Autumn stroll around my garden


Autumn is my favorite season in the garden, when the Death Star abates and cool breezes blow in from the north, pushing that Gulf Coast humidity back to Houston where it belongs. The sky goes china blue, fall perennials burst into bloom, and fall-blooming grasses incandesce in the slanting sunlight.


I’ve been doing a lot of tidying and fluffing in my garden over the past few weeks because I had two photographers visiting plus a Garden Spark talk with 30 attendees who were invited to explore. And now I invite you to take a virtual stroll around the garden with me too.


But first, a salute for our tired old roof, which just got reshingled this week. It’s always a little stressful to have a roof torn off when you’re a gardener, but they were careful of the plants and I’m thrilled to have new shingles in an updated gray color.


In the island bed, ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum has grown to tall-dark-and-handsome proportions. The first freeze will turn it to brown straw, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.


Here’s the view from our front door, with dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), foxtail fern, pale pavonia, and ‘Sparkler’ sedge, my shade garden, deer-resistant faves.


Looking toward the house, with white skullcap, ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia, variegated flax lily, bamboo muhly, and ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge.


Entry garden, hot and dry on the left and mostly shady on the right.


I redid the right-side foundation bed a couple of months ago, adding and rearranging dwarf Texas palmettos, spreading plum yew, ‘Everillo’ sedge, and a potted ‘Pineapple Express’ mangave. The wire “ball weeds” adding height to the mangave pot are from redgrassdesigns on Etsy.


The dry side is a gravel garden with ‘Vanzie’ whale’s tongue agave, toothless sotol, red yucca, ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia, and dwarf myrtle, plus ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo.


Now let’s stroll toward the terraced bed by the garage, where ‘Green Goblet’ agave holds court with woolly stemodia and mullein (a volunteer mullein is blooming in the decomposed-granite path by the garage), with another ‘Vertigo’ grass glowing burgundy in the background. A trio of ceramic balls adds a little color.


Looking lengthwise across the front garden you see the Berkeley sedge lawnette and potted foxtail ferns on cantera stone columns. In the long view you can see ‘Pink Flamingos’ muhly blooms glowing pink.


A TerraTrellis tuteur echoes the color of the ceramic spheres and adds height to the sedge garden. I’m trying a dioon here too, a plant I’ve been wanting to grow for a while now.


Standing at the corner of my neighbor’s driveway, we get to enjoy a view of her whale’s tongue agave and autumn sage in full bloom, with my garden in the background.


Prior to the photographer visits, I didn’t want to put up deer caging around plants that the bucks like to antler. But the wide-leaf giant hesperaloe at the front corner of the garden is particularly vulnerable, so I improvised with these low-profile, bent pieces of cattle-panel wire. It worked, although I did see evidence of a little antler-rubbing damage this week, so I quickly put up deer caging around this plant, the ‘Green Goblet’ agave, and a small possumhaw holly.


The side-garden path, with a ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress visible beyond the gate. The path is lined with simple masses of pale pavonia, bamboo muhly, and inland sea oats.


A little stopping place along the path, with Mediterranean fan palm and blue mistflower attracting butterflies.


Self portrait in silver balls


In the back garden I have more leeway to play with plants that the deer would like to eat. Succulents are shown off in the cinderblock wall planter and in a narrow bed alongside the gravel path.


A closer view (here’s how I made it), with ‘Espresso’ mangave and squid agave in the foreground.


The upper patio was looking inviting prior to the roofing work, when I had to move everything away from the house. Oh well, it gives me a chance to powerwash the patio, which I’ve been meaning to do.


I enjoy my tentacled wall decor.


A closer look. In the green Crescent pot is a ‘Platinum Beauty’ lomandra I’m trialing from Southern Living Plant Collection.


I’m also trialing their ‘Marvel’ mahonia.


My new whale’s tongue agave, replacing Moby, who bloomed and died, is surrounded by silver ponyfoot.


Steps make a natural display space for potted plants (and are soon to be powerwashed!). Purple oxalis in a turquoise pot gets all the attention, of course.


Strolling past the pool and the raised bed behind the house, which is accented with a couple of blue pots


One contains a toothy, long-tongued Audrey monster.


The stock-tank pond garden is one of my favorite spaces.


The ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood spheres are recently clipped. I try to keep them all at the same height, even though one side of the garden slopes lower than the other, so as to create the illusion of level ground.


A slightly wider view shows the faux shed that my husband built to hide the pool pump equipment.


Bamboo muhly and ‘Color Guard’ yucca glow below the deck.


I recently replanted the lady’s head planter with succulent “ringlets.”


At the Alberta Street Fair in Portland this summer, I bought three metal dragonflies from Brian Comiso of Steelhead Metalworks. They ended up not fitting in my suitcase, so we borrowed a hacksaw and cut the stakes off, then had Bob of Gardening at Draco weld them back together when I got home.


Opposite the bamboo muhly and ‘Color Guard’ yuccas, a trio of squid agaves in culvert-pipe remnants stands amid white mistflower and forsythia sage.


Speaking of which, forsythia sage


Moving an umbrella stand revealed the hiding place of a striped garden snake, chilled in the morning air and not eager to move. So dapper in its striped suit!


It’s the time of year to admire the purple-black berries of Mexican beautyberry before the mockingbirds eat them all.


Another ‘Green Goblet’ agave, with dusty blue-green leaves, lolls in the lower garden beside a holey limestone boulder.


Strolling up the side path you pass a ‘Sapphire Skies’ Yucca rostrata, my oldest and biggest one. The ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress behind it echoes the frosty color, as does a blue pot.


At the gate, butterfly vine tumbles over the fence, its chrome-yellow flowers in full bloom.


Looking back down the path


Lori of The Gardener of Good and Evil gave me this ferox agave as a large pup from one of her giants. I planted it in a sapphire pot with blue-gray Mexican beach pebbles as a topper. Eventually (soon?) it’ll start pupping, but I love it as a solitary specimen.


Yucca rostrata and the stock-tank pond


Climbing up on the deck you see the sunburst pattern of the patio stones around the pond.


The other direction


A wider view


This adorable metal bat was a birthday gift from my mom.


And our stroll ends with a long view across the pond garden, lower patio, and swimming pool. Swimming season is definitely over. Patio season is well underway.

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

Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy on November 4.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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

33 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Do you see any differences between the Berkeley Sedge and the Scott’s Turf? I ask because I see some sedge figuring into the future of my garden.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Hi Chris. Yes, I do see a difference in how they’ve performed for me. I originally planted Berkeley sedge because I loved the big, fluffy look I saw on gardens on tour in this area. But in my own garden it’s stayed thinner and flatter than I’d like. So in my new sedge area by the house, I used ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge, which I’d grown elsewhere in my garden, and it’s looking just the way I wanted. So I don’t know what to tell you if you’re gardening in the Austin area. I’ve seen Berkeley sedge growing well here, but it just hasn’t been amazing for me. Maybe it needs more sun? Anyway, I now prefer ‘Scott’s Turf’ in my own garden (it’s cheaper than Berkeley too; find it at Barton Springs Nursery). —Pam

  2. I can tell you have your garden in tip top condition for this swing into winter. It is so well designed. Too bad those rascally deer misuse your garden.

  3. Steve Blackwell says:

    I just know you hear this all the time but, ” I love your garden.” It is so lush and well-designed. Such a different plant palette than here, in NJ. Your garden, and others I’ve seen from central TX, make me dream of creating a garden there that is lush with native/adapted plants, and not mostly gravel. LOL.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thank you, Steve. I really appreciate it. There’s a lot you can do here besides gravel gardens, although as you can see I enjoy a small one myself. Austin sits at the intersection of the South and the Southwest, so our gardens are naturally more lush, with 33 annual inches of rain, than, say, arid West Texas or Arizona. —Pam

  4. cat says:

    Your garden is looking divine! And, feet :)

  5. lcp says:

    Admit it: you have cloned yourself…there can be no other explanation for being able to maintain a garden in this gorgeous state and still produce all your Most Excellent Posts.

    The entire “stroll” is beautiful, of course, but I really love the first shots of the front garden – positively incandescent – and all the shots of the stock tank pond with your brilliant paver spokes (and if those new dragonflies suddenly “disappear”, I claim innocence!)

    Totally agree that this is the best time of year for Texas gardens – with yours in this state of perfection I hope you will have time now to just relax and enjoy it before our two-second “autumn” is gone….FANTASTIC JOB.

    (Oh! So a dioon is not just a very skinny sago? I must investigate…)

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Oh my gosh, how I needed a clone during the past two weeks. October always tantalizes as I look over my calendar on the 1st of the month — so many garden tours to attend, and outings to make in cooler weather, and gardening to do. And then it swamps me like a tidal wave! Of course I wouldn’t miss any of it. Well, maybe the pre-roofing prep this year.

      As for the dioon, it appeals to me much more than a bristly, oversized sago palm. A dioon looks feathery and airy by comparison. I think I first became intrigued upon seeing it at Hartman Prehistoric Garden, but it was Rollingwood Xeriscape Garden that sold me on it. I’m hoping the deer don’t decide to antler my new dioon baby to smithereens. —Pam

  6. It’s so exciting to see these stunning photos and know that I will finally get to see it all in person next year! And thank god for careful roofers!

    Love the Dioon, why did I have it in my head that you were not a Cycad fan? We’ve both got ‘Marvel’ Mahonia from Sunset, it will be interesting to see how they handle our different climates.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Because you pay attention! ;) I’ve generally not been much of a cycad fan because around here, sagos grow to ginormous proportions, and I find them overwhelming and not in a good way. That said, I have seen them used well, massed in an open matrix under trees, and it was very nice. But the dioon has slowly grown on me, especially when I saw it used at Rollingwood Xeriscape Garden (see link above in my reply to Linda). So now I’m giving it a try.

      And I’m very excited that you’ll finally be visiting Austin next year! —Pam

  7. rickii says:

    I want to climb right through the computer and settle down in one of those seating areas (after a prolonged walkabout). This post succeeds in giving a good feel for what you have accomplished.

  8. Kris P says:

    I enjoyed this garden tour tremendously, Pam! I don’t recall getting such a comprehensive sense of your garden prior to this post and, like Loree, I look forward to the opportunity to see it in person at the Austin Fling next year. I’d previously had no idea that the garden shed with it’s wonderful blue door was “faux.” I love the deck, the stock tank and of course the plants. I could do without the snake (even if it is good-looking) but, based on your laissez faire response to it, I trust that it’s more harmless than it looks.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I generally assume the best about snakes, and so far as I know we’ve only had one venomous snake in the garden, which only wanted to get away, so my experience with them has not been negative at all. Now if I ever see a rattlesnake in my garden, I won’t be so blase. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour and look forward to seeing you here next spring! —Pam

  9. Diana Studer says:

    Your garden has both a wide open expansive feel with generous paths, and unusual and interesting planting. (Your choices are lusher and leafier than they were when you moved there?) Everything is just right, just so.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks, Diana. Since you’ve asked, I’m trying to decide if my plant choices have become more lush and leafy over time. I don’t think so, but maybe it seems that way based on all the grasses I’ve planted because they are so deer resistant? —Pam

  10. Your autumn garden is gorgeous as usual! But it sure doesn’t look like the kind of autumn I’m used to here in the Midwest.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      No, I bet not! I’m always envious of the fall foliage other regions enjoy at this time of year. We do get a little fall color, but it comes later — in November and December. —Pam

  11. Evan Bean says:

    Thank you for the tour of your phenomenal garden! You’ve crafted such a wonderful space.

  12. peter schaar says:

    Looking good, Pam! You need to hire the snake to be a permanent fixture. He’s a beauty.

  13. Gail says:

    Delightful tour. There’s something inspiring in every photo. I sent my son a link to your concrete block wall. I think he would enjoy building one.

  14. Alison says:

    Thanks so much for sharing so many photos of your garden. There’s so much to look at, and it’s all wonderful! I enjoyed this tour very much. I can understand the roofing apprehension, my own house needs painting, and I worry about ladders and plants getting trampled. The new Moby has settled in and looks right at home. Great shot of the non-venomous snake (I like snakes, the non-venomous ones.)

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks, Alison. And good luck with your home painting. I hope you find one with a good reputation among fellow gardeners. So many contractors just don’t “see” the plants. But when you find one who cares, he’s a keeper. —Pam

  15. Linda Gurasich says:

    I attended your Garden Spark talk about saving water in the garden and I got your book. It inspired me and I came home looking at my front yard grass in a different way. I have now removed a big chunk and built 2 terraced beds sloping down from the street. I’m hoping to get plants next week. This post was so timely for me as I decide what to put in the sun and shady areas that will also be visited by the deer. I’d love to share before and after photos once completed.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Linda, I’m honored to know that my talk and book inspired you to reduce your turf grass and diversify your yard with some water-thrifty plants! Your new beds sound exciting, and I hope you will share some before-and-after pics. Feel free to share a few on my Facebook page so others can see the results too! —Pam

  16. Jenni says:

    Thanks for taking us on this fantastic tour! The ‘rooms’ you have created in your space is very inspiring. I imagine one could spend hours wandering about, seeing the details and enjoying the different feelings each space creates. Cheers!

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