Mowing the sedge, and other expressions of hope for spring

Central Texas gardens got walloped by Old Man Winter this year, and a lot of plants that normally contribute to Austin’s evergreen palette — bamboo muhly, sago palm, flax lily, even ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo — are sporting sad shades of tan or brown. With a garden tour coming up in just 3 months, my emotions about this winter have ranged from pique to gloom. (Ironically, from a personal standpoint, I’ve enjoyed the cold weather and have been wearing boots, jackets, and scarves every time it dips below 65 F.)

Yesterday I made myself do one garden tidying chore — one thing that wouldn’t be too early (I’m still saving the big cut-back for closer to mid-February), and that would help prepare the garden for spring: I charged up the electric mower and ran it over the winter-browned sedges. What a difference it made for my mood and for the late-winter aesthetics of my garden.

Now instead of yellow-brown, tired-looking lumps, there are tidy tufts of emerging green leaves in the ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge “lawn” that I planted last February.

The more-established Berkeley sedge lawn in front of the house got a few passes with the mower too, and now it looks very much like a shorn traditional lawn. It’s funny how mowing those sedges turned into an act of faith that spring will return and green things up again.

There are other things that need tidying, like my “totem pole” prickly pear that fell over in our first winter blast. Drat!

Here’s how it looked a few months ago, growing straight and tall like no Opuntia I’d ever seen. It should be easy to replant by sticking the broken end into the soil, although it’ll have to be staked.

I’m not sure if two of my ‘Platinum Beauty’ lomandra trial plants will pull through. I planted them in the front garden last fall, eager to see how they’d hold up in dry semi-shade and with deer. No problem there, but two deep-freezes-for-days later, they’re bleached and brittle.

Ah, it kills me! Still, I see a little fresh green at the base of the plants, so I’ll leave them alone for now and wait until after our last freeze date to cut them back and see if they recover. The third trial plant is in a container up by the house, and it came through the freezes just fine with a protective cover over it. I covered the two in the ground too, but they are in a more exposed location.

More brown, which should be evergreen, around the pool: a brown hedge of dwarf Barbados cherry continues to provide structure on the left, but brown stems are all that remain of a beautiful stand of Mexican honeysuckle at the far end of the pool. I can only avert my eyes for now and hope for a recovery by early May.

But why dwell on the brown when I can dwell on the green? And there’s still plenty of it, like the blue-green of paleleaf yucca underplanted with heartleaf skullcap…

…and silver Mediterranean fan palm doing its year-round fan dance.

We just need to keep the green in our hearts a little while longer. Spring is coming.

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17 Responses

  1. Kris P says:

    I hope the garden pulls itself together quickly once winter’s chill passes, Pam. It looks as though Cosmo is perfectly happy with the weather right now but I can appreciate the anxiety you feel about the impact of your unusually cold conditions – at the opposite end of the spectrum, we’re getting unusually warm (nearly HOT) weather and zip in the way of rain. Drought is once again becoming a very real prospect.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Today was beautiful — high of around 65 and sunny. That’s how winter is supposed to be here! But as you say, there’s always an opposite extreme, and I’m sorry to hear you’re facing drought and heat at the time of year when L.A. should be getting a good drink of water and mild temps. —Pam

  2. Pamela Duffy says:

    How did your Tangerine Beauty cross vine hold up? I have them on each end of my arbor here in San Antonio and they look a little crispy. Do you know if they leaf out on the old vines or will they have to be cut to the ground? Pam

  3. Saurs says:

    (Ironically, from a personal standpoint, I’ve enjoyed the cold weather and have been wearing boots, jackets, and scarves every time it dips below 65 F.)

    I always feel like a complete lightweight when I admit to doing the same, so I’m glad to hear other people think 65F and under is uncomfortably cold without a wardrobe adjustment.

    I really enjoy the way that sedge looks after you tidied them with the mower. I’ve got large expanses of clumping turf-substitutes (cold and warm season both) that I planted and sowed for the sole benefit of dormant “color” (beige, mustard, and an almost-violet tan count as colors, right?!?!), but we’re already experiencing a kind of soul-shattering drought here in inland southern California — a dismal prospect in a wet-winter climate — and I can’t bear to look at them any longer, so I’ve trimmed and thinned mine, as well. Normally I’d let them enjoy the rainy season and only apply shears to revive them at the tail-end of March, but I’m scared about their long-term prospects in a potentially rain-less and unseasonably warm future.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Drought not only damages the garden but the gardener’s morale, so I’m sorry to hear that your region is still in the grip of it, Saurs. I hope you get some much-needed rain very soon. —Pam

  4. You have your garden looking mighty tidy for this time of year. This has been a true winter. Last year I didn’t ever wear a turtle neck shirt. This year a day hasn’t gone by without this winter warmer. Spring is coming…I hope.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Well, the sedge is tidy! Everything else is still blowsy and brown, at least for a couple more weeks. Mid-Feb. is our big cut-back time in Austin, and it’ll be here soon. Then I’ll know for sure that spring is right around the corner. —Pam

  5. Cosmo looks so darn cute on top of your grey wall, “hey mom, you’re taking a picture of me right? Not those silly plants…”

    I hope spring comes early and your garden greens up in record time. Not that any of us will mind either way, you’ve still got so much going on!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’ll mind, but I appreciate the sentiment. Spring typically roars into Texas in a hurry, so I know most of the garden will be as it should be. And I’ll just spray-paint the rest — ha! —Pam

  6. rickii says:

    The totem pole Opuntia is so unusual…I love it!

  7. Anna says:

    Where did you get that wonderful metal garden rabbit? Love your blog and books.

  8. How lovely it must be to know that spring is near! We still have plenty of true winter to get through here in Ohio, but in some years I do see iris reticulata at the end of February. Perhaps spring isn’t so very far away after all.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      There are pros and cons, Robin. I do love our mild winters here in Texas. But spring comes on in a rush, and then it’s summer by late May. And I do mean SUMMER, which lasts until early October. I don’t ever fantasize about having a long, cold winter, but I do envy the long, lovely springs and falls of more northern states. —Pam

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