It’s been a cold winter, but the garden’s still got it going on


Thank heavens for evergreens, grasses, yuccas, and structural features like stock-tank ponds, big containers, and low walls. After this withering, frostbitten winter, my garden would otherwise be flattened. Of course I’ve been moaning and groaning about the damage anyway. (Isn’t that what we gardeners do?) But taking stock a few days ago, I realized there’s still plenty to enjoy in my winter garden. Case in point: the stock-tank pond, seen here reflecting a mango-colored sunset sky. Let me also give a shout-out to ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood balls and winter-tough squid agaves (Agave bracteosa) in raise-em-up-so-you-can-see-em containers.


Cast-iron plant is a dependable (if ubiquitous) evergreen for Austin too. I may not notice those upright, broad green leaves the rest of the year, but I’m sure glad to have them in the winter. Similarly, Texas nolina (Nolina texana), which grows low to the ground, becomes a winter focal point when elevated in a pot, especially framed by the winter-tan foliage of a dwarf Barbados cherry hedge (Malpighia glabra ‘Nana’). In the background, winter-hardy Yucca rostrata stands tall like a blue Koosh ball atop a trunk.


More yucca goodness here, with a twisted-leaf paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida) elevated for attention in a purple pot atop a concrete plinth. A squid agave in a culvert-pipe planter stair-steps a little higher. Filling in around them are evergreen shade lovers ‘Cream de Mint’ pittosporum and Chinese fringeflower.


In a sunny bed along the driveway, ‘Color Guard’ yuccas take center stage with bright yellow and green stripes. Evergreen gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) is beginning to bloom in the foreground, while last season’s inflorescences still dazzle on the pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia). I’ll cut the pine muhly back soon, but for now, everything that remains evergreen or stands tall through winter is treasured.

This is my February 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! I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

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.

Waterwise outside, oasis inside a walled Sonoma garden


Last August a family road trip took me through Sonoma, California, where I had the pleasure of seeing a garden I was writing about for Garden Design magazine. The owner, Marilyn Coon Stocke, had generously extended an invitation to me and my family, and so we stopped by after a visit to Cornerstone Sonoma and its gardens.


My earlier phone interview with Marilyn had been mainly about the garden inside the courtyard walls, which she’d hired landscape architect Mike Lucas to build to block the wind and provide privacy from the road. But as we approached her garden gate, I was wowed by the waterwise exterior garden. Blazing orange flower spikes of kangaroo paws towered over tuffets of chartreuse lomandra. Both plants hail from Australia and are water thrifty and heat tolerant, allowing Marilyn to focus limited water resources on her interior courtyard garden.

By the parking area, a tumbleweed-like sphere of barbed wire makes a sculptural, Wild West-style accent.


How I wish we could successfully grow kangaroo paws here in Austin! Alas for our sauna-like summers.


Majestic Weber’s agaves punctuate a meadowy front garden of lomandra and tall verbena.


Large cutout windows in the white walls of the courtyard offer peek-a-boo glimpses of the secret garden inside. A barn-door-style shutter can slide closed to keep out the wind.


Eucalyptus and bottlebrush (Callistemon) add more Australian foliage.


Inside the courtyard, a sheltered, green oasis greets you, and a trough-style water feature flanked by an elevated terrace leads to the front door.


A bisecting path frames a view of the trough’s scupper fountain through towering agapanthus blossoms.


The agapanthus flowers were nearly spent by early August but still lovely.


To the right you see steps leading up to the front door, and a row of ‘Livin’ Easy’ rose standards.


The apricot-orange roses echo the orange of the kangaroo paws outside the wall.


Boston ivy traces green-leaved tendrils across the white walls, making a green frame for the window views.


And what a view through this window! I love seeing that big Weber’s agave flexing its muscles amid purple salvia, with a row of eucalyptus trees and golden hills beyond. In the foreground, a firepit and built-in seating offer a reason to stay a while.


Opposite the window, the firepit axis leads straight out of the courtyard and through an allee of ornamental pear trees, which reference the property’s history as a pear orchard.


As a focal point at the end of the allee, a water feature made from a manganese rock crusher — essentially a giant dish — bubbles gently. From here, the garden proper ends, and the path leads to the wilder parts of the property and, eventually, to a borrowed view of a neighbor’s vineyard. Ah, the beautiful Sonoma wine country.

My thanks to Marilyn for the tour of her lovely home and garden! It was a treat to meet her too. If you’d like to read more about her garden, just get your hands on a copy of the Winter 2018 issue of Garden Design and look for my article on page 54.

P.S. Marilyn’s home and garden fortunately escaped damage from the Sonoma wildfires last fall, which I was relieved to hear.

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.

Sharing nature’s beauty in the garden of Diana Kirby


I’ve enjoyed many a visit at the garden of my good friend Diana Kirby, designer at Diana’s Designs, garden columnist at the Austin American-Statesman, and publisher of the blog Sharing Nature’s Garden. But inexplicably I’ve never done a photo tour of her lovely garden, and I’m remedying that today with photos from a mid-October visit.

Diana’s garden rocks tropical-style color and bold foliage in back by her swimming pool, but in front along the street, where it’s hot and dry, she created a large, tiered bed with drought-tolerant native and adapted plants like autumn sage (Salvia greggii), society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), fall aster (Aster oblongifolius), and gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida). Silvery foliage and purple and pink flowers offer a cool but colorful look for hot summers.


Yellow appears in fall when golden thryallis (Galphimia gracilis) starts to bloom. All these plants are deer resistant, by the way. The deer in Diana’s southwest Austin garden don’t seem to be as voracious (or pesky in terms of antlering damage) as in other parts of town, but they will eat obvious deer candy like roses and tender succulents, so she chooses plants with strongly scented, hairy, or fibrous leaves.


Closer to the house, along the front walk, variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’), purple-leaved Chinese fringeflower (Loropetalum chinense), and annual zinnias thrive. (Zinnias get eaten in my garden, for comparison.)


The garden gets much shadier by the front door, with several small trees along the stone-edged walk
and a lush understory.


I love this shady combo of ‘Sparkler’ sedge (Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’), Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), sago palm (Cycas revoluta), and root beer plant, aka hoja santa (Piper auritum).


Persian shield, ‘Sparkler’ sedge, and asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’)


I am in love with this spiky pink hairdo of a plant, Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’, which I assume Diana brings inside in winter. Its pink coloring is enhanced by surrounding pink lantana and the rosy fruits of a pomegranate tree.


Like an exploding firework, right?


Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) adds vibrant purple spires nearby.


Heading around to the back garden, you pass through a woodland trail, where stepping stones sitting flush with river rock double as a dry stream during downpours.


This naturalistic garden is chock-full of shade-loving plants.


A cool oasis on a hot summer’s day


And these adorable ceramic fish love it too! I was with Diana when she bought these at The Arbor Gate in Tomball, Texas.


Cobalt appears again in a ceramic pot with ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda and a ceramic bird.


A bubbling birdbath fountain is for the birds — and maybe the deer. Diana is more tenderhearted than I — ha!


A serene Buddha head rests against a tree.


And a plantable lady’s head wears a squid agave (Agave bracteosa) hairdo.


Fishhooks senecio trails from a steel wall planter with a little ceramic mushroom tucked in.


Diana keeps her pots interesting in the backyard too, like this blue starburst of a yucca entwined with chartreuse sweet potato vine.


More potted plants and colorful decor adorn her back porch.


Potted plants on a table by a window create a pretty view inside and out.


And there’s a comfy place to sit too. I love that little orange foo dog!


Diana may love color as much as I do.


A galvanized metal tray and fun potted plants jazz up a table display.


Diana is a total dog lover, and one even shows up in her garden decor.


Chocolatey red, orange, and yellow — plus a pumpkin — combine for a pretty fall container.


Just off the back porch, a shady pocket garden sits between a party-sized covered cabana and an outdoor kitchen — perfect for entertaining, which Diana and her husband enjoy doing. I didn’t get pictures of those spaces, which is ironic, because they’re where I’ve spent the most time in Diana’s garden. Next time!


I also didn’t get a photo of Diana’s lovely swimming pool — must have been too focused on the plants — but it’s the focal point of the cabana and the back porch. All around the pool and patio, Diana has planted an exuberant mix of tropical and subtropical plants for a lush, colorful garden that’s really at its peak in mid-summer. Here you see a burgundy-variegated banana, yellow bells, hibiscus, and mounds and mounds of lime-green sweet potato vine. The limestone steps lead down from the pool deck to the lower garden behind the pool.


Potted succulent in a cobalt pot surrounded by sweet potato vine


Bat-face cuphea (Cuphea llavea) adds red-hot color and cute little bat faces.


In the lower garden just outside a fence that keeps the deer out of her back yard, Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida) blooms amid agaves and ornamental trees, with a neighbor-screening backdrop of evergreen junipers behind them.


Whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), one of my faves


‘Sharkskin’ agave — one I covet but don’t have a good spot for, with those stiff, dagger-sharp leaves


Fading hibiscus flower, lovely even past peak


The dangling, tubular flowers of Iochroma ‘Royal Queen’ remind me of chandelier earrings.


I think of hibiscus as Diana’s signature plant because she has several varieties and often posts pictures of their salad-plate-sized flowers. They add such a tropical look to her garden, even though they are winter hardy.


Duranta aglow with dangling yellow fruits — the golden dewdrops that give this plant its common name.


From the pool patio, a new flagstone path winds through the lawn to a new rose garden that Diana is working on (no pics, since it’s currently a work in progress, and Diana will, I’m sure, do a big reveal on her own blog), as well as to her vegetable garden and greenhouse. Planting pockets built into the path allow heat-loving portulaca to add colorful bouquets along the walk.


Looking back along the portulaca path toward the pool cabana and surrounding garden


A large greenhouse is tucked behind a scrim of annual cosmos and hardy lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus). The family vegetable garden is visible at left, behind a fence swathed in cypress vine, which keeps out two active dogs.


Self-sowing annual cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) has even twined onto the veggie-garden gate, but it still opens just fine.


Dainty, tubular red flowers and ferny foliage are signature qualities of cypress vine. It can be an aggressive self-seeder in the right conditions, but in my own garden it didn’t return.


Beautiful artichoke foliage


And back into the front garden, along the side of the house, flowery senna (Senna corymbosa) was awash in golden blooms.


Cool purple spires of Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) make the senna glow even brighter.


My thanks to Diana for letting me photograph her garden, and for sharing it so generously over the years!

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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