Visiting a San Antonio garden with rocks, oaks, and deer


Ahh, I’m back and enjoying our mellow Texas fall after a garden-visiting weekend in New York City, and guess what I’ve been doing since I got back? Yep! Visiting more gardens.

Last Friday a few friends and I headed south to San Antonio to visit the gardens of two Alamo City bloggers and a gardening friend. I’ll give you our visits in reverse order, starting with Shirley Fox’s garden, known on her blog by its challenging features: Rock-Oak-Deer.


Shirley organized our visit and still made time to show us her garden as well. This was my second visit; I first saw Shirley’s garden in summer 2013 (click for my post). This iron bedstead, planted as a garden bed (wink), is new since then, and I think it fits perfectly with the rustic Hill Country style Shirley has cultivated. Plus it’s just fun.


In a pot, Shirley has corralled a clump of variegated St. Augustine. Yes, just like the popular lawn grass, only with stripes!


Her Circle Garden was in full, meadowy bloom thanks to a collection of grasses mixed with flowering annuals and perennials.


And there’s Shirley in the orange blouse, her own camera at the ready.


I collect metal spheres in my own garden, so it was fun to spot a few in Shirley’s as well. I like how she’s given this one some prominence by displaying it atop a pot.


Looking at the Circle Garden from the other direction, you get a better sense of all the grasses. That’s pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia) in the left corner, one of my new favorites since Michael at Plano Prairie Garden introduced me to it.


The tall wire fence along the side of her garden keeps deer out, giving Shirley space to grow particularly deer-tasty plants. She and her husband built the cedar-arbor gate.


Here’s another new, dynamic feature since I was last here: a crevice garden planted with yuccas, agaves, and cactus.


In the dappled light under live oaks, Shirley grows shade-tolerant plants and succulents in pots.


The fireplace wall along her back deck is a nice spot to display potted plants and garden decor.


I was intrigued by this fuzzy-leaved tradescantia.


A new screened porch is the biggest addition since I was last here. Shirley and her husband constructed it themselves at one end of their shady deck so they can enjoy being outdoors even during our buggy summer spring, summer, and fall.


It’s spacious inside, with an accent wall made of painted corrugated-metal roofing asphalt roofing panels. (Thanks for the correction, Shirley!)


The front-yard gravel garden — notice not one shred of thirsty lawn — was looking good with a mix of cool blues, golden yellows, and emerald greens, all foliage-based color.


Small boulders and Mexican-style terracotta pots add to the south-central Texas look.


A purple prickly pear looks especially lovely next to a pockmarked limestone boulder.


And I had to stop and admire Shirley’s large ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia), a little sunburned by the Death Star but still looking very content with room to spread its flukes.

Thanks, Shirley, for opening your garden to us and for organizing a fun day of garden-visiting in San Antonio!

Up next: Xericstyle Heather’s lawn-gone, family-friendly garden.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Stuck on my stucco walls


I’m in love with the new walls.


They’re not even painted yet (the stucco has to cure for a few weeks first), and I love them.


I love their sturdy form and embracing curves.


Swoop! The culvert-pipe yucca is being moved, by the way. Man, it’s heavy. Three guys couldn’t move it, so I suggested they lay it down and roll it. We’ll see if that works on Friday.


Here’s the long view. The taller wall in the middle will be rusty red, I think.


I’m going to try a gray-green on the curved walls.


Like the color of the shed. The new limestone path makes me happy too.


Substantial new limestone steps lead down from the pool patio to the lower garden. New flagstones added to the mulched path lead around back of the pool. I’ve got a gorgeous black beautyberry on standby to fill that bare spot in front of the cast-iron plant.

Shout-out to Joe, Michael, and their hardworking crew at Corner Stone Construction Services for their quality work, responsiveness, and communication. There are a few finishing touches that remain, plus the painting that I’ll be doing, but it’s close to being done.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Construction in the garden and other happenings


It was a one-two punch, seeing colorful stuccoed walls in Phoenix and Tucson in April and then in Portland in July. Unable to resist the siren song of structure, functionality, and color, I’ve hired a mason to build some walls in the back garden. Two days ago I moved the patio seating out of the way and am enjoying this temporary pond-viewing set-up.


Yesterday digging began for footings, and materials were brought in.


Here’s the plan. Two semicircular seat walls will curve around the small concrete patios at each end of the pool, providing structure and a safety measure; a couple of times people have almost pushed their chairs backward off the elevated patios. The seat walls will give us more seating when entertaining, and they’ll be an attractive backdrop in all seasons. I’m thinking of painting them an olive-khaki green. A 2-inch gap between the seat walls and the concrete patios will be filled with Mexican beach pebbles.

Along the back of the pool, where it curves inward, they’ll build a taller, free-standing, straight-line stucco wall, which I’ll paint a fun accent color (maybe rusty orange). I plan to plant grasses in front of it (maybe ‘Blonde Ambition’ grama) and will probably display an agave in a dish-planter atop it. It’ll be a focal point for an area that’s sorely in need of one.

Tighter flagstone paving will be laid in the foreground, eliminating a tripping hazard where different paving materials meet, and leading to steps into the lower garden.

I’m excited, nervous, and hopeful that it will turn out as I envision. Stay tuned for more, unless it ends up being a disaster, in which case I’ll be too busy gnashing my teeth and wailing to post anything.


In other news, the oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) are up, as red-coated and jaunty as the pirouetting Buckingham Palace guard.


I love this patch in front of a ‘Bright Edge’ yucca, their yellow stamens echoing the yucca’s stripes.


By the stock-tank pond, spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) are blooming at last. I planted these several years ago, and I think this is the first year they’ve bloomed. They can be slow to get going. I must remember never to disturb them.


After the recent rain, the tired, curled-leaf sweet almond verbena (Aloysia virgata) got a second wind. Now when I step outside on the deck, the sweet fragrance stops me in my tracks, and I must walk over for a deeper sniff.


During my sniff last evening I noticed dozens of Ailanthus webworm moths, which resemble narrow, orange-and-white beetles, nectaring on the flowers.


Honeybees too


I wish I could offer smell-o-vision for you to enjoy the sweet almond scent.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.