Early flowerliciouness in Austin this spring


Purple oxalis flowers delicately echo its purple leaves

Texas redbuds, Texas mountain laurel, spiderwort, and even some bluebonnets are surprising Austinites this spring with early blooming. I can usually count on sniffing the grape Kool-Aid-scented blossoms of Texas mountain laurel well into mid-March, but they may be done by then.


Being shady, my garden lags behind sunnier spots, and my own Texas mountain laurels are just getting started. Ahh, I do love the grapey blossoms of this gorgeous native tree.


Gardeners in cooler climates think of waterlilies as summer bloomers. But the first flower appeared on ‘Colorado’ in my stock-tank pond this week. I’ve yet to divide my pond plants, so that’ll slow them down a little. But for now I’m enjoying this beauty.


Another native, Texas nolina, is sending up stiff sprays of ivory and pale-pink flowers, held in the center of its grass-like foliage.


‘Blue Elf’ aloe has hoisted its coral-red bloom spikes too. Calling all hummingbirds!


Of course, I can never resist photographing agaves, and my neighbor’s whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia) is looking especially fine — like a big, blue rose. With teeth.


While I’m not relishing our early heat (upper 80s this week), I’m enjoying the garden’s spring revival. Soon enough it’ll be swimming season.

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

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The upcoming talk with James deGrey David has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

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

Garden clean-up in progress for Foliage Follow-Up


The pond patio garden is mostly evergreen, so the big cleanup here occurs later, in March, when I muck out the pond and divide the water plants.

With our brief winter segueing right into spring, February is a transitional month here in Central Texas. We may yet get another freeze, but new growth is greening up many plants, even as winter-browned foliage hangs on.


Inland sea oats still sporting its winter look, with chevron seedheads dangling. Fresh green leaves are already popping up from the roots, so I’ll cut it back this week.

It’s important to provide cover and food sources for birds and other wildlife as well as have something to look at all winter, so I leave plants standing after they go brown. But now it’s definitely time.


Flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) branches are showing new leaf growth. I’ll cut the branches back to about 12 inches to keep the plant compact.

My garden thinks winter is over, and I’m racing to keep up. Cutting back renews many of the woody natives and keeps them from getting straggly, like autumn sage and flame acanthus.


Mexican honeysuckle after its cut-back — not pretty now, but it’ll grow. I only cut it back this hard in years with hard freezes that turn it to mush.

Still, the big mid-February cut-back gets a little harder every year, the older I get, and I may hire help next year.


‘Vertigo’ pennisetum after its cut-back

But for now I forge on solo and try to get it done in manageable stages: a little last weekend, a little more this weekend.


I also need to make time for unexpected tidying, like this drooping ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon, which I noticed today leaning over the path. But check out the size on that Yucca rostrata by the shed! It grew a lot last year and now stands about 6-1/2 feet tall.


Last weekend I got sidetracked (of course) with some repotting, like the squid agave in the culvert-pipe planter, which had settled too deeply and needed to be pulled out and replanted in added soil.


I also replaced a shaded-out yucca in the taller blue pot with a ‘Sparkler’ sedge I transplanted. I hope it’ll survive my tough love of containers this summer by not requiring more than a weekly or maybe twice-weekly watering. I’ve struggled to find a plant that likes the bamboo-shaded, dry conditions of the stock-tank planter. I’m going to try Texas sotol this spring.


I’m happy to see a freeze-damaged ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda coming back nicely in the smaller pot, alongside Mexican feathergrass.


I’ve also done some significant planting lately, including a new 5-gallon Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’ from Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery to accompany my prize-money yucca along the back fence.


I also planted a new and bigger Moby replacement — that is, a new whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia) for Moby’s old spot. I’ll have a post about agave-planting challenges soon!


I still need to tackle some pot clean-up chores, since December’s deep freeze made a mess of some of my succulents. Like this ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, for example. It’s normally beautiful at this time of year, with coral bloom spikes hoisted above slender, blue-green leaves. It’s blooming OK, but the fleshy leaves have bleached, frostbitten tips and would benefit from selective pruning.


The cinderblock succulent wall looks forlorn too, in spite of a brave show by the Palmer’s sedum (Sedum palmeri), which survived our freezing weather just fine and has been feeding honeybees for weeks. For future reference, other survivors include ‘Blue Spruce’ sedum, ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense), variegated prickly pear, and soap aloe with a little damage. I was most sad to lose my Coppertone stonecrop, but I can easily buy a new one, along with a few other small succulents, to refresh the wall planter this spring.

Like I said, it’s a busy time of year in the garden!

This is my February post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness — or dead-foliage clean-up chore — is happening 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.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The upcoming talk with James deGrey David has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

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

Read This: Gardenista


I got behind with my self-declared Book Review Week last week, but I’m back on track today with my review of Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces (2016, Artisan) by Michelle Slatalla. Since it was a fall release, I’d hoped I might find it under the Christmas tree, but I ended up buying my own copy after the holidays and have been savoring it for weeks.

Lushly illustrated with photos of beautiful patios and outdoor living spaces — in which plants play a significant, if not starring, role — the book provides plenty of eye candy. My favorite part of the book, “Thirteen Gardens We Love,” showcases a variety of well-designed gardens with a decidedly verdant and romantic ambience — mostly urban patio gardens, with a few larger properties thrown in — in detailed, 10- to 16-page spreads. The glowing, Instagram-worthy images are punctuated with a short intro about each garden and captions explaining key design elements, followed by a 2-page spread called “Steal This Look,” which calls out aspects of the design that create a certain style, like Moroccan Modern and Rustic Glamour, to name two.

All of the gardens featured in this section are in New England, mostly New York and Massachusetts (6); London, England (3); and California (3); with one exception — a welcome surprise! — from Austin, Texas (Christy Ten Eyck‘s garden, which I’ve photographed myself several times). I would have preferred more variety in locations, but I enjoyed each garden anyway and lingered over the images.

That’s half the book. The next two chapters feature, respectively, the use of color in the garden and 8 “creative ways to get more from your garden,” and there’s plenty to admire here too. The following chapter, Design Ideas, I found least useful, even simplistically silly, in showing how to create a few outdoor projects. For example, a “simple outdoor sink” is suggested as a project for a DIY garden workspace, but what’s shown is a galvanized bucket placed under an existing faucet — or a faucet that you’ve had a plumber install (i.e., not very DIY). On page 301, the author suggests using a propped-up pitchfork as an impromptu hose-sprayer support for irrigation. Um, no. And Christy Ten Eyck’s rustic-elegant outdoor shower constructed of wire mesh (page 304) is described as a DIY-friendly “Simplest Shower.” I’ve asked Christy about that exact wire mesh and learned you’d need to be a skilled welder or hire one to recreate her McNichols mesh outdoor shower enclosure.

Aside from those stumbles of oversimplification, there’s plenty to interest those who like to style outdoor spaces with a similar attention to detail as the interior, as well as anyone who enjoys paging through pictures of lovely gardens, learning about the gardeners who created them, and getting inspiration for their own gardens. And if the book whets your appetite for more garden gorgeousness, you can always pop online and surf Gardenista’s website, a sister site to the hugely popular Remodelista.

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

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The first talk with Scott Ogden has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get 24-hour advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

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

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