Sunday, September 9, 2012

Landscaping Made Easy, Part 8: Houston Garden Center right now

There are two good deals that I recommend right now at the Houston Garden Center outlet which is located sort of catercorner across IH-45 from Centerpointe.  I scoped it out yesterday so that I could report my best recommendations from what stock they have remaining at this point. 

(1) Upright holly trees:  I don't know which cultivar these are, but they appear to be one of the good ones (possibly Savannah hollies quite like the ones I blogged about a few days ago).  Nothing in this life is ever perfect, and by far my biggest gripe about Houston Garden Center is that so many of their plants are irritatingly unlabeled, either because their wholesalers never bothered to label them in the first place, or because the labels were cheap and fell off before they made it to this retail center.  Ugh, that drives me nuts - every time I go there, I see people struggling to figure out what to buy.  When I was there late yesterday, a man and his wife asked me for help.  I told them what little I knew about the trees they were examining, and the guy said "This place should hire someone like you to work here."  I replied, "They could easily sell twice as much product if they would just give shoppers a tiny bit of help!"

Anyway, enough bellyaching... back to the hollies.  Look at the size of these things:
With the 70% off sale, these things are $90 plus tax apiece.  I dare you to find a better deal than that. 

Look at them compared to the size of that massive SUV.  They are located just to the left of the store entrance and that little kiosk that the worker stands in to check receipts as people are exiting the cashier area. 
Here's a close-up of the leaves and berries:
These berries have not yet turned red.  But look at the little points on the leaves... this suggests to me that they are a holly cultivar. 
I posted that close-up picture so that you could call it up on your phone and show it to someone who knew about plants, if you want to do that.  In other words, you could get second opinion on what these are.  And also so that, if you go to buy any of these, you can refer to that pic to distinguish the unlabeled hollies from the unlabeled Wisterias (avoid!) and the unlabeled Magnolias (avoid!) that are sitting in the same line-up with the hollies.

If my back yard were not already landscaped, several of these babies would be coming home with me right away.  Ninety bucks apiece for trees of that size and desirable species?  Can't beat it. 

In this previous post, I talked about the U-Haul rental place that is also quite close to us, for those who might need a trailer to get something like this home.  A pick-up truck would also do, supposing you had the muscle to get them up into the bed.  Those are approximately thirty-gallon pots they're in - they weigh several hundred pounds apiece. 

As for getting them in the ground, a big hole is all that would be required.  And maybe a few neighbors to help with the job, barn-raising-style. 

(2)  Oldhamii bamboo.  Remember, in this previous post, I warned that you should not buy bamboo unless you know exactly what you are doing, because you might accidentally end up with an invasive type that you'll later have to pay to remove from your neighbors' yards after it gets out of control. 

However, some species of bamboo will form restricted clumps, rather than sprouting up all over the place.  Myself, I'm currently growing a species called Malingensis, but I'm not sure yet whether I'm happy with its potential in the type of soil we have here in Centerpointe.  Oldhamii is one that I'm pretty sure will be successful in terms of realizing good health and height potential.  In fact, Oldhamii is already growing well in a few miscellaneous Centerpointe yards, including a yard right next to the one with the magnificent Savannah hollies

Here is what is currently in Houston Garden Center, just to the left of the hollies:
The first cold front of the season (YAY!!) was coming through at the time of these pics, and knocked a few of them over. 
Here's a close-up of the rare tag:

These things are a bit more expensive than the hollies.  They were marked at $599 which means that, with the sale, they'd be $180 plus tax. 

Bamboo is one of those things that people tend to either love or hate.  I grew a 25-foot species called "Punting Pole" (B. Tuldoides) at my previous home in north Clear Lake.  It made a spectacular privacy screen - a visitor would never know that I had back neighbors at all (and all my neighbors had two-story houses).  And the sound of the wind through that stuff was simply breathtaking; I used to leave my bedroom window cracked open at night just so I could hear it. 

But, as many of us found out the hard way, Tuldoides doesn't stand up well to hard freezes.  Two years ago when we were having that onslaught of winter temps in the low 20's, everyone's Tuldoides died back pretty severely.  It'll come back from the roots when that happens, but it's still better to try to grow something more resistant, which is why I chose to start my new Centerpointe property off with MalingensisMalingensis is more freeze-resistant, but like I said, I don't know how it will grow here yet.

Oldhamii is also likely to be susceptible to hard frosts, which is something you might want to keep in mind as a factor to consider.  My Tuldoides grew for ten years before we had a frost heavy enough to knock it back, so bamboo is not exactly fragile this way.  But when those rare hard freezes come, damage gets done.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Oldhamii is one of the largest species of bamboo.  It can attain 65 feet of height!!!  That's not to say that it will get that tall, but if conditions are ideal, it can.  For that reason, you have to think carefully about the scale of the area you're considering as a planting location. 

Right now the long-awaited cooler weather is beckoning, and I have to get outside in my yard and work.

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