe, Tx. More details on this website (www.mcmga.com) .
Critter of the Month
Texas Native Bees
Where are the bees in winter?
Of the 20,000 species in the world, approximately 900 are native to Texas. Of those 900 species you are probably most familiar with several species buzzing around in your garden – Bumblebees, Carpenter bees, Squash bees, Leafcutter bees, Mason bees, and oh yes, Sweat bees to name a few.
Many of these bee species share common social and nesting habits. They are either solitary or social, although some may be called semi-social, and ground nesting or cavity or wood nesting. Most of our Texas native bees, except for the bumblebee, are solitary bees that do not defend their nest sites. They can be further divided into generalists and specialists. Generalist bees, like the bumblebee, shake their abdomen to obtain pollen from flowers. Specialists, like the squash bee, get their pollen from a narrow group of plants – cucumber, squash and zucchini. Bees use their antennas to smell colorful and aromatic flowers.
Native bees are among the best pollinators for our crops. Not only do they collect pollen to feed their offspring, they transfer pollen from flower to flower and are critical in maintaining our native ecosystems.
When, what we call winter, finally arrives it is very tempting to clear the beds and paths from all the fallen leaves and dead plants. Hibernating Bumblebee queens look for piles of leaves and mulch to burrow into the soil with the extra protection of the leaves. Since approximately 70% of bee species nest in the ground, leaving some shelter for bees and other beneficial insects will greatly help their chances of overwintering and be ready for your pollinator garden in spring.
Most native bees will hibernate through winter. Leaving the leaves and other litter or debris is essential for hibernating bumble bees.
For more information on how you can help bees and other pollinators, visit this link:
For additional information about native Texas bees, go here: https://npsot.org/wp/story/2012/2422/
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.