A year in photos: So long, 2013

Last year I had fun selecting my 10 favorite photos from 2012, an annual meme led by Les at A Tidewater Gardener. So here I am again, sitting at my computer in stretchy pants and a cuddly cardigan, with the spicy scent of a baking pumpkin pie wafting into my office, to round up my top ten from 2013.

Following the porch vignette at top, I’ll lead with hot-pink penstemon in bloom during an April visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.

Next, several from the Bay Area in California, which I visited last summer. Here are golden kangaroo paws at Matt Gil’s garden, one of the stops during the San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling.

‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda amid chartreuse and purple groundcovers, one of the many masterful plan combinations in Ann Nichols’s garden, another stop on the San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling.

The wild coastline at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near San Francisco, one of the day trips my family and I made after the Fling ended.

Back in Austin, a Curt Arnette-designed garden during peak Gulf muhly season.

An angry Texas alligator lizard flashing its blue tongue at me during a fall hike in St. Edward’s Park in west Austin.

Celosia and a queen butterfly glow in autumn light at the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas.

The Rose Emporium’s bottle tree illuminated like stained glass during that same visit.

I hope always to have a photo from my own garden in any “favorites” list. In looking back, I notice I took fewer photos of my garden this year than I’ve ever done since starting this blog in 2006. I often feel that I’ve covered my own space so extensively that I have nothing new to say about it, and so I look for other gardens to post about. And yet my own garden is always on my mind and the first and last thing I see each day, whether I’m enjoying a garden-puttering day or just catching glimpses through the office window as I work.

I don’t go in much for New Year’s resolutions, but if I were to make one, I’d resolve to take more photos of my own garden in 2014 — not to “feed the blog” but just to remind myself, when looking back, of how much beauty it gives me every day.

Happy New Year! See you in 2014!

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Darn deer! Why I cage woody plants in fall and winter

My 6-year-old nephew, who was here for Thanksgiving dinner, asked why I’d put cages around some of my plants. Isn’t it the silliest looking thing? Wire cages are not exactly my idea of fine garden decor.

But short of ditching agaves, yuccas, and other stiff-leaved or woody plants from my front garden, I may have to resign myself to cage them each fall through winter to protect them from deer. No, they’re not eating these plants. They’re antlering them. In autumn, bucks in rut will rub against plants to remove the velvet from their antlers, leave their scent, and engage in territorial displays. They may continue to rub through late winter to help them shed their antlers. In my neighborhood bucks tend to favor sapling trees, so everyone has to cage their young trees or see them get girdled (which kills them slowly) or shredded (a fast death).

I’ve discovered that deer also like the stiffness and maybe even the thorniness of certain of my agaves and yuccas. This damage occurred in early November to my beautiful ‘Green Goblet’ agave. I was aghast when I noticed it but grateful that the plant wasn’t completely destroyed and I still had time to save it.

One of my trio of ‘Margaritaville’ yuccas wasn’t so lucky. Antlering had crushed the plant, breaking off the central core of leaves and leaving it there like a squirrel flattened by a passing car. This damage occurred the same night that the ‘Green Goblet’ was partly shredded.

The next morning I found some rolled wire in the garage, leftover from some project or other, and wrapped it around my damaged plants and a few others that were as yet unharmed. I didn’t have enough wire for all my yuccas or agaves, however, so I practiced triage and left unprotected the ones growing near salvias and other fragrant-leaved, deer-resistant plants. So far so good…

…although in past years the softleaf yucca by the driveway has been hit hard. I generally spray my softleafs with deer repellent in fall and winter in hopes of deterring the bucks. I caught one buck in the act a few years ago.

It’s so frustrating to find plants that can take our extremes of heat and drought, only to see them ravaged by these horned devils showing off for their lady friends.

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Bright Edge yucca brightens up a December Foliage Follow-Up

Edged with mellow-yellow stripes, Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’ adds a little sunshine to my garden on chilly winter days. Evergreen, drought tolerant, deer resistant, heat loving, and cold tolerant to US hardiness zone 4 or 5, ‘Bright Edge’ proves adaptable to everything except shade and damp soil. No worry of either on this fast-draining hillside, which gets baking hot in summer. Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), wearing its tawny summer-through-winter hue, picks up the gold of the yucca’s stripes.

Looking uphill at it, you get a glimpse of its other dry-loving, heat-loving, sun-loving companions: gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), spineless prickly pear (Opuntia), and four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa). When the daisy blooms spring through fall, its sunny flowers echo those yellow stripes perfectly.

‘Bright Edge’ yucca gets about 1-1/2 feet tall and wide in my garden, a nice size for foundations and narrow beds, and its flexible leaves, while sharp-tipped, are unlikely to stab the unwary gardener in the shin. It’s often confused with the more popular ‘Color Guard’ yucca, but you’ll notice that the yellow runs up the center of ‘Color Guard’s leaves but along the edges of ‘Bright Edge’. ‘Color Guard’ has a more open, handsome form, in my opinion, while ‘Bright Edge’ is a little scruffier, with offsets clumping together as the plant grows. But those gilded leaves are so pretty you’ll want some for your winter — and summer garden — too.

Please join me in posting about your lovely leaves of December for Foliage Follow-Up, a way to remind ourselves of the importance of foliage in the garden on the day after Bloom Day. Leave your link to your Foliage Follow-Up post in a comment. I really appreciate it if you’ll also include a link to this post in your own post (sharing link love!). If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.