It’s been a cold winter, but the garden’s still got it going on


Thank heavens for evergreens, grasses, yuccas, and structural features like stock-tank ponds, big containers, and low walls. After this withering, frostbitten winter, my garden would otherwise be flattened. Of course I’ve been moaning and groaning about the damage anyway. (Isn’t that what we gardeners do?) But taking stock a few days ago, I realized there’s still plenty to enjoy in my winter garden. Case in point: the stock-tank pond, seen here reflecting a mango-colored sunset sky. Let me also give a shout-out to ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood balls and winter-tough squid agaves (Agave bracteosa) in raise-em-up-so-you-can-see-em containers.


Cast-iron plant is a dependable (if ubiquitous) evergreen for Austin too. I may not notice those upright, broad green leaves the rest of the year, but I’m sure glad to have them in the winter. Similarly, Texas nolina (Nolina texana), which grows low to the ground, becomes a winter focal point when elevated in a pot, especially framed by the winter-tan foliage of a dwarf Barbados cherry hedge (Malpighia glabra ‘Nana’). In the background, winter-hardy Yucca rostrata stands tall like a blue Koosh ball atop a trunk.


More yucca goodness here, with a twisted-leaf paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida) elevated for attention in a purple pot atop a concrete plinth. A squid agave in a culvert-pipe planter stair-steps a little higher. Filling in around them are evergreen shade lovers ‘Cream de Mint’ pittosporum and Chinese fringeflower.


In a sunny bed along the driveway, ‘Color Guard’ yuccas take center stage with bright yellow and green stripes. Evergreen gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) is beginning to bloom in the foreground, while last season’s inflorescences still dazzle on the pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia). I’ll cut the pine muhly back soon, but for now, everything that remains evergreen or stands tall through winter is treasured.

This is my February post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness 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! 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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin this May 3rd-6th! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2018 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Mowing the sedge, and other expressions of hope for spring


Central Texas gardens got walloped by Old Man Winter this year, and a lot of plants that normally contribute to Austin’s evergreen palette — bamboo muhly, sago palm, flax lily, even ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo — are sporting sad shades of tan or brown. With a garden tour coming up in just 3 months, my emotions about this winter have ranged from pique to gloom. (Ironically, from a personal standpoint, I’ve enjoyed the cold weather and have been wearing boots, jackets, and scarves every time it dips below 65 F.)

Yesterday I made myself do one garden tidying chore — one thing that wouldn’t be too early (I’m still saving the big cut-back for closer to mid-February), and that would help prepare the garden for spring: I charged up the electric mower and ran it over the winter-browned sedges. What a difference it made for my mood and for the late-winter aesthetics of my garden.


Now instead of yellow-brown, tired-looking lumps, there are tidy tufts of emerging green leaves in the ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge “lawn” that I planted last February.


The more-established Berkeley sedge lawn in front of the house got a few passes with the mower too, and now it looks very much like a shorn traditional lawn. It’s funny how mowing those sedges turned into an act of faith that spring will return and green things up again.


There are other things that need tidying, like my “totem pole” prickly pear that fell over in our first winter blast. Drat!


Here’s how it looked a few months ago, growing straight and tall like no Opuntia I’d ever seen. It should be easy to replant by sticking the broken end into the soil, although it’ll have to be staked.


I’m not sure if two of my ‘Platinum Beauty’ lomandra trial plants will pull through. I planted them in the front garden last fall, eager to see how they’d hold up in dry semi-shade and with deer. No problem there, but two deep-freezes-for-days later, they’re bleached and brittle.


Ah, it kills me! Still, I see a little fresh green at the base of the plants, so I’ll leave them alone for now and wait until after our last freeze date to cut them back and see if they recover. The third trial plant is in a container up by the house, and it came through the freezes just fine with a protective cover over it. I covered the two in the ground too, but they are in a more exposed location.


More brown, which should be evergreen, around the pool: a brown hedge of dwarf Barbados cherry continues to provide structure on the left, but brown stems are all that remain of a beautiful stand of Mexican honeysuckle at the far end of the pool. I can only avert my eyes for now and hope for a recovery by early May.


But why dwell on the brown when I can dwell on the green? And there’s still plenty of it, like the blue-green of paleleaf yucca underplanted with heartleaf skullcap…


…and silver Mediterranean fan palm doing its year-round fan dance.


We just need to keep the green in our hearts a little while longer. Spring is coming.

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin this May 3rd-6th! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2018 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Hill Country style in Sitio-designed garden of architect Duke Garwood


A month ago I visited a Rollingwood garden designed by landscape architect Curt Arnette of Sitio Design. It’s owned by the architect of the contemporary Hill Country-style home, Duke Garwood, whom I also had the pleasure of meeting.

Let’s start in back, where a limestone patio bordered with shaggy zoysia turf flows out to a resort-worthy swimming pool. A palm- and Yucca rostrata-studded garden steps up around the pool and creates an enticing view from inside.


In the foreground, a circular stone fire pit filled with fire-safe blue glass stands ready to warm chilly evenings. I love the meadowy (unmown), ‘Emerald’ zoysia grass edging the patio.


Fan-like giant hesperaloe grows along the foundation, underplanted with cascading silver ponyfoot.


The pool’s edge is beautifully constructed of cut limestone, while limestone boulders hold the slope behind the pool and form the naturalistic waterfall, as well as a diving rock at right.


Gorgeous stonework


Beyond the pool, massive boulders terrace the slope and create planting beds for palms, yuccas, firebush, golden thryallis, and coral bean, which combine to create a tropicalesque look.


Yucca rostrata in the foreground, with pomegranate and coral bean


Natural stone supports the curved and notched waterfall wall, and extends underwater like limestone at natural springs all around Austin.


One last wide shot


Now let’s tour the front garden. Water figures prominently here too, leading visitors along the front walk via a rill that traverses a series of limestone walls. To the right of the limestone walk, whale’s tongue agaves and tufts of Berkeley sedge fill in gaps among flat-topped boulders.


The walls also create a safety rail of sorts, blocking a steep drop-off behind them, and the tops function as planters.


Red yucca and silver ponyfoot thrive up top.


Pipes jut from the golden limestone upper walls and spill water into the pale limestone troughs below. The water flows along the rill…


…and into a galvanized-steel sluice, which pours into a cylindrical pond that evokes an old stone cistern. Bristly heads of Yucca rostrata peek up from the slope behind the rill and pond.


I believe that’s bigfoot water clover (Marsilea macropoda) encircling one side of the pond.


Along the front walk, ‘Blonde Ambition’ blue grama grass…


…and orange narrowleaf zinnia thrive in hot, sunny conditions.


The cut-limestone paving of the front walk is fitted around natural boulders.


Just past the circular pool, a stair leads down to a landing, and from there down to the garage. Another stair off that landing leads up to Duke’s home office (at left).


The limestone stair with natural boulders holding a planting bed of palmetto and Berkeley sedge. Contained by the paving (and maybe a sunken barrier too?), horsetail reed grows vertically against the house at the top of the steps.


Texas palmetto and firebush


Steel sluice fountain, as seen from the steps


The garage and driveway sit at the bottom of the slope, with a row of bamboo muhly at left. To orient yourself, the limestone wall-fountain runs along the front walk behind the yuccas at top-right.


It’s woodsy and more natural looking here. Morning glory twines charmingly up a native juniper. Nandina grows below. (Although beautiful and tough, nandina is an invasive plant in our greenbelts and toxic to birds, and so it’s one of the few plants I recommend eradicating.)


I believe Curt told me that Duke designed this cool contemporary steel fence and gate. That’ll never rot!


It’s always a pleasure to see a beautiful house and garden so well integrated. My thanks to Duke for giving me a tour of his home too!

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

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