They will turn yellow and die within a few years. That’s a common comment along with doubts about being able to grow well in alkaline soils that seems to plague two of my favorite plants. There are east Palatka holly and savannah holly. Not only will these fine hollies grow well here in the alkaline soil of north Texas, there are many examples of their adaptability. The photos here show one of the best examples of East Palatka. One is in Lakewood and the other is in Highland Park. Of the two, this may be my favorite. Its leaves are smooth-edged with one soft spine on the end. The red berries in winter are dependable, beautiful and good for attracting birds.
Savannah holly is more upright in growth, a little stiffer in appearance than the East Palatka holly but usually amore dramatic show of berries in the winter. Its leaves have multiple soft spines. The best place to see how well this plant grows in our climate and soil is the Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park. I will admit that there are some yellow, apparently chlorotic examples of these two trees. There are two possible causes of this and one solution. When these trees are planted directly in solid white limestone rock, they will suffer. Also, if they are fertilized with high nitrogen, triple-superphosphate fertilizers that cause trace minerals to not be available to plant roots. The solution is to organic techniques. The Sick Tree Treatment will improve conditions short term and the Basic Organic Program is the long term solution. Both are available free as handouts by calling 1-866-444-SOIL. Not just these two hollies but other unusual plants can be grown here in North Texas if the proper conditions are provided. The most important condition – healthy soil.
Q. I have shredded cedar mulch in my flower beds. My dogs love to wallow and sleep in the beds and they dig a little. What is the best repellant to keep the dogs out of the beds? – C.L, Dallas
A. Their own poop usually works like a charm. It also keeps dogs from digging but has to be redone from time to time.
Q. Is there an organic method for getting rid of prickly pear cactus on a large scale on a farm/ranch? – L.B., Waco
A. Yes, scrape the plants up into a pile and add some molasses – dry or liquid. This makes one of the best composts you have ever seen.
Q. Every year some of my tomato plants produce ripe tomatoes that are mottled when ripe. On http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/tomatoproblemsolver/index.html it appears to be spotted wilt virus caused by flower and onion thrips. What can I do to control the thrips? I have several volunteer marigolds in the garden. Might the marigolds be a source of the thrips? Thanks for your help. J.M., Dallas
A. I doubt the flowers or any other plant will encourage pests to attack other plants. Beneficial nematodes applied to the soil at planting will usually do it. Garrett Juice spray and dry molasses added to the soil will also help.