Lazy Gardener & Friends for January 17, 2020

By: Nature's Way Resources | Published 01/18/2020


By Brenda Beust Smith

"Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If winter dead stalks are getting you down, in the current Maas Nursery newsletter, Pat Cordray offers these suggestions for cold-tolerant annuals that should bloom for us now through spring when (hopefully) new perennial stalks should reappear.

L to r, above: lobelia, calendula, dianthus, stock and English daisies.

Pat likes cyclamen, pansy, viola, lobelia, calendula, snapdragon, dianthus, ornamental kale and cabbage, stock, English daises, primrose, poppies, and the ever-fragrant sweet alyssum. Add a couple of these plants for early spring blooms: foxglove, delphinium and bluebonnets.

How long these will last is anyone's guess. Most fade when temperatures rise in late spring. Some (like dianthus) might even return for you next late-fall or winter -- but don't count on it. Everything depends on our impossible-to-predict winter.

It pays to subscribe to your local independent nursery’s email newsletter. E.g., Maas Nursery is in Seabrook. These newsletters give gardening tips, let you know what's in stock, etc. The main benefit: everything is geared to your specific area. After all, your gardening successes keep them in business!

L to r, primrose, poppies and, some early spring bloomers: foxglove, delphinium, bluebonnets

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"DOUBLE BENEFIT" PLANTS FOR SALE! A lot of emphasis has been placed lately on area organizational fruit and nut tree sales. But check the calendar, "ornamental" plant sales abound too and they are great places to expand your gardens' horizons. For example, these two sponsored by the Houston Federation of Garden Clubs:

  • FRI. FEB. 14: HOUSTON FEDERATION OF GARDEN CLUBS PLANT SALE. 10 am, First Christian Church, 1601 Sunset Blvd.
  • FRI. MAR. 13: HOUSTON FEDERATION OF GARDEN CLUBS PLANT SALE. 10 am, First Christian Church, 1601 Sunset Blvd. Free.

The Houston Federation can trace its records back to 1936, when America was just coming out of the Great Depression and World War II loomed dangerously close. Today 43 member clubs with membership totaling 1,559 from Houston and surrounding counties, including affiliate groups, junior clubs and individual members. Associated with National Garden Clubs, Inc., and Texas Garden Clubs, Inc., HFGC is a major contributor to area horticultural projects, education activities and other civic improvements -- efforts made possible by these fundraising sales.

So when the Federation's Sandra Evans shares enthusiasm for delights members hope more Houston area gardeners will try, it pays to listen. For example, both sales will offer limited supplies of these beauties below.

L to r, Red Cascade rose, Iresine and Serissa.

  • RED CASCADE ROSE. Although the blooms on this climber are not big and showy, Sandra says, the low-care clusters are very colorful. She has three grown plants. The one in an understory site didn't bloom much in the summer, but really became a show with better light in fall. The one on her lattice-covered deck produces intermittent bloom cycles, most vividly when it gets more light. These only need light pruning, depending on your space.
  • IRESINE. Sandra mistakenly thought this was a coleus, and it's never bloomed. But she loves the burgundy foliage, it thrives on her deck in containers and easily tolerates summer heat, lets her know when it's thirsty and perks right back up after watering. She does protect it in winter and the cuttings she makes when it gets leggy root easily in water.
  • SERISSA. Sandra propagated this from cuttings. Also called Snow Rose, it makes a small 30" shrub with variegated leaves and small pink-tinged flowers. It blooms off and on year-round, but most profusely in Spring and later. Attracts the most bees in late winter when flowers tend to be scarce. Sandra finds it likes, and blooms best, in light shade. Although it will grow in deeper shade, it doesn't bloom as well.


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are free — email request to:
is based on her 40+ years as the Houston Chronicle's Lazy Gardener


Researchers at Stanford University have found that conventional toxic chemical agriculture degrades 24 million acres of land per year. They also found that farmers whom converted to No-Till practices increased yields and lowered production costs.
Reduced tillage works best under continuous implementation with the benefits continuing to increase for 11 years. Benefits show up the first year and continue until full benefits are achieved. (Environmental Research Letters December 2019).

A study in Scientific Advances (September 2019) found that the appearance of plastic now showing up in the geological fossil record marks the start of the newest geological period called the “Anthropocene”. As they studied costal sediments from 1834 to 2009 a steady increase in plastic and from 1945 to 2009 it increased exponentially.

There was an article in Greenhouse Management Magazine (January 2020) on fungus gnats. For gardeners this pest is often a problem during the cool wet days of winter when we bring plants indoors or keep our greenhouses closed. These pests feed on developing roots of cuttings and on young plants. They stated that fungus gnats can effectively be controlled by beneficial nematodes like Steinernema feltiae.  It can be found in products like Nemashield, Nemasys, Scanmask, and Entonem that are applied as a soil drench in early mornings.

Soil dwelling mites (Stratiolaelaps scimitus), predatory rove beetles (Dalotia coriaria) and nematodes can all be used togetheras they are effective predators of fungus gnats.

The plant species we know as Cannabis easily takes up many elements, hence it is a bioaccumulator of heavy metals. This means growers of these plants should avoid sources of heavy metals like poultry manure, sewage sludge (biosolids), and artificial fertilizers. 

A few days ago, I was asked by a customer “Why do we not hear more about the dangers of many toxic products?”  The Dr. Mercola newsletter had an article on the subject last year.

Researchers have found a lot of uniformity of microbes around the planet. They found that many microbes are picked up and ride the wind to new locations. The Scientist (December 2019).

With the cool damp weather we have had, a lot of gardeners are experiencing a snail and slug problem. At the OHBA lecture last night I heard a quote that is absolutely true.  “You don’t have a snail problem. You have a lack of ducks problem!” Bill Mollison

Speaking of OHBA, at the next event we will be showing the award-winning documentary “A New Resistance” with Ed Brown in person. Uncover the truth about glyphosate & the next steps of action to join the fight against Round Up and how to protect your family and pets. This will be held at the United Way facility on February 13th. Go to www.OHBAONLINE.ORG to register.

This is a documentary that illustrates the corruption in the USDA, EPA and many of our agricultural universities that have pushed toxic chemicals on the people of the world. It is titled “A New Resistance” and features Round-Up as it explains how glyphosate causes so many of our health problems. The trailer is less than 3 minutes in length and can be seen at the link below.

A New Resistance

The last I heard, there are now 48,000 lawsuits against Bayer/Monsanto for causing cancer and other health problems.

There was an interesting article published in The Scientist (January 2020) titled “The Influence of Soil on Immune Health”. The study was done in Europe where during WWII, Finland ceded a swath of land to the Soviet Union. The Finnish side became modernized and the people on the Soviet side remained rural with a traditional lifestyle.
The researchers at the University of Helsinki found there was a high prevalence of allergies on Finland’s side of the border while there was very little on the Soviet side. They found the human microbiome between the two were very different. The people living on the Soviet side had much richer skin microbiota. They had higher numbers of microbes and they had much greater diversity of microbe species.

When they examined their blood, they found more anti-inflammatory chemicals in the Soviet side where there were more microbes. 

They also found that when the soil had a larger density and diversity of microbes, then the humans had the same increased diversity on their skin and digestive system. This study supports numerous others that has found that human health is tightly associated with the health of our soil and our biome.
When we use toxic chemicals from artificial fertilizers to pesticides and herbicides, we destroy soil life which makes us healthy!

The reasons to be an organic gardener and get our hands in the soil increase daily.

Note: Microbial diversity is decreasing worldwide which is leading to more problems worldwide.

One of the major problems in society today is the increase of dementia as we get older. Research on Alzheimer’s has shown that heavy metals play a major factor in contributing to this disease (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease). They have found that environmental factors play a far larger part than genetics. People with this disease have significantly higher amounts of mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), and aluminum (Al) than people without the disease. Heavy metals accumulate in our bodies over time and over one’s lifetime can reach very toxic levels.

So, what are the sources of these dangerous metals? Artificial fertilizers are one of the single largest sources. When we apply them, we breath in the dust, when we eat food grown with these toxic chemicals, we get them. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. are another major source, from getting them on our skin, if we can smell them, they are in our lungs, and they are on the food we eat. Aluminum is in many soil amendments to acidify our soil, it is in cook ware, aluminum cans (the carbonic acid dissolves the aluminum) like soft drinks, aluminum foil, anti-acids, deodorants, vaccines and many cosmetics.

More reasons to eat and grow plants organically.

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Have You Tried ...

(Ilex decidua)

This native holiday holly is a true holly, but one that loses its leaves in winter. Female blaze of color late fall-winter are often the bright spots in a winter landscape. Birds love the small orange to red berries. Large shrub or small tree, low maintenance, exceptionally hardy, sun to bright shade.

POSSUMHAW HOLLY is carried by Nature’s Way Resources (Map).
Or . . . contact our sponsor, Montgomery Pines Nursery in Willis, our other
sponsors below or your neighborhood nurseryman for possible sources.

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