Moseying: Living La Vida Llanero
Xeriscaping and Drought
December 18, 2011
"We just moved here from Louisiana," the lady said, "How often does it snow like this? " She clutched her coat a little tighter. Outside, snow was still falling, adding to the three inches already on the ground. We are on the southern edge of the icy tongue of the blizzard banshee. We are blessed by many beautiful warm days during the winter, but sometimes the truth of the old saying, "Nothing between here and the North Pole but barbed wire fences," becomes chillingly obvious.
Usually the snow melts the next day, but sometimes below freezing temperatures stick around even when the clouds leave. Our achingly blue sky contrasts perfectly with the immaculate snow that is draped on trees and shrubs like regal ermine robes. The splendor makes a person pause, and deeply inhale and say, "It is indeed a beautiful world! Yes!"
Do you know the most drought-hardy and freeze-hardy plants for your landscape? With the lack of water in Lake Ivie, and without a pipeline from the waterfield near Jal completed, and with the predictions that the spring and summer are expected to be almost as dry as 2011, it is wise to start thinking about your yard. What will happen to it if no outside watering is allowed for those hooked to the municipal water system?
There are hundreds of plants that are either native to Texas, New Mexico, or northern Mexico that are beautiful, along with plants from the Gobi Desert and other arid reaches of China, or plants from the mountains of Afghanistan that have lived through 2011 without any additional irrigation.
You already know some of those plants, like "Texas Sage." Did you know that there are 6 different species and five selected varieties of the Leucophyllum genus? Have you grown the one with green leaves that blooms white that Benny Simpson with Texas A&M developed from a mutated specimen in the wild near Del Rio? How about the one with dark purple blooms with white throats that comes from the wild "mountain islands" of northeastern Chihuahua? How about the angular one from Big Bend with tiny green leaves and sky-blue blossoms? Ask your nursery to order the different varieties!
Do you grow Chinese Pistache? Most nurseries have it. It has the best fall foliage of any tree suitable for planting on the Llano Estacado, and the birds love the nuts on the female trees. It survived without any irrigation in 2011 – none – zip – even 30 foot tall trees! It was a shock t learn that the Texas Red Oaks were drought susceptible in 2011 – many specimens across town turned brown by August. Many had already died from oak wilt.
Folks have asked us about two great trees from the southern Hill Country, Texas madrone and bigtooth maple. Bigtooth maple survived 2011 with grace and ease, but there are very few grown for the nursery industry, and none are available beyond a 15 gallon pot size. Bigtooth is native to the southern Edwards Plateau, and some small growers around Bandera sell the plants. A grower in southern Colorado has the biggest numbers, but their seed source comes from areas with longer and colder winters, so it does not turn the brighter colors of the ones from Bandera. Texas madrone is extremely touchy and can die if left to the whims of rainfall and has to be watered regularly, without fail, and can quickly desiccate when the southwestern furnace hot winds are gusting.
Staff at the Sibley Nature Center were instrumental in development of the plant list for the Commercial Landscape Ordinance for Midland (which should also be the Home Landscape Ordinance). The Sibley Nature Center is the "go-to place" for learning the particulars about the best plants for your home landscape. The best book to buy to learn about "xeriscaping" on the Llano Estacado is Sally Wasowski's Landscaping Region by Region, with the Native Plants of Texas, but it does not take in account of all the passalong plants brought by the early settlers, nor the introduction of foreign species in recent years, or, of course, some of the species introduced into the nursery trade since its publication.
When you get serious about making your yard beautiful without wasting the most precious resource of all, give us a call at 684-6827 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will work with you. In the spring I will start a series of brown-bag luncheons in March. Except for the week of spring break, each Tuesday I will discuss a different set of plants for the landscape; first the trees, then the shrubs, then the perennial flowers. Be the first on your block to grow a screw bean or a cinnamon toast tree!We are presently writing grants to foundations and corporations seeking funding for a series of television spots about the best landscape plants. Television reaches the most people, but the medium is most efficient when the spots are seen so often that the knowledge seeps into the audience, so the cost is the limiting factor. The spots will also be on our website afterwards.