Hearts to you on my 11th blogiversary!

Valentine’s Day, specifically February 14, 2006, marks the day I published my very first blog post here at Digging. Eleven years later I’m still at it, and it’s all thanks to you!

Chinese ground orchid (Bletilla striata)

Your interest in reading about my gardening adventures and misadventures, as well as your comments and connections here, on Facebook and Instagram, and offline, have kept blogging fresh and fun for me, as I illustrated last year for my 10th anniversary retrospective.

And so, hearts to you, dear reader! Blogging is a two-way conversation, and I’ve long enjoyed my conversations with you. Thanks for being here!

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

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The upcoming talk with James deGrey David has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

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

Remembering 2016 in the garden


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Spiky plant love, decor and more

Check out my neighbor’s beautiful blue rose of an agave, which I planted for her several years ago. Yes, you guessed it: it’s a whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), and it’s quickly grown into a truly stunning specimen.

Surrounded by minty-leaved autumn sage (Salvia greggii), it has so far escaped fall antlering by our local bucks. I suspect the deer-repelling salvia foliage deters them.

Speaking of whale’s tongue agaves, here’s a last look at Moby’s bloom stalk, which managed a spiteful Khan moment when I picked it up for this photo (From hell’s heart I stab at thee! – a Moby-Dick quote, of course), sinking a half-inch terminal spike from a dead leaf into the flesh between my thumb and forefinger. I dropped the heavy stalk with a yell — narrowly missing my husband, bless his heart — and shook my hand in pain. The spike had broken off in there, and I could see only a dark dot on my skin, but it felt like a burning hammer had pounded it. Trying again, I picked up the stalk with my DH’s help and gamely posed for this pic — that spike is at least 15 feet tall — before going inside and digging the agave thorn out of my hand.

As if being stabbed weren’t enough, agave thorn spikes can seriously irritate the skin. Sure enough, my hand swelled and burned for another 24 hours before I bit the bullet and dug back into the wound with a needle and found another tiny piece of thorn lodged there. I got it out, to nearly instant relief. All better now, and time to grow another Moby! The spike, by the way, is cut up and ready for composting by the city.

Here’s a much gentler blue, for those not inclined to spiky plant love — a pretty, striped morning glory I spotted at Red Barn Garden Center.

Oh, but back to spiky goodness! Here’s my trio of soap aloes (Aloe maculata) grudgingly sharing space with fall-upstart oxblood lily (Rhodophiala bifida).

I adore this combo, although the aloes make it very difficult to dig and divide the bulbs later on — and so I rarely do.

One of my mulleins is blooming out front. Just one though. They were all supposed to bloom together, or so I planned when I planted them last spring.

Here’s another surprise, but a good one. A raffle prize I won at the Minneapolis Fling arrived in the mail: a colorful and handy set of Tubtrugs! They sent a big one with a lid, a medium-sized one, a strainer tub, and a scoop! I know I’ll get a lot of use out of these. Thanks, Tubtrugs!

And I have to share a couple of garden-y birthday gifts from my sisters, which my fellow spiky-plant lovers will appreciate: a tray printed with an adorable Charley Harper illustration of ocotillo, barrel cactus, cholla, yucca, and armadillo…

…and a matching tea towel. Aren’t they wonderful?

One last look at my neighbor’s spiky beauty, and that’s all for today. Tune in tomorrow for a look at RH Modern’s new rooftop patio garden at the Domain.

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

Austinites and native-plant shoppers, I’ll be at the member’s day Fall Plant Sale at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center 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!

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.