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Gardeners' Dirt: Gold in the garden

By By JEAN WOFFORD - VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENEREDITED BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON
April 20, 2010 at midnight
Updated April 20, 2010 at 11:21 p.m.

The bright shiny green leaves of the esperanza plant highlight its bright yellow tubular blooms.

FACTS ABOUT ESPERANZA

Texas Super Star

Needs very little care

Disease resistant

Deer resistant

Easy to propagate

Yellow/gold flowers

IF YOU GO

What: Devereux Grow Victoria Gold Premiere

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Devereux Growing Center, Devereux - Victoria Campus

Come to the ribbon cutting; learn about plant care; visit vendor booths; have lunch and win a door prizes. Take home esperanzas for your garden or patio containers. $1 dollar from each sale will help Keep Victoria Beautiful.

Victoria County Master Gardeners support the work of Devereux Gardens. Come learn about "Propagation in Soda Pop Bottles," "Roses and Their Care," "Crepe Myrtles: Lilacs of the South," and visit our booth.

LUNCH AND LEARN WITH THE MASTERS

When: Monday, April 26

Where: Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St.

Free

Noon-1 p.m.

Bring your lunch and drink

Victoria County Master Gardeners Glen and Kathy Chilek will present a program on "Rainwater Harvesting."

Do you like the idea of having gold in your garden? Of course, I don't mean the metal, but rather those wonderful plants called esperanza.

Well, you will be able to see more gold (esperanzas) than you could imagine this Saturday at the Devereux Grow Victoria Gold Premiere event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Devereux-Victoria campus on U.S. Highway 59 south of Victoria. One of the only blooming plants hardy enough to bloom during last summer's drought, more than 3,000 esperanzas grown and cared for over the past year will be available at the Devereux Growing center on campus.

Its Names

The botanical name of esperanza is Tecoma stans. It is native to the southwest United States, parts of South America and Mexico. It is cold hardy and stands up to the heat of our summers. It actually flourishes and blooms in the heat.

Esperanzas are known as "yellow bells" - and I also read it is known in some places as "yellow elder." I had never heard that name prior to reading it.

A Bit Of History

In my research, I found Indians made bows from the wood of the esperanza plant, and in Mexico, a beer was prepared from its roots. It is also said to be good for a variety of medicinal purposes, but I don't know about that. It just made for interesting and different reading.

A Texas Super Star

The esperanza is recognized as a Texas Super Star. If you are familiar with plants that have this distinction, then you know it is an all-around, easy-to-grow plant. Being recognized as such, puts it into elite company indeed.

Esperanzas have a pretty, bright yellow, tubular flower. They grow in clusters. The leaves are a bright, shiny green that highlights the beauty of the flowers. I read they have a light, but odd fragrance, but have never noticed it. I know bees and butterflies are attracted to the blooms; therefore, I think it is a valuable plant in my garden for its beauty and also for pollination.

I also read this plant of gold is deer resistant, which is a bonus if you have deer around. I will plant one in my front yard because deer are frequent visitors. I didn't think they wandered as far into the city where I live, but on several occasions have found them early in the morning having a snack in my front yard.

Its Hardiness

The esperanza stands up to our hot summers, but will die back with the first freeze. When that happens, just cut it back to the ground after the threat of freeze is over. It always comes back and performs beautifully. After our various freezes this past winter, mine died back, but in mid-March, it came back from the roots. It looks like it may be even more full of branches than before.

Where to Plant it

Esperanzas like full sun. I planted mine in the flower bed, but I have seen them successfully grown in large pots. They are very happy in both places. The flower bed in which my esperanzas are planted get morning sun only, and they still bloom and are beautiful until the first freeze.

Formation Of Seed Pods

After the bloom cycle, seed pods form. I read the dried seeds may be planted pretty much like other seeds, but haven't tried it yet. I like to remove as many seed pods as I can reach to encourage my plant to continue blooming. My esperanza gets about 4-feet wide and is at least 6-feet tall. Bear in mind, this is all new growth because it is cut back every year.

Plant Care

When to plant - Esperanzas should be planted in the spring, after all danger of freezing passes. If you plan to put more than one in a bed, be sure they are not crowded. They need to be about 5-feet apart to give them room.

When to feed - My esperanzas get fed when I put out plant food about every month or so. I just use whatever I am using in the flower bed for all the other plants. It is usually a 10-10-10 mixture in a hose-on sprayer. That is the easiest way for me. I only feed my esperanzas during the spring and summer. In the fall, I do nothing and, of course, after the first freeze, the plant goes dormant until spring.

Pest free - What about pests? I have never had any on my esperanza. I did have mealy bugs on a plant in the same bed last year, but they did not seem to like the esperanza.

Propagation

I have never tried planting the seeds, but I have read it is fairly easy to do. I know my plant gets a lot of seed pods on it, but as I stated above, I just remove and dispose of them. I have also given cuttings to friends, and they told me they are fairly easy to grow.

Support Grow Victoria Gold

If you prefer to buy an esperanza ready to plant, visit the Grow Victoria Gold Premiere this Saturday.

There will be a ribbon cutting at 9 a.m. to kick off the event, followed by plant seminars, vendor booths, lunch plates at a nominal fee and hourly door prizes.

The first $1 of each sale will help support Keep Victoria Beautiful projects. The Victoria County Master Gardeners will have a booth and will present "Propagation in Soda Pop Bottles" and "Grafting Heirloom Tomatoes."

The event is co-sponsored by Devereux-Victoria, Keep Victoria Beautiful and International Power-Coleto Creek, which provided for and helped assemble two new greenhouses at the Devereux Growing Center to nurture this project.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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