Plant This: Moonflower vine for moonlit nights


When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, that’s when moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba) unfurls tissue-petaled white blossoms as large as your palm, inviting you to lean in for a deep whiff of its sweet perfume.


In my mind’s eye, the flowers glow like miniature moons themselves — pure and white. But that’s a trick of my camera setting.


In reality, the flowers are ivory with a hint of pale celery along a starfish-shaped indentation in the center.


By day, when you spot a tapered, spiraling bud — like a unicorn horn! — get ready for a moonflower show that evening.

If you’ve never grown moonflower vine, it’s easy to start from seed. (Note: this annual vine is not the same plant as our native perennial datura, or devil’s trumpet, although they look similar.) Just buy a pack of seeds, and in early spring soak them overnight in a bowl of water before poking each one into seed-starting mix in biodegradable pots you can make out of toilet paper rolls. Protect them from freezes and chilly nights, give them bright light but avoid blazing sun, and keep them moist, and in a week or two their little green noses will pop up.

When they’ve grown a few inches tall with a few leaves, plant them in the garden in the toilet roll pots. In Austin’s hot climate, morning sun is best, with afternoon shade. Give them a trellis to climb, keep them watered regularly, and soon enough you’ll be enjoying those fragrant, night-blooming flowers. In autumn, you can collect the ripened, ivory seeds from the dried seedpods and save them for growing next spring.

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

Summer-tough Foliage Follow-Up


Summer is my most challenging season as a gardener. Yes, really — not winter. I don’t care at all for hot weather, so I retreat indoors and don’t venture outside much until that first hint of cooler air and lessening of the Death Star that typically occurs in early October. (And then I enjoy being outdoors from October through May, a good 8 months, so don’t feel sorry for my being cooped up all summer. It’s like a northerner’s winter.)

The plants in my garden don’t have the luxury of hanging out in the A/C, so they’ve got to be tough enough not only to withstand months of 95-to-100-degree heat, Gulf Coast humidity, and (sometimes) lack of rain but also the neglect of a summer-wimpy gardener.


I fear perhaps I overshare about such plants, like an adoring parent with a precocious child, but here I am again for Foliage Follow-Up, touting the beauty and toughness of winter-hardy agaves and succulents, like this container combo of Agave parryi var. truncata and Manfreda maculosa, aka Texas tuberose, a South Texas native. Neither heat nor cold has touched this slow-growing small agave. While the purple-spotted manfreda died back in last winter’s freezes, it sprang back quickly in the spring.

I also really like the ‘Quicksilver’ artemisia (a trial plant from Proven Winners) filling in around them. I don’t know if it would be overly aggressive if planted out in the garden, the way ‘Oriental Limelight’ artemisia can be. But in a container it’s perfectly behaved and looks great even when I forget to water. I’m growing this combo in bright shade with a little afternoon sun.


Another combo I’m always appreciative of in the summer is variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’) and Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), which are not only heat tolerant but shade tolerant and deer resistant. They aren’t quite as winter hardy as I’d like in Austin’s hardiness zone 8b; both died back messily during last winter’s Arctic blast. But hey, they came back this spring and now look great, and on a hot summer’s day, what more can one ask of the garden?

This is my July 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! 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.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

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.

Summer solstice evening


A pink sunset through the trees drew me outside this evening, but then I got sidetracked by the garden, including this pretty combo of ‘Color Guard’ yucca, Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longiflora), and ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum, which has been a successful trial plant from Proven Winners for me, returning more faithfully each spring than regular purple fountain grass ever did.


Nearby, like outstretched hands, our native Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) waves hello.


As the garden goes to sleep on the summer solstice, our shortest night of the year, I give thanks for summer’s official arrival…and shorter days to follow. Take that, Death Star!

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 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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