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.

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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.

Decking the cedar trees on Loop 360, an Austin Christmas tradition


Just after Thanksgiving every year, Austinites who live along scenic Loop 360 are treated to the festive sight of roadside juniper trees decked out in creative, colorful decorations, turning miles of highway into a drive-by Christmas parade.


It started off, years ago, with just a few trees suddenly sporting tinsel and colorful glass balls.


But the idea caught hold among merry-making Austinites, and nowadays any juniper (we Texans call ’em cedars) along the highway is likely to be targeted by decorating elves.


Some people decorate with a certain theme in mind, like this Denver Broncos tree.


Others go traditional, with tinsel, ribbons, colored balls, and bows.


For drive-by appreciation, the decorating elves know to go big. Shrimpy ornaments are lost to view as drivers zoom by on the highway, so oversized ornaments are key.


So is picking a tree that’s not too tall, so you don’t have to leave the top undecorated. Just toss that tinsel up there.


Right-sized trees are, it seems, in such demand that people are putting “hold” tags on their favorites well before Thanksgiving.


The bee tree is one of my annual favorites. Empty detergent and other large plastic bottles are spray-painted black, striped with yellow duct tape, and given wings of screening mesh.


You can’t miss the bee tree, and I look for it every year.


I also got a kick out of this picnic tree adorned with pink and yellow paper plates and plastic cups and forks.


Snowman face decorations have turned some trees into green, unmeltable Frosties.


Ray Ray’s Pledge, an Austin-based advocacy group that educates people about the danger of leaving young children unattended in hot cars, decorated this tree. Yellow ducks are inscribed with safety facts and calls to activism. White ducks are inscribed with a year and the number of children who died in hot cars that year.


This year, 2016, has seen 39 hot-car deaths, a tragically high number since such deaths are entirely preventable. Ray Ray’s Pledge website — named after baby Ray Ray Cavaliero, who died after her father accidentally left her strapped into her car seat for 3 hours on a hot day — offers lifesaving safety suggestions. Even if you think it could never happen to you, if you have a young child or grandchild, please read them.


Other trees are decorated in memory of a loved one…


…like this tree for Emily.


And this one in memory of Grandma Lola. I like that idea.


It’s kind of sad, though, that they have to put up a sign asking people not to take their ornaments.


Sticking with shades of blue and green helps this tree stand out.


On a lighthearted note, a Pac-Man tree wins my vote for creativity and humor.


Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are chased by ghosts Pinky, Blinky, Inky, and Clyde, all of them cut out of colorful plastic plates with painted eyes.


Ms. Pac-Man sports a plastic-plate hair bow and red lips. Super cute!


A local geocaching group reserved this tree, which they decorated with colorful foam links and old CDs for sparkle…


…plus clear balls stuffed with geocaching log sheets. I like that this group, Geocachers of Central Texas, has scheduled a clean-up of tree decor on December 31. That’s responsible decorating…


…as another sign reminded fellow decorators. In general people are really good about coming back to undecorate the trees and restore the roadside to its natural beauty.


But for now, we enjoy the festive spectacle.


It’s a heartwarming holiday tradition in the best spirit of Austin: spontaneous, creative, and full of goodwill.


Merry Christmas, y’all.

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.

Roses, butterflies & garden goodness at Antique Rose Emporium


On Saturday my mom and I drove out to Brenham, Texas, for the Antique Rose Emporium‘s Fall Festival of Roses, where I was one of the day’s speakers. A gray sky spit rain on us during the 2-hour drive, but it held off as we strolled around the nursery before my talk.


ARE’s 11-acre display gardens bloom with abandon in autumn, Texas’s second spring.


Lush bouquets of roses picked from the gardens adorned the nursery’s help desk.


First-time visitors may be surprised to see the gardens are not just beds of roses.


I love the gardens precisely because they’re not just roses, although of course the roses are lovely. I dislike the apartheid of traditional rose gardens, in which roses are grown separately from other plants. Mingling roses with other flowering plants and grasses creates a sense of fullness and an opportunity for pleasing color echoes, and bare, thorny stems are more easily disguised.


The gardens were alive with butterflies, especially queens.


They were particularly attracted to flowering amaranth celosia (Celosia spicata).


I also spotted a white-striped longtail…


…and a beautiful Julia butterfly enjoying lantana.


A lily pond, glimpsed through trees…


…was in full bloom too, despite the cooler temps of autumn.


I think this is a tropical waterlily, as the flowers stand tall above the pond’s surface and the leaves have toothy edges.


A charming sculpture of a boy flying a toy airplane stands nearby.


Wandering on, along a pathway edged with Philippine violet (Barleria cristata)…


…to one of several homestead-style buildings in the gardens. This building and others used to be filled with garden gift items, but on this visit they were mostly empty. The Antique Rose Emporium property — display gardens and event spaces — have been for sale for more than a year (and I’m already mourning its loss unless someone buys it to keep operating it as a nursery), and perhaps that has something to do with the scaling back.


An old log structure — the Corn Crib


Some of the many roses for sale


For wow power, check out this awesome braided-pot arbor. There are two such arbors at ARE, one at each parking lot entrance. (The other is pictured at the top of this post.)


How many pots went into the making of this, do you think? The sky vine-draped arbor in the background is striking too.


Pink roses fronting a picturesque stone house, another former gift shop now mostly empty


Leaning in for a sniff


Such nice framing of views through doorways and arbors


Along one wall, a face fountain partially obscured by fig ivy (Ficus pumila) spouts water into a small pool.


Flowery border of canna, Celosia spicata, and salvia


More annual amaranth celosia (Celosia spicata), beloved by butterflies


Looking out the back door of the little stone house at an herb circle and greenhouse


And at the herb circle, looking back


A purple greenhouse with fish-scale shingles adds cottage charm.


More roses for sale, with ARE’s iconic vine-smothered windmill standing tall


White rose


The central area of the display gardens has sassy signage…


…and dry-loving agaves, yuccas, and other succulents in interesting displays, like this tiered potted arrangement.


Children and children-at-heart enjoy the Beatrix Potter Garden, a playful space framed by a low, purple picket fence…


…populated by pot people with spiky agave hairdos…


…taking baths in galvanized tubs.


A squirrel finial on the fence offers a friendly welcome.


There’s a bit of Wizard of Oz mixed in here too. I remember seeing Toto last time I was here. This time I noticed a witch just past a stand of Philippine violet — or maybe she’s leftover from Halloween?


A wavy-pruned hedge and mint-green table and chairs create an inviting scene.


Another view, with shade-loving purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) in the foreground


Yellow firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis ‘Lutea’) cascades from an old well.


Purple path


No Southern garden is complete without a bottle tree.


Moving toward an open lawn you see some of ARE’s event spaces — rose arbors, a gazebo, and a tin-roofed house — rentable for weddings and other events.


Another sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) in full bloom clambers along a trellis near the house.


This tropical-looking Asian vine is a showstopper in the fall.


Stopping to admire what I think is a white-flowering variety of Philippine violet (can anyone confirm?), I spotted a fuzzy bee hard at work.


Across the lawn, a picturesque red chapel adds its own fall hue to an autumnal border of cigar plant (Cuphea ‘David Verity’), ornamental grasses, white mistflower (Ageratina havanensis), and red roses.


This is where the speaking events are held.


Blazing orange cosmos adds more color around back.


Ask not for whom the bell tolls.


More fall loveliness


Here’s my mom helping me out at the book-selling table. It was so nice to meet everyone who stopped by to chat or buy a book. If you were there, thanks so much for coming!


And thanks also to Mike Shoup of the Antique Rose Emporium for having me back out to speak! If you’d like to get a signed copy of The Water-Saving Garden, I left a few with Mike to sell in the gift shop, so stop by soon.

And if you’d like to read more about ARE’s gardens — with lots more photos! — click here for my post (the first of 3) from the Fall Festival in 2013.

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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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

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

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