Lots to choose from at spring plant sale
Proceeds from annual fundraiser go toward the Victoria Educational Gardens

April 20, 2006
MARTHA SAWYERS - Victoria County Master Gardener

Victoria County Master Gardeners have been enthusiastically planting seeds and propagating plants in preparation for their annual spring plant sale on Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Victoria County 4-H Activity Center.

A large variety of plants will be available for beginning and more experienced gardeners. Some plants will be familiar because of their blooms and others may be new to some customers.

Leaves to love

Anyone looking for a plant to add a special interest to his or her garden might consider choosing a plant for its foliage. Some plants bring added color only when they are blooming, but often a plant with an interesting leaf will give pleasure even when it is not in bloom.

Two low-maintenance plants that have eye-catching foliage are Bengal Tiger canna (canna x generalis "Pretoria") and Tropicanna (canna x generalis "Pretoria"). The plants are perennial tropicals with banana-like leaves that grow very well in our area.

Bengal Tiger has large variegated leaves that are striped in bands of light green and cream. Tropicanna foliage has burgundy undertones with striped bands of pink, red, yellow, and green. Tropicanna leaf colors suggest a tropical sunset and appear translucent when the sun shines through them. Both plants have showy orange flowers that appear from summer until frost. The blooms may be cut if the color orange does not work in your garden.

Both Bengal Tiger and Tropicanna reach from 4 to 6 feet in height and spread by underground rhizomes. Propagation is by division so they are easy to dig to "pass-along" to visitors who admire them. Plant these cannas in full sun to partial shade in a rich moist soil. They may die to the ground after a freeze but will reappear in the spring. The major pest of cannas is the leaf roller. The problem can usually be controlled by applications of insecticides to the leaves or systemic insecticides to the root area. An alternate solution is to spray them periodically with any of the Bt insecticides. I have both of these in my garden, and they should be available on Saturday.

Spring's offspring

Plants from the Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG) greenhouse are ready for purchase. The seedlings have been nurtured, and cuttings from VEG are potted to sell. Among those plants are golden rain tree, white crinum, Louisiana iris, bromeliads, beech vitex, feather grass, plumerias and durantas.

Superstar status

Texas Cooperative Extension has just announced that the duranta plant, a beautiful yellow-berry, blue-flowering shrub has been awarded the Texas Superstar status. To achieve this distinction, it was selected from numerous others as a highly recommended landscape plant primarily based upon positive observations made at replicated plots and demonstration trials across the state over the past several years.

The Henry Duelberg salvia has also recently been awarded this status. While both durantas and salvias are expected to be available at the sale, it is not certain as of this writing if the salvias are the Superstar variety - or not.

About the sale

Master Gardeners have been growing plants in their own gardens for the sale. Their enthusiasm and knowledge of gardening is reflected in the large variety of plants provided by them.

Here is an extensive lists of plants grown by master gardeners.

Root-hardy tropical perennials include Tropicannas, ‘Bengal Tiger’ cannas, crinums, assorted gingers, angel trumpets, rojo bananas and dwarf bananas. 

Other perennials available will be fall asters, salvias, gazania, shrimp plants, gaura, cats' whiskers, columbine, firespike, rock rose, cape honeysuckle, and Mexican heather.  Tender plants include Philippine violets, Moses-in-a-Boat, orchid trees, and plumerias.  

Some trees for sale will be papayas, desert willow, Texas mountain laurel, and loquat.  Trumpet creeper vines, Bolivian Jew, Maid of Orleans jasmine, Mexican honeysuckles and butterfly vine are just a few of the vines the Master Gardeners will provide. 

Ornamental grasses may be purchased and there will also be lion’s ear, lamb’s ear and donkey’s ear.   Basil and bell pepper plants ready for planting and to later harvest for meals will also be available.

A large assortment of roses will be on sale just outside the 4-H building.  Many of the roses were given to the Master Gardeners by Citizens’ Medical Center when the hospital redesigned its landscape.  The roses have been potted and cared for and are ready to be given new homes.

The plants inside the 4-H Center will be grouped by types, and plant labels will provide customers the tips needed for successful plantings of their purchases. A plant information table will be staffed by Master Gardeners to assist customers with their plant questions. Master Gardeners will also be available to help customers carry plants to their vehicles.

Victoria County Master Gardeners host two plant sales each year to raise funds for Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG). Take time to stroll through VEG (Phase I is located down the sidewalk just east of the sale) to see many of the plants that are available for purchase. The VEG (Phase II) expansion project is under way to the east of the Officers Club and may be viewed from the street. Phase II will exhibit plants in the container garden, tropical garden, and turf grass areas.

The 4-H Activity Center is located at 259 Bachelor Drive on the grounds of Victoria Regional Airport. Yellow signs will direct people from Highway 59 to the sale.

Come early for the best selection. Bring your gardening friends and be ready to make new ones. Master Gardeners enjoy sharing their enthusiasm with fellow gardeners.