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.

Plant This: Bamboo muhly for Foliage Follow-Up


A feathery, chartreuse cloud in the garden, bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) is my favorite ornamental grass for hot, dry, sunny spots, where it grows vase-like to 4 to 5 feet tall and wide, tall enough to make a pretty border along the driveway, perhaps, hiding the neighbor’s car. Positioned to catch the morning or evening light, it incandesces into a glowing scrim of foliage. In full sun it shrugs off heat and drought and makes a perfect foil for the bold forms of agave or yucca. In part sun or even bright shade, it grows floppier and less full, but it still looks nice. You can’t help running your fingers through its “hair” as you pass by. Deer totally ignore it.

Native to northern New Mexico and Arizona, bamboo muhly does not spread aggressively like its namesake. Rather it grows slowly outward from a central clump. Its only downside for use in central Texas is that sustained deep freezes can injure it, turning it the color of straw and possibly even killing it. Despite that risk, it’s considered hardy to around 10 F, a low temperature that’s rare for us. My safety precaution is to plant it in spring rather than fall. Then just stand back and enjoy.

Please join me in posting about your lovely leaves of November 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.