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.

Bold leaves and light-catching grasses for Foliage Follow-Up


I’m giving Moby, my ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia), pride of place in today’s Foliage Follow-Up post. At nearly 7 feet across, he’s the star of the back garden in all seasons, but especially in late summer when the fall-blooming perennials haven’t really revved up yet. An assortment of smaller agaves, mangaves, and manfreda swim alongside him.


Out front in the island bed, Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) is looking especially good now that I’ve cut back the spent heartleaf skullcap that blooms earlier in the year. Several fans of new leaves are standing tall, giving this bed a more tropical look.


And I can’t resist including a picture of bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) and ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia aglow with late-afternoon light.

So what lovely leaves are making you happy in your September garden? Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage plants their due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave your link to your Foliage Follow-Up post in a comment. I really appreciate it if you’ll also include a link to this post in your own post (sharing link love!). If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

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

Agave spikes and potted succulents get me through summer


I feel we’re in the home stretch now, but even at its worst summer can’t wear these plants down. In sun, Queen Victoria agave (A. victoriae-reginae), with its pleated, white-edged leaves, just laughs at the Death Star.


Agave stricta, which really needs a bigger pot, and Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’ look sharp all summer too. Moby, my big ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia), hulks over them all.


In dappled shade, smaller succulents reside in pots that add bright color even when blooms are scarce. Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spiciger), the shrub below the Circle Pot, is already revving up for fall with a sprinkling of orange, tubular flowers.


Wide steps are handy for displaying pots, and I enjoy this view through the French door in the living room. All the plants can go a week without watering in summer, even lush-looking purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis). It gets droopy if I let it go that long, but it perks right back up when given a drink. Thank goodness for dappled shade under the live oaks, which keeps these plants — and me — happy.

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