Garden walk as spring – and live oak leaf drop – begin


My sore muscles today are payment for a beautiful gardening day yesterday. I puttered about, hefting bags of mulch and decomposed granite, repotting a few containers, planting a couple of mahonias (after 5 months in nursery pots in my back yard — the shame!), pruning, and generally getting things done and getting dirty. At the end of the day I strolled around the garden with my camera, which is when I do my best looking. At other times, my looking mainly involves critiquing and planning. The camera takes all that away (just as it does when I’m shooting other people’s gardens), and I can simply focus on what looks especially pretty or interesting at that moment.

Pictured above is a giant hesperaloe (which Denise wanted to see) and the Berkeley sedge lawn, still mostly green even after our unusually cold winter. Across the street, the cottony blooms of my neighbor’s Bradford pears steal the show.


Walking down the hillside path into the back garden, gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) electrifies the cool twilight. It tends to self-seed along the path, and I enjoy seeing where it will pop up each year.


‘Sharkskin’ agave echoes the blue-green of the gopher plant’s leaves.


Looking back up toward the heart gate, so dubbed for the metal hearts hanging above the gate and another on the other side of the fence.


Across the gravel path, another gopher plant sprawls at the feet of a ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress. A blue gazing ball cradled in the arms of a cedar stump — an idea borrowed from Philip’s garden at East Side Patch — echoes the blue of the tree.


Turning around and looking up at the deck, I see that I have company. Stretchhhh.


My supervisor


Moving down to the main level of the back garden, the stock-tank pond looks decent from this angle.


But from the deck, not so much. In the interest of keeping it real, here’s what the stock-tank pond looks like at the moment, drowning in live oak leaves, which fall all at once in the spring as new leaves emerge. After the leaf drop ends in another week, I’ll do the annual spring cleaning of the pond.


Moving on, back out front to see how my neighbor’s ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia), in the garden I planted for her, is doing. It’s grown a lot over the past two years. I’m so grateful the bucks haven’t ravaged it with their antlers, and I wonder whether it’s because a number of fragrant-leaved salvias are growing alongside it. Sadly, my big ‘Green Goblet’ agave was partly ravaged by antlering last fall, so I recently planted a semicircle of Salvia greggii around it, hoping that the salvias will deter the deer next fall.


I was happy to catch the last rays of sunlight brightening the patch of gopher plant and ‘Color Guard’ yucca alongside the driveway.


And for fun, here’s a shot of Buddha Frog, a delightfully humorous Christmas gift from my sister and sister-in-law. He’s meditating on the front porch for now.

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

29 Responses

  1. Alison says:

    I love the Buddha Frog. And I also love the clever use of garden art that brings color echoes to the garden, like your blue gazing ball in the stump. I’ve seen that in a few gardens that I’ve toured, always so well done.

  2. Your garden has such good ‘bones’, it’s pretty year around.

  3. Kris P says:

    Your garden looks great after its tidying up! I’m glad you’re getting days warm enough to get out and garden.

  4. Jenny says:

    Such bright lights in your garden. Are any of the gophers you show from those seedlings you mention? I ask that because I have several and am undecided where to place them if they are going to take a long time to grow. I know the plant grows quickly and I would love to have more.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I think at least one of the gopher clumps on the hillside is self-seeded. It takes a couple of years for them to get to this size, but they grow pretty fast with plenty of sun. —Pam

  5. It is looking good…I love your color palate! Spring should be lovely in Austin : )

  6. The gopher plant is so striking. Love the contrast of it with the cypress and yucca. Your furry supervisor is so cute!

  7. Your Euphorbia rigida looks stunning. I really need to add some to my garden. They’re really eye catching at this time of year.

    Your Agave ovatifolia is perfect. I hope mine will fill out soon.

  8. Tina says:

    Those Gophers are beautiful. I’d love to try that plant, but I suspect I don’t have a sunny enough spot. I’ll enjoy yours.

  9. Les says:

    Your supervisor looks relatively lenient. I thought of you today while I was at a perennial grower’s open house. She was presenting new plants she’s growing for 2014, including Hosta ‘Humpback Whale’, and when she showed a picture of it an image of your Agave ‘Whale Tongue’ flashed into my mind.

  10. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Your garden looks so inviting. Your supervisor appears to want to get out there and help you. Spring is trying it’s best to get here. The gopher plant looks quite pretty in the evening light.

  11. Ally says:

    I’m curious to know if your sharkskin agave was protected during the worst of the cold weather? I always cover mine, especially since it’s in a pot, but I was wondering if it was really necessary.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Ally, this agave was in the ground until early February, and I would have waited longer to pot it up if I’d known what a cold blast we were soon going to get — and ice. Not because I thought the ‘Sharkskin’ couldn’t handle the cold, but because I feel agaves shouldn’t be transplanted (shocked) until the warm growing season. Obviously I got a little ahead of myself on this one. To answer your question, no, I did not cover it during the recent cold snap, and it seems fine, although two of the lower leaves have some rot — but I think that was there when I transplanted it. Checking online, several sources say ‘Sharkskin’ is hardy to 20 degrees F. In a pot it’s obviously going to be more exposed. On the other hand, it’ll have better drainage (if planted properly), so it’ll have a better chance of surviving cold, wet weather. I can tell you that I’m not good about covering plants, and if it doesn’t make it I’ll try a different agave. —Pam

  12. Shelley Grafton Boucher says:

    How wonderful the owl has returned!! Very cool- even if it isn’t the same one. Brought my potted ferns, sad bouganvillas and other assorted plants out of the greenhouse this morning. They obviously had a rough winter. My gorgeous ficus is dead and I remember that I usually bring it indoors in winter – not just the greenhouse. 30 year old Sheila the Scheffalara still thrives in spite of the hacking trim I gave her. I am thinking of a tree that I could put in the old ficus pot – like a Meyer Lemon- I want it to go under AZ ash and eave near front of house.
    LOVE that Blue Ice Cypress! And plan on planting color guard and gopher in the hell strip! I lost a gopher about 2 years ago as it didn’t spread in my poor soil. I am learning it is smart to buy more than one plant at a time.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      What a shame about your greenhouse plants, Shelley. I just made the rounds and am noticing more and more freeze damage on my succulents and other plants as well. What a tough winter it was. —Pam

  13. Caroline says:

    I really like the combo of gopher plant and ‘Color Guard’ yucca. I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of E. rigid seedlings popping up in my garden, think I’ll move a few near my yuccas!

  14. Bob Pool says:

    Aren’t you glad you got that dog. He looks like such a good pal.

  15. Jeanne says:

    I never thought the Whale’s tongue agave would be able to grow here in Boise, but I guess I’m wrong. My husband is going to love it. How exciting. I have a great protected are with a lot of direct sun.

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