The Texas State Master Gardener Annual Convention was partially held on Galveston Island last week, and I am in love again! I walked around Moody Gardens, gazed at lawns as we drove through neighborhoods, and marveled at the official city flower in bloom everywhere.
Ah! The Oleander!! Thousands of blooms on hundreds of shrubs used in all sizes, some small enough to be borders on beds, ranging to others as tall as a house and as big around as a car! The colors of the blossoms were breathtaking in shades of red, pink, yellow, white, coral, or fuchsia.
Native to the Mediterranean region, this shrub has so much going for it. It’s evergreen. It’s easy. It’s tough. It offers weeks of beautiful single or double flowers in a huge range of colors, and it prefers our alkaline soil. The only thing that holds it back is tenderness to cold. But especially hardy selections, such as ‘Hardy Pink’ and ‘Hardy Red,’ can be successfully planted and enjoyed for years to come as far north as Glen Rose, Texas. If shrubs are protected, planted on the south side of the house, for instance, and heavily mulched, they should withstand a limited duration of temps below 20 degrees. If all the branches die to the ground, the roots are probably still alive, and the fast-growing shrub will come back and bloom again in spring. There will be some unsightly dead limbs to cut back, but it doesn’t happen every year and it’s worth the effort to enjoy the oleander.
It’s poisonous! What? No! Yes, it is. It will make you sick if you eat it, so don’t eat it! Wear gloves when you trim it, and don’t burn the trimmings. The fumes are poisonous, too. Don’t worry. Apparently animals know. Deer won’t touch it. The leaves are tough and leathery – not a bit appetizing! Looking at it won’t hurt at all. Enjoy!