Plant This: Paleleaf yucca shines in dry shade


Like a woman who’s grown tired of covering up the gray, I’m letting my silver self shine — in the garden, that is. Instead of bemoaning the dominant silver-green to olive-green palette that comes so naturally to Austin’s hot, often droughty climate, I’m letting it rip.

And I couldn’t be happier. Arranged en masse, our native paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida), paired here with a silver carpet of woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata), is visually cooling during a hot summer and needs little water and no pruning or fussing to look its best.


The dusty blue, sword-like leaves have a pale stripe along the leaf margins, giving them a little extra “shine” in dry dappled shade. Like most yuccas, it thrives in sun too. I often see it growing wild along rocky trails around Austin, so you know it won’t be begging for TLC in your garden, provided it has good drainage.


While it does tend to offset (produce new plants that cluster alongside the mother plant), rather than remaining in star-shaped, solitary form, it doesn’t grow so large as to overpower smaller spaces. Individual plants grow to about 1 to 1-1/2 feet tall and wide. Bloom stalks bearing bell-shaped white flowers shoot up in spring, but the deer mow these down in my garden. No matter. I’m growing these silver belles for their foliage.

It’s hardy to zone 6 or 7, according to online sources, which probably depends on having sharp drainage to avoid the dreaded cold-and-wet that so many xeric (dry-loving) plants dislike.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

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

Plant This: Pale pavonia, or Brazilian rock rose


Even in gentler months, my shady garden is not particularly flowery, and in the heat of summer those perennials that do flower — salvias, mistflowers, cupheas — tend to hunker down until fall. One happy exception is pale pavonia, also known as Brazilian rock rose (Pavonia hastata), a cousin to our native hot-pink rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala). Its tissuey, hibiscus-like white flowers with wine-red eyes and veins bloom all summer on rangy stems of narrow, toothy leaves.


Impervious (in my garden, anyway) to deer, it handles the dry shade of live oaks with aplomb. In the island bed in the driveway, I’ve paired it with our native palmetto (Sabal minor), ‘Sparkler’ sedge, and foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri). There’s also a burgundy-leaved loropetalum in the mix, which I think will look great with the pale pavonia’s red eyes, if it would only grow.


In the side garden, I replaced my original low hedge of flame acanthus, which was continually browsed by deer, with pale pavonia, which blooms reliably amid bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), and a Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) on the right. (And if you’re curious about the blue tree behind the fence, that’s a ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress, one of my favorite trees for that icy-blue color, pyramidal shape, and a Christmasy fragrance.)


Pale pavonia tends to seed out in the garden, but I find its seedlings easy to pull up after a rain, or you can transplant them around your garden. It can be a little cold tender, so I recommend planting it in spring, not fall. Dave’s Garden says it’s hardy to zone 7a, which I’m a little dubious about, but maybe in a warm microclimate. It grows to about 4 feet tall and wide in my garden, with a rangy appearance, kind of like Turk’s cap.


As MSS of Zanthan Gardens noted in a long-ago but useful blog post (she first inspired me to try pale pavonia 10 years ago), some of the flowers in spring and early summer are cleistogamous — i.e., they produce seeds without opening — so you may watch expectantly, awaiting a flush of flowers, only to be disappointed. Be patient. The glowing white flowers will light up the shade by midsummer through fall.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

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.

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.
_______________________

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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