Owl’ll be watching you


After weeks of live oak litter, first leaves and then pollen catkins, and weeks of me raking, blowing, and bagging, the garden is finally visible again. Sunday evening I went outside with no expectation of doing any spring chore: no clean-up, no pruning, no planting, no mulching, no nothing. It was blissful.


The soap aloes (Aloe maculata) are blooming, which is always special. They’ll do this about three times each growing season.


I like how they echo the new orange Hover Dish hanging from the crepe myrtle.


I thought it would be fun to plant it with Texas sedge, and now that it’s long and shaggy I’m enjoying the way it dangles its fiber-optic seedheads. Columbine and rain lilies are jammed in there too. I don’t know if the columbine is going to do anything this year.


Another wide view, with lots of blue, orange, and yellow-green


Looking left, the new stucco walls are totally working the space, with the gray wall echoing the curve of the stock-tank pond in the foreground.


Descending to the lower garden along the back fence, I stopped to ogle a bloom spike — the first ever! — on the Acanthus mollis. Those lustrous leaves are pretty fine also. I planted it 4 or 5 years ago, and it’s always either been blighted early by drought and heat or else frozen to the ground in winter, returning too late to bloom before summer’s heat sets in. But last fall I planted a black beautyberry nearly on top of it, and I guess it got the message that it better start strutting its stuff if it wants to keep a place in the garden.


Moving along the stepping-stone path, which leads under the arching branches of a Mexican buckeye, I stopped again to admire the new Yucca rostrata framed by a wine-colored loropetalum and a trio of pots filled with succulents.


Here’s the blue monolith wall from behind. That’s Moby atop the stone wall in the background.


Moving along to the hilly side garden, I realized I haven’t taken a picture of this year’s ‘Etoile Violette’ clematis flowering. The blooms are a bit shriveled from the recent heat…


…but still pretty.


The older Yucca rostrata is growing tall and shaggy. I’m contemplating pruning up the lower leaves to expose the trunk. But probably laziness will win out. Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) blooms at its feet.


Here’s a new acquisition I don’t think I’ve shown: a weeping ‘Traveller’ redbud, which I ordered from Vivero. It arrived after the spring bloom, so that’s something to look forward to next year. According to grower Greenleaf Nursery, ‘Traveller’ grows to 5 feet tall with a spread of 5 to 12 feet.

Dan Hosage of Madrone Nursery discovered this weeping variety of the native Texas tree. He named it ‘Traveller’, according to Madrone’s website, in honor of Robert E. Lee’s horse and in tribute to his alma mater, Washington and Lee University.


A garden stroll wouldn’t be complete at this time of year without checking in with Papa Screech Owl, who hangs out during the day in a ligustrum just behind the back fence.


Evening was setting in, and he was waking up and probably thinking about breakfast for himself and the missus.


What a handsome fellow!


There was plenty of other bird activity as well, including this insistently chirping juvenile cardinal. She looked quite big enough to feed herself…


…but Papa was waiting nearby with a tasty snack.


“Feed me!”


“Come to the dinner table, missy!”


“But I’m playing!”


Cosmo and I watched these antics until it was time to get dinner ourselves. And oh yes, Cosmo is certain I had the walls built just for his lounging pleasure.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Rock Rose garden abloom before the hailstorm


Two weeks ago my friend Jenny Stocker, blogger at Rock Rose and gardener extraordinaire, offered me a division of a water iris for my pond. When I arrived, mid-morning on a sunny, warm day, Jenny gave me a tour and then kindly set me loose to wander around on my own and take photos.


I’ve photographed Jenny’s England-meets-Texas garden on several occasions (links at the end), and I never tire of it. Her talent with design — although she’ll swear that everything just self-seeds, and she’s had little to do with it — means there are focal points and framed views galore, making her garden not only beautiful to explore in person but very photogenic.


When Jenny leads visitors around her garden, she always starts in the front courtyard and works her way around the side of the house, through the rose garden, and into the sunken garden pictured here. Stepping into the riotously blooming garden of native and cottage wildflowers induces oohs and ahhs, especially in springtime.


I’m going to give you the tour in reverse order, partly for a change of pace but also as a tribute. You see, Jenny’s garden was slammed by a hailstorm 5 days after I visited. The hail, which merely pockmarked my agaves in northwest Austin, unleashed its fury on southwest Austin and pounded flat her tender annuals, vegetables, and succulents. It broke glass ornaments and shredded the new, green leaves from the live oaks, strewing them across the ground like confetti. The sunken garden was especially hard hit.


A week later, she’s philosophical about the damage, knowing the shrubs, roses, and trees will rebound quickly, already seeing new growth on perennials, and hopeful that plenty of dormant wildflower seeds remain in the soil to emerge next spring. After all, her plants are Texas tough, and the natives especially are adapted to these destructive weather events.


It was painful to hear of her losses, and I’ve held off on posting these pre-hail pictures, worried they wouldn’t bring her any pleasure. But at a blogger get-together last Saturday, she assured me that she was fine and encouraged me to post. So here they are, with a reminder to enjoy moments of beauty whenever you see them.


The potager, abloom with Verbena bonariensis, poppies, and bluebonnets


The verbena seemed to be poking its flowery head above the wall separating the potager from the sunken garden for a better view.


I love this vignette of agaves clustered in a shallow, square planter atop a sturdy pedestal, with Mexican feathergrass and salvia billowing around.


Along one tan stucco wall, pine cones are strung on a wire for a casual, charming decoration.


Jenny has a flair for potted arrangements. Doesn’t the succulent in the center look like a miniature saguaro?


Austin is famous for its bat colony, and every Austin garden should have a few as well.


The spiniest plants have the most glorious flowers.


The view across the sunken garden. A doorway in a monumental wall frames the view…


…of a rose garden laid out in a circular design.


Round pavers lead around the central, circular bed of roses and bluebonnets.


I spotted an anole hunting amid the foliage, and he boldly posed for a photo.


Moving around the side of the house, you enter a small, walled garden of evergreen shrubs and vines. A pair of green umbrellas provides shade.


A handsome, silver dyckia shines against a backdrop of fig ivy.


Jenny has many unique pieces of garden art, including this circular ceramic hanging on a wooden gate.


On the door into her walled front courtyard, a rat-tail cactus (I think) cascades from a wall planter.


A variegated Agave desmettiana adds a sculptural accent by the door. Jenny moves these beautiful but tender agaves into the garage in winter.


Stepping through the doorway you see a large potted aloe and contemporary wall art.


A substantial arbor shades the garden entrance…


…but the garden itself basks in sunshine. Gravel mulch offers the perfect habitat for a carpet of bluebonnets in springtime.


A Lady Banks rose smothers the wall at left, while on the right, like an island amid a sea of flowers, an umbrella shelters a table for two.


A millstone-style fountain bubbles quietly nearby, offering an invitation to birds and other garden creatures. Lapped by pastel river rock, a lovely ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave lifts its arms toward the sun.


Welcoming visitors at the front door, a yellow star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) wafts its sweet fragrance into the house.


I smiled to see this bobble-handed Queen Elizabeth waving benignly in the breeze — a nod to Jenny’s English heritage?

My thanks to Jenny for sharing her garden with me again, and for the water iris, which bloomed for me the very next day. As for the hail, I hope she’s already seeing nature’s quick recovery underway in her garden.

For more posts about Jenny’s garden:
Jenny Stocker’s English Texas gravel garden
Feeding the soul in Jenny’s garden
Jenny’s flower-licious walled garden
Meeting Carol & a tour of Jenny Stocker’s garden

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Classical beauty with a modern edge in Sprout’s Rollingwood Garden


I’ve been fortunate this spring to visit a number of new-to-me gardens. One of my favorites is this one, the creation of talented landscape architect Jackson Broussard of Sprout. Located in the Rollingwood neighborhood, the garden is a refresh of an existing garden that, according to Jackson, had plenty of cottage color but not much structure or interest once the flowers faded.


To provide structure and year-round appeal, Jackson carved out space for a dining patio in the heart of the garden. Low limestone walls define the space and offer extra seating as well as a place to display potted plants (see top picture). In the center, a farmhouse table and chairs invite relaxation and al fresco dining. The space is roofed with an arbor of four Bradford pears espaliered to a metal frame — reminiscent of Deborah Hornickel’s Bradford pear arbor. Jackson explained that the ornamental pear’s flexible limbs and fast growth make it well suited to espalier.

The double line of trees, walls, and long table lead the eye straight to an overscaled terracotta urn elevated on a circular plinth and framed by a striking cluster of powder-blue Yucca rostrata. It’s a stunning composition.


The structure and openness of the dining patio — amid a lushly planted garden — draws the eye wherever you stand. Here’s the view from the back gate, looking across a tapestry-style shade garden.


And a little closer, with roses in the foreground


Those yuccas, though! They’re like blue fireworks exploding above blooming aloes and poppies. The brick wall at the end of the path separates the garden from the pool patio behind the house. The seclusion creates a secret-garden mood.


Entering the garden from the gate by the house, the urn is the focal point.


Throughout the flowering perennials and annuals, evergreens like blue nolina (Nolina nelsonii) add structure and beauty that doesn’t fade away in winter.


More blue nolinas mingling with poppies, roses, and iris. Italian cypresses add vertical punctuation.


Poppies along the path


And looking the other direction


A metal raven holds a colored stone in its beak atop a round pedestal, with blue nolina leaves in the foreground.


Flowering roses add romance and spring color.


Curving along the back of the garden, the path is edged with pink phlox and false foxglove penstemon (I think) Chinese foxglove (Rehmannia elata). A clipped boxwood in a terracotta pot makes a classical accent.


A close-up of the false foxglove penstemon Chinese foxglove


The main path bisects the garden, with the shade tapestry and pear-arbor patio on the left and the sunny flower garden on the right.


The shade garden is spectacular, with a lushness usually reserved for more-temperate climates. Red amaryllis blazes in the foreground.


Shades of green, with a pop of red, and a killer focal point


Dwarf Japanese maple, persicaria, and leopard plant make up the tapestry of foliage in the shade garden, with amaryllis sprinkled throughout, some in bud and some in flower.


The back gate offers a sneak peek of the garden inside.

My thanks to the owners and to Jackson Broussard of Sprout for allowing me to visit and share this beautiful garden with you!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.