New foundation bed, sedge lawn update, and fall color


The front garden by the house has undergone some major changes since we lost a tree last winter. But after some summer angst as formerly shaded foundation shrubs burned up, and some fixes, I’m feeling good about it again.


Here’s how it looked before, with the live oak before removal.


And here’s the stump and empty swath of lawn — the only lawn that was left in our entire yard — right after the tree came down. It happened in December, and I immediately started worrying about the Japanese maple and foundation shrubs, which would now receive a lot more sun in summer, although the north-facing house does give them some protection. I also knew that last bit of lawn had to go. I’d only kept it because it was chock-full of oak sprouts, which are easier to mow than remove by hand from a planting bed, and I hoped that once we ground out the stump, the sprouts would wither away (sadly that has not been the case).


So out came the lawn and the semicircle of metal edging that had kept it tidy. I laid a natural (not chopped) limestone edge to keep soil and mulch out of the dry stream behind it.


In February I planted rows of 4-inch ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge (Carex sp.) from Barton Springs Nursery and a toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) slightly off-center. The sedges looked so tiny!


But 7 months later, the sedge is fluffy and full — not all the way filled in yet, but close. You’ll notice one more change: the foundation bed has been replanted. That just happened. As I’d feared, the shade-loving Chinese mahonias and holly fern that had long occupied the foundation bed burned up under the Death Star’s rays.


Good riddance to the holly fern. I’d hated it. I regretted losing the Chinese mahonias, but I have others. I replaced them with two dwarf Texas palmettos (Sabal minor), as large as I could afford because they’re so slow-growing. I also shifted into more shade an ‘Everillo’ carex that was showing sun stress. Between the palmettos, for height, I placed a tall, narrow pot just outside the drip line of the eave with a ‘Pineapple Express’ mangave and silver ponyfoot. The mangave is a little too small — something with more heft would look better, like ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave — but I really wanted to try this one.


Side view


The combo of ‘Sparkler’ sedge, ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia, and ‘Everillo’ sedge by the front porch stayed pretty shady all summer thanks to the porch roof, so I was able to preserve it.


Happily, the Japanese maple at the far end came through the summer with only a little curling of its leaves by August. It’s getting a half day of morning sun now, but the other trees shade it from the afternoon sun, thank goodness.


On the sunnier side of the porch, these dry-garden plants thrive with only occasional hand-watering: toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) in the tall pipe, red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) in the red planter, Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’ on the left, dwarf myrtle (Myrtus communis ‘Nana’), and ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia (Dyckia choristaminea ‘Frazzle Dazzle’) in the small steel planter.


After the two quick deep freezes last winter, it look a long time for the normally evergreen flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’) to recover, but by midsummer it was looking good again. I like how the stepping-stone path seems to cut through a swath of it — the eye reads it as one mass.


The surviving Chinese mahonia are growing in a loose hedge along the fence.


Farther out along the driveway, there’s white skullcap, bamboo muhly, and ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia.


And beyond that are new ‘Micron’ dwarf yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria ‘Micron’) and foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri), plus Texas sotol (Dasylirion texana), gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), spineless prickly pear, and golden thryallis (Galphimia gracilis).


Peeking around from my neighbors’ vantage point, there’s purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) mixed in with the golden thryallis, plus gray globemallow (Sphaeralcea incana) starting to bloom.


By the street, crouching low — because this is a small plant — you see purple skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii), a super performer in a hot, sunny, gravelly site often visited by passing dogs. Not a browned spot is visible anywhere on it. Those are ‘Color Guard’ yuccas in the background.


The big ‘Green Goblet’ agave in the terraced bed on the other side of the driveway is doing well. Woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata) carpets the ground beneath it.


Ruffled, fuzzy mullein is a silver accent.


My other sedge “lawn,” this one planted with ‘Berkeley’ sedge (Carex divulsa), is looking OK although not as fluffy as I would like.


Maybe it would be happier with more sun. At any rate, it does remain green with little maintenance. That’s a wide-leaf giant hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera ssp. chiangii) and white Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii ‘Alba’) on the right.


I’m always pretending the neighbors’ plantings are mine (I did plant them for them). Here’s lantana with a little Turk’s cap that self-seeded and Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) in fall bloom.


The side path to the heart gate is quieter with masses of two grasses: inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa). On the cedar table…


…is a galvanized cake stand I punched a few drainage holes in, which holds some silver balls, stone hearts, a shell fossil, my friend Dustin’s cast-stone diamond, and pine cones.


Wow, the Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) has really grown this year. I do nothing with this — ever. So easy!


On the back deck, my little Moby Jrs are growing too.


It’s so much easier to enjoy the garden in fall — and maybe soon we’ll have actual fall temperatures along with the recent welcome rains. Come on, October!

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

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

Strolling into danger — Danger Garden, that is


Every three years I manage a trip to Portland, and each time (2014 and 2011) I’ve been fortunate to visit the garden of my friend Loree Bohl — fellow spiky plant lover, the prolific blogger of Danger Garden, and a collector-gardener with an incredibly artistic and meticulous eye for detail. The way she combines foliage and texture, her disciplined yet bold use of color, her artful arrangements of containers and natural ornaments, and her obsession with stab-you-in-the-shin-if-you’re-not-careful plants have me crushing on her garden every time I see it.


I enjoy Loree and her husband, Andrew, as much as the garden, which ironically almost cost me my planned photo shoot at the golden hour. We arrived late one afternoon in mid-August, and after introducing our husbands and my daughter to each other, we headed straight out to the sunken patio to enjoy a beverage and catch up.


It was lovely talking with them, and time slid by until Andrew stood and announced he needed to walk the dog before dinner. I jumped to my feet, saying something like, “Oh my god, I haven’t looked at the garden yet!” Loree laughed, and I belated turned my attention to the garden I’d been sitting in for an hour, and oh, it took my breath away again.


The pitcher plant saucer planters by the stock-tank pond grabbed my attention first. And just look at that big, beautiful Agave ovatifolia while we’re here!


I believe Loree added these fairly recently, using her trademark invention of poultry-feeder covers as planting saucers atop galvanized steel posts. Yellow-green glass chips and chunks of slag glass, seashells, and frosty-gray tendrils of Spanish moss, with mouthy pitcher plants rising cobra-like above, give these striking planters a Lotusland vibe.


Panning right, Sammy the Yucca rostrata dominates the scene — my, how he’s grown in 3 years — and Loree’s collection of agaves in silver and chartreuse pots adorns one corner of the patio.


A closeup. I covet that Queen Victoria agave at middle-left and the ‘Sharkskin’ at back-right.


They’re all fabulous.


More! Just imagine — Loree totes all these into a covered shelter each fall, to protect them from Portland’s wet winters, and brings them out again in spring. A lazy gardener, she is not.


The low concrete retaining wall along one side of the sunken patio makes a perfect display perch for smaller pots.


These white pots remind me of cookie cutters. I like how they show off the star-shaped forms of the agave and red aloe.


An orange shade pavilion houses the potted succulents in winter, when Loree and Andrew enclose it with plastic sheeting corrugated plastic panels. But in the warmer seasons it’s a charming hideaway for two with a view of the sunken patio.


Playing off the orange pavilion, Loree adds orange and contrasting charcoal pots to the mix. Gah, everything is perfect! How does she do it??


Hanging planters bring the garden to eye level under the pavilion, as do more of Loree’s saucer-and-post pedestal planters. The vintage Danger sign is attached to the metal planter via magnets.


A red Circle Pot from Potted elevates a bromeliad and tillandsias.


A wide view. On the upside-down galvanized container by the orange table…


…Loree arranged a still-life of poppy seedheads, tiny plants, and a few other found bits.


Loree is even more crazy for galvanized-steel stock tanks than I am. They shine out from shady nooks throughout her garden.


This arrangement adorns a shady gravel garden to the left of the pavilion.


Steel pipe remnants (duct pipe, maybe?), turned into planters, are mixed in.


One acts as a pedestal for an exquisite fern-and-moss arrangement that seems to be planted in mounded soil (surely not!) atop a square concrete paver. Update from Loree: “The plants that appear to be planted in mounded soil on a concrete paver really are! It’s a method of planting called a fern table. I wrote about it at Danger Garden.”


Pipe planters with a rich assortment of shade lovers, plus more Spanish moss cascading down the side.


A chartreuse Circle Pot hanging from a big-leaf magnolia beckons you along a concrete-paver path out of the sunken garden.


Below, details of another succulent-pot arrangement — look, a funnel planter! — stop you in your tracks.


Looking back toward the patio — so many cool plants and such lushness


The garage wall, painted a rich brown, shows off another beautiful arrangement: two saucer-and-post planters and a piece of wire mesh framing two pie-pan planters (at least that’s what I call them; I have three from Target in my own garden). Below, a mix of chartreuse and emerald foliage.


Begonias and silver ponyfoot


Maidenhair fern


A vertical piece of cattle panel acts as a trellis, supporting a jungle-like vignette of bromeliads, tillandsias, and Spanish moss.


Loree has a knack for offering up plants like exquisite gifts. Here you go! Look at this!, they seem to say.


This part of the garden retains a tiny, geometric lawn — a bit of openness that offsets the densely planted beds surrounding it, and a green echo of the paved sunken patio nearby.


Bold-leaved agaves and palms mingle with more saucer-and-post planters that hold smaller plants up for inspection.


Stunning


Details


A burgundy grass stands tall in a ribbed silver pot alongside a pincushion-like agave.


There are flowers in Loree’s garden. They’re just not the main focus.


Rose of Sharon and a chocolate mimosa add height, but notice the echoing colors below, along with chartreuse Japanese forest grass.


Exiting the back garden through a steel cut-out agave gate…


…you see an intriguing mix of agaves and tomatoes in a narrow bed along the driveway.


The front garden is planted dry-garden style, in gravel, with sun-loving spiky plants galore. A concrete walk leads diagonally from the driveway to the front porch, giving visitors an eyeful of bold plants with leaves of powder blue, emerald, chartreuse, and burgundy to almost black.


A whale’s tongue agave shines amid green and dark-leaved plants that echo the rich-brown hue of the house. Hot-pink bougainvillea adds a major dose of flower color.


Whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), my fave


Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ in center, with sea holly (Eryngium maritimum).


We can grow this combo in Austin: whale’s tongue agave, beaked yucca (Y. rostrata), and gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida).


The glowing mahogany bark of manzanita, curling up like wood shavings


Yucca desmetiana ‘Blue Boy’, black mondo grass, and ‘Seafoam’ artemisia


What a garden! Loree, thank you for the lovely garden visit with you and Andrew!


It was wonderful to live a little more dangerously for an evening.

Up next: The Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland. For a look back at the Columbia River Gorge, waterfalls, and flower farms, click here.

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

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

Evergreen combos (mostly) for Austin


A local reader asked me about evergreen plants that grow well here in central Texas, and as I was putting together today’s Foliage Follow-Up post, I realized it’s a good opportunity to share some of my faves. I use a lot of evergreen plants — though not necessarily shrubs — because 1) they tend to require less maintenance than plants grown for flowers, 2) they look great year-round, 3) they provide wonderful structure, and 4) I have lots of shade, and flowers generally need more sun.

In the photo at top you see a chartreuse scrim of bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), an ornamental clumping grass that stays evergreen in most winters. Last winter’s two Arctic blasts did bleach out the foliage, and it takes its time in greening up again. But for a light-catching green cloud, drought tolerance, and deer resistance, this grass can’t be beat.

In the steel planter, ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia offers a dark-leaved evergreen option for Austin gardens. Again, it can be damaged in extreme cold, but most winters it does fine. As a low-growing, front-of-border plant, white skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens ‘White’) is a semi-evergreen sub-shrub that tolerates dappled shade. It looks best with a light shearing in late February and maybe again in mid-August. The white-flowering skullcap can be hard to find, but pink is readily available. Save the purple skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii) for full sun and gravelly conditions.


Here’s a long view of this same bed, from a little further along the driveway. Strappy Texas sotol (Dasylirion texana) is the star here, backed by bamboo muhly. In front, I just took out all my iris, which wasn’t blooming in the dappled shade, and replaced it with evergreens ‘Micron’ dwarf yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria ‘Micron’), foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri), and variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’). ‘Micron’ holly is a new one for me and is said to get only about 1-1/2 ft. tall by 2-1/2 ft. wide. (I bought all of Barton Springs Nursery’s supply, but I spotted it at The Natural Gardener last weekend.) Foxtail fern and flax lily both can be hurt by deep freezes, but generally they do fine in Austin’s winters, and they are workhorses that require very little care or maintenance.


‘Green Goblet’ agave (Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Green Goblet’) is a winter-hardy agave with a beautiful olive-green leaf with a tinge of blue. It produces pups on underground runners, but not too many, so they’re manageable. I just tug it loose whenever one pops up — usually several feet away from the mother plant. The silver groundcover woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata) is not evergreen, but it’s a good choice for part or full sun and gravelly conditions. Fuzzy-leaved mullein (Verbascum spp.), which is generally evergreen for two years until it blooms and then dies, grows amid the stemodia.

In the background, I’m growing a lawnette of evergreen Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa). I now recommend ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge (Carex retroflexa ‘Scott’s Turf’) instead of Berkeley (Scott’s is less fussy), but both are good lawn substitutes for part shade or dappled shade and green all year.


Purple-leaved ‘Vertigo’ grass (Pennisetum purpureum ‘Vertigo’) goes brown and dormant after a freeze, but it does return each year, unlike traditional purple fountain grass. Next to it, lavender-flowering Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) has fragrant, edible, evergreen leaves. You can see the evergreen sedge lawnette in the background.


My favorite agave has to be whale’s tongue (Agave ovatifolia), a powder-blue agave that doesn’t pup but grows in an open, rose-like form. I also like evergreen softleaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia), growing at left of the agave — and too close, unfortunately. In the foreground, blooming hot pink and attracting hummingbirds, is autumn sage (Salvia greggii). Its tiny, semi-evergreen leaves release a minty fragrance when you crush them or brush against them.


I also love wide-leaf giant hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera ssp. chiangii), a stately, more open and vase-like relative of the common red yucca. Its evergreen leaves are long and sword-like, although not particularly spiny, and white thread-like fibers dangle from their edges. A white-flowering Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii ‘Alba’) grows in front — not evergreen, but a nice companion in dappled shade. The white Turk’s cap is harder to find than the common red, but last week I saw some 1-gallons for sale at Barton Springs Nursery.

The only downside of using giant hesperaloe is that bucks love to rub their antlers on it in the fall and winter, smashing its beautiful form. So now I put rolled wire fencing around it from early fall through spring. And I do the same with my ‘Green Goblet’ agave, which the bucks will also antler-damage.


The side-yard path into the back garden is mostly evergreen with bamboo muhly, ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Blue Ice’), ‘Sapphire Skies’ Yucca rostrata, ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon (Ilex vomitoria ‘Will Fleming’), ‘Bright Edge’ yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’), and prickly pear (Opuntia).


I’m loving the totem-pole shape of my one surviving Indian fig opuntia (Opuntia ficus-indica). The others succumbed to a deep freeze one year. Indian fig is less cold tolerant than many prickly pears.


Peeking around the Yucca rostrata, you see a couple more hardworking evergreens, ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood and the ubiquitous live oak (Quercus fusiformis), which shades most of my garden and indeed most of my neighborhood, none of which were planted by human hands and grow as Mother Nature planted them in loose clusters.

This is my September 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.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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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