A tiger in the salvia


A butterfly as big as my hand fluttered along the streetside border, which is ablaze with the hot-pink flowers of autumn sage (Salvia greggii).


The yellow-and-black stripes are the distinctive markings of the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly.


Beating her wings nearly constantly as she fed, she flapped from flower to flower, drinking her fill.


Had the argiope spider still been lurking nearby in her web, I would have worried for this beautiful butterfly. But the argiope disappeared a week or two ago, leaving behind two egg sacs.


I watched the tiger swallowtail while she fluttered from blossom to blossom. Would I have been able to enjoy this beautiful sight if my yard consisted of a lawn with a few evergreen shrubs? No way.


I noticed that she was more attracted to the Salvia greggii than this mass of lantana and Salvia leucantha just a few steps (or flaps) away. I hope to see other butterflies filling up at this feeding station soon. Hummingbirds will fuel up for southbound migrations here too.


And here. Salvia guaranitica is a favorite of the hummers.

Are you seeing butterflies and hummingbirds in your garden right now? If so, which plants do they love best?

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Walls going up and paths going down


As with all landscaping projects, the stucco wall construction is taking longer than I expected, partly for the happy reason that we’ve had some rain, so no complaints about that. I am delighted with the work so far. The cinderblock walls have been mortared in place on concrete footers, and they’re being wrapped with wire mesh. Next step is the stuccoing.


Here’s one thing I love that I didn’t fully anticipate: the walls’ curvy embrace of our curvy pool, now that we have walls on both sides. I wanted the new walls for safety (the two existing patios at each end of the pool are elevated), for additional seating, and for year-round structure and color. But the shape echo is a nice bonus.


The taller middle wall at right is straight, however, for contrast and so that I have a little room to plant in front of it. I’m thinking of ‘Blonde Ambition’ grama against a red-orange wall. Can you see those blond-eyelash seedheads against it? I can.


I also love how, on the west end, the new wall joins the existing limestone wall to frame a view of the orange dragon pot. If we hadn’t had that late deep freeze last winter, the Mexican weeping bamboo behind the pot would be as tall as the fence and arching beautifully over the pot. Oh well.


As the walls go up, a new limestone path under the live oaks is being laid. This area is thick with oak sprouts (suckers from the live oaks), and in an attempt to get some usability here I resorted to heavy-duty weedcloth under a packed gravel base for the flagstones. Because it’s not mortared, water and air can still get through to the tree roots. We will see how long it takes the oak sprouts to wiggle their way to freedom in the cracks between the stones. The crew got creative here, riffing on all the circular shapes in my back garden, and added a subtle sun design to the center of the path. Can you see it?

The path leads to steps to the lower garden…


…which were formerly laid (by me) from smaller flagstones I found in the yard when I moved in. But NOW — well, just look at these big, beautiful limestone steps.


For scale, and to better appreciate the muscle that goes into this kind of work, here are the guys preparing to move a slab from street level down to the lower garden. At least it’s downhill!

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Oxblood lily ribbon of red and ruellia reticence


The oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) atop the retaining wall in the back garden are in full, crimson bloom, and that red ribbon makes me so happy when I step out to view it in the warm afternoon light.


This cluster is growing amid the spiny arms of soap aloe (Aloe maculata). Hmm, these will be tricky to divide one day.


Actually most of these bulbs are growing alongside spiny, tough lovelies, like ‘Bright Edge’ yucca. I particularly like this pairing, with the yucca’s yellow stripes echoing the oxblood’s yellow eye.


Lots of lilies!


Though not native to Texas, they are Texas tough. This is one bulb every Southern garden should have. But just so you know, the deer love to eat the ones I’ve tried out front.


If only this praying mantis was big enough to catch a few deer. Hmm, but then it would be big enough to catch me. Nevermind! I’ll stick with the deer.

I have a question for you about the tall ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana) in which it’s hunting. I bought this plant last October and have it in a container on my shady front porch. It bloomed beautifully last fall, but this year, nada. Not one flower. It has pushed up plenty of new growth, so it seems happy enough, but I’m not. I’d love any suggestions you might have.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.