Remembering 2016 in the garden

January

Happy New Year, everyone! Following Jean’s example at Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog, I’m recapping 2016 with a single photo from each of the past 12 months in my garden. Poring over my old blog posts, I was reminded of the fleeting charms of the passing seasons and of how much joy I received from my garden. My resolution for 2017? To spend more time just hanging out and enjoying the garden.

Last January, the soap aloes (pictured above) sent up rosy candelabras of tubular flowers, giving hummingbirds something to come back for. On Digging I shared lore about bottle trees, along with plenty of colorful examples.

February

I celebrated the publication of my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, in February. I also marked 10 years of blogging, and the reader comments on that post still warm my heart! In the garden, Texas mountain laurel was in bloom, wafting its grape Kool-Aid fragrance.

March

March ushered in the colorful wildflower season in the Hill Country, and I had fun on a wildflower safari with my mom. In my own garden, a single volunteer bluebonnet popped up along the driveway.

April

Wildflower season segued from blues to yellows as the weather warmed, as shown in my photos from the Wildflower Center this month. Astonishingly, I was interviewed by the Boston Globe for an article about blogging and gardening. And in my own garden, Moby, my whale’s tongue agave, began growing a flower spike, heralding its eventual death, but I chose to focus on less-traumatic flowers, like ice plant.

May

I dined amid wildflowers on the Field to Vase Dinner Tour, and in my garden daylilies were blooming and Moby’s bloom spike had shot up to about 15 feet.

June

A garden-touring trip to the Philadelphia area took me back to Chanticleer, the most wondrous public garden I’ve ever seen, plus Longwood and Winterthur. Back at home, fawns were born to our neighborhood population of deer. This Bambi took up residence in the front garden for a few weeks.

July

Minneapolis hosted the Garden Bloggers Fling, and I attended along with around 70 other bloggers, excited to see Minnesota gardens and hang out with fellow bloggers. (The Fling will be held in the Washington, DC, area this year; click for registration info.) In my own garden, the stock-tank pond and pool made bearable the summer heat.

August

Our family road-tripped through Santa Fe on the way to Colorado, and I visited Santa Fe Botanical Garden. Back at home, the container pond was abloom with jewel-like waterlilies.

September

With the first fall rains, oxblood lilies popped up. Meanwhile Moby had finished blooming and was dying an ugly death, so I removed it but saved its bloom stalk and potted up its bulbils.

October

My garden and I appeared on Central Texas Gardener TV show this month, which was fun. I also gave a talk at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, on the Mexican border, and toured the gardens there. At home, I took consolation for Moby’s loss in a beautiful whale’s tongue agave I planted for my neighbor a few years ago, in a bed that borders my own garden.

November

Fall is my favorite season for nature walks, and I explored Lady Bird Lake’s trails and Bull Creek. At home, pleasant weather encouraged me to spend more time in the garden.

December

The Japanese maple put on a good show, glowing red along with holiday decor. A few weeks later we had to take down a diseased tree, which was hard.

And that’s my year in the garden! Thank you for coming along for the ride. I look forward to the garden’s seasonal changes in the year to come, as well as making a few changes of my own, continually trying to improve my little patch of dirt. Here’s hoping you have a happy New Year and that 2017 treats you well!

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.

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

Mellow fall garden for November Foliage Follow-Up


Today is Foliage Follow-Up, a day to celebrate great foliage after the flower celebration of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Let’s take a spin around the back garden for my foliage faves this month, starting with the stock-tank pond garden. No flowers here since the water lilies slowed down. You’re looking good, ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood underplanted with Texas sedge (Carex texensis), squid agaves (A. bracteosa) in culvert-pipe planters, and pond crinum (Crinum procerum ‘Splendens’)!


On the deck, potted prickly pear (Opuntia macrocentra) is taking on a purple edge thanks to cooler temps. Sewing needle-like spines are a bonus!


One of my favorite little agaves is ‘Cream Spike’, a passalong from Bob Beyer of Central Texas Gardening. I adore those red teeth.


Agave x leopoldii, with cool curly white filaments. Both agaves pictured here must be brought inside during freezing weather.


My Austin sign faded this year, but I like its new placement against the blue stucco wall. A prickly pear passalong from Shirley of Rock-Oak-Deer, ‘Santa Rita’ (Opuntia santa-rita ‘Tubac’), is getting established in the blue pot, with balancing help from a few bamboo stakes. Yucca rostrata peeks over the wall.


In a galvanized tub on the upper patio, I’m growing native Texas tuberose (Manfreda maculosa), artichoke agave (A. parryi var. truncata), and a new trial plant from Proven Winners: ‘Quicksilver’ artemisia (Artemisia stelleriana ‘Quicksilver’).*


It’s growing well in bright shade and needed very little water throughout the summer months, even with a late spring planting. It’s described as “vigorous” on Proven Winners’ website, and I’d treat it as such — i.e., I’d be very careful about setting it loose in the garden. Certain creeping artemisias, like ‘Oriental Limelight’, can be very aggressive, and ‘Quicksilver’ may prove the same.


But for a container you don’t want to water every day in the summer, it’s a great choice as a spiller under a xeric “thriller” like an agave or manfreda.


I’ll close my foliage-focused post with a last look at the pond garden with ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood balls, my favorite sitting area, and plenty of still-green foliage.

This is my November 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! 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.

*Proven Winners sent me this plant to trial in my garden. I’m writing about it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

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.

Early autumn color at the Wildflower Center, part 1


Showy palafoxia (Palafoxia hookeriana)

That first hit of cool autumn air early last week sent me running (well, battling Austin traffic) for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Arriving on a solemn, overcast morning, I was surprised to see quite a few other visitors there too. But that’s what happens when the Death Star finally relents.


Let’s go for an early-fall stroll through the gardens. The stone aqueduct in the entry garden is cloaked in soon-to-be-reddening Virginia creeper.


A hint of orange appears on some of the leaves already.


But quieter shades of green and gray prevail at this time of year, like the sculptural trunks of this Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), framed by an evergreen backdrop of junipers.


Near a pond and trickling fountain, a line of cute little ferns caught my eye. The yellow flowers and tufted greenery below are four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa).


Jamaican sawgrass (Cladium mariscus ssp. jamaicense), a strong performer in summer, is still looking good around the blue-hole pool in the courtyard, although the hibiscus (at right) is fading fast.


Lavender spires of liatris, or gayfeather, are a sure sign of fall. It was flowering in the courtyard…


…and in the main garden meadow along with yellow sneezeweed (Helenium amarum).


Some swaths of it had already blackened and gone to seed, though still providing interesting punctuation marks amid the meadow flowers and grasses.


A wider view shows frothy foliage and sparkling yellow flowers of prairie broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides).


Pruned-up yuccas stand tall at one end of the meadow, adding strong structure amid billowy Lindheimer’s muhly grasses.


A vertical yucca echoes the landmark spiral tower in the background.


More showy palafoxia (Palafoxia hookeriana)


In the woodland stream garden, I spotted a new-to-me plant: Texabama croton (Croton alabamensis var. texensis), which is part of the spurge (euphorbia) family. At a distance this deciduous shrub would be easy to overlook.


But up close, the foliage seems to sparkle with pairs of small, silver leaves laid atop bouquet-like clusters of dusty-green leaves.


Here’s something else I’d never seen: the pear-like fruit of red buckeye (Aesculus pavia var. pavia).


In the demonstration garden, a long grape arbor, viewed from the side, frames a view of a formal native-plant garden in the distance.


A big silver-blue agave looks great at any time of year.


The elaborate showiness of passionflower always captivates me.


But simple sunflowers are lovely too.


The Wildflower Center was my earliest inspiration for making my own stock-tank pond, and they still have several examples throughout their gardens.


In the shade, a showy fall combo of American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) and inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)


More American beautyberry backs a rustic bench under a shade tree.


In the butterfly garden, tall daisies (or sunflowers?) were providing their own rays of sunshine on this cloudy day.


A woodland path leads to the family garden, and I set off in that direction…


…where for now I leave you to ramble under the trees.

By the way, I’ll be at the Wildflower Center’s member’s day Fall Plant Sale on Friday, October 14. I’ll be signing books from 1 to 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. Even if you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. I hope to see you there!

Up next: Part 2 of my visit to the Wildflower Center, with bees, butterflies, and other buggy critters enjoying the plants along with human visitors.

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 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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