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SKIP RICHTER: What's new in your garden?

SKIP RICHTER: What's new in your garden?

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Gardening always brings something new. Each season is unique as weather conditions and varying disease and insect challenges combine to keep things interesting, to say the least. New varieties are continually appearing on the market along with new types of equipment, new miracle products, new books and new gardening trends.

One of the things I love most about gardening is the way that each year brings a new start. A garden is never finished, and in the hopeful eye of the gardener it is always getting better. Gardeners are indeed optimists!

There is something to be said for sticking with the old tried and true varieties and techniques that have proven to be successful over the years. However, the very spirit of gardening is one of learning, changing, sharpening skills and trying something new.

I can’t imagine a gardening season without trying new varieties of vegetables, new species of flowers and a new technique of planting or designing the garden. We no longer depend on what we can grow for survival, so gardening has become a wonderful experiment, a creative hobby.

I could write about dozens of new things to try this year, but for each thing many readers could say, “That’s not new. I’ve been doing or growing that for years!” But for everyone there are many yet-to-be-tried plants and techniques. Need a few ideas? Here is a start:

Bird and butterfly gardens are still growing in popularity. Bird houses and feeders and many berrying plants will turn your landscape into a bird magnet and provide plenty of viewing enjoyment.

Likewise, butterfly-attracting plants are a big hit. If you’ve never tried a few plants to attract adults with their blooms and others to serve as caterpillar food for their larvae, you’re missing out on a whole new dimension these flying flowers add to a landscape.

Garden ornaments are a great way to add class or whimsy to your outdoor areas. From classic statues and fountains, to gazing balls and little gnomes, to metal cutout figures of insects and woodland fairies, there are ornaments for everyone. One man’s art is another’s eyesore, but I love the fact that no matter the size and price of a home property, there are outdoor decorations to delight its owners.

Unusual containers are likewise very popular. Hewn rock or hypertufa planters, uncommon objects recycled as plant containers, and a variety of creative designs such as half pots that hang flush against a wall turn most any area into a garden spot.

Redesigning a landscape area is the outdoor equivalent of repainting and redecorating a room. Add some landscape beds or rework an angular front yard with curving beds. Change some turf areas to various groundcovers or rework an area that has become too shady for the original plant materials to thrive.

Consider doing something new in your garden this year. Who knows, maybe today’s experiment will be tomorrow’s tried and true tradition. There is something renewing about getting out there and creating something new. The physical, mental and emotional exercise of gardening is relaxing, restful therapy.

Robert “Skip” Richter is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulture agent for Brazos County. For local gardening information and events, visit Gardening questions? Call Skip at 823-0129 or email


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