August 8, 2014

Dear Friends,

Here is the 69th issue of our weekly gardening newsletter for Houston, the Gulf Coast and beyond. This a project of The Lazy Gardener, Brenda Beust Smith, John Ferguson and Mark Bowen (both John and Mark are with Nature's Way Resources). We also have a great supporting cast of contributing writers and technical specialists who will chime in and tweak away regularly. We would love to keep receiving your input on this newsletter . . . . comments . . . . suggestions . . . . questions. . . .Email your thoughts to: Thanks so much for your interest.
Please  or sign yourself up to receive this newsletter by clicking the "Join Our Mailing List" link just below. We will never sell or share our mailing list to protect the privacy of our subscribers.





                                            Left to right, plumbago, pink magnolia and cassia


By Brenda Beust Smith

I'm often asked what my favorite flower is. The best answer: whatever flower I am seeing at that moment.  They're all beautiful. I've always told Husband, "Give me a flower, no matter how small, every 30 yards, and I'll follow you anywhere."  (He likes to tromp around abandoned old forts and remote Indian sites which also are usually great spots for wildflowers.)

Some special flowers are, I admit, very good friends, such as the three pictured above. 

LEFT, PLUMBAGO.  My old reliable grows almost anywhere, randomly cascading branches covered with white or blue flowers, forming dense low shrubs that amazingly discourage weeds. Ancient folks used it to cure toothaches.  It grows easily from cuttings. 

CENTER, PINK MAGNOLIA.  This is a very old photo of one of my "Awesome Plant Hall of Fame" flowers. Decades ago, when I was pregnant, Grandmother-in-law Hazel handed me $20.  "Buy something nice," she said. "Wait until the baby is born so you can buy him a gift," I urged. 

She said.  "No, I won't be here that long. Besides, this is for something for you, not for the baby."  She was in good health.  A little dementia, nothing else.  Within a month, she had a massive stroke and died.  I bought this pink magnolia. 

I didn't know much about gardening back then.  It grew one way.  I wanted it to grow another.  I got a string, tied it on the trunk, and began pulling on it.  The trunk broke almost in two, a very long torn split in the bark.

Using electrical tape (all I could find), I taped the bark back together and pulled the trunk in the direction I wanted it to grow.  The picture above was taken a couple of years after this  happened.

In '83, Hurricane Alicia slammed huge water oak branches down on my pink magnolia, breaking the trunk off practically at the base.  But pretty soon, green stalks appeared.  The little tree grew and does bloom, but never again as well as in the picture above. I don't care. That's one awesome tree and one of my very best friends.

RIGHT, MY LATE CASSIA.  Also a Hall of Fame-er, the cassia pictured above is now dead.  I put down some cheap, obviously-too-green mulch after Hurricane Ike. Do what I say, not what I did - only buy mulch from folks you know and trust! 

This cassia  was originally planted in our front yard, atop a drainage ditch.  It bloomed beautifully.  But I decided it would look better at the other end of that garden. It proved too entrenched to dig up. After soaking the roots deeply, I tied a rope around the base, tied the other end to my car, and pulled it out.  This was during a hot July.  (I was still in my gardening learning curve.)

Once replanted, it dropped all its leaves and looked horrible.  "Get that dead plant out of the garden!" Husband said. "No!" I insisted. "It's going to come back." It did, that Fall, with incredible flowers.  And it bloomed from then on.   

Well, that is, until the Allison flood. A good six feet of water sat atop my gardens for over 24 hours. Gardening went to the bottom of the priority list.  Husband decided had too many gardens to take care of. They all did look pretty awful. He took out that whole front ditch-top bed. 

I moved my cassia to that fatal back fence site. It grew.  It bloomed. It was fabulous.  Until I killed it with that horrible cheap mulch. You get what you pay for.

*  *  *


Last week's notes on the citrus tree sale ban in Harris and adjacent counties need a postscript.  The ban has been lifted in Harris County, but not in many other counties. I've talked now to several different County Extension Agents, am still totally confused and the situation seems to be constantly changing. 

Even more frustrating are this state's regulations on what, when and how plants can be brought into the state. This is no small issue, not the least concern of which is that you can be fined if plants you bring in are prohibited or need to be quarantined.  Your safest bet is to buy only from retailers or online sources you trust.

Bottom line: we Texas home gardener MUST assume more responsibility for our actions when it comes to bringing into this state plants, cuttings, seeds, etc., from other areas, whether it be on eBay, commercial internet sources or simply gifts from friends.

*  Someone brought whitefly into this state. Our hibiscus and other bloomers are still paying the price. 

*  Someone brought the beautiful-but-incredibly destructive water hyacinth into this state and now we are all paying for the state's efforts to save our increasingly clogged waterways. 

*  Someone brought citrus greening disease into our state. This disease, while seemingly harmless to humans, has wiped out millions of acres of citrus orchards in other states. Texas is full of citrus orchards now at risk.

Whether culprits in these and many other cases were home gardeners or commercial vendors really doesn't matter. 

We have all got to be more responsible when moving plants across state lines. Find out beforehand if the plant you are bringing in from a friend, or an unknown internet source,  is invasive in our state. 

Google "the plant name" + "invasive" + "Texas."  

Make sure any plants or cuttings you bring in are completely insect free and as disease-free as you can visually tell.  

If you're not sure, bring them in sealed plastic bags and take them to your County Extension Agent for advice. (  Find out if they should be quarantined. 

*   *   *
Green Walls aren't just for beauty.  In our Spotlight on Visiting Experts below, Dr. Ethan Kauffman, Garden Director of Moore Farms Botanical Garden (above), will help open our eyes to the multiple benefits of green walls, especially in urban areas. Above left and center, are photos of experimental vertical plantings in this beautiful South Carolina garden. For more specific tips, google "Creating a Green Wall." Be sure to check any actual plant recommendations against a local source first. 

*  *  * 
Brenda's group lectures include: "How to Reduce the Size of Your Front Lawn to Save Water Without Infuriating Your Neighbors," "Landscaping for Security," "10 Commandments of Lazy Gardening," and "What's Blooming in the Lazy Gardener's Garden." Details:


Start out slowly, as Dr. Kaufmann's photos at left and center above, illustrate. 

Who knows? You may end up with a green wall as magnificent as the one on the back 

of Saks Fifth Avenue in Palm Beach, a project spearheaded by the Garden Club of Palm Beach.  


Garden Director of Moore Farms Botanical Garden

During a recent trip to Manhattan for a wedding, my wife and I found ourselves walking through an exciting downtown neighborhood loaded with interesting shops, bars and restaurants. As my wife gawked and said, "There's the Freedom Tower, and that's the start of the Brooklyn Bridge!," I swiveled my head from side to side and gushed, "And look at all those green roofs!"  


Living architecture is now mainstream, especially in urban areas like New York where greenery can be observed dripping off apartment buildings, clinging to the sides of parking garages and filling patios 40 floors above the street.


But this trend is hardly new. Scandinavians built sod houses over a thousand years ago. And well before that Frodo and his fellow Hobbit folk carved out dwellings in Middle Earth. More modern green roofs were developed about 50 years ago in Europe, but the green roofs that we see today came about in the '70s and '80s.  


As the green movement gained strength and people became more concerned about the environment, the trend spread across the Atlantic to the United States. While the greatest concentration of green roofs is found in cooler climate cities such as Portland, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., many fine examples of living architecture can be found in the South as well.


So what is the big deal about green roofs and why would people go through all the trouble to build them? First of all, green roofs have practical applications in storm water management, mitigating the urban heat island effect, lowering energy costs, and increasing the longevity of the roof itself.  


Furthermore, they send a very positive and visceral message about environmental stewardship. And let's be honest fellow gardeners; looking up at a stark building of glass and steel topped by a fluffy, colorful garden is just plain cool. It can even make you forget where you are.     



LEARN MORE FROM DR. KAUFFMAN - Thurs., Aug. 14: Green Roofs, Green Walls, the South Carolina Way by Ethan Kauffmann, 7pm, Ina Brundrett Conservation Education Building, Pineywoods Native Plant Center, 2900 Raguet St., Nacogdoches. Free. Details: 936-468-1832. 

More about Moore Farms Botanical Garden, Lake City, SC at



*Note: If you haven't seen your specialty plant group in our "Society Spotlight," it could be because
we do not have valid email address for you. To make sure your group is contacted, email us at 
* * *










"Bringing Nature Home - How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants"

by Douglass W. Tallamy, Timber Press, 2014, Edith Printing,

ISBN-13: 978-0-88192-992-8


This book is for anyone whom has a yard or garden and loves nature and is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. Linking everything from bird watching and small animals to how and why energy from the sun flows through a eco-system like a yard or garden to the decline of butterfly and moth species.

It is a fascinating account of the interactions between plants, wildlife, insects and the trees, shrubs, and vines that feed them. It explains how exotic introduced plants can hinder the growth of our fauna disrupting the relationship between native fauna and native plants.


As the Washington Post stated; " Provides the rationale behind the use of native plants, a concept that has rapidly been gaining momentum....The text makes a case for native plants and animals in a compelling fashion."


This book drives home the point that the use of native plants in our gardens and landscapes is critical for birds and other wildlife preventing them from extinction.


The book was easy to read and the photos were excellent. Many of the ideas and concepts presented I have known for years but this is the first time I have seen them integrated and connected. It has me thinking what can I remove and how can I change my garden to make it even better.








 (Events in Houston unless otherwise noted. No events picked up from other newsletters or media releases.  Submit written in the format below, specifically earmarked for publication in the Lazy Gardener & Friends Newsletter.) 




Fri.-Sat., Aug.8-9: Houston Orchid Society 35th Annual Summer Workshop, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, 2450 River Oaks Blvd. "Northern Caribbean Species and Hybrids" by Claude Hamilton; "Mysteries of Orchid Pollination" by Thomas Mirenda; "Orchid Growing in Texas" by Todd Miller. Fees and details:   


Mon., Aug. 11: HUG Semi-Annual Seed Swap, 5:45-6:30p, and What to Plant and Do Now in Our Home Vegetable Gardens by Gary Edmondson, 6:30pm, MultiService Center, 1475 West Gray. Free. Houston Urban Gardeners (HUG) event. Details:   

Tues., Aug. 12: Texas Super Stars by Master Gardener Ginia Keen-Mattern, 6:30pm, Clear Lake Park Meeting Room, 5001 Nasa Parkway, Seabrook. A Harris County Master Gardeners Precinct 2 event. Free. Details:    

Tues., Aug. 12: Water Star Gardens and Great Houston Plants, 6:30 pm, Meeting Room at Clear Lake Park, 5001 NASA Pkwy., Seabrook. Free. Harris County Master Gardener event. Details:


Wed., Aug. 13: Orchid Growing 101 by Bruce Cameron, noon-2pm,  Mercer Botanic Garden, 22306 Aldine Westfield, Humble. 8am-3pm. Free. Details:  


Thurs., Aug.14: Companion Plants for Roses by Margaret Sinclair, 7:30pm., St. Andrew's Episcopal Church parish hall, 1819 Heights Blvd. Free. Houston Rose Society event. Details:


Thurs., Aug. 14: Green Roofs, Green Walls, the South Carolina Way by Ethan Kauffmann, 7pm, Ina Brundrett Conservation Education Building, Pineywoods Native Plant Center, 2900 Raguet St., Nacogdoches. Free. Details: 936-468-1832


Sat., Aug. 16: Successful Fall Vegetable Gardening by Luke Stripling, 9-11:30am, Galveston County AgriLife Extension Office, Carbide Park, 4102 Main (FM 519), La Marque. Galveston County Master Gardeners event. Reservations: 281-534-3413, ext. 12 or

Sat., Aug. 16: Vermicomposting - Raising Worms & Harvesting Castings for Fertilizer by Fort Bend Master Gardeners, 9 am, County Extension Office, 1402 Band Rd, Rosenberg. $15 ($25 couple). Details: 281-342-3034,;; 


Sat., Aug. 16: Water Star Gardens and Great Houston Plants, 10 am, Maude Smith Marks Library, 1815 Westgreen Blvd., Katy. Free. Harris County Master Gardener event. Details:


Sat, Aug 16: Urban Harvest's Starting a Community or School Garden, Class 2. 9-11:30am. $36. Urban Harvest, 2311 Canal St # 124, 77003.  Details: 713-880-5540 or


Mon., Aug. 18: Open Garden Day, with Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2. 8:30-11am, Genoa Friendship Garden,1202 Genoa Red Bluff Rd. 9:30am-Fall Vegetable Gardening (adults); make a bird feeder/bath (children). Free. Gardens open, plant sale every Monday, May - October.  Details: 


Tues., Aug. 19: Gardening by the Square Foot by John Jons, Galveston County AgriLife Extension Office, Carbide Park, 4102 Main (FM 519), La Marque. Galveston County Master Gardeners event. Reservations: 281-534-3413, ext. 12 or      


Tues., Aug. 19: Water Star Gardens and Great Houston Plants, 6:30 pm, Recipe for Success, 4400 Yupon St. Free. Harris County Master Gardener event. Details:


Wed., Aug. 20: Aquaponics by Jim Bundscho, 10am, Clear Lake Park Meeting Room, 5001 Nasa Parkway,  Seabrook. Harris County Master Gardeners Precinct 2 event. Free. Details:  


Thur., Aug. 21: Water Star Gardens and Great Houston Plants, 6:30 pm, Tracy Gee Community Center, 3599 Westcenter, Free. Harris County Master Gardener event. Details:   


Thurs., Aug. 21:  Get Out There Houston by Laurie Roddy, 7:30-9 pm, Houston Arboretum, 4501 Woodway. Free. Native Plant Society of Texas/Houston Chapter event. Details:
Sat., Aug. 23: "Organic Gardening, Making your Yard Safe for Children and Pets", Woodlands Home and Garden show, John Ferguson, 11:30 am, Woodlands Marriott Hotel, 

Sat, Aug 23,: Urban Harvest's Low Volume Irrigation. 9-11:30am. $36. UH Central Campus, 4800 Calhoun, Roy Cullen Hall #104, Houston 77004. For more info: 713-880-5540 or


Sat.-Sun., Aug. 23-24: 12th Annual Fall Home & Garden Show, 9am-7pm Sat., 10am-6pm Sun., The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, 1601 Lake Robbins Dr. Garden speakers Mark Bowen, John Ferguson, Randy Lemmon & Brenda Beust Smith. Details:


Sun., Aug. 24: "Q&A with the Lazy Gardener" by Brenda Beust Smith, 11:30am on stage with cuttings give-away, noon-4pm in booth, Woodlands Home & Garden Show, The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, 1601 Lake Robbins Dr. Details:  


Tues., Aug. 26: Backyard Series: Strawberries by Robert Marshall, 6:30-8pm, Galveston County AgriLife Extension Office, Carbide Park, 4102 Main (FM 519), La Marque. Galveston County Master Gardeners event. Reservations: 281-534-3413, ext. 12 or      


Tues. Aug. 26: Open Garden Day/Water Star Gardens and Great Houston Plants, tours, workshops, 9-11:30am, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office Demonstration Gardens, 3033 Bear Creek Dr.. Free. Harris County Master Gardener event. Details:


Tues., Aug. 26: Attracting Wildlife to Your Yard by Glenn Olsen 2-3pm, Sugar Land Branch Library, 550 Eldridge, Sugar Land. Free Sugar Land Garden Club event. Details: 

Tues., Aug. 26: Fall Gardening by Tom LeRoy, 6-8:30pm, site to be announced. $10. Waller County Master Gardeners event. RSVP to Waller County Extension Office, 979-826-7651.     

Thurs., Sept. 4: Terrariums 191 by Ann Wegenhof, 10am, Municipal Utility Building #81, 805 Hidden Canyon Dr., Katy. Free. Nottingham Country Garden Club event. Details: or 713-870-5915.

Sat, Sept 6: Urban Harvest's Rainwater Harvesting, Rain Barrels & More. 9-11:00am.  $36. UH Central Campus, 4800 Calhoun, Bldg & Room TBA, Houston 77004. Details: 713-880-5540 or 


Sat.-Sun., Sept. 6-7: The Galveston Bay Orchid Society Show & Sale, Sat. 8am-5pm, Sun. 9am-4pm, South Shore Harbour Resort & Conference Center, 2500 South Shore Blvd., League City, TX. Free. Details:


Sat, Sept 13: Urban Harvest's Constructing the Home Vegetable & Fruit Garden. 9-11:30am.  $36. Location TBA, Houston. Details:  713-880-5540 or

Sat., Sept. 13:  Wildscapes Workshop & Native Plant Sale, "Bringing Douglas Tallamy, Ph.D., featured speaker. 8:30am - 3:30pm, Houston Zoo Brown Education Center, 6200 Hermann Park Drive. $40, $50 after Aug. 29. Native Plant Society of Texas/Houston Chapter event. Details: 832-859-9252 or  


Thurs., Sept. 18:  Green Roofs by Dustin Brackney, Houston Zoo Horticulture Supervisor: 7:30-9 pm, Houston Arboretum, 4501 Woodway. Free. Native Plant Society of Texas/Houston Chapter event. Details:


Sat, Sept 20: Urban Harvest's Fall Vegetable Gardening: What to Plant Now. 9-11:30am.  $36. UH Central Campus, 4800 Calhoun, Bldg & Room TBA, Houston 77004. Details: 713-880-5540 or 


Sat., Sept. 27: Texas Rose Rustlers 2014 Fall Cutting Exchange, 10am, Brookwood Community, Brookshire. To request cuttings of specific antique roses, email: Details:


Sat., Sept. 27:  Sugar Land Garden Club Fall Festival and Plant Sale, 8:30am-1pm, Knights of Columbus Hall, 702 Burney Road, Sugar Land (new location).  Details:; Diana Miller, 713-724-3113, 


Sat, Sept 28: Urban Harvest's Sustainable Living Through Permaculture, Class 1. 2-6pm. $40. Private Residence @ 610 West Loop/Stella Link.  Detais:  713-880-5540 or 


Thurs., Oct. 2: Garden Club of Houston Bulb and Plant Mart Early Bird Shopping and Party
4:30-7:30, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, 2450 River Oaks Blvd. $20. Details: 
(Note new site)


Fri., Oct. 3: Garden Club of Houston Bulb and Plant Mart, 9am-5pm; St. John the Divine Episcopal Church 2450 River Oaks Blvd. Free. Details: Details: new site)


Sat., Oct. 4: Garden Club of Houston Bulb and Plant Mart, 9am- 2pm, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church 2450 River Oaks Blvd. Free. new site)


Sat.-Sun., Oct. 4-5: Spring Branch African Violet Club Annual Fall Sale, 10am-4pm Sat., 10am-3pm Sun, Judson Robinson Jr. Community Center, 2020 Hermann Dr. Free. Details: Karla Ross, 281-748-8417,


Thur., Oct. 9: "Soil Biology and Gardening", "Mulches and Compost","Backyard and Small Scale Composting" by John FergusonMercer Arboretum, 9am - 3 pm, Texas Gulf Coast Gardeners Class. Details:  


Fri.-Sat., Oct. 10-11: The Southern Garden Symposium, St. Francisville, LA.      

Thurs., Oct. 16:  Plant Propagation by Randy Johnson, Horticultural Consultant- Randy Johnson Organics: 7:30-9 pm, Houston Arboretum, 4501 Woodway. Free. Native Plant Society of Texas/Houston Chapter event. Details:     

Sat.-Sun., Oct. 25-26:  Southwest Bromeliad Guild Show and Sale (Texas & Louisiana), DoubleTree Hotel Houston Airport, 15747 JFK Blvd. Sale: 9am-5pm Sat.;10am-3pm Sun. Show: 2pm-5pm Sat.; 10am-3pm Sun. Free. Details: Gene Powers, 281-633-9036.

  Tues., Nov. 18: "Ten Commandments of Lazy Gardening" by Brenda Beust Smith, 10am, Knights of Columbus Hall, 702 Burney Road, Sugar Land. Sugar Land Garden Club event. Details:

Thurs., Nov. 20:  Native Seed & Plant Swap and Social,7:30-9 pm, Houston Arboretum, 4501 Woodway. Free. Native Plant Society of Texas/Houston Chapter event. Details:





To ensure rapid publication, submit events in the exact STRAIGHT LINE  format used above so they can be copied and pasted right in. Events NOT submitted in our format will take longer to get published as someone has to reformat and retype them. Email to: 


Need speakers for your group?  Or tips on getting more publicity for events? Brenda's free booklets that might help:  "Lazy Gardener's Speakers List" of area horticultural/environmental experts, and "Lazy Gardener's Publicity Booklet" (based on her 40+ years of her Houston Chronicle "Lazy Gardener" coverage of area events)  Email specific requests to:
Please help us grow by informing all your membership of this weekly newsletter! 


                                                ABOUT US


. . . but Brenda Beust Smith is also:

   * a national award-winning writer & editor
   * a nationally-published writer & photographer 
   * a national horticultural speaker
   * a former Houston Chronicle reporter
When the Chronicle discontinued Brenda's 45-year-old Lazy Gardener" print column a couple of years ago, it ranked as the longest-running, continuously-published local newspaper column in the Greater Houston area.

Brenda's gradual sideways step from Chronicle reporter into gardening writing led first to an 18-year series of when-to-do-what Lazy Gardener Calendars, then to her Lazy Gardener's Guide book and now to her Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD (which retails for $20. However, $5 of every sale is returned to the sponsoring group at her speaking engagements).

A Harris County Master Gardener, Brenda has served on the boards of many Greater Houston area horticulture organizations and has hosted local radio and TV shows, most notably a 10+-year Lazy Gardener run on HoustonPBS (Ch. 8) and her call-in "EcoGardening" show on KPFT-FM. 

Brenda recently ended her decades-long stint as Production Manager of the Garden Club of America's BULLETIN magazine. Although still an active horticulture lecturer and broad-based freelance writer,  Brenda's main focus now is  THE LAZY GARDENER & FRIENDS HOUSTON GARDEN NEWSLETTER with John Ferguson and Mark Bowen of Nature's Way Resources.

A native of New Orleans and graduate of St. Agnes Academy and the University of Houston, Brenda lives in Aldine and is married to the now retired Aldine High School Coach Bill Smith. They have one son, Blake.

Regarding this newsletter, Brenda is the lead writer, originator of it and the daily inspiration for it. We so appreciate the way she has made gardening such a fun way to celebrate life together for such a long time.
John is a native Houstonian and has over 27 years of business experience. He owns Nature's Way Resources, a composting company that specializes in high quality compost, mulch, and soil mixes. He holds a MS degree in Physics and Geology and is a licensed Soil Scientist in Texas. 
John has won many awards in horticulture and environmental issues. He represents the composting industry on the Houston-Galveston Area Council for solid waste. His personal garden has been featured in several horticultural books and "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine. His business has been recognized in the Wall Street Journal for the quality and value of their products. He is a member of the Physics Honor Society and many other professional societies.  John is is the co-author of the book Organic Management for the Professional. 
For this newsletter, John contributes articles regularly and is responsible for publishing it.

Mark is a native Houstonian, a horticulturist and organic specialist with a background in garden design, land restoration and organic project management. He is currently the general manager of Nature's Way Resources. Mark is also the co-author of the book Habitat Gardening for Houston and Southeast Texas, the author of the book Naturalistic Landscaping for the Gulf Coast, co-author of the Bayou Planting Guide and contributing landscape designer for the book Landscaping Homes: Texas. 
With respect to this newsletter, Mark serves as a co-editor and occasional article contributor.

Pablo Hernandez is the special projects coordinator for Nature's Way Resources. His realm of responsibilities include: serving as a webmaster, IT support, technical problem solving/troubleshooting, metrics management, quality control, and he is a certified compost facility operator.
Pablo helps this newsletter happen from a technical support standpoint. 
COUPON: 20% Off Herb Soil Mix At Nature's Way Resources
. (Offer good for retaill purchases of bulk material only at Nature's Way Resources (101 Sherbrook Circle, Conroe TX).
Offer Expires: 08/22/14