Sedgey front garden and xeriscape terrace


For one West Austin homeowner, this is the view from her front door: an undulating, rhythmic front walk of poured-concrete pavers wending through a meadowy swath of Berkeley sedge, soap aloes, and purple heart, with a scrim of yaupon hollies shielding the view of the street. A traditional lawn? No way — who wants to mow?


Here’s the street view at the other end. The left edge of the property is naturalistic under some large live oaks, although a collection of spiky heat-lovers gets some breathing room in a gravelly bed along the path’s edge.


A cluster of Yucca rostrata adds drama (and screening) at the curb. I think that’s ‘Little Ollie’ dwarf olive underfoot.


Whale’s tongue agave and purple heart combines a velvety blue-green with rich eggplant.


Farther up the path it grows shady, and Texas palmetto appears among the Berkeley sedge.


Yaupon berry adds a pop of red in fall and winter.


In the home stretch to the front door, the paver path straightens out, cruising past foxtail fern and sago palm on the left. A concrete wall creates a psychological separation between the public side of the front garden and the more-private entry space. Another wall, barely visible at far-right…


…screens the garage and parking area along the driveway from view of the front door. Here on the door side of the wall, a low-maintenance shade garden contains Berkeley sedge, mahonia, palmetto, and purple heart.


That wall extends straight out into the garden, lowering to knee height as it pulls away from the house. An arching, glossy green sago palm stands alongside.


Low-maintenance evergreens fill in under a big live oak. (I should know this one but need help on the ID.)


On the driveway side of the wall, a rain chain funnels roof runoff into a storm or French drain. Low-care and shade-tolerant Chinese mahonia, variegated flax lily, and palmetto combine with a Japanese maple and bamboo muhly to soften the contemporary design.


The owner installed three light towers near the front door. It would be cool to see these lit up at night.


This fence along the driveway caught my eye. It appears to be made of painted PVC pipes and somehow reminds me of a musical score. Or maybe a downtown skyline. Every other pipe is cut to a set height, but the other pipes are staggered to create up-and-down patterns.


Another section, with a gate to the back yard, shows a more rhythmic pattern.


Believe it or not, this custom fence runs all the way around the back garden. The standard lawn is shrunken to a broad path, with a band of sedge and bamboo muhly grasses along the fence. A gravel-and-steel stair leads past an elevated terrace (which I’ll come back to)…


…to a sloping back yard. A rain garden of Berkeley sedge occupies a wide swale below the house, ready to soak up runoff. Beneath the home’s expansive roofline, a dry gravel garden with whale’s tongue agaves occupies the rain shadow.


There’s still plenty of room left for lawn under a spreading live oak.


Let’s head back up the steps to that elevated terrace.


The terrace is essentially a rooftop garden, with Yucca rostrata, Mexican mint marigold, whale’s tongue agave, and purple heart.


A curved metal rail offers a canyon view. The open space was designed for patio seating, the landscape architect told me. Can you guess who he is?


If you guessed Curt Arnette of Sitio Design, you are right! He’s created another striking and lovely garden for a lucky Austinite. My thanks to the homeowner for allowing me to share her garden with you.

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 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.

Autumn stroll around my garden


Autumn is my favorite season in the garden, when the Death Star abates and cool breezes blow in from the north, pushing that Gulf Coast humidity back to Houston where it belongs. The sky goes china blue, fall perennials burst into bloom, and fall-blooming grasses incandesce in the slanting sunlight.


I’ve been doing a lot of tidying and fluffing in my garden over the past few weeks because I had two photographers visiting plus a Garden Spark talk with 30 attendees who were invited to explore. And now I invite you to take a virtual stroll around the garden with me too.


But first, a salute for our tired old roof, which just got reshingled this week. It’s always a little stressful to have a roof torn off when you’re a gardener, but they were careful of the plants and I’m thrilled to have new shingles in an updated gray color.


In the island bed, ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum has grown to tall-dark-and-handsome proportions. The first freeze will turn it to brown straw, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.


Here’s the view from our front door, with dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), foxtail fern, pale pavonia, and ‘Sparkler’ sedge, my shade garden, deer-resistant faves.


Looking toward the house, with white skullcap, ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia, variegated flax lily, bamboo muhly, and ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge.


Entry garden, hot and dry on the left and mostly shady on the right.


I redid the right-side foundation bed a couple of months ago, adding and rearranging dwarf Texas palmettos, spreading plum yew, ‘Everillo’ sedge, and a potted ‘Pineapple Express’ mangave. The wire “ball weeds” adding height to the mangave pot are from redgrassdesigns on Etsy.


The dry side is a gravel garden with ‘Vanzie’ whale’s tongue agave, toothless sotol, red yucca, ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia, and dwarf myrtle, plus ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo.


Now let’s stroll toward the terraced bed by the garage, where ‘Green Goblet’ agave holds court with woolly stemodia and mullein (a volunteer mullein is blooming in the decomposed-granite path by the garage), with another ‘Vertigo’ grass glowing burgundy in the background. A trio of ceramic balls adds a little color.


Looking lengthwise across the front garden you see the Berkeley sedge lawnette and potted foxtail ferns on cantera stone columns. In the long view you can see ‘Pink Flamingos’ muhly blooms glowing pink.


A TerraTrellis tuteur echoes the color of the ceramic spheres and adds height to the sedge garden. I’m trying a dioon here too, a plant I’ve been wanting to grow for a while now.


Standing at the corner of my neighbor’s driveway, we get to enjoy a view of her whale’s tongue agave and autumn sage in full bloom, with my garden in the background.


Prior to the photographer visits, I didn’t want to put up deer caging around plants that the bucks like to antler. But the wide-leaf giant hesperaloe at the front corner of the garden is particularly vulnerable, so I improvised with these low-profile, bent pieces of cattle-panel wire. It worked, although I did see evidence of a little antler-rubbing damage this week, so I quickly put up deer caging around this plant, the ‘Green Goblet’ agave, and a small possumhaw holly.


The side-garden path, with a ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress visible beyond the gate. The path is lined with simple masses of pale pavonia, bamboo muhly, and inland sea oats.


A little stopping place along the path, with Mediterranean fan palm and blue mistflower attracting butterflies.


Self portrait in silver balls


In the back garden I have more leeway to play with plants that the deer would like to eat. Succulents are shown off in the cinderblock wall planter and in a narrow bed alongside the gravel path.


A closer view (here’s how I made it), with ‘Espresso’ mangave and squid agave in the foreground.


The upper patio was looking inviting prior to the roofing work, when I had to move everything away from the house. Oh well, it gives me a chance to powerwash the patio, which I’ve been meaning to do.


I enjoy my tentacled wall decor.


A closer look. In the green Crescent pot is a ‘Platinum Beauty’ lomandra I’m trialing from Southern Living Plant Collection.


I’m also trialing their ‘Marvel’ mahonia.


My new whale’s tongue agave, replacing Moby, who bloomed and died, is surrounded by silver ponyfoot.


Steps make a natural display space for potted plants (and are soon to be powerwashed!). Purple oxalis in a turquoise pot gets all the attention, of course.


Strolling past the pool and the raised bed behind the house, which is accented with a couple of blue pots


One contains a toothy, long-tongued Audrey monster.


The stock-tank pond garden is one of my favorite spaces.


The ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood spheres are recently clipped. I try to keep them all at the same height, even though one side of the garden slopes lower than the other, so as to create the illusion of level ground.


A slightly wider view shows the faux shed that my husband built to hide the pool pump equipment.


Bamboo muhly and ‘Color Guard’ yucca glow below the deck.


I recently replanted the lady’s head planter with succulent “ringlets.”


At the Alberta Street Fair in Portland this summer, I bought three metal dragonflies from Brian Comiso of Steelhead Metalworks. They ended up not fitting in my suitcase, so we borrowed a hacksaw and cut the stakes off, then had Bob of Gardening at Draco weld them back together when I got home.


Opposite the bamboo muhly and ‘Color Guard’ yuccas, a trio of squid agaves in culvert-pipe remnants stands amid white mistflower and forsythia sage.


Speaking of which, forsythia sage


Moving an umbrella stand revealed the hiding place of a striped garden snake, chilled in the morning air and not eager to move. So dapper in its striped suit!


It’s the time of year to admire the purple-black berries of Mexican beautyberry before the mockingbirds eat them all.


Another ‘Green Goblet’ agave, with dusty blue-green leaves, lolls in the lower garden beside a holey limestone boulder.


Strolling up the side path you pass a ‘Sapphire Skies’ Yucca rostrata, my oldest and biggest one. The ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress behind it echoes the frosty color, as does a blue pot.


At the gate, butterfly vine tumbles over the fence, its chrome-yellow flowers in full bloom.


Looking back down the path


Lori of The Gardener of Good and Evil gave me this ferox agave as a large pup from one of her giants. I planted it in a sapphire pot with blue-gray Mexican beach pebbles as a topper. Eventually (soon?) it’ll start pupping, but I love it as a solitary specimen.


Yucca rostrata and the stock-tank pond


Climbing up on the deck you see the sunburst pattern of the patio stones around the pond.


The other direction


A wider view


This adorable metal bat was a birthday gift from my mom.


And our stroll ends with a long view across the pond garden, lower patio, and swimming pool. Swimming season is definitely over. Patio season is well underway.

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

Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy on November 4.

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.

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.
_______________________

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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