This week we’re returning to Texas, not far from where I (Misti) live. Matt is sharing his abundant blooms, which are a mix of natives interspersed with non-native botanical beauties. I know Matt from college where we attended Texas A&M at Galveston. He’s gone beyond the undergraduate realm and off into PhD territory now. His gardening abilities came to my attention via Facebook and I thought he’d made a great addition to the Sprout Dispatch garden tour. I think you’ll enjoy his gardens!
+Where do you garden and what is your climate like?
My small garden has its home in College Station, Texas, about 2 hours northwest of Houston. Winters are just cold enough, with rare snaps into the teens, to really mess with cold-sensitive plants. Summers are hot and dry, and while we get much of the humidity that dominates farther south, most sea breeze rainstorms peter out by the time they get so far inland. In the several years that I’ve been in the area, I’ve seen summers with 16” of rain and summers with 3” of rain. We’ve got very sandy soils over a relatively shallow clay pan, and municipal water from the local aquifer is very salty. I’ve got my work cut out for me! An old tale has it that this area was selected for the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) because, “if those boys can figure out how to make something grow in Brazos County, they can grow something anywhere!”
+When did you first start gardening? How long have you been gardening at your current residence?
Gardening and I met by accident. In the fall of 2008, I helped do some yard work for a widow at my church. She was thinning out her beds and tossing a lot to the curb, so I thought “why not?” and scooped up some perfectly good cannas. I hauled them home and set to work on a patio that had been BADLY neglected since I moved in three years prior. Sure, there was a solid bed of yellow beardless irises and a couple of sad rose of Sharons…or is it roses of Sharon? But there was also a small grove of volunteer mulberry and hackberry trees, and lots and LOTS of weeds. Just from pulling a ton of creeping St. Augustine, the next spring I found some stray German irises and a dense clump of Byzantine gladiolus that had been waiting for who knows how long just for some room to breathe. Eventually I was off and running! I’m now in my 5th growing season, and my modest beds have grown to border most of the yard. I really pull back effort in the hot months and let my transplanted natives and self-seeding flowers run wild before jumping back in when it gets a bit cooler.
+Which plants have been your favorite to grow? Most difficult? Any major plant losses that have bummed you out?
Maybe since their relatives were here from the start or maybe I just appreciate their simplicity, but I’ve really been a fan of native irids that I’ve plucked from roadsides and on walks through the woods. I like their variety of habitats, growth forms, and colors, especially since the bluish tints of many are so rare among other Texas natives. My favorites are propeller flower/purple pleat-leaf (Alophia drumondii), prairienymph (Herbertia lahue), and blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.). I’ve also really liked watching over at least three different species blazing star (Liatris spp.). Seemingly invincible sandpaper verbena (Verbena rigida), huge Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani), showy Hibiscus moscheutos are also among my favorites.
Now for the hard stuff…in addition to facing salty water burning my coneflowers, most of my daffodils are daft, my crocuses seem to croak, and my poppies have been poopy. Apparently I sunk a bunch of daffodil bulbs known for not reblooming, but transplants from dense clumps in East Texas should help make things better! My gladioli seem to have a hard time blooming consistently – except for the reliable Byzantine that is. Those things are champs!
+What plants would you like to have in your garden if you could?
I do have a couple damper shady spots in the yard, and I would love to try some columbines, but I haven’t really pursued that too much. Most of what I see in nurseries are not the native varieties and I’m sure they’d bite the dust after a year.
+Anything new and exciting growing this season?
Well it’s been around for a while, but one of the potted plumerias I purchased at a plant sale three years ago has finally started blooming this summer!
+Have you grown any edibles and if so what has been your favorite?
Well…how do you define “edible”? I’ll frequently stroll outside and pop some flowers off the rose of Sharon or the native hibiscus for chomping. With hundreds of flowers, there is no shortage of snack food. I’ll also do the same with the violets in spring, and the spiderworts and dayflowers later on, but they aren’t quite as filling!
Aren’t his beds awesome? I think I’ll be taking some notes! Thanks again for participating Matt.