Foliage in full spring swing: May Foliage Follow-Up


The day after Bloom Day is Foliage Follow-Up, a day to give foliage plants their due. This month I’m leading with the fresh spring greens of ornamental grasses, like shade-loving inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).


Their “oats” are just forming, and by mid-summer will turn from apple green to tan.


Along the fence (and in many other places in my garden), bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) makes soft mounds of chartreuse foliage.


Peek through the peek-a-boo gate and you see more bamboo muhly behind the live oak, incandescing celery green in the afternoon light.


Here’s the view from the other side of the gate, with variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’), native river fern (Thelypteris kunthii), and Chinese mahonia (Mahonia fortunei) along the neighbors’ new fence.


A wider view shows the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) that anchors this shady northeast corner of the garden. The gate leads to the side yard where we store our trash bins. Our new neighbors recently moved their fence forward to enclose more of their side yard, and so now we have this nice-looking fence along part of the property line, providing a comfortable sense of enclosure.


Here’s how this space looked in 2008, when we moved in. The Japanese maple, planted by previous owners, has grown a lot! I underplanted it with the river fern, pulled the gate/fence forward to enclose the trash-can storage, added a stepping-stone path, and planted a hedge of Chinese mahonia along the property line (see above).


A side view shows the Japanese maple glowing in afternoon light. The dry stream carries water from the driveway around to the back garden.


Leaving the shade garden behind, let’s move to the sunny gravel garden on the other side of the front door, and a slew of foliage plants: ‘Sticks on Fire’ euphorbia, ‘Color Guard’ yucca, ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo, red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum), and ‘Jaws’ agave.


Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) spreads its fan-like leaves in the island bed. The blue-green foliage of heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) fills in underneath.


Along the driveway, ‘Color Guard’ yucca and purple sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’) make a showy combo in a sun-baked spot.


I’m trying a new shrub on the other side of the driveway: spreading Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’). I planted 5 of these last winter, replacing several autumn sage ‘Teresa’ that were not getting enough sun to thrive. The plum yew may really prefer more shade (in our hot climate) than this part-shade location provides, but we’ll see. So far the deer have left it completely alone. Gray-leaved, creeping woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata) fills in around it.


A few fuzzy mulleins (Verbascum) are studded in along the front of this raised planting bed.


That bed segues into the alt-lawn of Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa), accented with a couple of ‘Margaritaville’ yuccas and a tuteur from TerraTrellis.


Spring is the showy season for Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), its blond tresses blowing in the breeze. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) adds fuzzy, silver-green texture beneath.


Moving into the back garden, silver-blue foliage leads the eye back and forth along the path: Arizona cypress ‘Blue Ice’ (Cupressus arizonica), gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), and Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’. A blue gazing ball and turquoise shed door reinforce the blue hues.


Of course there’s plenty of green foliage too, including ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), ‘Bright Edge’ yucca (in bloom), Agave lophantha, spineless prickly pear, Mexican feathergrass, and a few other odds and ends.


Face-to-face with Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’ — shazam!


Variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica) is one of my favorite foliage plants for shade/part shade. Its white-striped, strappy leaves light up a dark spot, and it’s surprisingly drought tolerant. In our zone 8b, there’s a risk of winter die-back or even outright death during a hard cold snap, but I’ve decided it’s a risk worth taking. They’re blooming right now, and while the airy flowers are not particularly showy, they look nice mixed with other cut flowers in bouquets, as I learned at Linda’s house in San Antonio.


It would be a rare Foliage Follow-Up without a few succulents, like winter-hardy ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) in an Esther pot. A orange-spined cactus pops in a blue, skeleton-impressed Rick Van Dyke pot. Moby, my whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), looms in the background.


This striking ‘Painted Fingernail’ bromeliad (Neoregelia spectabilis) was a gift from talented Houston design team and bloggers Laurin Lindsey and Shawn Michael of Ravenscourt Gardens. A pot of purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) enhances the bromeliad’s magenta “fingertips.”

I admit I would never have thought to try a bromeliad, had it not been a gift. I always assumed they were thirsty, needy plants. But this potted specimen has done really well for me with only a once-a-week drench in the summer. Notice the tiny, purple flowers emerging in the center cup?


To close, here’s one more little succulent-and-cactus planter, this one adorning the garage wall.

This is my May post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on 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

Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, 10:30-11:30 am. Get inspired to save water in your garden during my presentation at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. I’ll be at the book-signing table after the talk, with copies of both The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone! available for purchase. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

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

Articulture turns plants into art


Manchaca Road in South Austin may as well be on the other side of the planet for this northwest Austinite, or so it seems most days while parked on our city’s interminably clogged highways and streets. But the stars aligned yesterday for a cross-town jaunt, and I headed directly to garden boutique and design studio Articulture, which has been getting serious buzz in local publications and among the garden savvy since its new shop, studio, and event space opened a few months ago.


Articulture is located in an old turquoise house that’s been opened up into an airy display space for living pictures, wall planters, planted tables, and fun and funky decorative objects just waiting for your own creative compositions.


Picture-framed botanical arrangements — living works of art — decorate the walls.


Aren’t these beautiful?


A freestanding chartreuse wall seems ready to reach out and grab you thanks to a collection of hand holders — iron and wooden hands that dangle succulent terrariums, feathers adorned with tillandsias, and other interesting objects.


Those with a playful sense of humor will go ga-ga over metallic-finished dinosaur planters.


Rawr! Notice the acrylic table has planting pockets, filled with succulents, tillandsias, and colored sand. Fun!


Porcupine quills add elegant drama to the succulents planted in this silver triceratops.


In addition to planted dinosaurs, planted furniture is big here. Check out the succulentscape in the under-table tray of this unique coffee table. On the black Victorian settee, art pillows with images of deer…


…play off colorfully painted deer and antelope skulls displayed throughout the shop.


Natural objects like this hornet’s nest (accented with faux butterflies) are displayed alongside striking containers and succulent arrangements.


I fell hard for the vaguely Chinese-style, colorful pots in the background, but they were beyond my budget. But what I love about this shop is that there are beautiful objects at many price points. And look at the jewel-box arrangement in the blue lidded box — what a great gift idea.


Single antlers wrapped in colorful thready bands make unusual hanging ornaments or can be displayed on a tabletop. Wall planters of all kinds are stuffed with cactus, tillandsias, and succulents, and accented with driftwood and slag glass.


This circular one filled with kalanchoes and tillandsias is especially pretty.


Or how about this dainty, pinched pod stuffed like a baked potato with cobweb houseleeks and bright green moss?


Going larger, here’s a succulent planter in a mod coffee table with a colorful circle mosaic.


The back of the freestanding chartreuse wall is “papered” with touchable, pillowy moss. I’m not sure if this is simply a fun decorating choice or an example of Articulture’s living walls, which adorn businesses, shops, and other locales around town.


At one end of the shop, a metal-mesh door partially screens owner Monique Capanelli’s purple design studio and is a living wall itself, adorned with several Tillandsia xerographica and dried fans of sea coral. I met Monique while I was shopping, and she’s friendly and enthusiastic about her creations. She’s also excited about her new outdoor event space (shown below) and has plans to engage the local gardening community with regular classes and other outreach.


Speaking of outdoors, let’s step outside and see what Articulture’s got going on. The front garden, still a work-in-progress, is anchored by this sculptural tree stump surrounded by small agaves and succulents. It’s a large-scale version of the smaller botanical arrangements found inside, and sets an expectation for creative and fun design.


Out back, a curated selection of larger plants — columnar cactus, ponytail palms, large succulents — await potting up, I imagine, for cool interior displays.


Oversized steel dishes powder-coated in Crayola colors are displayed too, perfect for arrangements of plants and natural objects.


Big Red Sun popularized rusty steel plow-disc planters, which are commonplace around Austin. But these colorful steel dishes are a fun alternative. Those modern plinths are nice too.


A cloud-pruned evergreen and prickly pear — uncommon companions for a whimsical lounging hut.


The real surprise in the back yard is its size — 3/4 of an acre. The place is enormous! Several large pecan trees shade a gray gravel patio punctuated by circular islands of artificial lawn. This is a low-water alternative to a big mown lawn, and it allows Articulture to host classes (succulent arranging, yoga, and more) and even rent out the place for weddings.


There’s even a wooden swing.


On the back porch, another beautiful arrangement caught my eye. Pairing living cactus with sea urchins, coral, and driftwood makes for a sea-evoking display.


So, what did I come home with, besides photos and lots of design inspiration? Oh, a few playful things: a pink deer skull, a lazy orange rhino, and a swooshy chartreuse dish. A little color pick-me-up!


Articulture fills a void in the Austin garden-shop scene that occurred when Big Red Sun’s boutique closed years ago. I’m happy to have finally made it across town for a visit and look forward to watching owner Monique’s interview on Central Texas Gardener this weekend.

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, 10:30-11:30 am. Get inspired to save water in your garden during my presentation at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. I’ll be at the book-signing table after the talk, with copies of both The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone! available for purchase. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

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

Bloomin’ cactus, verbena, and Moby


It’s been raining cats and dogs here in Austin — and raining lions and wolves, if that’s an appropriate comparison, over in Houston. Our lakes are full again (which seems a miracle, considering how low they got during the multi-year drought), and spring seems full of promise. My own garden is abloom, like this little cactus — some sort of Echinocereus, I think.


With flowers showy enough to grace Carmen Miranda’s headdress, cacti amaze me when they bloom. They can seem curmudgeonly in their spiny, slow-growing way, and then suddenly — bam! — they do this. Party time!


Butterfly-attracting flower clusters of Verbena bonariensis sit atop long stems, and yesterday I noticed this visitor enjoying a snack — a gray hairstreak butterfly.


Along one fence, the creamy white flowers of star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) in full bloom attract…ME. I love the sweet fragrance and can’t resist taking a long whiff every time I pass by.


But bittersweet is the flowering of one particular plant in my garden: Moby, my big, white whale of an agave that I’ve had for 10 years. Agave ovatifolia (aka whale’s tongue agave), like all agaves, blooms once in its lifetime and then immediately dies.


I’m taking daily pictures of the bloom spike, which is shooting up at Jack-and-the-beanstalk speed.


In just two weeks, the asparagus-like flower stalk has grown 10 feet above the 5-foot tall agave.


Yesterday I noticed that the tip is enlarging, and what looks like yellow flowers are emerging from the uppermost triangular leaves.


Does this mean it will flower before it hits the tree canopy above? I sure hope so. Stay tuned for more pictures, and follow me on Instagram and Facebook for daily updates on Moby’s last, grand gesture before he goes to the big ocean in the sky.

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

I’ll be speaking on April 30, noon-12:30 pm, in Cedar Park, Texas, at Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery’s Lily Blossom Festival. My free talk is called “How to Garden Water-Wise, Not Water-Wasteful.” An old proverb reminds us that The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives. Don’t be a water-guzzling frog! I’ll be sharing my tips for making a garden that is water-wise, not water-wasteful. Stick around after my talk for a book signing, with autographed copies of Lawn Gone! and The Water-Saving Garden available for purchase.

Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, time TBA. Learn more about water-saving gardening during my talk at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. Get a signed copy of my book after the talk. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

I’m on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

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

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