Coneflower cornucopia and other garden delights


The garden photobomber strikes again, this time peeking out of a bower of purple coneflower and ‘Color Guard’ yucca.


A wider view shows that I was being watched as I photographed the pond garden. Early summer is a pretty time here, as the coneflowers color-coordinate with the ‘Colorado’ water lilies in the pond.


A ‘Wilson’s Yellow’ daylily has snuck into this planting bed somewhere along the way. Do you ever forget that you’ve moved a plant from one spot to another, only to be surprised later? Yeah, I didn’t think I was the only one.


Purple coneflowers have long been a favorite of mine. These prairie natives are like vanilla ice cream — simple, classic, and crowd pleasing.


These came from seed collected in my former garden, and they were one of the first plants to grow in my new garden. Stripey ‘Color Guard’ yucca and fall aster foliage distract from the coneflower’s stork-like legs.


Here’s a wide view of this bed, which screens the base of the elevated deck and curves around the sunburst stone path that surrounds the stock-tank pond. I try to keep these bamboo muhly grasses (Muhlenbergia dumosa) clipped for a more manicured look, and they’re due for a haircut. In other parts of the garden, however, I let these grasses grow tall and bushy.

After several redesigns here over the years, I finally exercised enough restraint to run a curving line of ‘Color Guard’ yuccas backed by bamboo muhly, emphasizing the circular geometry of this area. Small limestone boulders I collected throughout the yard casually edge this bed.


Purple coneflowers add summer color at one end, ‘Peter’s Purple’ monarda at the other. Sheared balls of ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood mark the four “doorways” into the pond garden.


Looking up the hillside path toward the gate — the ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress just keeps growing, beautifully screening the house next door. Every time I walk by I brush its needles for the Christmasy scent.


Heading the other way, toward the far side of the back garden, I stop to admire a second bloom stalk on a soap aloe (Aloe maculata). The hummingbirds will be happy to see this. Moby the ‘Whales’ Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia) stretches his flukes in the background.


And looking back toward the stock-tank pond


Wandering out front, I’m happy to still be happy with the new front door color.


White skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens) softens the edge of a steel pipe remnant-turned-planter for a trio of ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckias. Two of the original three didn’t survive the winter, so I replaced them. A painted metal heart made by Bob Pool adds a little love (and color).


The curbside garden along the front of the house is looking particularly lush and happy, but our long, cool spring has delayed the flowering of the autumn sage (Salvia greggii). It won’t be long; the first hot-pink flower has already appeared. Meanwhile, the pale-lilac blossoms of Mexican oregano are feeding the hummingbirds, and the grassy foliage of purple fountain grass (replaced annually), garlic chives, and Mexican feathergrass adds softness and movement. Everything out here must, of course, be as deer resistant as possible, and grassy or strong-scented foliage is the ticket.


Looking left, I pause to admire my neighbor’s streetside garden, which I planted for her a couple of years ago. Because this bed receives more sun than mine, her autumn sage is in full bloom, along with ‘Peter’s Purple’ monarda and Jerusalem sage. A hummingbird darted in while I was watching for a sip from the monarda blossoms.


This is the view from the street, looking toward my house and new fence, with a two-year-old ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave growing quickly in the center of the bed. The large red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) at back was already there when I planted, and I simply incorporated it into the new bed. Sadly, whenever it flowers the deer devour the bloom stalks, but at least the foliage is striking.

Thanks for joining me for a garden stroll today!

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Heartleaf skullcap is a spring beauty for central Texas


Native groundcover heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) is in full, glorious bloom in my garden, showing off with abandon before retreating into dormancy for the summer.


I’ve paired it with Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) in the live oak-shaded island bed out front. It makes a blue-green carpet under the palmettos all winter, and with spring growth it nearly eclipses them. Once the skullcap dies back in summer, however, the palmettos will take center stage again.


Massing this plant is the key because a single 1-gallon will just get lost in your garden. Luckily, heartleaf skullcap loves to spread, both underground through its fleshy roots and above ground via seeds.


While aggressive, it is easy to pull up, plus it dies back during our hot summers, leaving room for other plants to shine.


I planted a swath in the back garden too, lining the path around the stock-tank pond. I’m enjoying it while it lasts!

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visit to Desert Botanical Garden and Chihuly Exhibit: Edible Garden, palo verde splendor, and Chihuly balloons


During my April 4th visit to Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, I flitted from trail to loop to gallery with no concern for the map or where the Chihuly pieces were located or any knowledge of the garden beyond what I’d gleaned from the blog posts of Jenny/Rock Rose, Noelle/AZ Plant Lady, Loree/Danger Garden, and Gerhard/Succulents and More. (Have I missed anyone? Feel free to add your favorite DBG blog links in the comments).

That led to me missing some Chihuly pieces (like the boat full of glass balls) and gardens (how did I miss the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop and the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop?). But it also led to some serendipitous moments, like having the wildflower trail to myself before the hordes descended, leisurely birdwatching, and the surprise and joy of turning a corner and seeing vignettes like this: a scrim of fragrant lavender in front of a yellow Chihuly piece resembling a balloon-animal octopus.


By the time I’d stumbled across the Edible Garden, the sun was nearing its zenith, as this prickly sundial shows.


Awesome pattern and texture


Y’all know I’m not really into edible gardens, but DBG has a nicely designed one, with raised beds, sandstone walls, and red shade cloths that can be stretched over steel frames as needed.


Just past the edibles, this vision held me spellbound for a good ten minutes: a glorious palo verde in full bloom against a china-blue sky, the ground carpeted with golden petals, a red hill in the distance.


So beautiful


I also really liked this steel-and-rebar arbor, the top in a branching design.


Isn’t this clever?


One of my favorite Chihuly installations appears just across the trail from Archer House: purple reeds (or tubular balloons?) and spheres like giant bowling balls set amid agaves and yuccas.


Even the flat light of midday couldn’t take away from their beauty.


By now I was thinking of lunch, having gotten up at 4 am, hopped on the 2-hour flight to Phoenix, and come straight to the garden, so I headed to the cafe, stopping along the way to admire this ocotillo blooming against blue sky.


Yellow-flowering aloes caught my eye too…


…especially when I noticed a hummingbird sipping from the tubular blossoms.


So cute


After a late lunch I headed out since I was meeting Steve Martino later that afternoon. Here’s one last look at “Desert Towers,” the garden’s permanent Chihuly piece, and the flowering garden around it. But I would be back at 7 pm to see the garden in the evening light and the Chihuly sculptures illuminated at night.

Up next: My final post from Desert Botanical Garden features sunset views and Chihuly sculptures at night — dramatic light, both natural and artificial. For a look back at Archer House garden and Desert Living Trail, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.