Gorgeous flowering of a pond iris and more


As buds began to swell last week, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the flowering of my pond iris. And this morning, three burgundy, yellow-throated flowers unfurled.


They look especially picturesque as viewed against the turquoise shed doors.


Several more buds mean more flowers to come.


Jenny/Rock Rose gave me a division of this lovely iris in 2015. It bloomed for me that year, but last year…nothing.


So you can see why I’m excited about it now.


Other plants are in full bloom as well, including the pomegranate tree next to the beaked yucca.


Dozens of frilly, orange flowers resemble juju hats…


…or, when seen closer, ruffly crepe-paper flowers.


On the other side of the garden, star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) perfumes the upper patio.


And although it’s not my garden, I have to share a sweet spring image of golden columbines, like shooting stars, at Zilker Botanical Garden last Saturday.


Oh, and congrats to Austin gardener Ruthie Burrus, whose charming stone garden haus smothered in ‘Peggy Martin’ roses appears in the current issue of Southern Living (April 2017)! I had the pleasure of visiting Ruthie’s garden a couple of years ago; click for the full tour.


And here’s the magazine cover if you want to pick up a copy to read all about her garden haus and roses.

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 — 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. 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.

Roses, butterflies & garden goodness at Antique Rose Emporium


On Saturday my mom and I drove out to Brenham, Texas, for the Antique Rose Emporium‘s Fall Festival of Roses, where I was one of the day’s speakers. A gray sky spit rain on us during the 2-hour drive, but it held off as we strolled around the nursery before my talk.


ARE’s 11-acre display gardens bloom with abandon in autumn, Texas’s second spring.


Lush bouquets of roses picked from the gardens adorned the nursery’s help desk.


First-time visitors may be surprised to see the gardens are not just beds of roses.


I love the gardens precisely because they’re not just roses, although of course the roses are lovely. I dislike the apartheid of traditional rose gardens, in which roses are grown separately from other plants. Mingling roses with other flowering plants and grasses creates a sense of fullness and an opportunity for pleasing color echoes, and bare, thorny stems are more easily disguised.


The gardens were alive with butterflies, especially queens.


They were particularly attracted to flowering amaranth celosia (Celosia spicata).


I also spotted a white-striped longtail…


…and a beautiful Julia butterfly enjoying lantana.


A lily pond, glimpsed through trees…


…was in full bloom too, despite the cooler temps of autumn.


I think this is a tropical waterlily, as the flowers stand tall above the pond’s surface and the leaves have toothy edges.


A charming sculpture of a boy flying a toy airplane stands nearby.


Wandering on, along a pathway edged with Philippine violet (Barleria cristata)…


…to one of several homestead-style buildings in the gardens. This building and others used to be filled with garden gift items, but on this visit they were mostly empty. The Antique Rose Emporium property — display gardens and event spaces — have been for sale for more than a year (and I’m already mourning its loss unless someone buys it to keep operating it as a nursery), and perhaps that has something to do with the scaling back.


An old log structure — the Corn Crib


Some of the many roses for sale


For wow power, check out this awesome braided-pot arbor. There are two such arbors at ARE, one at each parking lot entrance. (The other is pictured at the top of this post.)


How many pots went into the making of this, do you think? The sky vine-draped arbor in the background is striking too.


Pink roses fronting a picturesque stone house, another former gift shop now mostly empty


Leaning in for a sniff


Such nice framing of views through doorways and arbors


Along one wall, a face fountain partially obscured by fig ivy (Ficus pumila) spouts water into a small pool.


Flowery border of canna, Celosia spicata, and salvia


More annual amaranth celosia (Celosia spicata), beloved by butterflies


Looking out the back door of the little stone house at an herb circle and greenhouse


And at the herb circle, looking back


A purple greenhouse with fish-scale shingles adds cottage charm.


More roses for sale, with ARE’s iconic vine-smothered windmill standing tall


White rose


The central area of the display gardens has sassy signage…


…and dry-loving agaves, yuccas, and other succulents in interesting displays, like this tiered potted arrangement.


Children and children-at-heart enjoy the Beatrix Potter Garden, a playful space framed by a low, purple picket fence…


…populated by pot people with spiky agave hairdos…


…taking baths in galvanized tubs.


A squirrel finial on the fence offers a friendly welcome.


There’s a bit of Wizard of Oz mixed in here too. I remember seeing Toto last time I was here. This time I noticed a witch just past a stand of Philippine violet — or maybe she’s leftover from Halloween?


A wavy-pruned hedge and mint-green table and chairs create an inviting scene.


Another view, with shade-loving purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) in the foreground


Yellow firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis ‘Lutea’) cascades from an old well.


Purple path


No Southern garden is complete without a bottle tree.


Moving toward an open lawn you see some of ARE’s event spaces — rose arbors, a gazebo, and a tin-roofed house — rentable for weddings and other events.


Another sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) in full bloom clambers along a trellis near the house.


This tropical-looking Asian vine is a showstopper in the fall.


Stopping to admire what I think is a white-flowering variety of Philippine violet (can anyone confirm?), I spotted a fuzzy bee hard at work.


Across the lawn, a picturesque red chapel adds its own fall hue to an autumnal border of cigar plant (Cuphea ‘David Verity’), ornamental grasses, white mistflower (Ageratina havanensis), and red roses.


This is where the speaking events are held.


Blazing orange cosmos adds more color around back.


Ask not for whom the bell tolls.


More fall loveliness


Here’s my mom helping me out at the book-selling table. It was so nice to meet everyone who stopped by to chat or buy a book. If you were there, thanks so much for coming!


And thanks also to Mike Shoup of the Antique Rose Emporium for having me back out to speak! If you’d like to get a signed copy of The Water-Saving Garden, I left a few with Mike to sell in the gift shop, so stop by soon.

And if you’d like to read more about ARE’s gardens — with lots more photos! — click here for my post (the first of 3) from the Fall Festival in 2013.

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

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

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.

Out and about in Austin nurseries and parks


Lately I’m taking as many garden photos with my phone as with my “real” camera, and these often get posted to my Instagram. But not all of them, and sometimes I like to share them on my blog too. So here’s some cool stuff I spotted last week at my favorite local nurseries, Lady Bird Lake, and — why not? — even a medical center’s parking lot.

Pictured above, from said medical center’s parking lot, is one of my favorite scenes from the week: a silver-green agave with striking banding and leaf imprints, rising star-shaped from a mat of silver ponyfoot. Simple and beautiful.


At the same center (this is somewhere off Hwy. 620), island beds of Knock Out roses and Mexican feathergrass are anchored by pruned-up, spiky-headed Yucca rostrata.


Now let’s visit some of Austin’s best nurseries, starting with Barton Springs Nursery. Every year I love to catch their enormous American beautyberry in full berry, with cobalt-blue pots adding a harmonizing hue.


This plant is probably 10 feet across. Here’s a look at the other side. If you’re not growing American beautyberry, why not?


Inside BSN’s gift shop, I spotted these fun saguaro vases and ring holders. I resisted the camp on my first visit, but I came back a couple days later, with my daughter in tow, and when she went gaga for them too I snagged the powder-blue saguaro on the left.


A herd of dinosaurs — colorfully painted plastic toys with cut-out holes planted with succulents — roved near the registers. My sister-in-law got me a dino planter for Christmas last year — the blue brachiosaurus — and it brightens my home-office windowsill.


Maybe I need a set.


Up in Cedar Park, I stopped in at Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery for a few things and paused to admire this new water feature with tough-as-nails blackfoot daisy and some type of succulent (a cold-tender euphorbia, maybe?) planted alongside it.


Back down to South Austin for a morning visit to The Natural Gardener, where I spotted this furled flower almost ready to open.


And in the gift shop, my books — one of each — were on the bookshelf. I know it’s not easy for nurseries to stock books in this era of Amazon and in conditions where books might get soiled (i.e., unsellable), so I really appreciate those like The Natural Gardener that make the effort. After all, not every local gardener knows the best books for Texas gardening, and nurseries can help by showcasing regionally appropriate titles, or even by keeping a suggested reading list on their website. A website reading list need not be purely regional, of course; it can be staff favorites for all kinds of popular gardening topics! By the way, here’s my own suggested reading list.


Over to Lady Bird Lake’s hike-and-bike trail, where I admired a copper-colored dragonfly hanging out near the water.


I looked at him, and he looked at me with those big bug eyes.


I also saw lots of bald cypress and native palmettos along the lakeshore.


Swans, ducks, and turtles too. They all thought I might have some food and swam right over. Sorry, guys!


And off they went into the setting sun.

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

Austinites and native-plant shoppers, I’ll be at the member’s day Fall Plant Sale at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on October 14, and I hope to see you there! I’ll be signing books between 1 and 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. If you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. Hope to see you there!

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 are on sale 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.

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