As the song goes, April showers bring May flowers. Unfortunately, we've had very little rainfall over the summer and fall and the same pattern has been with us thus far for winter. Indeed, even if we get plentiful April showers, we need to keep plants adequately watered now. If you have not been doing so, start now. Roses and most other garden flowers need about an inch of water weekly. If the tag that came with your new plant says, 'keep soil evenly moist', you may need to water more than once a week.
This is an excellent reason for applying the principles of Xeriscape which include planting native plants. A native plant can be one that grows here naturally or one that has is adapted to our unique growing conditions.
Since we have lots of fence space at my home, the plants of the month are vines. Vines are great for covering fence lines fairly quickly and adding interest at the same time. To get some ideas, I called Mark Fox of Mark Fox Landscaping in Bacliff and Heidi Sheesley of Treesearch Farms. Mark and Heidi are some of the most knowledgeable and experienced nurserymen in the area when it comes to Texas natives. Mark and Heidi suggested several vines for this area. Some were well known to me and others were not. Treesearch Farms grows many natives including vines and supplies them to local nurseries. If you are unable to find something mentioned here, check with Mark Fox Landscaping in Bacliff or Maas Nursery in Seabrook. If they don't have what you are looking for, they should be able to order it for you.
One of my favorite vines is hyacinth bean. It is a very fast growing annual which will usually re-seed itself each spring. Hyacinth bean has purple stems and leaves. It makes lavender flower spikes in the fall followed by purple seed pods. A couple of plants can easily cover a ten-foot section of fence in one season. Unfortunately, they are not usually available at local nurseries. Ask a neighbor for a few seeds if they have them.
VINES FOR SUN OR PART SHADE
Cross vine is a native evergreen with orange/red or red flowers in spring and off & on throughout the summer. Coral vine is a native with light or dark pink or white flowers which is a heavy bloomer throughout the summer. Both Heidi and Mark really like akebia as an outstanding vine. It has dusty purple or white flowers spring & fall and some blooms throughout the summer. It has attractive evergreen foliage and is not overly aggressive. This is one that maybe difficult to find but well worth the effort. Coral honeysuckle is normally evergreen and blooms throughout the summer. It is not as aggressive as the common honeysuckle you see along the side of the roads. Hummingbirds love it too! Mexican flame vine has orange daisy-like flowers all summer and glossy foliage. Butterflies love it! One of my favorites is passion vine. They have purple or red flowers which are breathtaking. They die back in the winter but come from the roots in the spring. Purple blooms all summer and the red blooms in spring and fall but sporadically through the summer. Even though these vines are sun-loving, they should have their roots mulched.
VINES FOR SHADE
Claradendrum (you may know it as bleeding heart or glory bower) is a favorite of mine. It has white heart shaped flowers that send a red drop from the bottom. It will need protection when it is really cold. Leatherflower is an excellent non-aggressive, cold hardy vine for this area. Carolina aster is a climbing aster with heavy fall blooms. This one might be hard to find but well worth it. Kadsura has adapted well to this area and has variegated yellow and green foliage. White thumbergia is an excellent non-aggressive vine for shade.
Remember to ask your nurseryman for advice in selecting plants for your garden. When I want something really special, I head for Mark Fox Landscaping or Maas Nursery in the Bay Area. here are also some excellent nurseries in the Houston area that carry good selections of natives. Check the garden sections of your local newspaper for names and locations.
Try some vines to cover fences. I'm putting some in behind my sunflowers. Remember that native Texas plants are easier to establish and are more disease and drought tolerant than exotics. These are the best choices for those of us who love the garden but also have a life.
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