Garden clean-up in progress for Foliage Follow-Up

The pond patio garden is mostly evergreen, so the big cleanup here occurs later, in March, when I muck out the pond and divide the water plants.

With our brief winter segueing right into spring, February is a transitional month here in Central Texas. We may yet get another freeze, but new growth is greening up many plants, even as winter-browned foliage hangs on.

Inland sea oats still sporting its winter look, with chevron seedheads dangling. Fresh green leaves are already popping up from the roots, so I’ll cut it back this week.

It’s important to provide cover and food sources for birds and other wildlife as well as have something to look at all winter, so I leave plants standing after they go brown. But now it’s definitely time.

Flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) branches are showing new leaf growth. I’ll cut the branches back to about 12 inches to keep the plant compact.

My garden thinks winter is over, and I’m racing to keep up. Cutting back renews many of the woody natives and keeps them from getting straggly, like autumn sage and flame acanthus.

Mexican honeysuckle after its cut-back — not pretty now, but it’ll grow. I only cut it back this hard in years with hard freezes that turn it to mush.

Still, the big mid-February cut-back gets a little harder every year, the older I get, and I may hire help next year.

‘Vertigo’ pennisetum after its cut-back

But for now I forge on solo and try to get it done in manageable stages: a little last weekend, a little more this weekend.

I also need to make time for unexpected tidying, like this drooping ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon, which I noticed today leaning over the path. But check out the size on that Yucca rostrata by the shed! It grew a lot last year and now stands about 6-1/2 feet tall.

Last weekend I got sidetracked (of course) with some repotting, like the squid agave in the culvert-pipe planter, which had settled too deeply and needed to be pulled out and replanted in added soil.

I also replaced a shaded-out yucca in the taller blue pot with a ‘Sparkler’ sedge I transplanted. I hope it’ll survive my tough love of containers this summer by not requiring more than a weekly or maybe twice-weekly watering. I’ve struggled to find a plant that likes the bamboo-shaded, dry conditions of the stock-tank planter. I’m going to try Texas sotol this spring.

I’m happy to see a freeze-damaged ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda coming back nicely in the smaller pot, alongside Mexican feathergrass.

I’ve also done some significant planting lately, including a new 5-gallon Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’ from Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery to accompany my prize-money yucca along the back fence.

I also planted a new and bigger Moby replacement — that is, a new whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia) for Moby’s old spot. I’ll have a post about agave-planting challenges soon!

I still need to tackle some pot clean-up chores, since December’s deep freeze made a mess of some of my succulents. Like this ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, for example. It’s normally beautiful at this time of year, with coral bloom spikes hoisted above slender, blue-green leaves. It’s blooming OK, but the fleshy leaves have bleached, frostbitten tips and would benefit from selective pruning.

The cinderblock succulent wall looks forlorn too, in spite of a brave show by the Palmer’s sedum (Sedum palmeri), which survived our freezing weather just fine and has been feeding honeybees for weeks. For future reference, other survivors include ‘Blue Spruce’ sedum, ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense), variegated prickly pear, and soap aloe with a little damage. I was most sad to lose my Coppertone stonecrop, but I can easily buy a new one, along with a few other small succulents, to refresh the wall planter this spring.

Like I said, it’s a busy time of year in the garden!

This is my February post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness — or dead-foliage clean-up chore — 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.

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The upcoming talk with James deGrey David has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

13 Responses

  1. This is that time of year when you go out to do one thing and you find six other things to do or to put on your list for later. It appears that your garden has survivied another winter in good shape. I really like that new yucca rostrata. Your garden helper seems to approved of all the outdoor work going on too.

  2. Laura Munoz says:

    I’ve been holding back on trimming of my dead foliage. I want to do it, but I’m not sure in zone 8a that it isn’t too soon. It’s hard to decide, but the “uglyness” is definitely motivating!

    Love the Palmer’s sedum and now that you say it survived the winter, I may try to buy some. It’s so pretty.

    Okay, your dog is SO CUTE! He upstaged your agave.

  3. It looks like your garden held up well over the winter months and I love your new additions! We are not quite at the point you are here on Long Island. The coating of snow has not melted on much of the grassy areas of the property but fortunately the garden beds are visible, giving some hope that spring is approaching. On less windy days I will venture outside to pick up fallen twigs and go view the Hellebores blooming. At this time of year foliage is the main interest. Here is my Foliage Follow Up for February at

  4. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Your dog is adorable! Cleaning up/trimming back the brown grasses and plants left for winter interest, shelter, and food is a sure sign that spring is just around the corner! It’s an exciting and busy time. Hopefully we’ll have a bit of a break in the rain this weekend and I can get out and cut back some things. I cheated this month and posted foliage from inside my greenhouse.

  5. Laurin Swango says:

    Looking great Pam! Really is a lot of work I bet.. I often forget how big your garden is.
    I mucked out my stock tank pond yesterday, really out of curiosity to see if I’d find any fish. They either hide in the murky water or are gone. I was afraid the water lily was dead cuz I’ve had no pads for months, but it looks fine.. I did not divide it yet, per your blog instructions.
    I need more anacharis, but we have no pond stores up here.. only Petco.. and they’ve been out. Calloway’s said they won’t have dwarf papyrus, so I settled on horsetail reed as my society garlic replacement.. Will probably just have to divide it constantly haha
    So excited for spring! Thanks for your posts!

  6. Alison says:

    Oh, I hesitate to post pictures of what needs cleaning up in my garden right now. It’s too ugly to share, I might blind people. Your Moby replacement looks great, and your nice tall Yucca rostrata is beautiful!

  7. We’re entering a warming spell and I thought the snow might melt enough by today to show what the foliage looked like at this point in the winter, the good and the bad. But still too much snow cover. I think we all should show more progress photos and when things don’t work. So often we want it all to look perfect which we can do in a photo that we carefully compose!

  8. Evan says:

    I know this is supposed to be about foliage, but the little Audrey II sticking out of the Mexican feather grass kind of stole the show for me, that and the photo of your dog with one ear sticking up! I’ve started cutting back and cleaning up in my garden, as well. It’s kind of cathartic, removing the damage of winter to make room for fresh new growth.

    My foliage follow-up this month is a mix of indoor and outdoor, all thrown together with my February blooms.

  9. Gerhard Bock says:

    You’ve made great progress. Much more than I have done because the rain keeps getting in the way (what an odd thing to say after 5 years of drought). But your post has inspired me to press on this weekend, provided we get a dry spell.

  10. Francine says:

    Another great post and your garden is looking good! I treated myself to some professional Japanese hedge clippers and it has made the pruning and clean up in my yard this year kind of fun ?

  11. Kris P says:

    I’ve been in clean-up mode myself. Most of my grasses, which were already sprouting new growth, have been cut back and I’ve planted a number of new purchases but I still need to trim some of the shrubs and trees, and I’ve yet to figure out what to do about the upper section of my back slope (which hasn’t been restored by the rain). Some of my rain-sodden potted succulents are going to need repotting or replacement too but I’m waiting for the heaviest period of rain to be over before starting that.

    My belated foliage follow-up post is here: Thanks for hosting, Pam!

  12. Rebecca says:

    Hi Pam, your yard looks great. I have a lot of perennials to cut back and weeds to pull. Working on it today with my hired help. I’ll take some before and after photos and link here when I post. Rebecca

  13. Renee says:

    I’m super late with my foliage post, but i distracted myself from the massive amount of clean up i need to do with pretty pictures of agaves… and i learned that those plant tags about final size aren’t kidding: here

    Thanks for hosting and the example of clean up!

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