The Bayou Planting Guide: Updated and Ready to Help Save Houston

When I lived in Mississippi on the edge of undeveloped land, our family spent a lot of time and effort beating back the kudzu during the year. We were beating it because it couldn't be killed. At least we never figured out how.

Kudzu was one of those well-meaning efforts to improve upon nature. Years earlier, as the story goes (and I believe it because I had a friend there who said he did this as a kid) Boy Scouts had been sent out to fight off erosion with this handy dandy import, planting it along fields and streams and everywhere a little green was needed. Turns out, as most people now know, kudzu is incredibly invasive and chokes the life out of native plants. It was a great bad idea.

In Houston, through the ages, we've made a habit of trying to improve upon nature as well, as Terry Hershey, co-founder of the Bayou Preservation Association, notes in her forward to the second and latest edition of The Bayou Planting Guide for Houston. And the results have been calculated in increased flooding and lost opportunities. We thought bayous weren't that important. Now we've changed our minds about that. And now, we could use a little help in putting things back together.

The Bayou Planting Guide tells Houstonians how to go native -- how to plant trees, vine and plants that are native to this area. It tells you how to plant and how to keep things going.

For instance: Did you know that you DON'T want to put that special soil you bought from the garden store around the roots of a native tree that you're replanting on a bank? According to the guide:

"Do not add improved soils around the sides of the root ball. Improved soils below ground level can lead to root rotting since they often contain more moisture-retentive organic matter thatn the surrounding native soils."

And "aggressive and non native" plants to avoid?

Sapium sebiferum (Chinese tallow), Lingustrum sinese (Chinese privet) Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria) and Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle).

Although centered on the bayou setting, a lot of the advice can be extended to backyards. Colorful photographs help tell a reader what a plant or tree looks like with accompanying detail on where it will do best and to what height it will grow.

For more information call 713-529-6443 or visit bayoupreservation. org.

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