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Gardening with Laurie: Doing things naturally

By By Laurie Garretson
July 12, 2012 at 2:12 a.m.

Texas Star hibiscus

Believing in doing things the natural way basically is just that, natural. Whether you're talking about natural health care or natural gardening, it all boils down to taking a natural approach and not using man-made or synthetic products.

In gardening, we natural gardeners are just mimicking the way nature handles things. Have you ever thought about the fact that certain plants, known as natives, are best able to handle certain conditions in a specific area where they originated form. Native plants are best able to live in harmony in those specific areas on the planet. You might call this harmony the checks and balances put in place by Mother Nature.

If you are someone who wants to work with this system then you are someone who tends to take the easier route, the route of less instead of more. Less work that is.

Planting native plants in your landscape will help to free up your gardening schedule. One of the native plants that has been brought to my attention lately is a native hibiscus. Here in Texas, it is usually referred to as a Texas Star hibiscus or hibiscus coccineus.

It is sometimes also called a swamp hibiscus, rose mallow and scarlet hibiscus. I used to have one of these beauties in my herb garden many years ago. It was a Summer Snow Texas Star hibiscus that bloomed large white flowers. I really enjoyed that plant for several years until I decided to redesign the garden and a Mexican oregano took its spot.

If you are looking for a native perennial bloomer that can easily take our summer heat and sun, then this plant is for you. The large five petal bright red or white flowers bloom all summer and into the fall. Each bloom only lasts for a day but new blooms continue to open throughout the summer and into the fall. It can get 7- to 8-feet tall at maturity.

The Texas Star blooms on new growth, so cutting it back, for a shorter plant, will still allow lots of blooms. This is a great native bloomer that will attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. My Texas Star grew in a very hot and dry location, but it will also grow in wet soils.

The Texas Star hibiscus can be grown from cuttings or seeds. Each plant will supply you with lots of seeds each year. The Texas Star will die back nearly completely each winter. I'd suggest that you mulch the root system well just to make sure it stays healthy during any cold weather.

I've never had any problems with diseases or pests on my plant. In fact, I've heard that grasshoppers like Texas Star hibiscus plants.

I never noticed grasshopper damage on the Texas Stars, but sure did notice severe grasshopper damage to the tropical varieties of hibiscus.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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