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May Plant of the Month

Brunfelsia

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.

 

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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!

 

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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!

 

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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
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!

Artemisia

February Plant of the Month

artemisiaOh Artemisia , how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Artemisia is a silvery, aromatic evergreen perennial grown for its ornamental, culinary and medicinal properties. Run your hands through it and you'll experience its signature scent. While it might not be the most romantic plant we carry, it's easy going, yet tough and will surprise you in many ways!

How to Grow

This perennial is easily identified by its striking gray, feathery foliage. It almost looks like the top of a carrot. Although it does make small yellow flowers, they are not very showy. Actually, clipping them off will encourage better foliage growth. Pruning regularly will keep them nice and compact.

There are several different varieties of Artemesia. It's also known as Wormwood, Mugwort and Sagebrush. If it reminds you of Dusty Miller, it's because they're related! Some of the most popular varieties are Powis Castle, Silver Mound or Silver King. Most varieties will grow 1-3 feet tall and wide.

Give Artemisia a sunny spot to grow with well drained soil. In fact, it hates wet soil. It's very heat and drought tolerant, thriving in the middle of summer when others start to give up. They will also grow in partial shade, although they will probably get a little leggy from trying to reach the sun!

More than Meets the Eye

Artemisia has very few pest problems when taken care of properly. In fact, those who raise chickens like it because the aromatic foliage makes a pretty good insect repellent for the birds! For the same reason, it's also not appealing to deer. YASSS! It has cullinary and medicinal properties for us humans. Different varieties are better for different things. Check out this article if you want to learn more about that. And always do your homework before ingesting anything!

In the Landscape

Artemisia is versatile and looks great in containers, rock gardens or in the landscape. Plant it as a border or mix it with shrubs like Loropetalum or Nandina. Put it in your moon garden, white or gray garden, alongside pastel flowering plants or against the bright green of mints or grasses. It's color and texture can really break up a plain ol' flower bed.

With all of its great qualities, why not give this one a chance? Here at The Garden Center, we have a few on hand and will continue to carry them in the coming spring season. Make Artemisia your gardening Valentine this year!

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Compact Nandina

January Plant of the Month

compact nandina

We've had some pretty darn cold temperatures as of late, but that's not stopping Nandinas any. Vibrant green all summer, evergreen Nandina plants turn shades of peach, red and purple in winter. There are lots of different types of Nandina, reaching different sizes.

For this article, we'll talk about Compact Nandina also known as Nandina domestica 'Compacta' also also known as Dwarf Heavenly Bamboo. But it's not related to bamboo. To make it just a little more complicated, there are also different varieties of Compact Nandina like "Gulf Stream", "Moon Bay" or "Nana". Yeahhh, for now let's just talk about the regular one.

Compact Nandina will grow about 4 or 5 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. As the name suggests; you guessed it, it has a compact shape. Full and bushy, this plant is a great filler for empty spots, but small enough to fit into any landscape. Over time, it will spread by underground rhizomes, giving it a clumping appearance. You could even plant it in containers!

'Compacta' has interest in the garden year-round. In spring, you can expect new growth to have a copper hue before maturing to bright green. The foliage has a soft, lacy or feathery appearance. Delicate looking small white flowers will also appear in late spring to summer. Red-orange berries follow in late summer through winter. A plus for bird watchers! Winter foliage turns to shades of scarlet and burgundy.

This plant is easy to maintain and has few pests or disease problems. Compact Nandina will tolerate a variety of soil types as long as its not too boggy or too sandy. Like many of the plants we carry at The Garden Center, it's drought tolerant once established and deer resistant. One of the great things about Nandina is that you can plant in sun, shade or anywhere in between!

 

Nellie R. Stevens Holly

December Plant of the Month

nellie r. stevensNothing says December Plant of the Month like a good 'ol holly plant. Nellie R. Stevens is a favorite variety for many reasons, its most noteworthy being its showy red-orange berries!

What's in a Name?

Nellie R. Stevens is a hybrid between English holly and Chinese holly. The garden that the original hybrid plant was produced in belonged to Nellie Robinson Stevens, a teacher and avid gardener. "Miss Nellie" collected the seeds of the hybrid, hence the name.

Growth Habits and Use in the Landscape

A large evergreen shrub, Nellie Stevens forms a pyramidal shape with dense branching. The leaves are dark green and glossy, oblong and prickly, making them a good choice for security barriers. Deer don't care for the texture much either. Vigorous and fast growing, this holly can be used as a small tree, or planted in groups for screens or windbreaks. Give Nellie plenty of room, she grows to about 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide, sometimes larger.

Small white blooms will appear in spring. In fall you'll start to see large red-orange berries. This holly is one of the few that does not require a pollinator to set fruit. However, like fruit trees, it will produce even more berries if you are able to find a male Edward J. Stevens Holly.

Where to Put it?

Nellie R. Stevens hollies have pretty good heat tolerance and are drought tolerant once established. They prefer well drained soil and while rich acidic soil is a plus, it's not absolutely necessary for these hollies to grow. One of the great things about this variety is that it's low maintenance and keeps its shape even without pruning. If needed, prune in winter. Plant your Nellie R. Stevens holly in full sun to part shade and enjoy interest in your garden year-round!

November Plant of the Month

Snapdragons

snapdragons

Snapdragons are one of our favorite annual flowers here at The Garden Center. We like to call 'em Snaps for short. Their arrival means that cooler weather is on the way! Snapdragons are named because of their resemblance to the face of a dragon that opens and closes its mouth when squeezed from the sides. They come in almost every color except blue, making it easy to match any garden color scheme.

snapdragons
Snapdragon seed pods

Technically these plants are tender perennials, but most folks around here grow them like an annual. They often just don't bloom like they did on the first go round, even with pinching back and fertilizing. Sometimes it's just easier to start with a fresh plant each season.

Snapdragons prefer cooler weather and start becoming available around the end of September. They typically will bloom and flourish until about April when it starts to get too hot for 'em. Sometimes they will reseed on their own, or you could collect the seeds and sow them yourself. Have you ever seen the seedpods? They look like creepy little skulls!

There are many different varieties of Snapdragons that grow to different heights. Some of the more popular types that we carry include Snapshot Dwarf, Liberty (taller) and Rocket(tallest!). Plant your Snaps in full sun to part sun, too much shade and they won't bloom as well.

snapdragons  snapdragons snapdragons

You can plant Snapdragons just about anywhere. Plant them in the ground or in containers. Try shorter growing varieties as a border, taller ones as a background for other lower growing winter annuals. Water, deadhead and fertilize regularly for the best color and healthy plants. You'll have gorgeous color all season long!

 

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