A Question from A Reader ...

Linaria maroccana (Toadflax)
I received this e-mail from a reader and with her permission, I'm posting it and my answer here.  

QUESTION: My name is Nicole, we recently moved to Houston (Spring - near the Woodlands) from the northeast and I have always dreamed of a cottage garden. But, apparently I suck at growing things, or I just don't plant the right things at the right times, I don't know. Anyway, I come close to giving up, but I can't quite do it, it is becoming a sickness I think. Your garden gives me hope that maybe I can overcome my black thumb and get something to grow here. I love your toadflax, where did you buy yours? My biggest challenge has been finding the plants I want or read about.  Do you have any nurseries you recommend? Any sources you could recommend would be great.

ANSWER: Hi, Nicole!  I'm glad you enjoy my blog.  Take heart, you too can have a beautiful cottage garden!  If you moved here from another part of the country, what you can grow will be very different.  Even in various areas of Texas, there are huge differences in climate and soil from region to region.  The good news is that because your area gets colder than other parts of Houston (like mine), you'll be able to grow some of those perennials that need a period of dormancy to really shine.  "Right plant, right place" should be your mantra!

Toadflax transplants sometimes appear in nurseries in October or November, but more often are found in early spring.  Mine are sown from seed: Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, www.wildseedfarms.com, is my source.  Because they're a reseeding annual, you should only need a couple of packets to get started.  I sow them any time from late October into early March.  UPDATE: Read Elizabeth Barrow's comment for some pertinent information!

My favorite nursery in your area is The Arbor Gate in Tomball.  They have a huge selection of plants that do well in the greater Houston area; soils, tools, seeds and bulbs;
friendly and knowledgeable staff; a tremendous variety of garden decor and home accessories; and gardens scattered all around the property that will educate and inspire you.  They also host a wide variety of classes and events, such as today's Bulbs and Buddies Bash.  
Arbor Gate owner Beverly Welch (in overalls) and Chris Wiesinger of Southern Bulb Co. consult with customers

 Just a teaser about the Bulbs and Buddies Bash: I spent almost three hours today at Arbor Gate.  The warm and humid weather didn't keep away a horde of gardeners eager to hear a talk by the Bulb Hunter, Chris Wiesinger, and the always entertaining Heidi Sheesley, owner of local wholesale grower Treesearch Farms.  They were entertaining and informative, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and I'll post tomorrow on what I learned from their lecture AND the time I spent strolling the grounds with camera in hand.  


Great post Cindy. I am going to pass this on to my sister that lives in Spring. She was a newbie to gardening a few years ago too. (remember she left a comment for you one time) I plan a trip to see sister dear sometime soon--hope to pop in and see that nursery while I am there.
Toadflax is also available from time to time in the spring (March?). If you don't see it available where you shop, ask the nursery folks. The local growers send out a list, once or twice a week, of what is "available" for the retailers to buy. They might not buy something if they don't think they can sell it, but if you ask, most will get it for you, as long as it's available from the grower. Sometimes special orders are hard to do in the plant business, because the store may have to meet a minimum order quantity from a particular grower, but it's always worth asking.
Cindy, MCOK said…
MT, thank you! Let me know when your visit is scheduled ... maybe I can meet y'all at the nursery.

Elizabeth, just after I posted I realized I should have included information re spring availability. I know you're well versed in the nursery business, so readers, take note!
Susan Tomlinson said…
Excellent. The biggest key to gardening is to plant what will survive there. Sounds obvious, but t isn't, even to us seasoned gardeners.

Perfect advice, Cindy!