Celebrating Texas Trees

March is a good time to notice Live Oaks! These are the most common shade trees in Austin. If you’re not from Texas you may be alarmed to see our native Live Oaks, Quercus virginiana var. fusiformis, dropping their leaves in March. Don’t worry! Live Oaks are semi- evergreen, so they keep their leaves all winter. They drop their leaves in March and grow them back right away. My friend who grew up in San Antonio told me that he remembers raking up leaves from the two Live Oaks in their front yard during every spring break. Their semi-evergreen nature inspired their common name- they are ‘live’ when other trees are bare. Huge, long-lived and sprawling, these trees are icons of Texas’ history. 
 
Monterrey Oak, Quercus polymorpha is another favorite well-adapted shade tree and is also semi-evergreen. It looses its leaves more gradually.  It seems like they drop one leaf everyday during the winter until they are bare in the spring. Their leaves grow back right away too. Fast-growing, drought tolerant and reliable, this native of Northern Mexico and South Texas is a new favorite among Austinites. It’s narrow, lolipop shape makes it great for small yards. 
 
Another common shade tree that is perfect for urban yards is our native Cedar Elm, Ulmus crassifolia. It has a tall, thin shape to fit into narrow spots. Its leaves turn bright yellow in the fall before they drop. Young Cedar Elms have weird, corky growths on the stems that are called ‘wings’. The wings make the young trees look like ugly ducklings at the nursery but I promise that little weird tree will turn into a beautiful swan when it grows up. 
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Check out “The 20-30 Something Garden Guide” by Dee Nash

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I am excited to tell you about this new book by Dee Nash, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff. During a phone conversation Dee told me a few months back that she is concerned that younger people are losing the opportunity to glean the gardening knowledge from elder generations. That concern was the inspiration for her new book. I am honored to be included in the chapter about community gardening because of my experience as manager at Sunfield Community Garden.

I was happy to help Dee because I see people my age and younger struggle as new homeowners and new community members. When it comes to gardening and other home-making skills, young people often don’t even know what questions to ask before embarking on an oft-bumpy voyage of discovery. Having a book like Dee’s goes a long way to empower people who are just starting out. The book’s introduction is particularly personal, encouraging and compelling.

A few years ago I taught a basic organic vegetable gardening class with my friend at her home garden. I was very surprised and delighted to see that all of the class attendees were 20 and 30 somethings. Many of them were new mothers and teachers who wanted to learn to garden while exposing children to the sources of our food. Clearly there is demand for this kind of knowledge and Dee’s book fills that niche.

I was also excited to see that she interviewed gardeners from Sunshine Community Garden where I used to have a plot about 10 years ago- still one of my favorite places. I try to get over to Sunshine during the first Saturday in March every year for their annual plant sale. They carry plants that are hard to find elsewhere and I always bump into old friends!

I learned to garden at a young age from my parents who both had vegetable gardens and lovely yards. Terms like ‘annual’ and ‘compost’ were a part of my childhood. Dee does a great job with defining gardening terms for new gardeners in her book’s glossary. Many garden books skip this important section for beginners.

Dee advises gardeners to start small with container gardening, which is a great idea. As with community gardening, starting small in a container is a good way to find out if you like gardening to begin with before you invest tons of time and money in gardening stuff. I just gave the same advice to a self-proclaimed “brown thumb” friend recently. As Dee puts it, “No one is born with a brown thumb”. Gardening teaches us that trying something new is important, and passing time doing something you enjoy is more important than achieving a final goal.

If you are new to gardening and live in Central Texas, I offer consultation services to help. Visit www.redwheelbarrowplants.com or call 512-217-6955 to learn more and set up an appointment.

Be sure to follow Dee’s blogs, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide and Red Dirt Ramblings.

As part of the book launch cyber-party I am having a giveaway. Leave a comment on what your biggest gardening challenge was and how you overcame it. If you comment you will be entered to win one of two fabulous prizes:

PRIZE 1- Garden Girl USA gardening shorts
Garden Girl USA’s Gardening Shorts are cool, comfortable and loaded with practical features including Garden Girl’s signature Wonderfit side stretch panels, generous fit for easy movement and multiple deep reinforced pockets. Garden Girl apparel is designed by women for women. The result is smart design: for example the leg length of GG shorts can be adjusted shorter or longer via smart fold-up-or-down cuffs with a button tab. Available for suggested retail price of $69.99 at www.gardengirlusa.com and select retailers.

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PRIZE 2-Fiskars PowerGear 18” Loppers,  They are worth $26.99.  Dee says, “I like them because they are great for getting in close when you’re trimming roses and other thorny problems”.
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One note, the contest is only open to U.S. residents.

To celebrate Dee’s book we are having a cyber-party with other bloggers that Dee knows, so take a gander at their blogs too. They are really cool. They are all having prize giveaways as well.

Shawna Coronado website — gift certificate to High Country Gardens for a Summer Dreams Garden.

Whitney Curtis at the Curtis Casa — David Austin Rose, ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ and Authentic Haven Brand Moo Poo Tea.

Robin Haglund at Garden Mentors — Buckaroo Worm Castings, a hula planter and Empire Soil Builder, from Sanctuary Soil.

Rachel Hough at The Domestic Artiste —Fiskars Tools, two sets of loppers, one is the PowerGear Lopper 32” and the other Power-Lever 28”.

Niki Jabbour at Niki Jabbour, The Year Round Veggie Gardener.

Carmen Johnston at Carmen Johnston Gardens — Garden Girl pants with knee pads and a David Austin rose, ‘The Alnwick Rose’ catalog link for ordering bare root roses.

Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens —DeWit Tool kit and Botanical Interests Organic Heirloom Seed Bank Collection. 

Pam Penick at Digging — Three small Bee Preservers, www.glassgardensnw.com.

Jenny Peterson and J. Peterson Garden Design — SeedKeepers Deluxe seedkeeperand Burlap Girdle.

Genevieve Schmidt at North Coast Gardening — Annie’s Annuals gift certificate and Keira Watering Cans.

Marie Wreath at the (Not Always) Lazy W Ranch — Longfield Gardens tulips & daffs