About Mary Kay Pope

Mary Kay is an asset to Backbone and a wealth of knowledge! Many customers come in and ask for her by name for all their plant questions. It's no wonder why, as Mary Kay has 43 years of experience in the horticulture field. She holds a B.S. in Horticulture from Ohio State University, and a TMCNP and a TCLP from Texas Association of Nurserymen, and a Specialist in Urban Trees Certification from Texas A&M.

Plant Fruit Trees NOW

I am sure you all have heard the old adage, “the best time to plant a tree was ten years ago!” Well, I am here to tell you that it is TRUE! Because some varieties of fruit trees can take a few years to give a good harvest, it is even more important to plant them AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Planting them in the fall gives them a jump-start for spring-their root system will be well on the way to becoming established, and better able to survive the Central Texas [...]

By |2018-01-08T13:36:42+00:00January 8th, 2018|Fruit & Nuts|

Asparagus Planting Guide

Plant asparagus roots or crowns in late winter/early spring (January-February in Central Texas). Prepare beds with heavy amounts of compost and organic fertilizer. We recommend using a mycorrhizal root inoculant (MicroLife 6-2-4 contains both fertilizer and microorganisms) at the time of planting, as this has been shown to greatly increase yields in asparagus. Be sure to plant in full sun (at least 8 hours) and make sure that the soil drains well. Because once asparagus gets started it becomes very well established and difficult to eradicate, you should plant asparagus [...]

By |2018-01-02T13:49:32+00:00January 2nd, 2018|Vegetable Gardening|

Poinsettia Care after Christmas

With any luck, your Poinsettias have made it through the holidays unscathed, and you are wondering what to do with them now. Many people treat them as a “seasonal” florist plant, discarding them and replacing them next year with new ones. However, if you hate throwing perfectly good plants away, you might be interested in learning how to keep your Poinsettia growing until next Christmas, and how to make it bloom again. Here are some steps to help you succeed: Locate a sunny window to grow your Poinsettia in until [...]

By |2017-12-26T13:36:01+00:00December 26th, 2017|Plants|

WINTER FLOWERS? Yes! CAMELLIAS!

Central Texas has very few plants which bloom in the winter. Azaleas bloom spring and fall, with some new varieties blooming all summer. Loropetalum blooms in February, as does Texas Scarlet Flowering Quince and Texas Redbud. But what about winter bloomers? Camellias come to us from eastern and southern Asia. One species, Camellia sinensis, is the plant from which our tea leaves come. The ornamental Camellias which do well in our area are Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica) and Sasanqua Camellia (Camellia sasanqua). The most familiar of the camellias is the [...]

By |2017-12-18T14:52:44+00:00December 18th, 2017|Plants|

What Makes Onions Bulb?

Have you ever planted onions, only to be disappointed in the size of bulb produced, or even have no bulbs produce at all? Here are some guidelines to ensure bulb production of onions in your garden. Choose the right variety: onions are characterized by the length of day required for them to produce bulbs. “Long-day” varieties will quit forming leaves and begin forming bulbs when day length reaches 14-16 hours. These varieties do better in the NORTHERN STATES. They are often the little onion “sets” you find at the box [...]

By |2017-12-11T10:53:43+00:00December 11th, 2017|Plants|

Protecting Your Plants in the Winter

Do you have a plan for keeping your tender plants alive this winter?  Are you wondering which plants will need protection? The first thing you need to know is what hardiness zone your plant is classified in. Is it zone 10, like the Bougainvillea? Or zone 9, like Lemon Grass? The hardiness zone determines the minimum cold temperatures that a plant will tolerate. It is just a guideline, however, as other factors will also need to be considered. A tender plant that is well established going into the winter will [...]

By |2017-12-04T17:31:45+00:00December 4th, 2017|Plants|

Caring For Your Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus is a tropical plant native to South and Central America. They are not actually a cactus. They grow in similar environments as epiphytic orchids, in the forks of tree limbs, where they grow in decayed leaves and other natural debris that accumulates there. When you bring your Christmas cactus home, it will most likely be in bud and bloom. To prevent bud drop, locate the plant in a humid environment, or place water in a saucer with gravel under the plant to increase humidity. Do not place them [...]

By |2017-11-27T16:44:27+00:00November 27th, 2017|Plants|

Poinsettia Care

Poinsettias are such a symbol of the Holidays, and can be kept fresh-looking longer with just a few easy care instructions. Locate your Poinsettia close to a bright window if possible. The bracts will continue to “color up” with sufficient light. If you are satisfied with the color, you may display the plant in a darker area, but be aware that the color may fade. Check the soil daily for water. When the surface of the soil is dry to the touch, or if the pot feels light, remove the [...]

By |2017-11-21T17:14:43+00:00November 21st, 2017|Plants|

Fall Harvests and Versatile Chard

Well, hopefully your fall vegetable garden is well underway, and you even have some greens to harvest and prepare. Keep an eye on those Cabbage Loopers! The little guys feed on the underside of the leaves of cabbage, broccoli, collards, brussels sprouts and other Cole crops at a time in the fall when the plants really need those leaves to produce carbohydrates for root and leaf growth. Continue using Bt or Spinosad weekly to control those little buggers! Swiss chard is not only a pretty plant that can be used [...]

By |2017-11-12T15:35:34+00:00November 12th, 2017|Vegetable Gardening|

Twig Girdlers

I came out one morning and my driveway was covered in the tips of the branches from my enormous Cedar tree. (Actually, what we call a Cedar in Central Texas is really an Ashe Juniper.) I picked up one of the fallen branch tips. It was about 3-4” long.  I examined the cut end of the twig. Yep. I could see the smoothly chewed groove that caused the twig to fall. It was Twig Girdler damage, all right! Twig Girdlers are small beetles that may cause disfiguring damage to many [...]

By |2017-11-06T16:45:44+00:00November 6th, 2017|Insects|

Trees for Fall Color

Fall color in tree leaves is determined by many factors. Any tree grown from a seed, such as an acorn, will have genetic variability in developing fall color. This is observed by watching our native “Spanish Oaks” as the leaves begin to turn in fall. Many will have beautiful red fall color, but we also observe some trees with leaves that simply turn brown and hang on the tree most of the winter…. What if I want to be SURE that a tree that I plant will have fall color? [...]

By |2017-11-01T13:12:36+00:00November 1st, 2017|Trees|

Japanese Maples in Central Texas

Fall is upon us, and many of us are looking for trees with brilliant fall color to enhance our landscapes. Japanese Maples can fill this need for color in the fall, with their dissected leaves giving contrast in texture as well. Japanese Maples can be an attractive addition to almost any landscape. To assure trees that thrive, locate your Japanese maple where it will receive dappled sun under the canopy of trees, with no more than two to three hours of morning sun. Japanese Maples will tolerate low winter temperatures [...]

By |2017-10-25T17:28:15+00:00October 25th, 2017|Trees|