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July Plant of the Month

Jerusalem Sage

Oh man, it's getting hot out there. But here's one plant that can take the heat without complaining even a little bit. Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) will take that summer sun and turn it into a spectacular show of yellow flowers to stop you in your tracks.

jerusalem sage

Growing to about 3-4 tall and wide, this shrubby semi-evergreen has woolly gray-green leaves with yellow blooms that appear in spring or early summer. You'll also see butterflies and hummingbirds when you plant this one. Deadheading will encourage it to re-bloom again during the season. Or, leave it alone and let the interesting star shaped seed heads have their moment. The flowers can be cut for bouquets and vases, or used as a dried flower.

Jerusalem Sage is not a true sage plant, but a member of the mint family. Its Mediterranean origins mean that you can count on it tolerating and even thriving in hot, dry spots. Plant in well drained soil in full sun. It is drought tolerant once established and guess what? It's deer resistant! This plant is easy to care for with few pest or disease problems.

Jerusalem Sage is classified as an herbaceous perennial, but here in good ol' zone 8a/9, it all just depends on our winter weather. It is usually a semi-evergreen or in a mild winter, you may not notice any missing leaves at all. A hard winter may make it freeze back, but it generally comes back year after year. It is cold hardy to about 23º although it has been reported to survive lower temperatures.

The mounding, bushy growth habit of Jerusalem Sage makes it look great in informal gardens, cottage gardens or in a Mediterranean themed garden. Pair it with santolina, rosemary, lavender, olives or even agave plants. Use this plant as a border, small hedge or in containers. Jerusalem Sage is blooming now at  The Garden Center. Come by and grab one before they're all gone!





Here's to the Best Nursery Cat Ever

No nursery is complete without a cat laying around (or on) your plants. That's why it is with heavy hearts that we must say goodbye to our four legged friend, Spartacus. What we thought was an upper respiratory infection unfortunately turned out to be cancer. We want to thank Dr. Pavlov, Dr. Peters and all of the caring staff at Pavlov's Dog and Cat Hospital who helped us take care of Spartacus throughout the years and in his final days.

spartacusSpartacus was not your ordinary nursery cat. He came to The Garden Center as a stray kitten hiding out in the bushes. He would cry to get your attention, but was too shy to come near. It's safe to say he got over that with time and kibble. We will miss opening up in the morning with him waiting by the door. He was always present at our weekly staff meetings, even though we know he was just there for the tacos.

We could never hide the trays of catnip from him, and before we knew it, we had smushed plants and a happy cat. Spartacus was good at bringing us gifts of mice, lizards and the occasional snake. YIKES! You could never turn on a water hose without Spartacus begging for a drink. In the summer, he liked to be hosed down to cool off. Weirdo. He learned the commands "jump", "go to your spot", "shake hands" and could give you a "high five". If he wasn't getting enough love and attention, he would chase you down and grab your ankle. He let us do all sorts of goofy things to him for good photo.

We'll miss dragging him inside at the end of the day to keep him from chasing the raccoons at night. He could be grumpy and unpredictable at times and therefore came with his own warning label. Cats, you know? We're told that he turned into a Tazmanian devil once when getting his teeth cleaned, but Dr. Pavlov would always still say he was "such a good kitty". And he's right. We don't care what anyone says, Spartacus was the best nursery cat ever.

R.I.P. Spartacus; 2009-June 15th, 2018






June Plant of the Month


Do you love the smell and taste of rosemary? Not only is this woody perennial herb a wonderful ingredient for cooking, it's easy to grow in your landscape!

What's the Difference?

There's lots of different varieties to choose from, all of them are edible! Some varieties grow upright while others spread like a ground cover. Upright varieties can make nice borders or hedges, while trailing varieties look great spilling over a retaining wall or out of a container. At The Garden Center you can often find Tuscan Blue or Barbecue (upright), Prostrate or Lockwood de Forest (trailing). Tiny blue flowers will appear in spring and summer, attracting those oh so beneficial bees!

How to Grow

Rosemary grows best in full sun. Yes, even our San Antonio summer full sun. Its Mediterranean origins mean that it can tolerate lots of heat and drought. It needs well draining soil and good air circulation. Too much water and cramped conditions can cause mildew issues and less flavorful foliage. Another great thing about rosemary is that deer think it's an acquired taste and won't bother it.

Uses and Benefits

Grow rosemary along walkways, near patios or in containers. Whenever you brush against them walking by, you'll release their fragrance. Some say the scent even repels mosquitoes! Here are some other benefits and uses for this awesome herb:

  • Contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds
  • Studies have shown that rosemary may help fight diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's
  • The scent of rosemary improves memory, concentration and mood
  • Can be made into a topical tonic to promote hair growth
  • Improves digestion
  • Can be used as flavoring for meat, bread, deserts, preserved with vinegar or olive oil

It's no wonder that rosemary was selected as The International Herb Association's Plant of the Year in 2000. Ready to plant yours? They are available nearly year-round at The Garden Center. Come by and run your hands through them. You won't be able to resist!







How to Water Your Plants

You might be saying, why on earth would someone need to write about this? Seems easy enough; you pour some water on and you're done, right? Not so fast! Over and under watering are the most common reasons that new plants fail. Here are some tips for watering your newly planted babies.

New In-Ground Plantings


The best way to water new plants is by hand. Not only is hand watering allowed even during watering restrictions, this method ensures the plant will get enough moisture. Use a handheld hose to thoroughly saturate the root ball of the plant all the way around. Turn the hose on high and don't allow your water hose to sit off to one side. Spraying foliage is not necessary.

Perennials, annuals and shrubs should be watered 2-3 times per week, about 2-5 minutes at a time. Trees should be watered 2-3 times per week about 2-5 minutes, depending on the tree's size. Remember that seasonal adjustments may need to be made to your watering schedule (e.g. super hot, dry summers or lots of torrential downpours).

More water is not always better! The idea behind hand watering is to water deeply and infrequently. This encourages roots to go deep into the soil to get that water. Shallow watering keeps roots near the surface, causing a weaker root system.

We recommend watering regularly for the first year to get plants established. Yup, a whole year. After that you can start to slowly taper off the amount you give them.

Some Like it Hot

Er, uh dry. Plants like palm trees, succulents and cactus store a lot of water in their trunks and like to stay on the dry side, but they still need some love to get established. Water these only once a week, 3-5 minutes at a time.


Check container plants daily. In the summer, sometimes twice a day! The smaller the container, the faster it will dry out. Hanging baskets will also dry out quickly. The type of container you use can also have an effect on moisture levels. Terra cotta pots tend to dry out faster than glazed ceramic ones. That plant you bought but haven't planted yet? If it's in one of those black plastic buckets, it's going to heat up quickly in a sunny spot!

Indoor Plants

Check indoor plants for water every 7-10 days or so. Your mileage may vary. If you're getting those little fungus gnats hanging around, your plants may be staying too wet. Those little pests LOVE excess moisture.

Established Plants

Established trees, shrubs and perennials often do not need weekly watering. A thorough soak a couple times per month should be enough. Except when there's....


Ugh. The D word. Even plants that are drought tolerant will feel the heat. Remember tolerant does not mean they will necessarily like it! You may need to add longer or additional waterings in a period of drought.

What About Sprinklers and Watering Bags?

Sprinklers are fine for supplemental watering, but should not be relied upon to get your plants established. Sprinklers are designed to water lawns, whose roots are only a few inches deep. Remember that thing about shallow watering? The same is true with watering bags- they should not replace regular watering by hand.

How to Check Moisture Levels

Read carefully now, this is a really sophisticated method to check your plants for water. Stick your finger in the dirt. Okay, so it's not. You really don't need fancy meters to tell you what your plant needs. This method is sometimes called the two knuckle rule. Place your finger in the soil up to the second knuckle to check for moisture. If the soil is dry, crumbly and comes off your finger easily, apply water. Wet, muddy soil that sticks to your finger means you can wait a bit.

Whew! Are you ready for a glass of water yourself? There are many philosophies regarding watering plants. These tips have served us well for over 25 years. Remember that plants are like people, some may need more attention than others, even if it's the same species or planted in the same area. Gardening takes practice and patience. As you hand water your plants, you will get to know them and their needs better. Really!





May Plant of the Month


brunfelsiaAre you one of those gardeners that can't ever decide which color flower to get? Don't you wish that one plant could have all different colors? Brunfelsia might be for you! Also called Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Brunfelsia blooms purple, then matures to lavender and finally white within three days. You will see all three colors on one shrub at once!

There are many varieties of Brunfelsia, growing anywhere from 4-10 feet tall. These tropical evergreen shrubs have glossy green leaves with a bushy form making them a good choice for foundation plantings and containers. TONS of fragrant flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds appear in spring. The flowers are large, almost 2 inches across! While the biggest show of flowers will be in spring, it will also bloom on and off summer until frost. Speaking of frost, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow can handle light frost, but may suffer damage from a very hard freeze.

This plant loves moist, acidic soil and performs best where it can get some shade from our hot afternoon sun. Morning sun is great or dappled sun all day. They look great when mixed with other tropical looking plants like Elephant Ear, Agapanthus or ferns.

The downside? Think twice about planting if you have dogs, cats or horses; especially if they like to nibble your plants. Brunfelsia is a member of the nightshade family and all parts of it ARE POISONOUS. Even just a little taste can cause problems.

As long as no one chews on it, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow can be a wonderful addition to your garden. Brunfelsia is blooming right now at The Garden Center! Come by and see these beauties for yourself.



Do You Need Plant Insurance?

Do you need plant insurance? If you weren't born with a green thumb, you might think so. Gardening is a lot of trial and error, learning from mistakes and can be more art than science! However, there is a way to increase your chance of success with your newly planted trees and shrubs. The answer is root stimulator, one of our top selling products.

root stimulatorRoot Stimulator

We like to call it "cheap plant insurance". It can be used on just about anything that's going from a container to the ground. We especially love it for trees, shrubs and perennials.

Root stimulator is formulated to enhance early root growth and strong root development. This is important because when a plant is first placed in the ground, the first thing it wants to do is set roots. Root stimulator encourages this process to occur faster, leading to more vigorous plant growth.

How Does it Work?

Root stimulator comes in a liquid concentrate. Mix with water according to the instructions and pour around the base of the plant. You can use root stimulator about twice a month for the first two to three months after planting. If your plant is doing alright after that, high five! If it starts to struggle, you can try using another round of applications.

Ease Stress from Transplanting

Root stimulator not only increases root production, it can also help relieve some of the stress from planting (for the plant, not for you, silly). This is known as "transplant shock". Sometimes when plants are moved from container to the ground disturbance of the roots or just a different soil environment can cause plants to "stress out". Yup, this can happen even if you did everything right.

root stimulatorTransplant stress can be seen within a few weeks after planting and is characterized by yellowing or browning leaves that fall off easily. Don't get discouraged if your plant does this! If your plant loses its leaves, it's still alive and is trying to conserve energy. Keep up your normal watering routine and use your buddy Mr. Root Stimulator. Many times, the plant will recover. Sometimes not. Remember, even the best gardeners still lose plants on occasion. But, those that use root stimulator lose them less often! Come by The Garden Center any time and we can show you which one to get. Happy Planting!




Pineapple Guava

April Plant of the Month

pineapple guava

Pineapple Guava is one of those plants you may have overlooked in the nurseries or the landscape through much of the season, but just look at them now! These tropical evergreens grow just fine here in south Texas with gorgeous flowers, edible fruit and gray green foliage year-round.

In the Landscape

Pineapple Guava make an excellent privacy screen, growing to about 12 or 15 feet without trimming. You can also keep them sheared back as a hedge or shape it into a topiary tree. Their thick gray green leaves give them a dense form. Grow them in well drained soil amended with some compost or soil conditioner. They'll thank ya. You can also grow these in large containers.

While Pineapple Guava can be planted in full sun and is considered drought tolerant once established; it may still struggle a bit with our hot summer sun. If it starts to drop leaves, there's your warning that it's too dry.  Regular watering though summer and providing some shade in the afternoon will help 'em out quite a bit. Now here's a bit of good news: these shrubs can tolerate winter temperatures down to 10º!

Blooms and Fruit

Now let's get to the fun part. Fragrant Pineapple Guava blooms appear in early May with thick pink petals and red stamens. Hungry? Pick the petals for a sweet, crunchy snack. It will still set fruit if you're careful about plucking. The flowers can also be used as a nice edible garnish. Bees and butterflies love them too!

The small green fruit will start to ripen in the fall. To get the best crop, fertilize and water regularly during the summer. They are reported to taste the best when you let them ripen until they fall off the plant. If you pick them early, put them on a sunny windowsill like a tomato to let them ripen. The fruits have a minty-pineapple flavor, but some people say strawberry! Cut them in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon or quarter them and take a bite. Pineapple Guava fruits can be made into jelly, jam, used as pastry filling and more!

One of the best things about this plant? It's virtually pest free! Even the deer aren't interested in this plant. Those thick leaves just aren't very appetizing to them. Ready to plant some of these in your landscape? Come on by The Garden Center, we have them in several sizes!



To Mulch or Not to Mulch? There is No Question!

mulchDon't forget the mulch when you're buying all of your spring time plants! Mulch is one of the easiest ways you can keep your trees and plants healthy and happy. Mulch is an excellent insulator, keeping roots cooler in summer, warmer in winter, plus it keeps weeds out and moisture in. Not to mention, it looks nice!

What Kind Should I Get?

Mulch is available in many forms. Here at The Garden Center, we carry shredded pine bark, cedar, cypress and hardwood. There are also red and black dyed mulches available. It's up to you! All mulches are great, regardless of color or type. Some folks like to use different kinds for different purposes. Some say cedar mulch helps repel pests. Some customers have told us they like to use mulch made out of pecan shells because it keeps the cats out of the garden beds. The shells have sharp edges, which are hard on their tender kitty feet!

How to Use it

Mulch volcano

Spread a layer in your garden beds after planting. A 1 or 2 inch layer is enough. For coarser mulch, you can put down up to 4 inches.  For individual trees and large shrubs, make a  nice little donut type ring around the base. For any planting, make sure to leave some breathing room around the base of your plant!

Putting too much mulch too close to the base can cause problems for your plants later. For instance, too much mulch around a tree trunk can trap moisture, allowing the possibility of rotting the trunk! Unfortunately we see mulch volcanoes pop up every year around shopping centers and neighborhoods.mulch

Don't wait until summer to use mulch, it's beneficial to replenish it year-round. Weeds have a hard time making their way through it. You'll be using less water because you'll have less evaporation. You're also adding some good organic material back to the soil once it starts to break down. To mulch or not to mulch? There is no question!


Mexican Flowering Plum

March Plant of the Month

flowering plum

There's nothing like blooms on fruit trees in early spring! Mexican Flowering Plum might not be the first tree you think of when planting a fruit tree, but don't overlook it. This native plum is a great ornamental/fruit/flowering tree.

Probably the most notable thing about these trees are their white blooms in early spring. They are fragrant and a good source of food for bees and other pollinators. Dark red/purple fruit appears soon after and ripens in the fall. The fruit is loved by birds, but you'll like it too. That is, if you like making jams or pies. The skin of these plums is very thick, so it's not as easy to eat fresh like other plums.

Mexican Flowering Plums are relatively small trees with a single trunk. Growing 15-30 feet tall and about 25 feet wide at maturity, it can fit into most yards. It's also considered slow growing, so it will take a while to use up the space. Their branches are thin and spreading and when mature, the blue-gray bark starts to peel and almost appears striped. Watch out, the branches are also a little bit thorny!

In summer, this tree will have olive green, thick, sand papery leaves. In fall you can expect a yellow to orange color before they drop. Mexican Plums are easy to grow and have very few pest or disease problems.

Plant in full sun to part shade. These can be used as an understory tree as well.  Mexican Flowering Plum can tolerate a variety of soils from acidic to alkaline, clay to well drained. Once established, these native trees are drought tolerant. Hurry in to The Garden Center and grab yours this spring, we only have a handful available!

And the winner is...

winnerThis year's winner of our annual chili cook off is Noah's Ark Buffalo Venison Chili! New to the Chili Cook Off? Every year The Garden Center staff competes with their best chili recipes for bragging rights.

It was a tough competition this time between Robin's Rockin' Chili, Noah's Ark Buffalo Venison Chili, Mambo Turkey Chili and Wile E. Coyote West Texas Chili.

We also had Mediterranean music by Gypsy Caravan, pet adoption with San Antonio Pets Alive and a rose seminar with the San Antonio Rose Society. We like to throw a little party to get ready for the coming spring season. Check out our events calendar to see what else is coming up. If you didn't make it this time, you can still try out the winning recipe below!

Noah's Ark Buffalo Venison Chili

Makes a TON of chili! Use 2 medium/large slow cookers or 1 really huge pot. Be prepared to feed a whole bunch of people, or just reduce the recipe by half!

  • 2 roasted red bell peppers
  • 2 roasted pasilla peppers
  • 2 lbs ground buffalo
  • 2 lbs ground venison
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 big handful fresh Mexican oregano and parsley, chopped
  • 4 cans tomatoes + 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 tbsp cornstarch + a little water
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 2 cans black beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 400º and put the red bell and pasilla peppers (whole) on a cookie sheet with a little olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, flip them over then another 2o minutes. They are ready when they are charred and soft.

While the peppers are roasting, brown the buffalo, venison and beef in a skillet. Add the onion and garlic; cook until soft. Add the oregano and parsley and cook for a few minutes more.

Put the meat mixture in the slow cooker and add tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken bouillon, apple cider vinegar, sugar and Worcestershire sauce. When the peppers are done, chop them up and add them to the slow cooker.

Put the cornstarch in a glass with a little bit of water and mix with a fork to get a creamy consistency. Add the remaining ingredients. Let the chili cook 6-8 hours on low or about 4 hours on high or simmer in a pot for several hours. Enjoy!