New shade sails and other garden goodness


We’ve always wanted shade for our deck, which is one of the few spots in our yard not overhung by live oaks. Facing south, it gets blasted by the Death Star all day long, and even our kitchen table overlooking the deck gets unpleasantly toasty by midafternoon.

A solution has proven tricky. The back of our 1970s ranch sports an unlovely variety of rooflines, making it difficult (and expensive) to build a pergola or attach an awning for sun relief.


Shade sails to the rescue! We’d thought about installing shade sails over the years but couldn’t find a local pro who’d take on a smaller residential project like ours. (Shade sails are popular in Austin in commercial or schoolyard settings, where they are used to shade playgrounds, sport courts, and restaurant patios.) We looked into ordering a sail from Coolaroo and hanging it ourselves, but so many DIY sails end up looking like loose, flappy tarps, and we weren’t confident in our ability to anchor it so that a strong wind wouldn’t rip it off our house — or rip a fascia board with it.


Happily, I finally found a professional installer right at the time we were refinishing our deck. Greg at Mueller Highlife custom ordered and installed two shade sails for us, one floating over the other, which function as a modern awning for our windows and back door and partially shade the deck.

For full shading, I could have ordered a larger rectangular sail, but I was determined not to block our view of the tree canopy, which we enjoy from our kitchen/dining windows. So we sacrificed on maximizing shade in return for an unobstructed view from indoors, and I’m happy with the compromise. And Greg did a great job, so give him a call if you need a sail for your yard.


Garden-wise, I’m enjoying all the beauty of late spring, including the beautiful flowering of a potted cactus.


It’s always incredible to me that spiny, seemingly inhospitable cacti can put forth these luscious blossoms.


The stock-tank pond is always a source of pleasure during the warmer seasons.


In Moby’s old spot, the new whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia) is settled in, with silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) and pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) filling in around it. In the lower terrace, ‘Macho Mocha’ manfreda, ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia, and a volunteer datura are ready for summer’s impending heat.


Moby 2 and pineapple sage


From the upper patio, here’s the succulent-filled cinderblock wall.


And the tentacle wall is coming along with the addition of a blue, beaded cephalopod from my friend Linda in San Antonio (to the right of the chartreuse pot).


Out front, ‘Green Goblet’ agave is recovering from deer-antlering damage in a bed of woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata), with a mullein’s yellow flower spike echoing the yellow blooms of Jerusalem sage in the distance.


I hope you’ll be enjoying your garden too this weekend!

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

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers 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.

Easter Sunday Foliage Follow-Up


I’m imagining my blog feed filling up with pictures of pastel Easter eggs and white lilies. But here at Digging, in spite of a flurry of kitchen activity (I’m making Tex-Mex deviled eggs and a lemon cake), it’s still Foliage Follow-Up. Let’s start with the stock-tank pond garden, encircled by masses of ‘Color Guard’ yucca and bamboo muhly along the uphill side and heartleaf skullcap on the downhill side, with “doorways” marked by ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood. Across the pond, a shimmering Yucca rostrata guards the side-yard path.


In the raised beds, Moby2 (Agave ovatifolia) reigns over a mix of bright-shade-tolerant foliage plants, including silver ponyfoot, ‘Quadricolor’ agave, blue torch cactus (Pilocereus azureus), and ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave.


A metal roadrunner darts across a pot of aloes, with the strappy leaves of Texas nolina in the background.


I have a thing for metal garden art. Here, a toothy smile (feed me, Seymour!) greets you from a pot of ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda and Mexican feathergrass.


Lately, I also have a thing for squids — or at least these squidy pots. With curly, writhing “arms,” Tillandsia xerographica makes a perfect plant for them.


Fresh green leaves on the live oak trees are the most dominant foliage in my garden right now. They’re a bright-green backdrop to everything else.


Since it IS Easter, I can’t leave without posting a little floral color, so here we go: two pinks (Dianthus ‘Lavender Lace’ and ‘Light Pink + Eye’) crammed together into one pot.


One more


And while I don’t have an Easter lily, I do have white rain lilies. Happy Easter, y’all!

This is my April 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! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. 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

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers 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.

Zinging through the end of summer


Although I was gone for half of it, which no doubt helped, August was one of the most pleasant Augusts I’ve experienced since moving to Austin 22 years ago. It just hasn’t been all that hot (in the low to mid-90s F, and even some days in the upper 80s), with clouds that keep the Death Star at bay and a good deal of rain to boot.

What gives?? I don’t know, but I like it! Austin is lush and green right now. Take this evergreen wisteria (Millettia reticulata), for example.


It’s a beauty in late summer. I spotted this one outside a restaurant in South Austin, but I was first introduced to the vine at Philip’s East Side Patch. It’s not really a wisteria, nor is it invasive like Chinese wisteria, although, according to Philip, it can be a jungly beast. I wish I had a sunny fence in need of a little color.


At home in my own garden, I’m so glad I didn’t miss the short-lived flowering of the pond crinum while I was away on vacation.


The burgundy-chocolatey leaves are wonderful enough. Add raspberry-colored flowers and you have perfection. Well, almost. I did have to stake them to keep them from face-planting in the pond. Local readers, if you’re curious, I found this plant at Hill Country Water Gardens in Cedar Park. It must be protected from our occasional hard freezes, which I do by dropping it temporarily to the bottom of the pond.


Indoors, I’m loving ‘Moonshine’ snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonshine’), a freebie from the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling. One of the sponsors, Costa Farms, gave away these and other “Plants of Steel.” It’s perfect for my Rick Van Dyke snake pot, which I bought at Austin’s Cactus & Succulent Society Show one year.

Speaking of which, the Cactus & Succulent Show is happening this weekend, and you’ll find Rick Van Dyke selling his pots, among other vendors, plus lots of cool succulents and cacti.


I seem to have a thing for pots that look like they’re alive. Here’s one of my new tentacle pots — I tend to call them squid pots — with a squiddy tillandsia popped in it for summer.


A rusty wall planter holds ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense), another succulent (can’t remember the name), and Coahuila lace cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus var. coahuila). And a tiny chair from Potted.


A mass planting of paleleaf yucca (Y. pallida) is looking mighty fine under the live oaks. I was inspired to plant a grid of these after seeing something similar in designer Tait Moring’s garden. Native groundcover woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata) fills in around the yuccas.


In the same bed, mullein’s fuzzy leaves are so pettable.


In the streetside bed, autumn-herald garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) is blooming. Its white flower clusters stand out against deep-purple ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum, a trial plant Proven Winners sent me last year. The lavender blossoms of Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) are a paler echo of the ‘Vertigo’ grass.


Garlic chives and ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum


And a closeup of the garlic chives, which bees adore. I haven’t seen many bees lately, though, and I hope it’s not because neighbors have been spraying for mosquitoes (a known bee killer).


In Moby news, my whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia) that finished flowering months ago has started producing bulbils — baby clones of the mother plant — at the top of the bloom spike. How cool is that! I’ll wait a little longer to make sure they’re viable before cutting down the bloom stalk, which is as big as a sapling tree and has started to lean. No doubt Moby will give up the ghost soon, after this final burst of reproductive energy.

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

Austin Cactus & Succulent Society’s Fall Show & Sale is this weekend at Zilker Botanical Garden, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go early for best selection or later for better deals!

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets go on sale soon at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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