Master gardener plant sale to ensure on-time fall planting

September 29, 2005

by Diana Maley, Master Gardener, Plant Sale Co-chair

Fall planting time is here - and although cooler temperatures may not arrive any time soon, the master gardener fall plant sale will be here this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The sale will be held at the 4-H Activity Center located at 259 Bachelor Drive on the grounds of the Victoria Regional Airport. Enter the airport and follow the signs to get there.

Through the hot summer, master gardeners have planted seeds, propagated cuttings and divided plants from their yards. Our greenhouse committee has done the same with plants from our educational gardens. The plants were watched, tended and pampered - all with the sole purpose of growing plants for the sale.

There are a large variety of plants ready for new homes. As chairman of the sale, I can assure you each has passed the master gardener test of excellence and endurance. They will be sorted, divided into groups and labeled with growing information. We gladly do this to make selections easier for you. There will be an information table manned by member volunteers to answer questions and assist with selections. If additional information is needed we will have plant reference books on hand. If you have a question or need some gardening tips, feel free to ask. Master Gardeners like nothing better than to talk about our gardening experiences.

For this sale we have four highlighted plants: duranta, cigar plant, porter weed and ornamental sweet potato vine - the first three of which are perennials and the last one an annual. All require very little care and grow well in our hot, humid climate.

I will begin with the perennials. All will reward you with an abundance of blooms. As an added bonus each is a magnet to butterflies and hummingbirds. I have them in my garden, and I cannot express the joy I get when I see the delight on my granddaughter's face while we watch the hummingbirds zip about feeding on the cigar plant and porter weed or attempt to count the butterflies on the duranta.

Duranta, also called skyflower or golden dewdrop, is a shrub with arching stems. It can become very large if not pruned but does not mind being thinned or pruned to keep it in shape. I just can't bear to prune mine while it is blooming because there are so many butterflies feeding on it. With full sun and regular watering, it will continue to bloom until the first frost. During the winter, it may die back to the ground. When spring arrives, it awakens and sends up new shoots to delight the eye with its dark lavender blooms. The variegated variety is called cloud duranta. Although not blooming with the abundance of the skyflower, it has its own beauty. Its green leaves are laced with white lines and have blooms of light blue.

Cigar plant is trouble-free and blooms prolifically through spring and summer, with orange and red 1-inch tubular flowers. The cigar plant is a large plant, up to 4-feet wide and 3-feet high, so give it plenty of space in your bed. Plant in full sun and water regularly - then stand back and watch nature at its best. You will have a busy "skyway" with all the visitors to the cigar plant. Mine is literally buzzing with honeybees and hummingbirds.

Porter weed is a weedy perennial herb growing up to 5 feet. It is a fun and different kind of plant to add to the garden. It has tiny purple flowers along curled spikes but it doles out its beauty in small portions and produces no more than four or five at a time on each spike. It is a versatile shrub that can be pruned back or can be left to grow and spread out. Porter weed requires full sun and regular watering. I saw my first one at a nursery in San Antonio. I'm not sure what caught my eye first - the beautiful blooms or the amount of hummingbirds feeding on it. Did I buy one? You bet I did. And you should, too.

Our featured annual plant is ornamental sweet potato vine. A vigorous grower, it is a trailing vine growing up to 36 inches. It makes a great groundcover, hanging plant, or mixed in a pot with other plants. We have two varieties, Marguerite and Blackie. Marguerite has lime-green foliage, which is a great contrast plant for any garden. It will do better in partial sun because the lighter-colored foliage tends to burn in full sun conditions. Blackie has deep purple to nearly black foliage, which can be grown in full sun. Blackie and Marguerite bring out the burgundy and green in coleus and contrast beautifully with both variegated plants and bright colors.

With the large variety of plants too numerous to list, the following is a partial listing of those that will be available at the sale: Trees - golden rain, orchid, peach, papaya, crepe myrtle, mountain laurel and candle stick. Vines - cypress, passion and butterfly. Ferns - firecracker, river and holly. Tropicals - tua tua, plumeria, angel trumpets, butterfly ginger, banana, cannas. Perennials - cat whiskers, Mona lavender, Brazilian button bush, crown of thorns, blue mist, chocolate plant, Persian shield, golden goddess bamboo, umbrella plant, queens tears, salvias, beach vitex and many more. Vegetables: malabar spinach, better boy and celebrity tomatoes, and cauliflower, broccoli and ornamental cabbage plants.

For those of you who like to plant seeds, we will be offering them that have been collected from our yards. They are dried, packaged, labeled and ready to plant.

While at the plant sale, take time to tour the Master Gardener Victoria Educational Gardens located next to the Officer's Club. You will see the highlighted plants and companion plants in bed settings. Our newest addition is the secret garden. You may even be lucky enough to see our resident visitor, "Mr. Armadillo" who at times reeks havoc in our planting beds. But that's OK - we welcome all visitors. We're just more friendly to some than others.

Due to Hurricane Rita, the plant sale was postponed from last weekend. Make the time this Saturday to come shop the Master Gardener plant sale and begin your fall planting on time.