Drive-By Gardens: Front yard gardens strong on foliage


I can’t believe I forgot about Foliage Follow-Up yesterday, and I’m the host! To make up for it, I’m combining my Foliage Follow-Up post with Drive-By Gardens, always a reader favorite. I have two Austin gardens to share with you for this Drive-By, and both are largely foliage gardens, with little attention paid to flowers. Instead the focus is on strong foliage forms and easy-care evergreen groundcovers.


The first drive-by is really a walk-by. This xeric, deer-resistant, front-yard garden belongs to a neighbor just down the street. I’ve been watching its progress on dog walks, and it’s looking great after a year of growth. Here’s the first post I wrote about it last November. Comparing the images, you can see how much the woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata) groundcover has filled in, like a silver-gray carpet in the main part of the yard.


In the hell strip between the sidewalk and the street, red yucca, Mexican feathergrass, and blackfoot daisy — Texas natives all — are tough as nails given plenty of sun and good drainage.


On the shadier side of the yard, under a large tree, sedges are filling in nicely (additional plugs were added this spring to fill it out), and bamboo muhly along the side yard glows in the afternoon light. Grasses and sedges are wonderfully resistant to deer, who neither nibble nor antler them.


The second drive-by is one I passed in the Highland Park West Balcones Area neighborhood while looking at houses on the AIA Austin Homes Tour on Saturday. I was struck by the color-block architecture and the charming mosaic flowers on the stucco retaining wall and along the entry walk.


Panning right you see a wavy strip of turf grass, curvy rock paving, sculptural and xeric foliage plants like agave, yucca, and dasylirion, a steel bridge (crossing a dry stream, maybe?), a gently undulating stucco retaining wall with colorful mosaic agaves (or yuccas?), and a life-size mosaic sculpture of a woman. An artist either lives here or did a lot of work for this garden!


I love to see people enjoying their front yards with alternative plantings and art!

This is my (belated) October post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets are on sale at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

I’ll be speaking at the Antique Rose Emporium Fall Festival 2016 in Brenham, Texas, on Saturday, November 5th, 1:30-2:30 pm. Come on out to the Antique Rose Emporium’s beautiful gardens for a day of speakers and fun! My talk, with plenty of eye-candy photos, is called “Hold the Hose! How to Design a Water-Saving Garden that Wows.” Meet me afterward at the book-signing table!

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

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

21 Responses

  1. Time gets away from us sometimes and I love looking forward to your Follow-Up each month, so thanks for hosting. Your drive by garden photos are a wonderful and the last one with the artwork is just fabulous! Here is my autumn Foliage Follow-Up for October: http://landscapedesignbylee.blogspot.com/2016/10/garden-bloggers-bloom-day-foliage.html#.WAT8j_krKUk

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Lee, I can’t wait to see your garden in a riot of fall color, but as you point out, the first hints are there. Your grasses and conifers look beautiful too. Thanks for joining in! —Pam

  2. Kris P says:

    I was a little concerned when I didn’t see your Foliage Follow-up post yesterday but I’m glad to know all is well! I always enjoy your drive-by captures. I especially like the first one. Here’s my follow-up post: https://krispgarden.blogspot.com/2016/10/foliage-follow-up-old-new.html

  3. I really like the personalities that come through in these gardens. They are so different than anything I see here in Georgia, which mostly keep to foundation plants and little else. Boring!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      The terrible Texas drought that ended in 2013 (temporarily, probably) and ongoing water rationing has transformed for a lot of us what makes a beautiful and smart landscape. I’m always happy to see a front yard turned into something artful as well as waterwise! —Pam

  4. Alison says:

    Love that mosaic woman! I was wondering where your Foliage Followup post was. I thought maybe you might have been sidetracked by the flurry of Fling madness (I’m not sure how involved you are). Here’s my FF post: http://bonneylassie.blogspot.com/2016/10/foliage-followup-october-2016.html

  5. Evan says:

    It was the weekend, after all. Time gets away from all of us. I love the simplicity of the groundcovers in the first garden. I’ve been planting my new garden areas and some of them I think ended up more complex than I wanted, but we’ll see how it looks as things fill out. But for my Foliage Follow-up I just covered a few early fall color shots. http://practicalplantgeek.blogspot.com/2016/10/foliage-follow-up-october-2016.html

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I enjoyed your post, Evan. And yes, time is what really tells us if our intended designs work or need adjustments (mine nearly always do). Anticipation is half the fun, right? —Pam

  6. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Now I don’t feel so bad about posting late. What cool front gardens you get to pass by; both beautiful in different ways. This, once again, shows us how gardens can be such reflections of their individual gardeners. Here’s my tardy contribution: http://outlawgarden.blogspot.com/2016/10/foliage-follow-up-better-late-than-never.html

  7. Margaret says:

    Those are some beautiful front gardens – no lack of interest there! Each year I seem to love plants with interesting foliage more and more. And of course, that mosaic sculpture transported me all the way back to the Fling :)

  8. Hmmm. Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm. I live in Indiana, but I am always interested in alternatives to the usual front lawn of turf grass. I don’t have to worry about deer, but whatever I plant has to be rabbit and woodchuck-proof. Moisture is not usually a problem, either, but we do have the occasional summer drought. Thank you for these new-to-me ideas!

  9. Love that gray ground cover; something that’s really had to achieve up here. I stopped by on the 16th and figured you were too busy given your schedule these days. I did post a few images from my October garden. Today was 68 and gorgeous. Cleaned all my tools.
    Linking: http://eachlittleworld.typepad.com/each_little_world/2016/10/foliage-follow-up-101616.html

  10. Pam Duffy says:

    Love the stemodia lawn. I had been thinking of replacing the St. Augustine out front with zoysia, but this might be another option. Can that sort of ground cover take overhead water? It would be a tremendous amount for a drip system. Have you ever seen it being watered?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I have it in my front garden, Pam, and it gets watered on a pop-up system. But it does like sun and well-drained soil, so you don’t want to overwater or let it get soggy. If you have shade, Texas sedge is a great alternative. —Pam

      • Pam Duffy says:

        No problem with the sun, it’s full exposure. It will be just a small area in the middle surrounded by beds and I plan to add good soil and till it in. Maybe I’ll add some dg and sand now, too.

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