Summer-tough Foliage Follow-Up


Summer is my most challenging season as a gardener. Yes, really — not winter. I don’t care at all for hot weather, so I retreat indoors and don’t venture outside much until that first hint of cooler air and lessening of the Death Star that typically occurs in early October. (And then I enjoy being outdoors from October through May, a good 8 months, so don’t feel sorry for my being cooped up all summer. It’s like a northerner’s winter.)

The plants in my garden don’t have the luxury of hanging out in the A/C, so they’ve got to be tough enough not only to withstand months of 95-to-100-degree heat, Gulf Coast humidity, and (sometimes) lack of rain but also the neglect of a summer-wimpy gardener.


I fear perhaps I overshare about such plants, like an adoring parent with a precocious child, but here I am again for Foliage Follow-Up, touting the beauty and toughness of winter-hardy agaves and succulents, like this container combo of Agave parryi var. truncata and Manfreda maculosa, aka Texas tuberose, a South Texas native. Neither heat nor cold has touched this slow-growing small agave. While the purple-spotted manfreda died back in last winter’s freezes, it sprang back quickly in the spring.

I also really like the ‘Quicksilver’ artemisia (a trial plant from Proven Winners) filling in around them. I don’t know if it would be overly aggressive if planted out in the garden, the way ‘Oriental Limelight’ artemisia can be. But in a container it’s perfectly behaved and looks great even when I forget to water. I’m growing this combo in bright shade with a little afternoon sun.


Another combo I’m always appreciative of in the summer is variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’) and Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), which are not only heat tolerant but shade tolerant and deer resistant. They aren’t quite as winter hardy as I’d like in Austin’s hardiness zone 8b; both died back messily during last winter’s Arctic blast. But hey, they came back this spring and now look great, and on a hot summer’s day, what more can one ask of the garden?

This is my July 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

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

Read This: Gardening with Foliage First


Today is Foliage Follow-Up, my monthly meme that encourages us to focus on often-underappreciated foliage plants, rather than spotlight-hogging flowers. That means it’s the perfect day to review a new book by two foliage-loving design experts, Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz.

Gardening with Foliage First: 127 Dazzling Combinations that Pair the Beauty of Leaves with Flowers, Bark, Berries, and More is an excellent follow-up to their award-winning Fine Foliage (click for my review). At 340 pages and much beefier compared to the slim Fine Foliage, Gardening with Foliage First delves more deeply into the art of combining foliage plants for subtle beauty and long-term impact in a garden.


Photo courtesy of Karen Chapman

And an art it is! After all, this is what we pay designers to do for us, when we look up one day and notice our garden is a “disappointing mélange of midsize green leaves” once the flowers have finished blooming, or there’s nothing to look at in winter. Chapman and Salwitz are adept at lifting the veil on design decisions and explaining why certain plants pair well together. With clear explanations enlivened by a cheeky sense of humor, they make garden design more approachable. They show, for example, how you can match the darker color along the edge of a leaf to the berries or leaves of another plant, making both plants shine brighter, or how to play the shaggy shape and texture of one plant against the fine-leaved daintiness of another.


Photo courtesy of Karen Chapman

Generously illustrated with a photo of the whole scene, plus close-ups of each plant, each combo (there are more than 100 altogether) is given a 2-page, sometimes 3-page, spread, and they’re helpfully organized by whether they’re appropriate for sun or shade, as well as by whether peak season occurs in spring/summer or fall/winter.


Photo courtesy of Karen Chapman

Of course, for us Central Texas gardeners, “sun” and “summer” mean something entirely different than in the cool, moist Pacific Northwest, where the authors live, and our gardening conditions differ in other ways too, particularly in the alkalinity of our soil. Put simply, we just can’t grow a lot of the plants featured in the book. So while readers in cooler regions of the country can likely copy featured plant combos “verbatim,” we hot-climate gardeners must get a little more creative, coming up with similar-looking plants that grow well here that can be subbed in for those that don’t. I actually find that to be a fun exercise and marked up my book with notes on possible substitutions.


Photo courtesy of Karen Chapman

Not every plant will have a suitable counterpart for our hot climate, but a surprising number do. For example, in the combo pictured above, I mentally subbed out the ‘Bed Head’ dahlia for pomegranate, the ‘Concorde’ barberry for loropetalum, the pineapple lily (Eucomis) for pineapple sage, and the golden Korean fir for ‘Yukon Gold’ yaupon holly.


Like so! What do you think? Can you come up with other substitutes I didn’t think of?

Wherever you garden, experienced gardeners will have fun using the featured combos as a jumping-off point for their own inventive pairings. And new gardeners will learn how to look at plants more observantly in order to create similar combos (or copy these if they work for your region) that rely largely on foliage, which gives a richer, more durable dimension to a garden than just planting for flower color. After all, you need both to make a stunning garden.

This is my June 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.

Disclosure: Timber Press sent me a copy of Gardening with Foliage First for review. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

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

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

Agave and cactus splendor in the garden of Matt Shreves


For Foliage Follow-Up this month, I’m taking you on a tour of Matt Shreves’s garden near Lake Travis. A succulent and cactus lover (check out his spikealicious Instagram page), Matt has turned an ordinary yard into a tapestry of foliage texture, color, and bold form.


Let’s start out front, where he’s terraced a sloping entry garden to create multiple levels for planting. A spiky assortment of agaves, beaked yucca, and palms, softened with masses of Mexican feathergrass, salvias, skullcap, and blue oat grass blue fescue (which I’ve never seen in Austin), creates a colorful welcome.


A small patio with colorful Adirondacks sits at the top level, a perfect spot from which to admire the garden.


With those blue fescues, it reminds me of a California garden, although the whale’s tongue agaves, beaked yucca, pink skullcap, and feathergrass are all perfectly at home here in Austin.


At the end of the driveway, a massive golden barrel cactus and other potted succulents await their forever home.


Palms bookend the garden, accenting the Spanish-style house.


Climbing the steps to the front door, let’s pause to admire the little patio. Plants fill every available space, including the steps to a pair of French doors, where chartreuse-leaved annuals fill baskets hanging from the porch lights.


By the front door, purple-tinged ghost plant spills out of a turquoise pot, with a golden ‘Joe Hoak’ agave glowing in the background.


A closer look at that gorgeous ‘Joe Hoak’, with plumbago just starting to bloom alongside it.


Another pretty succulent pot by the door


Passing through Matt’s house, you enter the back yard to this focal-point scene: a mounded rock garden bristling with agaves, columnar cacti, and barrel cacti, with frothing silver ponyfoot spilling over the rocks. An Austin sign — the same one I have on my own blue wall — reminds you that you’re in Central Texas, not Palm Springs.


A side view


Neatly groomed agaves and cactus in silvery green, powder blue, and moonshine yellow


The long rock garden undulates along a stone wall, set off by a small lawn in front. At one end of the yard, a fire pit patio invites relaxation under a live oak draped with string lights.


A perfect spot to enjoy the garden in the evening


Another view from the back porch


Looking back at the porch, where a red wall contrasts with turquoise chairs


Old man cactus and beaked yucca are charismatic flora for a dry garden.


Beautiful blue-green agave leaves outlined by black teeth and spines. Notice the ghostly leaf imprints on the leaves, from when they were still furled.


A small porch at the other end of the garden is home to an assortment of small potted succulents.


Two rows of tiny potted succulents adorn a hanging metal shelf.


Heading back to the back porch…


…you see a rustic wooden buffet that Matt has styled with an eye-catching collection of potted plants, a Mexican mirror, and faux water buffalo horns.


Two lower shelves contain beautiful arrangements that are deceptively simple. A section of tree trunk seems planted with succulents, but actually the plants remain in their nursery pots, tilted to look as if they’re growing in the hollowed out trunk. On the bottom shelf, another branch (or driftwood) disguises the nursery pots of more succulents, and a narrow metal tray holds others.


I caught a hazy portrait of Matt in the mirror as I photographed the fascinating arrangement on top of the buffet.


A red toolbox and small wooden box, with their lids thrown open, make fun cachepots.


Earth-toned living stones (Lithops) cluster amid matching gravel in a terracotta pot — a striking display.


Matt has a great eye for arranging his collection of interesting and unusual plants, and for foliage form and texture, his garden really shines. Thanks for the garden tour, Matt!

This is my May post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden this month — or one you’ve visited? 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.

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

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers 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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