Hot and steamy Foliage Follow-Up

It’s August. It’s Austin. It’s incredibly hot and humid. Flowers for Bloom Day were pretty scarce, but foliage is, as always, carrying the garden through the toughest months. My faves for Foliage Follow-Up this month are visually cooling, with variegated or glaucous leaves. But really, anything that doesn’t wilt by 4 pm is making me happy these days.

PIctured above, ‘Sparkler’ sedge (Carex phyllocephala), a hard-to-find but interesting plant for shade. Those creamy stripes really brighten up a shady bed.

Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) ‘Blue Ice,’ with wintry blue foliage and a Christmasy scent all year long.

The ubiquitous purple heart (Tradescantia pallida), growing out of cracks between limestone slabs in the nearly untended lower garden. This is one tough plant for sun or shade.

Queen Victoria agave (Agave victoriae-reginae), opening up like a striped artichoke.

Another image of the lower garden’s largely self-sufficient plants: giant liriope, purple heart, cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), and Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa), with Texas nolina (Nolina texana) in the container at left. I didn’t plant a single one of these, with the exception of the potted nolina. Even though the liriope and purple heart are fairly prosaic, I’m happy to have their tough, ground-covering foliage in the neglected lower garden.

The agaves and aloes are always dependable in summer. This is the beautiful Agave americana mediopicta ‘Alba.’

Aloe saponaria

And my long-time favorite, ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia). If you stand in just the right spot and squint, the bottle tree behind it looks like an agave bloom spike.

Detail of the Whale. Aren’t those broad, blue-green leaves, shark-teeth thorns, and ghostly imprint patterns fantastic?

More succulent yumminess. From lower left, gopher plant (Euporbia rigida) and Yucca flaccida ‘Bright Edge.’ From upper left, santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus), Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies,’ ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo, and Agave americana ‘Variegata.’

Our native Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) has surprisingly large leaves for such a xeric plant. They look beautiful when the morning light shines through them.

Pittosporum ‘Creme de Mint’

I’ll end with the ruffly, speckled leaves of Manfreda undulata ‘Chocolate Chips.’

I invite you to join me in celebrating non-blooming garden goodness for Foliage Follow-Up. It’s easy to participate. Simply post about your favorite foliage plants for August, and leave a link to your post in the comments below. I look forward to seeing your high-summer choices.

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

28 Responses

  1. I like the self-portrait you snuck in!

    You noticed. ;-) —Pam

  2. meemsnyc says:

    Those agaves and aloes are so lovely! Just gorgeous!

    And they love the heat, which makes them even more gorgeous to me. I don’t have to stand over them with a hose. —Pam

  3. Pam,

    I love the whale’s tongue agave, it’s so aptly named. But then again, I love Queen Victoria and the Sparkler carex and …

    Here’s a link to my foliage follow up post:

    Thanks for joining in, Deb! I’m off to read your post. —Pam

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I like the idea that your bottle tree is an agave bloom. I took off my glasses and yep, it looks just like an unusual bloom. Love that ruffly chocolate chips Manfreda.

    Let’s just hope the Whale doesn’t decide to bloom for real anytime soon. I’m not ready to say goodbye to old Moby. —Pam

  5. I LOVE the idea that your bottle tree is an agave bloom! But the manfreda is my favorite foliage from this month’s follow-up.

    It’s a favorite of mine too, Kim. I coveted it for quite a while before I found one. —Pam

  6. Judy says:

    Love the detail of the Whale. What camera do you use? I don’t think my point-and-shoot would be up to this kind of picture.

    I use a Canon PowerShot S3 IS. It’s a point-and-shoot with a nice macro setting, but I think I zoomed in rather than macro-ing for the detail of the ‘Whale’s Tongue.’ —Pam

  7. Hi Pam,

    LOVED seeing all the succulents. I’m on the hunt for more sedums to use in my garden here in Leander.

    I noticed that you use a lot of galvanized metal containers in your garden. I love galvanized metals, but have been afraid to put plants in them. I figured the metal would fry their roots in our sun.

    Have you found this to be a problem?

    We have a new metal roof and I’m anxious to add more metal to my landscape designs.


    bobbi c.

    Hi, Bobbi. I have had no issues with the metal stock tanks frying any plants. But then soil is a pretty good insulator, and the stock tanks are pretty big, and I mainly grow succulents in mine, which aren’t that thirsty or wimpy about heat. I also see them used as planters all over town. Go for it! —Pam

  8. Alison says:

    I love that Manfreda ‘Chocolate Chips’ and the detail of the ‘Whale’s Tongue’. I so want a bottle tree!

    Here’s my link.

    Thanks for joining in, Alison. I’m trying the Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ too this year, and so far so good. By the way, if you’ll enable the Name/URL option in your comments, people who don’t use Google accounts to blog (like me) will be able to leave you a comment too. —Pam

  9. I Pam….so happy I can finally participate… and I think your garden looks fabulous, despite the heat.

    I’m happy you participated too, Loree, although any post you write is a great foliage celebration. —Pam

  10. Denise says:

    Pam, I’m seriously considering the AK bamboo to replace a poorly sited magnolia. What a great plant. That’s so funny about your “ubiquitous” purple heart. I really like PH but it refuses to grow for me! Happy FFU.

    Thanks for posting your foliage faves, Denise. You’ve got some really gorgeous plants in your garden. —Pam

  11. Jennifer says:

    Such pretty greens! I also love the green glass and the bright blue bottles.

    The colored glass subs in for flowers in my shady spaces, to some degree, and brightens up dark corners. I’m glad you like it. —Pam

  12. Jayne says:

    Wow that whale’s tongue agave is quite spectacular! Great foliage in your garden, even the untended part looks lush!

    The ‘Whale’s Tongue’ has grown quite impressive in size over the past year. I moved it to my new garden two years ago, but I don’t think that would be possible today. —Pam

  13. Diana says:

    Nothing in your garden is ever neglected! I have pretty much exactly the same foliage plants. Including the Sparkler Sedge I “stole” from you!!! I’ll post later this evening.

    Like I’ve said, sooner or later all the Austin garden bloggers will have the same plants. ;-) I look forward to your foliage post. —Pam

  14. RBell says:

    Leaves rule! Here’s my foliage follow-up:

    Thanks for playing along, RBell. I’m off to see what you’ve got going on, foliage-wise. —Pam

  15. Thanks for the reply, Pam! I already have an old tub I used to make a “hillbilly fountain” at one time (LOL), and was wanting to use it for a planter. I scored a sedum today on sale at Lowe’s, so will start with it.

    bobbi c.
    In Leander, where it’s thundering!

    You’re welcome. Have fun! —Pam

  16. I (finally) posted an orchid-themed foliage follow-up:

    Very cool, Kim. I like your new header too. —Pam

  17. You are an inspiration…as are the ruffles on that Manfreda. Thanks for creating this venue for leaf-lovers!

    I’m glad you joined in, Ricki. You have some cool and unusual plants in your foliage post. —Pam

  18. Caroline says:

    Love your sparkler sedge and chocolate chips manfreda. I hope my foliage “counts”!

    You’re showing off one of my favorite natives for shade, Caroline. Thanks for joining in. —Pam

  19. Pam~
    Always such a cool set of garden photos. Wow! That Manfreda is otherwordly! I’m thinking I might need to get one.
    I’m doing Foliage Follow-up again this month. I’m an unabashed foliage fanatic.
    Anyone can come visit at
    I’m over in Houston. :-) from, David
    P.S. I’m not sure I did the link correctly, so here’s plan B…

    Plan B worked like a charm. I love your selection of both spiky and lush foliage choices for August, David. —Pam

  20. andrea says:

    love that sparkler sedge, and the arizona cypress too. i’m a bit late to the party, but here’s a link to my foliage features, enjoy:

    Thanks for joining in, Andrea. —Pam

  21. I thought I was going to get a Foliage Followup post done at Hill Country Mysteries this month…but losing Harry and traveling and car mishpaps foiled the plan. Next month for sure!

    It’s always fun to see your pictures. I loved the Manfreda undulata “Chocolate Chips’ the last time I saw it.

    I can’t stop showing off that manfreda, Kathleen. It is such a ham for the camera! —Pam

  22. Christine B. says:

    I was pleased to see a Carex is doing well for you. That genus has been occupying my mind (but just a bit of my garden) for a few years now. I wish I’d see more of them for sale though!

    Where does one find so many blue bottles? I only need three to top off a copper veggie trellis and have scoured the state to no avail!

    I linked to you in my recent post on garden tours as you have taken so many and written (the photos aren’t bad either;) beautifully on the subject.

    Christine in Alaska

    I’m growing three different Carex: ‘Sparkler,’ Texas, and ‘Toffee Twist’ sedge. They’re all doing well. Most of my blue bottles were given to me by MSS at Zanthan Gardens. They were sake bottles, but I’ve seen water bottles and Chardonnay bottles that are deep blue. Expensive to get them that way though. I enjoyed your tour advice post! —Pam

  23. Donna says:

    I am in love with Agave and succulents. You have such beautiful varieties. Hard to have any success here in the Northeast unless they are house plants. I have many, mostly because they make new ones so frequently. Whale’s Tongue is my favorite, wish I had that one.

    I covet many of the plants you northern gardeners can grow that would melt in our heat. Plant lust goes both ways! I would gladly send you a ‘Whale’s Tongue’ pup, but it’s a non-offsetting species. I have seen it for sale online at Yucca Do and Plant Delights though. —Pam

  24. Jean says:

    They all look great Pam. You know, I didn’t realize until you mentioned it how unusual it is that the Turk’s cap has such large leaves for such a xeric plant. My Turk’s caps came back incredibly slowly from the winter freezes. So right now they’re pretty tiny. But I bought another one and am trying to figure out where to put it. I just love them. I’m also going to try to find that ‘Sparkler’ sedge. btw, next spring I can probably give you a boatload of Verbena bonariensis if you want them. They always seed out too much but they may not do that in Austin.

    I would love to have the verbena seeds, Jean. Thanks for the offer! ‘Sparkler’ is hard to find, for some reason. Over the years, I’ve bought some at Barton Springs Nursery and, most recently, at the Great Outdoors. But they haven’t stocked it consistently. —Pam

  25. All your photos are fantastic. That macro of the agave teeth is awesome. I have seen these imprints on my Parryi and they are so cool. Love your yard with great statues!

    Thanks, Candy. I’m glad you stopped by for a visit. —Pam

  26. Really loving the foliage you’ve got this month. Who needs flowers?!

    Who needs flowers, especially when so many succulents have a flower-like shape? Of course, the bees and butterflies wouldn’t agree, so flowers are good too. But foliage is definitely the main attraction. —Pam

  27. Layanee says:

    Gorgeous! You have the best foliage!

    I’m glad you like, Layanee. There’s a lot of lush foliage from your part of the world that I’d love to be able to grow though. —Pam

  28. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Hi ya Pam, I just got a foliage follow up posted.

    It’s never too late, Lisa! Thanks for joining in. —Pam