Happy Valentine’s Day.  It is a day to remember that special someone in our lives.  It is also the day to begin work in the garden.  That includes trimming, fertilizing, and mulching.  Plants trimmed after Valentine's will usually not put out new growth until after the last frost, about the first week of March.  Wait until late in the month when the soil begins to warm to plant annuals.  New perennials can be planted as they become available in nurseries.

There is a very informative website about native and adaptive plants for South Texas.  Plants are listed alphabetically with pictures and growing characteristics.  Go to growgreen.org, then click on Watershed Plant Guide.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I have.  

With over five inches of rain over the last weeks of October and into November, flowerbeds and lawns have not needed much supplemental watering.  If you have an automatic sprinkler system it would be prudent to set it on manual to conserve water.  

As promised in the last newsletter edition, the following plants are suggested for those who do not have the time or inclination to spend much time outdoors.  The list includes adapted (not native) evergreens that will give a year-round permanent appearance to a garden, and perennials that add color a good part of the growing season.  All need little water once established.  Always consider the mature size of a plant to prevent overcrowding.

To me, roses are in a special class to themselves, and that is why they were not included in the list of preferred plants in last month’s article.  There are three old roses that are especially good for the home garden.  Once established, they grow with little care and repeat blooms from spring through fall.  They can be planted now and, like all roses, they need plenty of sun.  

I have been scraping white fuzz found on some of the cactus along E. Guenther Street to collect female cochineal bugs used in dyeing wool. This dyed wool is then used at Mission Espada to demonstrate weaving. It has been a fun and informative experience to take a bug and convert it to a dye bath that results in beautiful pinks, reds, purples and lavenders.

We are lucky to have so much information about ancient processes readily available through our library and the Internet. The two principal resources that I have used are A Dyer’s Manual, by Jill Goodwin (Pelham Books, London, 1982) and Cochineal: A Bright Red Animal Dye, by LaVerne M. Dutton (1992 Master of Science Thesis, Environmental Archeology, Baylor University). If you have a cactus that is covered with white fuzz, let me know. I may want to collect some more bugs. I will be glad to share the detailed process how to collect and prepare the bugs for dyeing.