Hot child in the city: August Foliage Follow-Up


Surely August will be our last worst month here in central Texas. It can’t possibly remain blisteringly hot and humid through September, can it?


Yes, it can, and it probably will, but that’s why I love agaves, yuccas, prickly pear, and other tough plants. They breeze through a Texas summer looking as cool as an Austinite floating in spring-fed Barton Springs Pool. Here’s one of my current favorites, Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’ (formerly Agave parryi ‘Cream Spike’), a pup given to me last fall by Bob Beyer of the blog Central Texas Gardening. Just look at those cream-and-lime-striped leaves and tidy, red teeth lining each crimson-spined leaf.


Agave x leopoldii is also a fine small agave for a sunny deck or patio. It needs some winter protection, but its coppery summer coloration — a little stressed from heat and drought — is especially lovely.


Out front, in the Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn, lemony ‘Margaritaville’ yucca easily withstands summer’s heat.


For the first time, I’m experimenting with keeping tillandias — aka air plants — outside during the warm months. I’ve managed to keep the big one on the left alive indoors for a couple of years, and I’d hate to lose it. But they look so perfect in my new Tentacle Pots that I decided to take the chance. I hope they don’t burn up in Austin’s summer heat! They’re in filtered shade, and I’m misting them with distilled water once a week.


Since today is Foliage Follow-Up — a celebration of great foliage — let’s venture outside my own garden for a moment. I spotted this honor guard of ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon hollies at the “castle” house in South Austin. Its narrow, upright form and tidy, evergreen leaves make ‘Will Fleming’ a great screening plant for a tight space, or a striking vertical accent.


At the same house, in the hell strip outside a limestone wall, a zigzagging row of large, silver-blue agaves is eye-catching too — like campfires with tongues of blue flame. Atop the wall, prickly pear finds a crevice home. None of these plants minds the heat or the Death Star, and they make architectural additions to the summer garden.

This is my August 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

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All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Cor-ten potager beauty in Rhonda Fleming Hayes’s garden: Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling


I’m dubbing this summer Escape to the North. In the space of two months I’ve made three trips to the northern, cooler half of the U.S., starting with the Philadelphia area; then Providence, Rhode Island; and finally Minneapolis, where the 9th annual Garden Bloggers Fling was held July 14-17. And for once, the gazillion Texas bloggers who attend the Fling each year didn’t bring the heat with them — yay!


It’s hard to know where to start when you take pictures of dozens of gardens over the course of three days, so I’m going to just jump in with blogger and author Rhonda Fleming Hayes’s personal garden.


Rhonda blogs at The Garden Buzz, and lots of the Flingers were already fans of her work.


Rhonda also writes a gardening column for the Minneapolis StarTribune, and she has a new book called Pollinator Friendly Gardening.


Generalizing from her book title, I expected that she might have a meadowy sort of butterfly garden, but it was actually quite manicured and even a bit contemporary in design. Of course I’m sure it’s pollinator friendly as well, but it’s different from what I was expecting — and I loved it!


Starting out front, the house has old Craftsman charm, although we were told that it’s relatively new construction. A generous front porch overlooks snowball hydrangeas with blossoms the size of snowmen’s heads.


The traditional front garden is lovely, but the side yard is where the action really is. What might have been a sterile swath of lawn or a green mustache of foundation shrubs has been converted to a stylish potager of raised Cor-ten steel beds and a handsome stone patio shaded by a striped umbrella. Willow edging in the veggie beds helps protect against incursion from…


…Peter Rabbit, who I spotted hopping through her other side yard.


Cottage favorites like zinnia and cosmos add color to the beds, and vines on tuteurs provide welcome height.


Gravel makes a practical, affordable, and water-permeable paving around the Cor-ten beds. Imagine seeing this view as you pull into your driveway at the end of each day.


The Cor-ten beds lead to an elevated stone patio that bridges the space between house and garage. As you step up and turn the corner, you see this…


…a contemporary Cor-ten steel pond with a flat, blade-like fountain. A smaller rectangular trough, just in front of the planters of autumn sage (upper level), spills water across the metal blade, which juts like a diving board over the steel-edged pond. It’s a wonderful design, compact but eye-catching.


String lights hang over the space for nighttime enjoyment. The doors behind the fountain open into a stylish potting room…


…with a deep sink, shelves for supplies, and gardening tools. What a beautiful pass-through, too, between the garage and house. Rhonda had kindly set up refreshments for us here.


She has only to step out on the patio to harvest tomatoes, here planted up with petunias, zinnias, and what looks like cypress vine.


Even the garage wall is gardened up.


There’s no back yard to speak of, so Rhonda has cleverly made the most of her sunny side yard. The elevated stone patio is bordered by a handsome stone wall (which doubles as additional seating), with a water-wise mix of liatris, coreopsis, sedum, and grasses enjoying the reflected heat from the driveway.


Another view


What a wonderful space, and full of lawn-gone inspiration!

Up next: The colorful Springwood Gardens daylily farm.

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

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.

Drive-By Gardens: Contemporary curb appeal in Shoalwood


Last week, while cruising around north-central Austin’s Shoalwood and south Allandale neighborhoods, I noticed a trend: contemporary curb appeal with gravel and concrete-paver paths, low walls and fences to separate public and private areas, and turf reduction in favor of lower-water plants.

Take this 1950s ranch, for example. Located in my old neighborhood, this house has had a landscaping facelift since I last saw it. Check out the “before” picture in this Trulia link. The wildscaped “before” garden has been transformed into this clean-lined, geometric space that I think better suits the style of the home. The low, board-formed concrete wall subtly separates the home’s “personal space” from the public sidewalk and street — a modern equivalent of the picket fence. Notice the cool detailing where the house numbers appear on separated sections of the wall.


A pillowy swath of sedge replaces traditional turf to the left of the poured-paver walk. More sedge softens the front of the wall. Lawn grass, neatly defined by steel edging, makes a green carpet to the right of the walk. The hell strip between the sidewalk and the street is paved, simply and effectively, with water-permeable decomposed granite, which makes a welcoming landing pad for visitors exiting their cars.


Similar elements are at work in this front garden: a low fence defining public and private spaces, gravel paving in the hell strip, and a reduced geometric lawn defined by steel edging. Regular readers may remember that I’ve featured this garden before — in 2012, to be exact — and it’s been well maintained since then. If it were mine, I’d continue the poured-concrete paver path through the lawn to the front steps, but that’s me.


More poured-concrete pavers lead the way to this home’s front porch, where a semi-translucent wall screens a small sitting area from the street. The burgundy tree at left nicely echoes the color of the home’s siding.


This new-construction home in a contemporary-farmhouse style has gone casual-modern with its landscaping: a field of dark-gray gravel in lieu of lawn, a poured-paver walk, and steel risers leading to the front porch. Planting is minimal, just a solitary yucca and agave in front, with bamboo closer to the house.

The layout has an appealing geometric simplicity, and the permeable paving allows rainwater to soak in. Unfortunately, the larger tan gravel in the hell strip distracts the eye; I’d use the dark-gray gravel for both sections, with one more poured paver connecting with the street — or, since it’s in the city easement, perhaps a row of off-the-shelf square concrete pavers aligned with the poured pavers. A few more plants — perhaps a cluster of ‘Color Guard’ yuccas and blackfoot daisies? — would soften the gravel too.


A plant lover clearly lives here, with a naturalistic garden with a few contemporary touches. A curving flagstone-and-gravel path is bordered by a xeriscape garden with grasses, santolina, agave, and other low-water plants. Modern L-shaped path lights add a contemporary note, as does what looks like geometric steel edging in the garden bed. It’s a welcoming garden walk that invites people and wildlife.


This last garden isn’t contemporary, but it has some similarities to the others: a decomposed-granite landing pad along the street, reduced lawn, and steel-edged definition. But I confess what really caught my eye are the colorful birdcages hanging from a graceful old live oak. What a playful, whimsical touch! I enjoy seeing people having fun in their front yards.

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.

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