Unique gardens feature Texas natives,
trees, palms and tropical plants

October 08, 2010

by Sara Meyer & Pat Plowman, Victoria County Master Gardeners

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

The red-blooming calliandra "powder puff" shrub is fast-growing and blooms spring through fall. It can be found in the Bridges' garden on the tour and will be available at the plant sale.
The purple berry clusters of the American beautyberry grab your attention in the tropical Zeplin-Ramos garden. The shrub grows several feet high and wide in full sun to light shade and does very well in a dense foliage area.
The Victoria Garden Tour is coming up Saturday, Oct. 16 and Sunday, Oct. 17. Victoria County Master Gardeners, along with Texas AgriLife Extension Service-Victoria County, are coordinating this event with five unique gardens, speakers on garden topics at each home, a special night tour of one of the gardens and a highlighted plant sale on Saturday, with more than 30 different species, located at 210 Bramble Bush Lane. The tour is presented by KAVU and co-sponsored by the Victoria Advocate.


This year's gardens feature tropical plants and Texas natives for the Coastal Bend. Tropical plants have flowers of warm-vivid colors, such as red, orange or yellow and bold foliage, making the garden quite colorful.

Tropical plants are found in all gardens and one of the more interesting in Ray and Lisa Bridges' garden is the red-blooming calliandra, a fast-growing shrub. Often referred to as a powder puff plant, the flowers resemble the vintage powder puffs of our grandmothers' time. This plant attracts hummingbirds and bees and will bloom from spring through late fall.

Another outstanding tropical vine found in this garden is the free-branching perennial climber, Rangoon creeper, which needs support as it can grow up to 70 feet. This vine blooms white to pink to red over three days during the summer and fall. The Mexican orchid tree, bauhinia Mexicana, blooms in white, summer through fall, on this multi-trunked small tree/shrub, which must have organic soil with good drainage. Other highlighted plants at this garden include Holik firebush and the compact Mexican firebush.


With more than 14 different species of trees in this garden, many brought as saplings from the river bottom, one of the most outstanding is the Mexican (Texas) olive tree. It can get 20-feet tall and needs full sun for its beautiful, white blooms and fruit. But don't eat the olives as they are rather bitter. The vitex tree is a Texas Superstar, which can grow to 25 feet. It produces lilac bloom spikes and grows in either acid or alkaline soil. Butterflies love it and the deer won't eat it.

Another highlighted plant here is the black foot daisy, a Texas Native, which requires little water and grows well in partial sun to shade. Its small, white daisy flowers bloom spring through fall. To bring fall color into the garden, the Andersons plant pots with chrysanthemum pacificum, a bright yellow blooming perennial for those sunny locations that require little water. Highlighted for its drought-resistance and showy, yellow blooms, the thryallis, a Texas Superstar, thrives in full sun.


The beds in the front yard of David and Sherri Janssen boast "Green Mound" junipers used as ground cover cascading over the nooks and crannies. Through the garden gate into the terraced oasis, the wax-leaf myrtle enjoys sun to partial shade as it reaches 12- to 15-feet high. As winter comes, this Texas native blooms with blue berries and is deer-resistant. The Janssen's use of dwarf mondo grass, Nana, throughout the terraces provides good color and texture where turf grass is difficult to grow.

Another highlighted plant is the abelia "twist of lime," which is a compact, evergreen shrub with glossy leaves. This shrub enjoys full sun and blooms summer through fall. As a young shrub, it has bright yellow flowers with green centers, which turn a rich ivory with green centers as the shrub matures.


The highlighted plants at the Zeplin-Ramos garden include several tropical beauties, such as the American beautyberry, blue butterfly flower (clerodendrum ugandense) and King's crown (dicliptera suberecta). These three enjoy partial shade and bloom from spring through late fall. Clerodendrum flowers only last one day, but come in clusters. The beautyberry's small, shiny purple berries are a show stopper.

The butia yatay, a highlighted palm on the tour, can grow up to 40 feet with sweet, orange fruit and vibrant yellow flowers, but will not be available for sale; the pindo palm, a cold-hardy, smaller palm from the same palm family, will be available.


The tropical color red is seen in the Tucker's different species of plants - the blood lily and the red orchid tree. Both enjoy well-drained soil and bloom mid-summer to late-fall.

The clerodendrum incisum var. macrosiphon, or musical note, is a prolific bloomer with white buds resembling musical notes. Another highlighted plant here is the African hosta, not a true hosta at all. This plant features wide leaves with black spots creating different color in the garden. The curcuma, or hidden ginger depending on the variety, blooms in various colors on the short stalk amid the leaves from spring to fall, then goes dormant. Elephant's ears, or alocasia, can be found throughout the garden and on the patio in pots. The patio also overflows with interesting succulents, such as the star cactus.


Come out to see these highlighted plants at the Victoria Garden Tour Oct. 16-17 and take home a couple of them for your own enjoyment.
The magnificent bloom of the curcuma, or hidden ginger, all but jumps out at you from its low-to-the-ground position on a short stalk. The bloom can be found in various shades in the Tucker garden on the tour.
LEFT: The "twist of lime" abelia in the Janssen garden is a compact, evergreen shrub with waxy leaves that blooms summer through fall in full sun. It first blooms bright yellow flowers with green centers that turn to rich ivory with green centers as the plant matures.

The Texas Superstar thryallis shrub flashes bright yellow blooms and is known for its drought-tolerance in full sun. Look for it in the Anderson garden by the brightly-colored, plant-potting shed.
Saturday, Oct. 16 ~ 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Anderson Garden ~ 210 Bramble Bush Lane

Victoria Garden Tour

Saturday, Oct. 16, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 17, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Night Tour at the Zeplin-Ramos Home
Saturday, Oct. 16, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: $15/person for 5 gardens; Night Tour - $5/person for the garden

Devereux Gardens, 1313 N. Navarro St.
Earthworks, 102 E. Airline Road
Four Seasons Garden Center, 1209 E. Salem Road
Texas AgriLife Extension, 442 Foster Field Drive
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