dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the tag “Houston”


Yes, I’m a gypsy. No sooner than I’ve completed the last project on my to-do list (and hubby’s done with his honey-do list),  and I develop an acute itch only cured by priming the ZILLOW app on my iPhone. Hubby recognizes that dazed look on my face. He’s come to hate that look.

Last spring, hubby retired. We decided we’d live at our farm during the week (a 2 1/2-hour drive away) heading back to an apartment on The Waterway for weekends so we don’t miss grandkids or church. Sounds like a perfect retirement plan, right: no-maintenance living on one end, never-ending on the other. After all, I can write from anywhere with an internet connection. Lots of people do that. It’s called tele-pathetic work, I think.

But, God…He not only has a big BUT, He’s got an impeccable sense of comedic timing. The second day out on our retirement road trip to Yosemite, we got a call that could not have come from anywhere except above. So my hubby took the job and I took to ZILLOW. Again. The farm will continue as a weekend hobby for now.

Apparently, my plants have a touch of gypsy, too. Neighbors (of numerous houses) swear they’ve witnessed shrubs and perennials in my yard lift their skirts…uh…er…ROOTS when they see me coming with a shovel. The home we bought THIS time was a rental property for several years. It had good bones; however, a few were brittle, the rest broken. So here I come with my shovel.


Want a happy face on your shrubs? Transplant at the right time!

We straddle the Texas Gulf Coast and the Pineywoods here. Our weather is somewhat temperate. Also somewhat temperamental, but that’s for another post. The best time to re-do a landscape is our version of winter, which actually translates as less-hot-than-other-seasons. People who hate cold come live here in the winter, probably in this house till we rescued it. Heat’s the nemesis rather than cold when it comes to gardening here. And snowbirding, too, come to think of it. I guess plants and people are a lot alike when it comes to weather – we both hate both ends of the spectrum.


So if you’re like me, always itching to move, my hubby recommends a shovel rather than a U-Haul. He also recommends keeping an auxiliary honey-do list in emergencies. Got your shovel and ready to move? Here are some to-dos for the gypsy plants on your list. Also, check out my friend Skip Richter’s YouTube on digging up the root ball.


Root prune plants before moving. I love my sharp shooter shovel because of the no-slip spot for my foot. It’s made by Fiskars. (I received no $ for saying this, or even a discount, by golly!)







Hot plants for hot spots: plants that THRIVE instead of just SURVIVE the heat!

I’m looking for plants for the west side of the house.  I have already planted some variegated boxwoods and I’m looking to fill in the rest of the beds with something that would spread (groundcover?) and hopefully give white flowers.  I tried Azaleas, and only 2 out of 20 survived.  (I also realize now that Azaleas do not spread outward.)  The white flowers are not a requisite, but I would prefer them.  Do you have any suggestions for me?  Thank you!       Mrs. Palmer, Houston

me@8 in my Easter dress in front of 'Pride of Mobil' azaleas on the north side of our home in Athens, TX

Sounds like you learned your lesson quickly and jumped off that expensive merry-go-round of planting the right plant in the wrong spot.  You are wise to re-evaluate and take another tack.  While azaleas remain the icon shrub of the Deep South, if not OVER-used, they are at least  MIS-used and AB-used.  Like any other plant, azaleas have specific requirements and, depending on the variety, will usually require lots of water and lots of afternoon shade.  A western exposure location in Houston will most likely be an inhospitable home unless you have shade trees or you choose an azalea that specifically enjoys hot summer sun.   Few do.  If foregoing them completely smacks of being listed as a Dixie-ppointment, check the Azalea Society’s website for the best variety to tuck a token azalea into your landscape.

MYTH: any plant for any place....

Making a house call by email, I’ll go on your suggestion that a groundcover is a better solution to fill in under the variegated boxwoods.  Whether you choose white blooms to blend in with the striking white in the shrubs or a contrasting color, you’ll probably want a different shape for your new plants to show-off the rounded boxwood. Technically a purple blooming shrub, prostrate rosemary‘s grayish evergreen foliage will bring out the white variagation in your boxwood.  As an added plus, you can use it in the kitchen all year.  

A native, perennial color plant might be an even better choice to get white blooms and low growth habit beneath your boxwoods.  Here are a few of the best for your area.

HIT: use native plants that THRIVE instead of just SURVIVE!

  • white trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis alba):  listed as a TEXAS SUPERSTAR and can remain evergreen in Houston; deer don’t seem to bother it either, although when they are hungry, their tastes broaden like a college student’s
  • gaura (Gaura lindheimeri):  nicknamed twirling butterflies, they bloom sporadically spring through fall
  • white blue sage (Salvia farinacea ‘White Porcelain’):  stands up to  heat with spikey blooms
  • rain lily (Zephyranthes candida):  evergreen beauties that love low spots, but also shine anywhere they receive regular irrigation
  • blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum): gorgeous, prolific daisy-like little white blooms make this one of my personal favorites; perfect in pots also

The right plant for the right place prevents money and time wasted replacing deadbeats in your landscape.   Do your homework, pick the plant that will be happy in the conditions offered, and then watch everyone THRIVE instead of just SURVIVE their place in the sun!

rain lily blooms peak above the grassy evergreen foliage

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