Celeste Fig

Do you ever want more function in your landscape than just something nice to look at? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone and we have something for you! Say hello to the Celeste Fig tree; Also known as Ficus carica ‘Celeste’. This handy little tree grows up to 7’-10’ tall and wide in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 -9.

The typical fig producing regions have mild winters and hot, dry summers. Fortunately, even with Houston’s humid weather and frequent moisture, it’s a great area for the fig tree to grow with little to no maintenance and watering! The interesting thing about this plant is that it has large, showy leaves which is not typical of plants that are more tolerant of hot, dry environments. So, if you are looking for a bold, large texture in your landscape design, then this may be a great fit.

I have personally grown this variety as well as other fig tree varieties in full sun, part sun, and dapled shade. A majority of my yard has to stand on it’s own two feet without any care or attention from me, and this plant is a perfect fit for my busy lifestyle.

The Celeste is great alternative to the classic Brown Turkey Fig tree produces a beautiful light brown and purple fruit alongside its classic green foliage. Adding to its low maintenance previously mentioned, it is pest/disease resistant and can produce a crop with a single tree. In the Houston area during years that do not have a late spring frost, I have received 2 crops from my trees – one in early summer and one in late summer.

Want to add even more variety? Then let’s quickly talk about what some of the other fig trees can provide. While looking similar, the classic Brown Turkey Fig produces a very sweet tasting fruit while not being as rich as those produced by the Celeste. Its fruit are also slightly larger and darker. The LSU Gold Fig, for the Tiger fans out there, has an attractive light green/yellow crop with a nice sweet fig flavor. The LSU Purple Fig produces a light red fruit with a mild flavor and high sugar content.

I may be a bit biased, but where is my Maroon, White, or Gig ‘Em fig tree? Just kidding. Another option, the Banana Fig, provides a light green to near yellow fruit with banana colored spots when ripe. Even the banana phone didn’t give you these! The last fig we’ll mention is the O’Rourke Fig. It is easily be compared to the Celeste Fig as it is also referred to as the Improved Celeste, but ripens earlier. A great option for those who do not want to wait or wants their fig crops spread out through the season.

No matter what your taste may be, there are countless fig tree varieties that can add versatility to your landscape while enhancing the look.

© HDG Landscape Design, 2019

Garden Potato

Solanum tuberosum, more commonly referred to as Garden Potato, is a cool season vegetable hardy in zones 1 to 7, or most of the continental United States. Potatoes produce best when planted in early spring with warm days and cools nights. Potato is a common culinary vegetable but is often overlooked by home gardeners, which is a tragedy because home grown potatoes are much better than store bought, both in taste and texture. They do need a cool climate, so can be grown as a spring crop in warmer climate zones such as Texas. They need full sun and acidic soils for successful growing.

When planting, do not use store bought potatoes with sprouts as your seed potato because they most likely have been treated with chemicals to prevent growing. Buying certified seed potatoes to plant is the best way to go. If you can only find a larger seed potato (they are usually the size of an egg), it can be cut in half so that at least two eyes are on a single piece.  Allow them to dry for a couple days before planting eye side up in a row in your garden, one foot apart and pressed into the soil. Cover your potatoes with about four inches of soil, repeat this one or two times as the plant grows creating a growing mound. They need consistent moisture, so make sure to water your potatoes regularly when the tubers start to form. Some good varieties for Texas include ‘Kennebec’, ‘Yukon Gold’, and ‘Red Pontiac’.

Potatoes can be carefully harvested in late May or early June on a dry day. The soil should be loose so digging will be easy, and be sure not to puncture the tubers. When the vine dies out you should harvest all of the potatoes remaining to prevent rot. Store potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place and refrain from washing until right before you use them.20160522_173151

© HDG Landscape Design, 2017

Plants for Fall and Winter Edible Gardens

HDG Landscape Design’s tried and true winter edible garden can be contained in a single large landscape pot. Using the thriller, filler, and spiller method, I like to plant a Meyer Lemon tree as a central focal point, a ring of bright green Butter Lettuce surrounding, 3 trailing Rosemary spaced evenly at the edge of the pot, and purple Pansies between. Yes, even the Pansies are edible, and the contrasting colors are exceptional!

Many flowers are edible, and even the Meyer Lemon flowers and other bulbs such as tulips can be used to decorate a cake or plate as a dual edible and beautiful addition!

© HDG Landscape Design, 2016

Mexican Feather Grass

Nassella tenuissima, more often known as Mexican Feather Grass is a common ornamental grass in Texas landscapes and still referred to Stipa tenuissima by some authorities. This perennial grass can reach 24” to 36” in height and 15” to18” in width. Ornamental grasses in general are grown for a texture and interesting foliage. Mexican Feather Grass has a light and airy texture consisting of green foliage with tan to cream plumes. This grass blooms throughout late spring to mid-summer. Hardy throughout most of Texas, Mexican Feather Grass is a great choice for a low to mid-level accent needing full sun and infrequent watering.20160626_172845

Mexican Feather Grass is one of my favorite grasses to use in the landscape because it provides movement as it sways in the breeze. Its graceful stems contrast with broad leaved succulents, bright flowers, and xeriscaping plants, such as Agave, Red Yucca, Lantana, Salvia, and even boulders and river rocks. Mexican Feather Grass works particularly well as a lining plant for pathways because the leaves and plumes fall over the edges of the path to provide a softer transition and immersive feel. It will self-sow freely which may be beneficial if used in large landscapes and meadows or even on slopes for purposes of erosion control. When used in containers and modern design it would be wise to deadhead the plant to control growth.

Maintenance at least once a year is suggested. Removing gray colored old growth is simple and will allow for more air flow between the healthy grass blades. I have found the best way to manage this is to run your fingers through the blades like you are detangling long hair. The dead growth will remove easily, and it will give you an opportunity to restructure the plant if you found it laying too far on one side.

*Warning: This plant doesn’t like soggy, wet soil and roots will rot in these conditions!!

We love to pair this plant with Agave, Soft Leaf Yucca, Gold Star Esperanza, Vitex, Salvia, Texas Sage, and other Texas Superstar Plants.

Other Names: Silky Thread Grass, Mexican Needle Grass

 

© HDG Landscape Design, 2016

Lamb’s Ear

If you are looking for a deer resistant, low maintenance and drought tolerant evergreen ground cover (zones 8-10) or perennial (zones 4-7), Lamb’s Ear is the ideal plant for you.  Resembling the down-turned, soft ears of a lamb, Stachys byzantine, commonly called Lamb’s ear, is a low growing, soft textured perennial with fuzzy, greenish-silver leaves. It grows from 6”-8” tall, and spreads to 12”.  Although mostly grown for its foliage, it will produce a spike-like, purplish-pink to white flower in spring and summer.

The best location to plant lamb’s ear is in a spot with part-sun to sun conditions with well-drained soil, but it is also known to handle areas with light shade or filtered sun provided the area also drains well. Lamb’s ear can survive in most soils except wet; it will rot if kept in an area with standing water or if watered too much. If you live in a heavy rain area, then build your beds to drain away from this plant and amend the bed area soil for better drainage.

Lamb’s ear will easily grow in zones 4-10, but in areas with hot and humid summers, such as the San Antonio area, it may turn brown from heat stress if not placed in a location that receives some afternoon shade. Lamb’s ear also will self-sow, and can be propagated by dividing the roots, which should be done every three years to encourage new foliage and to prevent root matting. It can also be sheared if it is becoming leggy.

This versatile perennial can be used as informal edging along a path or flower bed, in groups of three or more, as a container plant and is tolerant to grow just about anywhere. Lamb’s ear’s rich texture and silver color is beautiful when contrasted against darker foliage plants and even boulders in a rock garden.

BigEars_HDG

Varieties:

The two most used varieties are ‘Helen Von Stein’ and ‘Big Ears’.

‘Helen Von Stein’ variety has the most tolerance to stress from hot and humid summers as mentioned above. It flowers either sporadically or not at all, and does best in zones 5-10. Its silver foliage grows 12”-18” tall and spreads 24” wide.

‘Big Ears’ variety is a bit larger than the average Lamb’s Ear, 10” high and 18”-24” wide and has greenish-gray foliage.

Cucumber

Cucumbers, or Cucumis sativus, are a great selection for home gardening and come in two types: slicing and pickling. Cucumbers can seem to take up a lot of space due to their 4 to 6 foot vines, but if grown vertically on sturdy panels they take up less space and can prove to be one of the most productive small garden crops.

The first step is to choose what type of cucumber you want to grow. Slicing types can grow fruit up to 8 inches long and 1 inch wide when mature. They are most often used in salads, veggie trays, and can be preserved as bread and butter pickles. For traditional pickles, both sliced and whole, it is best to grow a pickling cucumber that is much smaller, up to 4 inches, when mature. If space is limited it is best to plant pickling cucumber if you can’t plant both.

Climbing Vine

Much like for tomatoes, cages can be beneficial to cucumbers. Cages allow the vines to grow up easier than some other form of trellis or fence. Plants can be planted closer together, approximately 3 feet by 3 feet apart, because the vertical growth uses less space. You may need to assist your plants with attaching themselves to the cages by guiding the young vines through the openings a couple times.There are many benefits to growing these vegetables vertically such as less disease susceptibility, more space for other crops, and an increase in air circulation.

Cucumbers do not like cool temperatures, so when direct seeding wait until the soil temperature is above 60 degrees and there is no chance of frost. Your cucumber seeds should be planted 1-1.5” deep in hills 3 to 4 feet apart (when not using cages), with 2-3 plants per hill. Doing this will increase the likely hood of a successful plant and extra plants can be removed after emergence. Cucumbers must be grown in full sunlight and should not be planted near trees because tree roots will steal their nutrients and water. Fertilizer and plenty of water are needed for cucumbers to grow properly. If it does not rain in a given week, the plants should be soaked well.

Pests and diseases can prove a problem to cucumbers, the most common of which are aphids, cucumber beetles, and leaf miners. As a last resort, one may use appropriate insecticide but be sure to spray in the afternoon so as not to disturb the honey bee pollination.

Sliced Cucumber

 

Recommended Varieties for Texas:

Slicing: Cucumis sativus ‘Sweet Slice’, Cucumis sativus ‘Sweet Success’

Pickling: Cucumis sativus ‘Calypso’, Cucumis sativus ‘Liberty’

Mammoth Sunflower

Mammoth Sunflower - HDG Landscape Design

Varieties of Helianthus are my favorite summer flowering plants. If you are not known for your green thumb, then this may soon become your favorite garden flower as well. The Mammoth Sunflower is a particularly interesting variety as it will grow over 10 feet tall with flower centers reaching over 8″ in diameter. If you are looking for a beautiful cut flower, then this variety is probably not for you. Instead, try the “Teddy Bear” variety for successful cut flower arrangements that will last.

Like all other Sunflowers, the Mammoth Sunflower is an annual that prefers full sun, is easy to grow, drought tolerant, and heat tolerant with yellow flowers that bloom in summer. It can be grown easily from seeds using a direct sowing method with a shallow planting depth of about 1 inch and requires very little maintenance or attention afterwards. The only problem that can be encountered with Mammoth Sunflowers is that  they may outgrow their supports quickly. To keep these giants from falling over, stalks need to be either staked, buried deeply after seedlings emerge and begin falling over, or roots need encouragement to grow deeply on their own to support the plant. This can be done using a method of infrequent but deep watering which I have found works better than other support methods.

Although this variety is grown for interest, it is also grown commercially as well. Mammoth flowers may only be showy for a couple days (another reason why they are not excellent flowers for arrangements). However, many people take advantage of this flower’s ability to produce hundreds of edible sunflowers seeds after their flowering interest has subsided. I recommend waiting to harvest seeds until after the sunflower head droops and the backside turns yellow to brown. Seeds should be allowed to dry before being stored if not eaten immediately.

Radish

 

The Radish

Radish - HDG Landscape Design
For Kids – The radish is another fast germinating and fast growing vegetable taking only 22-30 days to mature depending on the variety. The fast germination of these plants is a quick reward for your child’s effort to start their own garden, and the bright interesting root will quickly begin to show which tells your child they are almost ready. These small plants still may look like weeds after germinating for 7-10 days, but they will soon show the obvious radish root while the foliage clears the height of other similar looking weeds. Radishes may not be a usual favorite to eat raw; however, this is a great vegetable to use raw in coleslaw or sliced into a stir-fry with other vegetables.

For the Garden – I prefer to start the radish outdoors, and directly sow them into the garden several times during their growing season. In climate zone 8a and south radish seeds can be sown through a majority of the year and even somewhat out of season. They can be planted relatively close together (about 2”-3” apart) compared to other root vegetables. Make sure that plants receive plenty of light during the day. It is always best to water plants in the morning, so make the effort to water gardens before starting your day.

 

‘Mother of Millions’ Kalanchoe

Succulents are not a new interest for interior and exterior interest. However, the Kalanchoe daigremontiana is an especially interesting succulent that is easy to care for and Mother of Millions plant- HDG Landscape Designeven fun to have for children.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Kalanchoe daigremontiana is also known by many as the Mother of Millions. There are several similar varieties known as Mother of Thousands or Alligator Plant. All are a bit different looking, however, they all have the exact same interest that has made them valuable to me.

These types of Kalanchoes produce small babies off of the leaves of the mother plant. The babies form about 4 leaves and roots before dropping off the mother plant and rooting themselves in the soil where they drop. You can pluck many of these babies before they fall or wait for them to begin rooting before moving them to another location.

I would recommend ordering this plant or a similar variety over the internet as they are particularly difficult to find. I rarely see them, but when I do they have been at small family owned nurseries, and they have just one or two available. Cuttings, bare root plants, and babies travel well in the mail and root easily which is why this is preferred for a quality plant from growers (many of which are in California).

Mother of Millions Babies - HDG Landscape Design

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Pea - HDG Landscape DesignFor Kids

Peas in general are fast germinating and fast growing which makes them a great indoor container plant or garden plant for kids to grow on their own. The fast germination of these plants are a quick reward for your child’s effort to start their own garden, and the fast growth rate will show them daily progress they can record and enjoy. After transplanting their plants outdoors children can watch their Sugar Snap Peas climb using tendrils, develop variegated leaves, begin to flower with creamy white blooms, and then watch pea pods emerge from the blossoms knowing they will soon be able to pick and eat them. If you have trouble convincing your child to eat greens, then having a garden just for them to take care of may help solve your problem.

For the Garden

Sugar Snap Peas can be started indoors or directly sowed outdoors in fall or spring. Peas that are started too late in fall may survive the winter in zone 9, but they will not put on flowers or fruit until the following spring. I personally find that sowing them outdoors allows them to stay more compact when first growing as opposed to getting leggy when they receive too much water and light when started indoors. I plant all Sugar Snap Peas along a wire fence so that tendrils can grab and climb to support the soft tissue plant as well as the additional weight of the pods when it begins fruiting. Make sure that sugar snap peas receive plenty of light during the day. It is always best to water plants in the morning, so make the effort to water gardens before starting your day. Pick pods when they are about 4 inches in length. If you rarely cook with sugar snap peas, then try them in a stir fry or as a raw snack by themselves or with a vegetable dip.