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?

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

Evergreens, color, and hardscape carry garden through winter into spring


A recent conversation on Linda Lehmusvirta‘s Facebook page got a few Austin gardeners talking about winter interest. Tracie, a local gardener, wrote that her mostly native garden looks great spring through fall but is “asleep” in winter, and she wanted ideas. Lori at The Gardener of Good and Evil responded by posting year-round views of her Blue Border, showing how evergreens sustain her garden.

I’m joining in by sharing current pictures of my garden, in all its patchy, cut-back, late-winter-on-the-cusp-of-spring glory. While winter is not high season in mine or any garden, I find that three elements keep a garden interesting post-freeze: evergreen plants; color on pots, furnishings, and structures; and defined hardscaping like paths, patios, and walls.

All three are put to use in the pond garden pictured above. ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods, ‘Color Guard’ yuccas, squid agaves (A. bracteosa), evergreen sumac (Rhus virens), and Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) keep the garden in green (and gold) all winter. Blue paint on the shed door, a blue pot fountain, and strongly defined hardscaping continue to attract and lead the eye when flowers have faded away.


At the other end of the garden, which slopes dramatically, retaining walls give structure and line, and a cold-hardy agave and yucca collection is evergreen (and gold and blue-gray) all year. ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia) anchors the grouping. A bottle tree and blue pots add more color to brighten dreary days.


‘Blue Elf’ aloe is not only evergreen but blooms in late winter/early spring.


In the narrow raised bed behind the house, which I’ve begun to think of as my golden garden, several variegated evergreens keep it “awake” in winter: ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo, ‘Bright Edge’ yucca, and ‘Color Guard’ yucca (in the blue pot). In the stock tank, Artemisia ‘Oriental Limelight’ adds to the show in winter and spring, before dying back in our hot, humid summer. In summer, Duranta ‘Sapphire Showers’ will return.


More evergreens hold the winter garden together in the east side path from the front garden to the back: Arizona cypress ‘Blue Ice’ (blue-green tree at left), bamboo muhly grass (at left), gopher plant (in bloom on both sides of the path), ‘Bright Edge’ yucca, ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon holly (columnar tree at right), ‘Green Goblet’ agave, Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’, and ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood.


Moving into the front garden, Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) offers lush winter greenery. The Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn behind it gets a little yellow but mostly remains green. Low retaining walls add a strong line of hardscape.


Wide-leaf giant hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera ssp. chiangii), evergreen with interesting white filaments along the leaf margins, tolerates part shade with ease. I need more groundcovers here though. I tried Jewels of Opar one spring, but the deer ate it. The dormant (maybe dead) plant at right is ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia, which I’ll replant if it doesn’t come back. It’s only borderline hardy here but blooms beautifully spring through fall in dappled shade, and deer ignore it.


Another shot of the Berkeley sedge lawn, which is studded with evergreen ‘Margaritaville’ yuccas. A broad decomposed-granite path through the front garden leads to the back gate. Its curving line directs the eye and defines the surrounding beds. I’ve decided to stain the lattice fence a dark gray-green, which will, I hope, make the plants in front of it pop a little more.


Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) and paleleaf yucca (Y. pallida), both evergreen, take over on the sunnier side of the garden.


‘Green Goblet’ agave, a curved line of ‘Teresa’ autumn sage (Salvia greggii), and groundcovering wooly stemodia (Stemodia lanata) keep things green all winter in the raised bed near the driveway. The stemodia can get a little ratty by winter’s end, but it greens up quickly in spring.


How about the streetside view? This is actually my neighbor’s garden, which I planted for her. A ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave will be the centerpiece of this bed as it grows. Cut-back autumn sage is still green, though not showy yet, and Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa), red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), and Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima) offer year-round color and texture.


Panning right, my own streetside garden is at its quietest, recently shorn of last season’s growth and awaiting spring. Possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua) — caged against deer — is our native deciduous holly. It makes up for losing its leaves with brilliant red berries, which the birds have mostly devoured. In front are autumn sage, catmint, Mexican feathergrass, ‘Pink Flamingos’ muhly grass, and softleaf yucca (Y. recurvifolia) — a mix of evergreens, flowering perennials and sub-shrubs, and grasses selected for deer resistance.


Panning right some more, softleaf yucca, ‘Margaritaville’ yuccas, sedge lawn, and foxtail ferns (Asparagus meyeri) in pots add plenty of winter greenery. The dead grass in the foreground is purple fountain grass, which I replace every spring for its rich, purple foliage.


On the west side of the circular driveway is a more colorful scene thanks to a sprinkling of ‘Color Guard’ yuccas. Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), currently in full bloom, echoes their golden stripes. Other evergreens like rosemary, spineless prickly pear (Opuntia), and softleaf yucca keep things green until flowering vitex, copper canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii), and majestic sage (Salvia guaranitica) return in spring.

So how do you achieve winter interest in your garden? Or is that something you are working toward?

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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.

Flower power out front; in back a serene, green garden


Last year I featured this Houston Heights garden in a Drive-By Gardens post. But last Saturday, while in Houston to visit family, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner, David Morello, who kindly gave me a full tour.


David owns the design and build company David Morello Garden Enterprises, and he’s an avid gardener who makes time for his own glorious garden as well. In the sunny front yard of his khaki bungalow, he’s created an elegantly structured space with clipped boxwood and geometric lines, colored in with a riotous but disciplined color scheme of flowering annuals. Every spring he experiments with new colors. This year he’s playing with yellow and gold.


Pops of purple and white give depth to the yellows.


Near the porch, a stand of ‘World’s Favorite’ tulips — orange-red edged in yellow (see top photo) — brightens the entry. The front garden will be at peak spring bloom in about three weeks, David said. The earliest Texas bluebonnets were starting to flower along the street, probably thanks to the reflected heat.


In back, the garden tells a different story. Gone are the colorful annuals. Instead a serene, ferny bower encloses a circular flagstone patio. A low boxwood parterre outlines the perimeter, and a hedge of evergreen Spartan juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’) makes a pleasing backdrop to a tall, rusty-red pot fountain. The color of the pot picks up the coppery-orange of the garage door, seat cushions, and even the terracotta pots.


The small patio is a work of art, with meticulously pieced flagstone “mortared” with Mexican beach pebbles.


Another view, from the garage door, which is accessed via a gray gravel path running alongside the garage. Looking directly across the patio, a pop of yellow catches your eye.


It’s leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum, formerly Ligularia) in bloom, with variegated shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) behind. Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’) adds cloud-like softness in the pots.


i was charmed by this scalloped-leaf rambler with dainty, white flowers atop tall stems — a white spiderwort, David told me — which he allows to spread at will along the boxwood parterre.


The view back toward the house. David said that Houston has not experienced a freeze this winter, so there’s been no die-back, although it’s been unseasonably cool.


This focal-point pot set on a plinth of stacked ledgestone grabs your eye as you enter the back garden from the driveway. Pink cyclamen mingles with a chartreuse-leaved plant (I didn’t get the ID) under a graceful tuteur that adds height. A bracelet of gray river rock rings the base of the pot, and vining plants are encouraged to twine an embrace as well. Unfussy, expertly crafted details like these give David’s garden a timeless appeal.

My thanks to David for sharing his lovely garden with me! If you’d like to see more, check out my pictures of his front garden from last spring.

Stay tuned for a visit to the plant-packed nursery and garden-art fantasia of Joshua’s Native Plants & Garden Antiques.

__________________
Vote early and often! 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.