Plant This: Nabob abutilon


I opened the Plant Delights catalog recently and was coveting the rich-red ‘Voodoo’ abutilon in its pages, though balking at the shipping cost. A few days later I found ‘Nabob’ abutilon at Vivero Growers right here in Austin and scooped up three of them. Y’all know how much I love red!

Both ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Nabob’, pictured here, are said to be root hardy to 20 degrees F. Abutilon flowers in the cool season in Austin, and I hope ‘Nabob’ will become as dependable as the unnamed pink abutilon I got at Barton Springs Nursery, the ‘Bartley Schwarz’ I got at Plant Delights (low-growing and best suited to a pot so you can see its drooping blossoms), and the variegated ‘Souvenir de Bonn’, all of which have been blooming off and on this winter.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

The boy’s back in town! Mr. Screech Owl, that is


Guess who just got back today
That wild-eyed boy that had been away
Haven’t changed that much to say
But man, I still think them owls are crazy

With apologies to Thin Lizzy, I did feel like shouting with joy when I looked up from my yard work on Sunday and spotted the first screech owl of the season in the neighbor’s ligustrum, a favored owl perch every year. I assume this is a male, scouting for nesting locations, and of course I hope he’ll choose our owl box for his lady love. The owl box has attracted a screech owl pair every year since 2010.

If there’s a female already in the box, we haven’t spotted her yet. I think it’s a bit early for brooding, since we usually see chicks in May. Until then, my fingers are crossed, and I’ve got the camera with the long lens at the ready. It’s bird-watching season at Tecolote Hill!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

If I’d gnome you were coming: February Foliage Follow-Up


Can it already be mid-February and time for Foliage Follow-Up? Here in Austin, winter may yet drop in for a surprise visit, but spring has already stepped inside and hung up her coat and hat. She’ll be putting her feet up on the ottoman soon. I saw a Mexican plum in full bloom today, as well as a row of yellow daffodils. Primrose jasmine is flowering too.

But Bloom Day was yesterday. Today we’re giving foliage special recognition. As is so often the case in my garden, succulents are stealing the show. The little gnome is surrounded by ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense), Sedum acre ‘Elegans’, and coppertone stonecrop (Sedum nussbaumerianum). All three make it through our winters with only a sheet for protection. In the red pot is a Yucca desmetiana ‘Blue Boy’, which I got at Annie’s Annuals a couple years ago. In winter it regains the purple coloring I bought it for (it turns green during our hot summers).


In the cinderblock wall planter, the succulents have held on through winter very well — so far. After last year’s deep freeze, I had to replace many of them, but in mild winters most survive. One is even blooming.

Every time I show the cinderblock wall, people email to ask how the soil stays in the pockets, so here’s my wall-making tutorial. All mystery is revealed there!


‘Blue Elf’ aloe’s blue-green, spear-like leaves are always attractive. As a bonus, at this time of year it sends up asparagus-like bloom stalks, whose tubular orange flowers are just beginning to open. This aloe benefits from a heat-holding wall in winter, and I throw a sheet over it when a hard freeze is expected. Sometimes its flowers are killed by a late freeze, but most years it gives a good show.


So what sort of foliage is making you happy in your February garden? Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage plants their due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I really appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.