Saturday, September 17, 2011

Purslane: Edible Landscaping

If you have an area that gets blistered by the summer sun, you have a great spot to raise Purslane (low-growing annual succulents). They take very little watering (less than Bermuda grass) and provides thick green ground cover with bountiful flowers that are constantly blooming. I have it in 5 different rich and vibrant colors growing on bare ground -- though I've topped it lately with a layer of pea gravel. My first Purslane plant I discovered in the yard growing wild (a seed from somewhere had been somehow deposited there). I added other colors from nurseries. Once established, they come back from seed each summer. Small butterflies love it. And it's very nutritious - munch on it as you will.

My favorite method for propogating new starts of Purslane is to use a stick to poke a hole a few inches into moistened ground and insert a length of Purslane broken off of the main plant -- then gently cave in the sides of the hole to seal the start into place. Keeping it slightly moist for a while gets it established.



Texas Rock Rose: Pavonia

Last year, I noted a delicate looking plant with pretty pink blooms growing on a patch of hard pan dirt next to an inhospitable parking lot. I was very impressed with it. It was the Texas Rock Rose, also called Pavonia, or more scientifically, Parvonia lasiopetala.

"It belongs to the same family of plants as cotton or okra. It is rarely found in the wild because grazing animals, such as sheep, goats and deer, find it tasty. Rock rose grows happily in pastures, savannahs, ditches, ravines, depressions, open woodlands and at the edges of thickets in Texas’ Edwards Plateau, Rio Grande Plains and the Trans Pecos areas and into adjacent Mexico.

"It sinks its roots into almost any kind of dirt, including shallow soil on limestone in rocky places. A true Texan, rock rose can be found in well-drained limestone soils, medium loam, rocky limestone-based sandy and sandy loam soil, as well as clay loam and clay caliche-type soils.

"Additionally, the perennial thrives in partial to full sun, with medium to low water. Gardeners should remember, however, this extremely drought tolerant plant doesn’t mind a little water now and then.

"Texas Rock Rose is used as a popular garden accent plant throughout the Lone Star State due to its long bloom period and nominal sun, soil and irrigation requirements.

"The plant’s most striking feature is its prolific Hibiscus-like pink to rose-colored flowers. The beautiful flowers open early in the morning and close by mid- to late-afternoon, but afternoon shade can extend their awakening hours. Although the miniature blooms last only a day or so, Texas Rock Rose flowers from March to November in South Central Texas. In addition, the eye-catching blossoms standout in any setting.

"This shrub grows about three to four feet high and bears light green, velvety, heart-shaped leaves, approximately two inches in length. The leaves are evergreen to semi-evergreen.

"Pruning the naturally loose, open-branching– read “leggy” – form of Texas Rock Rose maintains dense foliage, promotes new growth and encourages more flowers. Pruning should be done before the foliage appears in the spring, but may be completed at any time during the growing season as needed. In addition, because it’s easy to grow, insect free, drought tolerant and requires little care, Texas Rock Rose has earned the designation “black thumb proof,” making it a excellent choice for landscaping, especially xeriscaping. Not only does it survive summer heat, but its profusion of brilliant flowers also adds a colorful touch to a dry August landscape.

"Texas Rock Rose generally only lasts three to six years but its tendency to reseed freely allows seedlings to replace the older plants."