Come see my garden on the Inside Austin Gardens Tour


The Inside Austin Gardens Tour is coming up soon, in a little less than two months, and my garden will be on it. This will be my first time on a public tour, and I hope that you’ll come and say hi.


I love the slogan for this tour — For Gardeners, By Gardeners — because it speaks to the accessibility of the 6 private gardens on tour. This is not a mansion-laden tour of gardens maintained by landscaping crews but a peek into gardeners’ gardens, with all the passions, quirks, and real-life trial-and-error they offer.


Each garden has a theme, and mine is “Oh Deer!” — for obvious reasons. My front garden is largely grassy, with scented and fragrant foliage that deters deer from browsing. They love to sleep in the sedge lawn, though. And yes, I’ll be glad to tell you all about the sedge as a lawn alternative for shade.


In back, where deer are fenced out, I cut loose and plant a variety of other things in terraced beds built around an existing swimming pool. Because of a dense canopy of live oaks, my garden tends to be evergreen, with pockets of seasonal color. It’s accented by a variety of agaves and yuccas, which I love for their sculptural beauty and Texas toughness.


The Inside Austin Gardens tour is held every 18 months (allowing for alternating spring and fall tours) and presented by Travis County Master Gardeners Association and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service-Travis County.


Tour tickets may be purchased online in advance for $19 or at any of the gardens for $20. Click here for tour information and ticket info.

Update 8/28: Also, see Lori Daul’s beautiful photos of my garden, which she took for the tour website.

Inside Austin Gardens Tour
October 17, 2015
9:00 am to 4:00 pm
6 private gardens and 1 public garden

I hope to see you then!

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

Mellow mallow on Monday


Mmmmm, I do love Indian mallow (Abutilon palmeri). Those velvety, lime-green leaves and stems! Those Creamsicle-orange cupped blossoms!


Its soft-orange flowers pop against cobalt blue.


Its pettable green leaves soften the blue stucco wall in the back garden, unfazed by blasting sun and heat.


Mmmm, mellow mallow


In the front garden, deer shun those fuzzy leaves and ignore the blossoms too.


Both plants did get an infestation of small, blue caterpillars earlier this summer. They devoured the leaves, disfiguring the plants. I handpicked the caterpillars every few days for several weeks, and that took care of the problem.


The plants recovered quickly and have been blooming for weeks — glorious!


Indian mallow is a cold-tender perennial in Austin, rated hardy to zone 9 (20 to 25 degrees F) — we, of course, are zone 8b. I brought one home from Tucson a few years ago, and it survived one mild winter before succumbing to the winter of 2013. It’s such a wonderful summer performer, however, that I’ve decided it’s worth growing one or two as annuals, so this spring I put in a request at Vivero Growers, and they got some in for me right away. (Love that place!) I’ll enjoy these as long as they last. Here’s hoping for a mild winter.

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

Stained-glass leaves and Crazy Eyes snake


Even a dark-green, fibrous leaf, like that of cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), glows like a stained-glass window when backlit by the setting sun. In the lowest, shadiest part of my garden, it fringes a native Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa), which is also aglow.


A tunnel of incandescent leaves. I caught the scene just before sunset and enjoyed the brief show.


The sun was already too low to shine through the new Yucca rostrata‘s leaves. The pale, crooked trunks behind it belong to a pair of Texas persimmons (Diospyros texana), which are loaded with fuzzy, green fruits right now.

Everyone who visits my garden asks about the limestone slabs back here. Yes, they are natural, and yes, they are cool. This part of the garden is basically floored with natural limestone.


Cosmo is standing on one of the large slabs of rock — it looks like a paved path, right? That’s a very slow-growing blue nolina (Nolina nelsonii) and a Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) in bloom just ahead of him.


Moby, my whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), poses with blue bottles from the bottle tree.


That’s all for now. It’s the weekend, so enjoy!

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