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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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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Monday - July 01, 2013

From: Taylor, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Propagation, Soils, Vines
Title: Growing non-native Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Central Texas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi. I recently moved into a remodeled home in Taylor, TX, and have experimented with Cabernet Savignon vines before. I have a 1/2 acre and a chain-link fence I want to put vines on. (I have a book on how to train and prune). Do you think this is feasible? The soil is dark, not lots of limestone in it, but I know it is mostly clay. I thought I could mix in some sort of sand or something, before planting vines in spring. What do you think, and can you recommend any other vines? Thanks,

ANSWER:

From Wikipedia: "Despite its prominence in the industry, the grape is a relatively new variety, the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc during the 17th century in southwestern France. Its popularity is often attributed to its ease of cultivation—the grapes have thick skins and the vines are hardy and resistant to rot and frost."

Since you say you already know about growing this grape, you probably already know this constitutes a non-native to North America plant, which really puts it out of our realm of expertise. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but also to the area in which they are being grown; in your case Williamson County, TX. What you have asked is, is this feasible? We usually determine if it is feasible be grow a particular plant in an area by whether it is native to that area, which means it can grow in the climate, soils and rainfall.

About all we can do, then, is to refer you to information on growing wines in Central Texas, and make some suggestions about checking your soil. This link from Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension, Fact Sheets and Guidelines for Growing Grapes in Texas specifically mentions the cultivar you propose to grow. This section of that article, Vineyard Soils, addresses the particular concerns you should have about alkaline soils, which is mostly what Central Texas has. Near the bottom of that page, under Additional Resources, is a link to Testing Your Soils-How to Collect and Send Samples. You could also contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Williamson County directly.

Finally, we are going to look for whatever native grapes might grow in this area and see what information is available in our Native Plant Database on them. We found 14 members of the Vitis (grape) native to North America, with 8 native to Texas. Of those, there are 3 native in or near Williamson County:

Vitis cinerea var. helleri (Winter grape)

Vitis monticola (Sweet mountain grape)

Vitis mustangensis (Mustang grape)

None of these had a huge amount of information in them, but we did pick up some odds and ends of information from the various websites.

On Vitis mustangensis (Mustang grape):

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Limestone-based, Clay, Clay Loam, Medium Loam, Sandy Loam, Sandy"

On Vitis cinerea var. helleri (Winter grape):

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: Rooting Hormone needed for active cuttings and not for dormant cuttings."

On Vitis monticola (Sweet mountain grape):

"Native Habitat: Streambeds and limestone areas"

Your last question was whether we could recommend anything, and you now know we just barely knew enough to go look some things up. You probably already know more from experience than we ever could.

 

From the Image Gallery


Winter grape
Vitis cinerea var. helleri

Sweet mountain grape
Vitis monticola

Mustang grape
Vitis mustangensis

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