Fantastic Flowers, Pretty Plants
Kathy Moak is a master gardener who works with Cherokee County’s Master Gardener Association. The organization is the local chapter of the Texas Master Gardener program under the supervision of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, part of the Texas A&M University System. By combining statewide guidelines with local direction and administration, the program offers the flexibility necessary to keep it a vital and responsive organization that serves all of Texas.
“Initially, we are trained by the county extension agent, but we are required to acquire additional training annually. We are a group of trained volunteers who serve the community through the extension service. Currently, there are 27 master gardeners in Cherokee County,” Moak said.
As an expert, Moak said the county has an abundance of plants which can thrive in spring and early summer, and now is a good time to begin proper care.
“There is a wonderful list of suggested plants for East Texas on the TAMU web site,” Moak said, listing a few plants local master gardeners recommend.
“When selecting plants,” Moak said, “it is important to remember East Texas ranges from Zone 7b to Zone 9a on the USDA Hardiness Zone. For instance, Cherokee County is in Zone 8a, meaning average low temperatures range from 15 to 10 degrees."
Other considerations during plant selection include sun requirements, watering needs, and fertilization requirements. All of this information is available at the time of purchase at the nursery or online. Caution: “full sun” suggestions for nursery-bought plants sometimes means “partial shade” or “morning sun only” during Texas summers.
Moak’s suggestions include a variety of plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds such as Summer Phlox with pink, white and purple flowers; Salvia greggii which features white, red, shades of red, pink purple; Salvia Indigo Spires that have blue flowers; Russian Sage with blue flowers attracts butterflies; and Turks Cap, with red or pink flowers, also a Texas native which tolerates sun to shade.
Other plants appropriate for growing in this area are roses with the Earthkind designation, with different plant sizes and flower color available; esperanza, with yellow flowers; Althea or Rose of Sharon, with white to shades of pink; Hardy Hibiscus, with white, red, pink flowers.
“Also,” Moak said, “duranta, azaleas and hydrangeas, coneflowers, daylilies, hardy hibiscus, and coneflowers, daylilies, hardy hibiscus, and brugmansia (if there is enough room) are all suggestions for area planting.
“The winter is a good time to prepare and improve the soil. Remove grass/weeds, and plow, spade, or till the area. Probably the best thing that any gardener can do is add decomposed organic materials to the flower beds in the form of compost. If compost is not available, add ground leaves or pine straw to the soil. The leaves and pine straw will eventually breakdown and add nutrition to the soil.
“During normal years, snapdragons and pansies can be planted in the autumn or very early spring and will bloom until hot weather returns.”