Annuals offer flower power

Even though the weather is turning cold, you can still enjoy some flower power in the Titan Garden. Many people add color to their garden beds by planting annuals along with their perennials. Annuals are plants that last for one season, then die, typically with a change in season. There are warm and cool season annuals. Perennials are plants that lives for many years and is either evergreen or may die back to the ground but reemerge from roots in the next season.

There are some great cool season annuals that can be added to your garden bed; here are a few:

Alyssum: Low spreading plant. Many small fragrant white flowers fall-early summer. Sun/part shade. 6” high, 10” wide. Low maintenance.

Cyclamen:Low mound. Plant in fall for fall color. Shooting star like flowers in red, magenta, lavender, red-orange, pink or white, often with a red eye, in fall. Foliage frequently mottled. Light shade. 6-12” high, 9-12” apart. Take inside in winter; loses leaves in summer.

Dianthus: Perennial used as an annual. Single red, magenta, pink, or white flowers, some with dark circle around eye, in fall and again in spring. Sun/part shade.12-18” high, 12-16” wide.

Snapdragon: Upright plants. Tubular flowers in red, pink, lavender, salmon, apricot, yellow and white in fall and again in spring. Sun/part shade. 6-36” high, 6-10” wide.

Fall is also a great time to plant herbs, either from seed or plants. So consider planting herbs like cilantro and dill.

>Waiting for the big costume change…

>Over the past few weeks, there have been plenty of swallowtail caterpillars on our parsley at the elementary school garden. You can see at least 6 in this photo I took this morning. So a few days ago, the 2 year olds picked a few and brought them inside to live inside their butterfly house and watch them change into butterflies.

The kids have been picking them fresh parsley every day and have put two sticks inside for when they are ready to turn into a chrysalis.

And yesterday was the big day. The first caterpillar spun its cocoon…and the kids went wild. Alex was so excited about it, she could barely tell me what happened.

Here is a picture of the chrysalis hanging off of the stick. You can see the silk string which anchors it to the stick.

The kids have been taking close looks all day and today the smaller two year olds in the next class down went and got their caterpillars.

I am so glad to see them all so connected to the garden. The older kids (5 yo) always have because they go out to water and pick vegetables. But it is wonderful to see that even the littlest ones get excited by going out there, and can remember everything their teacher tells them about how caterpillars turn into butterflies.

You’re never too young to garden!

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>A garden tour not to be missed!

>FYI to all gardeners or those who need to be inspired to whip yours into shape. This weekend is the Inside Austin Gardens tour presented by the Travis County Master Gardeners, a wonderful tour showcasing 6 Austin gardens.

The theme this year is sustainable gardening for urban wildlife. All the gardens are National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitats attracting animals, hummingbirds and butterflies for the whole neighborhood to see and enjoy. The spaces are designed using native plants and sustainable gardening practices. There are 6 gardens on the tour, all maintained by the homeowners themselves. The event includes garden tours and educational seminars at each location, including: Gardening to Attract Birds; Plant Magnets for Butterflies and Hummingbirds; and Adapted & Native Plants in Your Landscape.

Tickets are $10 for all 6 gardens (or $5 per garden if you visit just 1) and can be purchased at any home on the tour. You can visit this website to view the brochure and see a map of where the gardens are located.

>October Bloom Day


My apologies to folks who saw my post before I had any text…or maybe it was more pleasant just perusing the pictures and not having to read my garden drivel. Anywho, I’m here now and ready to write!

Apparently all of the rain dancers, rants, raves and prayers of us Central Texans in the drought have been heard because we have been having some absolutely fantastic rains down here. Whatever type you may want. Torrential. Slow and steady. Misty. They have all visited us at some time or another in the past few weeks. And so the gardens have come back to life. Hot and cold temps (this week we have everything from the 60s to the 90s). But the plants love it. My morning glory and clematis on the trellises have returned and are showing off their variety of purple colors. Pink zinnias have been popping back up all over and moxing with the orange bulbine. The abutilon, with its delicate chinese-lantern type flowers is just starting to give some blooms, the first since I planted it. I am hoping for many more from this beautiful addition.

The native garden has really been filling in and some of the plants are even encroaching on the walkway. All the plants here are deer-resistant, an extremely important trait in my heighborhood. if you don’t have a fence around parts of your garden. Here you see the white allium going to seed in the front, with artemesia, bamboo muhley and salvias in the back.

Oh, my bat-faced cuphea. How I love you. Just had to take a shot of all the little bats staring out at me from the garden today. Aren’t they amazing? There must be 200 blooms on the plant right now.

An ornamental Pennisetum grass called “Fireworks” sets off the esperanza. I will be curious to see if the grass survives the winter as purple fountain grasses are questionable in their hardiness here.

Gulf muhley and Mexican bush sage set off the silver ponyfoot around my pig corral (with my little Buddha keeping his back turned to the pigs).

Gulf muhley, just gorgeous with moisture drops hanging off of it.
And finally, a parting shot of my little buddha, casting his blessing over the garden.

Let the gardening begin!

With the construction of the beds and delivery of the soil completed, the new Titan Gardens were ready for planting. To create a sample garden of native and adapted plants for Central Texas, the River Place Elementary PTA teamed up with the River Place Garden Club to plant two of the beds.

The gardening team chose a selection of herbs, perennials and annuals which have strong deer resistance, since we know how our local wildlife love to sample our garden beds like a buffet! Some of the plants they chose included miscanthus ornamental grass, society garlic, lamb’s ear, alyssum, mexican oregano, lion’s tail, and santolina among others. The goal was to show the variety of textues, colors and heights of plants that are available for planting in this area.

Thanks to all of the parents and volunteers who helped with the planting and we look forward to the kids and teachers seeing these two lovely beds as inspiration when they begin planting their beds. Please feel free to take a moment if you are up at the school to go out and see these beautiful plantings. With all of our recent rains, the plants should be settling in quite nicely!

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Your Outdoor Classroom

Titan Garden

The PTA is happy to announce the opening of the River Place Elementary gardens located on the SE corner of the campus, between the car drop off and main parking lots. With the support of Leander ISD and River Place Elementary administration, PTA volunteers have constructed 9 raised beds for use by the River Place students and teachers, in hopes of creating an additional learning opportunity, an outdoor classroom.

The PTA created these gardens to give teachers and students an opportunity to work together to enhance their curriculum, and to give students more opportunities to see how their academic learning applies to real life. Each grade level has the opportunity to plant and care for one raised bed.

Happy gardening!

Getting Started

What is Titan Garden?
River Place Elementary (RPE) Titan Garden consists of 9 raised beds constructed by PTA volunteers for use by the teachers and students at RPE. Each grade will be assigned one raised bed they can plant and maintain as they choose. There are a couple of extra beds for larger special projects and if you want to reserve those for a special seasonal project, please let us know. Currently 2 of these beds being sponsored by the River Place Garden Club. The beds all receive sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon, so choosing plants that can tolerate part shade is important. We do host a lot of deer in our area, so please be aware of that and do your best to choose deer-resistant plants. Because of the deer and the lack of full sun, vegetables may not be the best choice for planting in this location, but many herbs will work well. Consult our included plant lists for good plant choices.

Why did we create it?

The River Place PTA wanted to offer teachers and students additional opportunities to explore nature and have an outdoor learning environment. A garden can give classes a plethora of teachable moments such as interaction with nature, an emphasis on caring for living things, a focus on teamwork, and a sense of accomplishment when the gardens grow.

When is it available?
The gardens are open as of October 1, 2009. The River Place Garden Club and PTA have partnered together to plant the first two beds to kick off the opening of the gardens. You are welcome to take your class out to the gardens at any time. The plants have been labeled to make identification easier.

How do we move forward?
The PTA is funding a $20 per teacher budget to get started in buying plants. Each grade level will have a designated Garden Buddy to help with gardening activities as the teachers need them. In addition, the RPE PTA Gardening Committee stands ready to assist in whatever way we can help.

We have located a storage bin by the garden that contains trowels, a water hose and sprayer. The hook-up for the water spigot can be checked out from the front office to start the water flow for watering with the hose. If there are other supplies that you need, please contact Rebecca Cole at

We know it can be hard to get started on a project like this. So here are some recommended steps:

  • Meet with the other teachers in your grade level. You are encouraged to invite your Garden Buddies to attend – they are a good source of information.
  • Discuss what the goal of your grade’s garden will be. You will be provided a sheet on possible garden themes for some ideas.
  • Create a Garden Planning Sheet to help you design a planting and maintenance plan that will keep your garden happy and healthy.
  • If you have planting questions or concerns, please contact your Garden Buddy.

Ideas for Garden Themes

Butterfly garden
Blue Mistflower
Salvia coccinea
Indigo spires sage
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberose)
Mexican mint marigold

Texture and aroma garden
Lamb’s Ear
Mexican Feather Grass
Ornamental Grasses (small like Ruby Crystals)
Sweet pea

Herb garden
Lemon grass
Mint (spearmint, chocolate mint, lemon mint)
Society Garlic

Color garden
Snapdragons (various colors)
Marigolds (reds, oranges and yellows)
Artemisia (silver blue)
Salvias (various colors)

Pollinator garden
(attracts bees and other insects)

Society Garlic
Mexican Oregano
Blue Mistflower
Monarda (Bee Balm)

Wildflower Garden
Texas Bluebonnet
Black-Eyed Susan
Indian Blanket
Scrambled Eggs (corydalis)
White Gaura
Lemon Mint
Purple Coneflower
Butterfly Weed
Mealy Blue Sage
Tahoka Daisy
Pitcher Sage
Prairie Verbena
Mexican Hat

Gardening Tips & Maintenance

  • Once your gardening plan is made, you may purchase your plants/seeds wherever you like. Local nurseries will have the best knowledge of the plants and best selections. A list of local garden nurseries can be found at:
  • In general when buying plants, you are better off buying a small specimen of the desired plant (like 4” pot) If available rather than a large specimen (like a gallon pot) as the smaller plant will acclimate faster and start growing roots. Seeds are fine in most situations, but make sure they can be planted directly in the ground as opposed to starting indoors.
  • You can submit your receipts and check request form for reimbursement in the PTA box in the workroom. The form is located on the PTA website:
  • The beds are filled with a garden soil amended with compost. The soil is ideal for growing plants and we will amend it with compost every year to continue to add organic matter for the plants’ health.
  • Mulch should be applied about 2-3” thick around all plants once the beds are planted (supplied by PTA and left in storage bin). Should more mulch be needed, please contact:
    Rebecca Cole at
  • General watering recommendations are that beds should be watered 1x/week whether by rain or manually. There is a water outlet located under the orange ground-level lid just to the east of the beds. The hook-up spigot can be checked out from the front desk.
    • Pop off the orange lid with the screwdriver located in the storage bin
    • Lift the yellow cap
    • Attach the hook-up spigot and turn ¼ turn
    • Once hose from storage bin is attached to the spigot, open the circular valve on top of the spigot by turning it.
    • Please return hose to storage bin and spigot to front office after use.
  • Applications of organic fertilizer will be made every so often by PTA volunteers. If your garden has a special need for fertilizer, please let your gardening liaison know.