May 13th, 2016

Dear Friends,

Here is the 157th issue of our weekly gardening newsletter for Houston, the Gulf Coast and beyond. We really appreciate all of our readers hanging in there with us, sharing stories and inspiring us in so many ways. 
Thanks so much!
This newsletter is a project of The Lazy Gardener, Brenda Beust Smith, John Ferguson and Mark Bowen (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.




"It must come down before Old Christmas Day, or the Devil will dance on every spray." 
Old English saying about holly

Since we're blessed (?) this week with another Friday the 13th, I thought might be fun to see what plants some folks think bring bad luck.

In ol' rural England, it was considered bad luck to bring bluebell or lily blooms inside the house. Lilies were for funerals only. Children were told if they brought dandelion flowers inside, they would wet the bed. Holly, while acceptable and even treasured in most cases, was never hung around a mirror. It could be used at Christmas, but it had to be out of the house before 12th Night (Old Christmas Day).  
In fact, lots of flowers were ok outside, but shouldn't be brought indoors (bad luck): clover, snowdrops (also called angel tears), yarrow and Queen Anne's lace (aka, break-your-mother's-heart flower).

But let's end this on a more positive note. In the early '80s, NASA research listed these as the Top Ten Air-Purifying Plants (when used indoors): areca palm, lady palm, bamboo palm, rubber plant, Dracaena 'Janet Craig,' English ivy, dwarf date palm, Ficus alii and Boston fern.
*  *  *
One thing's for sure -- nothing "bad luck" about coreopsis, below.  These are the flowers now blanketing the cemetery on Broadway in Galveston.  As the daughter of a BOI (Born on Island) father -- and a member of the Beust Family, longtime BOIS all -- , this cemetery is very dear to me, and its history is great fun: "The Grave History of Galveston's Cemeteries."  

I remember when, to the despair of wildflower lovers, Galveston used to mow these down regularly. 


So!  A big Tip o' the Trowel to whoever first proposed allowing these lovely yellow blankets time to bloom and reseed.  Good decision!  This photo was sent to me by Paula Siegel, on the isle visiting her beloved aunt -- herself a longtime BOI -- Doris Richey Robinson.

CRAINER'S DAYLILY FARM My apologies to Everett & Chris Crainier.  In my tribute last week to our area's rich daylily farm history, I mistakenly listed Everett & Chris' Crainer's Daylily Farm as "Gulf Coast Daylily." "Gulf Coast" is actually the series of daylilies Everett has hybridized and, on the advice of another great daylily guru, Inez Tarrant, started each new name with "Gulf Coast." Now he's extremely well known in daylily circles for his Gulf Coast Daylilies.

Since lots of folks will be buying daylilies at this and other sales, I asked Everett what he sees as the biggest mistakes made with such purchases and planting his favorite plant.  He explained there are three types of daylilies: Evergreen, Semi-Evergreen and Dormant.  The first two are the ones we should plant.

Unfortunately, many national chain stores, and locals without horticulture expertise, sell the Dormant varieties. How can you tell the difference if you don't want to investigate every single one?  Shop from a daylily source you trust.

Dormants, he says, need more cold and less heat than they will get here, although some will survive in the northern Greater Houston areas if they get more shade. But they're not the hardiest choices.

Planting times are also key.  It's difficult for plants to set strong root systems in our intense heat. Everett puts plants purchased now through summer in 2- to 3-gallon pots and keeps them in shady areas until late October. By this time they will have well established roots and can easily be transplanted to a sunny spot where they should be super-hardy from that point on.

Have more questions? You can meet Everett & Chris and see their "Gulf Coast Daylilies" in bloom during their annual Open Garden Days, the 2nd & 3rd Sunday in May. This year: May 8 & May 16, 9am-5pm, at the Crainer's Daylily Farm, 5748 FM Rd 2611 in Brazoria. Details: 979-964-3468; 979-239-7026; 

DAYLILIES & SPIRAL GARDENS - Among the Craniers' treasures, left to right, 'Gulf Coast Beach Baby,' 'Gulf Coast   
Marionette' and -- in center at the top of this column -- 'Gulf Coast Wrangler' At far right, a Spiral Garden. See below!  

When Robert "Skip" Richter, Harris County Extension Agent - Horticulture, emailed about his upcoming June 2 lecture on  "Spiral Gardens," my eyebrows went up. I'd never heard of "spiral gardens."

Most of our gardens contain plants with a range of water requirements.  Some want very little, some need a lot, to reach their full potential. The Spiral Garden concept (above right) embraces these polar opposite requirements in a compact design, ideal for our shrinking gardening spaces. The top is raised, great for most herbs and drought-tolerant natives. The bottom will receive the most water. In Skip's own words: 
"If you are looking to add landscaping to your yard that provides great functionality and looks you may want to consider Spiral gardening which combines the art of Japanese rock gardens and vertical gardening. Other benefits are that it supports plants that require different Ph soil and water needs.

This is great for herb and flower gardens. This particular garden is a tea garden. You can visit the demo garden at Memorial Drive Community Garden at 12211 Memorial Drive In Houston or for information on how to build your own visit"

The link is to Skip's own "Stepping Stones Essentials" reports. A huge tip o' the trowel to Skip for these PowerPoint presentations. They are concise, to the point, and don't waste words telling you the same thing over and over -- which so many websites do -- ad nauseum.

He not only details Spiral Gardens, but Keystone Gardens and Vertical Gardens -- all excellent choices.  The latter two are especially great ideas for anyone with gardening challenges (bending, reaching, stamina, short attention spans and most lazy gardeners!).

Want your Spiral Garden questions personally answered? Drop by this event -- Thurs., June 2: "Spiral Gardens" by Skip Richter, 10:30am-12:30pm, Richard & Meg Weekley Community Center, 8440 Greenhouse Rd., Cypress. 713-274-3161;
*  *  *

Buffalo Bayou Partnership supporter Roger Stewart is a Houston artist who, among other sites, focuses on local trees and greenspaces around town ( A portion of his sales are donated back to Houston's parks and nonprofits. I thought it would be fun to ask him to look at front yards around town and share what his "artist's eye" see that 1. makes him cringe and 2. makes him smile.  His report:

* Makes him cringe:  
    1. Recycling bins squashing flower beds
    2. Excessive use of boxwood
    3. Endless grass
    4. Mow and Blow 
    5. Stuffing leaves down the storm drains
* Makes him smile with approval:
    1. Huge trees
    2. Diverse flower beds
    3. Bird Houses
    4. Ponds
    5. Native plants and xeriscapes
Left, Roger Stewart's "Bright Trunks." Right, she's a happy sago mom!
Sometimes happiness in plants doesn't correspond to our expectations. That happened with Nancy & Jim Pinkerton's sago, right above and at column top.  When they moved into their new Kingwood home four years ago, two beautiful sagos (top of column), pruned into small "trees," were quite lovely.  But one "flourished" while other one seemed to balk. It didn't die, but it didn't grow and now the brown edges on the "leaves"  and a total mess at the center have them concerned.

As always, my real expertise lies in knowing where the "real" experts are. So when they asked for a diagnosis, I turned to Palm expert Paul Norris, Chairman of the Houston Area Chapter of the International Palm Society

Sagos are not really palms. They're cycads. They're truly ancient, they have a fascinating fossil history.  Palms are relative newcomers on Earth. Well, compared to cycads, anyway. Cycads look a lot like palms, especially the sagos, which is why these have been mistakenly called palms for so long, it's too late to change that name.  Actually they're more like ferns.
Nancy was particularly concerned about that big dead-looking mess in the middle of her puny sago. Paul said: Not to worry! That sago is not dying.

"That is a female and that brown center is where she is holding her seeds," he explained. "It will stay that way for about a year until the seeds fall out or critters carry them off. As far as the brown margins (one of my sagos has the same) and my opinion is that it needs some iron or straight nitrogen."

Nice when I can pass on happy answers!

P.S. if you're a palm lover, the Houston Area Chapter of the International Palm Society is in need of more interested members. Contact Paul at

*  *  *

THIS JUST IN: The Tues., May 24, Harris County Master Gardeners' Open Garden Day and "Plants of the Bible seminar has been cancelled.  In fact, All Bear Creek HCMG events are cancelled for the foreseeable future.

Email questions & comments to Brenda at   
Brenda's column in the LG&F Newsletter is based on her 45+ years as the Houston Chronicle's Lazy Gardener.
News from the wonderful world of soil and plants

A study from the University of Maryland has found that bees are now dying in the summer as well as the winter. The study covered April 2015 through April 2016 polling beekeepers; they found that they lost 44% of their bees. Many factors are contributing to this loss from malnutrition (many modern hybrid flowers have poor quality pollen), exposure to pesticides and other environmental factors that weaken the bee's immune system. This makes a bee colony much more susceptible to varroa mites that infect colonies. This is another reason a gardener should plant native plants and heirloom flowers whenever possible and only use the modern organic methods.
In previous issues, I have talked about how fluoride in our public water systems hurts many plants and weakens their immune system leading to more insect and disease problems. The California Environmental Protection Agency released a document called "Evidence on the Carcinogenicity of Fluoride and its Salts". The report states that "multiple lines of evidence (show) that fluoride is incorporated into the bones where it can stimulate cell division of osteoblasts (bone forming cells), an admission that recognizes fluoride as a cause of bone cancer." Other papers from multiple universities states that fluoride induces genetic changes leading to malignant transformation. Fluoride has been linked to other various cancers including liver and oral cancers, and thyroid follicular cell tumors.
A study published in the Journal of Environmental Research (Volume 146, April 2016, pp. 207-217) has found that pre-birth exposure to organophosphate pesticides and persistent organic pollutants (chemical) may be linked to the development of obesity and metabolic disorders, particularly in girls.  
A study in the Journal Chemosphere (Vol. 144, February 2016, pp. 1365-1371) found that eating beef from cattle is a source of organochlorine pesticides that are a known source of carcinogens. Another reason to eat organic grass fed beef.
A new organic product made from natural oils called NMX from the company EcoSeal has been found to be effective in killing bacterial and fungal infections on plants. It is in the final stages of testing and approval.
A study from Wake Forest University has found that Tiger Moths produce ultrasonic signals to warn bats that they do not taste good as part of their defense strategy. The more we learn, the more we realize that God's nature is amazing.
A study from Texas A&M published in the Journal Hortscience (March 2016) has found that several plants are salt tolerant. This is very important if one uses high salt products made from chicken or cow manure in their garden. They are orange peel jessamine, mexican hummingbird bush, flame acanthus, rock rose, and 'Dark Knight' bluebeard in decreasing tolerance. Plants found to be extremely salt sensitive are Eastern red columbine, butterfly blue false heather, and cardinal flower. 


                                                                    *   *   *

Events NOT submitted in the EXACT written format below may take two weeks or longer
to be reformatted/retyped. After that point, if your event does not appear, please email us.
Submit to: 
If we inspire you to attend any of these events, please let them know you heard about it in
SAT., MAY 14: SUCCULENT MAKE AND TAKE, 10am, Enchanted Forest, 10611 FM 2759, Richmond; 2pm Enchanted Gardens, 6420 FM 359, Richmond. Reservations: 

SAT., MAY 14: ANNUAL OLEANDER FESTIVAL & GRAND OLEANDER SALE, 10am-4pm, Betty Head Oleander Garden Park, Free. International Oleander Society event.
SAT., MAY 14: MONTGOMERY COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS OPEN GARDEN DAY, 9-11am, AgriLife Extension, 9020 Airport Rd., Conroe. Free. 936-539-7824;
SAT., MAY 14: HOUSTON HEMEROCALLIS SOCIETY AND HOUSTON AREA DAYLILY SOCIETY FLOWER SHOW: Enjoying Life in Our Gardens, 1-3pm; and HOUSTON HEMEROCALLIS SOCIETY DAYLILY SALE, 10am-3pm; Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 4040 Watonga. Free. Houston Hemerocallis Society and Houston Area Daylily Society event.

SAT., MAY 14:  GALVESTON COUNTY HOME FRUIT GROWERS' TOUR. 9am-Noon.  Free.  Galveston County  Master Gardeners event. Map:; 281-534-3413  

SAT.-SUN., May. 14-15: HOUSTON CACTUS & SUCCULENT SOCIETY SPRING SALE. 9am-5pm. Metropolitan Multi-Service Center, 1475 West Gray. Free.

SUN., MAY 15: TROPICAL FRUIT TREES WITH DANY MILIKIN OF EDIBLE EARTH RESOURCES, 2-3pm, Buchanan's Native Plants, 611 E 11th. Free. 713-861-5702; 

SUN., MAY 15: FERNS OF MEXICO SYSTEMATICS by Alejandra Vasco, 2:00pm, Judson Robinson Jr. Community Center, 2020 Hermann Dr.  Free.  Texas Gulf Coast Fern Society event.

MON., MAY 16: OPEN GARDEN DAY & PLANT SALE, 8:30-11am, Genoa Friendship Garden, 1202 Genoa Red Bluff Rd. Free. Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2. 

TUES., MAY 17; PLANTS OF THE BIBLE BY HARRIS COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS. 6:30-8:30 pm, Spring Branch Memorial Library, 930 Corbindale. Free. Details:  281-855-5600

THURS., MAY 17: AN EVENING WITH RICK DARKE, 6:30-8:30pm, Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, 4501 Woodway. Organic Horticulture Benefits Alliance (OHBA) event. $30. Register: 

THURS., MAY 19; PLANTS OF THE BIBLE BY HARRIS COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS. 6:30-8:30 pm. Freeman Branch Library, 16616 Diana Lane.Free.  281-855-5600 

SAT., MAY 21: FRIENDS OF PECKERWOOD GARDEN dAY, 10am-3pm tours, 20559 FM 359 Road, Hempstead. $10. Garden Conservancy event.,  979-826-3232; 

SAT., MAY 21: HERB LORE WITH DANY MILIKIN OF EDIBLE EARTH RESOURCES, 10-11am, Buchanan's Native Plants, 611 E 11th. Free. 713-861-5702; 

SAT., MAY 21: TOMATO & SALSA CONTEST judged by BILL ADAMS , 10am, Enchanted Forest, 10611 FM 2759, Richmond; 2pm Enchanted Gardens, 6420 FM 359, Richmond.

SAT., MAY 21: SPACE CITY HIBISCUS CHAPTER SHOW & SALE, 1-4pm, Nessler Center, Wings of Heritage Room, 2010 5th Avenue, Texas City. 281-844-4296;

SAT, MAY 21; PLANTS OF THE BIBLE BY HARRIS COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS.  10am-Noon.  Maude Smith Marks Library, 1815 Westgreen Blvd., Katy. Free. Details: ;281-855-5600

SUN., MAY 22:  CELEBRATION OF DAYLILIES OPEN HOUSE, 9am-5 pm, Payne's in the Grass Daylily Farm, 2130 O'Day Road, Pearland, Free, 281-485-3821, cell 713-419-6661.

TUES., MAY 31: BAMBOO USES IN THE LANDSCAPE, by TISH REUSTLE, 6:30pm. AgriLife Extension, Carbide Park, 4102-B Main St. (Hwy 519), La Marque.  Galveston County Master Gardener event. Free, but must preregister:;

THU., JUNE 2:  PEACH TREE PRUNING FOR THE HOME ORCHARD by HERMAN AUER & SUE JEFFCO, 10 & 11am.  Galveston County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden and Orchard in Carbide Park, 4102-B Main St. (Hwy 519), La Marque.  Free, but register at;

SAT., JUNE 4: BUTTERFLY GARDEN WORKSHOP FOR KIDS, 10-11am, Buchanan's Native Plants, 611 E 11th. Free. 713-861-5702; 

SAT., JUNE 4: WATER-WISE GARDENING, 9:30-11:30am, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Moran Hall, 5555 Hermann Park Dr., $45. Urban Harvest event.
MON., JUNE 6: HARRIS COUNTY PRECINCT 2 OPEN GARDEN DAY & VEGETABLE, HERB & PERENNIAL PLANT SALE, 8:30-11am, Genoa Friendship Garden,1202 Genoa Red Bluff Rd. Free.

TUES., JUNE 7: DRIP IRRIGATION, by Galveston County Master Gardener SUSAN ROTH, 6:30-8:00 pm; Galveston County AgriLife Extension, Carbide Park, 4102-B Main St. (Hwy 519), La Marque.  Free, but registration required:;

WED., JUNE 8: WATER-WISE GARDENING, 10am-noon, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Moran Hall, 5555 Hermann Park Dr. $45. Urban Harvest event.
Thurs., June 9: ARE YOU USING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT FOR THE JOB? 7:30pm, Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, 1500 Hermann Dr. Free. Houston Rose Society event.

SAT., JUNE 11: PLUMERIA SOCIETY OF AMERICA SHOW & SALE, 9:30am-3pm, Bay Area Community Center 5002 Nasa Road One Seabrook. Free. 

SAT., JUNE 11: EDIBLE LANDSCAPING WITH DANY MILIKIN OF EDIBLE EARTH RESOURCES, 10-11am, Buchanan's Native Plants, 611 E 11th. Free. 713-861-5702; 

SAT., JUNE 11: T-BUD GRAFTING OF CITRUS AND FRUIT TREES (presentation & hands-on workshop), by Galveston County Master Gardener SUE JEFFCO, 9:00-11:30 am, Galveston County AgriLife Extension, Carbide Park, 4102-B Main St. (Hwy 519), La Marque.  Free, class size limited; pre-registration required:;
SAT., JUNE 11:  PLANNING FOR YOUR SUCCESSFUL FRUIT TREE ORCHARD, by HERMANN AUER, 1 & 3pm, Galveston County AgriLife Extension, Carbide Park, 4102-B Main St. (Hwy 519), La Marque.  Free, but register at;

TUES.-SUN., JUNE 14-19: WORLD BROMELIAD CONFERENCE XXII, Show and Plant Sale 9am-5pm Fri.
& 9am-4pm Sat., 4th Floor, Westin Galleria Hotel, 5060 West Alabama St.  Bromeliad Society/Houston, Inc./Bromeliad Society International event.          
THUR. JUNE 16: TOXIC HORTICULTURE CHEMICALS AND YOUR HEALTH by John Ferguson, 10am, Bay Area Welcome Neighbors Club, Bay Oaks Country Club, Clear Lake, Bay Oaks Dr.  713-823-6980

SAT., JUNE 18:  DESIGN PRINCIPLES FOR LANDSCAPES, by Galveston County Master Gardener KAREN LEHR, 9:00-11:00 am, Galveston County AgriLife Extension, Carbide Park, 4102-B Main St. (Hwy 519), La Marque.  Free, but registration required:;
TUE., JUNE 21: GROWING CUCURBITS (summer and winter squash, cucumbers and cantaloupes), by Galveston County Master Gardener HERMANN AUER, 6:30 pm, repeated  8:30 pm, Galveston County AgriLife Extension, Carbide Park, 4102-B Main St. (Hwy 519), La Marque.  Free, but registration required:;

TUES., JULY 12: GROWING PLUMERIAS, 7:30pm, Cherie Flores Garden Pavillion, Hermann Park Conservancy, 1500 Hermann Dr. Free. Plumeria Society of America event.          

SAT., JULY 23: PLUMERIA SOCIETY OF AMERICA SHOW & SALE, 9:30am-3pm, Fort Bend Country Fairgrounds 4310 Texas Highway 36, Rosenberg.

MON. AUGUST 22, ORGANIC METHODS IN GARDENING- THE SOIL FOOD WEB, by John Ferguson, South Montgomery County Friends of The Library (SMCFOL), 2 PM, Mitchell Library, 8125 Ashland Way, The Woodlands, Sari Harris, 281-681-0470

SAT, SEPT 24: HARRIS COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS FALL LANDSCAPE PLANTS, PERENNIALS & VEGETABLES SALE. Overview 8am; sale: 9am-1pm. 3033 Bear Creek Drive. Free.; 281-855-5600     

TUES., OCT. 11: GROWING PLUMERIAS, 7:30pm, Cherie Flores Garden Pavillion, Hermann Park Conservancy, 1500 Hermann Dr. Free. Plumeria Society of America event. 

If we inspire you to attend any of these events,
please let them knowyou heard about it in

Events NOT submitted in the EXACT written format below may take two weeks or longer
to be reformatted/retyped. After that point, if your event does not appear, please email us.
Submit to:  

Green Job Opportunities at Nature's Way Resources

Inside Sales: duties include providing customer service, gardening advice and sales assistance. This is a part time position.

For more information please email



                                                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, certified permaculturist 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 theBayou Planting Guide and contributing landscape designer for the book Landscaping Homes: Texas. 
With respect to this newsletter, Mark serves as a co-editor and periodic 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: Nature's Way Resources. 50% off pomegranates, apples, asian pears and selected antique roses. 
 (Offer good for retail purchases of this product (101 Sherbrook Circle, Conroe TX). Expires 05/31/16.