Foliage Follow-Up: Winter moving into spring


February 14 marks the transition between winter and spring in central Texas gardens. Around Valentine’s Day, Austin gardeners do their big cut-back of summer- and fall-blooming perennials and grasses in preparation for spring growth. We may still get a couple of freezes (the last average freeze date for central Austin is February 23), but spring in all its exuberance is right around the corner.


Gray Santolina chamaecyparissus (pictured at top as well) provides ever-silver color in the xeric garden and mixes well with the wavy, spotted leaves of ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda.


Late fall lingers in the sunny hillside garden, where silvery blues mingle with tawny grasses. Notables include ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress, frost-bitten ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia, and ‘Sapphire Skies’ Yucca rostrata.


The fluffy plumes and coppery leaves of ‘Adagio’ miscanthus grass are scheduled for cut-back next weekend. It’s time to get ready for spring growth.


‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress offers year-round, eye-catching color.


The shapely, silvery gray trunks of native Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana) stand out against evergreen cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), which I just pruned.


‘Cream de Mint’ pittosporum is a neat mound of ivory-and-green leaves in the shade. No damage occurred during the extended cold snap.


Ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) looks a little ragged after the freezes, but it’s still alive.


The snazzy, mellow-yellow stripes of Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’ offer lasting color, and it came through the cold snap with no damage.


As did blue nolina (Nolina nelsonii), which is growing in the dappled shade and late-afternoon sun of live oaks.


While so many agaves around Austin suffered in the cold snap, the nolinas and yuccas proved hardier. This is Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge.’


A subterranean rhinocerous emerging from winter dormancy? No, it’s just my freeze-damaged variegated American agave, after I pruned back all the mushy leaves. Only the cone in the middle is still firm. I think it might recover if we don’t get hit by another hard freeze. ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo stands behind it.


Amid the reminders of winter, signs of spring are appearing. The ends of gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) are tipping up and getting ready to set buds.


The fuzzy, oily leaves of heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata), a cool-weather native groundcover, are carpeting the shade garden. In another month or so, lavender bloom spikes will appear.


Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata), a native wildflower, is leafing out again.


Tulipa clusiana ‘Cynthia’ leaves are nosing up.


So are the spuria irises, passalongs from Linda of Central Texas Gardener.

So what foliage is marking the end of winter or possibly the beginning of spring for you? Post about it (please include a link to this post, if you would), and leave your link here in the comments so I can find you. I look forward to reading your Foliage Follow-Up leaf love.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

22 Responses

  1. Love that gray santolina; your temps do let you grown the most beautiful blue and silver plants. Still lots of snow cover here, though we are in the midst of a February thaw with temps in the high 30s and low 40s. Feels like spring even if it doesn’t quite look like it yet. http://eachlittleworld.typepad.com/each_little_world/2011/02/foliage-follow-up-2162011.html

  2. Jenny says:

    It’s good to see that your plants seem to have come through that cold spell in fine shape.I wish I could say the same for mine. My manfredas did not fare so well. I think they will spring back but for now they look really sick. Even the plants which are known to be hardy, like the heart leaf skullcap are looking ragged and damaged. A few more of these warmer days will tell the whole story.

  3. Carolyn says:

    So nice to see some green. Your many succulents are especially appealing to me. We are expecting another big snowstorm here tomorrow. Spring is a bit further away for us. But it will come, patience required.

  4. Diana says:

    Oh my – have to go look for the Tulipa clusiana in my garden. Hadn’t noticed it yet, but I might have missed it. That’s one of my favorites. Looks like most of your plants fared well. So glad your American Agave is standing at attention, just waiting to grow! http://sharingnaturesgarden.blogspot.com/2011/02/grass-is-always-greener-in-spring.html

  5. I really like the ‘quadricolor’!!! The gopher plant has been on my list … I think I need to make a trip to the nursery. :)It never ends…does it? If it did, I guess it wouldn’t be much fun. :)

    Amy, I just saw a bunch of gopher plants at the Natural Gardener yesterday. —Pam

  6. Denise says:

    Amazing how that A. lophantha takes the cold! And that scutellaria reminds me of a tender plectranthus. Looks like spring is on its way in Austin. http://agrowingobsession.com/?p=13637

  7. It’s good to know that Agave lophantha can handle the cold…and your Nolina nelsonii is fabulous! I love the slight waviness to the leaves. That one is going on my must have list!

  8. ricki says:

    I especially like the long shot showing your mix of plants. It looks so inviting, even with some things needing cutting back. http://bannersbyricki.com/archives/1380

  9. Andrew says:

    Nice to see so much starting to grow down there, it’ll help tide me over until until things warm up here in Toronto. My Foliage Followup.

  10. David C says:

    Spring is appearing in ABQ, but we still expect a few hard freezes and a number of frosts before our growing season starts:-( Some of your plants are doing well here, too, but not all. And no new growth or flowers, yet – http://desertedge.blogspot.com/2011/02/freeze-unfazed-foliage-follow-up.html

  11. Cat says:

    While at Lake Austin Spa the other day I spotted a beautiful ghost plant in a huge container…It was one of the few plants that looked as though it had survived the freeze without much damage. It is going on my wish list as is the native heartleaf skullcap!

    Remind me to give you a division of heartleaf skullcap the next time I see you, Cat. It’s an aggressive spreader when it’s happy, but it’s too pretty to mind. —Pam

  12. RBell says:

    Goodness – your plants are looking really good! Here’s my contribution to Foliage Follow-up: http://thelazyshadygardener.blogspot.com/2011/02/foliage-follow-up-february-2011.html

  13. David says:

    Hi Pam,
    Loved your foliage post this month. You have some great plants there. I’m thinking I’ve never met a gray/ blue gray plant I didn’t like and some on this post are new to me. I must investigate further.
    Inspired by RBell, I’m posting my version of SURVIVOR: LANDSCAPE EDITION if anyone cares to come over and take a look. It might even make you feel better about your garden. LOL http://tropicaltexana.blogspot.com/2011/02/foliage-follow-up-for-february-survivor.html
    David/ unTropical Texana/ Houston

  14. That’s a lot of yummy foliage you’ve got! I love that Scuttellaria and you’ve made me want to grow Santolina again. I’d love that silver/gold combo in my garden. Here’s my contribution for the month: http://floradoragardens.blogspot.com/2011/02/february-foliage-2011.html

  15. Caroline says:

    I’m here, and I have signs of life! http://shovelreadygarden.blogspot.com/2011/02/foliage-follow-up-february-2011.html Your garden always makes me want to dig mine up and start over. Or at least plant more foliage! Is your pittosporum a dwarf variety or a baby? How did your Whale’s Tongue agave fare? Mine has some white spots. I couldn’t bear to photograph them.

    Oh, pshaw, Caroline! I’m always adding more foliage to mine too. It’s what really carries it through the seasons. But if I had more sun I’d probably have more flowering perennials. I love them too! As for the ‘Cream de Mint’ pittosporum, it’s both a baby and a dwarf variety. The ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave sailed through the cold snap with no damage whatsoever. But it does get some protection from an overhanging live oak, and it’s sited at the top of a hill, so cold air probably sinks past it. I bet yours will recover if it’s not too badly spotted from the cold. —Pam

  16. Garden Sense says:

    You certainly have a lot going on in your garden! I’ve taken a look at evergreen groundcovers for this Foliage Follow-Up.
    http://gardensenses.blogspot.com/2011/02/evergreen-groundcovers.html

  17. Ah, I miss my lavender cotton! I haven’t seen it in a long time because of all of this snow, but it doesn’t look as beautiful for us in the wintertime as it does there for you. :) (And don’t even get me started on ‘Blue Ice’… I think that I’ve told you more than once how much I drool over that plant, *grin*)

    Thanks for sharing the foliage going on in your garden, as always. Here’s what’s on view in my garden–er, house!–this month:
    http://blackswampgirl.blogspot.com/2011/02/foliage-follow-up-february-2011.html

  18. Hi Pam,
    I see you found my post. LOL I forgot to get back to your post to let you know I’d gotten my post done. Here’s the link: http://acornergarden.blogspot.com/2011/02/foliage.html

    I love that santolina! I’m sorry the weather got to the agaves. I know you have a number of those beauties. I hope the one you showed comes back and does well. It was cool to see your spring growth. I went with your suggestion about showing signs of spring before I even read that.

    Enjoy your spring!

    I knew you’d be posting, Sue! Thanks for leaving a comment. —Pam

  19. commonweeder says:

    Lots of foliage in Texas! I love santolina, but I have never been able to keep it alive. I am wondering whether agaves like Houston. My daughter there is looking for suggestions.

    Pat, I think agaves would love Houston’s heat and mild winters, but they would need excellent drainage because of the higher rainfall and humidity. I’d advise her to try them in sharp-draining containers and bermed, gravelly beds. —Pam

  20. Karla says:

    Pam,
    Wow! That’s some fabulous foliage! Everytime we travel to Texas my husband tells me I’m wasted in Connecticut because all I do is go around taking photos of the plants–or telling him, “yes, we grow that–it’s in a pot in the den.” How great to see all those plants in their element in the garden! http://gardendaze.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/foliage-follow-up-9/

    Thanks for leaving a comment, Karla, and for joining in for FF! —Pam

  21. Lola says:

    Wow, Pam. You sure do have some great looking plants there. I’m so glad you didn’t have any worse damage to them.

  22. andrea says:

    love that bright edge yucca! is it similar to a color guard yucca?
    i’m rolling my foliage follow-up post with my gbbd post, hope you don’t mind.
    http://grwhryrpltd.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/a-bleak-february-gbbd/

    ‘Bright Edge’ yucca has thinner leaves and offsets pretty vigorously in my garden, Andrea. Its color is brightest in winter, with streaks of pink thrown in, while in summer it is striped yellow and green. ‘Color Guard’ has wider leaves, a more dramatic, upright form, and curly filaments. Click on the link for a picture of ‘Color Guard’ yucca in my front garden. —Pam

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