At the weekend I made a trip to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for their Winter Tree Fest. It was a beautiful morning and a lovely drive to get there. As is usual for me, I planned to get there early for ease of parking and to check out where all their activities were.

Probably the biggest draw for me was the tree and shrub sale going on alongside all the tree related activities. Native plant sales like this really do give you the opportunity to find plants and trees that you might not ordinarily find at your local garden centers.

Native Trees I brought home!

Recent rain certainly makes it easier to dig holes for my new trees. With the exception of Eve’s Necklace (5 gal)  all the plants were in 1 gallon pots. It goes without saying that smaller holes are easier to dig than bigger ones!! That’s a big consideration in these parts! See the bottom of the blog for my hole digging tips!

I also protect any new trees with a wire cage. Even if they are deer resistant, they can still be subject to being tasted or eaten outright!  I have a desert willow hybrid that’s doing very well but got some damage from deer rubbing against it. I have actually left a couple of its dead branches in place because they can protect the rest of the tree from harm.

Eve’s Necklace

Eve’s Necklace

This tree has been on “my list” for quite some time, so I was really pleased to find a few in the sale. Good reason for being early – you can really take your pick of what’s available.  It’s a small native tree that will bloom March/April/May with pink/white flowers. It will attract bees and other pollinators and is a good nesting tree for birds.

Shrubby Boneset

Shrubby boneset

A native shrub that blooms (pink, white) from April to December. A good host for moths, hummers and butterflies. Heat tolerant, drought resistant and moderately deer resistant! Totally new plant for me. Talking to the experts can lead you to making new & exciting choices for your garden. Should multiply with rhizomes spreading underground.

Mountain Torchwood

mountain torchwood

This is a native evergreen shrub that blooms from March to September! It attracts birds and butterflies. Another totally new shrub for me! Will show you photos later on in the year.


Dogwood Tree

There are quite a few species of dogwood & I don’t know exactly what I have. My small tree was a freebie from the event sponsor Barrett Tree Experts in Austin – Thank You!  Dogwoods are small, native flowering trees that bloom from April to October. The blooms attract birds and butterflies, the fruits attract birds and mammals, including deer.

Prairie Crabapple

Prairie Crabapple

A small native tree that blooms May/June and is a favorite for honey bees and bumble bees. It  has a tendency to grow into a thicket with suckers. This could mean  a lot of work every year if you don’t want it to spread. I’ve planted mine in an area near where my bee hives are going to be – the plants can happily spread and bring joy to my honey bees (when I get them)!

Reasons for my choices

  • All native trees or shrubs – cope with heat, drought, limestone
  • All have flowers that benefit local wildlife
  • Long blooming periods – between just these 5 plants I’ll have flowers from March to December
  • All plants you may not find at your local garden center
  • All trees & shrubs that I don’t already have – new to me!
  • Flowering trees and shrubs are very attractive in the landscape

If you know me, you know that I like talking to people. Any people! You can imagine that at Winter Tree Fest I didn’t find any shortage of people to talk too – everyone had a love of trees, native plants and the outdoors.

Probably one of the biggest messages I picked up is the need of biodiversity for a healthy environment. Twelve years ago when I acquired my lovely 5 acres of the Texas Hill Country, I was immediately struck with the fact that I now had some very big and beautiful live oaks – but not much else. So, every year I make it my job to plant at least a couple of new native trees in my landscape – to increase biodiversity in my landscape!

Good Tree Related websites

Here are a few of the best tree related websites that I got on a handout from the Texas A&M Forest Service:-

Tree identification  – easy tree id and tree lists. Also a whole host of tree information for you

Tree selection & planting  – this will give you a customized list of trees suitable for your county, yard size, whether you want fall color or flowers etc.

Planting Season – more of a scholarly website but got some excellent thoughts for planting trees in an urban environment

General Tree Care  – more good general tree advice and also how to calculate the benefit of trees to your home.  Did you know trees add $$ to the value of your home?

It’s really easy to find informal classes, increase your knowledge & bring that info home to the benefit of your back yard. You already know that I love the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.   Closer to home is the San Antonio Botanical Gardens – they also run regular classes and walks at their gardens. You can find that information at

Hole Digging when you hit limestone 3″ down!!

digging bar & pickaxe

“Tools of the Trade”

Living west of IH 35 you’ll know that a few inches down you hit limestone! Hole digging is hard and sometimes you’ll find a mass of impenetrable rock that you just have to work around. My favorite tools for digging holes are a large digging bar and a pickaxe. Basically you need to find cracks between rocks and use brute force – great total body work out! I also note that we’ve had quite a bit of rain recently which “softens” the limestone a little and makes it a bit easier to get through.

It’s important to make you hole big enough for the plant you’re putting in – ie bigger than the pot it’s in! Sometimes it’s not possible to make the ideally sized hole but I’ve found that as long as your plant is surrounded by good soil and you water it well, it will establish. Once your new plant has settled in it’s roots will seek out those cracks in the limestone and it’ll really dig itself in!

Caroline xo


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