As Texas endures one of the most severe, prolonged droughts* since the drought of record – 1947 to 1952 – it should come as no surprise that the theme of this Down the Garden Path E-Newsletter is water-wise gardening. The City of Austin prides itself on being a "green city", encouraging us through its Grow Green programs and the Watershed Protection Department to conserve and protect our precious water supply. For gardeners, it's not an option—it's an obligation!
Having grown up in the suburbs of Houston in the early 1950s, my childhood memories are fondly connected to croquet matches on well-manicured green lawns. My father mowed, fertilized, watered and weeded our front and back yards throughout the week, treating our lawn like a sacred shrine. He was a living example of Michael Pollan's assertion:
"Nowhere in the world are lawns as prized as in America…we've rolled a green mantle of it across the continent…[with] some 50,000 square miles of lawn under cultivation, on which we spend an estimated $30 billion a year…"
…Second Nature, A Gardener's Education, Michael Pollan,
Chapter 3, "Why Mow?, 1991, Grove Press.
So, like many other gardeners, I have been reluctant to replace my small patch of green lawn and my exotic, thirsty plants with the native and adapted plants that conserve water.** But living through hot Austin summers for 10 years now has convinced me that my garden can still be colorful and lush, and still be water-wise. Firebush, Barbados Cherry, Thryallis, Gaura, Plumbago, Artemesia, Earth-Kind roses, and other native plants have gradually taken up permanent residence in my backyard garden.
*Drought choking off flow of water into river basin, by Asher Price, Austin-American Statesman, Metro & State, April 21, 2011.
**Native and Adapted Landscape Plants: An Earthwise Guide for Central Texas, City of Austin Grow Green Program, 4th Edition, 2009.
Take the time to sit back with a glass of lemonade, and read the articles in this newsletter…
- Gardening in the Heat of Summer – NOT! Survival tips from Bob Beyer, Travis County Master Gardener. A great resource, this article is filled with practical advice that will reduce stress for gardeners and their plants.
- Gardening with Bambi…Bob enlightens gardeners about dealing with deer munching on our plants. His photo gallery of deer-resistant plants deserves a leisurely look!
- Creating a Drought-Resistant Garden in Central Texas…Anne VanNest, Travis County Master Gardener, reviews the new book for Central Texas gardeners. This guide is a must-have addition to every gardener's library, so be sure you pick one up at local nurseries and garden centers soon.
- Mark your calendars for upcoming garden club shows and sales at the Garden Center at Zilker Botanical Garden. The Austin Daylily Society has its annual show and sale on Saturday, May 21st, and the Austin Bonsai Society, will have one of the largest displays of Bonsai in the South the weekend of May 28th – 29th. Finally, the 17th Annual Austin Pond Society Pond Tour will be held on Saturday, June 11(North) and Sunday June 12(South) from 9am until 5pm. Details about these events can be found on the Zilker website calendar at www.zilkergarden.org.
Our summer mantra needs to be: