Sharing Nature’s Garden

How to prune sago palms after damaging winter…

Were your sago palms damaged by the two 21-degree days this winter? Here is my pruning advice for regaining a beautiful plant.
Sago palms are not really palms at all, they are cycads and date back to prehistoric times.  Their striking sculptural form makes them a dramatic landscape addition.
This winter was just a little too cold for some sagos – damaging some leaves on many plants around town.  But don’t give up yet, unless the center crown turned to mush, you can just prune off all of the leaves because fresh new ones really will emerge again. If there are only a few remaining undamaged leaves – they’re not necessary — just cut them off and the new ones will lower and fill in beautifully!
By | April 3rd, 2017|pruning, Sago, Sharing Nature's Garden|3 Comments

The spring garden…pots, pots and more pots!

Spring is usually pretty warm here in Central Texas, and this year is no exception.  A few spring bloomers actually had a shorter lifespan because it got hot pretty quickly, but it’s been delightful to see Jerusalem sage, salvias and black foot daisies in bloom.

I’ve spent the last week or so working on clean-up chores and some planting.  We had company for dinner outside last night and so Friday and Saturday were spent planting the pots on the back patio and scrubbing the oak pollen and blowing leaves. (It’s all back this morning – with a vengeance – but it’s a rite of passage and I know it won’t last forever.)

I had a great idea as I was trying to be efficient in crafting combinations for the outside pots — take a picture of each pot so I could see what was missing or what was already in a pot nearby so I could coordinate colors, textures, forms, etc.  Wow.  What a smart idea.  And then I forgot to do it and  I still found myself at the nursery buying annuals trying to remember and guess and buy enough.  I always think of it like Thanksgiving dinner – you have to finish with that perfect combo of food on your last forkful, or you need more potatoes, or gravy…  I need another filler, or another spiller…  If you’re addicted to pots like I am, you get it.

And, yes, every year — EVERY year — I say …less pots, less pots…and then plants just jump into my nursery cart.

They’re all so pretty and bright.

I love all the hot, tropical color combinations.

Of course the dogs have to help!

It looks so inviting.  I wanted to sit down, I really did, but there was pollen to blow!

This is my favorite spot.  I’ll get to sit there soon — maybe tomorrow morning with a quick cup of tea before the week hits in full force.

Itching and inspiration in the garden…

It’s that time of year when I’m just itching to get into the garden.  Our yo-yo weather has vascillated from 90-degree days to drenching and seemingly endless rain.  My spring flowers are performing as predicted and I’m enjoying the bright blooms of Japanese Quince, daffodils, and bletilla.

Japanese Quince

The ornamental cabbages in the giant pots by the pool have never looked better, but I’m already eager to get started on starting the summer container plants in there.  I’m suffering from that in-between indecision about the timing of out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new.

Bletilla Striata – Ground Orchid

And the wisteria is starting to bloom on the back fence.

Wisteria

A few days in the 80s and even 90 and the variegated shell ginger and esperanza, Tecoma stans, are growing by leaps and bounds.  It won’t be long before they will form a beautiful wall along the pool and cabana walkway.

 Variegated shell ginger and esperanza

Daffodils dot the landscape like pinpoints of summer sunbeams.

Daffodil

Daffodil

I’ve also been planting on these gorgeous days.  I’m eager to see the structure that these new Mexican tree ferns will add to this mostly shady spot.

Mexican tree fern

The promise of spring and foreshadowing of summer energize me to dig in the dirt now, while the days are warm and welcoming.  So many projects…so little time!

Spring has sprung in the garden…

It feels like spring here in Central Texas, with sunny, 85-degree days dotting our early February weeks.  That might sound  more like summer to gardeners far north of here, but it’s heavenly spring for us.

The Japanese Quince has been blooming since the cooler, late-fall days, drawing butterflies to the sole flowers in the winter garden.  I’ve had a few white cemetery irises bloom and the peach irises opened up this week.  When I checked early this morning, I did detect the faintest sweet scent in the peach ones.

A few daffodils have opened.  A labeling failure two years ago is to blame for my not knowing each variety, since I do collect new ones each year.  But I recognize the Tete-a-Tetes and they’re starting to open in different parts of the garden.

Then yesterday, the Mountain Laurels burst forth.  I’d been eyeing the buds for several days, and trying to catch a whiff of the grape Kool-Aid aroma they dust on the breeze.

I banned myself from Facebook this morning because it’s been eating my mornings.  So, what do I do then?  I take the scissors outside and look for blooms to bring indoors!  I tried to put a peach iris with this little posie, but it was too big and didn’t work with these delicate little flowers, so I put it in its own vase.

Now, spring has sprung in my kitchen and it smells delicious — just like grape Kool-Aid!

Plants that shine in the winter garden…

After a few days and nights at 21 degrees, my Central Texas garden took a serious hit last month.  But, we were due.  Last year it didn’t freeze at all in my garden, so you can imagine how huge some of our perennials were by the end of 8 seasons of growth!

Our typical winter includes a few freezes, but the temperature dips to around freezing for a few hours and then climbs right back up during the day.  Not so this year.

I’m leaving the last of the fall leaves in the beds to help protect the plants and provide habitat for bees, so you are going to see the good, the bad and the very ugly.  It’s an all-exposed tour.  Viewer discretion is advised — you may need to avert your eyes in some parts!

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While the ferns and the bletilla striata are dormant, he dry creek pathway is lined with hellebores, a few sedges, a few cephalotaxus prostrata.  Mostly out of view on the left are two leatherleaf mahonias.

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The brilliant yellow berries on the mahonias add great color to the garden on gray winter days.

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In drought years, the foliage of the hellebores disappears in the summer garden, and reappears in fall and through the spring.  I have a collection of different varieties.  Below is a winter photo of my favorite – ‘Phoebe,’ from several years ago when we had snow.

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Isn’t that a gorgeous bloom?

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Where the path diverges, a few more sedges and a standard Japanese aralia and a variegated Japanese aralia add a pop of green.  The squid agave in the Artemis statue head was unfazed by the cold.  Farther back, a small clump of cast iron plant draws the eye.

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I’ve had this aralia for a long time.  It’s been through drought and covered in ice in bad winters, but nothing seems to slow it down.

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This fall I planted another aralia variety – a variegated one.  I was a little concerned that it might be more tender than the other, but it has held up beautifully.

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In the front bed, the one we jokingly call the hideous bed, natives and other well-adapted plants are hanging on.  Catmint, skullcap, Mexican feather grass, a whale’s tongue agave, salvias, Mexican sabal palms and a Spanish dagger yucca are all going strong.

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Across the driveway, more xeric plants are showing off, like the Jerusalem sage, a Texas sotol, a sago palm,  and some salvia Greggii.

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You’ll find Jerusalem sage in many parts of my garden.  It’s unusual color makes an intriguing contrast — and its fuzzy leaves make it completely deer-resistant.

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Another variegated fatsia Japonica is keeping a squid agave and a mountain Laurel company.  Sadly, the dianella in the background looks like it’s toast.  I’m hopping it was established enough to come back from the roots quickly, once spring arrives.

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A bright edge yucca, several more hellebores and a few almost hidden heucherellas are peaking out of the carpet of leaves.

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Bright edge definitely earns its name!

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I added a few new compact shrubs to the front beds last year.  These ‘Flirt’ nandinas make a beautiful middle-layer, evergreen addition and their added burgundy tips coordinate well with the larger loropetalum.

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One of my favorite plants for winter/spring interest is Japanese quince.  It’s sculptural and almost-bare branches are sporting a flush of gorgeous, salmony-pink blooms.

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The butterflies are so thankful that at least something is blooming out there!

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And no matter what the plants are doing in the garden, we can always count on at least a few cardinals on our many feeders in the wooded area.

While these aren’t the prettiest pictures of my garden, they allow me to see the true bones of the landscape, and evaluate the beds to determine what projects I’ll want to undertake in the spring.

Summer still hanging on in the garden …

It’s hard to believe that it was 93 degrees here in Austin yesterday. While I am ready for the crisp edges of autumn, I have to admit that the lasting beauty of the summer garden is a daily delight.

The Lord Baltimore hibsicus, Pride of Barbados and variegated shell ginger are all perfectly happy with the hot weather.

The Tecoma stans, or Esperanza, are still blooming like crazy.

The path down the side of the house still has some blooms, though they are beginning to dwindle.  Except for the Salvia madrensis, or pineapple sage, which blooms very late in the summer (well, OUR summer, that is).

These stunning spires are criss crossing with a single Salvia greggii bloom.

And at the end of the path, Artemis awaits.

Her hairdo, comprised of squid agave and creeping Jenny, adds a whimsical touch.

In the back, the fountain shade garden is lush with tropical flair, including Persian shield, Philodrendron, Coleus, sparkler sedge and Duranta ‘golden showers.’

The front bed is full or oranges and yellows at this time of year, with narrow leaf Zinnia, Calylophus, and Asclepia.

More yellow awaits farther up the bed with this Thryallis, the whale’s tongue agave and a view of the deep orange Tecoma ‘balls of fire.’

Yes, the brisk breezes of fall sound very appealing, but I love enjoying these long-lasting Indian summer blooms.  The forecast calls for a drop this week — 90 on Wednesday and then 80 for the high on Thursday, and 74 on Friday.

It’s coming, it’s just a little slow getting here!

By | October 16th, 2016|Sharing Nature's Garden|1 Comment