Deer antlering damage to my agave


The bucks have been at it again this winter, rubbing their antlers on agaves, yuccas, hesperaloes, and small trees throughout my neighborhood. I always cage my small possumhaw holly in early fall through early spring, but I was hoping I could get away with less structural deterrents (sprays and wireless deer fencing) for the woody lilies, like this ‘Green Goblet’ agave. Alas, no. Truly, the buck stops here.

So we pulled the rolled wire out of the attic, and I’ve belatedly wrapped this agave and a mangled giant hesperaloe. Note to self: do NOT wait until October next year!


The deer are pests, but still, I do feel sorry for this guy. I’ve been reading about him since early December on our neighborhood Facebook page, and last week we spotted him moseying down our street, with a net and a pole tangled in his left antler. How in the world he managed to do this to himself, no one knows. But according to the FB comments from concerned neighbors, the game warden and local wildlife groups say nothing can be done unless he drops from exhaustion, which doesn’t seem likely considering he’s still active and looks healthy after more than a month. Bucks drop their antlers in late winter or spring, so hopefully he’ll be free soon.


In my walks around the neighborhood, I’ve marveled that certain agaves, like this variegated one in a hell strip one street over, seem to escape deer damage every year. Maybe it’s just not on the usual deer paths.


The ‘Jaws’ agave by my front door has so far escaped antlering damage, perhaps because of proximity to the house or because I spray it with deer repellent from time to time. And the toothless sotol in the tall pipe is safe because of its height, and maybe would be anyway because its leaves are so pliable — i.e., less tempting to deer.


The deer are a pain. But thank heavens I don’t have elephants wandering around the garden.

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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The first talk with Scott Ogden has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

First oxblood lily, tree cavities, and last Moby


The majority, I think, are waiting for that first fall rain. But two oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) are trumpeting red in my garden, including this stray in the sedge lawn out front. I transplanted the bulbs from the front to the back last year, after the deer impressed upon me how much they enjoyed them.


What else is going on in the garden? Panning right, flagstones lead through the Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) to the decomposed-granite path along the side-yard fence. Golden thryallis (Galphimia gracilis) sprawls in the foreground; giant hesperaloe (still recovering from last winter’s deer antlering) and white Turk’s cap sprawl in the background. Looking past the fence, my neighbor’s streetside garden blends with my own.

Several of our live oaks have cavities in their trunks, which my arborist says not to worry about, although I do worry about mosquitoes breeding in them when it rains (sprinkle organic Mosquito Bits every other week to prevent this). If you look carefully at the one on the left…


…you’ll see a sedge has seeded itself in the hollow! I’m happy to leave it and hope it’ll suck up any water that ends up there after a rain. The white rock in the hollow is a chunk of concrete, poured there by a previous owner worried about the cavity. My arborist kicked most of it out and said it’s not necessary for the health of the tree. In fact, it’s detrimental. Here’s more info from the University of Florida hort website.


Moving on, here’s a close-up of lace cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus var. coahuila) and ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) — looking like a crown on the cactus! — in a wall planter on the garage.


And one last view of Moby, my beloved whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), which bloomed this spring and has hung on for months, continuing to look good. But he’s finally yellowing on the other side, and that towering bloom stalk is leaning, plus I need to get his replacement planted before cooler, wetter weather sets in. So he’s coming out on Monday.

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

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets go on sale soon at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

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

Cor-ten potager beauty in Rhonda Fleming Hayes’s garden: Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling


I’m dubbing this summer Escape to the North. In the space of two months I’ve made three trips to the northern, cooler half of the U.S., starting with the Philadelphia area; then Providence, Rhode Island; and finally Minneapolis, where the 9th annual Garden Bloggers Fling was held July 14-17. And for once, the gazillion Texas bloggers who attend the Fling each year didn’t bring the heat with them — yay!


It’s hard to know where to start when you take pictures of dozens of gardens over the course of three days, so I’m going to just jump in with blogger and author Rhonda Fleming Hayes’s personal garden.


Rhonda blogs at The Garden Buzz, and lots of the Flingers were already fans of her work.


Rhonda also writes a gardening column for the Minneapolis StarTribune, and she has a new book called Pollinator Friendly Gardening.


Generalizing from her book title, I expected that she might have a meadowy sort of butterfly garden, but it was actually quite manicured and even a bit contemporary in design. Of course I’m sure it’s pollinator friendly as well, but it’s different from what I was expecting — and I loved it!


Starting out front, the house has old Craftsman charm, although we were told that it’s relatively new construction. A generous front porch overlooks snowball hydrangeas with blossoms the size of snowmen’s heads.


The traditional front garden is lovely, but the side yard is where the action really is. What might have been a sterile swath of lawn or a green mustache of foundation shrubs has been converted to a stylish potager of raised Cor-ten steel beds and a handsome stone patio shaded by a striped umbrella. Willow edging in the veggie beds helps protect against incursion from…


…Peter Rabbit, who I spotted hopping through her other side yard.


Cottage favorites like zinnia and cosmos add color to the beds, and vines on tuteurs provide welcome height.


Gravel makes a practical, affordable, and water-permeable paving around the Cor-ten beds. Imagine seeing this view as you pull into your driveway at the end of each day.


The Cor-ten beds lead to an elevated stone patio that bridges the space between house and garage. As you step up and turn the corner, you see this…


…a contemporary Cor-ten steel pond with a flat, blade-like fountain. A smaller rectangular trough, just in front of the planters of autumn sage (upper level), spills water across the metal blade, which juts like a diving board over the steel-edged pond. It’s a wonderful design, compact but eye-catching.


String lights hang over the space for nighttime enjoyment. The doors behind the fountain open into a stylish potting room…


…with a deep sink, shelves for supplies, and gardening tools. What a beautiful pass-through, too, between the garage and house. Rhonda had kindly set up refreshments for us here.


She has only to step out on the patio to harvest tomatoes, here planted up with petunias, zinnias, and what looks like cypress vine.


Even the garage wall is gardened up.


There’s no back yard to speak of, so Rhonda has cleverly made the most of her sunny side yard. The elevated stone patio is bordered by a handsome stone wall (which doubles as additional seating), with a water-wise mix of liatris, coreopsis, sedum, and grasses enjoying the reflected heat from the driveway.


Another view


What a wonderful space, and full of lawn-gone inspiration!

Up next: The colorful Springwood Gardens daylily farm.

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

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

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

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