Spring is abloom in shades of pink and turquoise

May 01, 2019

I haven’t done a photo tour of my own garden in a while, so let’s go, starting with a new planting of Gulf Coast penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) and winecup (Callirhoe involucrata), both Texas natives. Along with an artichoke — I’ve always wanted to try one — they’re enjoying some sun where a large Texas persimmon once shaded most of this bed.

The persimmon had been living on borrowed time for 10 years. From day one, I knew it was in the wrong spot, too close to the eave and tangling with a nearby live oak and crepe myrtle. But it was a beautiful tree, and I couldn’t bring myself to remove it — until I was forced to remove the dying live oaks. That day I took a saw to the persimmon for good measure. Farewell, persimmon! You served us well, but it was a case of wrong place, wrong plant, and you were too big to be squeezed into a narrow raised bed behind the house. Now other plants have room to breathe.

Bees are loving the Gulf Coast penstemon, which makes me happy.

Winecup flower — simply lovely

A trio of soap aloes (Aloe maculata) have sent up candelabra bloom spikes, also beloved by honeybees. These aloes are 10 years old, if you can believe it. I’ve kept them as solitary specimens by regularly culling the pups that appear around the base. Many of my friends have gone home with a few aloe pups.

‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia is also blooming, and that combo of frosty-eggplant leaves and creamsicle-orange flowers is one of my faves. Notice how the flowers echo the golden culms of ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo.

The long view. I powerwashed the limestone walls this spring, and what a difference it made. With all the black stains gone, it looks brand new.

The bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) along the deck remained green all winter, dodging damage from that late freeze — woot! But I’m having some trouble with one of my ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood balls, the one pictured in the foreground. The interior has thinned out, and there are yellowing leaves in the center. It doesn’t look like boxwood blight to me, but I’m not sure what’s wrong. (There’s always something, am I right?)

I would hate to lose the boxwoods that give such essential structure to my stock-tank pond garden.

The pond plants are filling in again, and a few ‘Colorado’ waterlilies have already appeared. They are so lovely.

So too is a crown of pink flowers on a potted mammillaria cactus on the deck.

More pink! Ice plant blooms next to a baby ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave. (Look at that clean wall. Ahh.)

And butter-yellow wands of hesperaloe (Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Yellow’) are popping up behind the pool.

The sinuous trunks of two Texas persimmons make an interesting frame for a Yucca rostrata and Katrina rose on the back fence.

Those roses! I know it’s not much, but this is the most my Katrina rose has ever bloomed, no doubt due to two live oaks coming down and opening up a bit more sun, plus all the rain we’ve had this spring. It harmonizes nicely with the nearly black leaves of ‘Sizzling Pink’ loropetalum, which enjoys a shadier nook.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has started to bloom, with a few Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) flowers wandering in.

Tempest in a Teapot

As we head uphill via the side-yard path, a ‘Sapphire Skies’ Yucca rostrata looms tall over the path. It’s taking on a distinct personality as it matures. ‘Wonderful’ pomegranate flowers at right. In the square blue pot halfway up the hill…

…’Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia is flowering, a solitary golden yellow pennant.

Looking back down the hill, the turquoise shed door picks up the pot color.

A wider view reveals a shade tunnel created by ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress and ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon. This strip gets hot sun, but agave, yarrow, prickly pear, and bamboo muhly grow well with little attention.

On the other side of the gate, you enter the deer-visited garden, so plant choices are grassy and herbal, with fibrous and/or fragrant leaves that deer don’t love. Under a Texas mountain laurel, inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) is unfussy and makes a lush, tallish groundcover. Sometimes a fawn will hide itself in here while its mother goes off to feed. On the right side of the path, bamboo muhly adds feathery texture, and shearing keeps it compact.

Here’s the view looking back down the path toward the gate. Under the live oaks, Brazilian rock rose (Pavonia hastata) blooms when the weather gets hot.

In the front garden, ‘Amistad’ salvia attracts bees and hummingbirds.

Texas sotol (Dasylirion texana) is sending up a spear-like bloom spike. Last year all my Texas sotols except this one bloomed, but at last it’s joining the fun. Beyond, Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) is a no-mow (almost; just once a year) lawn substitute.

Paleleaf yuccas (Y. pallida) are blooming alongside ‘Green Goblet’ agave. The deer have eaten some of the bloom spikes, even though I sprayed them with deer repellent, but a few still remain.

One of my favorite native plants is purple skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii), a tidy, green mound sprinkled with amethyst flowers. It grows in the hellstrip, in the hottest, driest, sunniest part of my yard, where every passing male dog lifts its leg. AND IT DOESN’T CARE.

I’ve massed groups of tough, deer-resistant, shade-tolerant plants along the driveway: foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri), ‘Micron’ dwarf yaupon holly, white skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens ‘White’), variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’), and bamboo muhly. A toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) grows in the tall corten planter and will eventually become a shimmering sphere of strappy leaves.

For contrast, I went goth in a section of steel pipe I’m using as a planter: three ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckias and a steel heart painted midnight blue.

In the island bed in the middle of the driveway, three dwarf Texas palmettos (Sabal minor) are, with every year, less and less dwarf-like. I’m loving those long-fingered leaves. Heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) will soon be flowering at the front of the bed.

On the garage wall, a steel planter holds a Coahuila lace cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus var. coahuila) sporting a blossom as large as the plant itself.

Shazam! There’s another bud as well, which I hope will hold off until this one is finished, extending the bloom time.

Since the deer decided, after 9 years of abstention, that our native river fern (Thelypteris kunthii) is a tasty treat, I looked around for a replacement and realized it was the perfect opportunity to try giant ligularia, aka leopard plant, aka tractor seat ligularia (Farfugium japonicum ‘Gigantea’). I’ve lusted after those round, glossy leaves for a while and noticed that deer don’t bother them in my neighborhood. But I assumed they were super thirsty. Well, I’m now giving them a try and will report again once they’re well established. They do need lots of shade, or they wilt alarmingly.

Through the gate and into the back garden again, the path leads past a small-succulent collection displayed in a cinderblock planter. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), sweetly fragrant, climbs the fence at right.

A barbed-wire star echoes the starry shape of a soap aloe in one of the “pie pan” wall planters.

From the path you get a long view across the back yard. I switched out the red umbrella this year for a minty green one, the better to blend with all the blues. You can’t fight a view-dominating turquoise pool, I’ve learned. Better to play along.

I also switched out a toothless sotol, which was going to grow too large for this fluted pot, for a wavy-armed squid agave (A. bracteosa). I dug up the squid from elsewhere in my garden, and he’s a perfect fit! The toothless sotol went to my friend Cat of The Whimsical Gardener, who wanted to try it in a pot in her side garden. I look forward to seeing how it works out for her.

A wider view

On the back steps of the house, I’m having fun with various colors of pots and shade-tolerant, low-maintenance plants. From top to bottom: ‘Sticks on Fire’ euphorbia, blue chalk fingers (Senecio vitalis), purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis), ‘Bloodspot’ mangave, an unknown aloe, and a ‘Peppy Le Pom’ pomegranate I’m trialing from Spring Meadow Nursery.

This patio enjoys welcome shade as we move into summer.

And the octopus wall planters and decor are goofy, poolside fun.

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