May 27th, 2016

Dear Friends,

Here is the 159th 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.




      Flores flowers ....plumerias   ("Fresh flowers")        
ñor galante                      
   ("Gallant man")
      ¿Cuantas quiere?                   ("How many would you like?")
      Ordenelas al pasar                 ("Order them as you go by!")
                            Lyrics from A Stroll on the Plaza Sant' Ana -- opening song from "Panama Hattie" by Cole Porter 
                                                                                                                         (1940 Broadway play / 1942 movie) 
For fabulous fragrance and sheer beauty, it's hard to beat plumerias in the summertime. No wonder Cole Porter included them in his Broadway street flower sellers' lyrics(*) above! 
Did you know the Plumeria Society of America was started in Houston in 1979? It's still based here thanks to the work started by some of my favorite plant folks - Elizabeth Thornton, Richard Eggenberger, Nadine Barr, Nancy Ames (yes, the singer!), Emerson Willis, Eulas Stafford and other early enthusiasts.

In our Spotlight article below, former PSA President Paula Furtwangler gives us an expert's take on the wide variety of fragrances, but also how to take and start cuttings. For even closer contact with experts, drop by the big Plumeria Society of America Sale, June 11, 9:30am-3pm at the Bay Area Community Center 5002 Nasa Road One in Seabrook.

You might want to print out Paula's PLUMERIA FRAGRANCE BUYER'S GUIDE before you go to the sale! 
Definitely a favorite flower of love across the globe, used in magical spells as well as in bouquets, this Hawaiian lei flower (also known as frangipani) easily qualified as a lazy gardener plant even before climate change started turning it into a garden perennial for us.
Usually, come winter, plants are lifted, roots/pot & all out of the ground and stored/ignored in a garage corner. Next spring, dried plants are moved back into the yard/ground.  
Now an increasing number of plumeria owners are forgetting and the plant stays win the ground all winter. A prolonged hard freeze will do it in.  But the more winters it survives, the tougher that root system becomes and the more likely it will survive even harder cold spells.
One thing's for sure. Since the plumeria (an oleander cousin) can take heat up to 500+ degrees and some drought, it's not going to succumb from our summer's blasting temperatures! Only catch: the bloom hormone has to be present in the cutting you buy, or start, for it to flower right away.  If it's not, it can take several (or more) years for the plant to produce that hormone. It grows just fine, only it doesn't bloom.
How can you be confident you're getting a cutting/started plant with the bloom hormone? Buy from those you trust have taken cuttings from branches that have already produced flowers -- like members of the Plumeria Society of America. Lack of enough sun will also stop them from blooming. When they're happy, many will bloom from late spring through fall.
In addition to its many medicinal uses, plumerias have long been associated with love from magical spells to visible signals. One worn behind the right ear mean: I'm available. Behind the left ear: "I'm already taken."
*  *  *

I don't know if it's possible to have a love affair with a tree, but I've had an amorío of sorts with a live oak here in Aldine for almost 50 years.  So it was with real delight I read a Facebook post from longtime Aldine stalwart, Terri Cole.  Altho Terri moved away, among her many Aldine ties is one with especially deep roots.

erri wrote: "When I was born (1962), we lived in . . . Aldine on West Gulf Bank Road . . . in the yard, I had a huge oak tree that I loved. I climbed it, hung out in it on her long beautiful thick limbs. I had a swing attached to one of her branches . . . we moved to Spring, then Conroe & finally back to the exact same house we lived in before, the one where my tree was . . . I loved & played in my tree until Oct of my 4th grade year when we moved for good . . .

"Over the years I've returned to drive past my tree to make sure she was still there, thriving in conditions unlike those of my youth . . . Long gone are the low branches where I sat, climbed & played . . . Someday I'll stop & ask to take a picture. In the meantime I'm thankful she's still there & happy!"

Terri's swing (above insert) may be gone, but her tree's still stands (above left), not far from where we live. I too have a "treasured tree" (above right). I wrote about it in 2008 in a Houston Chronicle 'Lazy Gardener' column: "A Tree Grows in Aldine" (on Aldine-Bender (FM525) between Aldine-Westfield & JFK Boulevard.
One quote from my 2008 story: "I loved that tree . . .  always taking 525 to and from the airport, just so I could pass "my" tree . . . Then they decided to widen 525 - for reasons that, to this day, remain inexplicable to me. I never have trouble slowing to admire my tree. There's almost never any traffic on that now-seven-lane thoroughfare."
Today I know why 525 was widened, at least in part . . . to attract slews of industrial parks being built on Aldine's once-thickly-wooded expanses. Thousands of acres have been raised 5+ feet high above ground level with imported soil to create what I have sadly nicknamed the Aldine Mountain Range. Enjoy our "mountain" views as you drive Beltway 8 from either Hwy 59/I-69 or I-45 to Bush Airport. Most such ravaged acreages stand bare for years waiting for someone to purchase and build. (Anyone else thinking: flood?)  
At least, as I pass into senescence, my tree still survives, thanks to Leeway Transportation.
A tip o' the trowel to you, guys!

*  *  *

(*) You know the old saying "It takes a whole village to raise a child" Well, it takes a whole village to do this column too.  So, thanks for helping me find/translate the Cole Porter lyrics at top of this column to my cousin Joaquin Gracida, St. Agnes classmate and well-known singer/actress Grace Angelo Givens and -- most of all to --  Paul Hope, Artistic Director and founder of Bayou City Concert Musicals and Alley Theatre of Actors member. Check out Bayou City's schedule. Wonderful shows.

*  *  *

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.

*  *  * 
L to r above: 'Bill Moragne, ''Dwarf Deciduous,' 'Grove Farm,' 'Lemon Drop,' and 'Scott Pratt' 
L to r, below, 'Charlotte Ebert,' 'Makaha Sunn' and 'Grove Farm' 

Past President
Houston has received so much rain lately that most gardeners are happy for all the free God-given rain water. But plumerias have a problem when it comes to excessive rain in the Spring...they can rot during the propagation process.
Root rot can occur if the soil is too wet during the rooting process.  Plumerias cuttings need to be deprived of water to encourage root formation.    They will send out roots to "look" for water. Plumeria growers are wise to collect our rainwater and use it later after roots have formed.  
Cuttings are actually a clone of the plant.   The only way to get an exact duplicate of a plumeria is to take a cutting. Seeds will not produce plants identical to the mother plant. 
Preparing the cutting:
In early Spring, The Plumeria Society of America (PSA) recommends taking plumeria cuttings in old gray wood (not green new growth), with a length of at least 12 inches. Cut the branch straight across. It is best to callous (harden off) the cutting end before planting, allowing two weeks to allow a good callous to form. Then dip the cutting in a rooting hormone like Clonex gel (available online) if it cannot be found in local nurseries.  
Rooting a cutting:
An easy way to create root formation would be to 
  1. Prepare a small pot (one gallon inexpensive black nursery pot) with well draining soil. We prefer Rose Mix with added perlite to make more air available to the root system once established. This allow the roots to stay drier and encourages their growth.
  2. Dampen your soil mixture, make a small divot in the soil with your finger, then gently insert the hormone dipped cutting into the hole. 
  3. Tamp the soil around the base of the cutting. Add a bit more soil, then brace the cutting with a stake to keep it stable in the pot. 
  4. Place the pot in full sun on the hot concrete patio and wait for the roots to develop, usually in four to six weeks.
  5. Do not water until you have new leaves forming. The key is to wait...patience is a virtue for all plumeria enthusiasts. 
You will see new growth development at the tip. The leaf claws will emerge and appear to be "wet." Once you have true leaves (4 or more) then you can begin to fertilize, and water sparingly.  If your plant has no roots it is a shame to waste good fertilizer in soil that has no roots to deliver nutrients to the plant.  The PSA recommends rooting only in the active growing season (hot spring and early summer) when plumerias are wanting to grow. In the winter, plumerias want to go dormant and are more difficult to root. 
Established plumerias love the full sun and lots of heat. Early spring time inflorescences (flower bud stalks) can even begin flowering before leaf formation on previously rooted plants. 
Did you know that plumerias are not only colorful, but have many different fragrances? Here are some beautiful varieties that will blow you away in your plumeria garden. 
  • Citrus: Singapore, Lemon Drop, Dwarf Deciduous, Lemon Chiffon, Dwarf Pink Singapore 
  • Honeysuckle: San Germaine
  • Gardenia: Gardenia Glory. Charlotte Ebert, Tahitian Sunset
  • Rose: Vera Cruz Rose, Guillot's Sunset,
  • Grape Koolaid: Bill Moragne, Grapette, Pink Pansy
  • Peach: Aztec Gold, Just Peachy, Intense Rainbow
  • Clove: Negril
  • Spicy: Kauka Wilder, Scott Pratt, India, Joshua, Carmen
  • Coconut: Charlotte Ebert, Miami Rose, Scott Pratt
  • Lime: Kimo
  • Carnation: Dean Conklin
  • Pez Candy: Britney
  • Sun Tan Lotion: Celandine
  • Unique Strong: Makaha Sunn, Grove Farm, San Germaine, Bali Whirl, Mele Pa Bowman  
The Plumeria Society of America invites you to join, and learn more about plumerias for your home gardens. Visit for more information.

*  *  *   
Or . . . drop by the Saturday, June 11 Plumeria Society of America Sale,
9:30am-3pm at the Bay Area Community Center 5002 Nasa Road One in Seabrook.
Research at the University of Copenhagen has found that beneficial microbes mediate biocontrol of diseases by interfering with pathogens or by strengthening the host plant. The bacteria produce plant hormones including cytokinins. 

A study in the Journal Nature Communications from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology has found that the Hawk Moth acquired the highest energy gain when they visited flowers that matched the length of their proboscis. They use the scent of the flowers to go to the correct species. The Hawk Moths proboscis is 8 centimeters long, which is the same as the flower of the Nicotiana alata or fragrant tobacco that we grow in our gardens.

The UK based news agency called the Daily Mail published a report from Argentina where the Glyphosate weed killer unleashes grotesque chemical deformations in farm animals... two-headed calves, pigs born with no skin, twisted life forms seem spawned from Hell. They report that the number of mutations has quadrupled as the use of GMO (genetically modified) grains were fed to the animals. There is a summary at:

A report in the Journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (V. 84, October 2015, pp. 133-153) has found that exposure to glyphosate can accelerate the growth of human breast cancer cells. GMO foods have much higher levels of glyphosate than conventional food. This another reason to grow one's own vegetables and buy organic whenever one can.

The University Of California San Francisco (UCSF), was the first-ever comprehensive and validated LC/MS/MS testing project to be carried out across America on glyphosate in humans. A staggering 93 percent of Americans tested positive for glyphosate, according to the test results, announced yesterday (May 25, 2016). Worse yet? Children had the highest levels.

Another report states that fungicide chemicals have been found to produce autism-like symptoms in animal studies, causing inflammation of the nervous system.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska have found a way to kill the deadly virus PEDV (Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus) that has caused billions of dollars in losses for swine producers. To dispose of the mortalities to prevent the spread of the disease they looked at many ways to treat the carcasses from burial to liming, etc. and nothing worked. They tried composting the carcasses and they found no traces of the virus.

The USDA reports that organic farming increased another 12% from 2014 to 2015! This is a 300% increase since 2002. There are now 32,160 organic farms around the world.  

                                                                    *   *   *

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

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.
SAT., JUNE 4: PECKERWOOD INSIDER'S Tour, 10am, 20559 FM 359 Road, Hempstead. Garden Conservancy event. $10. Register:,  979-826-3232;

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.
WED., JUNE 8: ULTIMATE MOSQUITO PREDATORS: DAMSELFLIES & DRAGONFLIES, noon-2pm, Mercer Botanic Gardens, 22308 Aldine-Westfield. Free but register: 713-274-4160.

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.

THURS., JUNE 9: WILDLIFE IN OUR AREA by MTT STRUSSER, 10am, Clear Lake Meeting Room, 5001 Nasa Parkway. Free. Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 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;

SAT., JUNE 11: COMPOSTING & SOIL PREPARATION FOR GARDENING, 9-11am, Montgomery County AgriLife Extension Office, 9020 Airport Rd., Conroe. $5. Master Gardener class., 936-539-7824
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 W. Alabama. 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 by HERMANN AUER, 6:30 & 8:30pm, Galveston County AgriLife Extension, Carbide Park, 4102-B Main St. (Hwy 519), La Marque.  Free, but register:;
SAT., JUNE 18: FAMILY/KIDS DAY IN THE GARDENS, 9-11am, Montgomery County AgriLife Extension Office, 9020 Airport Rd., Conroe. $5/family. Master Gardener event.; 936-539-7824 
SAT., JUNE 18: SUMMER COLOR SALE, 9am-3pm (free), ALL ABOUT BEGONIAS INDOORS & OUT WORKSHOP, 10:30am ($10), & EASY CARE OF ORCHIDS WORKSHOP, noon ($10). Mercer Botanic Gardens, 22308 Aldine-Westfield. Workshops register: 713-274-4166.
MON., JUNE 20: CELEBRATE POLLINATORS GARDEN TOURS, 9:15am & 10:45am, Mercer Botanic Gardens, 22308 Aldine-Westfield. Free but register: 713-274-4160.

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

SAT., AUG. 6 : PECKERWOOD INSIDER'S Tour, 10am, 20559 FM 359 Road, Hempstead. Garden Conservancy event. $10. Register:,  979-826-3232; info@peckerwoodgarden.orgMON. 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.

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