Texas Treehugger | "Hot and Dry in the Shade" | Article and 5 Photos by Christy Ilfrey

Turk's Cap

We have always planned to use Sage Hollow to demonstrate the tenets of our mission: to conserve, preserve, restore, and celebrate Nature. As the cleanup continues, new planting areas have emerged where once there was a thicket of thorny Greenbrier (Smilax spp.) These natural spaces will be restored with a diverse selection of native plants to provide food and shelter to native wildlife. Of particular interest are birds (especially hummingbirds), butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Shady scenarios in our area present some of the greatest challenges, because they tend to also be hot and dry.

Rustic bird feeder and bird bath

Just before The Flood we completed the certification process for Sage Hollow to become a monarch waystation. Today I am working on applications for additional nature-focused certifications for Sage Hollow. In fact, I’m juggling writing this article with creating a design for and snapping photographs of one of the shady demonstration areas. Some of the plants that survived the deluge will be incorporated into this bed, but we will also start plants from seed. Forested patches in our area are referred to as Live Oak Woodlands or Live Oak/Redbay Forest. This demonstration bed indeed sits beneath a canopy of Live Oaks with a smattering of Redbay. Also present are Yaupon Holly, Coralbean and a singular sedge.

Coralbean, existing
After the Greenbrier was removed, a natural meandering pathway between and around the planting beds was revealed. It has a sandy base covered by a thin layer of Live Oak leaves. This garden is mostly level and slopes gradually on one side toward a low section of the driveway. Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is growing naturally on the slope that was submerged under floodwater for more than two months. We will likely add more Buttonbush as well as other semi-aquatic plants there and in other areas that were inundated.

Turk's Cap

Pathway and new shade demonstration garden

But in the planting beds, we are restoring with a variety of native evergreen and deciduous plants. Two yellow-berried Yaupon Holly will be added at one of the trailheads, or “entrances”, to the garden. As they mature, these trees will frame the view into the garden. Other live plants that will be added are Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor), Coralbean (Erythrina herbacea), Redbay (Persea borbonea), Betonyleaf Mistflower (Conoclinium betonicifolium), and Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis). Dwarf Palmetto is one of our most versatile natives: it is evergreen and tolerates dry or wet soil, sunny or shady lighting. Coralbean is a heavy hummingbird attractor; Redbay attracts birds and butterflies; and Horseherb is one of the “no-mow alternatives to lawns” I wrote about in a previous article. The following seeds will also be incorporated:

  • Turk’s Cap (hummingbird and butterfly attractor)
  • Scarlet Sage (butterfly)
  • Lyre-Leaf Sage (butterfly)
  • American Beautyberry (bird)
  • Giant Coneflower (bird and butterfly)
  • Pigeonberry (hummingbird)
  • Purple Coneflower (butterfly)
  • Spiderwort (butterfly)
  • Frostweed (butterfly)
  • …and probably a few others!

Seeds arrived today and I’m fighting the urge to run outside and toss them willy-nilly. The beds should be ready tomorrow so Sage and I can plant on Friday. The applications for certification should be finished tomorrow, too. To learn more about certifying your landscape or garden as a monarch waystation, please visit http://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/. For more information about wildscapes to create wildlife diversity, check out this link. http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/wildscapes/ Our favorite source for seeds is Native American Seed in Junction. Their website is http://seedsource.com. A few of these plants are available in local nurseries but most are not. Speaking of nurseries…ours has begun its rise from the ashes. Pond muck, really.

Entrance to shade garden (pilings that floated up during the flood will be moved soon!)
Christy Ilfrey and her husband David own and operate NativeDave.com. Their mission: "To make positive changes in our community by way of sustainable landscape design and consultation services, speaking engagements and writing projects. We strive to educate, entertain and empower audiences to conserve, preserve, restore and celebrate Nature." You can find Christy and David's informative articles through their column entitled "Texas Treehugger" here.
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