Plant This: Paleleaf yucca shines in dry shade


Like a woman who’s grown tired of covering up the gray, I’m letting my silver self shine — in the garden, that is. Instead of bemoaning the dominant silver-green to olive-green palette that comes so naturally to Austin’s hot, often droughty climate, I’m letting it rip.

And I couldn’t be happier. Arranged en masse, our native paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida), paired here with a silver carpet of woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata), is visually cooling during a hot summer and needs little water and no pruning or fussing to look its best.


The dusty blue, sword-like leaves have a pale stripe along the leaf margins, giving them a little extra “shine” in dry dappled shade. Like most yuccas, it thrives in sun too. I often see it growing wild along rocky trails around Austin, so you know it won’t be begging for TLC in your garden, provided it has good drainage.


While it does tend to offset (produce new plants that cluster alongside the mother plant), rather than remaining in star-shaped, solitary form, it doesn’t grow so large as to overpower smaller spaces. Individual plants grow to about 1 to 1-1/2 feet tall and wide. Bloom stalks bearing bell-shaped white flowers shoot up in spring, but the deer mow these down in my garden. No matter. I’m growing these silver belles for their foliage.

It’s hardy to zone 6 or 7, according to online sources, which probably depends on having sharp drainage to avoid the dreaded cold-and-wet that so many xeric (dry-loving) plants dislike.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

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

Plant This: Pale pavonia, or Brazilian rock rose


Even in gentler months, my shady garden is not particularly flowery, and in the heat of summer those perennials that do flower — salvias, mistflowers, cupheas — tend to hunker down until fall. One happy exception is pale pavonia, also known as Brazilian rock rose (Pavonia hastata), a cousin to our native hot-pink rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala). Its tissuey, hibiscus-like white flowers with wine-red eyes and veins bloom all summer on rangy stems of narrow, toothy leaves.


Impervious (in my garden, anyway) to deer, it handles the dry shade of live oaks with aplomb. In the island bed in the driveway, I’ve paired it with our native palmetto (Sabal minor), ‘Sparkler’ sedge, and foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri). There’s also a burgundy-leaved loropetalum in the mix, which I think will look great with the pale pavonia’s red eyes, if it would only grow.


In the side garden, I replaced my original low hedge of flame acanthus, which was continually browsed by deer, with pale pavonia, which blooms reliably amid bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), and a Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) on the right. (And if you’re curious about the blue tree behind the fence, that’s a ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress, one of my favorite trees for that icy-blue color, pyramidal shape, and a Christmasy fragrance.)


Pale pavonia tends to seed out in the garden, but I find its seedlings easy to pull up after a rain, or you can transplant them around your garden. It can be a little cold tender, so I recommend planting it in spring, not fall. Dave’s Garden says it’s hardy to zone 7a, which I’m a little dubious about, but maybe in a warm microclimate. It grows to about 4 feet tall and wide in my garden, with a rangy appearance, kind of like Turk’s cap.


As MSS of Zanthan Gardens noted in a long-ago but useful blog post (she first inspired me to try pale pavonia 10 years ago), some of the flowers in spring and early summer are cleistogamous — i.e., they produce seeds without opening — so you may watch expectantly, awaiting a flush of flowers, only to be disappointed. Be patient. The glowing white flowers will light up the shade by midsummer through fall.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

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

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

Plant This: Moonflower vine for moonlit nights


When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, that’s when moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba) unfurls tissue-petaled white blossoms as large as your palm, inviting you to lean in for a deep whiff of its sweet perfume.


In my mind’s eye, the flowers glow like miniature moons themselves — pure and white. But that’s a trick of my camera setting.


In reality, the flowers are ivory with a hint of pale celery along a starfish-shaped indentation in the center.


By day, when you spot a tapered, spiraling bud — like a unicorn horn! — get ready for a moonflower show that evening.

If you’ve never grown moonflower vine, it’s easy to start from seed. (Note: this annual vine is not the same plant as our native perennial datura, or devil’s trumpet, although they look similar.) Just buy a pack of seeds, and in early spring soak them overnight in a bowl of water before poking each one into seed-starting mix in biodegradable pots you can make out of toilet paper rolls. Protect them from freezes and chilly nights, give them bright light but avoid blazing sun, and keep them moist, and in a week or two their little green noses will pop up.

When they’ve grown a few inches tall with a few leaves, plant them in the garden in the toilet roll pots. In Austin’s hot climate, morning sun is best, with afternoon shade. Give them a trellis to climb, keep them watered regularly, and soon enough you’ll be enjoying those fragrant, night-blooming flowers. In autumn, you can collect the ripened, ivory seeds from the dried seedpods and save them for growing next spring.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

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

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

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