Owl’ll be watching you


After weeks of live oak litter, first leaves and then pollen catkins, and weeks of me raking, blowing, and bagging, the garden is finally visible again. Sunday evening I went outside with no expectation of doing any spring chore: no clean-up, no pruning, no planting, no mulching, no nothing. It was blissful.


The soap aloes (Aloe maculata) are blooming, which is always special. They’ll do this about three times each growing season.


I like how they echo the new orange Hover Dish hanging from the crepe myrtle.


I thought it would be fun to plant it with Texas sedge, and now that it’s long and shaggy I’m enjoying the way it dangles its fiber-optic seedheads. Columbine and rain lilies are jammed in there too. I don’t know if the columbine is going to do anything this year.


Another wide view, with lots of blue, orange, and yellow-green


Looking left, the new stucco walls are totally working the space, with the gray wall echoing the curve of the stock-tank pond in the foreground.


Descending to the lower garden along the back fence, I stopped to ogle a bloom spike — the first ever! — on the Acanthus mollis. Those lustrous leaves are pretty fine also. I planted it 4 or 5 years ago, and it’s always either been blighted early by drought and heat or else frozen to the ground in winter, returning too late to bloom before summer’s heat sets in. But last fall I planted a black beautyberry nearly on top of it, and I guess it got the message that it better start strutting its stuff if it wants to keep a place in the garden.


Moving along the stepping-stone path, which leads under the arching branches of a Mexican buckeye, I stopped again to admire the new Yucca rostrata framed by a wine-colored loropetalum and a trio of pots filled with succulents.


Here’s the blue monolith wall from behind. That’s Moby atop the stone wall in the background.


Moving along to the hilly side garden, I realized I haven’t taken a picture of this year’s ‘Etoile Violette’ clematis flowering. The blooms are a bit shriveled from the recent heat…


…but still pretty.


The older Yucca rostrata is growing tall and shaggy. I’m contemplating pruning up the lower leaves to expose the trunk. But probably laziness will win out. Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) blooms at its feet.


Here’s a new acquisition I don’t think I’ve shown: a weeping ‘Traveller’ redbud, which I ordered from Vivero. It arrived after the spring bloom, so that’s something to look forward to next year. According to grower Greenleaf Nursery, ‘Traveller’ grows to 5 feet tall with a spread of 5 to 12 feet.

Dan Hosage of Madrone Nursery discovered this weeping variety of the native Texas tree. He named it ‘Traveller’, according to Madrone’s website, in honor of Robert E. Lee’s horse and in tribute to his alma mater, Washington and Lee University.


A garden stroll wouldn’t be complete at this time of year without checking in with Papa Screech Owl, who hangs out during the day in a ligustrum just behind the back fence.


Evening was setting in, and he was waking up and probably thinking about breakfast for himself and the missus.


What a handsome fellow!


There was plenty of other bird activity as well, including this insistently chirping juvenile cardinal. She looked quite big enough to feed herself…


…but Papa was waiting nearby with a tasty snack.


“Feed me!”


“Come to the dinner table, missy!”


“But I’m playing!”


Cosmo and I watched these antics until it was time to get dinner ourselves. And oh yes, Cosmo is certain I had the walls built just for his lounging pleasure.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Rock Rose garden abloom before the hailstorm


Two weeks ago my friend Jenny Stocker, blogger at Rock Rose and gardener extraordinaire, offered me a division of a water iris for my pond. When I arrived, mid-morning on a sunny, warm day, Jenny gave me a tour and then kindly set me loose to wander around on my own and take photos.


I’ve photographed Jenny’s England-meets-Texas garden on several occasions (links at the end), and I never tire of it. Her talent with design — although she’ll swear that everything just self-seeds, and she’s had little to do with it — means there are focal points and framed views galore, making her garden not only beautiful to explore in person but very photogenic.


When Jenny leads visitors around her garden, she always starts in the front courtyard and works her way around the side of the house, through the rose garden, and into the sunken garden pictured here. Stepping into the riotously blooming garden of native and cottage wildflowers induces oohs and ahhs, especially in springtime.


I’m going to give you the tour in reverse order, partly for a change of pace but also as a tribute. You see, Jenny’s garden was slammed by a hailstorm 5 days after I visited. The hail, which merely pockmarked my agaves in northwest Austin, unleashed its fury on southwest Austin and pounded flat her tender annuals, vegetables, and succulents. It broke glass ornaments and shredded the new, green leaves from the live oaks, strewing them across the ground like confetti. The sunken garden was especially hard hit.


A week later, she’s philosophical about the damage, knowing the shrubs, roses, and trees will rebound quickly, already seeing new growth on perennials, and hopeful that plenty of dormant wildflower seeds remain in the soil to emerge next spring. After all, her plants are Texas tough, and the natives especially are adapted to these destructive weather events.


It was painful to hear of her losses, and I’ve held off on posting these pre-hail pictures, worried they wouldn’t bring her any pleasure. But at a blogger get-together last Saturday, she assured me that she was fine and encouraged me to post. So here they are, with a reminder to enjoy moments of beauty whenever you see them.


The potager, abloom with Verbena bonariensis, poppies, and bluebonnets


The verbena seemed to be poking its flowery head above the wall separating the potager from the sunken garden for a better view.


I love this vignette of agaves clustered in a shallow, square planter atop a sturdy pedestal, with Mexican feathergrass and salvia billowing around.


Along one tan stucco wall, pine cones are strung on a wire for a casual, charming decoration.


Jenny has a flair for potted arrangements. Doesn’t the succulent in the center look like a miniature saguaro?


Austin is famous for its bat colony, and every Austin garden should have a few as well.


The spiniest plants have the most glorious flowers.


The view across the sunken garden. A doorway in a monumental wall frames the view…


…of a rose garden laid out in a circular design.


Round pavers lead around the central, circular bed of roses and bluebonnets.


I spotted an anole hunting amid the foliage, and he boldly posed for a photo.


Moving around the side of the house, you enter a small, walled garden of evergreen shrubs and vines. A pair of green umbrellas provides shade.


A handsome, silver dyckia shines against a backdrop of fig ivy.


Jenny has many unique pieces of garden art, including this circular ceramic hanging on a wooden gate.


On the door into her walled front courtyard, a rat-tail cactus (I think) cascades from a wall planter.


A variegated Agave desmettiana adds a sculptural accent by the door. Jenny moves these beautiful but tender agaves into the garage in winter.


Stepping through the doorway you see a large potted aloe and contemporary wall art.


A substantial arbor shades the garden entrance…


…but the garden itself basks in sunshine. Gravel mulch offers the perfect habitat for a carpet of bluebonnets in springtime.


A Lady Banks rose smothers the wall at left, while on the right, like an island amid a sea of flowers, an umbrella shelters a table for two.


A millstone-style fountain bubbles quietly nearby, offering an invitation to birds and other garden creatures. Lapped by pastel river rock, a lovely ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave lifts its arms toward the sun.


Welcoming visitors at the front door, a yellow star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) wafts its sweet fragrance into the house.


I smiled to see this bobble-handed Queen Elizabeth waving benignly in the breeze — a nod to Jenny’s English heritage?

My thanks to Jenny for sharing her garden with me again, and for the water iris, which bloomed for me the very next day. As for the hail, I hope she’s already seeing nature’s quick recovery underway in her garden.

For more posts about Jenny’s garden:
Jenny Stocker’s English Texas gravel garden
Feeding the soul in Jenny’s garden
Jenny’s flower-licious walled garden
Meeting Carol & a tour of Jenny Stocker’s garden

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Twilight garden for Foliage Follow-Up


Last evening the garden was bathed in the soft glow of a spring twilight. After a day of planting, mulching, and general tidying, I was glad for a quiet moment to just stop and enjoy the garden. The new “monolith” wall has made a handy spot to display a ‘Color Guard’ yucca, I’ve found. I love those stripey, sunshine-yellow leaves.

In front of the wall, and behind the others, I’ve planted ‘Blonde Ambition’ grama grass in sun and Texas sedge in shade, accented with a couple of Indian mallows (Abutilon palmeri) that are tiny right now but will, I hope, put on a great summer show.


Looking the other way it was On Golden Pond, thanks to the low light. ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods pair off at the path thresholds around the pond, with Texas sedge and lamb’s ear filling in beneath.


On the right, the blue-green leaves of heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) crowd the path. Soon lavender bloom spikes will appear. Behind the skullcap, a trio of squid agaves in culvert-pipe planters arc around the curve.

For new readers, the shed is really a disguise for the pool pump. Those turquoise double doors? Faux. The real door is on the side. My husband built this beautiful structure to my design and did a terrific job.


I finally planted up this pretty, blue-glass hanging planter, a birthday gift from my friend Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden. What did I choose? Blue-leaved succulents, of course. You might also notice a bunch of blue bottles in the background. I’ve been livening up the shady, dim lower garden with a liberal sprinkling of shiny, light-catching garden art. That’s a double row of bottles on rebar stakes — an honor guard for the stepping-stone path that runs between them.

Why? Because it’s fun.


Stepping back, here’s a wider view of the Mexican buckeye that the planter hangs from. I’ve had that enormous potted Texas nolina for years and brought it with me from my former garden, but now it’s in a new spot, on a ledge of rock between the pool patio and the lower garden. I moved it when I had an outdoor fan post installed by the patio, and now I wonder why I never thought to move it here earlier. I love it in this spot! It has room to spread out its weeping leaves and makes a lovely focal point for the lower garden. To its right is a row of dwarf Barbados cherries.


Now we’re in the lower garden, looking toward the new Yucca rostrata, framed by the wine-colored leaves of ‘Sizzling Pink’ loropetalum. One of these days I will get the weeds under control back here.


A front view, without the backlighting, but I’m still loving the rich coloring. In the purple pot are paleleaf yucca and ghost plant, and in the culvert pipe are squid agave and more ghost plant. The small green shrub with cream variegation is ‘Cream de Mint’ pittosporum, which stays tidy and small.


Another angle on the pond garden, with mass plantings of ‘Color Guard’ yucca, bamboo muhly, fall aster, and more — a tapestry of greens.

So what leafy love is going on in your April garden? Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I really 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 © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.