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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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October Plant of the Month

Elaeagnus

elaeagnus

Elaeagnus, also sometimes called Silverberry is our October pick for Plant of the Month. This plant may look plain at first glance, but read on to see why it's so tough and versatile! There over 50 different varieties of this shrub; the most common variety that we carry is called Elaeagnus ebbingei. They are evergreen shrubs with an upright, spreading growth habit with dense, full foliage. Fast growing when young, they make an excellent choice for privacy screening.

A Closer Look

At first, Elaeagnus might look like any other shrub in the landscape. But a closer look reveals silvery, olive green foliage. One of the most notable characteristics are the silvery or  coppery brown dots on the leaves. These little dots reflect sunlight giving them a slight shimmer in the light. Those little dots also give it a rough, bumpy texture similar to sandpaper. Elaeagnus also makes small, but very fragrant bell-shaped white flowers in October or November. The flowers are followed by a small orange-red drupe fruit that ripens in spring. These little fruits are also edible!

Tough Stuff

This plant is extremely tough. It tolerates poor, rocky soil as well as our Texas heat. It's also very drought tolerant once established and can even tolerate salt and wind for those who want to plant it near the coast.
Oh yeah, remember that rough, bumpy texture? The deer don't like that and generally leave Elaeagnus alone. Relatively disease and pest free, it's pretty easy to grow; although spider mite can sometimes get after it.

In the Landscape

Give Elaeagnus ebbingei plenty of space and plant in full sun or partial shade. It can grow to about 6' tall and 4' wide. Other varieties vary in size and some can reach 15' tall! The silvery foliage of Elaeagnus looks especially nice against darker foliage plants like some of the dark purple Loropetalums, Magnolias or maybe a Leyland Cypress.

These shrubs can be espaliers, background or barrier plants and they are good for slopes and erosion control. While it can be clipped into a hedge, you may be fighting long unruly branches trying to poke out of that nice neat form you want. Generally it does better when left to its own devices. Also a good choice near the pool, exposure to chlorine won't bother it one bit. You can even grow Elaeagnus in a container!

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September Plant of the Month

Turk's Cap

turk's cap

If you want to plant it and forget it, Turk's Cap is pretty close to perfect. These perennials are super tough, even in our Texas heat. In fact, you better make sure you reaaally like this one, before planting. It can be difficult to get rid of! Don't let that scare you though, this is a fantastic plant.

Turk's cap will grow in a shrub-like form to 4 or 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. Many times they will grow larger. It's a perennial plant, so it will die down to the ground in winter, turk's capemerging again in the spring. The showy, bright red flowers bloom almost all season, spring through frost. The flowers never completely open and resemble a Turkish fez, or cap. The bright blooms are also a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies!

Turk's Cap has few pest and disease problems. You may run into problems with mealy bug or powdery mildew every once in a while. Both problems are a relatively easy fix.

Where to Grow

Turk's Cap is extremely versatile and can grow in a variety of soil types including rocky, clay, sandy, alkaline or acidic soils. This plant is drought tolerant once established, but can also grow in wet areas. Where do you want to plant it? Put it in deep shade, part shade, part sun or full sun! These perennials look great as a border or mixed with other perennials. Try it in a rock garden or even a whiskey barrel.

Did you know?

Turk's Cap produces a small marble-size red fruit that is edible. It has a mealy taste, but birds and animals seem to like it. The flowers are also edible with a sweet taste. They can be used as garnish in salads or on cakes!

This plant has medicinal properties. Leaves have been used as an emmolient and flowers are used in a decoction to treat inflammation of the digestive tract. (Disclaimer: Don't try this at home kids. Always consult a knowledgeable source before making your own magic potions!)

Red is the most widely known color for Turk's Cap flowers, but shade of white and pink are also available.

This plant is a member of the mallow family, related to Hibiscus, Rock Rose Pavonia, okra and cotton.

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August Plant of the Month

Baby Ginger

baby ginger

Want to be able to eat what you grow? Our August Plant of the Month is one of our picks! Baby Ginger is a tropical looking plant with edible pink and cream colored rhizomes. But this ginger is a little different from the kind you get at the grocery store. Baby ginger is very tender and does not require peeling! It also doesn't have the tough, fibrous center like in other ginger roots. You can use it fresh only for about 2 weeks, but works well when put in the freezer for later.

baby gingerHow to Grow

Baby Ginger will grow to 3 or 4 feet tall and wide with a clumping growth habit. Grow it in a shady spot, where it can get some morning sun. You can grow it in containers too, even indoors with a good light.

Ginger needs consistent watering, but does not like wet feet. Make sure your soil is well drained. This plant is easy to grow, with few pest or disease problems. Feed your ginger plant every 4 to 6 weeks to improve your crop. Try FoxFarm's Happy Frog Fruit & Flower food or Medina Hasta Gro Plant formula.

How to Use it

The stalks can be used fresh or dried for tea or soup. The roots will be ready to harvest about 4-6 months after planting. Save some to replant the next season! You can overwinter it as a tender perennial or grow it in containers to bring it inside for winter.

We have a few of these Babies at The Garden Center ready to go home with you! Pick up a 3 gallon container for $29.99. Ready to make some tea? Here's two ways to do it!

To make ginger tea from the leaves: Cut off the stalks about 2 inches above the root. Cut off the leaves and rinse, then blot dry with a towel. Cut the leaves into small pieces and put them on a paper towel to air dry. When the leaves are thoroughly dried, store them in a glass jar or plastic bag. You can also use the leaves as flavoring for soups!

To make ginger tea fresh from the roots: Cut two slices of ginger root about 1 or 2 inches long. Boil four cups of water, add the ginger and let simmer for 15 minutes. Strain out the ginger, pour into a cup and enjoy!

 

July Plant of the Month

Elephant Ears

elephant ears

Do you need a little paradise near the patio? Elephant ears are a refreshing sight in the landscape when it's a billion degrees outside. They are grown for their bold, dramatic foliage, though some varieties sporadically make a cup shaped flower. Although they are tropical plants, they generally come back from winter year after year and are pretty easy to grow.

Way to Grow

There are many different varieties of Elephant Ear- Calocasia, Alocasia and Caldium are the most common. Their large leaves, resembling the ears of a well known pachyderm, can be a cool emerald green, nearly black, spotted or with white margins. Caladiums come in variations of pink, red and white. Depending on variety, their leaves may be pointed up like an arrow, or appear heart-shaped and sitting flat on their stems.

In San Antonio, these plants may stick around all year if we have a mild winter. After a freeze, their foliage will die back, but return in the spring. Don't worry, they are fast growing and will get back up to their mature height in a short growing season.

Elephant Ears do best in moist but well-drained soil. Acidic soil is even better. Because of their rapid growth, they do need to be fertilized often. Use a slow release fertilizer at planting time and regularly thereafter. Plant these beauties in shade or part sun (morning sun). Planting in an area with lots of hot afternoon sun may get you some crispy leaves. You will also need to make sure you have enough space. Most varieties will get about 3 or 4 feet tall and wide, but some can get up to 9 feet tall!

Designing with Elephants

Elephant Ears look great planted poolside or used as a background plant for shorter perennials and annuals. Combine them with other tropicals like bananas, canna lily or coleus or use them as a centerpiece in your container gardens. Grow them along walls or fences to break up straight lines or add interest to bare walls. In addition, they can even be grown as houseplants! Whatever you choose, Elephant Ears are sure to grab attention. Come see our great selection at The Garden Center today!

 

 

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Muhly Grass

Plant of the Month 2017

muhly

Ornamental grasses are a great way to add texture and variety to your landscape and Muhly Grass is one of our favorites! The long verticle lines of grasses are a nice addition and contrast to all of the typical broad leaf plants in the garden. They also add movement and life to the landscape when the wind blows!

muhlyMuhly grass is a good choice for areas where larger ornamental grasses (like Pampas Grass) would not fit. It will grow to about 2-4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. Its thin grass blades are blue green in color and grow in an upright fashion.

In late summer or early fall, delicate, wispy flower plumes appear. Depending on the variety of Muhly grass they can be light pink to purple. These look spectacular if planted in the east or west; the rising or setting sun will shine through the flower plumes, really lighting them up!

Muhly grass is also very versatile and can be planted in full sun or part sun. It looks especially nice when planted in large groups. Probably the best part is that this grass tolerates heat, drought and poor soil. It's great for dry spots that don't get a lot of maintenance. Plus deer tend to overlook ornamental grasses because of their tough texture and lack of moisture.muhly

Another great thing about this grass? It's on sale! Now through August 31st one gallon size  (#1) Muhly grass is only $5.95 (regularly $9.99). We also have lots of other plants included in this summer special. Check out the full sales list here!

 

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Frog Fruit Verbena

frog fruitFunny name, serious ground cover. Frog Fruit is a fast growing Texas native ground cover with many names. You may have heard of it as Creeping Lipia, Mat Grass, Cape Weed or Turkey Tangle Fogfruit. Say that one three times fast.

Frog Fruit Verbena forms a dense mat that can take the place of traditional turf. You can even mow it like a lawn! It's an evergreen perennial with gray green foliage. In winter the foliage sometimes turns a purplish hue from cold temperatures.

This tough little plant is perfect for areas with heavy foot traffic, including dogs and the kiddos. It grows 3-4 inches tall, about 3 feet across and does best in full sun. Although it may not bloom as much, it will also tolerate part shade.

frog fruit frog fruitTiny white to lavender-pink flowers appear in spring and continue through fall. Because the flowers are rich in nectar , they attract bees and butterflies. Frog Fruit is also a host plant to the Common Buckeye, Phaon Crescent and White Peacock butterfly.

In addition, Frog Fruit Verbena is heat and drought tolerant. It also tolerates poor soil and is deer resistant. HOORAY! This plant super tough and is great for walkways, used as a filler for large open spaces and trouble spots. You can even grow it in containers and it looks great in rock gardens and xeriscapes.

Pick up this versatile ground cover at The Garden Center today! We have plenty on hand in 1 gallon containers for $7.99. See ya soon!

 

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