Path, pipe planter, and palmetto


This vignette caught my eye in the lower garden as I was blowing a bazillion live oaks leaves (yes, it’s live oak leaf-drop season!): a culvert-pipe planted with squid agave, ‘Sizzling Pink’ loropetalum (I love that burgundy foliage), and a stepping-stone path leading up to the slabs of natural limestone behind the pool. It’s nothing amazing, and two of my colorful hanging pots are a little distracting in this image. But still, the trees are aglow with new leaves, and the loropetalum is in full bloom, and so I paused to enjoy the scene.


A little closer, with blue-green Yucca pallida foliage showing nicely against the loropetalum. That’s ‘Cream de Mint’ pittosporum below — shade lovers all.


And now to completely change direction, here’s a scene I admired at Lady Bird Lake last weekend, a quintessential Austin pairing of native Texas palmetto and bald cypress. Always stop to admire the roses any plants you see! Happy weekend!

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 — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The upcoming talk with James deGrey David has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

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

Hello, winter — you’ve zapped my garden


Hello, winter! We’re not used to seeing you here in Central Texas. Despite predictions of a mild winter, with the warming influence of a La Niña, we’ve already had two multi-day stretches of hard freezes, with a couple of nights dropping into the upper teens.


The result? Brown, brown, brown plants. Semi-melted agaves and aloes. Tender succulents reduced to mush. (Notice the potted ‘Monterrey Frost’ squid agave looks great though!)


Considering that my garden didn’t have a single hard freeze last winter, this has come as a shock, not only to my marginally hardy plants but to my eyes. I’m not used to seeing so much brown. And I have to admit that I don’t like it.


Oh, the natives are fine, of course. They can take temperature extremes in stride. The Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) on the left still looks green and happy. So do certain exotics, like pale pavonia (Pavonia hastata) and ‘Sparkler’ sedge. But bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) and foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri), both of which I rely on heavily because they thrive in dry, dappled shade and deer don’t touch them, have become as dry and bleached as straw. I can only hope they’ll come back from the roots.


It’s the same story with Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’). Mushy and brown.

If you’re wondering, yes, I cut back the dianella in the front garden because I couldn’t stand its straw-like ugliness near the front door. But generally I recommend waiting on cutting back until mid-February to give roots a little protection, to avoid stimulating early growth that could get zapped by another freeze, and to give shelter to wildlife.


In the back garden, the stand of Mexican honeysuckle, usually green all winter, is blackened and sad.


Even my normally winter-hardy ‘Jaws’ agave shows some bleached-out freeze damage.


This is when yuccas really shine, like these ‘Color Guard’ yuccas. Winter weather doesn’t faze them. Let’s sing the praises of ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood too, impervious to polar vortexes. Gah, the poor bamboo muhly behind the yuccas, though.

I’m sure those of you in colder climates are finding it hard to sympathize. What can I say? Mild winters are surely our reward, here in Texas, for putting up with blistering summers, right? RIGHT??


Ah well. Spring is already stirring here in Austin, as the Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) shows. By mid-February new growth will be glowing green throughout the garden, and winter clean-up will begin in earnest.

This is my January post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness — or ugliness — is happening 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’d 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.

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

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The first talk with Scott Ogden has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

A little winter greenery, and trying to find a plant I love


It’s been raining since last Friday, so I thought I’d share a few garden pics taken before the deluge. This is one of my favorite combos for winter and indeed all year long (clockwise from top): ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia, Everillo sedge (Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’), and ‘Sparkler’ sedge. (The glossy leaves on the right are holly fern.)

‘Soft Caress’ mahonia stays low, about 2 feet high and wide, and the sedges are even smaller, making for a lovely foundation-height combo for shade or light morning sun. ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia has been nibbled by deer in other parts of my front yard, although not here next to the house. If you have a serious deer problem, it’s probably not bulletproof. The sedge has been very deer-safe for me.

This combo has been so successful and admired by visitors that I’d like to replicate it in other parts of my garden. Alas, while ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia is relatively easy to find at local nurseries (it’s part of the Southern Living Plant Collection), the sedges are proving elusive. Southern Living sent me the ‘Everillo’ sedge to trial in my garden a couple of years ago, and I haven’t seen it locally since then, although you can order it directly from their SL Plant Collection.

‘Sparkler’ sedge (Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’) is even harder to find. Once widely available in Austin nurseries, it’s been MIA for a year. I called several local nurseries last week to find out why, including The Natural Gardener and Shoal Creek Nursery, and learned that there was just one grower of ‘Sparkler’ sedge for all of Texas, and it got flooded out earlier this year, losing its stock. The grower told the buyer at The Natural Gardener that they have no plans to wholesale ‘Sparkler’ sedge again any time soon. What?? It’s crazy that such a wonderful plant for dry shade in central Texas isn’t available. I searched for an online supplier, but every place is sold out or sells only tiny 4-inch plants. It’s a slow grower, so I really wanted a few 1-gallons. I guess I will be forced to divide my existing plants, even though their slow growth means I’ll have to be very patient for a few years.


Moving on, here’s a little cactus and succulent combo in a wall planter. The leggy ghost plant is climbing the back of the cactus and resting on top, like a succulent flower!


Catching a few rays of sunshine last week, the fan-like leaves of our native dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) add drama and year-round greenery.


They seem to be peeking through their fingers at the sunrise, don’t they?

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.

Follow