A new book for 2016 and a Lawn Gone! GIVEAWAY

The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.

I have a big announcement, my friends! I’m writing a new book, a follow-up to Lawn Gone! that’s all about how to garden with less water. Or perhaps a better way of describing it is, it’s about honoring water in your garden.

No matter where you live, whether you contend with drought or are blessed with regular rain, water gives life. As we’ve all grown more conscious of the environmental impact of our gardening practices — from dusting the garden with chemicals to mowing and watering an expanse of thirsty lawn — we’re learning to create beauty that’s more in tune with our changing climate, and that isn’t wasteful of our most precious natural resource: clean water.

While visiting a xeriscape garden near Phoenix last spring, I was moved by an insightful proverb engraved on the rim of a steel container pond: “The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.” Nor must we. Now I don’t claim to be a paragon of water conservation, but I’m doing what I can and learning more every day, making small changes that add up to big water savings, and getting more out of the water I do use. I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

The book will come out early next year, in February 2016, published by the awesome team at Ten Speed Press. I’ll keep you updated on its progress. I’m really excited about this topic, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Right now though, I feel like keeping the party vibe going. To thank you for reading and visiting Digging, I’m giving away THREE signed copies of my book Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard, which the Dallas Morning News called “an excellent guide…if this is the year you reduce your lawn footprint or get rid of it altogether.” Here are the details:


What: An autographed copy of Lawn Gone! to THREE lucky winners

How to Enter: Leave a comment on THIS post and tell me ONE thing you do to conserve water in your garden. It can be anything, from planting some native plants, to collecting rainwater, to using drip irrigation or soaker hoses, to reducing your lawn, to watering in the morning instead of the afternoon. Just one thing. I bet you are doing something!

Who: One entry per person. Open to residents of the continental U.S. only, please, due to shipping costs. I’ll draw 3 winners at random.

When: Giveaway ends at 1 p.m. central time on Monday, February 9. I’ll announce the winners that day here and in a new blog post. Please check back to see if you’ve won.

Good luck to you all! (And thanks to Tom Ellison for sharing his garden, pictured above, with me.)

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

New year in green and gold: January Foliage Follow-Up

It’s a new year in the garden, and I haven’t really been out in it for a while. An unusually long stretch of cold, gray days had me feeling like I was in Seattle, and let me tell you, it made me feel pretty gray myself. But yesterday the sun came out, the skies turned blue, and with a pleasant chill in the air it was the stuff of winter-in-Texas dreams. So let’s kick off Foliage Follow-Up for 2015! I’ll start with my ever-so-slow-growing Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn, studded with a few lemon-lime ‘Margaritaville’ yuccas. I love this little sedge lawn so much more than when it was St. Augustine grass, and I only have to mow twice a year (with a quiet, battery-operated mower). Yippee! If you’re curious about the palm in the middle-back, it’s a Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), which will eventually fill that spot with tropical-looking foliage.

My pipe-planted toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) is an FFU favorite of mine, but I have to show it off again but it looks so freaking fantastic, like a giant’s fiber-optic mood lamp shimmering by the front door. I felt like I was taking a chance on this plant when I bought it at Big Red Sun exactly 3 years ago, but boy has it paid off.

At the time (and even today) I rarely saw toothless sotol planted around town, and I wasn’t sure how it would hold up, especially in such an elevated, tight spot. However, it sails through winter freezes and blistering hot summers and only requires watering maybe once every two weeks in summer. I do think that sharp, sharp drainage and lots of sun is key to making it happy. For a laugh, here’s my post about my pipe-planting goof, but you can also see how much it’s grown since I planted it.

In the same space, softening a corner and screening the laundry room window from the western sun, is ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo, which I’m enjoying much more since I took the time to prune it up and show off its golden “legs” last fall. I need to stay on top of the pruning. Bamboo gets waaaay out of hand if you don’t, even clumping bamboo like this.

Foxtail ferns (Asparagus meyeri) in white pots sit atop short cantera stone columns gifted to me by my gardening friend Randy. (Thanks again, Randy!)

More golden foliage is glowing in the newish front-side garden, courtesy of two variegated maiden grasses (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’). Particularly observant readers may notice a lot more sunshine in this area now. Yes, indeed! While having my oaks trimmed last fall, I convinced my neighbor to have the arborist remove a half-dead, truly pitiful, tree-sized red-tip photinia from her side yard. Its trunk was at least a foot in diameter, and coppery, dead leaves clung to it all year, plus it was leaning over my new fence. Once it came down, the whole space was opened up, and now this part of the garden gets a good dose of morning sun, which should make everything quite happy.

What kind of foliage is making you happy in your January garden? Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage plants their due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I really 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!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Read This: Sunset Western Landscaping Book

Sunset Western Landscaping Book

If you live in the western U.S. and your New Year’s resolution is to beautify your landscaping or create a sustainable, water-smart garden, I have the book for you: Sunset Western Landscaping Book, 2006 edition. It’s not a new release, but it’s worth seeking out. And actually, you need not live in the West, Sunset‘s target region, to find inspiration in this book, which is jam-packed with images of beautiful and creative gardens that anyone will enjoy. Austin itself is too far east to be included in Sunset’s coverage area, and yet local readers will find plenty of ideas to put to use in their own gardens. From garden vignettes that emphasize detail to wide views that show layout, this book covers it all with gorgeous images and clearly written, practicality-minded text.

Aside from eye candy, the book offers a broad design tutorial, with practical info about building structure into the garden with arbors, patios, and walls, designing for small spaces, creating a fire-resistant landscape, adding privacy, choosing furniture and decor to accent your garden, and more. Plants are covered by broad type — trees, shrubs, palms, roses, perennials, grasses, natives, etc. — with an emphasis on water-wise gardening. Readers are urged to reduce the lawn, plant water-thrifty plants, irrigate efficiently, and generally create a garden suitable to the increasingly water-challenged West.

This is a book to pore over on winter evenings, dreaming of new features to install in your garden or a fresh planting design to replace that tired, dried-out lawn. It’s also a great resource for the new homeowner or any gardener newly transplanted to the West. If you’re resolved on making a beautiful garden in 2015 and need a kickstart, I think you’ll find this book to be an excellent coach.

Disclosure: I purchased Sunset Western Landscaping Book myself and reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.