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.

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.

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