December 2020
Due to precautions related to Coronavirus (COVID-19), some programs and activities at Mercer Botanic Gardens may be curtailed, postponed, or canceled. Please contact Mercer before making plans.
Family Hike
At Mercer
 
Do you have what it takes to conquer the outdoors? Sign Mercer's Family Hiking Pledge and make a personal, family commitment to explore and hike the great outdoors next year.

End 2020 on a high note with a family stroll through Mercer’s forested trails on Tuesday, Dec. 29, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Meet at the East Side Gardens. 

Ring in 2021 with the first of many Family Hikes of the new year on Saturday, Jan. 9, from 10 a.m. to noon at the West Side Arboretum.

Each registered attendee can select a bamboo walking stick harvested from Mercer's bamboo collection (one bamboo stick per person). Trail maps and bottled water are provided. Registration is required by calling 713-274-4160.
Make a Spectacular Garden on a Budget

Gardens may require attention and care, but they shouldn’t burden you financially. Choosing where to build a garden, knowing the types of soil to use, and growing the right plants for your climate can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Whether you adore the practicality of fruit and vegetable gardening or the beauty of ornamentals, these tips will help you establish a thriving and budget-friendly garden.

Name That Flower

This native perennial of Texas and Louisiana grows in sunny areas of well-draining sandy loam.

It can grow up to 5 feet tall on wiry, soft, wand-like stems, which end in clusters of white flowers that slowly fade to pink and occasionally maroon.

Although some consider it a weedy plant, others love that it establishes colonies quickly and blooms reliably for three to four months.

Garden Nearly Year-round
In Southeast Texas
By Valerie Depew
Harris County Master Gardener

It's here – fall in Harris County, with the official start of winter just a few weeks away.

For most of the world, fall is a time for gardens to sleep as we plan for spring. But as others put their perennial beds under mulch and protective coverings, gardeners in southeast Texas are dressing up flower beds with colorful winter annuals and planting perennials for spring and summer color. 

Vivid flats of pansies, violas, dianthus, snapdragons, alyssum, cyclamen, and ornamental kale or cabbage look great tucked in masses in the landscape or used in containers to brighten a patio or yard. There is nothing better to enhance your home entrance than a fresh pop of winter color! Look for healthy transplants from your local nursery and plant them with extended-release fertilizer to keep them going strong. 

Late fall is also an excellent time for growing perennials and planting trees in Texas. When planted in fall, woody perennial herbs grow modestly through winter while establishing a healthy root system. 

Let's not forget about the herbs that thrive in colder weather, including parsley, oregano, thyme, lovage, lavender, mint, rosemary, and cilantro. These easy-to-grow plants are practical to have around all year in kitchens and porches!

Keep in mind that a freeze will still be deadly for some of the plants mentioned above, particularly some of the annuals and tender perennials. If the winter remains mild, then a cloth or appropriate cover will allow many plants to survive cold snaps.

Are you interested in learning more? Check out our reference guides below. These resources from the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service provide information on tree selection, planting, pruning, and care. They will also help you choose the right tree and decide where to plant it, plus provide tips for keeping it healthy.

Resource List:

Join us in 2021!

When it comes to maintaining an area as vast as Mercer, every volunteer matters. With more than 400 acres, Mercer relies on a team of volunteers to help manage its gardens, the Mercer Botanical Center, the Horticultural Propagation Center, and the Harris County Precinct 4 Prairie Dawn Preserve.

What's most impressive is that these volunteers contribute approximately 14,000 hours annually!
 
Starting in January 2021, monthly Mercer volunteer orientations will be available to those interested in assisting or learning more about Mercer. 
 
These orientations will be from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 7, Feb. 11, March 4, and April 8.

Learn how to become a Mercer Ambassador or help in Mercer's greenhouses, gardens, and Horticultural Propagation Center. Volunteer opportunities are open to those 16 and older or to those 12 to 15 with a parent. No experience is necessary, and training is provided. 
 
Mercer Ambassadors

Greet garden guests, answer frequently asked questions, and highlight upcoming events and activities. Registration required.
Shifts are available on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon or noon to 2 p.m. 
 
Mercer Greenhouse and Gardens
  
Work with staff horticulturalists and the greenhouse manager in the Children's, Vegetable, Shakespeare, Pollinator, and Endangered Species & Native Plant gardens. Shifts are available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. A volunteer application is required for first-time volunteers. 
 
Horticultural Propagation Center Volunteers

Assist the growing manager and volunteers with propagation, planting, grooming, pruning, weeding, and other greenhouse-related activities. The center is approximately one mile from Mercer Botanic Gardens. The following shifts are available Mondays through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon. A volunteer application is required for first-time volunteers. 

Docents: Children's and Adults 

Introduce visitors to the beauty and wonder of Mercer's flora and fauna. Lead groups with a maximum of 30 guests. Opportunities are available for field trips, socialization, and personal development. Onsite training is required. Shifts are available Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Tour times begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. A one-year commitment is required. 
  
To become a volunteer, fill out Mercer's volunteer application form here: www.hcp4.net/parks/mercer/volunteer. For more information, please call 713-274-4160 or send us an email at mercerbotanicgardens@hcp4.net.
Upcoming Events
 
Music in the Gardens
Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 10:30 a.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 10:30 a.m.

It’s Yoga Time: Family Yoga in the Gardens
Saturday, Dec. 5, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Women’s Restorative Hike
Tuesday, Dec. 8, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 22, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Virtual Lunch Bunch: Native Trees for Your Backyard
Wednesday, Dec. 9, at noon

Seed Ball Take-Home Craft
Friday, Dec. 11, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Sunday, Dec. 13, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Christmas Bird Count
Saturday, Dec. 19, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Keep Calm and Yoga in the Gardens
Saturday, Dec. 19, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Family Adventure Series: Morning Family Hike
Tuesday, Dec. 29, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

A Message From
Commissioner R. Jack Cagle
Thank you for reading this edition of Leaflet. I hope you learned something new about the services, activities, and programs Mercer offers to the community.

Please stay tuned for our next issue to learn more about Mercer events, activities, and news!