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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Monday - September 01, 2008

From: Gilmer, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Soils, Shrubs
Title: Landscaping help for Gilmer, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have just moved to the beautiful hot state of Texas from warm California and we need some help! Our roses are dying, we have a patch about 25ft. by 3ft. that gets the rain run off like a little stream, what kind of plant/flower can help absorb the water puddles and it's in a semi shady area? Can you recommend any particular landscape co. and or magazine to help us with our new area. There is much to do and I really love the cottage look. Thank you

ANSWER:

Your question was pretty complex, so we'll try to deal with it in pieces. First, welcome to Texas. You're going to find gardening here different from gardening in California.

Okay, you say your roses are dying, and then that a patch gets rain runoff. Are the roses in that patch? Did you just plant the roses or were they there when you moved in? If the roses are standing in rain water, they are planted in the wrong place. They need good drainage, and no underplant is going to absorb water to protect the rose roots. If you just planted the roses, you picked a bad time. In Texas, November is a much better time to plant them, from containers purchased from a reputable nursery. And a semi-shady area is also wrong for roses, they really like the sun. In a shady area they will not prosper as well, and will tend to get mildew. Read this Southern Garden article by Dr. William C. Welch on Rose Culture. Also, please refer to this Mr. Smarty Plants previous answer on rose culture, which has a link in it to a Texas A&M website on pests of roses. 

Let's talk a little more about the rain runoff area. If that is from a gutter downspout or is under a roof dripline, you probably need to divert the water onto a lawn area before you try to grow any plants there. In Gilmer, in northeast Texas, you should have a pretty sandy, acidic soil. The sand will help in drainage, but it can drain too fast and leave roots dry. The acidic soil is great for hydrangeas, blueberries and azaleas, but not so good for roses. After you have diverted the potential flow of water from the bed, we suggest that you do some amending of the soil. First, determine the drainage by a quick test. Run water on a spot until the water reaches the surface and puddles. If it takes more than half an hour to drain, you have a clay soil, which may also be alkaline. Regardless, tilling a good compost or other organic matter into the soil will help with the drainage as well as with the texture of the soil. 

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are devoted to the care and propagation of plants native to North America and the area in which they are growing. A native plant is well-adapted to the environment and will require less water, fertilizer and maintenance. If you need help with your landscaping or a source for native plants for your landscape, go to the Native Plant Suppliers section of our website, type your town and state in the Enter Search Location box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape consultants in your general area. 

Finally, on the subject of magazines, we would recommend the Wildflower, a magazine published quarterly by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It is available by subscription or as a benefit of membership in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Go to the magazine site to get details and also to find out about membership. 

We realize we probably didn't answer all your questions. We suggest you contact the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Upshur County for more information on soil types, rainfall, pest control, etc. 

 

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