Texas pride and patriotic tradition

July 06, 2012

by Charla Borchers Leon, Victoria County Master Gardener
and Editor-in-chief of Gardeners' Dirt
Gardeners' Dirt
With a long spike full of flowers and stamens, the bloom of the cat whisker's plant resembles its name. It creates a series of blooms as the plant adds more stems and new growth. It is shown here softening long-leafed plants in dense growth under a magnolia tree with filtered light.
Appropriately patriotic in appearance and name, extending from atop a long white fence that overlooks a red, white and blue flower bed are white blooming "bleeding heart" clerodendrums.
The rich blue, bell-shaped flower of the lisianthus proudly claims the Texas bluebell name. It prefers direct sun with moderate watering and good drainage.
Red, White and Blue Patriotic Plants
Vinca Mediterranean Red
The red Mediterranean vinca has a carpet-style trailing habit that weaves its bright red blooms throughout a flower bed in full sun. Due to its cascading tendencies, it also does well in containers and baskets with infrequent watering and good drainage.
Captured from above, this image shows the cat's whiskers projecting its bloom near those of the bleeding heart clerodendrum, both species of which tower over the red Mediterranean vinca and Texas bluebell plants closer to the ground.
This annual publication of "The Dirt" is full of tradition. It is indicative of the week of renewal of the agreement between the Victoria County Master Gardeners and the Advocate to publish this gardening column. It also always reaches our readers around the Fourth of July - and for the last eight years I have addressed a topic of 'red, white and blue' with this traditionally patriotic time of the year.


It was mid-spring when a small group of Master Gardeners discussed the possibility of approaching the Advocate about offering a gardening column to the public for educational purposes.

Contacts were made, numerous meetings were held, a vote was taken and a contract was signed. On that July 3, "The Gardeners' Dirt" began its weekly journey that is now beginning a decade of continuous publication - completely free to the public.

It has been published with authentic and never-repeated articles written by 115 different authors and edited by this editor-in-chief for 470 continuous weeks, short of two weeks when there was a threatening hurricane evacuation for our area.

It reaches potentially 94,000 plus readers in 12 area counties every Friday, according to industry standards, with all articles from inception available 24/7 and archived at vcmga.org.

The column proudly claims statewide recognition each time it has been entered in competition, garnering all first and second place awards. Perhaps the proudest accolade to date was when the Advocate dedicated an editorial printing that commended the column and its long-time editor-in-chief for it being one of the most educational contributions to the newspaper and the community as a whole.

Victoria County Master Gardeners celebrate its successes and our pride in it by voting this past week to, once again, provide it to you into what begins a "Decade of 'The Dirt.'"


Texas pride and patriotic tradition run deep in my world, and I am known to intertwine these sentiments in this annual renewal article around Independence Day. I also always have specific red, white and blue plantings in my own landscape, and this year there are several boasting their colors.

With the terrifically hot and dry weather the past few weeks, I am glad I chose plantings in these three colors that will tolerate the current conditions.

Red Mediterranean Vinca - Also known as the Madagascar periwinkle, the red Mediterranean vinca is a carpet-type plant with trailing habits that works well to weave color in beds or cascade from containers or baskets.

I had been familiar with the white, mounding plant for hot and dry conditions for many years, but was enticed with the idea of a prolific blooming vinca that was low maintenance and would cover my bed with single red blooms with white centers all summer long into the first fall frost.

It is so conducive to the hot climate that it prefers to dry out completely between infrequent watering. To top it off, bees and butterflies like it as much I do.

White Cat's Whiskers
- A member of the mint family, cat's whiskers originates in tropical East Asia, but grows well in the South - and in Texas. Its exotic blossoms in white (or bluish-purple) consist of a long spike full of flowers and stamens, resembling cat's whiskers. Growing well in combination plantings, it softens long-and large-leafed plants and attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to its nectar. This shrub-like plant reaches about 2 feet tall and has a series of blossoms as the plant adds more stems and blooms on new growth. Cat's whiskers likes direct sun but it also grows well with several hours of filtered light, like under the magnolia tree facing the west side of my driveway.

Texas Bluebell
- Lisianthus is the name for the Eustoma grandiflorum plant, commonly referred to as Texas bluebell. Native to the western United States and South America, it has blue to rose-red flowers depending on the variety that bloom from May to September in full sun with regular watering and good drainage. The plant grows 12 inches high - and usually taller - and blooms its single or double-petal bell-shaped flowers from its main stem. The numbers of butterflies the flowers attract is indicative of their characteristics of charisma and congeniality. The flowers are also known to inspire romantic feelings, which find them used in wedding floral arrangements.

The above three plants, appearing together in a special bed in my landscape, are the newest additions to two fence-climbing white-with-red bleeding heart clerodendrums, an arbor in a bed across the pavilion with beautiful parasol red-blooming mandevilla and blue agapanthus - and tree beds with dwarf red and white pintas with blue torenia that have a bloom that is a summer version of the snapdragon.

All of these plant selections add a touch of patriotic tradition and pride to an expansive yard bordered by red brick pavers and up against a white home with columns. The blue sky is the perfect setting for these fireworks of red, white and blue color.

Whatever you may have done to celebrate the Fourth of July - and may continue to do over this extended summer weekend - remember the true meaning of the red, white and blue that grants us freedoms and liberties unknown to many. God bless our troops around the world - and also our state and country.

The Master Gardeners thank you for reading our column that aims to share good gardening practices with award-winning Texas tradition into its 10th year.
Yet Another Time

  Competing with medium to large size groups across Texas,
  'The Gardeners' Dirt' along with the Master Gardener website,
vcmga.org, were recently awarded first place for educational impact
  All 465 plus articles published in the column are
archived for viewing 24/7
  The column has also received three first place and two second place awards in its previous publication history

Pattie Dodson Health Center
2805 N. Navarro
Free to the public
Noon-1 p.m.
Victoria County Master Gardener Chip Stelpflug will present Fall Vegetable Gardening. Bring your lunch and drink
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.