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August Plant of the Month 2019

What in the world could be blooming in August in San Antonio you ask? The answer is Coneflower! While other plants may be taking a break from our summer heat, Coneflower is thriving.

Double Scoop Cranberry Coneflower

When talking about Echinacea the first image that may come to mind might be a purple daisy-like flower, but there are 9 different species and over 60 different varieties! Many of the new types have double blooms or unusual petals. Pictured here are Double Scoop Cranberry and Cheyenne Spirit. Coneflowers are easy to grow and are native to North America.

How it Grows

While some native varieties can reach up to 5' tall, most hybridized varieties will stay a tidy, compact 1-3' tall and wide. This clumping perennial can be easily identified by its rough textured, dark green lanceolate or ovate leaves, with its trademark long petalled flower and protruding cone atop a tall, thick stem.

Coneflowers' long lasting blooms appear in late spring and continue through summer. They can be deadheaded if desired, but can also add fall & winter interest if allowed to dry on the plant. You may even get some fine feathered visitors looking for delicious seeds to eat!

Coneflower makes a good cut flower for arrangements, attracts butterflies and bees. It's also well known for its use in herbal remedies for toothaches, sore throats, infections and strengthening the immune system. Don't try this at home, kids. Always do your homework before ingesting anything in the landscape!

How to Grow it!

Grow Echinacea in full sun or part shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, but can handle poor soil as well. They look great in borders or naturalized areas.

These plants tolerate high heat and humidity and are somewhat drought tolerant. There are conflicting reports of its resistance to deer. Maybe keep the repellant handy, just in case.

Right now at The Garden Center, you can pick up Double Scoop Cranberry, Cheyenne Spirit, Red Sombrero or Now Cheesier coneflowers in a 1 gallon container for color all summer!

Christmas Jewel Holly

December Plant of the Month

Christmas Jewel'Tis the season to buy hollies fa la la la laaa la la la laaaaaa! Hollies are starting to show off their winter berries and Christmas Jewel is one of our new favorites!

This holly is a new variety from Garden Debut, an evergreen shrub that reaches 10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide at maturity. Christmas Jewel is a moderate grower with a naturally pyramidal, compact and upright growth habit. Grow it in full sun or a partially shady area.

These plants are easy to care for with very little pruning needed, but can be easily sheared into a hedge if desired. They are also nice when used in containers, as a screen or a specimen plant in the landscape. Another great thing about planting hollies of any kind, is that they are relatively pest and disease free. And yup, they're deer resistant.

Christmas Jewel of course has those classic holly shaped leaves- dark green and glossy, oblong with spiney sides and a point on the end. They're not super sharp spines however, unlike some of the more vicious holly varieties out there! Long lasting, large red berries appear in fall and winter. Don't worry about needing more than one or having a male or female to get berries. Christmas Jewel does not need a pollinator in order to produce the fruit.

Christmas Jewel is best known for its winter interest, but will surely become an anchor for your landscape. Come take a look at the beautiful hollies in stock now at The Garden Center and enjoy Christmas cheer year-round!

 

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!

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!

 

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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canna lilies

Canna Lilies have arrived!

Canna lilies have arrived at The Garden Center! These beauties are a great way to add a tropical look to your landscape. They are easy to recognize by their large leaves and vibrant blooms. They almost look like banana plants. Cannas come in many colors including red, pink, salmon, orange, yellow, white and bicolor. Hummingbirds love the flowers too. Some varieties even have variegated or colorful foliage.

Canna Care

Canna lilies are perennial plants that will bloom spring through fall. Removing dead flower stalks at the base will also encourage more flowers. Plant Cannas where they can get at least half a day of sun. They don't perform well in the shade. Although Canna lilies are heat and drought tolerant once established, they can also grow in wet, boggy areas. These plants will grow 2 to 5 feet tall and should be spaced 1 to 2 feet apart. Plant cannas in containers, along foundations or use as a background plant.

Canna Get a Amen?

Canna's are easy to grow, bloom all season and can take our Texas heat! What more could you ask for? Well, in case of zombie apocalypse, you could also eat the tubers like a potato. But also, we have them at a great price! Grab a 2 gallon container for only $14.99 or a 2 gallon specialty Tropicana Canna for $24.99. Come by and see 'em!

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