Fall in the air has oxblood lilies popping up


Finally! An honest-to-goodness cool front has pushed the awful heat out, and we’re enjoying some rain and 70-something temperatures here in Austin. In response, the oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida), which were tentatively pushing up last week, have burst joyously into bloom. I like their rich red trumpets with golden stamens against yellow-striped ‘Bright Edge’ yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’).


I’ve moved my Austin sign several times over the years, most recently in front of the blue stucco wall by the pool, where it’s a perfect fit. My metalworking friend Bob Pool at Gardening at Draco made a stand for it, with legs that press into the ground, so I didn’t have to put holes in the stucco to hang it.


Other changes include the sad decline of my treasured Queen Victoria agave (Agave victoriae-reginae), which I had even longer than Moby, my recently expired whale’s tongue agave. After all the rain last year, her lower leaves succumbed to rot, and moving her to a pot with extra-sharp drainage couldn’t save her.


So I pulled her out and repotted the green pot with a ‘Monterrey Frost’ squid agave (A. bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’), which had outgrown its old pot. Isn’t it gorgeous here? The variegated squid agave, which is much less common than the regular (but also lovely) squid agave, gets a lot of admiration whenever I have gardening friends over. It occasionally produces pups, which I’ve shared, keeping just one for myself as insurance. If you’re in lust yourself, I believe I purchased it from Plant Delights, although it’s currently out of stock. Other online retailers may have it, though, so search around.


In the side yard on the opposite side of the house from the one I wrote about yesterday, fall has worked its magic. Native inland sea oats grass (Chasmanthium latifolium) is bent under the weight of toasty-brown oats, contrasting with billowy (spring-blooming) bamboo muhly grass (Muhlenbergia dumosa) on the right. Sparkling in the distance are the hibiscus-like flowers of Brazilian beauty pale pavonia (Pavonia hastata).


Walking up the path is now a meadowy experience, with an abundance of grasses and pavonia arching over. Low-growing native Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) is starting to bloom too, so I expect clouds of butterflies when the sun comes out again. I need to move that burgundy glazed orb — a cracked freebie from The Great Outdoors several years ago — next to the pale pavonia.


The color exactly matches that wine-colored eye!

Has fall begun transforming your garden?

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

Austinites and native-plant shoppers, I’ll be at the member’s day Fall Plant Sale at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on October 14, and I hope to see you there! I’ll be signing books between 1 and 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. If you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. 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.

Potting up agave bulbils


My whale’s tongue agave, Moby, came down last week. This week I’ve been sorting and planting bulbils (baby agave clones) from the bloom stalk. I’ve never had an agave bloom before, much less harvested its bulbils, so I looked online for advice and found Len Geiger’s helpful post at Married to Plants and followed his instructions.


First I used hand pruners to remove clusters of bulbils from the bloom stalk. Mine looked different from Len’s in that short flower stalks were coming up from the bulbil mass. I don’t know why. I picked through each cluster, pulling away and discarding the flowers and trying to find easily removable bulbils, as Len advised.


Many of the bulbils came loose in clusters, which makes it hard to separate tightly connected bulbils without breaking them. I tried gently pulling them apart and discarded those that broke off too high, keeping those that had little nubs of roots.


Mid-sort, the green tub on the right contains unsorted bulbil clusters. The red tub contains the best of the harvested bulbils.


The final harvest. Most are very small, but a few bigger ones stand out. I’ll keep a half-dozen of these as insurance, in hopes that I get 2 or 3 well-rooted plants to carry on Moby’s legacy.


Next I set up my potting supplies: bagged cactus potting soil, bunches of old 4-inch nursery pots, rooting hormone and a dish to put it in, a cup of water, and a trowel. My potting station? A brand-new Gorilla Cart that I won in a raffle at the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling! It made a perfect set-up, as I can move it around for more or less sun very easily (and in and out of the garage when it freezes in a few months), and the mesh sides will help keep squirrels from digging in the pots while the agaves root.


Here’s what an ideal bulbil looks like: a clean break at the bottom with a little nub of root, already hardened off in a shady, dry place for a couple of days.


Per Len’s instructions, I dipped the bottom of each bulbil in a cup of water before dipping it in rooting hormone (the water helps it stick). He said rooting hormone may be unnecessary, but he uses it, and I thought it couldn’t hurt, especially since many of the bulbils are very small, with less root than this one.


Then I made a small hole in a soil-filled 4-inch pot and stuck the bulbil in, gently pressing the soil around it.


One Gorilla Cart filled! Len didn’t mention how often he waters his baby agaves while they root, but I’ve been misting mine once a day because it’s 100 degrees out. I’m keeping them in bright shade under a live oak, where they’re getting a bit pelted with acorns, but the Death Star is too much for them right now.


Here’s the final result. I ended up planting about 120 bulbils. (Sharp-eyed readers will notice a few squid agave pups in there.) Many are teeny tiny, and who knows if all of them will root. I’ll know in a couple of months. Meantime, I’ve wrapped rolled wire over the pots to discourage squirrels, who at this time of year are burying acorns like treasure-hoarding pirates. I can just picture them yanking out agaves and filling the pots with acorns.

You may be wondering what I will do if all 120 root. Well, I’m giving many of them away to agave-loving blogger friends in Austin and beyond, although I’ll probably wait to mail them until next spring, when they’ll be established and I won’t have to worry about them freezing in transit as they go through Denver or wherever. If I have leftover Moby Jr.’s at that time, I’ll have a giveaway of them here at Digging, so stay tuned!

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 October 14, and I hope to see you there! I’ll be signing books between 1 and 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. If you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. 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.

Out and about in Austin nurseries and parks


Lately I’m taking as many garden photos with my phone as with my “real” camera, and these often get posted to my Instagram. But not all of them, and sometimes I like to share them on my blog too. So here’s some cool stuff I spotted last week at my favorite local nurseries, Lady Bird Lake, and — why not? — even a medical center’s parking lot.

Pictured above, from said medical center’s parking lot, is one of my favorite scenes from the week: a silver-green agave with striking banding and leaf imprints, rising star-shaped from a mat of silver ponyfoot. Simple and beautiful.


At the same center (this is somewhere off Hwy. 620), island beds of Knock Out roses and Mexican feathergrass are anchored by pruned-up, spiky-headed Yucca rostrata.


Now let’s visit some of Austin’s best nurseries, starting with Barton Springs Nursery. Every year I love to catch their enormous American beautyberry in full berry, with cobalt-blue pots adding a harmonizing hue.


This plant is probably 10 feet across. Here’s a look at the other side. If you’re not growing American beautyberry, why not?


Inside BSN’s gift shop, I spotted these fun saguaro vases and ring holders. I resisted the camp on my first visit, but I came back a couple days later, with my daughter in tow, and when she went gaga for them too I snagged the powder-blue saguaro on the left.


A herd of dinosaurs — colorfully painted plastic toys with cut-out holes planted with succulents — roved near the registers. My sister-in-law got me a dino planter for Christmas last year — the blue brachiosaurus — and it brightens my home-office windowsill.


Maybe I need a set.


Up in Cedar Park, I stopped in at Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery for a few things and paused to admire this new water feature with tough-as-nails blackfoot daisy and some type of succulent (a cold-tender euphorbia, maybe?) planted alongside it.


Back down to South Austin for a morning visit to The Natural Gardener, where I spotted this furled flower almost ready to open.


And in the gift shop, my books — one of each — were on the bookshelf. I know it’s not easy for nurseries to stock books in this era of Amazon and in conditions where books might get soiled (i.e., unsellable), so I really appreciate those like The Natural Gardener that make the effort. After all, not every local gardener knows the best books for Texas gardening, and nurseries can help by showcasing regionally appropriate titles, or even by keeping a suggested reading list on their website. A website reading list need not be purely regional, of course; it can be staff favorites for all kinds of popular gardening topics! By the way, here’s my own suggested reading list.


Over to Lady Bird Lake’s hike-and-bike trail, where I admired a copper-colored dragonfly hanging out near the water.


I looked at him, and he looked at me with those big bug eyes.


I also saw lots of bald cypress and native palmettos along the lakeshore.


Swans, ducks, and turtles too. They all thought I might have some food and swam right over. Sorry, guys!


And off they went into the setting sun.

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 October 14, and I hope to see you there! I’ll be signing books between 1 and 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. If you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. 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.

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