Mark Oct. 12 on your calendars for the annual fall garden conference in Tyler known as “Bulbs and More.” Smith County Master Gardeners, volunteers with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, have been hard at work preparing to deliver another outstanding educational program and plant sale at the Harvey Convention Center.
We have been selling hard-to-find, Texas-tough heirloom bulbs for 14 years at this annual event, and in recent years have added choice perennials, shrubs and trees to the sale.
David Whitinger, a Cherokee County Master Gardener and creator of the popular websites DavesGarden and AllThingsPlants, is the day’s first featured speaker. He will share his “50 Best Tips for Gardening.” You will be sure to get practical ideas you can use in your own garden.
Smith County Master Gardener Merlin Eck will follow Whitinger with a preview of bulbs and plants in the sale.
Admission to the conference and sale is free, with registration starting at 8:30 a.m. and speakers beginning at 9 a.m. Conference attendees will get a minute start ahead of those who only gather for the 11:30 a.m. plant sale starting time.
The bulb and plant sale features more than 20 varieties of daffodils and narcissus, and more than 40 other types of flowering plants that grow from bulbs, corms and rhizomes. There is a limited supply of the very hard-to-find Byzantine hardy gladiolus, several types of rain lilies (many of which are blooming in gardens right now after last week’s rain), and the popular oxblood lily, among many others.
We are again offering the very attractive traveler weeping redbud, and the delicious Satsuma orange trees, available in limited supply.
New this year will be fuyu Japanese persimmon, a very ornamental small fruit tree that bears delicious fruit. This particular variety is seedless, and non-astringent, and the attractive orange fruit can be eaten once ripe. You can eat them firm like an apple, or let them get softer and enjoy them like custard. A bonus is the beautiful fall foliage, which turns shades of orange, burgundy and yellow.
Ruby slippers is a new oakleaf hydrangea shrub offered this year. This is a new variety bred by the U.S. National Arboretum. While most oakleaf hydrangeas can grow 8 to 12 feet tall and wide, ruby slippers fits in much more nicely in a smaller landscape planting, topping out at 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall and 5 about feet wide. It has very large, 9-inch flower clusters that open the typical white, but age to deep pink or rose color, and remain upright even after heavy rains. The foliage turns an attractive mahogany in fall. Its compact form is well suited for small landscapes and is ideal for use in mass plantings, hedges and mixed borders.
Smith County Master Gardeners also will offer plants grown by the membership, including perennials, herbs, daylilies and some shrubs.
For a listing of most of the plants that should be available in the plant sale, go to scmg.tamu.edu.
Keith Hansen is Smith County horticulturist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. His web page is http://EastTexasGardening.tamu.edu. His blog is http://agrilife.org/etg.