July 2006
Victoria County Master Gardener Association
Rules and Tools

Master gardeners starting new - again

CHARLA BORCHERS LEON - Victoria County Master Gardener
Thursday, July 6th, 2006

You may have read and seen last week's article about The Gardeners' Dirt being awarded first place in Texas Master Gardener mass media competition. And while I have been - and currently remain - editor of the column with weekly responsibilities since its inception, I also want to give additional credit where credit is due.

"The Dirt," as the Master Gardeners refer to it, starts its fourth year of publication with this article. This would not be possible without the dedicated and knowledgeable veteran writers and also the gutsy first-timers.

As the one who coordinates, submits and, every now and then, writes the articles, I want to thank the Master Gardener authors and Extension Agent/Master Gardener Coordinator Joe Janak for the amount of time and effort that go into each week's submission.  In addition, staff editors at the Advocate work with the material in layout and detail well beyond what is known, and I thank them for their efforts in placement and accuracy. The first-place distinction, no doubt, was a determined goal. The award, however, goes to all involved in the publication for the educational benefit of all who read it.

Coming soon
I want to share some of the things that you can look for in upcoming publications of the column. The Ground Rules and Tools, by popular demand, will continue to be published each first Thursday of the month.

As always, there will be educational articles (all with proven and tested information) with photographs, but more material with charts, graphs and grids, Web links and self-directed communication tools. Information regarding the Annual Garden Tour, plant sales and programs of the Master Gardeners will be highlighted, and you will see more "Meet this Gardener" articles. And your input is welcomed! Let us know what you want to read about at vcmga@vicad.com. And we may just write about it.

Officially hot

This first week of July reminds us that the word HOT is official. The first official (hot) day and week of summer has come and gone in June, the fourth of July was celebrated with hot firecrackers, and there is still a hot and humid summer ahead of us, despite the "patchy" rains of recent weeks. You have been alerted to gardening tips for the heat in previous articles, including watering patterns, mulching reminders, and suggested heat-tolerant plants. Speaking of suggested plants, it is time again to share the announcement of two more Texas Superstars.

Two new Superstars
According to a recent news release from Texas Cooperative Extension, duranta and a variety of salvia named Henry Duelberg have been awarded the designation in 2006.


Duranta has a long history and many names, but it is known for consistent quality and is "attractive and useful to a broad spectrum of gardeners."

Two researchers, Dr. Cynthia McKenney and Dr. Wayne Mackay, both with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Dallas, have also said duranta performs consistently well for Texas consumers regardless of their gardening expertise, is as pest resistant as possible and is attractive enough to sell itself without the consumer knowing anything else about it.

The duranta with the Superstar designation is scientifically known as Duranta erecta but is more commonly called lilac-flowered golden dewdrop, Brazilian sky flower, pigeon berry or, simply, duranta. It blooms a sky to royal blue flower throughout the summer and is followed by yellow berries in the fall, also performing well in containers and as patio plants for sun and shade.

Henry Duelberg salvia

This year's other new Texas Superstar is the Henry Duelberg salvia, named from the grave marker in a rural Central Texas cemetery where it was found growing. With dark blue flowers, another variety named Augusta Duelberg, after Henry's wife, has white flowers. "Both are heat and drought tolerant," says McKenney, "grow 2 to 3 feet tall, thrive on full sun and provide good color throughout their blooming season [of] May through the first frost."

"Henry Duelberg salvia is more vigorous than other salvias and it performs best when sheared occasionally to renew the flowers and keep the plant tidy," says Mackay.

These two designations bring the Texas Superstar count to more than three dozen. Some are native Texas plants, others are old favorites and some are new to the industry. All have been tested for at least three years and are "high-performing plant materials that are environmentally tolerant." What more could you ask for in plants for hot and humid summer conditions?

Prune bloomers
Gardening tips this time of year for re-blooming salvias and other fall-blooming perennials include pruning them back with hedging shears, keeping them compact and reducing the need for staking. Remove only the spent flowers and a few inches of stem.

Keep garden colorful
It is not too late to set out another round of colorful, heat-tolerant summer annuals such as salvias, marigolds, celosia, periwinkles and purslane as long as you provide them extra attention for the first few weeks. Be sure to water transplants as needed until roots become established.

Removing faded flowers from plants before they set seed will keep them growing and producing more flowers. A light application of fertilizer every four to six weeks also will help.

Also, provide caladiums with plenty of water and a 21-0-0 fertilizer this time of year in order for them to remain flush and active into the fall. Now is a great time to direct-seed zinnias and portulaca. They can also provide color as you enter into the fall.

Look for seeds
Look for seed purchases of items desired in your garden. Determine a location for planting bluebonnets and other spring wildflowers. Plant so that these germinate in late summer and early fall, develop good root systems, and are ready to grow in the spring when the weather warms. Also consider seeds for cool-season plants.

Seems like spring just transitioned into this hot summer, and we already are advised to think about next spring's blooming flowers. Yet another example of "starting anew - again" in "The Dirt."