Lazy Gardener & Friends for March 13, 2020

By: Nature's Way Resources | Published 03/13/2020


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By Brenda Beust Smith

"Earth’s warming trend continued in 2019,
making it the second-hottest year NOAA’s
140-year climate record -- just behind 2016."

-- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
& National Aeronautics and Space Administration

If your plants are behaving strangely, could be our climate changes.

According to Bill Dawson's report in Texas Climate News:

"... Record daytime high temperatures and record-high
overnight minimums were recorded at all four of the
agency’s Houston-region stations on Jan. 15 – Houston,
Houston’s Hobby Airport, Galveston and College Station."

If we think we're in uncharted climatic waters, imagine how our plants must feel! Still, I find it kind of a silver lining to see normally-spring bloomers strutting their stuff earlier than usual this year. Generally speaking, in early March, tree flower colors mean :

  • White — Mexican plum or Bradford pear. 
  • Purplish/pure pink — Redbud or Japanese magnolia, spotlighted last week.

At right above is my Purple Snail Vine (Vigna caracalla). Internet sources say this blooms late summer-fall. Mine has been blooming nonstop (in varying degrees) since last spring. Obviously no one told it to die back in winter!

Prunus mexicana

Fragrant, 15-25' native tree. Edible plums emerge yellow, turn rose-to-purplish. Can be messy, so plant away from walks, driveways. Great bark & fall color, attracts butterflies & birds.

(Cercis canadensis)

Most seen here are Eastern redbuds but natives ('Texas.' 'Oklahoma,' etc) better choices. (Related to Cercis siliquastrus, Judas's hanging tree) Great Greg Grant redbud article.


Fabulous native vine now blooming on the edges of wooded areas and in a lot of trees (no threat). Great choice for trellises, fences or as informal groundcover. Sun helps to increase blooms. Evergreen foliage.

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I shot these three bloomers above earlier this week in my yard. All three should have died back, but instead bloomed off and on all winter and are now covered with buds and flowers. I never expected this. Any surprises in your garden? Do share!

MARCH MART COMETH! If you would like to see whatever else wonderful is blooming now, a great spot is Mercer Botanic Gardens in North Harris County where, on Mar. 20-21, you can visit MARCH MART, one of the Gulf Coast's largest and oldest plants sales. Over a thousand different often-hard-to-find, ideal-for us-plants for sale. Bring your wagon! Details:

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TIP O' TROWEL TO CEC (Citizens Environmental Coalition) for these notes on aspects we might not know about our local public gardens. Did you know ...

If you're not receiving the CEC's weekly reports, you're missing out on a fantastic local ecology news resource. Check it out and become a member!

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Yes, that's a quarter next to a hummer nest at left. These may be as small as a thimble, with tiny jelly bean-size eggs. Thirty-four hummingbird species are now officiallly critically endangered (50/50 chance of extinction with in 10 years). Their extremely delicate, well-camouflaged nests made of spider webs, lichen, and plant matter, are often positioned on a downward-slant twiggy branch hanging over an open space or running water (The Hummingbird Project). Both this website and have tips on helping create habitat for hummingbirds. A few suggestions:

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Quit cringing! This little snake is a great friend to gardeners! She's not harmful, she doesn't want to be around you or your pets, so will quickly disappear if ever seen at all. Best of all, she eats slugs, snails, many plant-eatings insects and small rodents, like MICE!

She is so welcome in my garden even though I seldom get to see her. Now that it's warming up, I expect I'll get quick daytime glimpses more often so I can say: THANKS FOR BEING HERE!

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THINK 'RECYCLE!' That's what Ingrid Hamilton did with an old 4' wide metal fire pit they never use. It already had ash holes in the bottom and its top with its smoke holes also made a great planter when flipped over. Ingrid filled both pit and upended cover with soil and, rather than buy new plants, "willy-nilly" (she says) stuck in plantlets off her already tried-'n'-true successes: including airplane plants and succulents. When pieces of her kalanchoes and begonias break off, she sticks them in too. Give you an ideas for unused tuck-aways in your own garage?

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PECKERWOOD GARDEN NAME IS CHANGING. This famed Hempstead-area garden will henceforth be known as the "The John Fairey Garden" by decree of the Peckerwood Garden Conservation Foundation.

Personal note: I'm delighted John will be getting more much deserved recognition for his creation of this horticultural treasure. But I am sad too. Peckerwood Garden was such a delightful name, easily standing out amid the world's noteworthy (but not with particularly easily-recalled-names) gardens, and I loved the whimsical touch of his naming it after Auntie Mame's Beau's southern estate. An era passes.

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

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A few months ago, we talked about the benefits of algae, from a fertilizer, a bio-stimulant to a food source. A recent study published in the Journal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease in February 2020 found that “the algae called 'spirulina' has the ability to boost our bodies type 1 interferon response to fighting RNA viral infections such as influenza and the coronavirus”.

Other nutraceuticals such as sulforaphane from cruciferous vegetables and elderberries have been found to be beneficial in fighting viruses like influenza and the common cold.

From Issue #109 where we discussed Elderberries as a super food: “Modern researchers have found that some of the phytochemicals found in the fruit make it harder for viruses and bacteria to reproduce. The berries (actually drupes for those whom want to be picky) also contain health promoting chemicals called flavonoids, more than any other berry. They also have the highest antioxidant properties of any of the berries. Additionally, they are higher in minerals and other nutrients than other berries. Several doctors in recent news interviews have recommended elderberries to help strengthen one’s immune system and help protect against viruses”.

Several studies have shown that eating fermented members of the cabbage family like sauerkraut and bok choy slows the development of viruses.

A few years ago, in our study of all the elements in the human body, we found that a lack of selenium (Se) allows viruses to replicate more quickly. We also found that zinc (Zn) lozenges have been proven to support the immune function of our cells that reduce the symptoms of viruses and greatly speed recovery from colds and flu by 300%.

With all the hype on the corona virus we are reprinting the information on selenium. This has been updated with new material that has come out in the literature since we first published the information a few years ago.

MINERALS - The Elements and What They Do
Part 26

34) Selenium (Se) - In general selenium is found in igneous rocks at 0.05 ppm, shale at 0.6 ppm, sandstone and limestone at 0.05-0.08 ppm, fresh water at 0.02 ppm, sea water at 0.00009 ppm, and soils at 0.2 ppm. However, selenium is not evenly distributed hence much higher levels can occur in some areas while some areas of the earth have none.

Marine plants can have 0.8 ppm, land plants can have 0.2 ppm, and land animals at 1.7 ppm. Selenium has an electrical oxidation state that ranges from -2 to +6, which allows it to combine with many elements creating over 50 known minerals.

The lowest amounts of selenium occur in light sandy soils. Clay soils have the ability to absorb selenium as do organic soils. Soil microbes play an important part in making selenium available for plants to absorb.

Selenium is another element that has the property "hormesis" which means small amounts are beneficial and large amounts are bad. It was first discovered that selenium was critical to human health in 1975 by a researcher in Galveston, Texas.

Selenium was first used in pottery to give a red glaze and later as a pigment for dyes to get an orange and maroon color. Selenium was used in many solid-state electronics before silicon and germanium semi-conductors became available. 

Selenium photocells were used in photographer's light meters and Xerographic photocopiers and laser printers. They use selenium in a form that when dark it acts as an insulator but when exposed to light it becomes a conductor of electricity.

Selenium sulfide (Se3S5) is a common ingredient in dandruff shampoos.

Selenium is an efficient anti-oxidant (anti-peroxident) and is found in the molecule glutathione peroxidase enzyme system. It prevents body fats from going rancid.

Selenium is an essential micronutrient that comes from our diet. It is estimated that over one billion people in the world are selenium deficient.

Higher levels of selenium in the blood are associated with a decreased risk of developing liver cancer (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2016).

Many areas of the United States (Texas, southwest, lower southeast, and northwestern mountain states) have very selenium deficient soils hence plants grown in the area also selenium deficient. Medical studies have found that America's "Stroke Belt" runs right across America where selenium content in soils is low.

Selenium is important in protecting humans against chronic degenerative diseases, as it is required in the production of powerful antioxidants such as vitamin E and glutathione peroxidase (an enzyme that converts hydrogen peroxide into water).
A study found that when older people who took a combination of CoQ10 and selenium daily for four years, they suffered far 50% fewer heart attacks.

The amount of beta-carotene and vitamins C and E contained in herbs (mints), are linked to the amount of selenium in soil. The effectiveness of anti-oxidants in our bodies has also been linked to the presence of this element. Animals and humans obtain selenium from the foods they eat, however, if it is not in the soil then it will not be in the food.

A lack of the mineral selenium leads to muscular dystrophy, cancer, heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and cataracts along with cardiomyopathy and joint problems.

Selenium is a co-factor for at least 25 enzymes that cannot function without it. It helps protect the body from DNA damage, and it helps eliminate toxic heavy metals from the body. As long as the body has adequate levels of selenium then the body also rids itself of excess beryllium. Selenium helps protect the body against toxic metal poisoning as it can block heavy metal bioavailability and reduce the toxicity.

Mercury can cause a depletion of selenium in our bodies. Selenium binds readily with mercury into a compound that can be removed from the body as a waste product. Methyl mercury blocks selenium related enzymes from functioning correctly. Note: Methyl mercury is found in fish.

Studies show that those with lower selenium levels have much higher incidence of all forms of cancer. Studies of colon cancer survivors with highest levels of selenium were found to be the least likely for recurrence. Research has shown that selenium contributes to anti-oxidant pathways which stimulate apoptosis (cell death) in human cancer cells. A lack of selenium (Se) allows viruses to replicate more quickly.

The body cannot absorb selenium very well in some forms like L-selenomethionine, however one of the best forms for the human body to absorb selenium is from selenium enriched yeasts (fungi).
Cardio-myopathy (heart attacks), white muscle disease in animals, liver spots and age spots are all linked to selenium deficiency. Low levels of selenium have been associated with pancreatic cancer. As we get older, we tend to lose the ability to absorb selenium. As men's level of selenium decrease, their sperm count and quality does also.

Recent studies have linked low levels of selenium to cognitive decline in the elderly. Mothers whom have adequate selenium levels tend to have children with better brain function. Children that have adequate selenium levels tend to perform better on all cognitive tests.

An animal study published in the journal Cell has found that selenium helps prevents neurons from dying, illustrating the elements role in mitigating cell death and preventing dementia. Selenium is used in an enzyme called GPX4, it was found essential to life. Another study in the Journal of Nutrition, found that adequate selenium levels helped prevent the onset of depressive symptoms and negative mood.

A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that selenium intake reduced brain loss associated with aging.

There is also a strong link to osteoporosis, as higher rates of problems are associated with low selenium levels. The human thyroid gland has the highest level of selenium.

Some of the health problems and diseases that have been linked to a selenium deficiency are:

HIV (Aids)
Anemia (RBC fragility)
Age spots and Liver spots
Fertility issues
Muscular weakness
Muscular Dystrophy
Cystic Fibrosis
Multiple Sclerosis (associated with mercury poisoning)
Heart palpitations
Irregular heartbeat
Liver cirrhosis
Pancreatic atrophy
Lou Gering's Disease (also with mercury poisoning)
Alzheimer's disease (with high vegetable oil consumption)
Infertility, Low birth weight babies
High infant mortality
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)'
Sickle Cell Anemia

A study in Nutritional Health and Ageing on elderly people in Italy found that having a high selenium level was associated with a 29% lower risk of death from all causes.

As one Doctor stated, "a high intake of vegetable oils, cooking oils, and margarine concurrent with a selenium deficiency is a quick way to a heart attack".

Most of the selenium we absorb, 50-80% is excreted in our urine. It is not common but excess selenium can cause garlic breath and is the first sign of selenium poisoning.

Selenium in the form hydrogen selenide gas (H2Se) is extremely toxic.
A few sources of selenium are sodium selenite a simple chemical salt (Na2SeO3), Selenium-methyl L-selenocysteine, and high selenium brewer's yeast. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium. Pasture raised eggs, shellfish, organ meats, wild caught Alaskan salmon and many seeds.

Gardening and Landscaping Problems Associated with Selenium (Se)

Some plants require selenium while other does not. Members of the Astragalus family tend to colonize selenium rich soil, as they require it. Some members are known as "Locoweed' due to the high levels of selenium they absorb and its effects on animals whom eat it. Its presence often indicates soils with high selenium levels.

Rhizobium bacteria and root exudates stimulate the oxidation (adds an extra oxygen atom to the molecule) of SeO3 to SeO4 which increases the availability of selenium to plants.

Some studies have found that adequate selenium in the soil stimulates the growth of grasses and other plants, while too much can be toxic.
Brassica plants have a high ability to absorb selenium from the soil, as do many mushrooms and ferns that can absorb selenium in larger amounts. The mushroom Albatrellus pes-caprae that is a popular food in Italy can have 3,700 ppm of selenium.
Sources: Brazil nuts, free-range chickens, turkey and pork, fish, free range organic eggs, shellfish, liver from grass fed beef or lamb, some coal ash (10-6,000 ppm), Coconuts

I was asked the other day how to get selenium into our soils so the vegetables and fruits can absorb it. The Re-Mineralizer product from Nature’s Way Resources is a source of selenium since in has granite and basalt sands in it. Additionally, it has all the other trace and micronutrients. One must also use biological methods (organic) or the toxic chemicals will kill the microbes that help plants absorb selenium.

Remember from our study of glyphosate a couple years ago, this toxic chemical used in products like Round-Up, prevents the body from absorbing elements like calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium. If your food is not certified organic, then most likely it has glyphosate in them. Genetically modified foods have even higher levels of this dangerous chemical in them.

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(Asystasia gangetia)

This perennial subshrub*'s heart-shaped variegated evergreen

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