Plant This: Texas persimmon

One of my favorite small trees for winter interest is Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), which occurs naturally in central and south Texas but is found as far east as Houston and as far west as Big Bend National Park. This picture, which I took at a client’s house yesterday, shows why you’d want it in your garden: just look at those milky white, muscular trunks and branches! They attract attention all year but really stand out during our quieter winters, when gray-green and tan are the dominant hues. I like how these homeowners have planted deep-green rosemary beneath their stand of persimmons, offering a nice contrast with the white trunks.

In my own garden, I inherited a number of Texas persimmons, several of which are growing in cracks between huge slabs of limestone. This is, as you can see, a tough, drought-tolerant tree. Growth is slow, and so it’s probably priced higher than faster-growing trees at the nursery. Give it well-drained soil and full sun to part sun.

I think Texas persimmon looks best pruned up into a multi-trunked small tree, like a crepe myrtle, the better to show off the white trunks and branches. Unlike a crepe myrtle, however, Texas persimmon lacks showy, colorful flowers, and its leathery, small leaves aren’t much to write home about either. It’s really all about the bark and shapely limbs.

Texas persimmon is described as semi-evergreen. In Austin some trees drop their leaves in winter (like the ones pictured at top) and others, like mine, simply thin out and then drop their leaves in late winter, with only a month of bare branches before the new leaves appear. Others, especially further south, hold onto their leaves all winter and only drop them as the new leaves come in, just as live oaks do.

The small black fruit (about 1 inch diameter), which appears in early fall, occurs only on female trees. All my trees are male, apparently, because I never see any of the dark, berry-like persimmons, which are edible and also a favorite of wildlife. That’s fine with me, since my biggest Texas persimmon hangs partially over our pool. Update 8/15: One of the trees does actually produce fruit, so I know it’s female.

So if you need a 10-15 ft. tree for a hot, sunny spot with rocky soil, or even a well-drained spot with some clay and some shade, try Texas persimmon. Look for it at Barton Springs Nursery, the Natural Gardener, or the Wildflower Center’s spring native-plant sale.

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 © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Early autumn color at the Wildflower Center, part 1

Showy palafoxia (Palafoxia hookeriana)

That first hit of cool autumn air early last week sent me running (well, battling Austin traffic) for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Arriving on a solemn, overcast morning, I was surprised to see quite a few other visitors there too. But that’s what happens when the Death Star finally relents.

Let’s go for an early-fall stroll through the gardens. The stone aqueduct in the entry garden is cloaked in soon-to-be-reddening Virginia creeper.

A hint of orange appears on some of the leaves already.

But quieter shades of green and gray prevail at this time of year, like the sculptural trunks of this Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), framed by an evergreen backdrop of junipers.

Near a pond and trickling fountain, a line of cute little ferns caught my eye. The yellow flowers and tufted greenery below are four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa).

Jamaican sawgrass (Cladium mariscus ssp. jamaicense), a strong performer in summer, is still looking good around the blue-hole pool in the courtyard, although the hibiscus (at right) is fading fast.

Lavender spires of liatris, or gayfeather, are a sure sign of fall. It was flowering in the courtyard…

…and in the main garden meadow along with yellow sneezeweed (Helenium amarum).

Some swaths of it had already blackened and gone to seed, though still providing interesting punctuation marks amid the meadow flowers and grasses.

A wider view shows frothy foliage and sparkling yellow flowers of prairie broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides).

Pruned-up yuccas stand tall at one end of the meadow, adding strong structure amid billowy Lindheimer’s muhly grasses.

A vertical yucca echoes the landmark spiral tower in the background.

More showy palafoxia (Palafoxia hookeriana)

In the woodland stream garden, I spotted a new-to-me plant: Texabama croton (Croton alabamensis var. texensis), which is part of the spurge (euphorbia) family. At a distance this deciduous shrub would be easy to overlook.

But up close, the foliage seems to sparkle with pairs of small, silver leaves laid atop bouquet-like clusters of dusty-green leaves.

Here’s something else I’d never seen: the pear-like fruit of red buckeye (Aesculus pavia var. pavia).

In the demonstration garden, a long grape arbor, viewed from the side, frames a view of a formal native-plant garden in the distance.

A big silver-blue agave looks great at any time of year.

The elaborate showiness of passionflower always captivates me.

But simple sunflowers are lovely too.

The Wildflower Center was my earliest inspiration for making my own stock-tank pond, and they still have several examples throughout their gardens.

In the shade, a showy fall combo of American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) and inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

More American beautyberry backs a rustic bench under a shade tree.

In the butterfly garden, tall daisies (or sunflowers?) were providing their own rays of sunshine on this cloudy day.

A woodland path leads to the family garden, and I set off in that direction…

…where for now I leave you to ramble under the trees.

By the way, I’ll be at the Wildflower Center’s member’s day Fall Plant Sale on Friday, October 14. I’ll be signing books from 1 to 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. Even if you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. I hope to see you there!

Up next: Part 2 of my visit to the Wildflower Center, with bees, butterflies, and other buggy critters enjoying the plants along with human visitors.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets are on sale at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Magical mosaics in the garden of Wouterina De Raad, Part 2: Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling

Yesterday I shared Part 1 of my visit to Wisconsin artist Wouterina De Raad’s mosaic sculpture garden, which was the final garden — and my favorite — on the recent Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling. Today I’ll end my Fling series with Part 2 about Wouterina‘s delightful, exploratory garden.

In addition to Wouterina’s fanciful sculptures, the exuberant garden is accented with a half-dozen small structures like this stucco (or concrete?) “little house” with sky-blue trim. They make charming focal points and backdrops for plants and sculpture, like the Statue of Liberty pictured at right.

Check out this supersized fish bench, with a mosaic-tile woman reclining like Jonah in the whale!

In another part of the garden, three human figures are actually chairs themselves.

They even have flowerpot heads.

This one wears succulents in her hair and bracelets on her arm.

Many of Wouterina’s creations wear strings of lights, and this piece looks like an actual lamp. How I’d love to visit her garden at night. I did find this article in the StarTribune that has a couple of photographs of the garden lit up, so check it out.

Another little house — this one colored a rosy salmon. Two sculpted jaguars support a bench by the door.

Wouterina has matched plants to the house color, amplifying the effect.

Peeking in the window of one little house reveals an audience of Wouterina’s creations peering back at me. In a nod to the farm country that surrounds the garden, a rusty old toy truck transports toy horses, cows, and ears of corn!

Behind the house, another arch supports a sculpted snake — who seems to be reading the “Outhouse” sign.

A flock of mosaic crows or ravens occupies this corner of the garden, including one at a birdbath…

…two on an arch, and two more on stumps up ahead.

In a sunny spot, with a big barn as a backdrop, crimson poppies spill over a low fence made of windmill blades.

Behind the poppies, Wouterina grows rows of vegetables, and mesh stars dance along an old section of iron fencing.

I remember asking someone what this plant is, but I forgot. Update: It’s a thalictrum. Thanks, Helen!

Foliage color contrasts

Allium seedheads and a mermaid figurine

A wider view…

…with a mosaic fish sculpture swimming above the garden.

The underwater theme continues with a mermaid and fish sculpture.

What is she holding up, a lamp? Again, I’d love to see this place at night.

Horsetail fills a fish planter at her feet.

I spotted Susan and Layanee sitting on a sculpted bench nearby, engrossed in conversation. What a spot for it.

A glimpse of farmland just past the garden’s edge

A playful bench and table set is another Wouterina creation. The benches are, I think, caterpillars with distinctly cat-like faces. A colorful sculpted bird sits on this one’s head.

And a monkey (?) takes this one for a ride.

Near a chicken coop stand two more sculpted birds.

A mermaid in dramatic repose

Oh, hello!

Tucked amid plants, a sculpted blue jay planter contains a flowering hosta (surely the signature plant of this year’s Fling).

A mosaic planter and pedestal are softened by surrounding grasses.

This chicken throne invites the Chicken Queen — whoever that might be — to take a seat.

Wouterina likes to elevate pots on pedestals in her garden beds, like this one tucked amid white and pink yarrow. Looking on in the background…

…are a sculpted woman holding birds and plants and her companion, a red-crested bird.

In a sunny spot at the edge of a field, I found another small garden room. At the end of the path, arches of rebar stand out against the sky.

Beneath the rebar arches, a sculpted planter draws the eye…

…to a view of the field beyond.

The ground-level view is lovely too, with contrasting foliage colors and textures.

As our visit drew to a close, I lingered near the house, where I found this tiered birdhouse…

…and an alert dog watching from the hydrangeas.

He looks friendly, doesn’t he?

As I reluctantly headed to the bus, I overheard Vicki asking Wouterina about a lovely little euphorbia.

Like giving gardeners everywhere, Wouterina immediately offered her a division. Lucky Vicki!

My thanks to Wouterina for sharing her magical creation with us. And huge thanks to the organizers of the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers FlingAmy Andrychowicz, Kathleen Hennessy, and Mary Lahr Schier — for all their work in putting together a wonderful weekend of garden tours, happy hours, and dinners! If you’re a garden blogger and are interested in attending next year’s Fling, it will be held in the Capital region — Washington, D.C., northern Virginia, and Maryland — and hosted by Tammy of Casa Mariposa (click for early details). Hope to see you there!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing many of the gardens of the Minneapolis Fling. For a look back at Part 1 of Wouterina De Raad’s Mosaic Sculpture Park, click here. You’ll find links back to all my Minneapolis Fling posts at the end of each post.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.