2009-04-09 / Community News

Chaste Lilac

Jim Gober The Big Lump Gardener

Q. A while back you wrote about a tree known as a Texas Lilac. Do you remember what the tree was and where I might find one?

A. The Vitex, Chaste tree or Texas Lilac is a large shrub that has purple or white flower spikes in the summer. It does best in full sun and can be trimmed back after the initial bloom period to stimulate another flush of blooms. It can be found at most native Texas nurseries. If you don't plan on pruning it regularly, give it plenty of room.

Q. My Crape Myrtle is not showing any leaves yet and I am worried about it. Is there anything I can do to help it out?

A. Crape or Crepe Myrtles, both spellings are acceptable, show green leaves at different times in early spring. The purple blooming ones are usually first, followed by the pink or white and then the dark red. Be sure the plant is getting a deep soaking once a week. A 4-6 inch layer of compost mixed with mulch and placed around the base will keep help keep it happy.

Q. I love to see Clematis vine pictures in magazines, but have not had much luck with them. Any suggestions?

A. Look for the Autumn Clematis with white flowers, or the Scarlet Clematis, Clematis texensis, which is the Texas native. The clematis vines you see in magazines don't grow as big as you might think. Most largeflowered Clematis vines grow only 8-10 feet so they do best in pots with something attached to climb on. Provide a well-drained potting mix as they like moist soil but don't like sitting in water or wet soil. Adding a flat rock in the pot will help keep the soil moist.

Q. I've heard that if you plant hot and mild peppers together they will all be hot. Is that true?

A. My experience is no. Even if they did, it would affect the seeds that the peppers produce for the next crop rather than the current one. I've planted mild banana peppers next to the hottest peppers such as habanera with no difference in taste.

Q. Do snake repellants work?

A. The best thing to do for snake control whether you are camping or just around the house is removal of debris such as logs and brush piles as well as thick shrubbery. Be sure that the area directly around an outdoor light is cleared as the bugs attracted to it at night will attract frogs and the frogs will attract our largest poisonous snakes. Sulfur does not repel snakes and is used in many snake repellants.

Q. Can you suggest a good book on Texas gardening?

A. The Texas Bug Book and Howard Garrett's Plants for Texas, both by Howard Garrett, are both in print and available at book stores in Austin and College Station. Also, Gardening in Sandy Soil by C.L. Fornari, available on line at www.Storey.com, is great for gardening in our area

The Texas Gardening Book by Neil Sperry continues to be popular and is easy and fun to read and is readily available at most larger bookstores.

Jim Gober grows lives in Rockdale. You can contact Jim at jim@biglump.com or 512 446 5867.

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