October 26, 2006
By Victoria County Master Gardener Martha Sawyers

The highly anticipated Annual Garden Tour weekend events are finally here! Previous Annual Garden Tours have been in the spring and this first Fall Garden Tour is planned to explore the fall color of “Nature’s Beauty Beyond the Gate”. We do have fall color in Victoria County - and the upcoming weekend activities will feature some of those colors.

Fall is for planting, and gardening in the fall is a wonderful time to make additions to your landscape. Planting now is not only a pleasant time for the gardener to be outdoors but it also gives the new plants the longest time to settle in and establish root systems before the arrival of stressful heat that comes with our South Texas summers.

The Annual Garden Tour this year is presented by the Victoria Advocate and co-sponsored by Trinity Episcopal School and Victoria County Master Gardeners. The tour will be this Saturday, October 28 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, October 29 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Garden Tour tickets are $18 for the five gardens but are $15 if the newspaper coupon is used with the purchase. Tickets for individual gardens may be purchased for $5 per garden. Ticket outlets are Earthworks Nursery, Four Seasons Garden Center, and Renken’s Nursery, Inc. Tickets may also be purchased at Trinity Episcopal School and Victoria County Extension Office.

Plant Sale at 4-H Activity Center
The Master Gardeners will host both the regular Master Gardener Plant Sale and a Highlighted Plant Sale on Saturday in conjunction with the Garden Tour. The Master Gardener Plant Sale will start at 8:00 a.m. at the 4-H Activity Center located on the grounds of the Victoria Regional Airport at 259 Bachelor Drive. The plants at that sale have been propagated by the Master Gardeners in the Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG) greenhouse and in their own gardens. Many of those plants are growing in VEG so Saturday will be a good time to stroll through VEG to see the plants alive and well “in the ground”.

Greenhouse plants include airy firecracker fern, lisianthus groundcover, white orchid trees, purple orchid trees, Moses-in-the-boat, the zigzag-stemmed Redbird, and various gingers. Look for Pride of Barbados, bulbine, and artillery fern. Swiss chard, cauliflower, rosemary, and Malabar spinach will be available for kitchen gardens. Several varieties of coleus will add color to any garden. Master Gardeners will bring bluebonnets, plumerias, durantas, colosia (Black magic elephant ear), shrimp plants, Tua tua, and various lilies. More color will be found with Mexican bush sage, garden mums, cuphea, and black magic sweet potato vine. Each plant will be labeled with pertinent information for successful growing. Master Gardeners will be available to answer plant questions and to assist with purchases.

Highlighted Plant Sale in Old Victoria
The separate Highlighted Plant Sale will begin at 9 a.m. on the 100 block of N. William. The lot is located behind 210 E. Constitution and 104 N. Liberty in Old Victoria (which is behind the Dunnam-Steen Gardens on the tour). This plant sale will feature some of the plants that will be viewed in each of the five tour gardens.

Anyone looking for a plant with beautiful fall coloring will find the “Prince of Orange” philodendron is a wonderful choice from the sale. New leaves unfurl to display a bright shiny coppery-orange color that changes to green as the plant matures. This popular tropical plant likes bright indirect light but will do fine in low light. “Prince of Orange” usually does not grow over 24” in height or width. The soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings.

Green oyster plant and variegated oyster plant (also known as Moses-in-the-boat) can be viewed in 3 tour gardens. Moses-in-the-boat, named for its bloom in a boat-shaped appendage, is a drought and freeze tolerant plant for this area with muted green spear shape leaves that have a purple underside. In the variegated variety, the leaves are mixed with some a more vibrant purple color. It grows in mounds and makes a spectacular border plant. These will be available at the sale.

Shoppers will also find dwarf bottlebrush with its dark red flowers, along with various ferns, Encore azaleas, and Persian shield. Shoppers will find some Texas SuperStar plants: Belinda’s Dream rose, variegated tapioca, and firebush.

Garden Tour participants will receive a guide showing color pictures of the highlighted plants plus information on their care. Master Gardeners will be available to answer questions.

WORKSHOPS on Saturday
Two very special workshops will be held on Saturday at Trinity Episcopal School – Parish Hall located at 1501 N. Glass. Beginning at 3 p.m., Ric Tinney of Panache of Goliad will present Culinary Demonstrations from the Garden. Limited tickets will be sold for the culinary workshop. At 4 p.m., Stanley Schweke of The Foliage Shoppe of Victoria will give a workshop on Holiday Designs from the Garden. There is no limit on the number of tickets for the floral arrangement workshop. Attendance at each workshop will require separate $10 tickets that may be purchased before Saturday at the AGT ticket outlets. Workshop tickets will be sold Saturday at each home on the Garden Tour. Gaye Gilster Lee is sponsoring the workshops. Garden Tour attendance is not required for purchase of the workshop tickets.

Take advantage of the fall weather this weekend to attend the Annual Garden Tour on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, plan to purchase plants from the two plant sales hosted by the Victoria County Master Gardeners and plan to attend the two special interest workshops. Participants will find fellow gardeners eager to share their enthusiasm for “Nature’s Beauty Beyond the Gate”.
Think “Fall”, think “Color”, and think “1st Fall Garden Tour”!