Succulent and cactus container garden thrives under Death Star: August Foliage Follow-Up


Two months ago I acquired another steel pipe remnant and set it in the gravel garden by the front door. There it sat empty for nearly 8 weeks as I traveled and debated what to plant in it. Finally, taking my own advice not to plant anything in August except cactus, I decided on an opuntia.

I was one of only two customers at The Natural Gardener yesterday at 5 pm in 102 F heat. Blech. Well, the Death Star can set its laser beam on high and still not harm this cute bunny ears cactus (Opuntia microdasys). ‘Jaws’ agave, next to it, doesn’t mind the heat either, although it may have a little sunburn. Behind both is a beautiful pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia), a passalong from Michael at Plano Prairie Garden.


This is becoming quite a spiky forest. I need to stop.


I did pick up one more little cactus for my sadly underplanted steel wall planter, Coahuila lace cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus var. coahuila).


Well, that helps a little. Birds have been nipping leaf-pads off the ghost plant. Grr.


In contrast, my Hover Dish planter has filled out beautifully this summer. The tall succulent is blue chalk fingers (Senecio vitalis), with a graptoveria and jelly bean plant (Sedum rubrotinctum) beneath and ‘Blue Spruce’ sedum spilling over the edge.


Foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri) and a dyckia add more fun foliage below.


Also out front, along the driveway, this chartreuse cloud of bamboo muhly (Muhlenberia dumosa) caught my eye yesterday afternoon. What a beautiful light-catcher!

So what lovely leaves are making you happy in your August garden? Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage plants their due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave your link to your Foliage Follow-Up post in a comment. I really appreciate it if you’ll also include a link to this post in your own post (sharing link love!). If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

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

47 Responses

  1. Diana says:

    My post looks at the diverse colors and textures in my garden this month. It’s a cool August up here in New England so we’re not struggling with the Death Star.

    http://gardenontheedge.blogspot.com/2014/08/foliage-follow-up-august-2014.html

    Love the combination of rusty looking planters in gravel. So appropriate for your area.

  2. Linda from Each Little World says:

    Pam – Great containers all! I love the spiky forest. For my taste, your containers beat anything I’ve seen in the Portland gardens (though I’ve been enjoying the trip vicariously). http://eachlittleworld.typepad.com/each_little_world/2014/08/foliage-.html

  3. Thank you for hosting this meme. I made a follow-up post to compare my variegated Hydrangea leaves with Alison’s from Bloom Day (hers has a blossom) and included other plants that are managing despite heat and humidity.

    Foliage Follow-up in August Heat and Humidity

    • Pam/Digging says:

      You have so many great foliage pics for August, Nell Jean, and a surprising number are familiar to me from Austin gardens. —Pam

      • I learned Caesalpinia, Duranta, and Esperanza from my dear Texas friend, Janie Varley who had me try a little of everything.

        If it grows in Texas it should grow most anywhere in the deep south. The only Texas Superstar I did not try to grow is Bluebonnets which require alkaline soil not found here.

        • Pam/Digging says:

          You’re quite right, Nell Jean. So long as alkaline soil isn’t required, many plants that grow well in Austin are suited to other parts of the Deep South. Of course we often wish to be able to grow acid soil-loving plants, but that’s another story. —Pam

  4. Pam-Thank you for hosting. I always enjoy your succulent combinations. The foliage is so wonderful. I have some more temperate foliage combinations here on Long Island. You can see them here:

    http://landscapedesignbylee.blogspot.com/2014/08/garden-bloggers-bloom-day-foliage.html

  5. Jean says:

    I love how it’s all coming along, Pam. Beautiful. Many of my succulents get nipped by the birds (and in some cases, destroyed altogether). I haven’t figured out what to do about that.

  6. So beautiful and completely different for me. I love your plant choices.

  7. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Howdy Pam! What’s this talk about stopping in the spiky forest? It looks so good and I love your new addition. While I envy your ability to grow that beautiful bamboo muhly, I don’t envy your 102 degree heat! We’re enjoying mid 70′s and just had quite a bit of rain (unusual for August but welcome!) My FFU post this month is about begonias and can be found here: http://outlawgarden.blogspot.com/2014/08/begonias-for-foliage-follow-up.html
    Thanks for hosting the green party! (Oh wait, that sounds like something altogether different.)

  8. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I really like your prickly forest in front of the house. All that texture is marvelous especially with a couple of softer looking plants thrown in. I am glad you id’d a couple of plants. I pick up these succulents at the big box store and they rarely have a name. I have blue chalk fingers that are about to bloom and i have one of those ghost plants and even the birds here have pecked on it. It must be sweet. Happy FF.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Non-labeling of succulents is one of my pet peeves too, Lisa. I bought these at Shoal Creek Nursery here in Austin, and they’d labeled every one. I went up to the owner to thank him! —Pam

  9. Kris P says:

    That’s a perfect acquisition to thwart your death star. I’m sorry to hear that the heat is turned up to full volume there – our temperatures have been somewhat moderate this summer. (I hope I haven’t just jinxed us by writing that!).

    Thanks for hosting foliage follow-up, Pam! Here’s my contribution: http://krispgarden.blogspot.com/2014/08/foliage-follow-up-importance-of-good.html

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Hi, Kris. I can’t comment on your site anymore without the Name/URL option — bummer! I’ll leave my comment here, as I do for the other blogs I’m unable to comment on: Mexican feathergrass is one of my favorite small grasses in Austin, and happily it’s not on the invasive list for us (yet). It does have aggressive tendencies, but then it IS a native, so I don’t know. Anyway, it’s a lifesaver in my dry garden, growing well in sun, part sun, and dappled shade. —Pam

  10. Pam I love what you have done in your garden..the pipe planters are stunning and all the spiky plants fit so wonderfully together. I really love the 2 smaller planters as well and especially the blue dish for a subtle color. I agree the bamboo muhly is a real light catcher like our muhly grass that grows wild here.

    Here is my foliage post although it is a compilation of many posts:

    http://gardenseyeview.com/2014/08/11/anthology-of-august-blooms/

  11. peter schaar says:

    Pam, don’t stop! Those spiky plants look so good together, and you have such a good eye for them. Spiky plants belong together (see both dry gardens at Peckerwood). I can hardly wait to see what it looks like “in the flesh”.

  12. Alson says:

    I’ve been in love with your gravel garden since you first put it in, it looks so good. The blue chalk sticks in your hover dish planter look way better than mine, which have lost a lot of lower leaves (if you can call them that.) Be glad it’s just birds eating your succulents, I lost a Christmas cactus to rats, they just chewed it right down to the ground. I would have preferred birds. My FF post is here: http://bonneylassie.blogspot.com/2014/08/foliage-followup-quick-and-dirty.html

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Your castor bean foliage is so pretty. I love those bold leaves! I tried castor bean in my garden a year or so ago, but the deer found them delicious. I guess the leaves aren’t as toxic as the seeds. —Pam

  13. Jenny says:

    Don’t stop. I love your steel planters and your choice of plants. So healthy and gorgeous colors.

  14. Tina says:

    Your planters are all looking so good. I’ve become fond of cacti and succulents in containers–they look so great in our long stretches of heat and with little effort. My kind of plants! Here’s my contribution for Foliage Follow-up. Thanks for hosting! http://mygardenersays.com/2014/08/16/foliage-follow-up-august-2014

  15. It looks like perfection to me. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  16. Mark and Gaz says:

    The steel pipes are a great idea, especially the tallest one, it made the plant look like it has a tall trunk already.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I hope that’s the only trunk it ever grows, M&G. That’s a Dasylirion longissimum, which can develop a 10-foot trunk in the ground. But I’m hopeful that keeping mine starved for water and in tight quarters will keep that from happening. If it did, imagine how silly it would look! —Pam

  17. sandy lawrence says:

    I had to ‘go radical’. I retired my many bird feeders. Every succulent dish garden and hanging container I made was repeatedly decimated by birds, principally Mocking Birds and Bluejays, but also others. I think they viewed them as dessert! I still supply numerous water sources for birds and there are berries, nuts, and fruits on shrubs and trees, fall seeds produced by perennials and grasses, but the feeders are no more.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      And did it work, Sandy? Austin has a rat problem, which causes many people here to put away bird feeders too. Sigh. —Pam

      • sandy lawrence says:

        It actually does work, Pam! I now have only the very rare nipped succulent. No rats so far, but I do have a new (to me) problem. A baby armadillo is cultivating around every plant in the garden, and not carefully. I have to go ’round each morning to cover up exposed roots or replant a totally uprooted one. Garden areas look as if an intoxicated someone got in there with a miniature plow and made crazy furrows.

        • Pam/Digging says:

          Oh, the stories I could tell about armadillo damage! Once your bed is established, the worst of the damage stops, but until then it’s a constant replanting and smoothing of soil and mulch. —Pam

          • sandy lawrence says:

            Oh, thanks for the news that this craziness will one day stop! And you are right; after reading your comment I realized that the little rascal avoids established parts of the garden. He’s very young. I just hope he doesn’t bring friends and family!

  18. I really like the look of the pipe remnants. I would like to find a couple for myself. And the pine muhly looks pretty happy. I am glad it survived. They don’t always transplant well for me. Speaking of transplants, since you have a rule about only planting cactus in August, do you have a best time for transplanting and dividing yuccas? I have one that I would like to move and separate a couple of pups.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      The pine muhly sulked for a couple of seasons, Michael, but this year it really took off. It never gets watered and is looking great. I’m thrilled with it. As for yuccas, I think you could do that any time, but before the cool, wetter days of fall/winter is probably a good idea. I haven’t had any luck with dividing though. I tried dividing two ‘Bright Edge’ yuccas once and killed both the mother and the offsets. —Pam

  19. Oh my how I LOVE your gardens! I love the steel and succulents – such a perfect pairing! What a stunning collection you have. What is not to love about succulents? They grow in my containers here in North Country and they grow in TEXAS – home on the range! I am so glad I found time this month to join in the foliage follow up fun!

    http://thevioletfern.com/2014/08/17/foliage-follow-up

  20. Looking really good and fresh regardless of the Death Star. Your front is maturing nicely, and the negative space is staying so clean.

    102…what’s that? El Paso hasn’t even hit 90 half the days in August…so far:-)

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I can hardly complain about Austin’s heat this summer because it’s been relatively mild until recently. Plus I feel I’ve hardly been home this spring/summer, with trips to Phoenix/Tucson, Portland, and New Hampshire/Maine. Fall is just around the corner, and I’m hanging on for October, as always. —Pam

  21. Nice going on the Portland Fling Pam, I enjoyed all those many gardens. Back in Austin, I also have the rule of not planting anything in August — a rule that I too try and break only a few times, like a low growing Jasmine bought in Round Top yesterday. It smelled sooo good! And I get to help pick the plants for the new Counter Cafe on East 6th in the next few weeks — maybe trailing Lantana as the entree, and a little Oxblood lily patch for good measure?

  22. Anna K says:

    Late to the foliage party! It’s been hot here in Portland too, so I have been cowering in the shade. Love your pipe remnants, and the Hover dish looks spectacular! I adore the blue chalk fingers! https://flutterandhum.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/blooms-and-foliage-for-august-2014/

  23. James in Spring Branch says:

    Pam. Been meaning to ask about your choice of Alphonse Karr bamboo in this otherwise desert garden area for a while now. I have this bamboo along with 1 other clumper (textillis gracillus) and 5 other runners and I did not think any of the clumpers were drought tolerant. When it is August and the Karr is shooting I water mine almost every day when it is back to back 100 degree days.

    How often do you water yours? I must confess the Karr is the only bamboo I have that I have not seen to curl its leaves on hot days so maybe it is more drought tolerant than I think. Second question did your Mexican wheeling bamboo survive the winter. Mine died despite me wrapping it on all the nights it dropped below 20

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Good questions about the bamboos, James. I chose the Alphonse Karr because I wanted a good screening plant for the laundry room window in that back wall, and because my friend Philip at East Side Patch told me it was pretty drought tolerant in his garden. That’s been true for me as well. It gets watered via sprinkler system once a week, and I’ve never once had to hand water it, not even in summer. It grows quite vigorously on what it gets — a little too vigorously for my taste, actually.

      The Mexican weeping bamboo in my back garden is alive but seriously stunted following its complete die-back last winter. If it gets hit hard again this winter, I fear it may give up the ghost. But if we have a mild winter, I think it will recover. —Pam

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