Hello, winter — you’ve zapped my garden


Hello, winter! We’re not used to seeing you here in Central Texas. Despite predictions of a mild winter, with the warming influence of a La Niña, we’ve already had two multi-day stretches of hard freezes, with a couple of nights dropping into the upper teens.


The result? Brown, brown, brown plants. Semi-melted agaves and aloes. Tender succulents reduced to mush. (Notice the potted ‘Monterrey Frost’ squid agave looks great though!)


Considering that my garden didn’t have a single hard freeze last winter, this has come as a shock, not only to my marginally hardy plants but to my eyes. I’m not used to seeing so much brown. And I have to admit that I don’t like it.


Oh, the natives are fine, of course. They can take temperature extremes in stride. The Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) on the left still looks green and happy. So do certain exotics, like pale pavonia (Pavonia hastata) and ‘Sparkler’ sedge. But bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) and foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri), both of which I rely on heavily because they thrive in dry, dappled shade and deer don’t touch them, have become as dry and bleached as straw. I can only hope they’ll come back from the roots.


It’s the same story with Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’). Mushy and brown.

If you’re wondering, yes, I cut back the dianella in the front garden because I couldn’t stand its straw-like ugliness near the front door. But generally I recommend waiting on cutting back until mid-February to give roots a little protection, to avoid stimulating early growth that could get zapped by another freeze, and to give shelter to wildlife.


In the back garden, the stand of Mexican honeysuckle, usually green all winter, is blackened and sad.


Even my normally winter-hardy ‘Jaws’ agave shows some bleached-out freeze damage.


This is when yuccas really shine, like these ‘Color Guard’ yuccas. Winter weather doesn’t faze them. Let’s sing the praises of ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood too, impervious to polar vortexes. Gah, the poor bamboo muhly behind the yuccas, though.

I’m sure those of you in colder climates are finding it hard to sympathize. What can I say? Mild winters are surely our reward, here in Texas, for putting up with blistering summers, right? RIGHT??


Ah well. Spring is already stirring here in Austin, as the Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) shows. By mid-February new growth will be glowing green throughout the garden, and winter clean-up will begin in earnest.

This is my January post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness — or ugliness — is happening in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The first talk with Scott Ogden has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Deer antlering damage to my agave


The bucks have been at it again this winter, rubbing their antlers on agaves, yuccas, hesperaloes, and small trees throughout my neighborhood. I always cage my small possumhaw holly in early fall through early spring, but I was hoping I could get away with less structural deterrents (sprays and wireless deer fencing) for the woody lilies, like this ‘Green Goblet’ agave. Alas, no. Truly, the buck stops here.

So we pulled the rolled wire out of the attic, and I’ve belatedly wrapped this agave and a mangled giant hesperaloe. Note to self: do NOT wait until October next year!


The deer are pests, but still, I do feel sorry for this guy. I’ve been reading about him since early December on our neighborhood Facebook page, and last week we spotted him moseying down our street, with a net and a pole tangled in his left antler. How in the world he managed to do this to himself, no one knows. But according to the FB comments from concerned neighbors, the game warden and local wildlife groups say nothing can be done unless he drops from exhaustion, which doesn’t seem likely considering he’s still active and looks healthy after more than a month. Bucks drop their antlers in late winter or spring, so hopefully he’ll be free soon.


In my walks around the neighborhood, I’ve marveled that certain agaves, like this variegated one in a hell strip one street over, seem to escape deer damage every year. Maybe it’s just not on the usual deer paths.


The ‘Jaws’ agave by my front door has so far escaped antlering damage, perhaps because of proximity to the house or because I spray it with deer repellent from time to time. And the toothless sotol in the tall pipe is safe because of its height, and maybe would be anyway because its leaves are so pliable — i.e., less tempting to deer.


The deer are a pain. But thank heavens I don’t have elephants wandering around the garden.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The first talk with Scott Ogden has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Garden bloggers, let’s meet up at the Capital Area Fling!

Fellow garden bloggers, now that the holidays are behind us and before the fever of spring planting season begins, it’s time to make your reservation to attend the 10th annual Garden Bloggers Fling, hosted June 22-25, 2017, in the Capital Region, which includes Washington, DC, northern Virginia, and Maryland.

What is Garden Bloggers Fling, you ask? The Fling is an annual meet-up of garden bloggers in a different city each year, hosted by fellow garden bloggers who want to share their city or region with us! Flingers get to visit lots of gardens (daily transportation by bus is included); meet and socialize with other bloggers during lunches and dinners; make connections and do some professional networking (if you want); fill your camera’s memory card with photos for future blog posts; win raffle prizes donated by sponsors; learn about gardening in a different part of the country, or see new gardens in your own region, if you’re local; and make new friends who share your passions for gardening and blogging.


We’re an obsessive but friendly bunch.


If you’ve never attended a Fling, don’t worry, you’ll fit right in!


Sometimes we even get a little crazy.


Tammy Schmitt of Casa Mariposa (pictured in the red scarf) is planning this party, and she’s put together an exciting itinerary for us that includes visits to the U.S. Botanic Garden and other gardens along the National Mall, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Maryland, a winery nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and numerous private gardens.

Who will you meet there? Here’s the growing list of attendees, with bloggers from Connecticut to California, Toronto to Texas, and even England. Won’t you add your name to the list and join us? Click here to register, and get your spot before they’re all gone!

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The first talk with Scott Ogden has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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