Out and about in Austin nurseries and parks


Lately I’m taking as many garden photos with my phone as with my “real” camera, and these often get posted to my Instagram. But not all of them, and sometimes I like to share them on my blog too. So here’s some cool stuff I spotted last week at my favorite local nurseries, Lady Bird Lake, and — why not? — even a medical center’s parking lot.

Pictured above, from said medical center’s parking lot, is one of my favorite scenes from the week: a silver-green agave with striking banding and leaf imprints, rising star-shaped from a mat of silver ponyfoot. Simple and beautiful.


At the same center (this is somewhere off Hwy. 620), island beds of Knock Out roses and Mexican feathergrass are anchored by pruned-up, spiky-headed Yucca rostrata.


Now let’s visit some of Austin’s best nurseries, starting with Barton Springs Nursery. Every year I love to catch their enormous American beautyberry in full berry, with cobalt-blue pots adding a harmonizing hue.


This plant is probably 10 feet across. Here’s a look at the other side. If you’re not growing American beautyberry, why not?


Inside BSN’s gift shop, I spotted these fun saguaro vases and ring holders. I resisted the camp on my first visit, but I came back a couple days later, with my daughter in tow, and when she went gaga for them too I snagged the powder-blue saguaro on the left.


A herd of dinosaurs — colorfully painted plastic toys with cut-out holes planted with succulents — roved near the registers. My sister-in-law got me a dino planter for Christmas last year — the blue brachiosaurus — and it brightens my home-office windowsill.


Maybe I need a set.


Up in Cedar Park, I stopped in at Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery for a few things and paused to admire this new water feature with tough-as-nails blackfoot daisy and some type of succulent (a cold-tender euphorbia, maybe?) planted alongside it.


Back down to South Austin for a morning visit to The Natural Gardener, where I spotted this furled flower almost ready to open.


And in the gift shop, my books — one of each — were on the bookshelf. I know it’s not easy for nurseries to stock books in this era of Amazon and in conditions where books might get soiled (i.e., unsellable), so I really appreciate those like The Natural Gardener that make the effort. After all, not every local gardener knows the best books for Texas gardening, and nurseries can help by showcasing regionally appropriate titles, or even by keeping a suggested reading list on their website. A website reading list need not be purely regional, of course; it can be staff favorites for all kinds of popular gardening topics! By the way, here’s my own suggested reading list.


Over to Lady Bird Lake’s hike-and-bike trail, where I admired a copper-colored dragonfly hanging out near the water.


I looked at him, and he looked at me with those big bug eyes.


I also saw lots of bald cypress and native palmettos along the lakeshore.


Swans, ducks, and turtles too. They all thought I might have some food and swam right over. Sorry, guys!


And off they went into the setting sun.

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

Austinites and native-plant shoppers, I’ll be at the member’s day Fall Plant Sale at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on October 14, and I hope to see you there! I’ll be signing books between 1 and 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. If you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. Hope to see you there!

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets are on sale at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

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.

First oxblood lily, tree cavities, and last Moby


The majority, I think, are waiting for that first fall rain. But two oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) are trumpeting red in my garden, including this stray in the sedge lawn out front. I transplanted the bulbs from the front to the back last year, after the deer impressed upon me how much they enjoyed them.


What else is going on in the garden? Panning right, flagstones lead through the Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) to the decomposed-granite path along the side-yard fence. Golden thryallis (Galphimia gracilis) sprawls in the foreground; giant hesperaloe (still recovering from last winter’s deer antlering) and white Turk’s cap sprawl in the background. Looking past the fence, my neighbor’s streetside garden blends with my own.

Several of our live oaks have cavities in their trunks, which my arborist says not to worry about, although I do worry about mosquitoes breeding in them when it rains (sprinkle organic Mosquito Bits every other week to prevent this). If you look carefully at the one on the left…


…you’ll see a sedge has seeded itself in the hollow! I’m happy to leave it and hope it’ll suck up any water that ends up there after a rain. The white rock in the hollow is a chunk of concrete, poured there by a previous owner worried about the cavity. My arborist kicked most of it out and said it’s not necessary for the health of the tree. In fact, it’s detrimental. Here’s more info from the University of Florida hort website.


Moving on, here’s a close-up of lace cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus var. coahuila) and ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) — looking like a crown on the cactus! — in a wall planter on the garage.


And one last view of Moby, my beloved whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), which bloomed this spring and has hung on for months, continuing to look good. But he’s finally yellowing on the other side, and that towering bloom stalk is leaning, plus I need to get his replacement planted before cooler, wetter weather sets in. So he’s coming out on Monday.

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

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets go on sale soon at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

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.

Rocky Mountain high by car and rail in southwestern Colorado


Colorado’s Rocky Mountains have been our summer playground many times, but we’ve always stayed on the eastern side along the Front Range, or in north-central Breckenridge, never on the western side. To see what we’ve been missing, earlier this month we rented a house in the Durango area and used it as base camp for a week of exploring southwestern Colorado. Not far from New Mexico and Utah, the area nurtures an Old West vibe, with quaint mining towns and small ski villages tucked in mountain-walled valleys. Plus, dramatic rock formations and high-desert vistas are found in the Mesa Verde area.

One day we drove the incredibly scenic San Juan Skyway, a 236-mile loop twisting through jagged mountains and picturesque towns, opening at times to breathtaking vistas like this.


My husband hates this area, as you can see.


One of the most beautiful spots — and a great place for lunch, shopping, or just kicking off your shoes and wading in an icy mountain stream — is Telluride. Its old-timey main street enjoys a view straight to Ingram Falls cascading from the rugged peaks that box in the town.


Just past the shopping district, adorable mountain cottages line the road, including this one with a lawn-gone, colorful front garden.


Across the street, a public park runs alongside the pebbly San Miguel River, and people and their dogs were frolicking in the frigid water.


We merely dipped our toes.


The sheer-falling plume of Bridal Veil Falls hangs over the valley too. Like Mr. Fredricksen’s balloon-lofted house in the movie Up, a hydroelectric power plant perches improbably on the cliff just above the falls.


Pandora Mill below the falls once processed zinc, lead, copper, and silver-and gold-laced ore from the mines that built the town.


After Telluride, Ouray is another former mining town worthy of a long stop along the way. I wish I’d taken pictures of the charming main street lined with Victorian homes, or its hot-spring swimming pool. But I only have photos of Ouray’s Box Canyon Falls


…and these cannot convey the tiptoeing walk visitors make along a vertigo-inducing catwalk bridge…


…which snakes under massive ledges of rock and around the craggy walls of the claustrophobic box canyon. You creep along this grid-floored bridge, which allows views to the rocks far below…


…with the roar of the water getting louder and louder as you reach the end of the canyon, where thousands of gallons of water erupt through a narrow slot to fall 80 feet.


You can walk down three flights of open-grid stairs to the canyon floor and watch the water froth past minivan-sized boulders.


If you lean out over the rail, you can glimpse old abandoned mining equipment along one cliff wall.

The road out of Ouray is a white-knuckled, gasp-inducing thrill ride. I have no pictures for the simple fact that I was driving, with my hands superglued to the wheel, and my husband and daughter urging me not to look away from the road for even a moment to take in the view. Dubbed the Million Dollar Highway, the side-winding, mountain-hugging road lacks even the pretense of guardrails along sheer-drop curves. Where the white line edges the pavement, the road simply disappears into space, with not even a weed clinging to the edge. The views are amazing. It is a thrill. You have to do it, just to say you did.


Another fun thing we did was ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.


The train, which has operated continuously since 1882, once hauled silver and gold ore out of the mountains.


Today it’s a National Historic Landmark that hauls tourists.


Passengers ride the 45 miles of track that alternately hug mountainsides and trace the Animas River through the canyons far below, a 3-1/2-hour journey each way.


If you sit on the right-hand side of the train on the way up (reserve well in advance), you get some hair-raising views as you snake around bends.


Almost straight down!


Our car was near the front, so I poked my head out the window to look back at the rest of the train. Every time, a sprinkling of coal cinders and ash landed in my hair and on my face. It wasn’t hot, but you didn’t want it in your eyes.


We crossed the Animas several times.


The coach interiors are comfortable with cushioned seats, and with windows open for a cool breeze (and a little ash). We’d tried to ride a gondola car — roofed but open-air, with bench seats facing outward for great views and easy photography — but those were all booked.


As it turned out, I got the shots I wanted by poking my camera out the window — after first checking to make sure no cliff was coming up, inches away from the train.


The Animas River is “one of the last free-flowing rivers in the entire western United States,” according to the train’s website.


It’s gorgeous.


These views are only accessible to hikers and riders. There’s no road here.


About two hours into the trip, the train stopped in an alpine meadow to take on some hikers/campers who’d been out there a while, from the looks of them. A few adventurous souls exited the train here too.


Pack llamas were waiting patiently for new wranglers.


Horses too


See ya!


The old mining town of Silverton is a tiny but colorful tourist destination today, filled with restaurants and souvenir shops. Many of our fellow passengers stopped here for lunch, but we had arranged to take a bus back down to Durango, shaving an hour and a half off the return time and getting a narrated tour of the area from the driver, which was great.


But it would have been fun to return on the train as well. Next time!

Up next: Our “journey to the center of the earth” at Carlsbad Caverns. For a look back at the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, click here.

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

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets go on sale soon at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

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.

Follow