Happy about these garden blues


I’m singing the blues with majestic sage (Salvia guaranitica)…


…with a blue bottle tree, purple skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii), and ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (Agave ovatifolia)…


…with Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis)…


…and with more purple skullcap and bluebonnets, plus velvety mullein.


Another view of the purple skullcap and mullein, with winecups beginning to creep in


My new garden bed alongside the driveway even has a little blue in it thanks to Mexican beach pebbles that top the steel ring planter.


Well, it’s a work in progress. Currently I have three ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia and a ‘Blue Haze’ euphorbia planted in it, with a handful of beach pebbles on top.


Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden passed along this beautiful, blue Agave franzosinii pup with me. I just gave it a fresh potting, with new aquarium pebbles as mulch for a neat finishing touch. I think I’m going to start refreshing my rock mulch on my xeric planters each spring. It makes such a difference to have all those leaves and pollen catkins removed, with clean gravel on top.


Leaving the happy blues…I’m actually feeling truly blue about this development: a plague of leaf-footed bugs on my softleaf yucca (Y. recurvifolia) bloom spike. All those creamy, white bell-shaped flowers are infested with nasty, copulating, plant-sucking bugs. I sprayed them with an organic pesticide spray (Captain Jack’s), but it didn’t do a thing. Any ideas? When I try to hand-pick them off, most of them fly away, only to return in a few minutes. Ugh.


Well, let’s avert our eyes and look at another white-flowering plant that’s perfectly lovely and unaffected by pests: star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides).


Its sweet fragrance wafts up to the upper patio, making that a perfect spot to sit and enjoy the bluesy garden right now.

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

19 Responses

  1. Susan says:

    Oh my – those bugs are UGLY… sorry, I don’t have any suggestions, but they would make me blue too.
    Love the rest of your garden with different shades of blue ~ that salvia is really pretty! This inspires me to plant some more blue bloomers in my yard.
    My star jasmine is in full bloom right now also; the fragrance is simply fantastic!

    Star jasmine is one of my favorite vines. It has such a lovely scent and such beautiful, star-shaped flowers, plus it’s evergreen! —Pam

  2. Tamara says:

    Thank you for sharing the name of your salvia. I planted them last year and forgot their name. I have had learn to suppress my “freak out reaction” to bugs. I am ok as long as they are not on me :)

    These bugs have destroyed the yucca bloom, which is why I’m “blue” about them. I have a few other yuccas about to bloom, so I’m hoping to find an organic treatment to prevent another infestation. —Pam

  3. Cynthia says:

    I have mullein (some sort) and blue skullcap growing wild separately. Looks like I need to get them together somewhere – what a great combo!

    And they love the same conditions, so it’s all good, Cynthia. Enjoy your combo! —Pam

  4. Anna says:

    I have a gross but effective treatment in the fight against leaf-footed bug nymphs. I use a plastic bag, and put it around the bugs and leaf/stem of the plant. The bugs jump off the plant, but are trapped in the bag. I squish the bugs inside the bag. The babies hang out in groups so I get most of the buggers at once. It is gross, but chemical free, and the stink of leaf-footed bugs stays in the bag, not on my tools or hands.

    Squishing is the organic method of choice, I think. Yucky but effective. The bag is a more civilized approach, so thanks for the tip. —Pam

  5. Kim says:

    We had those on our tomatoes and resorted to taking our dustbuster outside and vacuuming up the bugs and then dumping them into a bucket of dish soap water to drown them.

    Another good tip. Thanks, Kim. —Pam

  6. What beautiful blue blooms. Blue is one of my favorite color in the garden. It is so soothing to the eye. Your purple skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii) is so pretty. Do you think it will take part shade? Your steel planter is very cool!

    Yes, it will take part shade in our hot climate, Steph. Not too much, I think, but yes some shade is OK. —Pam

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Love the blues. I shot of white in the garden looks great too. Brightens up those dusk and dawn garden strolls.

    Very true, Lisa. Great for a moonlight garden too. —Pam

  8. ricki says:

    With very few blues in my garden, just look what I’ve been missing.

    You need some, Ricki! —Pam

  9. Kathi Cordray says:

    For leaf-footed bugs as well as stink bugs I spray them with a 1:1 ratio of water and Murphy’s Oil Soap. This is quite strong for your plants, but once the bugs drop (which is immediate), stand by with the water hose to rinse off your plant. Makes an for an easy massacre when they gather on one plant. Great pics.

    Thanks for the tip, Kathi. —Pam

  10. I love the purple skullcaps combined with the winecups; that is a great color harmony. And the whale’s tongue agave is spectacular. I like my shade garden, but it would be fun to have enough sun for dynamic plants like that. As for the bugs, I suggest neem, but I would probably try the other alternatives first. Consider it another arrow in the quiver. Good luck!

    You might be surprised to know how much shade the ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave can take, at least with sharp drainage. My garden is heavy on live oaks, and that agave gets mostly bright shade. In Austin’s hot climate, many plants that would need full sun elsewhere are happy for some shade. —Pam

  11. Jenny says:

    I had the same trouble with my yucca. Get out there early in the morning when they are slow-footed! Grab them if you aren’t squeamish. You’d be surprised how easy it is. They must like white flowers because they attacked my peas this year.

    Sneak attack while they’re sleeping, eh? I’ll try that next time. They’ve already decimated this bloom spike. —Pam

  12. Jason says:

    I love blue flowers. I have a variety of Salvias, Anise Hyssop, Culver’s Root ‘Fascination’, Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’, several asters with blue flowers, bellflowers, ladybells, woodland phlox, Nepeta … you get the idea. Good luck with your ugly bugs – wish I had some advice to offer!

    A fellow blue lover! It’s a lovely color, even when it’s really more purple, plus it goes with just about everything. —Pam

  13. The blue flowers hanging down resembled the blue bottles on the image below. There are not a lot of blue options that handle the heat of the Midwest. My favorite blue? Clematis ‘Roguchi’. Thanks for the tour. Will have nightmares tonight about being attacked by Whale’s Tongue.

    You’re right, Patrick, there really is a visual connection between those two images. But come on now, that Whale’s Tongue would never in a million years attack you. Well, unless you leaned in too close. —Pam

  14. João Inácio says:

    Hello Pam!

    Salvia guaranitica is a native from here! Rio Grande do Sul, the most southern state of Brazil! Unfortunally, it more used in USA gardens than ours, coz people here think it is “not special for gardens” :( Do you believe???

    Well, for your yucca, I have one suggestion, uhmmm, not exactly organic, but homemade: try 15 ml of dishwashing liquid deterget (you can try an organic detergent, ok?) in 1,000 ml of water. Use this in a garden spray at night or early morning (NEVER with high sun, ok?)

    Thanks for the bug-fighting tip. And lucky you to have Salvia guaranitica as a native plant. It’s gorgeous, and very popular in central Texas. —Pam

  15. Penny Keim says:

    You can use FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth in a duster applicator. It cuts the exoskeleton of the bugs. Can’t hurt people or plants. No poison to it. I was having a major flea problem in my yard the last two years as we did not have a cold enough winter to kill them off. I did not want to keep using poisons on my toy poodles. This year, I applied the DE to the yard using a fertilizer spreader and mixed in sand so it would spread better…it is very soft powdery. Also using a 1/2 tsp to my dog’s coats monthly and a sprinkle in their beds. NOT A SINGLE FLEA has been found. Earthworks in Norfolk, NE has everything you need and lots of info. Good luck!

    Thanks for the tip, Penny. —Pam

  16. Loooooove your blues – but not your bug blues. Sorry Pam- I hope you win the battle! Please update us

    Sadly the battle is over, and the bugs won, Heather. The bloom stalk was decimated by the next day after I posted this. But I have a few other yuccas about to bloom, and I’ll be in attack mode next time. —Pam

  17. Caleb says:

    Try orange oil next time you have a bad infestation. Supposedly the oil disintegrates the exoskeleton of the insect. The oil also acts as a repellent. I’m not sure if it will work for these large bugs but one spray kept aphids away from one of my plants.

    Hi, Caleb, and thanks for the suggestion. I’ll soon have opportunity to see which remedy works best because I have another set of yuccas about to bloom. I expect a return of the nasty leaf-footed bugs. —Pam

  18. Karla says:

    I agree with Penny. For all insects (from bedbugs to flies), try diatomaceous earth (aka fossil flour.) I just ordered some on eBay, but I bet you could find it at your local feed store. It is used to control pests on plants as well as parasites in pets and livestock.

    Thanks for your suggestion, Karla. —Pam

  19. I love your helpful pictures and comments – your book has been helpful as well. Our community is one with restrictions so we are trying to be smart about introducing more xeriscaping and reducing the grass. I just took out a mullein that had volunteered nicely for the past three years; it had been behaving itself. Then it sent up a stalk and buds. When I read about what would happen next, invasiveness plus host for multiple icky bugs it went into the trash pickup the next day. I love volunteer native plants but it gets tricky as to when invasive might or might not be a good thing.

    I love the mullein blooms and have two sending up bloom spikes right now. I hope I won’t see a bug issue with those, but I’d be happy to have them seed out. I want more — the deer totally leave them alone! —Pam