Evening in the garden after the late-winter cut-back


We woke to fog yesterday, and in the soft light and early morning chill, I got started on the garden’s annual cut-back of perennials and grasses. Six hours later, with muscles aching but the garden cleaned up for spring, I called it a day. I had much to be thankful for: cloud cover all day that kept temperatures delightful and sweat to a minimum (our high was 73F); electric hedge trimmers inherited from my in-laws, which totally beat hand clipping everything; and my darling daughter’s help with bagging up all the trimmings.


After dinner, as the light faded on a perfect gardening day, I strolled through the garden to admire the pared-back views, with all the promise of spring just a few weeks away.


This is perfect patio-sitting weather.


However, I find it hard to sit still in the garden. Do you?


Verdigris vignette. This is an Agave parryi var. truncata pup growing in a piece of scrap pipe, surrounded by ground-covering ‘Bath’s Pink’ dianthus.


I do have a thing for blue in the garden, and of course many of our xeric plants have a blue cast as well. The stock-tank pond is next on my list for a pre-spring clean-up. Mucking out the bottom of the tank and dividing all the pond plants is a big job. I’ll wait until after the live oak leaf drop in March to tackle it. Meanwhile, I’m pleased that my ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods, which mark the four “doorways” into the stock-tank garden, are finally achieving the size and shape I envisioned when I planted them a few years ago. The forest-green spheres stand out against all the blue-greens and yellow-greens here.


Evening light reflected in the stock-tank pond, and another Cosmo photobomb completes our garden stroll.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

42 Responses

  1. Blue is one of my fav’s too!

    I’ll have to check out hedge trimmers at Home Depot – I’m surprised they worked just for miscellaneous pruning.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      They worked so well, Chris. It’s the Hedge Hog trimmer by Black & Decker. I would prefer a battery-operated one, though, if I’d purchased it myself. I was careful but did worry that I’d hit the electric cord with the trimmers while I was working. Plus you have to drag long extension cords around the garden. —Pam

  2. Shirley says:

    It was the best day for a garden clean up. We did pretty much the same yesterday with at least another day needed.

    Your garden blues look so good in this light. It’s nice to see you posting more on your garden this year and adding in a few different views.

  3. Tina says:

    Oh, I wish I was finished! Not quite, but close–I still have some evergreens and then I have the pond. Your back garden is lovely.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks, Tina. Well, I’m not really finished either, as I left a few tender plants like Barbados cherry for later. Plus that pond still needs cleaning. But the hardest part is over. —Pam

  4. Alison says:

    I need a couple of really nice days to get out there and clean up and weed. It’s so satisfying to start the season with a tidy garden. It’s worth the aching muscles. The light in these pictures is so different from the bright sunlight we usually see in your photos.

  5. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Such a restful feeling of contentment your words and pictures convey. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment after a hard day of putting things in order.

  6. I never get enough of your garden! It’s always inspiring.

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Cosmo isn’t bombing. He is just showing off his territory that you keep all neat and tidy for him. Your sitting area looks so inviting. I can sure sit and take advantage after a good days work in the garden.

  8. Carol says:

    I’m curious. Did you trim the Berkley sedge?

  9. It is always hard to sit still in the garden. There is always something that needs my touch. I rest better after a days work setting a bed in order.

  10. You did good! 6 hours, eh?! WOW!

    Looks like Cosmo got his spring clipping too? :) Adorable!

  11. Helen says:

    I am rubbish at sitting in the garden, I am trying to make myself do it more!

  12. Indie says:

    I first got to use electric hedge trimmers when my in-laws got some. I promptly went out and got myself a pair! Such a great invention! Your garden is looking quite nice, even in the winter doldrums.

  13. Gretchen says:

    Your garden is beautiful and I’m happy to see it again. I am surprised any of the succulents in your block planter wall survived winter.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I was surprised by how many survived too, Gretchen, especially as we got several hard freezes this year. I threw a bedsheet over it when hard freezes were predicted. The blue chalk fingers, sedums, and even an aloe hung on through all that. Ghost plant, ‘Quadricolor’ agave, and ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia were completely unfazed. —Pam

  14. Kris P says:

    Neat, tidy and ready for spring – congratulations! I think Cosmo is more of a photographic enhancement than a photo-bomb.

  15. Jenny says:

    It really was the best day for gardening. I would be sitting and enjoying the view from your welcoming seating area. We sit down for lunch outside and I always plan to stay on and browse through gardening books. But then I see something that needs doing and up I get.

  16. Layanee says:

    How inspiring. There is no garden cleanup for another six weeks here as we are under a good 18″ of snow. At least I can dream of spring while visiting your garden. That Cosmos is really out of this world!

  17. TexasDeb says:

    I would have commented previously – your spaces are SO gorgeous! – but read your post in the morning and it inspired me to stop planning and get working! I’m no longer able to spend 6 hours working (my spirit is willing but my body punishes me afterwards too much!) but I did get in half that much which represents a very good beginning in our behind-the-fence spaces.

    I am wondering – have you already posted in the past about how to decide whether or not a succulent needs to be taken out after being damaged by the cold? I have several which are mostly mush but have intact center spikes and I’m wondering if they will simply continue to die…slowly… or if there is hope they’ll come back?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      TexasDeb, congrats on your good beginning! Here’s my post about freeze-damaged succulents and what to do about them. I know that Linda Lehmusvirta of Central Texas Gardener has addressed this in the past as well. —Pam

      • TexasDeb says:

        Great, thank you so much! I was pretty sure you’d addressed this at some point previously but wasn’t sure how to search efficiently.

        Still inspired by your “the entire back at one time” efforts. Put in another 3 hours today and might be able to claim being about half to two-thirds finished with seasonal cutbacks. Either I have a larger space, or I’m not as good at keeping it in good trim, or (most likely) I’m a LOT slower than you are! : )

  18. lazysmurf says:

    Do you have trouble with mosquitoes in your stock tank pond? I live in Austin too, in my old house we had an inground pool and it was a magnet for mosquitoes.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      No, I don’t. The fish (goldfish and gambusia) eat mosquito larvae, and since I don’t ever feed the fish they are good about hunting down all those wrigglers. You could also use mosquito dunks to control them. Dunks are an organic mosquito larvae killer, and they’re safe for people, pets, and fish. You can buy them at the big-box stores and at independent nurseries as well. —Pam

  19. Katina says:

    ::sigh:: your yard looks so nice all the time. I’m sure you’re like “No, no it doesn’t.” But let me tell you, it really does.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      That’s the ultimate compliment, Katina. Thank you! I have planted a lot of evergreen plants and laid a good deal of paving (mostly gravel, but some stone too) so that the garden has good bone structure to carry it through all seasons. It’s taken a few years, but the plants are finally adding the screening, punctuation, and architecture I’ve been after. —Pam

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