dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the tag “Texas native plant”

Pool problems: my head is swimming trying to decide WHAT to put behind my pool!

Charlene from Texas writes: “Hey, we have a spot behind the pool that gets only a few hours of LATE afternoon, intense sunlight.  Any suggestions?  We have nandina on one side and lorapetalums on the other with wax myrtles behind all. I’d love abelia but hubby thinks that won’t get enough sun.  Thanks!”

When a plant is listed as FULL SUN, it assumes most of the day it will get direct sun.  PARTIAL SHADE lovers – especially those that are grown for the bloom –  need sun for at least a few hours a day.  However, using a shade plant in a spot where afternoon reflective sun might hit it from the pool can be an issue.  Another consideration using a flowering shrub near a pool is WHAT pollinates it?  If the answer is butterflies or moths or hummingbirds, great.  But what if it is a BEE plant?  Will that become an issue with bare feet running around the area?


datura (Datura wrightii), also known as Jimsonweed, is a Texas native that sparkles at night pollinated by hawkmoths (

Certainly for Texas, glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora) would be an option if you have ample room for its size (8′ ht.X5’w, except for more compact selections, such as ‘Golden Glow’ or ‘Francis Mason’).  But also consider a native shrub to make your hedge.  Abelias hale from China (and I don’t mean the one just out of Beaumont, TX!), so they may require a bit of extra care.  Check out  to find the right shrub for the spot.  A few of the things to look at include: 1) mature size, 2) evergreen or deciduous, 3) pollination source, 4) when/if/time of day it has showy blooms and what color are they, 5) poisonous parts, especially if young children or pets might be in the area, and 6) soil type/water needs.  Also, don’t be afraid to use variety, just like nature does.

MYTH:    Although LOTS of flowering plants thrive in the summertime heat, not all require full sun.  Watch your location during different points of the day and chart the sun’s progression.

bee in shade and water-loving crinum lily (Crinum americanum)

 Seasonal changes make a difference, too, so watch to see if the sun peeks through a shady spot.  (Overhead trees might also lose their leaves giving a nice winter suntan and a needed respite from blazing summer sun.)  Make your plant selections wisely and the likelihood of having to move or re-move it later on will virtually melt away.


Another gardening blog?

My dad, Dr. Bob Foster, with me at 18 months old.

Growing up with a gardening parent, I recognize my good fortune.  My childhood was spent soaking in Dad’s knowledge of the natural world, although at the time I looked at it as “work.”  Thankfully, by the time I started my own family, that changed.  The hours spent doing gardening chores as a kid paid out even before we saved up to buy our 1st house.  My dorm window was filled with ivies and aloe veras, items Dad deemed as necessary as a good reading lamp.  My apartment balconies (and there were several) were dotted with small pots of color and crop and greenery.  Every corner inside that boasted even a tiny sliver of sunshine hosted a variegated airplane plant.  Every corner that sat in darkness gained a mother-in-law’s tongue.  And when my daughters left for college, I made sure they not only had underwear, but also their ivies and aloe veras.  Hopefully, they now believe themselves lucky for having grown up with gardening parents.

With a generation now nesting raised with blow ‘n go, hire it done lawns, many find themselves horticulturally ignorant when striking out on their own, no experience to call on when the desire comes to build an Eden for themselves.  (My belief is that we are ALL built to be gardeners, designed with an Eden-sized hole in our psyche.  More and more, scientific data is backing up that theory.) And although I lap up a treatise on gardening like a thirsty dog, I realize my propensity for a nightstand stacked with landscaping literature is not necessarily a normal thing.  Especially for NEW gardeners, bite sized rather than force feeding the whole apple at once makes it easier to manage without choking.  So anyone looking for a few morsels to help them get started, this is your table!  Each entry of GardenDishes will serve a HIT and a MYTH: a plant or suggestion that, as a professional landscape designer I’ve found tasty, and a landscaping lie that we’ll toss into the compost heap for good.  If YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TIP OR GARDENING QUESTION, please send it to me along with a photo.  If I don’t know the answer, I know someone who does.  My daddy is still just a phone call away.

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