Dan Picatte Speaks at Manor Gardners First Meeting

The Manor Gardeners met for the first time on Saturday, March 3, hosted by Shana Whiteley at the Good Luck Grill. Organizer Tess Peterson opened the meeting by welcoming folks from Manor, Elgin and the surrounding areas. Tess provided refreshments along with coffee and pastries furnished by Shana. Program ideas were discussed along with opportunities for working to beautify personal and public gardens with workshops and plant sharing. The Good Luck Grill opened at 11:00 a.m. and as will be the case at future meetings, several gardeners stayed for lunch and conversation.

Our guest speaker, Dan Picatte of Austin Tree Farm recommended his favorite large trees for our Blackland Prairie area. They include cedar elm, chinquapin and live oaks, white oak (or var. ‘Monterey’ oak), and lacebark elm (or var. ‘Drake’ elm). He also suggested smaller ornamental trees including crepe myrtle, mountain laurel, Texas redbud, yaupon and possum haw hollies, wax myrtle, and Carolina cherry laurel.

Crepe “murder” was explained and discouraged. Although prevalent in the landscaping trade where contractors need to do “something” during the dormant season, this drastic pruning is unnecessary and leads to weak, long shoots from a gnarled mass of joints that are easily broken in our windy areas. (If you succumbed to this practice, a great article by Greg Grant explains the problems and solutions. In the article, Greg suggests cutting plants to the ground to “save” them. You may also let shoots come up from the ground and gradually remove the incorrectly pruned ones.

Maintenance for both the large and smaller trees includes watering deeply (1” of water) during dry periods and fertilizing in the spring with about 1” of compost or ‘Dillo Dirt out to the drip line of the tree. (The drip line is where standing under the tree looking up you begin to see the sky.) Add a layer of mulch to hold moisture around the tree and to prevent string-trimmer damage. A donut look holds moisture with no mulch actually touching the base of the tree. The “volcano” look is discouraged as it damages the tree and may cause small roots to come out into the mulch. Again, where you still see this in commercial landscapes, they need another contractor. Although beautiful trees, red oaks are host plants for the beetle that transfers the oak wilt fungus. We were also reminded not to prune live oaks between February and October to reduce oak wilt transmission. White oaks are not susceptible to oak wilt.

Great resources for more information on trees are:

Native and Adapted Plant List, GrowGreen, available at local nurseries and online at and searchable form at

Shortly after the meeting, Dick Peterson and Shana Whiteley met Dan Picatte at the Austin Tree Farm to select a large variety of these trees to be planted at the Good Luck Grill. Manor Gardeners may now see some of the trees we discussed at the next meeting

The April 7, meeting will feature Dick Peterson and “Lawns to Beds the Easy Way”. A slide program will introduce the concept and (weather permitting) a small, hands-on project will be completed outside. The technique does not require removal of turf and can be started at any time of the year. If you lost lawn areas during the drought, this might be a good way to enhance the look of your yard and reduce watering at the same time.

Future meetings of the Manor Gardeners will be at 9:00 a.m. on the first Saturday of the month at the Good Luck Grill.

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Press Release by Dick Peterson  (512) 922-3326

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