2011 was the single worst year of drought in Texas history and a
that Mother Nature is the one in charge.
Here it is 2014 and still we are in a drought - ranked severe!
We should all
that water is one of our most precious gifts. And, when there is no
water, gardens and gardeners skills, are tested.
Hill Country Master Gardeners
Comment on Coping with Drought
Read a drought-related article from HCMG Vickie
My standard for plants this summer is — if it's not dead yet, then
it's a success. Thank goodness for drip irrigation, which saved
the new backyard plantings.
There are some plants that have done really well, despite the
heat/drought. These include Esperanza (Tecoma stans),
Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) Yucca (Yucca
spp.),Chile Pequin (Capsicum annuum) and
Catmint (Nepeta faassenii). In fact, the last two bloomed
all summer without any regular irrigation except an occasional
bucket of water.
The upside of the weather conditions has been few weeds, no mold
or mildew, no snails, few insect pests and, best of all, no
mowing. The losers this year are the vegetables that were really sad,
and the Bermuda grass, which I don't much care for anyway, went
dormant — except in the flower beds. If we have a drought next
year, I will probably paint the lawn green, just to avoid having
a tan yard for months at a time.
What will I do differently next year? I will add lots more mulch
earlier in the year and
maybe extend the drip irrigation to
more plants. I am really worried about the drought-weakened mature
trees in our neighborhood. When the day finally comes that we
have ground-saturating rain and high winds, there is sure to be
lots of damage.
I will NOT plant a fall garden because of the water shortage even
though my small "Veggie Garden for Two" did very well this summer
with water from a soaker hose only one to two hours twice a
I have stopped watering annuals such as Lion's Tail (Leonotis
leonurus) and Passion Vines (Passiflora spp.),
but to hasten their death I am going to cut them off at the
ground so they will stop taking up water.
While Salvia Indigo Spires and Mexican Bush Sage
favorites, the harsh winter and drought have killed those on the
north side of my home. Only the protected ones in the back yard
Veggie Garden for Two
My best performers with minimal water were Esperanza (both yellow
and orange), Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) and Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha
longiflora). My best container plant is the Firecracker
Plant ( Russelia equisetiformis). Luckily Kerrville still allows drip irrigation
times. So in my flower beds where I had
sprayers, on the drip system,I switched them out to drippers to comply with
current water restrictions.
Crunchy is the appropriate adjective for my so-called
landscape. I won't need to worry about eliminating turf grass
'cause it's pretty well burned to a crisp. Plants in distress
include an althea (Hibiscus syriacus),
most of my colorful annuals and the 12-foot hedge of
red-tipped photinia that separates our B&B cottages from the
Of course I know the photinia is a poor choice, but it was
grand-fathered in when we bought the place and, up to now, we
hadn't had the time/energy/resources to replace it. Looks like
the drought may render that point moot. I am researching
alternative plants that will be quick growers, grow to a minimum
of eight feet tall, be good screen plants. In addition, I prefer
native/adapted plants that are a suitable shelter and food
source for our our colony of birds.
On a happier note, lantana (Lantana spp.) continues to bloom and prosper, as does
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), Texas
sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) and Mexican oregano (Poliomintha
longiflora). All the roses are "EarthKind" and are
holding their own.
One pecan tree is looking bad, but that's probably the result of
root damage from city side walk installation five years ago and
new sewer line installation 3 years ago; a certified arborist is
coming to take a look and advise.
In meantime, mulching, watering ONLY on designated day and praying
for local rain.
For me, it is all about the flowers;
there is no lawn. I'm not a purist
so I have native plants, drought-tolerant and adaptive
plants along with the usual hybrids often found in a perennial
border. Mixed in with
the tall bearded iris, daylilies,
crinums, and hemerocalis are the native/adapted
Pink skullcap (Scutellaria
suffrutescens), Coneflower (Echinacea
purpurea), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia
Lantana (Lantana spp. "New Gold"),
Pink evening primrose (Oenothera
Mexican bush sage (Salvia
leucantha), Russian sage (Perovskia
Gregg's mist flower (Eupatorium
coelestinum) to name a few. Shrubs include
heirloom roses, Duranta (Duranta
erecta), Firebush (Hamelia
and Mountain laurel (Sophora
secundiflora). All these —
natives and hybrids — are at least
holding their own.
Now that we are so severely restricted to drip watering and hand
watering, I have begun to choose which plants will be watered
and which will not — this is a lot like asking a parent to
choose a favorite child. The annuals like cosmos and zinnias
were pulled out early on. The few Shasta daisies
were the first to succumb to the drought so I will go back to
the native Ox-eye daisy (Chrysanthemum
drought-tolerant salvias 'Indigo Spires', 'Mai Nacht', and
Salvia guarantica are
struggling, but unchecked spider
mites are partly responsible, but
again nothing looks great. I will continue to nurse
along natives and hybrid favorites as long as allowed.
Nothing in the herb garden is left except the culinary sage, lemon
grass, winter savory, and one little clump of thyme. The potted
plants have to survive on water captured from the shower and the
Gardening has not been particularly easy this year, but I am
learning a lot about what works and what doesn't.
Sage, Lemon Grass, Savory, Thyme (one dying, one living)
Ugh! Is anything doing well this summer? Well yes. In my garden it
has been a time for the desert plants to shine. No surprise
there, but it certainly has made me appreciate them and to once
again marvel at Mother Nature.
My Palo Verde, "Museum", took a hard hit after the cold winter
we had, but this summer has rejuvenated it completely. We pruned
back all the dead wood in very early spring, and it has rewarded
us by producing masses of leaves and beautiful flowers.
same goes for the Desert Willow, "Bubba". Although the hungry
deer have nibbled the lower leaves for the first time ever, the
top two-thirds of the tree have been non-stop blooms from early
spring on. An added bonus is that the hummingbirds love both of
these tree flowers.
I've also been pleased with the amount and vibrant color of the
fruit on the Prickly Pear Cactus. I don't think I've ever had so
many lovely purple "pears". I will continue to make sure that I
have these and other low-water, heat-loving plants in my garden
. . . just in case.
Palo Verde bloom
Desert Willow flower
Ornamentals which have survived with little water:
Plumbago, Mexican Bush Sage, Orange Cosmos,
Rock Rose Pavonia, Iris,
Mexican oregano, Russian Sage, Lavender,
Sedums, Scabiosa "Butterfly Blue,"
Clematis "Polish Spirit".
Rosemary and Greek Oregano
Everything else that is surviving has gotten more irrigation
The water info is based on systems I used until they were excluded
by City of Kerrville restrictions.
Installed spring 2011
Rudbeckia (automated irrigation)
Hanging basket of Torenia (hand water only)
Salvia greggii "San Antonio" (automated irrigation)
Petunias in hanging baskets (drip system)
Bearded iris (automated irrigation)
Impatiens (drip system)
LESSON LEARNED: Don't plant in a drought.
Suffering from drought:
Antique roses (eaten by
Begonia (dug out of pot
Trailing Lantana (eaten
Zexmenia (eaten by deer)
LESSON LEARNED: Wildlife is starving
Rose bush after the
Established plants that
Butterfly Bush (soaker hose)
Day lilies (soaker hose)
Copper Canyon Daisy (automatic irrigation)
Esperanza, orange (automatic irrigation)
Texas Red Oak tree (drip irrigation)
Miles of burned English Ivy foliage (drip irrigation)
LESSON LEARNED: What killed them? Drought, temps over 100 or our
3-day freeze in February, or all?
Flourishing in the
Yellow Esperanza, blooming (automated irrigation)
Salvia Greggii "Cherry Sage", blooming (automated)
Purple Fountain Grass, (automated irrigation)
Japanese Yew (automated irrigation)
Russian Sage, blooming, (automated irrigation)
Boxwoods (automated irrigation)
Plumbago, blooming (soaker hose)
Mountain Laurels (soaker or drip)
LESSON LEARNED: These plants are Texas tough!
See what Vickie learned when she researched water restriction
plans around the Hill Country
We hope we all know that water conservation should be on all of our
minds. From hearing the weather reports on the TV news and
reading in the paper, the outlook for rain in the near future is
dismal. Rain forecasts are now for November, MAYBE. The weather
people say we are in a La Nina, which means a dry winter.
Everyday one hears about wells going
dry because of the lowering aquifers. And people are getting
angry at their neighbors if they have green grass. Just read the
editorials. We all know that in normal years, we use 70% of our
water outdoors, and 30% indoors. What can we do? I can only
share what I am doing and it does take a little work and
Outside, I only hand water what I want to keep alive. That is
usually a tree, vine, or bush. And it is probably every two
weeks. Inside, we do not take baths but have buckets in the tub
to collect water while the water gets warm for our shower. We
have a separate shower. I know that people who have a
combination shower and tub, collect water while showering.
With those buckets of water we pour on plants around the house
outside or flush the toilet. Remember, if it is yellow, let it
mellow. If it is brown, flush it down.
I am using large pots in my double kitchen sink to wash and
rinse the dishes. When through or full, I throw the water around
the outside of the house. That is what our Grandmas used to do.
One can capture a nice amount of condensation from the air
conditioner and use that on plants as well. Turn on and off the
water taps when showering, brushing teeth, or hand washing. Only
run your clothes washer with a full load.
What is so bad now compared to the last big drought of the 50s is that
the population has doubled! I went to the Fredericksburg
Native Plant seminar and the speakers advised not to plant grass
seeds this winter but wait. That should tell you something.
I do not irrigate my lawn, either in the front of the back. In
fact, I have not been doing that for many years. I have adopted
the phrase that "brown is beautiful" when it comes to my lawns.
In the front I have buffalo grass, which comes back at the
slightest bit of rain. It gets mowed a couple of times a year,
and that is mostly to get rid of the KR (King Ranch) that
grows faster than the grass. In the back I have another native
which acts much the same way.
During this drought what I have been most affected by is the time
frames in which to do any watering. Since I don't irrigate using
automated, drip, or soaker on a regular basis, I use the water
for the birds and the wildlife and my container plants. I also
use the outside water for my dogs since they seem to prefer it
to the softened water inside.
I do have a lot of sage plants in my flower beds which seem to take
care of themselves. And, there are several bushes
in the front and the back that also seem to take care of
themselves. The plants that I am having the most difficulty with
two large Rosemary bushes in the front. They are browning badly,
and I am afraid they are dying. Lately, I have been giving
them some water about once a week, just enough to thoroughly wet
the base and surrounding mulch. There is still some
green on them, but it may be too late to save them.
My container plants on the inside are thriving because they are
getting the amount of outside water they always get, with most
of them being watered from the bottom in their plant saucers.
This garden has Mexican petunia, Jerusalem
Sage, Esperanza ,Xexmenia, Cenizo, Duranta, Russian Sage, and
Mexican Bush Sage, along with some salvias and a Butterfly Bush.
I do not live inside the city limits so I am watering every day
WITH A SOAKER HOSE for 20 minutes, and I consider they are
getting very little water. But, they are doing pretty well in
spite of the drought. They get the full west sun.
Mexican Bush Sage Salvia
SEE THE HILL
COUNTRY MASTER GARDENERS LIST OF DROUGHT-TOLERANT PLANTS