JANUARY 2011    
This e-newsletter is focused on native plant and Wildflower Center news of national interest. It includes gardening information, news about native plant research initiatives and resources for native plant information and photography. Learn more about our e-newsletters.

In the Mix
New mixed border garden at the Wildflower Center to debut this spring

Who says native plants are only fit for a naturalistic or "wild" garden? What an outdated idea! Wildflower Center horticulturists are now creating the Mixed Border Garden, on display starting in March and the latest in a series of Center demonstration gardens targeting homeowners that feature native Texas plants in landscape styles that employ fine garden design.

These homeowner inspiration gardens include the naturalistic, formal and traditional gardens as well and are particularly helpful to Center visitors who reside in Central Texas and want to learn how native plants can help meet the challenges of shallow, rocky, alkaline soil; hot, dry summers; and city water rationing.

The Mixed Border Garden marries English style with Texas climate. Picture a Texas wisteria-laden arbor framing closely clipped shrubs contrasted with flowing grasses, native trees to define the space and a colorful perennial display that changes with the seasons.

The garden's designer and Center Director of Horticulture Andrea DeLong-Amaya says, "Texas flora are ideal for use in the traditional mixed border with their wonderfully contrasting colors, forms, textures, scents and bloom chronologies. For a whole mixed border to work as a unit, colors and shapes are repeated via trees, shrubs, grasses, vines and herbaceous species. For example, sheared dwarf yaupon hollies, sometimes coupled with tightly clipped cenizo, amble loosely along the length of the main axis pathway."

The Texas mixed border garden at the Wildflower Center was made possible by a grant of $15,000 from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust. It is an important tool in teaching the public how native plants can help meet environmental challenges without sacrificing aesthetics.

Right: Sketch of mixed border garden by its designer, Andrea DeLong-Amaya.

Fair Weather Friend
Wildflower Center educates plant-lovers with an eye on the weather

Gotten any good gardening tips from your weatherperson lately? You might have the Wildflower Center to thank. The Center partners with the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation to give weather broadcasters seasonally appropriate information to share with viewers and listeners as part of Earth Gauge®.

So far, through this program the Wildflower Center's botanists and horticulturists have educated the public about how to keep non-native poinsettias healthy, prepare a garden for spring and protect plants with mulch.
Earth Gauge provides broadcast meteorologists with training and resources to communicate environmental and climate information to their viewers.

All that Talk
Wildflower Center teaches tree-lovers how to plant and care for them at winter celebration

Next week the Center will turn its attention to trees with the annual Tree Talk Winter Walk event. This signature winter celebration recognizes the important role trees play in the landscape and educates homeowners about how to care for them.

For example, did you know that in regions with warm climates and winter rain, January and February can be the best months for planting trees because there is less chance that they will dry out? Work is underway at the Wildflower Center's Texas Arboretum that will open during spring 2012. The Center's senior botanist Dr. Damon Waitt oversees that project and offers these tips to homeowners who want to plant a tree this winter:

• Trees can provide shade to the south and west sides of your home where there is the most sun exposure. "Where there are cold winters, plant deciduous trees in these locations to provide shade in summer and allow the sun to warm the house in winter," Dr. Waitt says.

• Evergreens block winds on a house's north side.

• Take care to plant a tree an appropriate distance from your home's foundation and from power lines and underground sewer lines.

Learn how to take care in planting your trees near utility lines.

Learn to prune your trees.

Some Plants Like it Hot
New online collection educates Florida gardeners

Florida gardeners are in luck thanks to an updated collection of recommended native plants by region of the state at www.wildflower.org/collections. The Wildflower Center collaborated with the Association of Florida Native Nurseries to recommend native plants appropriate for Florida gardens. Gardening near South Beach? You'll find information about coralbean (Erythrina herbacea) and other plants. In the Panhandle? We'll pass along information about plants like fringed bluestar (Amsonia ciliata). The special collections database at www.wildflower.org recommends commercially available native plants in all 50 states.

Right: Coralbean is a hardy shrub that is native to southern states from Arkansas to Florida. Photo by Julia Sanders.

Get Smart About Plants
This question and answer appeared at the Mr. Smarty Plants feature of www.wildflower.org, the Center's website.

Question: I have a Horsetail plant. It was doing great but now it's not growing straight! It's falling over. Why?

Answer: There are nine varieties of Equisetum or Horsetail plant in our database. Let's use the species Equisetum hyemale as our example.

Equisetum hyemale (Common horsetail)

In the wild this plant would grow vertically until the height of the plant reached the weight it could support. These hollow cylinders are going to tip over at a certain point.  If protected from the wind, common horsetail can become quite tall. So your plant may have reached its maximum height. However, the reason it is falling over is two-fold.

Horsetail reproduces a couple of ways. In the ground, through its rhizomes or by rooting at the joint or node of each stalk. In order to do this, it has to fold down and touch either water or ground.

In fact when you are trying to propagate new horsetail, the easiest way to do this is to break off a sprig of the reed-like plant, make sure that the sprig has multiple sections and lay it on top of some water. New shoots would then pop up from each node along that sprig. This is how it naturally spreads in ponds, creeks and springs.

Equisetum is an interesting plant that is a little bit like a fern. The reed is hollow and jointed with tiny leaves forming a sheath at each joint. Each joint holds spores, and it is this action of bending and dropping the spores that helps propagate the plant. So our guess is that your plant is just trying to spread out a bit and our suggestion would be to let it do its thing.

Right: Common horsetail (Equisetum hyemale) by Andy and Sally Wasowski.

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Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse Ave
Austin, Texas 78739

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