Moving plants and cleaning up for Foliage Follow-Up


I’m posting for Foliage Follow-Up a day early this month because tomorrow I’m participating in a book release party and giveaway. But I couldn’t let our monthly celebration of leafy goodness slip away without a post. February is a turning point in the Austin gardening calendar. We may well have another freeze or two ahead of us, but we’re on the cusp of spring, with Mexican plum, quince, hyacinths, and daffodils all poised to bloom. The redbuds and spiderwort won’t be far behind.

Valentine’s Day is my annual target date for the big garden cut-back. Salvias, skullcaps, lantanas, and other flowering perennials plus ornamental grasses — all get a plebe-style haircut over the next couple of weeks. Don’t dilly-dally, I remind myself, or you’ll be cutting off new spring growth in addition to last season’s frost-browned or leggy foliage.


Mid-February onward is also a great time to transplant non-tender perennials, if you’re inclined to rearrange, as I am. It’s a little early for moving warm-season growers like yuccas and agaves, but I’m doing it anyway. Yesterday I reluctantly removed and discarded two large, variegated agaves from containers in the raised bed behind the house, both of which had suffered freeze damage this winter and had outgrown their pots.

Another impetus for the agave removal was to rescue a Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’ hiding behind the agaves and smothered under the increasingly bushy ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo. Yucca rostrata is one of my favorite foliage plants — think blue-green Koosh ball!


With some blood and sweat (it was 86F yesterday), I triumphed on the agave removal. I considered leaving the yucca in the stock tank, but knowing that it would like more sun and will grow tall, eventually developing a trunk, I decided to relocate it to the lower garden behind the pool.


This is one of my sunniest spots since we lost a gum bumelia tree last year to the drought. When the tree came down, exposing the lower garden to sun, a number of shade plants in this area got scorched. I ripped them out last fall, as well as the purple heart that had carpeted the immense limestone slabs behind the pool. I’ve been loving the view of the exposed rock all winter. To keep the rock exposed I’m gearing up to battle the purple heart this spring and summer (for years to come?) as it tries to return from the roots. Purple heart is a wonderfully tough and richly colored groundcover, but I want to enjoy the rocks, which are a striking natural feature in our garden.


Here’s the Yucca rostrata all settled into its new home. It looks so much bigger here, and now it has room to grow and plenty of sun to soak up.

Please join me in posting about your lovely leaves of February for Foliage Follow-Up, a way to remind ourselves of the importance of foliage in the garden 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.

Foliage Follow-Up: Green up winter with Chinese mahonia


It looks handsome all year, but winter is when I really admire Chinese mahonia’s upright form and narrow, pointed, evergreen leaves. It helps to green up the winter garden, and at about 4 feet tall it makes a good foundation plant that won’t try to eat your house. It thrives in shade (a little morning sun is OK), and deer won’t touch it — or at least my deer don’t touch it.


I inherited two with the house. A year ago I planted a row of 7 or 8 in the narrow space between my house and my neighbor’s in order to define the garden and shield her trash cans from view. I can’t wait until they fill in to make a low mahonia hedge.


Like many mahonias, they are a bit prickly, so you don’t want to plant them too close to a path.


I’m still tinkering with my deep-shade, north-facing, deer-infested foundation bed. For now these are working for me, and they remain nearly as fresh and green in winter as they do in summer: ‘Sparkler’ sedge, ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia (still a baby), holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum — not a favorite of mine, but it’s tough, the right size, and deer ignore it), and Chinese mahonia (Mahonia fortunei).

Please join me in posting about your lovely leaves of January for Foliage Follow-Up, a way to remind ourselves of the importance of foliage in the garden 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.

Bright Edge yucca brightens up a December Foliage Follow-Up


Edged with mellow-yellow stripes, Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’ adds a little sunshine to my garden on chilly winter days. Evergreen, drought tolerant, deer resistant, heat loving, and cold tolerant to US hardiness zone 4 or 5, ‘Bright Edge’ proves adaptable to everything except shade and damp soil. No worry of either on this fast-draining hillside, which gets baking hot in summer. Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), wearing its tawny summer-through-winter hue, picks up the gold of the yucca’s stripes.


Looking uphill at it, you get a glimpse of its other dry-loving, heat-loving, sun-loving companions: gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), spineless prickly pear (Opuntia), and four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa). When the daisy blooms spring through fall, its sunny flowers echo those yellow stripes perfectly.

‘Bright Edge’ yucca gets about 1-1/2 feet tall and wide in my garden, a nice size for foundations and narrow beds, and its flexible leaves, while sharp-tipped, are unlikely to stab the unwary gardener in the shin. It’s often confused with the more popular ‘Color Guard’ yucca, but you’ll notice that the yellow runs up the center of ‘Color Guard’s leaves but along the edges of ‘Bright Edge’. ‘Color Guard’ has a more open, handsome form, in my opinion, while ‘Bright Edge’ is a little scruffier, with offsets clumping together as the plant grows. But those gilded leaves are so pretty you’ll want some for your winter — and summer garden — too.

Please join me in posting about your lovely leaves of December for Foliage Follow-Up, a way to remind ourselves of the importance of foliage in the garden 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 © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.