Remembering 2016 in the garden

January

Happy New Year, everyone! Following Jean’s example at Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog, I’m recapping 2016 with a single photo from each of the past 12 months in my garden. Poring over my old blog posts, I was reminded of the fleeting charms of the passing seasons and of how much joy I received from my garden. My resolution for 2017? To spend more time just hanging out and enjoying the garden.

Last January, the soap aloes (pictured above) sent up rosy candelabras of tubular flowers, giving hummingbirds something to come back for. On Digging I shared lore about bottle trees, along with plenty of colorful examples.

February

I celebrated the publication of my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, in February. I also marked 10 years of blogging, and the reader comments on that post still warm my heart! In the garden, Texas mountain laurel was in bloom, wafting its grape Kool-Aid fragrance.

March

March ushered in the colorful wildflower season in the Hill Country, and I had fun on a wildflower safari with my mom. In my own garden, a single volunteer bluebonnet popped up along the driveway.

April

Wildflower season segued from blues to yellows as the weather warmed, as shown in my photos from the Wildflower Center this month. Astonishingly, I was interviewed by the Boston Globe for an article about blogging and gardening. And in my own garden, Moby, my whale’s tongue agave, began growing a flower spike, heralding its eventual death, but I chose to focus on less-traumatic flowers, like ice plant.

May

I dined amid wildflowers on the Field to Vase Dinner Tour, and in my garden daylilies were blooming and Moby’s bloom spike had shot up to about 15 feet.

June

A garden-touring trip to the Philadelphia area took me back to Chanticleer, the most wondrous public garden I’ve ever seen, plus Longwood and Winterthur. Back at home, fawns were born to our neighborhood population of deer. This Bambi took up residence in the front garden for a few weeks.

July

Minneapolis hosted the Garden Bloggers Fling, and I attended along with around 70 other bloggers, excited to see Minnesota gardens and hang out with fellow bloggers. (The Fling will be held in the Washington, DC, area this year; click for registration info.) In my own garden, the stock-tank pond and pool made bearable the summer heat.

August

Our family road-tripped through Santa Fe on the way to Colorado, and I visited Santa Fe Botanical Garden. Back at home, the container pond was abloom with jewel-like waterlilies.

September

With the first fall rains, oxblood lilies popped up. Meanwhile Moby had finished blooming and was dying an ugly death, so I removed it but saved its bloom stalk and potted up its bulbils.

October

My garden and I appeared on Central Texas Gardener TV show this month, which was fun. I also gave a talk at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, on the Mexican border, and toured the gardens there. At home, I took consolation for Moby’s loss in a beautiful whale’s tongue agave I planted for my neighbor a few years ago, in a bed that borders my own garden.

November

Fall is my favorite season for nature walks, and I explored Lady Bird Lake’s trails and Bull Creek. At home, pleasant weather encouraged me to spend more time in the garden.

December

The Japanese maple put on a good show, glowing red along with holiday decor. A few weeks later we had to take down a diseased tree, which was hard.

And that’s my year in the garden! Thank you for coming along for the ride. I look forward to the garden’s seasonal changes in the year to come, as well as making a few changes of my own, continually trying to improve my little patch of dirt. Here’s hoping you have a happy New Year and that 2017 treats you well!

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.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Vertigo grass has the blues after hard freeze


‘Vertigo’ pennisetum is singing the blues beautifully after three nights of hard freezes (mid 20s F) before Christmas. While other plants just look bleached and sad (variegated flax lily, I’m looking at you), this towering, dark-leaved grass still looks pretty, even though it’s now dormant.


The TerraTrellis sculpture behind it echoes those purply blues.

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.

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

Losing a tree diseased by hypoxylon canker


A few days before Christmas, the front garden endured a major change: a fatally diseased live oak near our front door had to be removed. I’d had an arborist out the week before to give me a bid on general tree trimming, and he immediately spotted the sloughed-off bark and telltale whitening of hypoxylon canker affecting this tree.


I’d been concerned about the tree myself for the past year, and consulted with another arborist last spring, but he dismissed the sloughed-off bark as just a normal process. I had my doubts, and my fears were confirmed with the diagnosis of late-stage hypoxylon canker, a fungal disease I’d never heard of. Oak wilt, a live-oak killer here in Texas, was the only tree disease on my radar. Hypoxylon, I learned, lurks in most healthy trees, waiting for an opportunity — a tree weakened by drought or other stress — to attack.


With no cure and a danger of the weakened tree falling on the house, we had the tree removed. We have plenty of live oaks to spare, but what a shock to see open sky where the tree once leaned over the house, filtering sunlight. Aesthetically, it’s OK. The remaining trees frame the entry, and the Japanese maple has new prominence. But I’m worried that, come summer, the shade-loving maple and foundation shrubs will have too much sun. I can only wait and see, hoping that their location on the north side of the house, with shade remaining on the west, will protect them.

I’m worried for several of my other trees too, which also show early signs of the canker. Healthy trees can resist the fungus, and the arborist recommended a deep-root fertilizing in the spring to give them a boost. We’ll do that and keep a close eye on them, especially if (when) drought returns. Meanwhile, we’ll have the stump ground out soon, and if the oak sprouts that colonize this little lawn stop popping up, I’ll replace the grass with Texas sedge for a no-mow, evergreen groundcover.


If you live in Central Texas, you may be curious to learn more about hypoxylon canker yourself. Here is some information my arborist shared with me from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

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.

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

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