Aloe from the other siiiiiide


With apologies to Adele and her earworm of a song, aloes are still saying hello in my garden this mild winter with spring-like flowering.


I find their leaves equally eye-catching, with white spots reminiscent of disco-ball light effects.


Believe it or not, this is the same aloe (A. maculata), but it appears to have a Coppertone tan. Why? It’s been cold-stressed. Many succulents change color when they experience stress from cold or drought. Because it’s planted in a shallow dish container, this aloe has gotten a good deal colder this winter than the one pictured above, and its leaves reflect that. I think it’s pretty.


Also showing off right now are the abutilons.


This unnamed pink one — my last survivor of three over the years — is blooming well, with more buds ready to pop.


At its feet, native heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) carpets the ground with its blue-green leaves — its winter incarnation. Come spring, spires of lavender flowers appear, and then it’ll go dormant for the summer. In the culvert-pipe planters, squid agave (A. bracteosa) offers fountain-like form and dependable, cold-hardy winter interest.


As do the ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods. A pair of them guards each of the four “doorways” into the circular pond garden.


And one more abutilon to end with: ‘Marilyn’s Choice’, glowing in the fading light of last evening.

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Upcoming Events and News

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Hold the Hose! Join me for my kick-off garden talk for my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, on February 27, at 10 am, at The Natural Gardener nursery in southwest Austin. My talk is called “Hold the Hose! How to Make Your Garden Water Thrifty and Beautiful,” and it’s free to the public. Afterward I’ll have books available for purchase and will be glad to autograph one for you! Dress for the weather, as the talk will be held in the big tent outside.

Have you watched my zippy new book trailer?

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Sunshine and succulents for January Foliage Follow-Up


I wait all summer for winter days like these. China-blue skies. Warm sunshine on my face, the Death Star tame and friendly. A garden as yet untouched by a freeze — which is unusual, actually. We would normally have had several overnight freezes by mid-January, but so far central Austin remains unscathed.


Which means that all kinds of foliage look pretty good. Of course, Moby, my whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), looks handsome all year long.


So does ‘Quadricolor’ agave, the green-and-gold agave in the background, in front of Moby. Surprisingly, one of the soap aloes (Aloe maculata) threw up a bloom spike late in the fall and is nursing it along, despite cool days and several near-freezing nights.


Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) isn’t blooming, but it’s still green. Grassy variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’) is enjoying this warm winter.


I couldn’t resist snapping a few pics of Cosmo, sitting sphinx-like on the wall. That’s more flax lily and ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia behind him.


Squirrel?


What a handsome boy!


I can’t believe forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis) is still blooming this late in the season. Its spade-shaped leaves have a raspy, cat’s tongue texture.


I’m enjoying this combo of potted succulents, ‘Cream de Mint’ pittosporum, and ‘Sizzling Pink’ loropetalum. Paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida) shines in the purple pot, along with a sprig of cold-hardy ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense). In the culvert pipe, a shade-tolerant squid agave (Agave bracteosa) is still small but will one day sprawl nicely over the edges. More ghost plant crowds around the edges.


I’ve always liked this sun person ornament, partly because its sunburst-shaped head reminds me of an agave’s form. A purple-leaved ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave is partly visible in the foreground. A baby winecup (Callirhoe involucrata), ‘Bloodspot’ mangave, and ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia line up behind it.


Let’s finish the foliage tour with the cinderblock succulent wall (click for the how-to) on the upper patio.


Sans freeze, the succulents are all looking really good.


I think the cool weather suits them, so long as it doesn’t get too cold.


One last view, with Moby looming in the background.

This is my January post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on 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! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Aloe surprise and prepping for owls


Aloes bloom in profusion at the Huntington in Los Angeles at this time of year, and my winter-blooming ‘Blue Elf’ aloe is already sending up asparagus-shaped bloom spikes. But soap aloe (Aloe maculata) prefers warmer weather to strut its stuff in my Austin garden. And yet…


…with no hard freeze yet (tonight may end that run), it was fooled into flowering and has been struggling to open this candelabra-shaped bloom spike for weeks. We saw a hummingbird on a neighborhood walk yesterday, so I’m hoping that an overwintering hummer or two will enjoy a few sips before a freeze finally nips it.


Since we’re here, we may as well say hello to Moby, the ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia). Planted under a protective tree canopy, Moby escaped a pounding from our recent brief thunder-hailstorm.


My two ‘Green Goblet’ agaves weren’t so lucky, and show a Milky Way-like speckling. I’m going to call it patina.


While I examined the garden, David was all business getting a few winter chores done, like cleaning out the screech owl box in preparation for nesting season.


A mass of cedar shavings from our back fence was evidence of the squirrel I’ve seen in the box for the past couple of months. It’s time for him to go! David pulled out the nest, scattered a thin layer of clean, dry leaves in the bottom of the box, and closed it up again.

I expect we’ll see the squirrel in there again before an owl finally takes it over, as per usual, but at least we got it shipshape. A couple of Austin friends have said they’ve seen screech owls in their yards or owl boxes already, so clearly the males are scoping out nesting sites.


Under the owl box, forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis) has been blooming since my garden tour back in October. This is unheard of! I usually get a couple of weeks out of it. It appears to enjoy the extra rain we got this fall, and without a freeze to knock it back, it continues to shine pale yellow under the live oaks.


Overall the garden is still pretty green, which is how we Southerners like it. I’ll see what this week holds. Only one more month until the big winter cut-back of perennials, and then spring will be on its way.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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