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.

Watersaver Tour in San Antonio, plus Inverness extras


Last Saturday I joined Jenny of Rock Rose for a road trip to San Antonio. We rumbled down there in her pickup truck, making a quick detour to a San Marcos stoneyard, where she picked up a half-yard of gravel for her garden. Could there be a more Texas way to road-trip than in a big brown pickup truck with a load of gravel in the back? Jenny may be British-born, but she’s a real Texas gal now.

Jenny and I were in San Antonio for the 2016 Watersaver Landscape Tour, a free event sponsored by San Antonio Water System (SAWS), Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST), and San Antonio River Authority. Our friend Heather of Xericstyle works for SAWS and was running the event with a big smile and plenty of can-do enthusiasm.


All the gardens were located in a single neighborhood: the luxury gated community of Inverness. The developer, we were told, preserves native plants in the green spaces and encourages homeowners to plant water-wise gardens.

We took a shuttle in and out of the neighborhood and walked a well-marked route to visit all 6 gardens. Along the way, we saw a number of pretty yards that weren’t on the tour, and I include a few pics of those at the end of this post.


But first, here are my favorite scenes from the various tour gardens. In this lawn-gone back yard, a red pergola makes an eye-catching focal point and shades a flagstone patio. A swag of succulents along the front beam is what really caught my eye.


I spotted another one snaking up a live oak’s trunk. The plants are growing in a black wire basket filled with soil and moss and attached to the trunk. Jenny vowed to make one of her own, which I look forward to reading about on her blog.


A little online sleuthing turned up the succulent designer in San Antonio who makes these beautiful creations, which she calls succulent vines: Abbey McKenna Succulent Designs.


San Antonio’s winter is a tiny bit warmer than Austin’s, so I’m guessing the owner leaves this outdoors and takes her chances, simply replanting any succulents that don’t make it through. That’s the same approach I have with my succulent wall.


We admired other succulent planters in the garden of Susan Bhatia, a modern xeric garden I visited last summer. This pot of Sticks on Fire euphorbia brightens the garage parking area.


Nearby, a scrim of horsetail adds a lush modern line to the garage wall. (Plant this only where it can be fully root-contained, as here, where it’s hemmed in by the house walls and the concrete driveway.)


‘Kissho Kan’ agave. I love those orange teeth and celery-edged leaves.


Here’s a great solution for a common garden eyesore — those utility bollards and boxes that are so hard to disguise. Susan surrounded hers with a gravel garden planted with bicolor iris and kangaroo paws and accented with contemporary gray pots of agave and other water-thrifty succulents.


Here’s a side view. You can still see the bollards, but the pots attract the eye instead and the irises help screen them. And yet access is preserved for the inevitable utility maintenance visits. I’m doubtful about whether those kangaroo paws will hold up once it gets hot and humid, but they sure look pretty right now.


All around the back yard, a Corten horizontal fence provides security and privacy while still allowing light and breezes. Corten isn’t inexpensive — not by a long shot — but it’ll last forever. To my mind, this is a fence of dreams.


As a complete change of place, how about a formal, French-style side garden at a neighboring house down the street? Cool, shady, and green, this courtyard must make a pretty view for those looking out from inside.

Those were my favorite scenes from the tour gardens. Other interesting vignettes spotted as we walked through the neighborhood included…


…this water-thrifty container, which I may one day replicate at home: red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) and ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense).


Simply beautiful!


At another house, the homeowners planted tufts of society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) instead of a front lawn. The plants were all flowering, to magical effect.


The grid-style planting echoes the lines of the contemporary paver walk.


A side view reveals other plants arranged in rows: dwarf yaupon holly, variegated dianella, and skullcap. All are deer resistant, which seems to be an important issue for Inverness residents — that is, if the amount of electrical fencing around agaves is any indication.

Click here to read Jenny/Rock Rose’s blog post about the tour. Next up: A return visit to Linda Peterson’s stucco-walled garden in San Antonio.

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, 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.

Festive spring at Lucinda Hutson’s purple cottage


Many times over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Lucinda Hutson‘s purple cottage in the Rosedale neighborhood of central Austin. It’s always a riot of flowers and festive decor. On Tuesday I stopped by to visit again and am so glad I did. Butter-yellow blossoms of Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) were mingling with tall snapdragons in a rainbow of colors in her cottage-style front garden.


Snappy snapdragons


Here’s the street view of her gothic-style purple “casita,” as she calls it, and the tall, shapely ginkgo tree she planted 30 years ago — a rarity in Austin.


Red bloom spikes of red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) are coming up.


A large prickly pear (Opuntia ‘Old Mexico’) is showing its love with a heart-shaped pad.


More Jerusalem sage


Datura (D. wrightii) blossoms were furled, waiting to open until dusk.


Here’s one that had bloomed last night, looking a bit like a deflated balloon — or, from this angle, a pinwheel.


Lucinda even has datura on a pretty mosaic-tile paver.


Pastel snapdragons stand tall in a purple pot by the front porch.


Her colorful porch is decorated with imagery from Mexico and the Desert Southwest, a tribute to her El Paso upbringing.


We were both pleased to spot a monarch caterpillar munching on milkweed, but it was nearly out of plant to nosh on. I hope it’s ready to pupate.


Heading toward her back gate, I stopped to admire her rambling nasturtiums. This is an annual that always tempts me, but I never get around to growing it.


It makes a perfect combo with red-stemmed chard growing in a pot.


Now let’s head into the back garden, under the arbor abloom with ‘Don Juan’ roses. Lucinda’s yard is pretty small, and she’s turned the rear half of her driveway into a patio garden, with the arbor marking its entrance.


A carved stone fish sits atop a 6-foot stone wall that shields her back garden from view. It hints at what’s to come.


A mermaid grotto on the other side! Mermaids and shells adorn a tiny pond, where fig ivy and ferns green up the limestone wall and trickling water mutes the noise of passing cars.


To the right, against a wooden fence painted turquoise, another mermaid holds court under an arbor decorated with seashells and strands of colored capiz shells. In a planter at her feet grow “under-the-sea” plants like aloes, echeveria, sedum, and snake plant.


It creates a delightful seaside mood in the front half of her former driveway, along with patio seating for two.


A greenhouse and vine-covered arbor occupy the middle of the old driveway, where Lucinda has hung an old door panel decorated with tin milagros (Mexican folk charms). This used to be Lucinda’s back door, but the lower half rotted. When she installed a new door, she cut the bottom off this one and turned it into garden art.


As you pass through the middle arbor, this comes into view: an old garage painted purple, with a colorful tile mosaic along the eaves. A raised bed filled with vegetables and annual flowers occupies the sunny middle.


Potted marigolds, pelargoniums, and other annuals add even more punch to the scene.


Lucinda always takes the time to add pretty touches, like this basket stuffed with potted annuals.


There are several Virgins of Guadalupe in this section.


I believe Lucinda calls this folk-art version Our Lady of the Bathtub.


And another, paired with ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ rose, which smells so sweet.


Another view of the raised vegetable-and-flower bed, with the greenhouse behind it.


Colorful pillows dress up a cedar-branch bench.


And St. Francis presides over a pot of red begonias.


This adorable cat plate reminds Lucinda of a beloved former pet, Tita.


Chard pairs with red pelargoniums here.


Red poppies pop against the purple garage.


The seedheads look pretty too.


Lucinda’s back deck is party central, with two tables covered in Mexican oilcloth set up as a buffet against the purple wall of her garage.


Comfortable patio seating under a purple umbrella says, “Make yourself at home.”


A colorful carved-wood fish planter


Lucinda told me she’d just planted up this cactus-themed strawberry pot — with succulents, of course. Perfect!


In a decorative cabinet on the wall, a wren had built a nest and sat tight as Lucinda pointed her out to me. Sweet little bird.


The back of the purple garage is painted turquoise, and Lucinda’s Tequila Cantina is always set up and ready for a party.


Metal mariachis never tire of playing, and a tequila bottle tree mulched with corks playfully illustrates Lucinda’s fascination with the agave liquor.


Drinking companions


A sun porch at the back of her house has mosaic-tiled stairs that lead up to the kitchen. Lucinda calls it her “stairway to heaven,” and considering the goodies she whips up in her kitchen, it really is. Here’s Sancho, her cat, coming to greet us.


A closer look at the tilework, with little milagros, fishes, and faces mixed in.


Back out front, bees were busy among the purple blossoms of ‘Amistad’ salvia.


Thanks, Lucinda, for sharing your colorful home and garden with me again! Readers, if you’d like to see more of Lucinda’s garden, here are my other posts about it:

Christmas in Mexico at Lucinda Hutson’s home and garden, December 2015
Lucinda Hutson’s purple cottage, cantina garden, and Viva Tequila!, April 2013
Lucinda Hutson’s Easter-egg colorful garden, April 2012
Enchanted evening in Lucinda Hutson’s cantina garden, April 2011
El Jardin Encantador: Lucinda Hutson’s garden, October 2009
Lucinda Hutson’s enchanting garden, April 2008

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

Central Texans, don’t forget the San Antonio Watersaver Landscape Tour is this Saturday, April 9, from 9 am to 3 pm. Reserve your shuttle time for this FREE walking tour of 6 water-saving gardens in the Inverness neighborhood.

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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