Horticulture Happenings Reflect Plant Preferences

San Antonio Express News
Sunday, May 15, 2005

By Dr. Jerry Parsons

The horticulture events of the year in San Antonio will take place during the next two weekends, and anyone who is interested at all in plants should plan to be at one or both of these plant-fests.

Next weekend on Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., the San Antonio Botanical Garden will celebrate its 25th birthday with its annual Viva Botanica event. This is a wonderful opportunity to listen to live music, sample delicious food, enjoy children’s activities and, most importantly, take advantage of the specialty plant sales with plants from the Botanical Garden and other San Antonio horticultural groups.

Many of the plants that will be on sale are not typically available at most area nurseries. You can also get help with plant problems from lawn and garden, to trees and shrubs. The Bexar County Master Gardeners and Gardening Volunteers of South Texas will be swarming around ready, willing and eager to help. Special event admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children and advance-purchase discount tickets are available at area Starbucks locations. The Botanical Garden is located at 555 Funston off of North New Braunfels Avenue.

The following weekend on Saturday, May 28, there will be an event that is not 25 years old, but has quickly become the premiere horticulture event of San Antonio-The Festival of Flowers. This year, it will return to the Alzafar Shrine Temple, located at 901 North Loop 1604 West between Stone Oak Parkway and Blanco Road. There is more room and lots of free parking with easy access to the building. The cost of admission is only $4 and children under 10 are free. A coupon for $1 off the adult admission price can be downloaded from the website at www.SAFestivalofFlowers.com

I will be working at the Festival of Flowers all day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., answering gardening questions and sparring with horticulture hecklers in the “ASK THE EXPERT” booth. There will be lots of presentations by the largest accumulation of organic gardening psychos ever assembled in one building in Texas! Regardless of this unfortunate accumulation, the real reason to come to this function is the choice of unusual plant material available for purchase at, or below market prices.

There will also be a plant exchange in which you can participate. Just bring a plant that you have grown, and trade it for a different plant which you can enjoy in your garden. For some reason, they don’t allow Aloe Vera, Prickly Pear or Kalanchoes-it has to be something less common and not as easy to propagate. The plant exchange is sponsored by Gardening Volunteers of South Texas-for complete guidelines for the plant exchange visit this website: www.Gardening Volunteers.org.

So what plants might you find at these two events that will enhance your landscape? The Gardening Volunteers of South Texas and I always try to have something special for both events. This year our volume offerings will include:

Insignia Pink Angel Trumpet (http://www.plantanswers.com/angel_trumpet.htm)
Dwarf Daily Bush Morning Glory (http://www.plantanswers.com/bush_morning_glory.htm)
Calamondins (http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/feb05/1.htm)
Parsons Potent Chili Penguins (http://www.plantanswers.com/parsons_pequins.htm)
Henry Duelberg Salvia ( http://www.plantanswers.com/salvia.htm)
Variegated Turk’s Cap (http://www.plantanswers.com/turkscap.htm)
Dame de Coeur red roses
Russilea (or Firecracker plant)
Double Altheas
Double Confederate Roses

These offerings will be available at the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas booth at both Viva Botanica in the SAWS Water-Saver Garden (on top of the Conservatory!), and at the Festival of Flowers. They will also be available at the Festival of Flowers’ plant exchange booth, but be forewarned that they will very likely be snapped up early in the day by eager and early plant swappers.

The Bexar County Master Gardeners have organized a very interesting project this year. They have surveyed area horticulturists, botanists, nurserymen and landscapers to compile the “Critic’s Choice Awards”–a display of favorite plants of the professionals. It will be interesting to compare the lists to identify the plant pallet, and more importantly, the expectations for all of these plant people’s favorite plants.

How many of these plants identified as “favorites” can be popularized and propagated en mass? 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 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. 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 (http://texassuperstar.com/plants.html). Here is my “favorites” list:

Favorite Annual Flower: Wax-leaf Begonia

Favorite Perennial Flower: Katie Dwarf Ruellia

Favorite Rose: Belinda’s Dream http://www.plantanswers.com/roses.htm

Favorite Vegetable: Tomato http://www.plantanswers.com/tomato444.htm

Favorite Herb: Rosemary

Favorite Tree: Crape myrtle

Favorite Deciduous Shrub: Gold Star Esperanza

Favorite Evergreen Shrub: Dwarf Yaupon Holly

Favorite Shade Plant: FireSpike http://www.plantanswers.com/firespike.htm

Favorite Deer-Repellent Plant: Texas Lilac Vitex

Favorite Ornamental Grass: Purple Fountain Grass

Favorite Native Plant: Texas Mountain Laurel

Favorite Turfgrass: Floratam St. Augustinegrass

Plant you wish you’d see less of: Red tipped Photinia

Plant you wish you’d see more of: Nacogdoches Yellow Rose

Favorite Insect: Lady Bug

Least Favorite Insect: Spider Mites

Favorite Wildflower: Texas Bluebonnet
and http://www.plantanswers.com/sabbstory.htm

Stop by my booth at one of these events, and we will discuss your favorites and why they are your favorites. See you then!

This article was written by Dr. Jerry Parsons, Extension Horticulturist (Vegetables) with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County.


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