Remembering 2016 in the garden


Happy New Year, everyone! Following Jean’s example at Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog, I’m recapping 2016 with a single photo from each of the past 12 months in my garden. Poring over my old blog posts, I was reminded of the fleeting charms of the passing seasons and of how much joy I received from my garden. My resolution for 2017? To spend more time just hanging out and enjoying the garden.

Last January, the soap aloes (pictured above) sent up rosy candelabras of tubular flowers, giving hummingbirds something to come back for. On Digging I shared lore about bottle trees, along with plenty of colorful examples.


I celebrated the publication of my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, in February. I also marked 10 years of blogging, and the reader comments on that post still warm my heart! In the garden, Texas mountain laurel was in bloom, wafting its grape Kool-Aid fragrance.


March ushered in the colorful wildflower season in the Hill Country, and I had fun on a wildflower safari with my mom. In my own garden, a single volunteer bluebonnet popped up along the driveway.


Wildflower season segued from blues to yellows as the weather warmed, as shown in my photos from the Wildflower Center this month. Astonishingly, I was interviewed by the Boston Globe for an article about blogging and gardening. And in my own garden, Moby, my whale’s tongue agave, began growing a flower spike, heralding its eventual death, but I chose to focus on less-traumatic flowers, like ice plant.


I dined amid wildflowers on the Field to Vase Dinner Tour, and in my garden daylilies were blooming and Moby’s bloom spike had shot up to about 15 feet.


A garden-touring trip to the Philadelphia area took me back to Chanticleer, the most wondrous public garden I’ve ever seen, plus Longwood and Winterthur. Back at home, fawns were born to our neighborhood population of deer. This Bambi took up residence in the front garden for a few weeks.


Minneapolis hosted the Garden Bloggers Fling, and I attended along with around 70 other bloggers, excited to see Minnesota gardens and hang out with fellow bloggers. (The Fling will be held in the Washington, DC, area this year; click for registration info.) In my own garden, the stock-tank pond and pool made bearable the summer heat.


Our family road-tripped through Santa Fe on the way to Colorado, and I visited Santa Fe Botanical Garden. Back at home, the container pond was abloom with jewel-like waterlilies.


With the first fall rains, oxblood lilies popped up. Meanwhile Moby had finished blooming and was dying an ugly death, so I removed it but saved its bloom stalk and potted up its bulbils.


My garden and I appeared on Central Texas Gardener TV show this month, which was fun. I also gave a talk at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, on the Mexican border, and toured the gardens there. At home, I took consolation for Moby’s loss in a beautiful whale’s tongue agave I planted for my neighbor a few years ago, in a bed that borders my own garden.


Fall is my favorite season for nature walks, and I explored Lady Bird Lake’s trails and Bull Creek. At home, pleasant weather encouraged me to spend more time in the garden.


The Japanese maple put on a good show, glowing red along with holiday decor. A few weeks later we had to take down a diseased tree, which was hard.

And that’s my year in the garden! Thank you for coming along for the ride. I look forward to the garden’s seasonal changes in the year to come, as well as making a few changes of my own, continually trying to improve my little patch of dirt. Here’s hoping you have a happy New Year and that 2017 treats you well!

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.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Vertigo grass has the blues after hard freeze

‘Vertigo’ pennisetum is singing the blues beautifully after three nights of hard freezes (mid 20s F) before Christmas. While other plants just look bleached and sad (variegated flax lily, I’m looking at you), this towering, dark-leaved grass still looks pretty, even though it’s now dormant.

The TerraTrellis sculpture behind it echoes those purply blues.

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.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Final fall foliage as winter’s icy breath freezes Austin

Austin plummeted from a high of 80 F (26.6 C) yesterday afternoon to 26 F (-3.3 C) this morning, and today the Japanese maple is clinging shiveringly to far fewer leaves than yesterday, when I took this photo. That’s Texas winter weather for you.

In preparation for the coming Arctic blast, I sweated yesterday for an hour in short sleeves moving tender succulents into the garage and covering with sheets any that are too big to move.

A blue norther (a strong cold front blowing in from the north) swirled into Austin around 8 pm last night, in the midst of holiday party hopping. The wind lasted through the night, and I fear it blew off some of the plant-protecting sheets, but it’s cold enough that the sheets might not have helped anyway. I hope the variegated flax lily (in the foreground) will be OK. I never cover it — I have too much — but it doesn’t like sustained subfreezing weather.

Of course the native and adapted plants, like river fern and Japanese maple (and most of my plants), will be perfectly fine and don’t need any special protection. The native ferns will die back to the ground and the maple will drop its leaves until spring returns in a couple of months.

Other fall-colorful plants, like chile pequin, will shrivel and go dormant too.

Moonlight-yellow flower spikes on the forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis) yesterday — farewell!

Pink abutilon blooming yesterday. It likes cool weather, but a few hard freezes may shrivel it too.

In the pond, dwarf papyrus has surprisingly wonderful fall color. I photographed it yesterday before dropping the pot to the bottom of my raised container pond to give it some protection from the cold.

I’ll pull it back up to the surface on Wednesday, when temps return to normal — i.e., comfortably above freezing at night — but the beautiful flowerheads will be limp and brown. No worries! They’ll be back next year.

Here’s hoping the hard freeze zaps a lot of mosquitoes and other pests. We didn’t get a hard freeze last winter, and our summer gardens were jungly and the bugs were fierce. We needed this.

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

Need a holiday gift for the gardener, new homeowner, or environmentalist on your list?
Please consider giving one (or both!) of my books. They’re packed with plenty of how-to info for newbies as well as lots of inspirational photos and design ideas for more experienced gardeners! Order today from Amazon (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!) or other online booksellers (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!), or find them anywhere books are sold.

“In an era of drought and unpredictable weather patterns, The Water-Saving Garden could not come at a better time. With striking photographs and a designer’s eye, Penick shows us just how gorgeous a water-wise garden can be. This is the must-have garden book of the year!”
Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants

“This thoughtful, inviting, and thoroughly useful book should be required for every new homeowner at closing. It has the power to transform residential landscapes from coast to coast and change the world we all share.”
Lauren Springer Ogden, author of The Undaunted Garden and coauthor of Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.