Winter pizzazz of flowering maple and ornamental grasses

A mild winter makes flowering maple (Abutilon) happy, and that makes me happy. I adore its pink-veined, balloon-skirted flowers.

Here you see it in the foreground, part of the stock-tank pond garden. Let’s walk up the hillside path, shall we? But first, check out how big the ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress has gotten!

For comparison, here’s how big it was in 2009. A wee tyke.

The butterfly-shaped seedpods of the gallinita vine (Mascagnia macroptera) are still a mixture of chartreuse and winter-tan. This well-behaved vine clusters densely atop the Heart Gate, putting rich greenery up against the gray-greens of the live oaks.

A closer view of the lepidopterous (did I use that right?) seedpods

Beyond the gate, it’s all grasses, baby — inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) on the left, bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) on the right, and a variegated miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis) about halfway up the path. These grasses require little maintenance — just an annual cut-back and seedling removal in spring for the sea oats and periodic quick trims to keep the bamboo muhly tidy — and the deer shun them.

Here’s how this space looked when we moved in. Nice lawn but lots of mowing, edging, and watering. I much prefer ornamental grass to lawn grass. How about you?

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Upcoming Events and News

Hold the Hose! Join me for my kick-off garden talk for my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, on February 27, at 10 am, at The Natural Gardener nursery in southwest Austin. My talk is called “Hold the Hose! How to Make Your Garden Water Thrifty and Beautiful,” and it’s free to the public. Afterward I’ll have books available for purchase and will be glad to autograph one for you! Dress for the weather, as the talk will be held in the big tent outside.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

14 Responses

  1. Love those grasses.
    I have the inland sea oats, and I’m thinking about the bamboo muhly. We get a lot colder here than you do, though.

    I have so much gardening to catch up on here.

  2. Melody McMahon says:

    Pam, what a wild winter we are having! My front property looks like Ireland, it’s so green! And my daffodils are already blooming! At least I’ve had plenty of good days to work in the garden and get lots done before the heat of summer is upon us again!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Daffodils? Our winters are always so mixed up with warm weather — up and down, up and down. Not that I’m complaining. Winter is one of my favorite seasons here. —Pam

  3. Renee says:

    Such changes! Every time I see your bamboo muhly, I’m reminded I should find some for my garden.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      It’s everywhere in Austin these days, although 10 years ago it was new and different. It’s an Arizona and West Texas native, so I think it would do well for you, Renee. —Pam

  4. catmint says:

    So interesting to see the dramatic before and after shots. I did the same, gradually got rid of all the lawn, even on the street verge.

  5. Happy New Year Pam,
    Your garden is looking wonderful this winter. I love Flowering maples and I even like the color of grasses in the winter…reminds me of wheat. I had forgot about your faux windows, I like to do something like that in small spaces, it really works to add interest on your side path. Fun to see how things have come along over time too!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I always admire your lattice mirrors when I see them in your designs, Laurin. It’s a good trick to bounce some light around, without creating an expansive mirror that birds might crash into. —Pam

  6. Marilyn says:

    LOVE that 2nd photo! What a lovely garden. Thank you for sharing. Also, thank you husband for his efforts on the photos coming directly to the inbox with the email. Awesome!

    PS The abutilon was still blooming at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC a few days ago, zone 7B. What a mild winter so far!

  7. Wendy Moore says:

    I love the Blue Ice Arizona cypress! I think I might need an Abutilon – looks like maybe they tolerate light or partial shade?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yes, abutilons prefer dappled shade or, at most, morning sun in my garden, Wendy. Plant after all danger of freezing weather is past to give them a good start. —Pam