Mowing the sedge, and other expressions of hope for spring


Central Texas gardens got walloped by Old Man Winter this year, and a lot of plants that normally contribute to Austin’s evergreen palette — bamboo muhly, sago palm, flax lily, even ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo — are sporting sad shades of tan or brown. With a garden tour coming up in just 3 months, my emotions about this winter have ranged from pique to gloom. (Ironically, from a personal standpoint, I’ve enjoyed the cold weather and have been wearing boots, jackets, and scarves every time it dips below 65 F.)

Yesterday I made myself do one garden tidying chore — one thing that wouldn’t be too early (I’m still saving the big cut-back for closer to mid-February), and that would help prepare the garden for spring: I charged up the electric mower and ran it over the winter-browned sedges. What a difference it made for my mood and for the late-winter aesthetics of my garden.


Now instead of yellow-brown, tired-looking lumps, there are tidy tufts of emerging green leaves in the ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge “lawn” that I planted last February.


The more-established Berkeley sedge lawn in front of the house got a few passes with the mower too, and now it looks very much like a shorn traditional lawn. It’s funny how mowing those sedges turned into an act of faith that spring will return and green things up again.


There are other things that need tidying, like my “totem pole” prickly pear that fell over in our first winter blast. Drat!


Here’s how it looked a few months ago, growing straight and tall like no Opuntia I’d ever seen. It should be easy to replant by sticking the broken end into the soil, although it’ll have to be staked.


I’m not sure if two of my ‘Platinum Beauty’ lomandra trial plants will pull through. I planted them in the front garden last fall, eager to see how they’d hold up in dry semi-shade and with deer. No problem there, but two deep-freezes-for-days later, they’re bleached and brittle.


Ah, it kills me! Still, I see a little fresh green at the base of the plants, so I’ll leave them alone for now and wait until after our last freeze date to cut them back and see if they recover. The third trial plant is in a container up by the house, and it came through the freezes just fine with a protective cover over it. I covered the two in the ground too, but they are in a more exposed location.


More brown, which should be evergreen, around the pool: a brown hedge of dwarf Barbados cherry continues to provide structure on the left, but brown stems are all that remain of a beautiful stand of Mexican honeysuckle at the far end of the pool. I can only avert my eyes for now and hope for a recovery by early May.


But why dwell on the brown when I can dwell on the green? And there’s still plenty of it, like the blue-green of paleleaf yucca underplanted with heartleaf skullcap…


…and silver Mediterranean fan palm doing its year-round fan dance.


We just need to keep the green in our hearts a little while longer. Spring is coming.

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin this May 3rd-6th! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2018 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Just saying “Aloe!” and mullein around


Aloe there! (Anyone else into horticultural puns? Add yours in the comments, and show us aloe you can go.) I spotted this row of speckled soap aloes still blooming at Lady Bird Lake last weekend. Their coral-red candelabra blooms look especially pretty against a lime-green rebar fence.


I also enjoyed the view of Lady Bird Lake and the Lamar Bridge from the Pfluger pedestrian bridge. Someone is taking good care of a planter box on the bridge.


Back at home, I’ve been mullin’ where to add a few more mullein plants since my friend Tait Moring gave me some seeds this fall. This mullein is still blooming post-snow.


The little succulent planter is still doing fine too. With good drainage, Coahuila lace cactus and ghost plant can take our Central Texas winters in stride. The smaller sedum in the middle does well too.


Mullein sunshine. An Instagram reader recently advised that mullein is terribly invasive in drier regions like West Texas and beyond. I haven’t found it to be so in my own garden, although it does seed itself around like native Mexican feathergrass and inland sea oats. At any rate, it’s always smart to check your region’s invasive species list or ask a knowledgeable plant person before introducing a new plant into your garden.


I leave you with a menagerie of succulent planters I spotted at Blue Genie Art Bazaar. An Instagram reader saw this on my IG (@pamdigging) and expressed horror that anyone would kill a sea turtle and make a planter out of it. Hee hee — well, they DO look pretty real. But no, these are plastic animals that someone has been rather creative with.


They’re turtley fun! What a great way to add a little pandamonium (see what I did there?) to your windowsill garden this year.

All you pun-lovers, there are some amazing aloe and horticultural pun gifts on Etsy. Check ’em out.

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

Garden rooms and green roof at Cloverleaf Drive Garden: Austin Open Days Tour 2017


This year’s Garden Conservancy-sponsored Open Days tour in Austin featured gardens in a variety of styles and a variety of neighborhoods (not just West Austin). I especially enjoyed exploring the Cloverleaf Drive garden, which, along with Jackson Broussard’s, is located east of I-35 in a “regular-folks” neighborhood. It was designed by Casey Boyter, one of 3 female designers represented among the 6 private gardens, which I also think is a great move by the tour organizer.


Let’s start with the street view, and this unusual sight: an arch of normally upright, columnar ‘Will Fleming’ yaupons. I was quite surprised to see ‘Will Fleming’ used this way, and I wondered if it was planned from the start or decided on later.


A deep curbside bed of low-water plants like agave, gopher plant, purple coneflower, and woolly stemodia shrinks the lawn to a more manageable size.


A pretty garden gate on a wood-slat fence admits you into the back garden…


…and a nicely fitted limestone patio and what Casey calls a rubble wall, with bricks and other salvaged materials tucked among the stones. Casey specializes in this sort of wall, as does Jackson and Tait Moring, whose garden was also on tour. I’m starting to think of a rubble wall as a distinctive Austin look.


Looking left along the house, you see a gravel patio with a willow bench, red-flowering container plants, and other enticements.


But first let’s take the gravel path that curves invitingly from the gate through mistflower, spineless prickly pear, and native palmetto to a low curved wall…


…which offers seating around a portable fire pit. I love this. It reads like a council ring, one of my favorite design features in a garden. Native inland sea oats grasses nod in the foreground.


Another view. Check out that wall detailing.


And one more, with agave, salvia, grasses, and roses adding greenery all around.


A rectangular lawn adds a swath of soft green — and a play space for kids or dogs — in the center of the back yard. But the majority of the yard is a gravel-path ramble through generous garden beds of native and adapted plants, leading to various patio destinations. This kind of garden really appeals to me. Also, notice the galvanized-panel fence, which adds a contemporary note — or industrial, depending on how you look at it — to the garden.


Instead of tucking the garden shed in a back corner, Casey placed it in the middle of the rear property line, which serves to divide the yard into two distinct spaces. Creating multiple garden rooms makes any garden feel larger, and it works here too. Charmingly, the shed is topped with a green roof of prickly pear and native grasses. Casey is a green roof pioneer in Austin.


You might ask, do the homeowners want to look out their windows at a shed, even as cute a shed as this one? Well, they don’t. A two-level, wood-slat screen draped with an evergreen vine creates another garden-room division between the patio with the willow bench and the rest of the yard. On this side of the screen, inland sea oats line the lawn — a fun juxtaposition of native grass and turf grass.


The long view


A closer look at the shed and its green roof. I like the sliding barn door and its chevron-pattern construction and the built-in potting bench along the side.


From the shed area, you peek over a narrow planting bed and see another gravel patio with two Adirondack chairs and Carolina cherry laurels.


Walking around to see what’s there, you find a small stock-tank pond with tall papyrus and a yellow waterlily.


A sweet discovery


Here’s the designer, Casey Boyter, who was on hand to answer questions about the garden.


Along the side fence, an Adirondack loveseat offers a resting place amid sedge and oakleaf hydrangeas.


A double gate of wood slats offers access on this side.


From here you enjoy a long diagonal view across the garden to the fire-pit patio.


Agaves grow in and around a traditional concrete birdbath — another fun little surprise.


View of the shed and a loquat tree to the right


I can’t get enough of that agave in the birdbath. It makes a cool focal point.


Heading around to the willow-bench patio at the back of the house


The horizontal wood-slat screen draped with coral honeysuckle vine makes a nice backdrop to this open patio furnished with charming willow loveseats and chairs. I don’t know what the red-flowering plant is — something tropical, I think — but it adds a nice jolt of color to this largely evergreen garden.


I like how the screen keeps you from seeing the whole garden at one glance. You have a reason to go outside and explore, with tantalizing glimpses of other garden rooms around each side.


A metal sun hangs from the screen — no need for nails if you use a hook. The screen is constructed in 3 parts, with the center section stepped back about 4 inches and built about 6 inches taller than the panels on either side, giving the screen depth and a nice symmetry.


The rustic pots work well with the rustic willow furniture.


Utterly charming, don’t you think? And attainable. These are inexpensive gravel paths and DIY-able screens and readily available native plants. The key is thinking through the space and how you want to divide it, while keeping a certain openness in the garden rooms you make. Or hiring a designer to figure that out for you!


And what a great way to get rid of a lot of lawn too.


I enjoyed this garden and know it must be very liveable for the lucky owners.

Up next: The contemporary garden and poolside retreat of designer B. Jane. For a look back at landscape architect Jackson Broussard’s personal garden, click 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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

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