LANDSCAPE FAVORITES FOR SOUTH CENTRAL
The Bexar County Master Gardeners organized a very interesting
project in 2005 for a Festival of Flowers Poster. They surveyed
area horticulturists, botanists, nurserymen and landscapers to
compile the “Critic’s Choice Awards”- a display
of these professionals’ favorite plants. It was interesting
to compare the lists to identify the plant pallet and, more importantly,
the expectations for all of these plant people’s favorite
Here are some of the results from the plant survey:
Zinnia - Favorite annual flower; Tomato - Favorite vegetable;
Basil - Favorite herb; Cedar elm - Favorite tree; Crapemyrtle
- Favorite deciduous shrub; Caladium - Favorite plant for shady
areas; Copper canyon daisy - Favorite deer resistant plant; Purple
fountain grass - Favorite ornamental grass; Mountain laurel -
Favorite native plant; Zoysia - Favorite turfgrass; Hibiscus -
Favorite perennial flower.
Since I have been a servant of the people in South Central Texas
for 30 years while working for the Texas Cooperative Extension,
I make certain my favorite plants can be and will be your favorite
plants. What makes a plant “my favorite” is its ability
to bloom or fruit profusely and be continuously attractive in
the variety of hellish growing conditions we experience every
year. In other words, the plants which give you more “bang
for your buck”. These plants also have to be able to be
propagated in large numbers and saleable in Texas nurseries, i.e.,
candidates for the Texas SuperStar Plant Program at www.TexasSuperStar.com
Here is my list and why it may differ from others:
Favorite Flower: Annual is Wax-leaf Begonia rather than Zinnia
because begonias very seldom gets foliage diseases, does not hold
unsightly old flowers, can tolerate cold and hot and can bloom
in shade or sun.
Favorite Flower: Perennial is Katie Dwarf Ruellia rather than
hibiscus. I understand why some of my horticulture friends might
choose hibiscus — after all, I have put several on the world
market myself. But, when you compare the versatility of Katie
Dwarf Ruellia, it is clearly a winner. It grows well in wet or
dry; it can be used as a groundcover under trees or in a full
western sun exposure; it receives very little damage from foliage
feeders; and spreads by seed and plant clumping.
Favorite Vegetable: Tomato – everyone agrees that this
is America’s favorite vegetable. What Extension horticulturists
do is to test and make available to Texas’ gardeners the
most productive, good tasting varieties for Texas’ growing
Favorite Herb: Rosemary rather than Basil since Rosemary is deer-resistant,
a perennial and is drought and heat tolerant.
Favorite Tree: Crapemyrtle – This was listed as the favorite
deciduous shrub by most folks since crapemyrtle comes in so many
sizes and colors. But I contend that most homeowners use it as
a small to medium size tree. No other plant in the world comes
in as many different sizes and colors of flower and bark as does
the crapemyrtle. I am not attracted by the bloom and bark color
of the cedar elm-!-!-! Make your crapemyrtle selection from:
Favorite Shrub: Deciduous is Gold Star Esperanza rather than crapemyrtle
which I consider a small tree rather than a shrub even though
a few shrub-sized varieties are available. Gold Star Esperanza
is a deciduous shrub which was discovered in the city limits of
San Antonio and is truly a San Antonio traditional plant See the
Favorite Shrub: Evergreen is Dwarf Yaupon Holly
Least Favorite Shrub: Evergreen is DEFINITELY Red tipped Photinia
Favorite Shade Plant: FireSpike rather than caladium because FireSpike
is a perennial, has a red bloom which hummingbirds and butterflies
love, and is not eaten by any foliage feeding insects.
Favorite Deer-Repellent Plant: Texas Lilac Vitex rather than
Copper Canyon Daisy—this is a no-brainer. Copper Canyon
Daisy usually blooms abundantly only once a year and begins blooming
30 minutes before the first hard frost which destroys the bloom.
If you think back, Copper Canyon Daisies have only been attractive
for the last several years—when we had extremely late frosts.
For most of the year, Copper Canyon Daisy has a weedy appearance
in the landscape. Vitex is an attractive lilac-type shrub-to-small-tree
which can be made to be in full bloom several times every season.
See the instructions and images at: http://www.plantanswers.com/vitex.htm
Favorite Ornamental Grass: Purple Fountain Grass – Everyone
with clear vision recognizes this as the most spectacular of all
Favorite Native Plant: Texas Mountain Laurel— everyone
agrees on this native plant. Thanks to the efforts of Lone Star
Growers and Joe Bradberry, this plant has now been domesticated.
Before these folks start growing quantities of this plant in containers,
it could only be dug out of the wild.
Favorite Turfgrass: Floratam St. Augustinegrass rather than zoysiagrass.
A case can be made for both but since San Antonio is a St. Augustine
town and since Floratam St. Augustinegrass is more drought tolerant
than some buffalograsses and more disease and insect resistant
than any other St. Augustinegrass on the planet, I will stick
with Floratam. Even though zoysiagrass does claim some shade tolerance,
it cannot compare to St. Augustinegrass survivability in the shade.
Favorite Rose: Belinda’s Dream
Plant you wish you’d see more of: Nacogdoches Yellow Rose
Favorite Insect: Lady Bug
Least Favorite Insect: Spider Mites
Favorite Wildflower: Texas Bluebonnet
Combine these choices with a list of other recommended plants
for our area: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/publications/southcnt.html
and you will have a carefree, beautiful landscape all year long.