True confession: I love to dig in the dirt.
I melt with envy when I see “good dirt,” since my backyard is filled with
clay-like gooey soil mixed in with a healthy ~ errr, unhealthy ~ amount of limestone rock. It takes a whole lot of work, compost, etc to make the plants in our suburban Fort Worth garden happy, but in the end, it is incredibly satisfying to plant something in the garden and see it blissfully take off!
Let me not lead you astray, though, as I do not have a “green thumb!” Yes (another confession), I am a plant killer. Please don’t call the plant police!
The Strong Shall Survive
(a.k.a. This plant will not be voted off the island!)
Texas Summers are brutal, so after several years of taking the lives of lots of wonderful (but helpless in my hands) plants, I have developed a motto for my gardening tactics and plant choices: “The Strong Shall Survive!” Let’s face it. I don’t handle horticultural disappointment well and definitely don’t have the intestinal fortitude to be a farmer.
That said, my list of favorite plants that survive the abuse known as “me” largely includes North Texas-friendly perennials and a few hardy herbs and vegetables. I especially love the ones that have been shared with me by friends and family and have a known history like the Texas Gold Columbine that came from my mother’s garden last week, the rosemary that was a Christmas gift from a friend, the antique violets from my Grandmother’s garden, and the 3 Red Knock-Out Roses that a friend dropped off as left-overs from a project (love leftovers like these!). Each one brings a happy memory and smile to my face!
Plant This, Not That.
After much trial and error over the years, I have discovered several great resources that have helped my plant success rate go up (and conversely, caused my “kill” rate to go down!). Following is a list of some of my favorite “go to” sites for selecting plants for this area, along with a few books you can get cheap at Amazon.com or on loan from the library:
:: Free Internet Resources for Texas and DFW area gardening
- Ask Mr. Smarty Plants: Love this site! Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and expert volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It is written in language that even a novice gardener like me can understand. Send in your challenging plant problems and questions or just peruse the extensive database of Q&A from others. They do answer all questions and most responses are accompanied by gorgeous photos of the plants discussed.
- Calloway’s My Texas Garden: This local site provides a terrific list of quick-read resources for Texas gardeners. You’ll find everything from tips on how to discover your garden personality to choosing plants that attract hummingbirds. If you sign up for their “Garden Club” (FREE!), you’ll also get notifications of free store seminars plus links to some terrific coupons and store specials. Last month I received a 50% Off Coupon for anything in the store & now I’m a proud owner of a terrific new weeding tool (dear dandelions, you will not win!).
- Texas A&M’s List of Texas Star Plants: I have tried several of these plants and each one gets “The Strong Shall Survive” seal of approval!
- The Grumpy Gardener Blog: I have been following southern horticulturist Steve Bender (Southern Living Magazine) and his tongue-in-cheek campaign against “Crepe Murder” for years. If you have sawed off your crepe myrtles and turned them into stumps, he just might pay you a surprise visit and have a word or two :). He now has a blog that is full of great Southern gardening tips (and as a bonus, he will make you laugh).
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database & North-Central Texas list of Recommended Plants: The amount of information on each plant in this database is amazing.
- Native Plants of Texas: This is a really handy search engine for finding Fort Worth & Dallas friendly plants with specific needs (i.e. drought or shade tolerant). You can narrow your search by type of plant (Evergreen trees, vines, groundcovers, etc) and even color. Most searches produce a variety of corresponding plant pictures.
- Texas A&M Horticulture’s Spring Planting Calendar for Vegetables (DFW Metroplex is Zone 8, Region III). Great guide for when to plant those veggies in our area.
:: Recommended Books for Texas and DFW Area Gardening
- The Southern Living Garden Book: This is the first book I pull from the shelf when I have a garden question. It’s a great encyclopedia of plants and other gardening info for Southern Gardeners. In fact, a few years ago, I learned how to prune my roses with the easy-to-follow illustrations and guide.
- All New Square Foot Gardening, Grow More in Less Space: Provides a fun approach and easy-to-follow guide for a simple 4 foot x 4 foot vegetable garden, along with lots of money-saving tips for frugal gardening. It’s an easy way to grow a vegetable garden in spite of our terrible North Texas soil (great for small suburban gardens, too).
- Howard Garrett’s Texas Organic Gardening: Howard Garett, our local garden expert, is my go-to person for organic gardening info. His book provides solutions specific to Texas gardens like the best (and worst) plants for our area, organic ways to improve your soil and deal with pests, and other great organic gardening tidbits.
- Texas Home Landscaping: If you are trying to save on landscape plans and want some do-it-yourself guidance and ideas for making your home landscape more attractive and functional, this is a great resource. This book gets my “Strong Shall Survive” seal of approval, as all plants recommended should thrive in our area & are Texas friendly. There are abundant illustrations and plant photos throughout (love that it shows you what plants will look like from initial planting to full-grown plants!). Each plan will tell you exactly how much land space you need as well as the recommended plant list.
I know I’m just scratching the surface of the many local garden resources that exist, so please share some of your favorites in the comments section! Tell me about what you are planting (and your favorite plant survival tips too)!
Enjoy & Share! :)
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What a helpful list! My favorite plant for this area is new gold lantana which is on the Texas star plant list you link to. Great color all summer & comes back every year. This year i’m looking forward to planting something white or purple to compliment the lantana. Anyone have any suggestions?
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