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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Questions for the Week

by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.
Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service in San Antonio

Our gardening counterparts across the Atlantic are years ahead of the United States in using color in the landscape. Of course they have been gardening in Europe for a few more years than we have, but there is no reason why we can't borrow some of their zest for beauty.

There are three major sources of color --woody plants, perennials and annuals. The woody ornamentals include trees, shrubs and vines. Perennials refer to herbaceous flowering plants that grow and bloom year after year. Annuals include the flowering plants that are grown for one season, discarded and new ones planted next year. Many times the broad term bedding plants is used synonymously with annuals.

To utilize annuals in the landscape effectively, there are a few rules or concepts. Annuals must be planted and replanted through the year. No one species of flowers will last from spring through fall. In San Antonio we plant annuals four time: spring, summer, fall and winter and there are specific annuals that are best for each season.

Annuals must be planted in mass to make a strong statement in the landscape. Take one or two species of annuals and fill the flower bed. Don't plant one of this and two of that and expect to stop traffic with your landscape.

In designing a flower bed remember to take advantage of color combinations. Complimentary colors, such as pinks and reds or oranges and yellows, give a soft, soothing air to the landscape. Contrasting colors, like whites and reds or yellows and purples, make a strong, bold statement.

Beginning now until about June, cool season annuals will thrive. Planting of begonias, petunias, and dianthus now will reap loads of blooms in May and June. Buy large transplants from the nursery to get an instant effect in the landscape.

In May, summer plantings will be started. The best heat tolerant annuals are periwinkles, purslane and portulaca. If you have a shady landscape, the best annuals are impatiens, begonias, caladiums and coleus.

Perennial plants are those which endure or persist from year to year. Although once a prominent part of nearly every landscape, perennials have been overlooked but are now making a comeback.

Perennials can be highly useful and attractive in the home landscape. They not only persist for many years but usually require less maintenance than annuals. Most times you get more bloom for your money with perennials than annuals. Remember though, the best landscapes have a combination of annuals and perennials for color in the landscape.

The perennial border (a long flower bed) is an important gardening concept in England and many other areas of the world. It can provide succession of bloom throughout the growing season and enhance the overall landscape development.

If a perennial border is more than you care to attempt as your initial experience with perennials, try adding a few to existing plantings. Many perennials have attractive foliage and are an asset even when not in flower.

Here is a list of a few perennials that are guaranteed to grow well:

Early spring bloomers include Daffodil, Bearded Iris, Shasta Daisies, and Day Lily.
Summer bloomers include Blue Shade (Ruellia), Canna, Gladiolus, Lantana, Perennial Phlox, Plumbago, Rosemary and Verbena.

Some perennials that will bloom 7 or 8 months of the year are Autumn Sage, Fire Bush, Blue Sage and Mexican Oregano.


If you've got a small yard, a deck, a patio or even a balcony, you can create a rich and colorful garden. Thanks to container gardening, even urban dwellers with little more than a few feet of space can experience the beauty of their own private oasis.

Container gardens come in all shapes and sizes, from the patio brightened by small shrubs in carefully arranged wooden barrels to the balcony dressed with window boxes and hanging baskets.

In fact, container gardening isn't restricted to those who don't have a lawn or flowerbeds. Some gardeners with small yards prefer to plant their annuals in containers, so they can easily rearrange the garden whenever they wish. With container gardening, redesigning your home landscape is as simple as moving and regrouping your containers, or as adding in new flowers and fresh colors.

Container gardening can be built around flowering annuals, bulbs, roses, vegetables and even small fruit trees and shrubs. Container gardens don't require a lot of extra work. They simply require well-drained potting soil (mix), appropriate sunlight, protection from strong wind, fertilizer and moisture, much like their counterparts in the soil.

Take advantage of container gardening by placing plants and flowers in a way that hides unsightly views. Brighten your day by giving yourself something beautiful to look at, whether it's a well-screened garden outside your bathroom or a colorful window box perched on the ledge of your kitchen window.

As you plan your container-grown garden, think of your space as having a vertical dimension as well as a horizontal one. If your garden is on a walled?in patio, think about mounting pots on the walls or building pots on the walls or building small shelves to hold baskets of flowers. If your garden is on a balcony with an overhang, scatter hanging plants or encourage ivy to wind through the lattice work of the wood.

When you determine where you will place your containers, consider your plant's light requirements. If your plants receive uneven sun, rotate the planters every few days so the flowers will grow in an even and upright way. Remember to keep larger plants in the background and flowering varieties in a spot where the light is best suited for them.

This doesn't mean you have to be restricted in your placement of container-grown plants. If the perfect spot for your sun-loving plant is in a shady place on your balcony, you can always move it into a sunny area for a few hours each day, or choose shade-loving plants.

The following are some of the toughest summer plants which should be grown in a full sun area:

Purslane: If your planting location is extremely hot, dry and sunny, the best annuals to use are purslane or portulaca. Purslane is available in many colors and produces a mass of color. The large purslane flowers close at 5 p.m., on cloudy days and after watering. Portulaca differs from purslane mainly because it is available only in mixed colors, has a smaller, rose-like bloom and has smaller-leaf foliage.

Verbena: The best perennial verbena is named 'Princess' with 'Blue Princess' being the first in the series. The only way to kill this verbena is to plant it in the shade or keep it too wet. The plants also prosper from periodic abuse -- cut or shred back large plants to remove old blooms and invigorate plants. After such a harsh treatment, the plants may look bad for a couple of weeks. You will reap the rewards of a traffic-stopping bloom display after they regrow and begin to bloom again.

Marigold -Marigolds love hot weather and, except having spider mites occasionally, they are easy to grow. If mites attack, use diazinon, Cygon, Kelthane or disyston to spray the undersides of leaves once a week for three consecutive weeks. One can apply a persistent soil insecticide containing disyston (Systemic Insecticide) after transplanting has occurred to provide prolonged protection. Follow label directions.

Vinca (periwinkle): If full sun conditions exist, vinca is a choice. Vinca thrive in well-drained mixes where liberal amounts of organic material have been added. Water plants during the day and allow them to dry. Water sparingly. If the periwinkle foliage turns yellow, reduce the watering interval and treat plants and soil with iron chelate or iron sulfate.

Lantana: If you want a perennial plant for an extra hot location, try Lantana. The variety named New Gold won't become weed-like as will most of the lantana. New Gold lantana produces sterile flowers that never form seed-bearing berries and continually blooms without shearing. Lantana is also a good plant for a hanging basket in a sunny location. Though Lantana is known as a drought tolerant plant, it requires regular waterings.

Firebush: The Firebush is a perennial used in the same manner as lantana. Tubular, red blooms which hummingbirds for miles around covet cover the plants. When touched by the coolness of fall, the foliage will turn red as the bloom continues. The first hard frost of fall will kill the plants if not protected. Newly established plants seldom grow taller than three feet. Firebush performs best in the hotter-than-possible conditions of a sunny exposure. It will not bloom if shaded at all.

Some of the best shade tolerant annuals are:

Impatiens: Impatiens is one of the favorite shade annuals for its ease of care. Survival rate of transplants in the summer correlates with denseness of shade in which they exist. Impatiens have the characteristics of tolerating some sun (morning sun), preferring a moist but not wet soil, and having flowers that do not need to be removed as they fade therefore lowering maintenance.

Coleus: For something different in the darker shaded areas, try the bright foliage markings and variegations of coleus. Pinch off flower spikes in late summer to insure continuous plant bloom.

Begonia: The begonia is the most adapted and spectacular blooming plant that can tolerate full sun but does best with morning sun?afternoon shade. Many times plants over-winter and provide a second year of bloom. Seed begonias are available in many colors with even different colored foliage (red and green). The Vodka begonia has been the standard of the red-leaved, red-flowered varieties.

Container-grown plants do require more water than plants grown in the ground. The sun beats down on all sides of the container, and the plant is less sheltered from winds. Also, the roots can dry more quickly since the soil is not as deep. The shallow levels of soil in containers cannot retain as much water for the plant as can the deeper soils of a lawn or garden.

Check the surface of the soil frequently, and water when it feels dry to the touch. Place containers on bricks or pieces of wood to aid with air circulation and to be sure that the soil is well-drained.

Frequent watering calls for frequent fertilizing. Use a water?soluble plant food every other week at half strength. Assure strong healthy plants by using a potting mix and incorporate the amount of Osmocote slow?release fertilizer pellets recommended for the container size.

Everyone should have some container?grown plants. Regardless of the choice you have to make because of the growing conditions available, flowering annuals and perennials properly planted and nurtured can become a containerized vision of beauty. Containers full of blooming beauty add a definite touch of class to any landscape.

"Container-Less" Containers

"Plant containers"-- we usually think of clay pots, planters, barrels, and window boxes.
But, how about containers that don't look like containers?

Plants on the Wall

Materials: chicken wire, wire staples or nails, decorative mounting board (barn wood).

Directions: Roll chicken wire into a cylinder, folding up a pocket at the bottom. Nail or staple chicken wire to the mounting board.
Fill the chicken-wire pocket with moist sphagnum peat moss.
Plant annuals into the moss through the chicken wire. Plant closer together than is recommended for garden bed planting. Water thoroughly. Leave horizontal for about 10 days to establish plants.
Check watering needs daily. Hang planter vertically on the wall, and continue to water as needed. Use water soluble fertilizer according to package directions.

Its In the Bag

Materials: 3-cubic foot bag of soil mix, 12 bedding plants with a bushy, spreading shape such as petunias, ivy geraniums, impatiens, fibrous begonias, coleus or lobelia.

Directions: Position the bag where it will be growing or put it on a board or tray to make it easier to move once planted. Cut 6 X-shaped holes in the bag about 3 to 4 inches across and 3 to 4 inches apart. Cut 6 1-inch V-shaped holes in the lower sides of the bag for drainage.
Plant 2 bedding plants in each X-hole. Water thoroughly in each of the X-holes. Check watering needs regularly. (Since the bag is enclosed, it will not dry out as quickly as open containers.) Use water- soluble fertilizer according to package directions. Plant larger or smaller bags according to the same methods.

Warm-bag variation:

Fill a large garbage bag with dampened leaves. Top with 4 to 6 inches of potting soil. Plant in the open top or close with a twist?tie and plant through X-holes cut into the soil area as described above.
The leaves create growth?stimulating heat as they decay and eventually decompose into mulch to add to the garden next season.

Blooming Fence

Materials: 2 pieces of galvanized fencing, fence posts to secure, plastic lining material, bedding plants

Directions: Set the fencing 3 to 5 inches apart. (You may also attach an additional piece of fencing to an existing chain link fence.) Line the gap between the fencing with plastic, leaving the bottom open for drainage and the top open for watering. Fill the gap with good growing soil. (Commercially available potting soil has the advantage of being disease and insect free. Garden soil should be mixed with organic material such as peat moss or compost to about 25% of soil volume.)
Cut X-holes in the plastic to insert plants through the fencing and in the top of the gap.
Space plants closer than is recommended for garden planting.
Water from the top as needed. Use a water-soluble fertilizer according to package directions.

Moss Sculpture

Materials: chicken wire, wood for frame and a solid base, staple gun, sphagnum moss or plastic lining material, bedding plants.

Directions: Build a box, pillar, or other shape of your own design, and staple chicken wire around it.
Line it with sphagnum moss or plastic lining material. (If you use plastic, poke drainage holes at the bottom.) Fill it with good growing soil. (Commercial potting soil or garden mix; see above.) Cut X-holes in the plastic to insert plants through the chicken wire. Space plants closer than is recommended for garden planting. Water from the top as needed. Use a water?soluble fertilizer according to package directions. Note: This is the basic method used to create the intricate topiary animals at such places as Disney World. To preserve the shape of your sculpture, plant low, spreading plants and prune as needed.

Make Your Own Rock

Materials: water, cement, sphagnum peat moss, and either builder's sand, perlite or vermiculite. Cardboard or wood forms, or sand and plastic for free-form molds.

Directions: add water to mix a heavy paste using equal parts cement, peat moss and one of the following: sand, perlite or vermiculite. Make a wooden or cardboard mold or dig a shape into sand and line it with plastic. Reinforce the mold with chicken wire or galvanized wire mesh. Spread mixture thickly inside the mold, covering wire. Insert wooden plugs through the bottom for drainage holes. Remove from the mold when thoroughly dry for a unique, natural looking "rock" planter.