Local Master Gardeners share their expertise year-round

July 01, 2010

by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt

A red-blooming selection for your garden is the hardy Jatropha integerrima. An evergreen shrub that can grow into a small tree, it has glossy, green leaves and multi-flowered clusters of star-shaped, scarlet-colored blooms. It is drought- and heat-tolerant, can be pruned at any time to be kept a shrub and needs protection from freeze. Care should be taken with children and pets, as all parts of the plant are considered toxic if ingested.
The blue-flowering Agapanthus africanus is a clumping, evergreen perennial plant that produces round umbels comprised of many blue, tubular flowers on a 1- to 3-foot stem, depending on the variety. This photo shows the full stage of blooms with those just formed, those beginning to open and an umbel in full bloom.
The newest white selection in Master Gardener Charla Borchers Leon's backyard is Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' with its voluminous display of tiny, white flowers that encompass the 12- to 18-inch height and width of the plant. It is a border plant in several of her landscaped flowering beds.
Patriotic Red, White and Blue Selections
I am a believer in the adage that beauty is more than skin deep, and, in fact, that beauty is always in season in a garden.

If one thinks of the four seasons in a year, then there are plants that have annual characteristics in their life span and also those that have perennial growth habits.

To publish gardening information, material must be somewhat seasonal showcasing survivable plants for the area with changes in growing conditions like temperatures, available moisture, and hours of sunshine.

One cannot forget diseases, pests or conditions of plants, shrubs and trees - and solutions to these potential challenges.

As an educational arm of Texas AgriLife Extension, the Victoria County Master Gardener Association also publishes information in this column on Victoria Educational Gardens, educational seminars and symposiums, as well as highlighted plants and features at our very popular plant sales.

We garden annually, so to speak, not only with the four seasons, but with this column that renews annually in July.


Three-hundred-sixty-five days defines something of an annual occurrence.

I contend it equals a lot more than one year. In fact, it means one day of 52 weeks for 7 years. And, in reality, it describes a scenario of a lot more than that.

Today marks the beginning of the eighth year that Victoria County Master Gardeners have provided an educational article to you, our readers, totally voluntarily, without any remuneration whatsoever, every Thursday morning. For seven years straight without interruption, except for one hurricane and one forced mandatory evacuation from the county due to a potential hurricane, 'The Dirt,' as we call it, has been published in collaborative contract with the Advocate.

All articles have original work by 93 individual Master Gardener authors cumulatively, since 2003. Material is compiled and submitted for editing and approval 10 days before it is submitted to the Advocate - and then published seven days after that.

Each article goes through at least a 17-day process within the Master Gardener ranks before submission. Numbers of hours, sometimes too many to document, go into each article before it enters your home or is posted on

The published material is sustainable and research-based through Texas AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M and other universities, national horticulture institutions, botanical gardens and area nursery professionals, not to mention Master Gardener sources.

You can be assured that what you read is true, factual and provable information - or it is not printed.


No article has been duplicated or reproduced since this column began in 2003, and all articles appear on-line archived at, the local Master Gardener website. Each article has been coordinated through this editor every week without a single late submission for 365 weeks. Therefore, 365 days, one day a week for seven years, truly has been far more than an annual occurrence that VCMGA has shared knowledge to the readers of the surrounding area.

This award-winning column has been entered in stringent statewide Master Gardener competition four times since its inception, and without exception, received notable recognition. It ranks first place in Texas - awarded three times - and received second-place distinction after being in existence for only its first half year.


The contractual agreement with the Advocate is taken very seriously by the Master Gardeners who have voted once again to renew a commitment to the column and to our readers. So you have us at least one more time, on an annual basis, beginning anew with year eight.

As editor since inception, I am proud of what this column represents and those who have helped make it what it has become.

We thank the Advocate for allowing us to do what it is designed to do - provide an educational gardening base to citizens of Victoria and 12 surrounding counties.


My turn at writing usually comes this time of year confirming the renewal of the column, and with red, white and blue flavor around the Fourth of July. Each season, I plant in patriotic colors, at least in garden pockets, as I have pride in my state and country outdoors as well as inside my home.

Red - Jatropha

The drought-tolerant jatropha 'Compacta' is a tropical evergreen shrub/small tree that should be considered an annual in our area with its growing pattern. This direct sunlight plant blooms clusters of star-shaped, scarlet flowers amidst glossy, green leaves most of the year, but is not winter-hardy without protection and can be damaged and even lost in hard freezes like the one this past winter. Normally, it is cut back after freezing conditions and re-blooms again in the late spring through fall.

White - Diamond Frost

Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' is a white, flowering annual that is relatively new on the scene, only since 2005. It is a favorite as a container and ground cover or bordering plant because of its white, airy flowers, delicate textured leaves and size of 12- to 18-inches tall and wide. It, too, is heat tolerant, but does best in partial shade - or it will respond by dropping its leaves and flowers when thirsty.

Blue - Agapanthus

The agapanthus, commonly known as Lily of the Nile, is an evergreen perennial from South Africa that blooms late spring to late summer in South Texas. It has round umbels (flower groupings with individual, umbrella-like flower stalks radiating from its central axis) with blue tubular flowers on a 2- to 3-foot stem blooming like an upside-down umbrella. The stems grow from clump-forming, strap-shaped leaves in both the 'Mood Indigo' and 'Elaine' dark blue/violet varieties and the 'Peter Pan' light blue dwarf variety. On occasion, the agapanthus can be found with a white bloom.


However you plan to celebrate this annual holiday weekend, do it with care for family, friends, your landscape and pets.
Do you have a topic you want to read about? Let us hear from you, and we will attempt to to write about it.

Contact us: or The Gardeners' Dirt, c/o Victoria Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902


Applications are online at

Deadline for applying is July 19

Classes start Aug. 5

Read next week's article for more information
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at