Hanging on through summer’s end: August Foliage Follow-Up


By mid-August this Texas gardener is looking for any shred of hope that summer’s heat will be waning soon. But even though I’m barely hanging on — along with this shed cicada skin — many of my plants are soldiering through, including yellow-striped ‘Color Guard’ yucca. It offers color that lasts summer through winter, no blooms required.


I also enjoy the cooler tones of this silver bed, which contains my new whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia) at top, surrounded by silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea); ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave in front, backed by ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia and a self-seeded datura; and, in a pot, blue torch cactus (Pilocereus azureus). Minimal water required for these silver belles.

This is my August 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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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.

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.
_______________________

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.

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