New mirrored trellises add depth to a blank wall

There’s something new in the side garden. Yes, the Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), my favorite native ornamental tree, is blooming and wafting the sweet fragrance of grape Kool-Aid through the air. Does anything say springtime in Austin as much as that smell?

But something else is new. And I’m not talking about the 3-inch layer of live oak leaves on the ground.

I’ve hung five mirrored-acrylic trellises along the long brick wall at back of the garage. I’d been looking for something to liven up that boring stretch of brick and add the illusion of depth to a side garden of bowling-alley proportions when I saw these DIY trellises on Design Sponge.

I didn’t take smiling in-process pictures like author Grace Bonney did (I would have looked a lot more grumpy at certain points), but you can see hers and read her how-to if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty. My only addition to her instructions is to drill through the plexiglass very carefully so that you don’t crack it. I learned this the hard way.

I bought inexpensive wooden trellises at Home Depot and cut the legs off before painting them. Mirrored plexiglass isn’t exactly cheap, but it is lightweight and you can drill through it to attach it to the trellis, which is handy. I found it locally at Regal Plastics, where it can be sized to your exact specifications. Regal suggested coating the cut edges of the plexiglass with silicone caulk for durability outdoors, but I found it didn’t easily stick. Plus I was making an unholy mess of things. Since they’re hanging on a shady wall and under an eave, I’m hoping they’ll have sufficient protection from the elements as-is.

My plan is to stain the lattice fence that borders this space the same color as the trellises: Sherwin-Williams Black Alder. That will unify the square lattice on each side and give the whole space more depth. This is the entry to the back garden that I take visitors through (the other side is a working space with trash storage), and I want it to look as appealing as any other part of the garden, not just a pass-through. Plant choice is very simple, mainly grasses, yucca and hesperaloe, and shade-tolerant herbs and perennials due to frequent deer browsing, so I’m going with mass plantings for impact. Visible here: bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), wide-leaf giant hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera ssp. chiangii), Texas betony (Stachys coccinea), and Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa). Planted around the Texas mountain laurel, in the 2nd photo from the top, is inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).

I’m pleased with how it turned out and can now check one spring project off my list. I have many still to go! How about you?

Update 8/15: I’m sorry to report that the acrylic mirrors have bowed and sagged, even with plenty of screws to hold them in place, causing a slight funhouse-mirror effect. Therefore, I’m giving a thumbs-down to this project and recommend using regular glass mirrors instead. Live and learn!

I’d love to have your vote in the Better Homes and Gardens 2015 Blogger Awards. Skip through to the Gardening category, select Digging, and then skip to the last page for your vote to be counted. You can vote as much as you like. Thanks for your support!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Fixing a floppy Will Fleming yaupon for Foliage Follow-Up

‘Will Fleming’ yaupon (Ilex vomitoria ‘Will Fleming’), a fastigiate cultivar of our native yaupon holly, is one of my go-to vertical accent plants. It’s a green punctuation mark, ideal for adding height to a flat bed or using in multiples as a narrow hedge to screen an ugly view. In sun or shade it’ll grow to 10 or 15 feet (I like to give mine flat-top haircuts at about 6 feet tall) but only 1 to 2 feet wide. Sometimes, however, the outer branches go a bit floppy, ruining the vertical shape.

Like this — not the look I was going for.

You might think this calls for the pruners. Stop! Put the pruners down and grab a pair of scissors and a spool of fishing line instead. Tie one end of a length of fishing line loosely around a branch, leaving room for the branch to grow. Loosely wrap the fishing line in a spiral around the body of the tree, thereby creating a neat column again. Tie it off, taking care not to tie or wrap any part of the line tightly. You don’t want to strangle your tree. A gentle touch is all that’s needed.

And voila! A columnar ‘Will Fleming’ is restored.

One more time — floppy!

And fixed!

‘Will Fleming’ yaupon is my Foliage Follow-Up featured plant this month. Please join me in posting about your lovely leaves of April for Foliage Follow-Up, a way to remind ourselves of the importance of foliage in the garden on the day after Bloom Day. Leave your link to your Foliage Follow-Up post in a comment. I really appreciate it if you’ll also include a link to this post in your own post (sharing link love!). If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Leveling a pot and potting it up

Sunny and 65 degrees F, yesterday was flat-out perfect gardening weather, and I puttered, planted, and potted nearly all day. One of my last projects before I collapsed indoors involved a bit of rearranging and ground prep in order to pot up a ‘Sharkskin’ agave that’s been too shaded for its liking. Some agaves, I’ve found, just do better in pots, where you can give them excellent drainage, especially in winter when they risk rotting in chilly, damp soil. Aside from that, placing a pot in a garden bed creates an instant focal point and elevates a plant so you can appreciate its finer details. Also, potting the ‘Sharkskin’, a lethally spiny agave, would make the garden safer for our dog, Cosmo. I’d been snipping the tips off the lower spines, but I still worried he’d get poked in the eye.

Looking for a hot, sunny spot to keep my ‘Sharkskin’ happy, I decided on this corner between the deck and the hillside-garden path. A few years ago, I’d recognized the need for a focal point here and plopped a birdbath filled with green glass “water,” moved from my former cottage garden. In summer this space is livelier with fragrant sweet almond verbena (Aloysia virgata), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), and wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys). At this time of year only the globemallow and wall germander are green.

Looking up the path, it’s a late-winter, straw-bleached scene of bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), butterfly vine (Mascagnia macroptera), and gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida). Oh yeah — plus the sad, shaded, little ‘Sharkskin’ agave.

After moving the birdbath out of the way, I got my tools and supplies together. That’s right: I don’t just plop a pot in a garden bed. If you do that, you’ll soon see your pot leaning to one side, sinking into the soft soil, and you’ll forever be futzing with it. But if you lay a compacted, level base for your pot to sit on, you won’t have to fiddle with it later.

I bought a bag of paver base (crushed gravel), a bag of paver sand, and a couple of 16-inch square concrete pavers from Home Depot. With a tamper (a heavy, metal plate with a wooden handle) at the ready, I grabbed my shovel and dug an 18-inch square 3 or 4 inches deep.

I poured the bag of paver base into the hole and used the tamper to pack it down firmly. Then I spread a few inches of paver sand and laid the first concrete paver, checking with a level and moving sand as necessary to ensure that the paver wasn’t sloping to one side. The first paver sat flush with the soil, which was fine, but I wanted a little more height, so I placed the second paver on top. Then I filled and tamped around the edges with the soil I’d dug out.

Next I heaved my beautiful new pot from Barton Springs Nursery (bought on sale just after Christmas) onto the pavers and checked one more time with the level. Perfect.

I put some chunky rock for drainage in the bottom of the pot, and then I filled it with a mix of gravelly pebbles (leftover from another project), decomposed granite, and Hill Country Garden Mix from The Natural Gardener. I dug up the ‘Sharkskin’, taking care not to impale myself, and potted it up. A mulch of decomposed granite finished it nicely. I hope it’ll be much happier here. I’m enjoying my new focal point.

Cosmo photobomb!

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.