The great unfurling


Petals unfurl seemingly overnight, new blossoms appearing each morning. Every garden stroll is a small voyage of discovery right now. This week I’m seeing masses of dainty, lilac spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis).


A single summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) with flowers like dancing ladies in white ballgowns trimmed with jaunty, green dots.


‘Amethyst Flame’ iris, brought along from my former garden and blooming much better this year after being moved to a western exposure in the front garden.


Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), close enough, almost, to give you a whiff of grape Kool-Aid fragrance right through your screen.


‘Blue Elf’ aloe, whose tubular orange blossoms offer a siren song for returning hummingbirds.


Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), putting on a festive show of orange under an orange-red Circle Pot filled with succulents.


An orange Hover Dish hovers under a crepe myrtle, filled with flowering Texas sedge (Carex texensis) and columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha). Rain lily bulbs are tucked in there too.


Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) is still glowing in the side garden, although the pincushion foliage of Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’ steals the show from certain angles. OK, from all angles.


Insects, after slumbering through winter, are unfurling too. This is one of several argiope spider egg sacs I’ve observed in the front garden. A tiny hole has been punched through the sac. Is this where spiderlings emerged, or did a bird get them, as I’ve read happens to most egg sacs?


And in tribute to the welcome, soaking rains we received last weekend, here’s “Tempest in a Teapot,” a water-evoking wind chime from Living Desert, now called Living Desert Ranch, given to me years ago by my husband. Isn’t it fun?

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I’d love to have your vote in the Better Homes and Gardens 2015 Blogger Awards. The Gardening category is listed first this week, and you can vote as much as you like. Thanks for your support!

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

New mirrored trellises add depth to a blank wall


There’s something new in the side garden. Yes, the Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), my favorite native ornamental tree, is blooming and wafting the sweet fragrance of grape Kool-Aid through the air. Does anything say springtime in Austin as much as that smell?

But something else is new. And I’m not talking about the 3-inch layer of live oak leaves on the ground.


I’ve hung five mirrored-acrylic trellises along the long brick wall at back of the garage. I’d been looking for something to liven up that boring stretch of brick and add the illusion of depth to a side garden of bowling-alley proportions when I saw these DIY trellises on Design Sponge.

I didn’t take smiling in-process pictures like author Grace Bonney did (I would have looked a lot more grumpy at certain points), but you can see hers and read her how-to if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty. My only addition to her instructions is to drill through the plexiglass very carefully so that you don’t crack it. I learned this the hard way.

I bought inexpensive wooden trellises at Home Depot and cut the legs off before painting them. Mirrored plexiglass isn’t exactly cheap, but it is lightweight and you can drill through it to attach it to the trellis, which is handy. I found it locally at Regal Plastics, where it can be sized to your exact specifications. Regal suggested coating the cut edges of the plexiglass with silicone caulk for durability outdoors, but I found it didn’t easily stick. Plus I was making an unholy mess of things. Since they’re hanging on a shady wall and under an eave, I’m hoping they’ll have sufficient protection from the elements as-is.


My plan is to stain the lattice fence that borders this space the same color as the trellises: Sherwin-Williams Black Alder. That will unify the square lattice on each side and give the whole space more depth. This is the entry to the back garden that I take visitors through (the other side is a working space with trash storage), and I want it to look as appealing as any other part of the garden, not just a pass-through. Plant choice is very simple, mainly grasses, yucca and hesperaloe, and shade-tolerant herbs and perennials due to frequent deer browsing, so I’m going with mass plantings for impact. Visible here: bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), wide-leaf giant hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera ssp. chiangii), Texas betony (Stachys coccinea), and Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa). Planted around the Texas mountain laurel, in the 2nd photo from the top, is inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).


I’m pleased with how it turned out and can now check one spring project off my list. I have many still to go! How about you?

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I’d love to have your vote in the Better Homes and Gardens 2015 Blogger Awards. Skip through to the Gardening category, select Digging, and then skip to the last page for your vote to be counted. You can vote as much as you like. Thanks for your support!

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

Gorgeous weeds and walls at the Wildflower Center


With a hat tip to Phoenix landscape architect Steve Martino, who coined the phrase “weeds and walls” to describe his design style — planting native plants for toughness and building walls for structure — here are some of the beautiful weeds and walls at Austin’s own native-plant showcase, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I visited yesterday to see the early spring show, like gray globemallow (Sphaeralcea incana).


Native trees are at peak bloom all over town, and the Wildflower Center was colorful with Texas redbuds (Cercis canadensis var. texensis)…


…grape Kool-Aid-scented Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora)…


…and Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana).


The entry gardens are framed with fabulous stone walls that reference the architecture of Texas’s Spanish missions and German settler homesteads. This one contains a zigzagging sluice for recirculating water to spill into a pond.


Two red-eared slider turtles, including a baby turtle resting its head on the back of another’s shell, were basking on a rock, enjoying the warm spring sunshine.


Arched and linteled walls frame a long view to a window.


In the central plaza, a spiraling cistern tower (yes, it collects and stores rainwater) is the signature building of the Center. The cafe’s rooftop seating offers a place to enjoy the view, but you can also climb all the way to the top of the tower for sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.


This wall extends from the cafe and used to contain a dripping water feature in the stone window, which supplied a narrow trough of water below. I just noticed yesterday that the water feature is gone, and the trough is now filled with plants. I wonder what instigated the change?


Golden groundsel (Packera obovata) grows at the base of the tower — and was in bloom throughout the gardens.


In the children’s Little House garden, Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) swathed a coyote fence in fragrant yellow blossoms.


Inhale…and ahhhh


Limestone walls mark the entrance to the demonstration gardens, where a flowering Texas redbud arches toward the light.


Blazing orange California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) add hot color to a gray-green cactus bed.


At another pond near the butterfly garden, I stopped to admire this Roger Foster “ocular” sculpture, carved from native limestone. Foster’s sculptures are currently on display throughout the garden, but you may remember seeing one in Lee/The Grackle‘s garden too (click for my tour of Lee’s East Austin garden).


It’s been almost a year since the new family garden opened to the public, and I enjoyed seeing how the plants have grown. This silver-blue bed contains ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress (Cuppressus arizonica var. glabra) and Wheeler’s sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri). Nice, but wouldn’t it be fun to see a smattering of California poppies in here to liven things up in spring? Or ground-covering winecup?


Walls of massive limestone blocks build up raised beds of sky-reaching yuccas and create “pictograph”-adorned tunnels and caves for children to explore.


Spanish bayonet (Yucca faxoniana), I think


Caves beckon youngsters to explore behind a waterfall.


Bronze sculptures of animals are placed throughout the family garden, including this one I hadn’t noticed before.


Water collection is an important feature at the Wildflower Center. I love these galvanized-steel cisterns — so handsome. A rain garden around it collects the overflow.


If you haven’t been to the Wildflower Center lately, or ever, it’s well worth a visit. In another few weeks, wildflowers will be at peak bloom, including bluebonnets, but the WC has a lot more going on than just wildflowers. It’ll teach you to love our native Texas “weeds.” And the walls aren’t bad either.

__________________
I’d love to have your vote in the Better Homes and Gardens 2015 Blogger Awards. Skip through to the Gardening category, select Digging, and then skip to the last page for your vote to be counted. You can vote as much as you like. Thanks for your support!

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