Bold form for February Foliage Follow Up

Hot on the heels of Bloom Day, we’re once again celebrating Foliage Follow-Up, praising the oft-unsung hero of all good gardens: plants with beautiful or intriguing foliage. My theme this month is bold foliage. Well, that’s my theme most months, as I have a weakness for plants with a bit of architecture or weirdness. Here’s my newest acquisition: Agave gentryi ‘Jaws.’ It is well named. Just look at those teeth! (Cue the Jaws soundtrack.) It’s just a baby shark now, but it will grow. Will it ever be safe to go into the garden again?

It has its own aquarium to swim in. I wanted to get all trendy in my new Zen garden and have a Cor-Ten steel ring constructed to plant it in, a la Tom Spencer’s marvelous circular Cor-Ten planter. But I cheaped out and trolled Craigslist until I stumbled on an ad for old tractor rims. Oh yes I did! I planted up a rusty tractor rim and think it looks kind of industrial-modern. “What’s next?” the neighbors may be wondering. “Tires and old boots?” That’s the infamous toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) in the steel pipe. And I still need to scrub clean that brick. Sigh.

Why are so many agaves named for sea creatures? My largest squid agave (A. bracteosa) waves its tentacles in a stock-tank planter aquarium.

And Moby, the ‘Whale’s Tongue’ (Agave ovatifolia), manages to look both menacing and touchable. Mind the teeth!

‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda is looking delicious in the gravelly raised bed, alongside silver santolina and gazania foliage.

Ruffles and spots—this plant has it all.

OK, there’s nothing bold about the loose, shrubby form of Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera). But I do like the shiny leaves, and look—it’s about to open up those hummingbird-attracting orange flowers.

The afternoon sun lights up a softleaf yucca (Y. recurvifolia) and Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata aztecorum) along the bottle-tree path. In the foreground at left, those glowing leaves are self-seeded bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), which should be flowering by this time next month.

Join me in posting about your lovely leaves of February for Foliage Follow-Up, a way to remind ourselves of the importance of foliage in the garden. Just leave a comment here with a link to your foliage post, and please include a link to Digging in your post. If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

All material © 2006-2012 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

27 Responses

  1. Lola says:

    I like it. Wish the thorns of any plant didn’t eat me up.

    I give my spiniest plants a wide berth while working in the garden, Lola, but I generally only worry about two body parts: my eyes and my butt. So I’m very careful, of both ends, when bending to pull a weed. ;-) —Pam

  2. Sara Malone says:

    Great post! Really interesting foliage, and I like the way that you showcase the plants’ architecture, particularly in the first photos. One of my pet peeves is planting too close together…makes sense with drifts of color, but with the kinds of plants that you are highlighting, it is great to let their structure tell its own story. The use of containers is also really effective at spotlighting these interesting specimens.

    Hi, Sara. Using containers is my favorite way of highlighting these plants, plus that way you can make sure they have adequate drainage. —Pam

  3. Judy says:

    Don’t scrub the bricks – rent or buy or borrow a power washer. Sooooo much easier!

    It’s only a small area that’s dirty, just a few feet. I’ll rely on elbow grease this time. :-) —Pam

  4. sandy lawrence says:

    Ha! Jaws. I have visions of a parallel to ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, where people visit your garden, bend close to admire Jaws, and then are never seen again. Hysterical!

    Cue the da-duh, da-duh music! —Pam

  5. jenny says:

    Wow, Pam, you are good. An old tractor rim. Neat idea. I like to find things at garage sales that I can repurpose for the garden. Yes, I think you are going the way of Danger Garden. Hope they do a lot of pupping.

    My garden is definitely getting more dangerous, thanks to the drought. I know I don’t have to baby these plants, and if the water restrictions increase, they’ll be OK. —Pam

  6. Tina says:

    Lots of cool spiky and structural plants there–not a surprise! My contribution for Foliage Follow-up is:

    Thanks, Tina. —Pam

  7. Planting in an old tractor tire rim is very clever! I will have to do a foliage posting, next month.. I love plants that offer interest in their foliage.

    I look forward to your foliage post next time, Janet! —Pam

  8. The tractor rim looks so good, great creative idea to get the look you’re after. Beautiful bold foliage that holds its own all year in our climate looks great too.

    Here’s my post for today:

    Thanks, Shirley. —Pam

  9. You do seem to have a sea theme, going on there. Squids and sharks and whales…oh, my.

    Love the tire rim. That is another great idea. Let’s see…culverts, troughs, now tire rims. I think I’m seeing a theme here, too. :)

    Here’s my foliage report this month. Thanks for hosting.

    Thanks, Linda. —Pam

  10. Lucy Abbott says:

    Hi Pam, I love the plants you have placed by your front door. I think it looks so cool. I’m looking forward to seeing how that area develops. Here is my contribution to Foliage Follow Up: Thanks so much for hosting!

    Thanks, Lucy. I just visited your blog (I’m still unable to leave a comment there, unfortunately) and am loving your vibrant castor bean leaf, as well as the moody elephant’s ears. And yay for all our recent rain! —Pam

  11. A tractor rim? Who knew? It’s a great pairing with the pipe, and I’d love to hear the conversations the neighbors are having about your garden. Lord knows I’ve been the subject of a few conversations around here. It’s good to keep them wondering what you’re up to! I’m sure when I plopped down in my garden yesterday to take a couple close up pictures for foliage follow-up they probably just rolled their eyes again…

    (oh and I LOVE the Agaves…but then you already knew that)

    My neighbors are actually very tolerant of my gardening quirks. I’m so grateful to live in a neighborhood where you can do what you want in the garden and unleash your creative power. Bwah-ha-ha! —Pam

  12. Love the steel containers; the perfect foil for your plant choices. Lots of evergreen foliage outdoors but it’s still mostly winter here. Nevertheless, I still found a favorite foliage to post.

    Thanks, Linda. —Pam

  13. Pam’s Agave Auto Repair! I like Jaws, but then again, I like it all, even the MX Honeysuckle since it is OK to have a few plants without spines. But only a few.

    Some readers probably think I grow only spiky plants, since I show them off so often. But it’s only because they are so photogenic. The soft, loose shrubs are harder to photograph, so they rarely get their 15 minutes. I should go for soft texture next month, just to give those plants a fair shake. —Pam

  14. That “Chocolate Chips” manfreda is wonderful. Here my post about creeping fig for Foliage Follow-up.

    Thanks, Cindy. —Pam

  15. Hi, Pam, This is the perfect archetypal post for Pam Penick. :) If it were unsigned I’d know that passion anywhere. :) I love your digging a bit and finding that rusty rim. Good on ya’! Kathryn xoxo

    Finding that rusty rim was serendipitous, Kathryn. Little Jaws seems to like his new home, and sequestered there he’s unlikely to nip anyone’s ankle. —Pam

  16. Alison says:

    Holy Mackerel! I love your new Jaws agave, and the clever rusty tractor rim you’ve planted it in. What a resourceful gardener you are.

    “Holy Mackerel”—Alison, you found a way to continue the water creature theme. :-) —Pam

  17. Scott Weber says:

    I love the tire rim…just as good as fancy-schmancy Corten steel…and hey, not EVERYONE has one ;-) Believe it or not, I was organized enough this month to do a post too!

    Thanks, Scott. —Pam

  18. Denise says:

    The entryway garden is taking dramatic shape! I kept my Jaws in a “shark cage” — he’s still in a 12-inch pot set onto a graveled area. Roots have escaped of course and he’s firmly anchored now, but I was just too intimidated to plant him in the ground. The tractor rim not only looks great but also offers that needed “buffer” for this formidable agave. Love it!

    Thanks, Denise. Love the “shark cage” comment. —Pam

  19. I’m looking for tractor rims immediately! What a great idea! My “best” find was behind my mechanic’s shop in stuff to be recycled: an old milk can. Maybe I’ll pot it up with a cool agave. And I’m going hunting there for tire rims!

    Linda, I bet the milk can would make a great planter for an agave. “Junk” can make such good planters. Check Craigslist for the tractor rims if you can’t find any in town. —Pam

  20. David says:

    Hi Pam,
    Yes, bold and beautiful. I love those agaves, AYWK (as you well know).
    I’m getting one of those Justicias. I’ve tried a few in the past, but never that one. Beautiful color1
    Also, great garden path shot!
    I’m in for this month’s foliage followup. It’s combined with a very short GBBD. Scroll to the bottom for the leafy parts and spiky agaves.


    Thanks, David. —Pam

  21. Frances says:

    Your new baby garden is filling out to become a voluptous siren, Pam! One of these days I am going to figure out a way to grow some of those Agave and Manfredas here. My zone didn’t change with this last go around, but I feel there might be a way to hold my mouth just right for it to happen. I love this meme, and here is my post for it: Follow Up With Foliage In February 2012

    Have you tried one of the cold-tolerant agaves, Frances, like Harvard or New Mexico agave? —Pam

  22. Layanee says:

    The Zen garden is inspiring. Your choice of plants complement the containers or, perhaps, vice versa. Love them. It must be quite comfortable in Austin these days.

    It’s good gardening weather when it isn’t raining, Layanee, but you won’t hear me complain about rain. We still need lots to make up for the drought. —Pam

  23. Hey Pam! I love that chocolate chip/santolina combination…photos are looking lovely as usual! Hope you’re doing well :)

    Thanks, Cheryl! —Pam

  24. Robin says:

    Pam, I’m belated, but still joining up with you for Foliage Follow up. Here’s my post:

    You have a funny lead in your post, Robin. ESP would be proud! —Pam

  25. Hi Pam,
    The more I see your agaves and such, the more I grow to love them! Your containers are awesome,too. I got a post up this evening.

    Thanks, Sue! –Pam

  26. Reed says:

    Amazing Photos!

    Love the interesting planters you used for the agaves!

    Thanks and keep up with your good work!

    Thanks, Reed. I’m having fun out there! —Pam

  27. Pam I love those steel containers. Hmmm, maybe I should trawl our local version of your craigslist for some unusual planters!

    I’m a bit late but here is my post for February Foliage Follow Up –

    Foliage Follow-Up posts are always on time, so thanks for joining in, Christine. And good luck finding some fun and unusual containers! —Pam