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Chinaberry Tree – a NON-native to avoid

This is a shot of the Chinaberry Tree displaying its winter interest — the dried berries which are a golden tan color and remain all through the winter here in North Central Texas.

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While these trees can look quite spectacular against a leaden winter sky, they are not native to the United States and have become quite invasive in the Southern states. They crowd out native trees, drop their blooms and seeds freely, and the birds distribute those seeds everywhere they go.

Unfortunately, the Chinaberry Tree is still sold in nurseries — even though it is listed as an invasive species at http://www.texasinvasives.org/.

It’s latin name is Melia azedarach and it is known by quite a few other common names including Bead Tree, Pride of India, Pride of China, Umbrella Tree,  and Persian Lilac.

At Burk’s Nursery & Garden, we will never sell the Chinaberry Tree because it is a non-native and because it is also invasive in Texas. We highly recommend that you avoid buying or planting this tree and — if you already have it in your landscape — we strongly suggest you remove it, or have it removed.

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Purple Heart – a winner in sun or shade!

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The tiny lavender-pink blooms of Purple Heart (Setcreasea pallida) add charm and whimsy to the spring, summer and fall Texas garden.

This variety (above) has deep purple stalks and foliage with a lavender-pink blossom. Although Purple Heart will usually die back to the ground after a hard freeze, I have seen it bloom during our milder winters, especially if you have it in a location where it gets protection from north winds and can get good sun (4-6 hours a day) during the colder months.

Purple Heart will do well in sun or partial shade, but needs at least a few hours of direct or dappled sun each day to thrive. The solid purple variety (above) will be a deeper purple when in a shadier location. The color lightens to a medium purple when in a full sun spot in the garden.

The other variety we grow and offer for sale is green and purple variegated with the same charming lavender-pink flower.

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The variegated Purple Heart also does well in either full sun or partial shade. The variegation will be more green when it gets lots of sun and more purple when it gets mostly shade.

Both varieties of Purple Heart do well in containers for the patio, and in hanging baskets. Although it is non-native, it is well-adapted for North Central Texas, is not invasive, and adds interesting color and texture to your garden or outside living area.

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Catnip – not just for cats

Catnip, or catmint (Nepeta cataria) is a lovely plant to add to a sunny location in your North Central Texas garden. It is drought tolerant, bloom consistently (even during milder winters), and attracts  beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies.

100_2029 As you might guess from it’s common name, catmint is a member of the mint family and can be used to make a soothing, bedtime tea.  (However, we strongly recommend that you do your research before making tea with this plant. We do not recommend any particular dosages and this post is not meant to offer medical or homeopathic advice).

The dried leaves can also be used in cat toys. The plant can also be enjoyed by your outdoor cat. Ours LOVES her catnip plant!

Here is another shot of the dainty flower stalks:

 

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Catmint/catnip will need to be replaced every few years, as it is a biennial plant. However, you can collect seed, which is easily started, or you can allow it to self-seed when you plant your original plant.

Be aware that catmint / catnip can be invasive — as are all members of the mint family. To solve this, you can use the “bottomless pot” method when you plant it:

  • Cut the bottom out of a plastic pot that is large enough to give your plant plenty of room to grow.
  • Dig your planting hole and situate the bottomless plastic pot in the hole with the rim at ground level.
  • Plant your catnip / catmint inside the bottomless pot.

100_2030The plant shown above was potted in our yard two years ago using the “bottomless pot” method and we have had NO problems with it spreading.

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Purple Coneflower – a gorgeous Texas native

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This is one of our stunning coneflowers from earlier this summer.  Purple coneflower makes a great cut flower, attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees, and is a carefree perennial for your North Central Texas garden.

Echinacea purpurea is a true Texas native and is beautiful naturalized in fields and prairies, as well as in the urban garden. It has an upright growth habit but needs to be pruned to keep from drooping over. Feel free to harvest blooms all summer — this will keep your plant tidy and you won’t have to give it support to keep it upright.

100_2006Purple Coneflower will re-grow from the root each spring, but you can also collect seed and start some in flats, if you want to have more plants. BUT BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU HARVEST THE SEED HEADS. WHEN THEY ARE DRY THEY ARE VERY SHARP AND POINTY. (I have even drawn blood when I jammed my finger into one of the seed heads).

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Gray Santolina — a unique & interesting plant

Gray Santolina (latin: Santolina chamaecyparissus) is a terrific plant to add to a sunny spot in your landscape. It has a mounding growth habit and is evergreen here in North Central Texas.

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Although it is native to the Mediterranean, we have had great success with it in our full sun summer garden. Gray Santolina is drought tolerant and prefers a sandy or gravelly location. They will, however, tolerate clay if they are not constantly standing in water. Too much irrigation will kill Gray Santolina.

If you want to add silvery, gray-greens to your color scheme, with the added bonus of an interesting texture, Gray Santolina is a great choice. Some customers have commented that it looks like coral, and I must say I agree!

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Keeping your Gray Santolina in a compact mound is easy, as they tolerate pruning very well. Just remember the rule: never prune more than 1/3 of the plant during a single pruning session. (Note that there ARE exceptions to this rule, but they are rare).

Gray Santolina also blooms. Once your plant has been in the ground for a couple years, you can expect yellow, button-shaped flowers held aloft above the gray-green foliage. The plant blooms in the spring and — once the blooming period is over — you should prune all the dead blooms and stalks so you have a nice, neat mound of foliage again.

Gray Santolina has a number of common names: Ground Cypress, Petite Cypress, Holy Herb and — the most interesting — “Lavender Cotton” (don’t ask me why — there is absolutely nothing lavender about this plant…)

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Carolina Cherry Laurel – foliage & uses

As a follow up to our post last month, the Carolina Cherry Laurel is a gorgeous evergreen tree with glossy foliage, tiny fragrant white blooms in spring, and dark berries that the birds love.

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In addition to being useful in your Texas landscape as a lovely small tree, the Carolina Cherry Laurel works wonderfully to screen ugly fences or to provide year-round privacy. This picture shows one growing at our back fence.

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This tree does a great job of blocking the backside of our neighbor’s wood fence, as well as providing a nesting spot for the tiny finches that make their home in these small trees.

Here is a close-up of the same tree, showing what a terrific job it does of screening ugly views and providing privacy.

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Carolina Cherry Laurel – a beautiful southern native

Carolina Cherry Laurel is a lovely, evergreen small tree or large shrub which performs beautifully in North Central Texas. It’s latin name is Prunus caroliniana and it grows naturally throughout the Southern United States, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Texas.

Here is a group of 3 trees growing in our yard. I’ve included Miss Kitty in the picture for scale. These trees vary in height from 8-1/2 to 12 feet.

Large bush_optHere is another which we keep severely trimmed so it can grow at our gate but still allows us to go through with a full wheelbarrow. This specimen (the photo on the left) is about 6 feet tall and only extends from the fence about 1 foot.

The photo on the right shows the same tree, but you can see that the growth is open, airy and very pretty against a chain link fence. The tree is shaped to a width of about 4 feet.

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Texas native plants — tough, water-wise, drought-tolerant and beautiful

Looking for plants here in Arlington, Texas but not sure what to buy?

It will be worth a few minutes of your time to learn about the benefits of planting Texas natives in your yard. First, Texas natives can stand up to the sizzling summers and still look beautiful.

They don’t need as much water (after the first month, while they get established) as non-native plants.

Most will come back, year after year, and you won’t have to buy new plants every year.

What could be better than that?!

 

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Mealy Blue Sage… and a cat

Mealy Blue Sage — also called Mealycup Sage — is a sun-loving Texas native that adds its gorgeous deep blue blooms to your landscape.

mealy blue sage_optSalvia farinacea grows to a height of 2 to 2-1/2 feet and the bloom spikes are usually 4-6″ long. This is another favorite of bees, so you can expect to have these terrific pollinators in your garden if you have Mealy Blue Sage in your landscape. Butterflies also love it, so you can enjoy them as well.

Although this plant is not evergreen, and is usually laid low by the first frost of the year, it has reliably come back for us every spring for 3 years now.

The individual blooms are very beautiful but I just read somebody who thinks they look like muppets (?). What do you think?

mealy blue sage closeup_optI think they look a little like grape hyacinth blooms when the buds first start to form, but then the open up into these deeply blue, sweetly scented bloom spikes. 🙂

This plant needs a little bit of extra attention and it likes a little more water than some other Texas native plants.

If you want the plant to keep its nice, upright growth, you’ll need to cut off some of the taller bloom stalks from time to time. If you keep the overall height of the plant at 2 feet it will not fall over or droop (unless it’s in a windy location).

Make sure you don’t water it from above. That will really make the bloom stalks droop over and it might also break them. It’s better to water this plant with a soaker hose, or spray the hose down at the base of the plant.

Right now, you can get Mealy Blue Sage at the Downtown Arlington Farmers Market, Fridays and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  The Market is at 215 Front Street (corner of Elm and Front Street), just 1 block east of Johnny High’s and Babe’s.

If you’d like to pick some up on a different day, give us a call, or send us a text or email. We can make arrangements with you to pull your order and you can drop by and pay for it and pick it up.

Sorry, but Miss Kitty’s not for sale…

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Blackfoot daisy — a sweet-smelling bee magnet

This blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) has been in our front garden for over 3 years. It’s been stepped on, used as a neighborhood animal potty (frown!), it’s been frozen, and it’s been blasted almost to death by the summer heat of 2011.

But here it is — blooming again — beautifully!

blackfoot flowers_optBlackfoot daisy is a Texas native plant that is so drought-tolerant it doesn’t even like any supplemental water from you. In fact, if you give it too much water, it will die.

The way to care for this plant is to leave it alone, unless we’re in the middle of the summer and haven’t had any rain for more than a week. If that’s the case, take your garden hose and give it about 3 seconds worth of water from the hose. And that’s it.

Then, start watching for rain again. We have literally ignored this plant for weeks on end and it keeps on blooming!

blackfoot closeup_optThe sweet little blooms of the blackfoot daisy are about the size of a nickel, and they cover the outside of the mound of foliage. The overall size of the plant is about 1 foot tall and 2-3 foot in diameter.

blackfoot mound_optYou can keep it in a smaller mound, if you like. Just cut it back by 2-4″ and then wait several weeks to make sure it is setting new buds and has recovered from pruning before you cut it back again.

In some of our milder winters, our blackfoot daisy has even bloomed in February!

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