Aloe from the other siiiiiide

With apologies to Adele and her earworm of a song, aloes are still saying hello in my garden this mild winter with spring-like flowering.

I find their leaves equally eye-catching, with white spots reminiscent of disco-ball light effects.

Believe it or not, this is the same aloe (A. maculata), but it appears to have a Coppertone tan. Why? It’s been cold-stressed. Many succulents change color when they experience stress from cold or drought. Because it’s planted in a shallow dish container, this aloe has gotten a good deal colder this winter than the one pictured above, and its leaves reflect that. I think it’s pretty.

Also showing off right now are the abutilons.

This unnamed pink one — my last survivor of three over the years — is blooming well, with more buds ready to pop.

At its feet, native heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) carpets the ground with its blue-green leaves — its winter incarnation. Come spring, spires of lavender flowers appear, and then it’ll go dormant for the summer. In the culvert-pipe planters, squid agave (A. bracteosa) offers fountain-like form and dependable, cold-hardy winter interest.

As do the ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods. A pair of them guards each of the four “doorways” into the circular pond garden.

And one more abutilon to end with: ‘Marilyn’s Choice’, glowing in the fading light of last evening.


Upcoming Events and News

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Hold the Hose! Join me for my kick-off garden talk for my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, on February 27, at 10 am, at The Natural Gardener nursery in southwest Austin. My talk is called “Hold the Hose! How to Make Your Garden Water Thrifty and Beautiful,” and it’s free to the public. Afterward I’ll have books available for purchase and will be glad to autograph one for you! Dress for the weather, as the talk will be held in the big tent outside.

Have you watched my zippy new book trailer?

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

Plant This: Purple prickly pear adds rich winter color

Photos of rich-purple pads on a spineless prickly pear called ‘Santa Rita’ sent me running to the nurseries about 10 years ago. I came home with this, a purple prickly pear I thought was ‘Santa Rita’ but now believe to be Opuntia macrocentra. What’s the difference? Long spines, for one thing. O. macrocentra sports white spines the length of sewing needles on its upper pads.

Also, its purple coloring isn’t as intense or beautiful as the coveted ‘Santa Rita’. Still, the colorful pads are striking, especially in winter, when the purple intensifies.

I planted mine in this purple pot nearly a decade ago and have done nothing to it since but watch it grow. It soaks up blazing full sun on the deck all summer. It remains outdoors all winter, no matter how cold it gets. That’s how tough it is. Even so, it’s looking a bit ragged lately, and I believe I’ll repot it this spring to give it a boost.

In April, purple prickly pear puts out a handful of splendid, tissue-petaled yellow flowers with deep-red centers.

A glorious surprise, don’t you think?

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.

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

Sunshine and succulents for January Foliage Follow-Up

I wait all summer for winter days like these. China-blue skies. Warm sunshine on my face, the Death Star tame and friendly. A garden as yet untouched by a freeze — which is unusual, actually. We would normally have had several overnight freezes by mid-January, but so far central Austin remains unscathed.

Which means that all kinds of foliage look pretty good. Of course, Moby, my whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), looks handsome all year long.

So does ‘Quadricolor’ agave, the green-and-gold agave in the background, in front of Moby. Surprisingly, one of the soap aloes (Aloe maculata) threw up a bloom spike late in the fall and is nursing it along, despite cool days and several near-freezing nights.

Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) isn’t blooming, but it’s still green. Grassy variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’) is enjoying this warm winter.

I couldn’t resist snapping a few pics of Cosmo, sitting sphinx-like on the wall. That’s more flax lily and ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia behind him.


What a handsome boy!

I can’t believe forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis) is still blooming this late in the season. Its spade-shaped leaves have a raspy, cat’s tongue texture.

I’m enjoying this combo of potted succulents, ‘Cream de Mint’ pittosporum, and ‘Sizzling Pink’ loropetalum. Paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida) shines in the purple pot, along with a sprig of cold-hardy ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense). In the culvert pipe, a shade-tolerant squid agave (Agave bracteosa) is still small but will one day sprawl nicely over the edges. More ghost plant crowds around the edges.

I’ve always liked this sun person ornament, partly because its sunburst-shaped head reminds me of an agave’s form. A purple-leaved ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave is partly visible in the foreground. A baby winecup (Callirhoe involucrata), ‘Bloodspot’ mangave, and ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia line up behind it.

Let’s finish the foliage tour with the cinderblock succulent wall (click for the how-to) on the upper patio.

Sans freeze, the succulents are all looking really good.

I think the cool weather suits them, so long as it doesn’t get too cold.

One last view, with Moby looming in the background.

This is my January 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.

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