Cool summer color in foliage & flower


The beautiful, powder-blue leaves of Wheeler’s sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri) show that garden color need not be all about flowers, even in summer.


Its soft blue is the visual equivalent of a tall glass of ice water on a hot day.


Similarly, the glaucous foliage of these xeric plants adds cool color in a raised bed. The big, blue agave is my beloved ‘Whale’s Tongue’ (Agave ovatifolia). In front, from right to left, are Agave americana mediopicta ‘Alba’ (in tin pot), Agave victoriae-reginae, purple skullcap (Scutellaria drummondii), silver santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus), ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda (M. undulata), Gazania, santolina, and gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida). The purple flowers cascading from the right are winecups (Callirhoe involucrata), a few of which are still blooming in summer’s heat.


A closer look at the scrumptiously named, wavy-leaved Manfreda undulata ‘Chocolate Chips.’


Agave stricta has a nice blue-green/chartreuse color scheme going on.


But for those who crave cool summer color that isn’t spiky, how about pink abutilon?


This is its first summer in my garden, planted amid live oaks in dappled shade. It is holding its own in dry shade with a single weekly watering. It also survived last winter’s deep freeze—pitifully, mind you, but it did survive.


Pam’s pink Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus ‘Pam Puryear’) is a soft-hued alternative to our native red Turk’s cap. I find it to be not quite as hardy or vigorous as the red variety, but it’s still performing well in dry shade with a little morning sun.


And, surprise! The ‘Etoile Violette’ clematis has offered up a summer flower. It blooms heavily for a short time in spring, but this is the only flower on it right now. All the more reason to enjoy it.

Stay cool!

All material © 2006-2010 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

16 Responses

  1. Sylvia (England) says:

    Pam, is it my imagination, or the photo, but has your “beloved Whale’s Tongue” grown a lot since you moved it to your new garden? It certainly looks happy in it’s new home and enjoying the company of other spiky plants. I don’t grow spiky plants (other than roses and gooseberries!) but I do have some abutilons which are doing very well this year despite the cold winter. I liked the grasses in your last post as well but your choices do not like our usual cool summers.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    It is NOT your imagination, Sylvia. I have noticed that the Whale is now leaning toward the sun, and its leaves have lifted significantly this year, which makes me wonder if it’s about to bloom. I’m keeping a close eye on it these days. —Pam

  2. They are like looking at a tall drink of water. Did I tell you I bought another smaller agave? I am going to bring it in somewhere to save it for next year. (Fingers firmly crossed). Yes, a beautiful, natural pool, that’s what looking at agaves transports me to. Thanks.~~Dee

    My fingers are crossed too, Dee. I bet you’ll have better luck overwintering this one. —Pam

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It doesn’t matter if it is hot or warm the agaves and other succulents appear to be cool as cucumbers.

  4. Your agaves are looking so nice. Makes me want some more.
    My pink turk’s cap froze last winter. I haven’t replaced it yet. The red might be a better bet for here, though.

    Looks like summer is finally here. Stay cool. You have some good colors, to help.

  5. Loree says:

    I enjoyed your cool blue spiky numbers!

  6. Hi Pam,
    Always so much fun to see your garden! I wanted to ask about the agave beetle. Have you had any more problems with it? I was worried when I read you had found some in your garden awhile back. I grow agaves as well and needed an update. BTW: I just posted about some agaves that tolerate Houston’s humidity.
    Thanks,
    David at Tropical Texana :-)

    David, I have not lost any more plants to the agave weevil so far, but I talk to Austin gardeners all the time who have suffered some losses, so I know the weevil is active here. —Pam

  7. David C says:

    Thanks for cheering me up on this hectic day! I am glimpsing out my office window at our Dasylirion wheeleri, Agave scabra, and A. havardiana with new interest; I take them for granted.

    True – “a tall glass of ice water on a hot day.”

  8. The Whale’s Tongue is such a fabulous architectural plant. I think it would scare any deer! The abutilon is lovely.

  9. Sigh. Agaves are just so…elegant, aren’t they? Excuse me while I indulge in a little agave-envy. The other plants are beautiful (and I can grow them) but those agaves are just so cooling and splendid.

  10. That Chocolate Chips is divine! Glad you’re reminding folks of the power of green.

  11. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Once the weather cools down a bit, I’m looking forward to adding more Agaves to the garden. They might not mind being planted in this heat but the Head Gardener has NO desire to wrestle with them in such inclement weather!

  12. Lola says:

    Gorgeous. Sure wish my plants looked half as good.

  13. Randy says:

    Pam,
    You’ve just help me identify a mislabeled clematis we got a couple years ago. Thanks!

  14. I MUST get my hands on Manfreda ‘Chocolate Chips.’!!! Its such a cool plant! Love the blues of your succulents.

  15. Gail says:

    It makes perfect sense to me that these blue greens offer a cool respite from the heat. Love the Agave stricta and Pam’s Pink, gail

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