Newspaper Columns

Keith Hansen, Smith County Extension Agent, writes a column each week which is published in the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

Keith HansenKeith Hansen’s blog

 The link above is to Keith’s blog which includes his column and other gardening news and tips.

Dee Bishop, Smith County Master Gardener, writes a weekly column which is published in the Tyler Morning Telegraph each week.

October 23rd Column

Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve or the fourth of July for a fireworks show.  Plant a DSCN1723 (2)Firecracker Plant (Russelia equisetiformis) and enjoy a brilliant display all summer—until frost.  Leaves of this plant remind you of ‘horsetail’ (Equisetum h.) thus the name equisetiformis—like horsetail.  That is the only thing like horsetail though, the bright coral blooms scream out for attention.

A tropical plant, Firecracker Plant has been hardy in the IDEA Garden for years.  Last year was the tell-all year and we were afraid we had lost it, but come back it did.  Maybe not with the vigor of preceding years, but unless we have a repeat of last winter, it should regain all lost ground.  Little coral ‘firecrackers’ are blooming now in our garden.  Hummingbirds like this plant especially if you can place it in a fairly high area.  Ours is in the Rainbow Garden area and right at the curb, a little low for the birds to get to.  It is in its zenith in fall after a long hot summer.  Heat is its greatest desire.  In past summers when we had heat extremes and were losing many of the normal plants, this little trooper just ‘smiled’ and rapidly grew, blooming more and more until struck down by the first freeze.

You can usually find Firecracker Plants in most nurseries from mid-summer on.  They demand full sun and good drainage.  In pots, they excel but will have to winter over inside.  If they can get established in the ground, they will perform year after year, getting larger and more floriferous all the time.

I saw a whiskey barrel planted with Firecracker Plant around the edge and an Esperanza (yellowbells) in the center—-totally awesome!  Not only was the color beautiful, but the constant activity of hummingbirds and butterflies made it seem to dance in the hot summer sun.  I saw another planted on a wall down in Houston where it made a dramatic curtain of coral as is cascaded down the side.  A hanging basket will work too, if you can remember to water it enough in summer.


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