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Plant Library

All About Roses

 by Kathryn Courtney

 As soon as I flip my calendar from February to March my thoughts jump to roses and how many I want and where am I going to put them and do I have enough sun and on and on. I become more than slightly obsessed.  The new hybrid tea roses get me every time. Last year it was Blue Girl, the year before it was Scentimental. Roses are a very versatile landscape plant. Grow them up arbors, plant them in herb gardens, use them in mass for a blooming hedge or fence or even grow them in containers. Every garden should have at least one rose. The only set in stone requirement roses have is sun. Most roses need at least 6 and preferably 8 hours of sun even in the summer.

     When our Weeks roses come in March there is always a flurry of phone calls and a rush of customers heading out to pick up their favorite roses before they are gone. Weeks roses come in all different varieties, shapes, sizes and colors.The most popular is the Hybrid Tea. Teas are the quintessential roses that florists adore. They have single perfectly shaped blossoms on large long stems.They are great for cutting and are long lasting in a vase. Floribundas are another type of rose we get from Weeks. We also get a few from the Antique Rose Emporium. Floribundas are medium compact shrubs that look great in a casual garden. The flowers are smaller than a hybrid tea’s and bloom inclusters, making a beautiful small bouquet on the rose bush. Floribundas are one of my personal favorites as they bloom constantly and have great disease resistance.The Grandiflora class of roses is a great mix of the hybrid tea type and the floribunda. The shrubs are large like a hybrid tea with large flowers that form clusters on long stems. One cut branch of grandiflora blooms makes a vase full of flowers.The last two types of roses we get from Weeks are climbers and shrubs. The class names say it all. Climbers ramble or can be trained up trellises or walls. Shrub roses are large shrubs with large flowers. These roses make great borders or living fences.

For some reason, a lot of people are scared to try roses in their yard or they think they need a formal rose garden to grow roses. Roses are very easy to grow and can be grown in any type of garden. I always grow my roses in with my herbs. Last year I added some veggies in the same bed with marigolds, cosmos and zinnias. The combination was beautiful. Just make sure that the plants you grow with your roses can take the 8 hours of hot summer sun. Roses love water but not on their leaves. The biggest problem with growing roses on the gulf coast is a fungal disease called black spot. The rain and humidity in spring causes the fungus to grow. Just like the name implies, the fungus shows up as yellow spots on the leaves which quickly turn black. I do preventative fungus treatments using neem oil. If you start your neem oil schedule before fungus becomes a problem on your roses you can keep black spot disease under control. Plant roses according to our planting guide. Rose roots hate sitting in water and will quickly rot if they are not planted in a well-drained space. Leave space between roses so they have good air circulation. This will help with fungus problems. Roses prefer acidic soil. All of our rose fertilizers contain ingredients that make them acidic. Everyone has a favorite rose fertilizer but my choice is Microlife for azaleas, azaleas and roses need the same food. It feeds your roses and your soil helping to keep your plants healthier.

     Whatever rose you choose to grow this year is up to you. There is such a large variety of color, fragrance, size and shape that the choices seem endless. Come out and walk through the roses. Take your time. Stop and smell them, as the saying goes. One of the roses will call to you more loudly than the others. If you’re anything like me you will have several roses screaming in your ear before getting halfway through the display. Pick them up and take them home. Give them love and roses will amaze you for years to come. If you have a specific rose in mind, call us first to see if it is available. We will be happy to check for you or suggest an alternative.

Fragrant Plants

By: Deb Pavlosky

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” – Helen Keller

When most people think of fragrant flowers, I would assume roses come first to mind. Roses have such a wide array of colors and bloom types and growing habits and, yes, also fragrance. So, though Shakespeare wants us to believe differently, a rose by any other name does not necessarily smell as sweet. Actually, there are roses with no scent at all. Peggy Martin is one very popular variety of pink climbing rose that has no scent.  So, if you are trying to grow fragrant plants, and you are planning to use roses, be sure to smell the blooms before you purchase your plants. Also, check the temperature and time of day when you sniff the blooms. Some roses have stronger scents in cooler weather and some have stronger scents in the mornings. So, do a little research before picking your roses.

The following are just a few fragrant rose varieties that you can find at Maas Nursery.

Fragrant Cloud – Coral or red orange blooms, Strong sweet spice and rose scent

Iceberg Rose

Double Delight – Red blooms with cream interior, Strong spicy rose scent

Don Juan – Red climbing rose, Strong rose scent

Cecile Brunner – Pink Climbing rose, Moderate tea scent

Mister Lincoln – Velvety, deep red blooms, Strong Damask rose scent

Mister Lincoln Rose

   Bulls Eye – Cream or Ivory flowers with cranberry centers, Moderate sweet spice scent

   White Licorice – Yellow blooms (more yellow when cool), Licorice and lemon scent

Belinda’s Dream – Pink blooms, Moderate fruity scent

      Iceberg – White blooms, Mild honey scent

Beyond roses, there are many choices of very fragrant plants to use in your landscape.

More choices to add fragrance to your garden:

Annuals:

Sweet Alyssum

Flowering Tobacco – This plant is also known as flowering tobacco. Grows to 48″ in sun to part shade. Can bloom all year and blooms range in colors including white and pink.

Stock (this one likes cool weather) – Stock blooms in a variety of colors (pink, purple, white) in spring. Grows well in sun to part shade.

Sweet Alyssum – This plant blooms in clusters of very fragrant flowers (colors can be white, pink or purple). This annual is a prolific bloomer all year and some varieties can be grown as short-lived perennials.

Perennials/Shrubs:

Banana Shrub – Creamy-yellow flowers that have a banana scent.   This shrub blooms

Frost Proof Gardenia

during the warm seasons. Slow growing, 6′-10′ tall and wide. Part to full sun.

Brunfelsia – Also known as Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Very fragrant purple flowers fade to violet and then white over a period of days. Some varieties only grow to 4′ tall and wide and others 3′ to 8′ tall and 4′ -6′ wide. Part sun.

Buddleia – Also known as Butterfly Bush. Most varieties are purple flowering and bloom summer through fall. Butterfly bush ranges in size from 3′ to 7′ tall and 3′ to 5′ wide. Full sun.

Butterfly Ginger – This ginger blooms white from mid summer to early fall. Best grown in sun to part shade. This ginger will grow 4′ to 6′ tall.

Crape Jasmine – White blooms through spring and summer. Fragrance is stronger in the evening. Can grow to 6′ to 8′ tall and wide. Part to full sun.

Gardenias – There are many varieties of Gardenias and they range in size from Radicans (6″ to 12″ tall and 2′ to 3′ wide) to First Love (5′ to 8′ tall and 3′ to 6′ wide). First Love blooms late spring through early summer, Radicans and Frost Proof bloom in the summer and August Beauty blooms through spring through fall. Most people are familiar with the stark white blooms and amazing fragrance of gardenias.

Geraniums (lemon scented) – Blooms in summer with light pink to purple flowers. It’s the foliage with the lemon scent that you smell. Grows 18″ high and wide. Part to full sun.

Heliotrope – Can be perennial, but mostly grown as an annual. Purple flowers with intense fragrance that bloom spring through summer. Part to full sun.

Mock Orange – Blooms white flowers in April and May. Can grow to 6′ to 8′ tall and wide. Full to part sun. This shrub is deciduous.

Natal Plum– White flowers are very fragrant and this plant will bloom all year in sun to part shade.   Fruits will form on this plant, but leaves and flowers are poisonous.

Night Blooming Jessamine (aka Night blooming cestrum or night blooming jasmine) – Very small greenish white flowers bloom in the summer. Grows to 8′ to 10′ tall and 3′ wide. Part to full sun. Blossoms only open at night.

Pineapple Sage (Tender perennial) – Blooms, showy red flowers in late spring to fall. The foliage has a pineapple scent and can be used in drinks and foods. Grows 3′ to 4′ tall and wide. Full sun.

Pittosporum – Pittosporum shrubs bloom with very small clusters of orang-blossom scented flowers in spring. The Japanese Mock Orange variety can grow to 10′ to 12′ tall and wide.   The Variegated Japanese Mock Orange grows 6′ to 8′ tall and wide or even larger with age. Wheeler’s Dwarf Pittosporum grows 2′ to 3′ tall and 4′ to 5′ wide. All like part to full sun.

Sweet Olive – Small white blooms in the spring that are very fragrant. This plant likes morning sun and afternoon shade. It can grow to 10′ tall if un-pruned.

Viburnums– Eastern snowball viburnum blooms masses of white flowers though summer. It will grow 12′ tall and 10′ wide or larger with age. This shrub requires part to full sun. This shrub is deciduous.

Vines:

Arabian Jasmine (can be considered a shrub as well) – The fragrant white flowers open at night and bloom June through September. This plant will reach 6′ to 8′ tall and 3′ to 4′ wide. Part to full sun.

Carolina Jessamine – Blooms bright yellow flowers in late winter to early spring. This vine will grow to 20′ with support. Part to full sun.

Confederate or Star Jasmine – Very fragrant white flowers from spring to summer. This vine can reach 18′ to 20′ with support or 1′ to 2′ as groundcover. Part to full sun.

Honeysuckle – Hall’s Japanese Honeysuckle has white to yellow flowers that bloom in the summer. This plant can be grown as a vine to 15′ tall or groundcover to 2′ tall. Full sun. Trumpet Honeysuckle has trumpet-shaped scarlet-orange flowers and blooms spring through fall. It grows fast to 20′ long. Part to full sun.

Passion vine – The incense variety blooms violet to lavender from late spring to early fall in sun to part shade. This vine can grow to 10′ long.

Pink Jasmine – Very fragrant light pink flowers spring to early summer. Will grow to 20′ long. Full sun.

Rangoon Creeper– Also known as Drunken Sailor, this plant blooms in clusters of red flowers that fade to pink from late spring to mid fall. Can grow to more than 40′ in sun to part shade. This is a tender perennial.

Wisteria – The Texas Purple Japanese Wisteria blooms purple flower clusters in the spring.   This is a fast growing, deciduous vine that will grow to 25′ long. This vine likes full sun. Amethyst Falls Wisteria is also deciduous and will to 10′ long. This vine blooms with purple racemes in late spring and repeats lightly through summer. This vine likes part to full sun. Evergreen Wisteria blooms late summer to early fall and will grow to 15′ long in full sun. Evergreen Wisteria has been described as having a camphor-like scent.

Trees:

Angels Trumpet – These small trees can grow in sun to part shade. Blooms can be pink, white, yellow or orange and appear from summer to early fall. They usually grow 6′ to 8′ tall and these are poisonous plants. Angels Trumpet flowers are most fragrant in the early evening.

Citrus – All varieties of citrus trees produce fragrant flowers before they fruit.

Magnolia – Brackens Brown Beauty is a moderate grower to 50′ tall and 30′ wide in full sun. This variety blooms in late spring. The creamy white flowers are very fragrant. Sweet Bay Magnolias are moderate growers to 20′ tall and wide in part sun. The creamy-white, lemon scented flowers appear through the summer.

Mexican Plum – This tree will grow 15′ to 35′ and blooms fragrant white flowers before leaves appear. This tree does well in full sun.

Texas Mountain Laurel – This small shrub or tree blooms purple blooms in the spring that smell like grape soda. This plant prefers full sun and is slow growing to 10′ to 15′ tall and 8′ to 10′ wide. Can also be trained on an espalier or grown as a patio tree. Once established, it will only need occasional watering.

These are just a few options for adding fragrance to your garden. There are so many more….

Spring is here and I am looking forward to the aromas of freshly mowed grass and sweet smelling blooms. Time to add some sweet-smelling plants to your garden too.

Antique Roses in your Garden  

By Kathryn Courtney

Antique Roses are one of the most versatile and carefree perennial shrubs for your garden. They can be formal or informal, for flower, vegetable or rose gardens, or used in the landscape as focal points, borders or hedges, or filler plants in your landscape. I have seen beautiful hedges of Old Blush roses and many stunning rose covered arbors. Antique roses can be grown up trellises or pergolas, espaliered against walls, or left to ramble on the ground. The smaller antique roses do great in containers that can be placed on patios, decks or in the garden itself.  There are infinite ways to add antique roses to your garden.

 

Because antique roses come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and growth habits, there is always a rose to fit any garden space you have. Antique roses have only two requirements, at least six hours of sun a day and good drainage. I have been growing antique roses for as long as I have been gardening. These wonderful shrubs actually started my gardening obsession. My newest antique rose is a Libby that I planted in a container and put in my vegetable garden. It adds interest to the garden and is a great pollinator plant. At the house I am in now I have a Monsieur Tillier rose against my back fence and a Cornelia climbing rose over my patio. Other antique roses are scattered all around my garden. Place large or climbing antique roses in the back of your garden for a heavenly scented back drop to other perennials and annuals. Add mid size roses for another layer of flowers and scent and small or spreading roses in the front of your border. Place a large antique rose in the middle of a garden as a focal point and plant other sun loving flowers, veggies or herbs around it. I have a large Mutabilis rose that is going to become the center of a new herb garden.When you are ready to dive into the world of antique roses, research the roses for habit, fragrance, color and other traits that will work well in your garden

 There are several different types of antique roses. Some do better in our zone 9 climate and humidity than others. The roses we carry at Maas are especially suited for our area. Most of our antique roses come from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas. There are three groups of rose titles at the Emporium. All of the roses are classified as old roses. Old or antique roses are defined as rose varieties that were introduced prior to 1867. Antique roses can also be defined as roses that have been in cultivation for at least 75 years and that have old rose qualities such as flower form, color, and fragrance. Some of the antique roses have the EarthKind designation. EarthKind roses are screened by the Texas Agrilife Service through Texas A & M University. These roses are selected for their durability and ease of care. They go through a rigorous testing program before they are rewarded the EarthKind label. Found Roses are roses that have been rescued by the Texas Rose Rustlers.These rose enthusiasts have traveled Texas taking cuttings from abandoned old homesteads and cemeteries. Found roses have survived on their own with no care for years, proving their toughness.

The Antique Rose Emporium’s Pioneer rose series are newer roses that have been bred for their versatility and durability in the landscape. Antique roses have a vast assortment of flower color,shape and scent. Some of the roses also produce rosehips which are a great source of Vitamin C and very decorative as well. Your antique rose choices are limitless. It’s up to you to decide your personal favorite.

Caring for your antique rose is very easy. Roses need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. They need well draining acidic soil and regular watering when first planted. Plant your roses above soil level as explained in the Maas Planting Guide. If you do not have one of these guides ask for it at your next visit to our store. Mulch is the secret to happy roses. Mulch your roses to two to three inches deep. Keep the mulch away from the trunk of your rose to prevent disease or rot. Mulch will keep the water in and the weeds out of your garden. Fertilize your roses every six to eight weeks during their bloom period with a good organic fertilizer for acid loving plants. Antique roses can do without fertilizer but I prefer to fertilize mine. When first planted, water roses regularly. A good, deep watering two to three times a week is preferable to watering shallowly every day.

Deep watering promotes deep root growth and helps with good drought tolerance for a healthier rose. In February, around Valentine’s Day, cut your roses back to your desired height. Roses benefit from a good pruning. I prune my roses in August also. This promotes a fresh flush of fall blooms. Now, sit back, relax and enjoy your beautiful blooms and the fantastic fragrance of these old-fashioned roses.They are definitely the favorite flower of my garden and always will be.

Sasanqua Camellias

 

By: Kathryn Courtney
My absolutely favorite plant in my garden is my sasanqua camellia. I planted it after I ripped out all of the awful builders landscaping plants in my new front yard. That was 25 years ago. My camellia has provided me with 25 years of so much joy that I think everyone should have at least one sasanqua in their garden.

Sasanqua camellias are smaller, more open, delicate bushes than their sister shrubs, japonica camellias. They bloom from late summer to early winter depending on the type. 3 to 4 inch blossoms of anything from white to light or bright pink to cherry red adorn these shrubs in a profusion of blooms. The blooms can be single, semi-double or double. Some of them even have a heavenly tea or rose scent that rivals most flowers for fragrance. The foliage starts out a coppery-bronze and turns dark green at maturity. All camellias are evergreen making them a great landscape shrub.

Sasanqua camellias need to be planted in partial shade in evenly moist, acidic, well-drained soil. After established, these camellias are drought tolerant but perform better with consistent watering. Because of the size and shape of the shrub, these plants make great foundation plantings or low borders for your garden. Sasanqua camellias can also be shaped into tree form and planted in a courtyard, corner garden bed, or a formal garden. Their versatility allows them to blend in with other landscape shrubs and become a great backdrop in a garden. Their bloom time makes them a perfect garden companion as sasanqua camellias bloom when other blooming plants in the garden are finished. Because these shrubs enjoy part shade their bright blooms brighten an otherwise darker part of the garden.

Come to Maas and check out our huge selection of camellias. Lots of them are blooming right now and it is the perfect time to see them, smell them and plant them. We can answer any questions you may have about our camellia selection. The camellias I have listed below are just a sample of what we have at the nursery. Come out and pick your favorite. We hope to see you at the nursery soon!

Yuletide
Deep green evergreen shrub with brilliant red flowers and bright yellow stamens
Bloom time usually coincides with the Christmas season
Moderate upright grower to 8′ to 10′ tall and wide.

Pink A Boo
Evergreen shrub with deep pink blooms, bright yellow stamens and a wonderful fragrance. A sport of Yuletide
Winter bloomer
8′ to 10′ tall and wide.

White Doves
Frilly white blossoms with bright yellow stamens and dark green foliage. Ideal for smaller space or container.
Mid season bloomer
4′ to 5′ tall and wide.

October Magic
Ruffled white blooms with bright pink trim and dark green foliage.
Bloom time fall to early winter
6′-8′ tall and 4′-5′ wide upright bush.

Bonanza
Deep red large semi double peony formed flowers with bright green evergreen foliage.
Blooms in fall
4′- 5′ tall and 5’to 6′ wide.

Chansonette
Brilliant pink double blooms and a short pendulous form with dark evergreen leaves.Makes a great cut flower. Can be used as a ground cover or espalier.
Blooms fall to early winter.
2′ – 3′ tall and 8′ wide.
A Few More Sasanquas We Love
Kanjiro
Jean May
Shishi Gashira

Growing Camellias

By: Kathryn Courtney
When I was a child growing up my Grandparents lived in a small town in east Texas close to the Louisiana border. I loved visiting there. My favorite thing was my Grandmothers garden. It was a magical place with stunning azaleas, bridal wreath, wisteria and even strawberries and peanuts. What I remember best is the camellia tree outside the door. It was taller than the house and when it bloomed it was amazing. I always told myself as soon as I had my own garden I would grow a camellia. I have grown Yuletide, Bonanza, Fairy, White by the gate and many more. Camellias require some maintenance but they are well worth the effort.

 

   Camellias came to the south from Asia first as a means to grow tea. The leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis were used to make tea in America as it was very expensive to ship tea from Europe. Green, black, white and oolong teas all come from this plant. This camellia was very useful but for beauty, in the garden the japonica and sasanqua varieties quickly replaced the sinensis. Camellias japonica and sasanqua are the species you see in gardens today. Japonicas are the most well-known camellias. They have the largest, showiest flowers and can get quite tall. They have a more upright habit than sasanquas which tend to be bushy.Most gardeners prefer to grow japonicas although they are somewhat harder to grow than sasanquas. Japonicas tend to bloom in mid-winter whereas sasanquas bloom in late fall.

 

   Camellias are fussy about their growing conditions. They need very well draining, acidic soil. In our area, this means growing them in raised beds and adding acidic garden soil and fertilizer to keep them happy. Containers are also a great way to grow camellias but the container needs to be large enough to meet the camellias needs. If you’re not sure about the size of container you need for the variety you want, ask at the nursery. We can find out for you. When planting camellias in either a garden or a pot, make sure you have the right soil. Soil for roses, azaleas, or blueberries is a good choice. At Maas we have acidic soil in bags ready to go. Plant your camellias in morning sun and afternoon shade. Our harsh summer sun will burn camellia leaves. This is actually a nice trait for camellias to have as it gives the gardener a good choice for color in shady areas. Plant camellias with their root balls above the ground by about 3 to 4 inches. Mound the acidic soil around the root ball. If camellias are planted low in the garden their roots will rot. After planting, water them in thoroughly. While camellias are establishing themselves water regularly. After the first year they are fairly drought tolerant but will perform better with consistent watering. Fertilize the camellias 3 times. Twice in spring and once in early summer. The beginnings of March, April and May are good times to get fertilizing done. Use a fertilizer for acidic plants to keep the camellias happy. Camellias will not freeze but frost can hurt the blooms and buds. If a hard frost is coming cover your buds with freeze cloth or burlap. This may save your buds.

Camellias do have some pest problems. Tea scale seems to be the largest problem in our area. If your camellia leaves are starting to yellow, look on the underside of the leaf. If you see small white or dark brown bugs there then you probably have scale. You can treat tea scale organically with a mixture of neem oil and orange oil. Drench both sides of all the leaves to get rid of the scale. Do this once a month for 3 months and that should take care of the problem. If you still have scale then chemical systemic drenches are available. If you have to use a systemic drench do not do it when the plant is flowering. Bees love camellias and the drench is very bad for the bees. Another problem that camellias can have is petal blight. This is a fungus that causes the flowers to turn brown and fall off. The best cure for petal blight is to remove all flowers showing brown edges and pick up any that have fallen on the ground. The fungus spores also get in the mulch so removing the mulch and replacing it with new mulch is a good idea. Another problem that I have encountered is leaves that turn yellow but still have green veins. This is called chlorosis and can be fixed by adding chelated iron to your soil. A good preventative is to add chelated iron once a year regularly to prevent chlorosis.

 

   Growing camellias requires some dedication from the gardener but the reward when the plant blooms is so wonderful that the little things camellias require seem trivial. Come to the nursery and see the large variety of camellias on hand with more coming in soon. Be sure to smell them. Some have truly wonderful scents. Everyone should have at least one camellia in a shady garden spot. Float camellia flowers in a glass bowl for an instant centerpiece. Put a rocker or lounge chair beside your flowering plant and enjoy the fragrance( if you choose one with fragrance) and beauty that all camellias provide.

Tomlinson Natal Plum

Tomlinson Natal Plum
By: Deb Pavlosky
I really don’t know why I don’t see more natal plums in our landscapes around here.  Natal plums are really easy to grow and don’t require much care at all to look great all year round.

 

The Tomlinson variety of natal plum is a dwarf, evergreen shrub that will spread slowly to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  And, it grows best in Zones 9a – 11, that’s us! This shrub performs well in full sun and with regular watering initially (especially in the extreme heat).  Over time, this shrub will become quite drought resistant in your landscape; easily withstanding radiant heat from patios or driveways.  It’s an excellent choice for a container planting too.  Natal plums can adapt to many different soil types given good drainage.   Because they are so tolerant of a variety of growing conditions, these plants are great for coastal plantings; their thick leaves protect them from harsh conditions.  This shrub will need to be protected in hard freezes.  Fragrant white blooms will appear heavily in spring and the shrub will bloom intermittently through the fall.  The flowers will produce small fruit that start out green and turn a deep, wine-red when ripe.  These fruit are edible and can be enjoyed fresh or in pies or jellies.  There are thorns on natal plums, but they are small and tucked tightly into the dense arrangement of leaves.  I guess that’s what I love most about Tomlinson natal plums – the foliage is a beautiful glossy green and the arrangement of leaves on stems is just so attractive.

 

So, if you are looking for an easy addition to your full-sun landscape, consider a natal plum.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Plant a Winter Herb Pot

by Kim Nichols Messer

                  Herbs can be grown easily in a container.  I like to start a couple of herb pots each season.  In the fall and winter, I prefer the savory herbs.  You may use almost any type of container.  A lightweight plastic container is good if you need to move the pot around as the light changes during the season.  A 15-gallon container will fit six herb plants easily.  Most herbs really only need about six inches of soil below to spread out their roots.  A large terra cotta pot is a beautiful addition to a porch or patio but will be a bit heavy to move.  A 16.5-inch pot will hold six herb plants.  You may also plant herbs in a window box.  A smallish version will easily hold four herb plants.  I have parsley in a large mason jar in the kitchen window.  A small Bay Laurel plant will do well in a small pot outside in the sunshine.
                   Use good organic potting soil in a pot with several holes for good drainage.  Then choose your favorite herb combinations.  As the weather cools, I will be roasting root vegetables and making soups.  Some of my favorite winter herbs are Sage, Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme and of course Parsley.  Try roasting some beets with olive oil and rosemary.  Or butternut squash with sage.   Thyme is great with chicken and roasted vegetables.  Sage and Bay leaves are great in soups and stews.  Herbs are so easy to grow and so economical to have nearby for use in your cooking.  Fresh herbs will really enhance the flavor of your dish.  Give it a try, grow some herbs.

Amaryllis

By, Kathryn Courtney

It’s Amaryllis bulb time at Maas! I’m not one to push the holiday season but when the amaryllis bulbs come in I get that warm, comforting holiday feeling. Amaryllis bulbs are great for our gulf coast area. You can plant them in decorative pots for your tabletop or mantle. After your amaryllis bloom, they can go straight to the garden. No need to worry about freezing for most varieties and they are very carefree. For me, picking out only one or two varieties a year is the hardest part of the amaryllis experience. You can choose from solid red, white or pink. Pick double or single, or fat or thin petaled amaryllis types. Choose stripes, flowers with different colored throats or sparkling petals. The choices seem endless. Right now I’m preferring the sparkling ones but that may change tomorrow. Choose large bulbs for more flower stalks when the blooms appear.

Once you have chosen your bulbs decide whether you are going to plant them outdoors or in a pot for inside. If you decide on a pot, think about how many bulbs you want to plant. Amaryllis get big so the pot needs to be big enough for your number of bulbs. The pot doesn’t need to be deep but make sure it is wide enough to accommodate the blooms. You can pick any kind of decorative type planter. Make sure it has holes in the bottom or is deep enough to keep water from actually touching the bulb. Also, the planter needs to be heavy enough to hold the blooming amaryllis and big enough that the bulbs do not touch each other. I use some regular, well-draining potting soil and some green Microlife fertilizer in my amaryllis pots. Plant your bulb with the shoulders exposed. This means the top of your bulb is above the dirt. I love this part of planting amaryllis because you can instantly see when the first leaves emerge. Water sparingly until you see the leaves, then water more as the plant begins to grow. Once the flower stalks appear the plant grows very quickly. I always stake my amaryllis flower stalks as they can become very top heavy when the flowers bloom.  I use bamboo stakes and green gardeners tape but you can make the stakes more decorative if you like. Different types of amaryllis take different amounts of time to bloom. If you are trying to have blooms around the holiday’s research how long it takes the different varieties of bulbs to bloom. An average flowering time is seven to ten weeks although some types will bloom in six weeks. After the blooms die, cut the flowering stalk back to an inch and a half above the bulb. Leave the leaves on the plant to allow the bulb to build up nutrition for the next year.

 

 At this stage, my bulbs always go out to a designated spot in my garden. I love the way amaryllis look when planted in groups. I carefully remove the bulb from the pot, dirt and all, and plant it in the garden at the same height it was planted in the pot. Do not plant your amaryllis deep. This causes the bulb to rot. My amaryllis garden is also in a raised bed so the bulbs never sit in water. Good drainage is essential for the success of your bulbs. After this step, my bulbs are pretty much ignored until the leaves start to die back the next fall. Sometimes I cut the leaves back to about three inches above the bulb at this point but you don’t have to. It does keep the garden looking a little neater. Fertilize the bulbs and wait for the cycle to start over again.

 

Amaryllis have definitely become my favorite bulbs by far. They are extremely carefree and hardy, always give me a great bloom show and the leaves are pretty in the garden even when they are not in bloom. Mine have survived the Harvey flood with flying colors and I am eagerly awaiting my next blooms. Come see the new selection of fall bulbs including amaryllis bulbs at Maas this month. Bulbs are a great thing to add to your garden.

Carrion Plant

By: Deb Pavlosky

 

So, who really wants to grow something called carrion plant?  It doesn’t SOUND pretty or like anything anyone would actually want to grow and propagate. But, I am really enjoying watching mine grow and flower.  Carrion plants aka starfish plants aka toad plants are in the genus Stapelia.  This genus of approximately 50 species originates in South Africa.  Carrion plants use their flowers to attract pollinators just like other flowering plants, but the pollinators this plant attracts are blowflies.  Blowflies like rotting meat, so yes, Stapelia flowers have been purported to have a less than pleasant smell, much like the corpse flower that many go to museums and botanical gardens to see when in bloom.   It’s a novelty and interesting, but also very beautiful in bloom.
The buds look like tiny darts protruding from the stems and grow quite large and almost look like angular balloons with hand-sewn seams before they open.  Once the blooms open, they look like hairy starfish.  The blooms seem to last a very long time and I have yet to notice the smell, but I do have mine in a hanging basket about 7′ off the ground. So, I don’t get right up next to it.
These plants like bright, indirect light and can be grown indoors near a bright window as well as outside.  Full afternoon sun in the Houston area might be too much for this plant, but morning sun with shady afternoons would be ideal.  In the colder months, this plant needs to be protected from freezing.   I will be bringing mine inside to overwinter.  Like all succulents, this plant needs very well draining soil and only occasional watering (some suggest no water during winter).  Applying a very light/dilute fertilizer infrequently during the warm/growing seasons will help with plant health and flowering.  In the spring, I will transplant mine to a clay pot and also take some cuttings.  Cuttings should be allowed to dry and harden over before planting.  More carrion plants to share with friends and family!  Such a fun and interesting plant to grow and share.

 

Tomatoes

By: Deb Pavlosky
Tomatoes are quite the controversial vegetable. Educated people have debated their classification in the US since the late 1800’s. Vegetables or fruits, what do you think? The biologist in me finds the answer to be undeniable. Tomatoes are very clearly (drum roll here) FRUITS. The very definition of a fruit is, and I quote from my desktop Scientific dictionary, ‘the ripened ovary of a seed plant and its contents.’ That is exactly what a tomato is my friends. So, why ARE tomatoes classified as vegetables? The 1893 US Supreme Court classified tomatoes as vegetables so that they could be taxed under the 1883 Tariff Act (10% duty on whole vegetables). Now, it all makes sense – right?  Interested?
I bet you all are wondering where the useful tomato planting information is.  Here ya go:
Tomatoes require full or part Sun (though most say they require full sun or 6 hours of direct sunlight) and lots of water to grow well.
You can plant tomatoes in the ground or grow them in containers. You should carefully consider the height of your tomato plant and the size of your container before planting.
Bury young tomato plants deeper than the container you buy them in. You can even leave just the few top leaves above the ground. Tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems, so this helps create a strong tomato plant. You can also dig a hole wider than it is deep to accommodate a tomato plant lying on its side. The plant will grow up toward the sun and straighten itself out.
Tomato plants definitely need fertilizer and if you plan to eat them (why would you grow them if you didn’t?) we recommend an organic fertilizer like Microlife. During heavy fruit production, apply Microlife more frequently. Lots of folks have their own magical tomato fertilizer concoctions. Just remember, fruits are what they eat. What? In other words, if you use stinky fertilizers, your fruit can sometimes take on that flavor. Yuck.
Hold off on mulching tomato plants until the summer heat really starts to cause a problem with moisture for your tomatoes. You want the soil to “heat” start your tomato plants – they like it hot!
Tomato plants can be determinate (bears all fruit at one time) or indeterminate (bears fruit through the whole growing season). Determinate tomato plants will stop growing when they start bearing fruit.   Indeterminate tomato plants can continue to grow as they produce fruit through the whole season.
Caging tomatoes is important.  Some tomato fruits are HEAVY. The largest recorded was over 7lbs. Yours probably won’t grow to the size of a cantaloupe, but you never know. So, use a cage from the very beginning. The tomato plant will appreciate the assistance and could possibly bear more fruit if supported.
You can remove the bottom leaves off a tomato plant once the whole plant gets pretty close to its normal height. These leaves get very little sun and are usually the ones to start fungal issues for the entire plant. You can also thin the leaves to allow more sun to reach the tomatoes, but remember, the plant needs leaves for photosynthesis.  Lastly, you can remove the small growths that pop up between branches. These won’t bear fruit and just take energy away from growth or fruit production.
Just a few of the cultivars Maas Nursery will likely carry this year:
BigBeef:  ht.8-10′, Medium fruit, 69-80 days to maturity, indeterminate (good for fresh slicing, canning)
BrandywineHeirloom:  ht.3-9′, Large fruit, 90 days to maturity, indeterminate (good for fresh slicing, seeds can be stored if properly cleaned)
Celebrity:  ht. 2-3′, Medium fruit, 69-80 days to maturity, determinate (good for fresh slicing, canning, drying)
Glory:ht. 6-8′, Medium fruit, 69-80 days to maturity, indeterminate (good for fresh slicing)
PurpleCalabash: ht. 4-6′, Medium, PURPLE fruit, 69-80 days to maturity, indeterminate (good for fresh slicing, seeds can be stored if properly cleaned)
SunLeaper:  ht.4-6′, Medium fruit, 69-80 days to maturity, determinate (good for fresh slicing)
SweetMillion: ht. 4-6′, Small fruit, 55-68 days to maturity, indeterminate (good for eating fresh)
VivaItalia: ht. 4-6′, Medium, plum-shaped fruit, 69-80 days to maturity, determinate (excellent for sauces and canning)
GOSH! And that’s just a few…
I am always intrigued to find out about the brave souls who first ate those exotic and interesting foods that came from far away.  We should pay homage to those who did not make a wise choice (moment of silence here). It is rumored that Mr. Robert Gibbon Johnson did us all a favor when he ate an entire basket full of bright red delicacies brought over to New Jersey from Europe in the early 1800s.  Folklore says he did it just to prove to the crowds the tomato fruits weren’t poisonous.  Good thing he didn’t eat any of the leaves!