Curb appeal Texas-style and remembering the flood


I dined at a flower farm in Blanco, Texas, last weekend, which I plan to write about soon. But for now, a teaser of Blanco charm.

This little red cabin is one of several at Blanco Settlement, a welcoming outpost of 9 rentable cabins, RV hookups, a pavilion, and a gift shop clustered along the scenic Blanco River. My traveling companion and I spotted it as we drove into Blanco, and we couldn’t resist pulling over to take a look. We later learned that slow-flowers maven Debra Prinzing, who’d invited us to the dinner as her garden-writer guests, was staying the night in one of these adorable cabins. I hope it was this one!


Prickly pear in glorious bloom

It’s been one year since the 2015 Memorial Day flood devastated parts of central Texas. Blanco Settlement was hit hard, with 17 RVs washed down the river, the riverbank below the cabins torn away by the force of the water, and an emergency evacuation of park guests that night that kept everyone safe. A year later, as we strolled past the cabins and admired the river view, we casual visitors couldn’t even tell that the flood had happened. A lot of reconstruction over the past year has erased the damage.

I hope Texas never sees another flood like that one. But it’s reassuring to know that a place as charming as this, in such a beautiful setting, can endure.

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

Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, 10:45-11:45 am (new time!). Get inspired to save water in your garden during my presentation at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. I’ll be at the book-signing table after the talk, with copies of both The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone! available for purchase. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

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.

Drive-By Gardens: Contemporary curb appeal in Shoalwood


Last week, while cruising around north-central Austin’s Shoalwood and south Allandale neighborhoods, I noticed a trend: contemporary curb appeal with gravel and concrete-paver paths, low walls and fences to separate public and private areas, and turf reduction in favor of lower-water plants.

Take this 1950s ranch, for example. Located in my old neighborhood, this house has had a landscaping facelift since I last saw it. Check out the “before” picture in this Trulia link. The wildscaped “before” garden has been transformed into this clean-lined, geometric space that I think better suits the style of the home. The low, board-formed concrete wall subtly separates the home’s “personal space” from the public sidewalk and street — a modern equivalent of the picket fence. Notice the cool detailing where the house numbers appear on separated sections of the wall.


A pillowy swath of sedge replaces traditional turf to the left of the poured-paver walk. More sedge softens the front of the wall. Lawn grass, neatly defined by steel edging, makes a green carpet to the right of the walk. The hell strip between the sidewalk and the street is paved, simply and effectively, with water-permeable decomposed granite, which makes a welcoming landing pad for visitors exiting their cars.


Similar elements are at work in this front garden: a low fence defining public and private spaces, gravel paving in the hell strip, and a reduced geometric lawn defined by steel edging. Regular readers may remember that I’ve featured this garden before — in 2012, to be exact — and it’s been well maintained since then. If it were mine, I’d continue the poured-concrete paver path through the lawn to the front steps, but that’s me.


More poured-concrete pavers lead the way to this home’s front porch, where a semi-translucent wall screens a small sitting area from the street. The burgundy tree at left nicely echoes the color of the home’s siding.


This new-construction home in a contemporary-farmhouse style has gone casual-modern with its landscaping: a field of dark-gray gravel in lieu of lawn, a poured-paver walk, and steel risers leading to the front porch. Planting is minimal, just a solitary yucca and agave in front, with bamboo closer to the house.

The layout has an appealing geometric simplicity, and the permeable paving allows rainwater to soak in. Unfortunately, the larger tan gravel in the hell strip distracts the eye; I’d use the dark-gray gravel for both sections, with one more poured paver connecting with the street — or, since it’s in the city easement, perhaps a row of off-the-shelf square concrete pavers aligned with the poured pavers. A few more plants — perhaps a cluster of ‘Color Guard’ yuccas and blackfoot daisies? — would soften the gravel too.


A plant lover clearly lives here, with a naturalistic garden with a few contemporary touches. A curving flagstone-and-gravel path is bordered by a xeriscape garden with grasses, santolina, agave, and other low-water plants. Modern L-shaped path lights add a contemporary note, as does what looks like geometric steel edging in the garden bed. It’s a welcoming garden walk that invites people and wildlife.


This last garden isn’t contemporary, but it has some similarities to the others: a decomposed-granite landing pad along the street, reduced lawn, and steel-edged definition. But I confess what really caught my eye are the colorful birdcages hanging from a graceful old live oak. What a playful, whimsical touch! I enjoy seeing people having fun in their front yards.

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

Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, 10:30-11:30 am. Get inspired to save water in your garden during my presentation at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. I’ll be at the book-signing table after the talk, with copies of both The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone! available for purchase. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

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.

Foliage in full spring swing: May Foliage Follow-Up


The day after Bloom Day is Foliage Follow-Up, a day to give foliage plants their due. This month I’m leading with the fresh spring greens of ornamental grasses, like shade-loving inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).


Their “oats” are just forming, and by mid-summer will turn from apple green to tan.


Along the fence (and in many other places in my garden), bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) makes soft mounds of chartreuse foliage.


Peek through the peek-a-boo gate and you see more bamboo muhly behind the live oak, incandescing celery green in the afternoon light.


Here’s the view from the other side of the gate, with variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’), native river fern (Thelypteris kunthii), and Chinese mahonia (Mahonia fortunei) along the neighbors’ new fence.


A wider view shows the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) that anchors this shady northeast corner of the garden. The gate leads to the side yard where we store our trash bins. Our new neighbors recently moved their fence forward to enclose more of their side yard, and so now we have this nice-looking fence along part of the property line, providing a comfortable sense of enclosure.


Here’s how this space looked in 2008, when we moved in. The Japanese maple, planted by previous owners, has grown a lot! I underplanted it with the river fern, pulled the gate/fence forward to enclose the trash-can storage, added a stepping-stone path, and planted a hedge of Chinese mahonia along the property line (see above).


A side view shows the Japanese maple glowing in afternoon light. The dry stream carries water from the driveway around to the back garden.


Leaving the shade garden behind, let’s move to the sunny gravel garden on the other side of the front door, and a slew of foliage plants: ‘Sticks on Fire’ euphorbia, ‘Color Guard’ yucca, ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo, red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum), and ‘Jaws’ agave.


Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) spreads its fan-like leaves in the island bed. The blue-green foliage of heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) fills in underneath.


Along the driveway, ‘Color Guard’ yucca and purple sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’) make a showy combo in a sun-baked spot.


I’m trying a new shrub on the other side of the driveway: spreading Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’). I planted 5 of these last winter, replacing several autumn sage ‘Teresa’ that were not getting enough sun to thrive. The plum yew may really prefer more shade (in our hot climate) than this part-shade location provides, but we’ll see. So far the deer have left it completely alone. Gray-leaved, creeping woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata) fills in around it.


A few fuzzy mulleins (Verbascum) are studded in along the front of this raised planting bed.


That bed segues into the alt-lawn of Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa), accented with a couple of ‘Margaritaville’ yuccas and a tuteur from TerraTrellis.


Spring is the showy season for Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), its blond tresses blowing in the breeze. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) adds fuzzy, silver-green texture beneath.


Moving into the back garden, silver-blue foliage leads the eye back and forth along the path: Arizona cypress ‘Blue Ice’ (Cupressus arizonica), gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), and Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’. A blue gazing ball and turquoise shed door reinforce the blue hues.


Of course there’s plenty of green foliage too, including ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), ‘Bright Edge’ yucca (in bloom), Agave lophantha, spineless prickly pear, Mexican feathergrass, and a few other odds and ends.


Face-to-face with Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’ — shazam!


Variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica) is one of my favorite foliage plants for shade/part shade. Its white-striped, strappy leaves light up a dark spot, and it’s surprisingly drought tolerant. In our zone 8b, there’s a risk of winter die-back or even outright death during a hard cold snap, but I’ve decided it’s a risk worth taking. They’re blooming right now, and while the airy flowers are not particularly showy, they look nice mixed with other cut flowers in bouquets, as I learned at Linda’s house in San Antonio.


It would be a rare Foliage Follow-Up without a few succulents, like winter-hardy ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) in an Esther pot. A orange-spined cactus pops in a blue, skeleton-impressed Rick Van Dyke pot. Moby, my whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), looms in the background.


This striking ‘Painted Fingernail’ bromeliad (Neoregelia spectabilis) was a gift from talented Houston design team and bloggers Laurin Lindsey and Shawn Michael of Ravenscourt Gardens. A pot of purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) enhances the bromeliad’s magenta “fingertips.”

I admit I would never have thought to try a bromeliad, had it not been a gift. I always assumed they were thirsty, needy plants. But this potted specimen has done really well for me with only a once-a-week drench in the summer. Notice the tiny, purple flowers emerging in the center cup?


To close, here’s one more little succulent-and-cactus planter, this one adorning the garage wall.

This is my May post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on 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! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. 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

Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, 10:30-11:30 am. Get inspired to save water in your garden during my presentation at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. I’ll be at the book-signing table after the talk, with copies of both The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone! available for purchase. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

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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