It’s amazing what a few rains and some cooler temperatures will do for your spirit. At least gardeners and gardens have been renewed with the will to live. My garden in Arcadia received .4, .9, and .4 inches of rain during October. Although we need to average 1 inch per week to reach our yearly average of 48 inches, we’ll take what we can get. My dad is still having a fit of course because the stock ponds are going dry. Hopefully we’ll eventually get some runoff rains that will fill up the ponds, lakes, streams, and aquifers. The long range forecasts don’t sound very promising however.

I made three trips to the Houston area in October and couldn’t help but notice the drought was worse there than here. As a matter of fact, the “triangle of death” seems to be between Lake Livingston, Conroe, and Kingwood, with north Houston having the most severe drought conditions of all. It’s very sad for a tree lover, like me, to see all of those newly planted trees dead along the highway as well as half of all of those in existing forests. With just one more year of drought, it looks like some of our most historic forested areas will turn into prairies. This isn’t unheard of as the Texas Hill Country and Midwestern prairies once had our same forested makeup before severely drying out. Heck, on the other extreme, all of Houston and as far north as Nacogdoches, used to be under the ocean! Perhaps that’s too much water.

The first Saturday in October started with our SFA Gardens Fabulous Fall Festival plant sale at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center in Nacogdoches. Thanks to the drought, the crowd and sales numbers were down considerably, but it was still a beautiful day with lots of folks taking home both proven as well as new and unusual plants.

Then I headed to Conroe to speak to the Montgomery County Master Gardeners on “Landscaping 101.” They are an amazing group with a beautiful facility. Hopefully somebody there will save me some seed of the beautiful hot pink bachelor’s button in front of the building. We bachelors need all the buttons we can get!

From Conroe I drove to the small town of Longleaf, Louisiana for a well attended longleaf pine field day. Longleaf is right next to Forest, Hill, the center of their wholesale nursery industry. Longleaf pine savannas once covered 90 million acres from East Texas to North Carolina but were almost completely eliminated to harvest the fine wood that these amazing trees produce. Mostly what folks see today in East Texas are loblolly pines, but historically loblollies only grew in moist areas of southeast Texas, with shortleaf pines growing on upland sites in northeast Texas, and longleaf pines growing in sandy soils of deep East Texas. As you’ll notice, shortleaf and longleaf pines are more drought tolerant than loblollies. These are tough times for bottomland species planted on upland sites.

Next, my road show headed to Pearland to speak to the Keep Pearland Beautiful group on “Home Landscaping.” They had a nice luncheon complete with a plant sale and silent auction. Unfortunately my great-aunt, Charlsie, who lives nearby was upset because I didn’t stop in to visit. Oops! It’s very ironic that nearby Alvin holds the one day rainfall record for the United States with 43 inches of rain in 24 hours. THAT will fill up ponds and lakes!

Unfortunately I had to miss the big Native Plant Society of Texas annual meeting in Houston, as our Emanis family reunion was in Center the same weekend. It was my chance to make up with great-aunt Charlsie and thankfully I’m back in good graces. She said her Pam Puryear Turk’s cap and coral vine where showing out in her garden. It sounds pretty in pink.

Next on the agenda was a program for the Sugar Land Garden Club and Fort Bend County Master Gardeners in Sugar Land. I have never seen such an active, well run garden club! They have 40 board members alone. I was wined and dined and then gave them a program on “Heirloom Gardening in the South.” My hotel was on Oyster Creek which runs on down to Clute where my mom and her family lived years ago while my granddad forced himself to work at Dow Chemical. My mom said she caught many a fish and crab out of Oyster Creek. I’m not the first person in the family to give up financial security to head back to their rural roots in Arcadia. My Papaw could only take it so long and drug the family kicking and screaming back to the old house in Arcadia. My mom still won’t stop complaining about being forced to live in an old house with no plumbing, having to chop sugar cane and cotton for my grandfather, and having to go to school at Timpson where they were a year behind her school in Clute. She tries to pretend she isn’t from Arcadia but I keep reminding her that she was literally BORN here! Since she was born in a nearby house with no birth certificate, she has two birthdays, her legit one and the one my grandmother manufactured to get her into school early. She celebrated one this month. All I could produce for gifts was a snuff jar garden bouquet and a bag of my homemade kettle corn that she’s addicted to. She’ll want something else for her other birthday.

Jim Kamas, with Texas Agrilife Extension in Fredericksburg, came and spoke at our monthly SFA Gardens lecture series on Pierce’s Disease and the future of growing high quality grapes along the Gulf Coast. He’s an old Aggie classmate of Dr. Creech’s. Dr. Kamas is also into figs and pomegranates, two of my favorites.

Thanks to a little rain, I managed to get a row each of turnip greens, mustard greens, multiplying onions, and cabbage planted. I miss my old bulb farm so I also planted a row each of Byzantine gladiolus, snowflakes, Grand Primo narcissus, Lycoris x elsiae, Trevithian jonquil, Laurens Koster narcissus, and Franciscus Drake daffodil. Of course I can’t help myself and also planted a row of assorted new things from Bill the Bulb Barron in California.

My new hens have just started to lay pretty brown eggs. To keep things quieter I put four roosters in the freezer for Thanksgiving dressing and Christmas gumbo. I don’t have the heart (or stomach) to eat my fancy Crested Buff Laced Polish rooster. I also managed to get the proofs reviewed and hopefully corrected for my Guide to Growing Fruits and Vegetables in Texas (Cool Springs Press) which will be out next spring.

This month I’ll be speaking to the River Oaks Garden Club on November 10 on “The Southern Heirloom Garden.” Our November 17th SFA Gardens Lecture series will feature Keith Johansson from Metro Maples in Fort Worth, speaking on “A Maple for Every Spot.” Join us if you can. Like our gardens, it’s free, and I provide a full refund if you aren’t happy! Until next month, “dig ‘em.” -Greg