Gardening

Keeping your garden looking its best throughout the growing season and into fall is possible with the help of low maintenance bulbs planted in the spring. Plant them among other annuals or perennials and watch as these bulbs brighten the garden, adding new life to your late season gardens.

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Each and every year, I pass by a yard on the way home from the grocery store and pause my car to have a long look at their redbud tree with its gorgeous, flaming pink color. And each and every year, I think I’m going to plant one of those in my own little slice of the universe. Well, 2017 is the year!

Like fruit trees, it is best to plant redbuds in the late winter. Redbuds are very hardy, but our super hot summers are hard on any baby trees. Go ahead and get your blooming beauty into in ground in late February or March.

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Yes, my front porch is dressed with a few poinsettias, and I have holly in respectable places around the house, but my true passion is Christmas cactus. Let me clarify, the enjoyment comes in getting this seasonal cactus to survive 11 months of the year and then bloom right about now. A beautiful Cuban friend of mine has a pink Christmas cactus that has been blooming annually for 15 or more years. It was her mom’s, so she is proud to see it flower every Christmas season.

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Volunteers broke ground in October on the South Park Community Garden, an initiative by Lamar University and the Greater South Park Neighborhoods Partnership to provide access to gardening space, training and nutritious food for local residents and students.

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sweet alyssum

You want to roll out the welcome mat to your home? Groundcover plants are one of the best options when you want to create that welcoming feel as guests walk up to your front door. That contiguous low lying mass of groundcover is so important in the “outdoor room” of the front yard.

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When you and I were popping firecrackers on July 4, the pumpkin growers of Texas were planting pumpkin seeds. These harbingers of fall take 100 days to mature, so you have to think ahead — way ahead — to have them for Halloween celebrations. Pumpkins are members of the gourd family, which incudes cucumbers, melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. What do members of the gourd family have in common? They need plenty of space.

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Some plants are just plain pretty. The Persian shield (Strobilanthes) got its name from that sheen on the leaf that gives it a sort of metallic look. The leaves are so iridescent that it truly is as showy as a blooming flower. Gardeners in the North and South and all in between love this delightful tropical shrub. It has amazing purple foliage. It will also produce pale purple flowers. Put it in garden beds, borders or containers. Just think of this striking plant next to some purple Bordeaux “Supertunias.”

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When most of the other flowering plants in your yard are gasping for air, the bougainvillea is just hitting its stride. They start smiling and blooming like crazy when there isn’t much water, when the sun is too hot and when you can barely walk barefoot on your concrete sidewalk.

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As you drive around Beaumont and Houston, look for the use of the striking celosia plant. It is a favorite of landscape architects because of its bombshell colors and ease of care. They often use it like a carpet in mass plantings across great swaths of median strips and entries into shopping areas. You can take advantage of celosia’s good looks in your own yard.

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Not many plants, trees or flowers can boast that they bloom continuously for months on end. But the vitex can! It is a sure-fire winner for your yard. This purple bloomer is an excellent choice for our smaller, modern suburban landscapes.

You may know this small tree or bush by other names. Some folks call this specimen tree a “chaste tree.” I’ve also heard it called Hemp tree, sage tree, Indian Spice tree and monk’s pepper. It is native to China and India but became a “resident” of America hundreds of years ago.

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