First flowers of spring are brightening the garden


Care to take a garden stroll with me? Spring has sprung in Austin. The earliest sign, the Texas mountain laurels, are already past peak. But in my garden the mountain laurels aren’t big enough to really flower, and the early show is at knee level. Case in point: western spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis), coloring the shade garden under the crepe myrtle with charming lavender blossoms.


Honeybees love them.


Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), which half-heartedly pulled through last summer’s drought, is now adorned with fragrant, buttery yellow trumpets.


It’s the state flower of my home state of South Carolina, so I have a sentimental fondness for it.


More yellow—I’m trying a new euphorbia, a gorgeous ‘Ascot Rainbow,’ a gift from Eric at East Side Succulents. So far my euphorbia trials have been a mixed bag. Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) is volunteering all over my garden, but the moody ‘Blackbird,’ for which I shelled out big bucks for three from Plant Delights, crashed and burned last summer. I am really hoping that ‘Ascot Rainbow’ can handle our heat. We’ll know in about three months, won’t we?


Yellow flows down the hillside garden. From top to bottom: Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), hymenoxys (Tetraneuris scaposa), prickly pear (Opuntia), ‘Bright Edge’ yucca, and gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida). This would be a good combo for the full sun and reflected heat of a hell strip (curbside) garden.


On the other side of the path, bamboo muhly grass (Muhlenbergia dumosa) picks up the chartreuse-yellow of the gopher plant. A steely ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress offers contrast.


And more yellow in the front garden! ‘Color Guard’ yucca and gopher plant liven up the party.


Bees love the gopher plant too.


Those chartreuse bracts are stunning. After the bloom is finished, I’ll cut back the long, floppy stems, leaving the central rosette of new foliage to come up. If you’ll be cutting yours back too, be sure to wear gloves and cut carefully, as the stems contain a latexy sap that can irritate your skin and harm your eyes if you rub them with sappy hands.


Enough of the euphorbias. Check out the color on the red globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua). I neglected to cut it back last month, and now it’s floppy, but I’m going to let it bloom through this cycle before giving it a trim.


Gray globemallow (Sphaeralcea incana), with its frosted silvery green leaves, is blooming too.


Its color is echoed by the new leaves of a ‘Wonderful’ pomegranate.


Shy, veined pink blossoms of abutilon nod in the shade garden.


Purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) is a froth of lilac flowers.


I like this leafy combo: heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata), which will bloom in a month or so, and Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), a great shade combo.


And the tour ends with ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, raising its tangerine spires in hopes of attracting an early hummingbird.


I haven’t seen a hummer yet, but the wrens are busily making nests and singing of spring.


By the way, my blog Digging is a finalist for Best Gardening Blog in the Readers’ Choice Awards at About.com. I’d love to have your vote. You can vote once a day (it’s on a 24-hour cycle) until March 21. So vote early and often! Thanks for your support! (And thank you to Pamela Price for the vote graphic.) Click to VOTE.

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

18 Responses

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It is so exciting to see so many blooms. Anticipation for me is aroused when looking at your garden.

    Spring is working its way north to Indiana, Lisa. Sending warm thoughts your way! —Pam

  2. It’s just so amazing isn’t it! This is the 4th year I’ve had a hummer live in my yard through winter. They’ve all been different birds, but it’s been consistent none the less. I can’t wait to see the wildflowers this year! Have a great weekend Pam!

    This was a good winter for a hummer to stay over, although I do wonder what they eat in winter. Did you keep a feeder? My first Turk’s cap bloom appeared today, so they’ll have lots to eat in my garden soon. —Pam

  3. Carole Bryan says:

    bought my ticket yesterday for Chicago-Austin for my granddaughters dance recital in June…can’t wait for my next Texas-tickle!

    Enjoy your visit, Carole! It’ll be toasty warm by then, of course, but we have good A/C. ;-) —Pam

  4. Darla says:

    It doesn’t even look like ya’ll had a winter. Everything is so lush and green!

    It was a pretty green winter, Darla. We had a couple of hard freezes early on, but since then it’s been mild and wet. What a relief after last winter and last summer. —Pam

  5. jenny says:

    Looking really spectacular with all the blooms and so far ahead of other years. It doesn’t look as though you had winter at all. I love the shot of the pathway and gate. The gopher plant is gorgeous. I also have the Ascot rainbow. I brought it back from Seattle! Just posted some photos yesterday as it bloomed.

    I am glad to know you have one too, Jenny. We can compare notes and do a proper trial of its hardiness here. —Pam

  6. Cyndy says:

    Love all your euphorbias Pam, and now living in NC, I can grow a lot of them too! Just got a rigida at Tony’s, hopefully it’ll bulk up as well as yours. I have a Blackbird from a different nursery looking pretty sick right now, so I wonder if the cultivar is a little finicky…Looks like a beautiful spring in Austin :)

    ‘Blackbird’ loves those Southern CA gardens I’m always admiring on blogs, but it does not care for Austin. I hope you’ll have better luck in Raleigh. Lucky you to have Plant Delights at your doorstep, and no shipping fees! —Pam

  7. Layanee says:

    You are still teasing me…..

    Come for a visit, my dear. —Pam

  8. Don’t you hate it when something you spend big bucks on doesn’t make it? I have Ascot Rainbow, planted it last spring…it hasn’t done gangbusters yet, hoping this year for it to shine.

    We gardeners are always throwing our good money in a hole in the ground, aren’t we? ;-) Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But now my hopes are pinned on ‘Ascot Rainbow.’ I hope yours perks up soon. —Pam

  9. Robin says:

    Pam, fortunately for me, my Mountain Laurel is just now nearing peak. I’m headed out today to smell it as much as I can! I keep saying I’m going to get one of those awesome Gopher plants, and yet I still don’t have one. Now you are making sure I must get one with those great pics. thanks!

    Robin, I was in SW Austin this morning and noticed quite a few mountain laurels just at peak bloom. So gorgeous! Yes, you need a gopher plant or two for your stop-sign bed. —Pam

  10. spurge says:

    Thanks for this little garden tour! I love your gravel path lined with euphorbia and grasses. Simple and beautiful.

    You’re welcome! And thanks for stopping by. —Pam

  11. Great pictures Pam. Thanks for sharing.

    My pleasure, Angela. —Pam

  12. Pam, your garden is looking beautifully Springy!

    It is definitely springy out there, Christine. I love this time of year in Austin. —Pam

  13. katzien says:

    As always, gorgeous. But I have a pond question. I modeled my little stock tank after yours early last year, and followed all your instructions. IT’s been such a joy…even the little gambusia fish, and I kept debris and leaves out daily. During our mild winter, my pond froze twice, just the top quarter or half inch. After that, my oxygenators turned to mush and my floating lilies too. The pond is now quite cloudy with algea and crud….how do I clean it up? I don’t have a filter or pond pump. Maybe you can do a post on prepping a pond for spring?? thanks.

    That would be a good idea for a future post, Katzien. I’d do it this year except I’ve already done most of my spring clean-up work. Short answer: anacharis does turn mushy over the winter. I replace mine each year with fresh bundles as soon as the pond nursery starts stocking them, usually this month or next. Your water lily will need to be divided in preparation for spring growth, so get a second pot, take your lily out of the water, and trim off the dead leaves, then pop it out of its pot and divide it in half; I use a small hatchet on mine to cut through the dense roots. Put the divisions in two pots and fill with heavy, clayey soil, then top with gravel and replace in your pond. You can give the division to a friend with a pond. As the weather warms up, your lily will again start shading your pond, and with fresh anacharis too everything should clear up in a matter of weeks. Oh, and don’t forget to dredge the bottom of your pond every year or so with a net to clean out leafy debris. —Pam

  14. Scott Weber says:

    The color of those Tradescantia are just sumptuous…as is the foliage of that Pomegranate (Wonderful, indeed)!

    I’m enjoying all the fresh growth and new flowers, Scott. Ah, spring. —Pam

  15. Les says:

    I really like the Euphorbia/Yucca combo. I am also a big fan of Carolina jessamine, which is native here too, but it does not obtain the proportions that it does in South Carolina. I remember seeing trees draped with it in spring, and oh my the aroma driving through the countryside.

    It does smell so good, although here it can’t out-compete Texas mountain laurel for fragrant flower power. —Pam

  16. Sheila says:

    Everything is beautiful!

    Thank you, Sheila. :-) —Pam

  17. Jack says:

    Pam, Stumbled upon your Blog today. Nice to see theing blooming in your part of the country. We just had 9 inches of snow last night. It will be a while before anything blooms here on the shore of Lake Michigan. Though I will admit the snow is beautiful. I did a whole series on Winter back a few months ago for photos of the last big storm here in early 2011. Will post more of this storm soon. Most of my postings are of the plants right here in my garden along the lake though sometimes I venture a little beyond to include more of the watershed area. It was nice visiting your garden. Will be back. I like seeing how the other half lives! Be following you now. Jack

    Hi, Jack. Thanks for your visit. I’m happy to provide an early taste of spring for northern gardeners, as I do appreciate the favor, in a few months, of lovely summer pictures from your gardens while our torrid summer blazes. —Pam

  18. Candy Suter says:

    Everything is looking beautiful Pam! I wish I had that beautiful euphorbia ‘gopher plant’. The color is great with that yucca! Your garden is looking spectacular!

    Thank you, Candy! Spring is a lovely gown for the garden to wear. —Pam

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