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Saturday - October 23, 2010

From: Fort Worth, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Herbs/Forbs
Title: How to have year round color in the garden in Fort Worth
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse


Hello, I'm sending an SOS for a miracle! Since planting is the best now during the fall or so I've been told for North Texas Native Perennials, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. My beautifully mature beds died this summer and I need to replant. I feel lost. One bed is 22x5 the other is 12x5. I'm having a difficult time drawing out or envisioning what and how I want to plant, since native perennials are new to me. Everywhere I go, they tell me something different. I thought I had it all planned out and selected (6)penstemon (elfin pink) 6 Salvia (caradonna blue sage) 2 Nepeta (walkers low) 2 centranthus (jupiters beard) 4 clay orange butterfly weed, 2 yellow callirhoe, 6 Penstemon (rocky mountain) 6 agastache (neomexicana) 6 aethionema (fragrant persian stonecress) 4 callirhoe (poppy mallow) 6 veronica pectinata (blue woolly speedwell) and 6 dianthus (firewitch). When placing my order at the farmers market I was told that they would have a blooming time of only 6 weeks, the rest of the time they would be green. When I did my research it said long blooming time. I'm looking for vibrant color, reds, purples, yellow, orange and blue with year round blooming. All or most native perennials that are hardy and conducive to the Fort Worth weather (extreme hot and cold at times). Any miracles your angel wings can flutter and produce would be gratefully appreciated and any tips on how to plant them and in what order..a sketch? I'm just plum tuckered out and this is the season to be planting! Infinite gratitude also any tips on places to purchase in 786179 zip code would elevate this to a super miracle!


You will find miracles in your garden everyday with hard work and careful planning. Luckily much of the research and many resources are out there to help you. With the use of the Native Plant Information Network on this web site and some excellent reading material, you won't need anyone's help but your own.

The Native Plant Information Network on this web site holds a large variety of plant options for you to study. Spend some time reading up on plants you find interesting and try also to research plants that you might not be familiar with. There are always surprises in gardening and most of them are happy ones.

Here in Texas we are also fortunate to have a plethora of great authors who bequest their years of horticultural heavy lifting to take the worry and mystery out of the planning.

Your mention that your mature beds have died and need to be replaced, has us puzzled. Not knowing if these were perennials or annuals is a big unanswered question that might explain a lot. Assuming that these were perennial beds, meaning that the plants would live for multiple years, not knowing the cause of the bed demise places us in the position to start anew and give you some general advice in hopes that you are not faced with the repeated trauma. So with that, here are some general tips, as well as explanation of how to utilize best the resources that we provide online.

To have year round color you need to keep in mind that not all color is in the bloom of a flower, think about foliage, bark and berries as well. Flowering blooms are only half of the excitement. Colorful foliage can really pop when planted in the right space and berries add little bursts of color in the winter. Use these plants wisely and give them room to be seen. Look at the shape of the plant as well. Think about the geometry of your garden. Some of the nicest color in a space is showed off best when juxtaposed against complimentary or opposite colors. Picture an Agave americana in nature. You might not think about this plant as a colorful option, the strong blue color could be lost if the plant was crowded with greens and browns planted too close. It can really show off color if there were bright pinks and yellows planted next to it, so when you think about a plant, visualize the whole plant and how each plant works together to get the most out of their combined color combination.

If you take an old calender and a handful of colored markers you can spend an afternoon with the Explore Plants section of this website. First start a search for Recommended Species for your area. Here you will see that Texas is broken down by region. Fort Worth is placed in the North Central region. From that search you have 105 plants species to choose from. If you then want to narrow your search you can do this by general appearance, life span, light requirements, soil moisture, bloom time and bloom color. From your results mark the colors on your calender, you will start to see the patterns you have created and can adjust to make sure that you have the colors you are looking for throughout the year. 

As you have recently had bad luck with survival, don't forget to study up on how to care for each species. To do this click on the species name and read all about the plants' characteristics. Pay special attention to its duration, which is referring to whether the plant is a perennial, annual or biannual. The size notes will be important as well as the growing conditions. It is a lot of work but you are building a new garden. If you do the homework and invest your time to better understand your plants, you should be able to predict your successes and hopefully, prevent your failings.

One big mistake many people make with planting perennial gardens is not properly maintaining them once they have established. Plants don't have to have humans fuss with them if they are growing in places they are happy to be in. However you can extend the normal blooming duration of a flowering plant by deliberately messing with its growth cycle. Flowering plants produce flowers to make seed. If you cut off that flower before it has a chance to mature that seed then it usually will produce another flower, repeating the cycle. We call this dead heading in the gardening trade. Its very much like beheading if you think about it. By continually chopping off the flower you will force long lasting blooms on your perennials. If you don't, the plant will produce flowers and some of them will do this for a long time but eventually the plant will concentrate its energy on maturing the seed.

Once you have created a list of plants that will grow in your area, utilize some good books available to help you plan out where all of the plants will go. If you check our Bibliography section of the website you will find you can sort by subject as well as region. So for your project we did the sort for landscaping because you have expressed a need for tips on how to plant and in what order, and a sort by region. In this sort we chose southwest as this covers all of Texas.

Lastly you have asked for tips on finding suppliers in your zip code. Once again in the Explore Plants section on the web site you will see a Suppliers list, which you can sort by city, state and zip code.

Fall is a great time to redo a garden. The temperature is right and the long winter will give new plants a chance to establish. In fall you can plant trees, perennials, seeds, grasses and even vegetables here in Texas. If you put in the work now, you can easily have interest and color year round for many years to come.


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