New galvanized wall planters hold succulent cuttings


Spring fever has hit! For me, that manifests as refreshing my many pots of succulents, some of which have been inside all winter, others huddled against the house, and others (too big to move) left to weather as they will. If they took a winter hit, I’m not afraid to rip them out and start over. After all, succulents last a long growing season here in Austin, and it’s worth it to buy a few new 4-inch pots each spring to freshen up winter-weary containers.

Even more fun, I’ve been creating new containers with cuttings from winter-hardy succulents that needed a trim, tucking in a few new plants and decorative accents. Kitschy, fairy-garden flamingos stalking through a succulent jungle? Heck, yeah!


But let’s start with the planter. I found three galvanized wall planters at Target a couple of weeks ago, lying forlornly on a back-corner shelf before all the other spring garden stuff came out for display. I’d seen these online and coveted them, but they weren’t available for shipping, and Target’s website indicated there were only a few left in stock at various stores. So I wasn’t expecting to find them, but then I did! At only $8.99 each, I snapped up all three. (And no, I’m not getting paid to promote these. I just like them.) They look like deep-dish pizza pans to me.


The pots didn’t have drainage holes, so I used a hammer and nail to punch a few holes in the bottom of each one. Then I filled them up with cactus/succulent potting soil (you can buy it by the bag at most nurseries), tucked in a few cuttings from my succulents (let them harden off a few days after you cut them, before planting, to avoid rot), topped them with a thin layer of small gravel, and voila! So. Easy.


The copper-and-glass sun and the flamingos came from The Natural Gardener‘s gift shop. Anything can work for an artful or playful accent, though. Maybe a plastic dinosaur? A small Buddha figurine? A vertical piece of driftwood?


Succulents can easily be pulled out and refreshed with new cuttings when they grow too big or get leggy. In our hot climate, be sure to place them in dappled shade or morning sun only. Afternoon sun can fry them.


Here’s where I hung them, over my new galvanized potting bench, also from Target, which I assembled and placed in my side yard. After years of potting over a low table, I’m loving having this taller potting station, and my back is thanking me too. I’ve stashed potting supplies in a couple of galvanized pails with lids, and I’ll be rotating plants and pots through here all spring.

In fact, I’m going outside right now to do a few more pot refreshers. Spring feverrrrrr!

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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 upcoming talk with James deGrey David 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. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Container gardens at Vivero to banish the winter blues


I popped in at Vivero Growers in far southwest Austin last week and was smitten by their beautiful container plantings, like this absolutely stunning succulent pot. The owner tells me her niece created it while working at the nursery last summer. Of course they’ve protected it from our freezes this winter, but clearly cool weather agrees with these plants, which include aloe, sedum, echeveria, graptopetalum, and crassula (I think).


A close-up of succulents nestling together


By the greenhouse door, this container caught my eye, with lady slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) as the “thriller,” pink-flowering pelargonium (geranium) as the “filler,” and silver ponyfoot as the “spiller.” If you want to replicate it, lady slipper and silver ponyfoot will work year-round (with some freeze protection), but you’ll have to sub out the pelargonium once our weather heats up.


Here’s an easy plant for year-round enjoyment, come summer heat or winter freeze (in Austin’s zone 8b anyway): toothless sotol, also known as Mexican grass tree (Dasylirion longissimum). This is the plant I have in a steel-pipe container, and it grows beautifully if planted in fast-draining soil, given lots of sun, and basically left alone.


Did you know you can carve a design in a prickly pear pad? A star has been carved into this one for a Texas-style accent.

Vivero has many other beautiful containers and plants for sale, so if you need to banish the winter blues — although our winter weather has been pretty perfect lately! — head on down to see for yourself.

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. Subscribers get 24-hour advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

A little winter greenery, and trying to find a plant I love


It’s been raining since last Friday, so I thought I’d share a few garden pics taken before the deluge. This is one of my favorite combos for winter and indeed all year long (clockwise from top): ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia, Everillo sedge (Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’), and ‘Sparkler’ sedge. (The glossy leaves on the right are holly fern.)

‘Soft Caress’ mahonia stays low, about 2 feet high and wide, and the sedges are even smaller, making for a lovely foundation-height combo for shade or light morning sun. ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia has been nibbled by deer in other parts of my front yard, although not here next to the house. If you have a serious deer problem, it’s probably not bulletproof. The sedge has been very deer-safe for me.

This combo has been so successful and admired by visitors that I’d like to replicate it in other parts of my garden. Alas, while ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia is relatively easy to find at local nurseries (it’s part of the Southern Living Plant Collection), the sedges are proving elusive. Southern Living sent me the ‘Everillo’ sedge to trial in my garden a couple of years ago, and I haven’t seen it locally since then, although you can order it directly from their SL Plant Collection.

‘Sparkler’ sedge (Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’) is even harder to find. Once widely available in Austin nurseries, it’s been MIA for a year. I called several local nurseries last week to find out why, including The Natural Gardener and Shoal Creek Nursery, and learned that there was just one grower of ‘Sparkler’ sedge for all of Texas, and it got flooded out earlier this year, losing its stock. The grower told the buyer at The Natural Gardener that they have no plans to wholesale ‘Sparkler’ sedge again any time soon. What?? It’s crazy that such a wonderful plant for dry shade in central Texas isn’t available. I searched for an online supplier, but every place is sold out or sells only tiny 4-inch plants. It’s a slow grower, so I really wanted a few 1-gallons. I guess I will be forced to divide my existing plants, even though their slow growth means I’ll have to be very patient for a few years.


Moving on, here’s a little cactus and succulent combo in a wall planter. The leggy ghost plant is climbing the back of the cactus and resting on top, like a succulent flower!


Catching a few rays of sunshine last week, the fan-like leaves of our native dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) add drama and year-round greenery.


They seem to be peeking through their fingers at the sunrise, don’t they?

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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Need a holiday gift for the gardener, new homeowner, or environmentalist on your list?
Please consider giving one (or both!) of my books. They’re packed with plenty of how-to info for newbies as well as lots of inspirational photos and design ideas for more experienced gardeners! Order today from Amazon (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!) or other online booksellers (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!), or find them anywhere books are sold.

“In an era of drought and unpredictable weather patterns, The Water-Saving Garden could not come at a better time. With striking photographs and a designer’s eye, Penick shows us just how gorgeous a water-wise garden can be. This is the must-have garden book of the year!”
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All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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