Plant This: Pale pavonia, or Brazilian rock rose


Even in gentler months, my shady garden is not particularly flowery, and in the heat of summer those perennials that do flower — salvias, mistflowers, cupheas — tend to hunker down until fall. One happy exception is pale pavonia, also known as Brazilian rock rose (Pavonia hastata), a cousin to our native hot-pink rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala). Its tissuey, hibiscus-like white flowers with wine-red eyes and veins bloom all summer on rangy stems of narrow, toothy leaves.


Impervious (in my garden, anyway) to deer, it handles the dry shade of live oaks with aplomb. In the island bed in the driveway, I’ve paired it with our native palmetto (Sabal minor), ‘Sparkler’ sedge, and foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri). There’s also a burgundy-leaved loropetalum in the mix, which I think will look great with the pale pavonia’s red eyes, if it would only grow.


In the side garden, I replaced my original low hedge of flame acanthus, which was continually browsed by deer, with pale pavonia, which blooms reliably amid bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), and a Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) on the right. (And if you’re curious about the blue tree behind the fence, that’s a ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress, one of my favorite trees for that icy-blue color, pyramidal shape, and a Christmasy fragrance.)


Pale pavonia tends to seed out in the garden, but I find its seedlings easy to pull up after a rain, or you can transplant them around your garden. It can be a little cold tender, so I recommend planting it in spring, not fall. Dave’s Garden says it’s hardy to zone 7a, which I’m a little dubious about, but maybe in a warm microclimate. It grows to about 4 feet tall and wide in my garden, with a rangy appearance, kind of like Turk’s cap.


As MSS of Zanthan Gardens noted in a long-ago but useful blog post (she first inspired me to try pale pavonia 10 years ago), some of the flowers in spring and early summer are cleistogamous — i.e., they produce seeds without opening — so you may watch expectantly, awaiting a flush of flowers, only to be disappointed. Be patient. The glowing white flowers will light up the shade by midsummer through fall.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

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

Southern Gothic garden of Jeff Minnich: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


I didn’t expect to see a banana tree and sago palm in any of the gardens we visited during the Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling last month, but Arlington, Virginia, designer Jeff Minnich‘s garden is full of surprises.


Reminiscent of a New Orleans cottage garden with picket fencing and tropical-looking potted plants out front, and with black-humor garden art in back, the garden evokes a Southern Gothic vibe more common in the Deep South than in the Upper South/Mid-Atlantic region of Washington, D.C.


A potted banana makes a broad-leaved focal point in the tiny front garden.


Angel wing begonia brightens the shade in a grapevine-adorned terracotta pot.


Rounding the corner of the house into the side yard, you see two things: 1) that Jeff has made the most of his small front garden by continuing it into a fully landscaped side yard with a major water feature, and 2) that his lot drops dramatically from the back of the house. This pretty stream, which spills into small pools, turns into a waterfall just a few feet farther along.


Tucked in a patch of prostrate yew and sedge, a golden-eyed frog watches you pass by.


From a small patio at the back corner of the house, you enjoy a view of the waterfall, overhung with a lacy Japanese maple.


And then the garden falls away from the house into a wooded canyon — or so we’d call it in Texas — lushly planted with ferns, hostas, hydrangeas, Japanese maples, and other shade lovers.


Great old trees rise above the understory along this lower path.


White-flowering hydrangea brightens the dimly lit garden.


Climbing back up to the house, you reach a narrow back patio and a handy outdoor shower.


Jeff has a slightly macabre sense of humor, as evidenced by his garden art, like this statuary fountain of a headless woman cradling her own head. This got a lot of attention from the bloggers!


As did this — an agave whose stiff, spiky leaves were topped with tiny skulls.


I couldn’t help laughing when I saw it — and contemplating the “danger garden” aspect of growing agaves.


Potted clivia adds color and more of that subtropical New Orleans vibe.


Back out front, I was admiring an arched doorway of purple-leaved loropetalum when Karin of Southern Meadows walked through in her matching purple shirt. Of course I had to get a picture.


I also really like Jeff’s unpainted fence of staggered-height 1×1-inch cedar pickets. A small concrete urn planted with succulents tops this mossy baluster near the street, adding one more charming element to a wonderfully charming garden.

Up next: The Maine-evoking garden of Maryland designer Debbie Friedman. For a look back at Peg Bier’s woodland garden of discovery, click here.

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

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

Smithsonian Gardens and U.S. Botanic Garden: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day today, it seems appropriate to share my pics of the Smithsonian Gardens on the National Mall and the U.S. Botanic Garden, which I toured on the recent Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling in Washington, D.C.


A small posse of garden blogging friends — me, Cat of The Whimsical Gardener, Joanne of Down 2 Earth, Laura of Wills Family Acres, and Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden — worked our way east along the Mall from the Smithsonian Castle, exploring the gardens outside the museums along the way. (Thanks to Cat for the photo.)


The day was pure Southern summer — hot and steamy — but we powered through a 3-hour stroll, ducking into shady gardens and an occasional museum lobby for A/C relief. Despite the heat, I found the sight of the Washington Monument stirring, as always.


My absolute favorite garden along the Mall was the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, which wows with this dry-garden planting in the raised beds along the sidewalk. Shazam!


A closer look at the New Zealand sedge, flowering echeverias, and orange-blooming portulaca.


Silver beauties — an agave (foreground) and maybe a puya?


The conical roof in the background echoes the triangular shape of the agave’s leaves. An intentional design choice? I wouldn’t put any artistry past horticulturist Janet Draper, whom we met while we were admiring the garden. She is a talented designer and plantsman.


Coreopsis Update: My thanks to Kylee Baumle for ID’ing this as Bidens ‘Beedance Painted Red’.


Entering the garden you see a tiered fountain and plaza, with benches along the brick walls that make up the raised planting beds of the garden.


Handsome brick buildings make a nice backdrop to the garden, but the plants are the stars. I was excited to see several spherical, strappy Yucca rostrata in the lush perennials beds.


Beautiful combos


Dahlia’s dark-leaved drama


And more, with blackbird spurge


Chives


Under the shade of an old elm, chartreuse makes an appearance in hydrangea flowers and full-skirted hostas.


I like this combo of ‘Frosted Curls’ carex and wild ginger.


At the rear of the garden, a focal-point urn is planted with succulents and spilling silver ponyfoot and accented with a large steel sphere.


Additional spheres were scattered in a shady sedge “lawn.”


Along another part of the Mall, I spotted tall rudbeckia…


…and this cool bird sculpture in the garden of the American History Museum.


Eventually we made our way toward the U.S. Capitol building…


…and entered the National Garden, part of the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is planted with mid-Atlantic native plants.


The garden was mostly a wetland with a nicely designed stream and small pond, which were visually refreshing on this hot day.


It’s a good spot for bird-watching, and I spotted a robin taking a bath here.


I love this winding, cut-stone path and arching bridge.


The Botanic Garden’s centerpiece is a large conservatory, which we toured rather quickly, as we were nearly out of time.


I’ve never been a big fan of conservatories, preferring outdoor gardens, but I enjoyed our quick pass through the various collections.


It must be lovely to come here in the winter.


I’ve visited D.C. at least a half-dozen times over the years, but this was the first time I’d toured the gardens rather than monuments and museums. Unlike some bloggers who stayed extra days, I wasn’t able to visit any of the iconic monuments on this trip. That felt strange, but the Mall gardens were interesting and worth a visit. And I’m sure I’ll be back one day — if for no other reason than to see those famous cherry trees in bloom.

Up next: A woodland garden of exploration created by Peg Bier. For a look back at the classic garden rooms of designer Scott Brinitzer, click here.

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

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

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