Although the sun is bright and Austin is getting the warmth it so often is used to, plant are feeling the effects of the deep freeze.
Whether you have a tree that has been suffering since the snow hit Austin or indoor plants that did not receive enough sunlight, plant experts in town have the best advice to give your plants the best likelihood of living.
Austonia spoke to local garden expert Diana Kirby on advice for plant owners. Kirby emphasized plants are still in danger of frost, regardless of the end of the winter storm, and encourages patience with all plants. Pruning plants immediately after Winter Storm Uri can subject plants to further damage if there is another freeze.
Plant owners should keep a close eye on their plants until the end of March. If you have a hard time finding greenwood on shrubs or perennials, cut them back to the base and give your plant time to grow. According to Kirby, since this new freeze was a new experience to the Austin area, a lot of plants that could usually survive Texas winter have died all around, such as Rosemary.
"If you have already pruned, and we have another frost, you need to take extra precautions with those plants," Kirby said. "If you think some plants have survived, wait to prune."
When it comes to Yucca, Nolinas and a few Agave plants, they will survive if they have a firm central crown. You can also determine the health of your palm trees and Sago palms by checking the crown in the center of the plant. If the center is not rotten, cut off all leaves, have patience and it should grow back healthy.
Here are some other tips from Garden Seventeen, a greenhouse and garden store located at 604 Williams St., on best ways to take care of your plants following Winter Storm Uri.
For tropicals, cacti and other indoor plants:
1. Check for damage on plants such as wrinkling, browning, yellowing or wilting by feeling the stem. If it feels soft, cut down to where plants feel most solid. Any browning of discolorations means that you need to cut back further.
2. Fertilize your plants using a plant vitamin solution or fertilizer such as SUPERthrive or Rose Glo, as well as using liquid seaweed at the next watering cycle. Biomatrix is also an option to help stimulate roots and encourage new growth.
3. Give it time. Watch your plants to see if any new growth appears in the spring to determine if it's healthy.
For outdoor landscaping and potted plants:
1. Cut back shrubbery by no more than ⅓ of the plant's overall size and fertilize.
2. Cut perennials down to ground level and fertilize the plant.
3. Trees that began to bud before the storm may not bloom again this spring such as mountain laurel, fruiting trees, etc.
4. For younger trees, any branches that are bent should be removed.
5. To find out if a woody plant is alive, carefully scrape the bark with a knife. If it shows green, the plant is still alive and healthy.
6. Cut back damaged areas from container plants that were left outside and water using fertilizer.
7. Give it time. Watch your plants to see if any growth appears in the spring to determine if it's healthy.
Plant experts recommend these fertilizers:
- Microlife 6-2-4 for perennials, trees and shrubs.
- Rose Glo or SUPERthrive for annuals, vegetables, herbs, container plants, houseplants, cacti and succulents.
- Liquid seaweed for "anything and everything."
Although taking these steps does not ensure the survival of the plant, it will help drastically and give it the best chance possible. The best way to see if your plants will make it is to wait and observe new growth in the spring. Fertilizing indoor and outdoor plants is the most important step, and directions should be followed to lower the risk of burning the plant.
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A $500 million mixed-use development spanning 1,400 acres is coming to Southeast Austin, near Tesla’s headquarters at Giga Texas.
Plans for the development by Houston-based real estate firm Hines include 2,500 houses along with multi-family and townhomes, and commercial land. Hines is partnering with Trez Capital, Sumitomo Forestry and Texas-based Caravel Ventures.
The development, which is known as Mirador, will be located off the 130 Toll and Highway 71, which the developers say provides easy access to the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 racetrack and other Austin attractions like restaurants, parks and live music venues.
Hines also boasts amenities like a 60-acre lake, over 600 acres of greenbelt, community parks, trails and a swimming pool.
“As Austin continues to grow into the tech epicenter of Texas, coupled with a supply-constrained market, the demand for new housing is at its highest,” Dustin Davidson, managing director at Hines, said. “Mirador will be critical in providing more options for Austin’s growing population and we are excited to work alongside our partners given they each provide a unique and valued perspective in single-family development.”
The local housing market has been hot in recent years, with home sales accelerating earlier in the pandemic. In July 2021, the Austin metro area hit its pricing peak at $478,000. As Austonia previously reported, the area has been expected to see the Tesla effect, with the new workforce driving up demand for housing and other services.
The single-family houses are expected to be developed over the course of six years, in phases. Construction on the homes is expected to start this year and home sales will begin in 2023.
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Editor's note: This story summarizes Sports Illustrated's story detailing Michael Center's involvement in the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, based on interviews with SI's Jon Wertheim. Additionally, Austonia received comments from Michael Center, included in this story.
Confined to his couch, former Longhorns tennis coach Michael Center praised his players via FaceTime after the program he built produced the Longhorns’ first national championship in 2019—a bittersweet moment as Center faced federal charges as part of the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal.
His name dragged through the mud, Center was fired, arrested by the FBI and sentenced to six months in a Central Texas federal prison after pleading guilty to two charges related to mail fraud. And over a year after his release, Center told Sports Illustrated he doubts he was the only one in burnt orange involved.
When the Varsity Blues scandal broke out to the public in 2019, the investigation was a perfect storm for nationwide attention: Hollywood glamour, blue blood conspiracy and faith in the tried-and-true American education system came to a head as 33 movie stars and other elites were found guilty of paying more than $25 million to pave their children’s way into eight colleges, including the University of Texas.
UT was one of eight schools caught in the college admissions scandal. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
The figure behind Varsity Blues, “college consultant” Rick Singer, would plead guilty to four felony counts for faking SAT scores and bribing coaches at prominent universities for his elite clients—but not before throwing Center under the bus.
Singer's client, private equity executive Chris Schaepe, was looking for a way to bend UT's tight admissions policies for his son, who was seeking a position oddly as a manager on UT’s basketball team. Through a middleman, Singer contacted Center, who eventually agreed.
Schaepe's son hadn't played tennis since his freshman year of high school. It was a detail that Center says passed through plenty of hands before he was admitted, including "academic support staff, the compliance office, the sports supervisor and, ultimately, the athletic director," SI's Jon Wertheim writes.
No one in the entire athletic department, including seven "risk management and compliant services department" employees, was named, implicated or punished. After an internal investigation, Center was the only one named in the Varsity Blues "subterfuge" in a September 2019 UT news release signed by the university president.
He told Austonia he was never contacted by the university during the investigation, and when the NCAA interviewed him for its investigation, he says it cleared him of any violations.
“I almost fell out of my chair,” Center said. “I literally couldn’t breathe. There’s no college coach in America—much less at a state school, much less a coach of a nonrevenue sport—who can admit an athlete without consulting other people in the athletic department. What they were asking people to believe, it’s just impossible.” SI said Center's assertion was backed by multiple UT coaches and administrators at other schools.But why would the Forty Acres be complicit?
Center said UT’s then newly named athletic director Steve Patterson made clear that Center suddenly was responsible for more than building a successful tennis program. He was to be a "fundraiser first and coach second" and he would need to find donors to fund a new tennis facility. Patterson admitted to SI that he wanted his coaches to find donors and said the department was "$15 million in the red" when he started in 2013, though he denies any knowledge of the false tennis recruitment.
Center said he knew he would be "considered a team player" if he let in the son of a Silicon Valley magnate. And sure enough, Schaepe immediately began pulling out his wallet, donating $100,000 to UT tennis and a six-figure check to the school's communication program.
"I never entered this as a way to profit. This was a fundraising mission where I made a terrible mistake at the end,"
Months after Schaepe's son was admitted, Center agreed to meet Singer at the Austin airport and found himself accepting a backpack filled with $60,000 in cash meant for him, personally. He said he immediately knew he had made a mistake. He told SI “I put the money in my basement and gave most of it away.”
“Why did I do it?” Center told Sports Illustrated. "I go to bed and wake up each day asking myself the same question. I had to convince myself that I somehow deserved the money."
Once in court, Center showed texts with UT's compliance official and mentioned Chris Plonsky, a department executive involved in "overseeing men’s tennis, compliance, academic support (which generates letters of intent) and the Longhorn Foundation," according to SI.
“I knew I had to answer for my guilt,” Center said. “But I was like, 'Man, schools are going to get hammered.'"'
INMATE 77806-112 but out on Sunday: Actor Felicity Huffman in prison uniform outside low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin to visit actor husband William H. Macy & their daughter. Huffman admitted to paying $15K to have fixer boost daughter’s SAT score. 📸: @TMZ pic.twitter.com/9jALmqnA0U
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) October 21, 2019
But Center was the only Longhorn to go down for the crimes. “I was no rogue actor,” Center said. “And this wasn’t my word against their word. There were signatures that went along with it. That’s the system... There wasn’t one point in the process where I thought people wanted to learn the whole truth.”
Back at home in Austin, Center watched as actress Felicity Huffman served just eleven days for her part in the scandal. Some served up to five months; others simply paid a fine, and others, like Singer, await sentencing.
And because the prosecution chose to blame individual coaches, framing schools as victims in the case, universities like UT have received less than a slap on the wrist for their possible involvement.
“I was always taught that actions have consequences,” Center said. “What I’ve come to realize is that, yes, for some people actions absolutely do have consequences. Serious, heavy ones. For others, actions can have no consequences at all.”
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