Grasses and deer-smashes for December Foliage Follow-Up


A hard freeze has not yet walloped my garden, but even if it had I’d still be able to enjoy the plants I’m showing today for Foliage Follow-Up. Take pearl millet, aka ‘Vertigo’ grass (Pennisetum purpureum ‘Vertigo’), for example. This was the most-asked-about plant on my garden tour in October, and it still looks handsome today, even though its dark leaves have lost their warm-season luster. A few tufty blooms poke up here and there, which surprised me since I’d read this plant was sterile and wouldn’t bloom.

I’ve been trialing this freebie from Proven Winners in my garden all year. Click for an earlier post I wrote about ‘Vertigo’.


My most shade-tolerant grass is native inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), which I grow as a tall groundcover in my shady, deer-infested front-side garden.


One day the Texas mountain laurel in the middle will be a spreading ornamental, and the sea oats will be the understory. For now the sea oats are the dominant feature. (Ignore the live oak sprouts coming up in the gravel path, please.) I like sea oats in all seasons: fresh spring sprigs to abundant summer leaves to fall’s dangling seedheads. I leave it standing until mid-February, and when I whack it back, new sprigs are already coming up.


Speaking of deer infestation, a buck has made me very unhappy lately by rubbing its antlers into the crown of my wide-leaf giant hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera ssp. chiangii), which after a few years had attained a beautiful, vase-like form and good height. Imagine my stream of muttered curses when I came outside one morning and saw what he’d done: a smashed center, sword-like leaves torn off, and a flattened plant. Too late, I took action, spraying deer repellent, placing these wire plant supports around the plant for (hopefully) some protection and to prop it back up, and putting out my Wireless Deer Fence posts (more on these later). I hope the plant will recover its form next spring.


Lastly, the Chinese mahonia (Mahonia fortunei) along the foundation and in a hedge along the property line have responded with vigor to all the fall rain. They’ve put out a flush of new leaves, shrugged off a fungal or mildew issue that was beginning to concern me, and are looking great again. Sometimes you don’t have to do anything but just wait out a problem, am I right?

This is my December post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on in your garden, or one you’ve visited, 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 really 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 © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Foliage Follow-Up in Zilker’s Japanese Garden


It’s a little early for fall color, such as we get here in Austin. But this Japanese maple at Zilker Botanical Garden is getting a jump on the season.


Red leaves mingle with green


Shades of green still predominate in the Taniguchi Japanese Garden.


I’ve always liked this octopus-limbed pittosporum that clings to a cliff’s edge. It must be really old.


This tiny fern growing out of a hole in a rock has a tenacious power of its own, doesn’t it?

This is my November post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on in your garden, or one you’ve visited, 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 really 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 © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Garden-tour fluffing and fall Foliage Follow-Up


A new yellow Hesperaloe parviflora peeks around a Yucca rostrata in the lower garden.

I’ve attended many a garden tour, but I had no idea how much work prepping for one requires. Not because anyone tells you to, but because your own sense of perfectionism kicks in when you imagine strangers examining your garden.


Tomorrow my garden will be open to the public for the first time. What has that meant? A year-long push to finish a few projects, the addition of lots of plants and garden art, and many extra hours spent each week (even during the broiling summer — yes, me!) pruning, tidying, and generally fussing over my garden in a way I don’t normally bother with. For the past 4 days, I’ve worked in the garden nearly every waking hour.


‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda with Mexican feathergrass and chile pequin

All of this is to say that a garden prepped for garden tour is not a normally maintained garden. I knew this. But now I understand it. When you finally stop fluffing, it’s not because there’s nothing left to do. Oh no, the garden, sponge-like, can always suck up more of your time and money. No, you finally stop because you’re out of time. And thank goodness for that. Tomorrow I’ll be relieved to put aside the tools and hose and finally welcome visitors into my garden. Talking with fellow gardening enthusiasts, or even the merely curious, will be a fun change of pace. I’m ready!


Today, however, is a day to celebrate the importance of foliage in the garden. For Foliage Follow-Up, I prowled the back garden last evening, taking a few pictures of foliage that caught my eye. Like this Loropetalum chinense ‘Sizzling Pink’, which, as a bit of fall color, sports a handful of crimson leaves among the normal array of green and purplish-hued ones.


A foliage-only combo: paleleaf yucca (Y. pallida) and ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) in the purple pot, with ‘Cream de Mint’ pittosporum and the loropetalum.


I love green-and-white striped ‘Sparkler’ sedge, which grows well in the root-clogged dry soil around live oaks. What a beautiful plant.


This is the long view of the lower garden, where exposed slabs of limestone form a natural path. Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana) in the foreground and live oak in the background are part of my garden’s canopy of trees.


And just for fun, here’s a new piece of garden art. My sister and her wife gave me this dynamic ribbon sculpture from Joshua’s Native Plants in Houston for my birthday. I hung it from one of the live oaks, where I can admire its bold color and form at eye level.

This is my October 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 really 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.

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Austin-area gardening friends, come to the Inside Austin Gardens Tour this Saturday! My garden will be on tour, along with 6 others. Tour tickets may be purchased at each garden for $5 each or $20 for all. I’ll also have autographed copies of my book Lawn Gone! for sale ($20), if you’re looking for fall reading or an early holiday gift.

Inside Austin Gardens Tour
Saturday, October 17, 2015
9:00 am to 4:00 pm

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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