We seem to be on a roller coaster as far as weather goes.  A few days of bitter cold, followed by very pleasant porch-sitting weather. Some plants have started budding early.  However, at this writing in early February, indications are that we could still have frost.  Some farmers and gardeners believe it can freeze until mesquite trees put on new leaves.  There is a mesquite tree in the front garden at 735 E. Guenther St. and it shows no signs of budding out.  So be warned.

Spring in South Texas is a beautiful time.  Early blooming plants, especially trees, put on a showy and fragrant display.  Two such trees are the mountain laurel and Mexican Plum.  Mountain laurels are widespread with purple flowers and a grape-like smell.  There are few Mexican plums around, but the most spectacular is at the Steves Homestead at 509 King William St. just inside the drive gate.  The tree will soon be covered with white flowers.  Mountain laurels do best and bloom more in sunny locations.  The Mexican Plum is a good understory tree for gardens with large mature trees.  It does well planted at the outer edge of the canopy of trees such as pecans and cedar elms, since they lose their leaves in winter.  The Mexican Plum may not have fruit every year, which is small and generally left for the birds, squirrels and other wildlife.

Now is the time to feed shrubs, flowerbeds and newly-planted trees if it has been more that three months since they were last fertilized. Use Medina or Lady Bug, two good organic brands. 

Shrubs bought in containers can still be planted.  Evergreen shrubs that make good hedges or that can be used as a stand-alone specimen include eleagnus xylosma, and green or variegated pittosporium.  All grow to be large, but can be maintained at almost any height if trimmed each year around Valentine’s Day. 

From The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain: A Book of Quotations: The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d druther not.

Garden Note: Your landscape is your canvas, your picture to paint.