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Gardener's Dirt: An invitation to Visit Victoria Educational Gardens

By By Dick Nolen - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
July 21, 2011 at 2:21 a.m.

As you enter VEG, to your right is the butterfly habitat and secret garden gate.  There is not only a patio in the shape of a flower with a butterfly on it, but also a kiosk with information about butterflies in the Victoria area.  Inside the secret garden is a butterfly house where caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies may be seen along with butterfly host plants.

VICTORIA EDUCATIONAL GARDENS

VEG front gate location: 333 Bachelor Drive (across from Airport Control Tower).

Come early or later in the day to avoid direct sun and heat.

Wear comfortable walking shoes and a hat to protect from the sun.

Sign the visitor book; include name and where you are from.

Observe/read posted plant descriptions.

Bring paper/pen to jot notes on desirable plants.

Check the mailboxes for additional free info.

Look for benches and shade areas to sit and enjoy the view.

Editor's Note: This is the Part I of a two-part series featuring a tour of Victoria Educational Gardens and will conclude with next week's publication.

If you missed attending the grand opening of the Victoria County Master Gardener pavilion and gardens in May, then this is an invitation to come visit the gardens at your leisure. They are open from dawn to dusk seven days a week for your convenience.

VICTORIA EDUCATIONAL GARDEN

The summer doldrums are once again upon us, and lack of rain and too much wind has taken its toll on our home lawns and gardens. However, the Victoria County Master Gardener Association is constantly working to maintain and improve the beauty of our Victoria Educational Gardens for the public to visit and enjoy.

I wish everyone would have seen it in the early spring. What a sight it was to view wildflowers, such as bluebonnets and Indian paint brush, as well as numerous other plants in bloom.

GARDEN AREAS ALWAYS CHANGING

The garden complex was first opened in May 2003 and was created for the enjoyment of children and adults, alike. There are several areas of VEG, and each is always in a state of flux to take advantage of the changing seasons and introduce new and unusual plants for your knowledge and enjoyment. As you wander through the garden, you will find shaded areas with places to sit and enjoy the beauty of nature in the garden.

CHILDREN'S GARDEN

The children's garden is a favorite tour for young school children - and adults. It consists of the butterfly habitat, the birding habitat, the sensory and the native Texas gardens. These tours are conducted for local area schools and are guided by master gardeners and chaperoned by teachers and some parents.

Children are divided into small groups and rotated through the different sections of the gardens with a different master gardeners at each location. There is also a fountain lily pond centrally located in this area, where the children can watch the fish swim.

Butterfly habitat - The butterfly habitat consists of plants that have the nectar butterflies and their caterpillars feed on. You can also enter the secret garden that contains a butterfly house where caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies may be seen, as well as plants, such as butterfly weed, fennel and parsley, that butterfly caterpillars feed on. A kiosk is just outside the secret garden that has information about butterflies found in the Victoria area. You will also find colorful letters of the alphabet on stepping stones along the pathways.

Sensory garden - The sensory garden consists of plants that you can feel and smell, and some others have animal names. For instance, you will find a bat face cuphea, cat whiskers, an elephant ear, a foxtail fern and a firecracker fern. Society garlic certainly smells like garlic, and the spearmint smells like spearmint gum. There is also a small pond stocked with fish located in this area.

Texas native garden - The native garden is also in this area where one will find plants that are indigenous or acclimated to our locale, such as the Texas mountain laurel, yaupon holly, lantana, several species of salvia and esperanza, which is also known as yellow bells. You also will see Texas lantana, passion vine and flame acanthus. In addition, this area has an arbor covered with star jasmine, which has a very fragrant aroma and can be smelled throughout the area when in bloom.

Bird house - The bird house is a favorite place for children. It is a human version of a birdhouse painted in bold colors. Check out the unusual birdhouses on the tree stump beside the big birdhouse. Used by master gardener tour guides when reading stories to children about birds, animals, insects and plants, the bird house entrance is caped with a coral honeysuckle vine.

VEGETABLE GARDEN

In the same general area on the west side of VEG, you will find plants for human consumption, the type depending upon the season. The vegetable garden features raised-bed gardening and also raised beds high enough to accommodate handicapped gardeners. There are tomatoes, corn, green beans and squash, to name a few. There is also a gazebo in the center of this area where one can escape the heat of the sun.

Come visit and enjoy the gardens - you will be glad you did. Plan to visit early and later in the day to help avoid the direct sun and heat.

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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