SPRING back from
8:00 a.m~283 Bachelor Dr.
Sale offers no reason to rue
plant losses due to freeze

March 11, 2010

by Nancy Kramer
Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Many home gardeners have looked around and felt pretty depressed about the huge freeze losses in yards throughout the area, but never fear - remember that sometimes with loss comes new ideas and new growth, and spring will bring back some of our favorite plants with even healthier attributes.

Getting some great new spring plants in the landscape, such as sweet alyssum, will aid in bringing in the beneficial insects quicker.

If you're one who looks forward to adding something really special to your landscape, the Victoria County Master Gardener Association spring plant sale will feature five beautiful, interesting goodies for our avid buyers.

The sale will start bright and early at 8 a.m., on Saturday, March 20, at our new Victoria Educational Gardens pavilion, 283 Bachelor Drive, at the Victoria Regional Airport.

Common Rue

The first choice in our featured plants at the sale is common rue, sometimes called herb of Grace. There will be lots of it ready for the sale in 1-gallon and 4-inch containers.
Lavender ribbon-shaped flowers cover the perennial ribbon bush from fall through winter.  Tubular blooms that stand erect above the bush make a great attractor for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds searching for nectar.  This Treesearch plant will likely go quickly at the sale.
PHOTO AT TOP: The common rue herb plant with card deck club-shaped blue-green leaves will be available in 2-gallon and 4-inch containers at the upcoming Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale on March 20.  It is host to black and giant swallowtail butterflies.
This lovely perennial herb with blue-green foliage has flourished through the winter and is ready to be added to your yards. Rue is a good beneficial insect attractor.The leaves have an interesting shape, as they resemble the club suit in a deck of playing cards.

"Ruta graveolens prefers full sun, moderate water... some places this would be drought tolerant.... and it stinks to high heaven," according to the GardenWeb forums.

Well, it is an aromatic herb, and I took lots of photos of it in the greenhouse and it was not stinky. The smell of crushed rue reportedly repels cats and dogs.

Here in hot Texas, rue prefers partial shade. Rue has pretty yellow flowers and is a butterfly magnet, but you may want to deadhead before it goes to seed to keep it from spreading.

Rue is the all-time favorite larval food of the black swallowtails and giant swallowtails, so, butterfly lovers, you can get it here.

Buyers beware: Rue can irritate the skin when touched on sunny days - although many people do not have a problem with this. It can make you sick if eaten, so be aware of this before planting it.

And don't handle it on sunshiny days, as it may enhance the action of the sun.

There are so many more positive things about rue if you do some research on it.

Sun Spice Ginger

Our second special choice is the beautiful new variegated evergreen ginger, Alpinia intermedia sun spice from Japan, a hybrid of one of the hardiest species.

The clump grows to about 18 inches tall with spreading gold-splashed leaves with stable variegation.

It does not flower heavily, but does have spikes of white flowers with a yellow lip.

It is hardy in USDA Zone 8 through Zone 11 and similar to the variegated shell ginger we're all familiar with here, but hardier.

The sun spice does well in partial sun or bright shade with medium water needs. They are a nice size in 2-gallon pots and will grow quickly.

With so many of us waiting for our gingers to come back out this year, this will be a really great start of a new ginger for us. This ginger also does well as a container plant.

Giant Ligularia

A really unusual plant to share with you is the Farfugium japonicum "gigantea" giant ligularia.

Master gardeners have these ready to sell in 2-gallon pots.

Although the leaves freeze back at 20 degrees, it didn't take much to protect them through the hard freeze we had, as they are hardy almost to 0 degrees.

Previously known as Ligularia tussilaginea Gigantea, giant ligularia adds a distinctively tropical look to any garden with its giant shiny dark green leaves up to 18 inches across. Each plant will grow 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 foot wide.

"Ligularias require ample water and in fact can be grown in a pot sitting in a saucer of water or in wet bog garden conditions. It flowers in summer until fall with four-foot spikes sporting yellow daisy-like flowers. It is a must have for the collector of unusual plants, " according to the Caldwell Nursery in Rosenberg.

Ribbon Bush

The coolest of all our featured plants were grown by Treesearch Farms. We have chosen some favorites for the butterfly and hummingbird lovers.

Heidi Sheesley at Treesearch describes the ribbon bush (Hypoestes aristata) as "a beautiful upright shrubby perennial to 3 or 4 feet tall with an intense show of lavender/purple ribbon-like flowers in late fall to midwinter."

It is root hardy in most winters, prefers sun to part shade and will provide some cool garden color. It makes a great tall border plant.

Variegated Red Shrimp Plant

Sheesley has also provided us with a shrimp plant favorite - the red one - but this one is variegated. It has green and white variegated foliage, which produces red bract-like flowers that resemble shrimp.

Blooming most of the year, this plant is quite unique. Also a butterfly and bee attractor, this plant will tolerate a freeze, as it is root hardy to Zone 8a.

The shrimp plant grows best in full sun, but will tolerate light shade.

The master gardeners always look at plant sales as a way to help educate the public about what's out there, and as a way to benefit our Victoria Educational Gardens - and this year in particular to help fund the completion of the pavilion.

Master gardeners will be on hand to help you with your selections, so come on out early next Saturday, March 20, and choose from various Master gardener propagated plants in addition to these featured plants at our spring 2010 plant sale.
Sun Spice Ginger is a beautiful new evergreen ginger from Japan.  It does well as a container plant or in the garden with clumps growing 18 inches tall.  It will grow quickly to replace dead foliage, so look for it in 2-gallon pots at the sale.
The leaves of the giant ligularia plant grow up to 18 inches across and can give the landscape a tropical look, although the plant is very hardy in the cold.  It has yellow daisy-like flowers that add color in summer through fall on 4-foot spikes.  It will also be available in 2-gallon pots.

Common Rue Perennial herb
Height - 18-24 inches Width - 15-18 inches Zone 6-11 Full sun Normal water to drought tolerant Yellow blooms in summer

Sun Spice Ginger
Tropical Perennial
Height - 18-24 inches Width - spreading Zone 8-11
Part shade Normal to moist water needs White with yellow lip blooms in summer

Giant Ligularia
Herbaceous perennial
Height - 12-14 inches Width - 18-24 inches Zone 7-10 Part shade to full shade Medium water Yellow blooms summer to fall

Ribbon Bush
Perennial shrub
Height - 4-6 feet Width - 15-18 inches Zone 8-11
Full sun to part shade Water well Lavender blooms in fall

Red Variegated Shrimp
Plant Perennial
Height - 18-24 inches Width - 15-18 inches Zone 9-11 Full sun to light shade Water regularly Blooms repeatedly red bracts with white flowers
Red Variegated Shrimp Plant
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 vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.