Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Must-Have Plants: Dianthus 'Fire Witch'

Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Fire Witch'

Must-have plants are among the best plants for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Fire Witch', a lovely clump forming plant, produces lots of showy magenta, carnation-like blooms spring through summer. Evergreen, blue-green linear foliage is attractive when the plant is not in bloom. Mature height is 7 inches, and grows 14 inches across.

Name(s): Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Fire Witch', 'Feuerhexe', Firewitch', Cheddar Pink, Border Pink

Flower Color: Magenta.

Bloom Time: Spring through summer

Foliage: Evergreen, blue-green, linear.

Height/Spread: 7 inches x 14 inches.

Climate Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Sun Exposure: Full sun.

Soil Condition: Average, well-drained to dry, pH 6.6 to 8.5

Features: Drought tolerant, salt tolerant, heat tolerant, cold tolerant, deer resistant, low maintenance, fragrant.

Uses: Xeriscaping, massed planting, ground cover, coastal gardens, butterfly gardens, fragrance gardens, perennial borders.

Comments: Dianthus prefers well-drained soil. Do not over-water. Dianthus is heat resistant and cold tolerant, deer resistant, drought tolerant, salt tolerant, and attracts butterflies.

Dianthus is recommended for for USDA climate zones 3 to 9. Space 14 inches to 16 inches apart.

Return to Dianthus at

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center

We were visiting the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. Behind a man at the front of the line of two - who wouldn't stop yammering to the desk attendant about Gov. Perry's policies, disparaging the South, how she could live a happier life if only she would move to the suburbs of Washington, DC and get a federal government job, thanking her for their - mostly his - conversation - I cleared my throat, stepped up to the desk, paid $3 dollars for a trail map, and asked the lady with the few words I could fit in edge-wise. "Ma’am, if we only have an hour or so to explore, what would you recommend?" She seemed relieved that I’d asked.

She also gave me a free handout, “A Brief History of the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center." It's well worth getting a copy. Contact the arboretum.

The attendant said "This is a true nature center." Were truer words ever spoken? She instructed that from the Nature Center, we should follow the Inner Loop clockwise to the North Meadow Trail, follow it to the Outer Loop, go north past the Willow Oak Pond, and turn west on the Willow Oak Trail to return to the Nature Center. Her recommendation was spot-on.

The climate of Houston, TX is very much like south Georgia, my home – sweltering and oppressive in summer. The heat and humidity motivated us to cut our visit short and get out of there as soon as possible. But walking fast generated more sweat. So we moseyed, more or less, as we generally do down South.

Houston Arboretum’s flora is also familiar. Most are native species. Except for some brush clearing, they grow in wild abandon. Perhaps this is what the attendant implied by “a true nature center.” I could say the same about a walk through the woods behind my house.

The Houston Arboretum boasts a few improvements which my woods can’t: a nature center with classrooms and displays, well-marked trails, broad paths, comfortable benches, easy access, and boardwalks over seasonally wet areas. It’s also encompasses more acreage.

Along the way from the Outer Loop to the Willow Oak Pond, I spied what appeared from a distance to be a flowering Crinum americanum, also known American crinum lily, Seven sisters, Swamp lily, Southern swamp lily, String lily. I wanted to get a closer look, but didn’t. It appeared one or two persons had ventured out to do so. I could see their trail, but I wasn’t going. The weeds were high and I was wearing shorts.

Other noted species along the way included Partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), American basket-flower (Centaurea americana), Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), Whitemouth dayflower (Commelina erecta), Turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), Pink Texas sage and Red Texas sage (Salvia greggii), Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccafolium), and Blue passionflower (Passiflora caerulea).

Meadow, Houston Arboretum
We did not explore all the trails in the Houston Arboretum, but were pleased with the beautiful meadow and Meadow Pond along the trail. They were certainly the highlights of our morning walk.

Meadow Pond with Centaurea americana and Eryngium yuccafolium

The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center presents many seasonal events for adults and children. Children's classes were being held in the visitor center the day we visited. They seemed well-attended. Houston residents should check them out. It's also a great place for walks, nature photography and bird watching.

There is no admission charge, but donations are encouraged. The Houston Arboretum is located at 4501 Woodway Drive.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Diggin' In: Landscapes Need Renovating Just Like Homes, By Kathy Van Mullekom

"Your landscape is very much like your home’s interior d├ęcor.

"It grows old, sometimes tattered and torn, and needs updating from time to time. Sometimes, plantings need to be completely torn out and totally replaced. Sometimes, old porches, patios and decks just don’t work any longer.

"Landscape design classes typically teach that a landscape lasts for 10-15 years before it needs at least a partial redo. Sometimes, it’s best to just start over from scratch and get the look you’ve always wanted and never achieved because there was never enough advance planning and an overall plan." Read more from RISMEDIA