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Agriculture Today

Planning a winter flower garden

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September 28, 2011 | 2,918 views | Post a comment

Q. We are planning our winter flower garden. Are there any showy winter blooms for the shade?

A. Cyclamens are spectacular plants for the winter shade garden. They have thick, waxy leaves with silver tracings. The flowers resemble small orchids. They are very deep red, pure white, and intense pinks and lavenders. Cyclamen are expensive, $5 to $6 per plant, but are worth it. Plant them in early November. The second choice for shade color is primula.

Q. What is the trick to getting leaf lettuce to germinate?

A.The trick is to plant it on the surface of the soil. Prepare the soil by incorporating in an inch of compost and one cup of lawn fertilizer per 50 square feet of bed. Irrigate the soil generously two or three days before planting and then spread the seed over the surface of the soil. Water gently with a wand every day until the seeds germinate and the plants reach 1-inch tall.

Q. My cedar elm dropped its leaves this month. It is early. Is the tree dead because of the drought?

A. No, cedar elms and some other drought-tolerant tree species will drop their leaves early as a survival mechanism. The fight to maintain foliage during droughts in the early fall diminishes reserves that are better used to green up in spring when conditions are, hopefully, better.

Q. What is the pre-emergent herbicide that you often recommend to prevent winter weeds in the laws?

A. Amaze and XL have the same active ingredients. They are the best overall and are especially good for winter grasses, such as annual bluegrass and rescue grass. You may also want to check the labels on Gallery and Portrait.

Q. We are worried about erosion at our new home. The lawn is bare. Can we plant Bermuda grass now?

A. It is probably too late in the season. Bermuda grass requires heat to germinate and become established. You could place sod at key locations in the lawn where erosion is likely and/or you could plant rye or fescue as a temporary cover until May, when it will decline and it will be warm enough for Bermuda seed to be planted. For more information on these options, visit

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at

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