New shade sails and other garden goodness


We’ve always wanted shade for our deck, which is one of the few spots in our yard not overhung by live oaks. Facing south, it gets blasted by the Death Star all day long, and even our kitchen table overlooking the deck gets unpleasantly toasty by midafternoon.

A solution has proven tricky. The back of our 1970s ranch sports an unlovely variety of rooflines, making it difficult (and expensive) to build a pergola or attach an awning for sun relief.


Shade sails to the rescue! We’d thought about installing shade sails over the years but couldn’t find a local pro who’d take on a smaller residential project like ours. (Shade sails are popular in Austin in commercial or schoolyard settings, where they are used to shade playgrounds, sport courts, and restaurant patios.) We looked into ordering a sail from Coolaroo and hanging it ourselves, but so many DIY sails end up looking like loose, flappy tarps, and we weren’t confident in our ability to anchor it so that a strong wind wouldn’t rip it off our house — or rip a fascia board with it.


Happily, I finally found a professional installer right at the time we were refinishing our deck. Greg at Mueller Highlife custom ordered and installed two shade sails for us, one floating over the other, which function as a modern awning for our windows and back door and partially shade the deck.

For full shading, I could have ordered a larger rectangular sail, but I was determined not to block our view of the tree canopy, which we enjoy from our kitchen/dining windows. So we sacrificed on maximizing shade in return for an unobstructed view from indoors, and I’m happy with the compromise. And Greg did a great job, so give him a call if you need a sail for your yard.


Garden-wise, I’m enjoying all the beauty of late spring, including the beautiful flowering of a potted cactus.


It’s always incredible to me that spiny, seemingly inhospitable cacti can put forth these luscious blossoms.


The stock-tank pond is always a source of pleasure during the warmer seasons.


In Moby’s old spot, the new whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia) is settled in, with silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) and pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) filling in around it. In the lower terrace, ‘Macho Mocha’ manfreda, ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia, and a volunteer datura are ready for summer’s impending heat.


Moby 2 and pineapple sage


From the upper patio, here’s the succulent-filled cinderblock wall.


And the tentacle wall is coming along with the addition of a blue, beaded cephalopod from my friend Linda in San Antonio (to the right of the chartreuse pot).


Out front, ‘Green Goblet’ agave is recovering from deer-antlering damage in a bed of woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata), with a mullein’s yellow flower spike echoing the yellow blooms of Jerusalem sage in the distance.


I hope you’ll be enjoying your garden too this weekend!

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

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

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30 Responses

  1. Marsha McGuire says:

    Wow, my Pineapple Sage in the mountains of North Carolina is about 10 inches tall and will bloom just as the hummingbirds are getting ready to leave town in September. What a difference just a couple of zones makes. We are just barely in 7a.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      We’re zone 8b, and temps have been in the 80s for a while, even into the 90s a few times this spring, so no doubt that does make a big difference. Also, I planted these about a month ago, and while they weren’t blooming when I bought them, I’m sure that, coming pampered from the nursery, they had a nice head start. —Pam

  2. Jenny says:

    And just in time for this perfect sunny weather. Your cactus with the orange flower is a beauty and you know how much I admire your cinder-block wall.

  3. Renee says:

    Gorgeous! I spent today cleaning up my patio. Now I have time for some fun projects… I love your stock pond!

  4. It’s always fun to get the over all garden view from bloggers. So often we highlight specific plants without getting that broad view. Leave it to you to make mullein look good instead of weedy!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Ha! I did have to pull out the mullein soon after I took this picture. It had passed the point of no return. But I have seedlings waiting in the wings to take over. I love their fuzzy leaves! And I’m glad you enjoyed the wide views. —Pam

  5. Beth says:

    Love your color scheme all the blues and turquoises in your pots and such. Been wanting some ceramic garden balls, but haven’t been able to find them in my neck of the woods.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks, Beth. My shady garden is so evergreen that I tend to put a lot of color into the garden through pots and garden art. Blues make me feel cooler in summer under the Death Star. —Pam

  6. lcp says:

    love the new sails! (and what a great first photo)…the entire garden looks gorgeous, although I thought I spotted a missing stem of bamboo muhly? :)

    glad the octopus fit in: he looks happy….now relax & ENJOY everything!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Oh, you know, I’ll be puttering tomorrow, but I’ll try to relax at some point. The little octopus is getting along swimmingly with her new tentacled friends — thanks again! And yes, I feel sure there is a missing stem or two of bamboo muhly. Hmmm…Rock Rose…? —Pam

  7. Kris P says:

    The whole garden looks ready for a party, Pam!

  8. rickii says:

    I’ve been lusting after shade sails. Yours are perfect.

  9. Diana Studer says:

    Snap! Have just planted a tiny pineapple sage, which the sunbirds will enjoy.

    We need to organise some shade for the windows that catch the force of the afternoon sun.

  10. David C. says:

    Seeing a need for an Austin trip this next year or so, as I’m enjoying your garden more than my yard today! The 2nd pic is perfect for animal crackers and beer…

  11. Regina F says:

    My daughter would love the dark purple octopus planter for her air plant…where on earth did you find these lovely planters… We are from Texarkana and came down for the Austin garden tours and loved touring your garden…

  12. hb says:

    Nice shade sail. We went with exterior solar shades for defense from our blasting summer sun–the house stays so much cooler now.

    I missed the Moby offset post–my pair are growing in a protected baby plant nursery until they can get large enough to brave the slope. I prize them!

  13. The shade sails look perfect with your house and decor. The cactus head fellow is quite handsome.

  14. Laurin Swango says:

    We’ve had a couple triangle shade sales for a few years now and I’ve loved them. They’ve held up through the Death Star rays and crazy storms. I just take them down for the winter.
    Your garden is looking beautiful as always!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m glad to hear that your shades have held up so well to the Death Star and storms, Laurin. I’m planning to leave mine up all year, as Greg assured me they’d do well. No snow to worry about here, of course. —Pam

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