Fresh foliage follow-up …

Having blogged HERE about everything that was blooming in my garden this weekend, today I’ll join Pam Penick of Digging, and highlight some of the lush foliage in my garden.

Refusing to be dismissed by a lack of blooms, many of my favorite plants in the garden earn their status with colorful, textured foliage that delights season after season.

Last fall I planted a few more heuchera — actually gold zebra heucherella — the lime and burgundy plants in the foreground. I was delighted when they reached out with these wispy white blooms, almost like exclamation points emerging from their core.

I try to limit the annuals in my garden because I have enough work caring for the perennials as it is, but I reliably plant coleus in many places each spring. Their hot, popping colors brighten any shady spot and bring an energy to the garden that I just love in our Texas summers.

My Cephalotaxus, or Japanese plum yews, continue to thrive in the mostly shade areas of the front and side gardens. I love seeing the new growth arrive, heralded by the luscious lime foliage. I began using these in the garden about 3 years ago and they are tough as nails and satisfy my wish to have other conifers in the landscape.

This cardoon qualifies as a foliage favorite for sure. Fuzzy, spiny, and dusty, these leaves are always showing off in the garden.

This Yucca aloifolia, commonly known as Spanish Dagger or Bayonet, means serious business. Unlike the variegated ‘bright edge’ and ‘color guard’ yuccas that live in other parts of my garden, this guy’s leaves are sword-like and quite dangerous to work around. This pup popped up when I had to move its momma several years ago because she was getting too tall for the front of the bed. Her little one is following in her footsteps, so this one may soon move to another bed behind the back fence.

My Persian shields never fully died back this winter, so they are already getting to be a nice size in the shade garden. Score!

Plectranthus amboinicus, also known as Cuban Oregano, Mexican Mint, Spanish Thyme and Indian Mint, is a staple in my ornamental gardens. It is an herb and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. But I grow it for it’s cool, textured and succulent leaves. Mature, it’s about 18 inches tall and wide and makes a nice front of bed plant. It’s an annual here, but can easily be propagated from cuttings, which is what I do. It’s not a true mint – it’s botanically closer to Swedish ivy, which I also grow for similar places in the garden.

Another fabulous variegated abelia. I’m kicking myself for not keeping the tag. I love that this one is creamy and mild, while the ‘Twist of Lime’ and ‘Kaleidoscopes’ I love are spicier — with lime, bronze and reddish foliage.

Sparkler sedges are scattered throughout my garden. This winter I thought I’d lost one in the back, but it’s coming back from the roots. Sadly, it has reverted and is coming up solid green.

I’m about to plant several more of these variegated dwarf firebushes for their hot, tropical color.

That’s the foliage tour for today. What’s your favorite foliage in the garden?

Winter warm up — hot colors in the garden…

Even here in Central Texas, our winter’s freezing temps and cold, damp, grey skies are hanging on.  I’m done with it.  And  I know my gardening friends to the north are exasperated by the volume of snow that continues to plague them.

At the Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland last spring, I was struck by the overwhelming use of color in the gardens there.  Plants, pots, furniture, you name it, vivid colors perked up each and every garden.  With a climate filled with its share of grey days, these pops of color  their gardens not only brightened up the space, they brightened my mood. 

As I’m sure they were consciously or subconsciously intended to do.

So for everyone who is exasperated by the lingering blanket of winter that covers our souls and our gardens this year, here are some of my favorite photos of tropical style gardens, plants and decor.

A little garden statuary can help to enhance your garden style.

Even if you’re in a drought, a pretty rain chain can make it seem like you might be having a late afternoon tropical shower.

With only a few exotic-looking plants and the right leaf shapes, textures or forms, you can create your own resort-like retreat in your back yard.

Hot, contrasting colors embody the tropical style.

Bananas, crotons and coleus are true tropical plants.

Even if your design doesn’t include many tropical plants, you can add some pops of color with garden art and decor.

While most coleus are shade plants, there are new sun-loving varieties that you can use in sunny spots.

Texture, second only to color, typifies traditional plants of the tropics.  Big, bold foliage with exotic patterns and texture abound in this section of the world.

Elephant ears can set the mood in your island oasis.

Giant planters filled with eye-popping color can seem tropical, even if the plants in it aren’t. 

Tropical style is all about big, bold design that packs a punch.  Simply looking at these hot colors warms me up and gives me the itch to garden.

Hot art and design spice up Portland De Sousa Fling garden

Full to the brim with ideas and a mile-long wish list of plants that I know I can’t grow here, I’m reacclimating to Austin and my own garden after 6 glorious days in Portland, OR.

My seventh Garden Bloggers Fling beckoned last weekend – with an agenda full of great friends, gardens, nurseries, and gift shops. 

The whirlwind started early and ended late and wowed me all day long every day.  Because there were so many gardens in every imaginable style – I just closed my eyes today and blindly picked one to begin my posting.

The JJ De Sousa garden was one of my favorites.  Hot colors created a riot of interest in the garden – plants and art and seating everywhere shouting “look at me, look at me.”  The rich and sophisticated hues of tropical colors were designed to brighten the shady spots of this garden and to celebrate the hot, sunny spaces.

 This whimsical gate welcomes visitors.

 The colors of the tropics permeate everything in the garden, plants, pottery and decor.

 The plants looked happy and healthy everywhere I turned.  Ah, the benefits of some rain in the garden.

 Pots and gazing balls coordinate and contrast.

 The side garden ends with a fabulous wooden gate — which leads to another pocket of paradise.

 Come on in, the party’s in here!

 More whimsical art sets the mood for this garden.

 Every little nook and cranny was filled with some sweet something designed to delight the senses.

 This precious little statue is squirreling away succulents instead of seeds.

 This regal Egyptian dog statue comes down to earth with clematis and nasturtiums trailing all around.

 These tall, elegant vases, capped with aeonium, added a little note of sophistication.

 One of many seating areas that welcomed visitors to sit a spell.

Color joined texture in this garden — smooth ceramic pots, gritty gray concrete and the sleek look of the corrugated tin made a cool combo.

 Ahhh – I could sit here for hours!

 And, a little humor.  Chicken nesting boxes now home to hens and chicks … ha ha.

And just past the shrimp plant in this bed, a colorful stock tank water feature with a metal shrimp  sculpture and glass globes.  Look up whimsy in the dictionary — this is the photo you’ll find.

The same burst of colors that enriched the shady front garden, with a drier, sunnier twist.

 More whimsy around the corner.

 This Buddha statue, hidden among the trees, looked just like a giant gummi bear.

 There were little vignettes like this everywhere.

More color, radiating everywhere.

And back through the gate again.

This was one of many Portland gardens on the tour to feature trendy tropical-style colors and decor.  But beyond the design, this hot garden would brighten any cloudy day.  It certainly brightened mine.

Spring garden spruce up…

While the weather was cold and before it was planting season, I started a project at my house to add a chopped limestone edge and an Oklahoma flagstone cap to the beds along the front walk.  It turned out great and I was very happy with the result.

But then the nice weather came, and with it, clients.  Clients who wanted designs and hardscaping and landscaping and the items left unfinished on my project remained unfinished.  Until this week.

An unexpected opening for the crew found them at my house with 4-1/2 yards of great soil – Thunder Garden Soil from  Geo Growers.  That was worked into the front beds, which are now, in essence, raised beds.  Miscellaneous volunteer seeds – zinnias and salvias and other random plants were hoed out and given the boot.

I stood back and took stock of my bed and tried to view it as I would a client’s.  I’d been unhappy with it for a while.  So off  I went, three days in a row, to the nursery to load up every inch of my car with plants.

We filled the holes and created structure and contrast and texture (all the things I preach about!) These are the plants I added:

  • Foxtail ferns
  • Variegated agapanthus – these are way cool!
  • Persian shield
  • Sparkler Sedge
  • Purple pixie loropetalum
  • Mexican bush sage
  • Amistad salvia
  • Bat-faced cuphea
  • Blackfoot daisy
  • Mexican honeysuckle
  • Purple skullcap
  • Yellow zinnias
  • Skeletonleaf goldeneye
  • Sun coleus
  • Copper plant
  • Helianthus maxmilliani
  • Whale’s tongue agave
  • Miss Molly buddleia
  • Yellow bulbine
  • Hibiscus
  • Mexican bird of paradise

These didn’t all go into the walkway bed, I filled holes in other beds, too. I finally replaced my critically-wounded franzosini agave with a whale’s tongue.  It will never be the same, but it also won’t make 30 pups a month that have to be cut out and it won’t get 20 feet tall and it won’t freeze as easily.

I love the new plants and the new mulch that followed, but one of the things I’m most excited about is that they finally brought me moss rocks to put in the section of dry creek right by the front door.  After lots of — no, tilt it this way, no, bury that end, no turn it around, not this way, that way — I am happy with the placement of the rocks.  They add so much to the natural look of the entire area.

Though they are still small, the Persian shield and loropetalum will add a nice purple to the lime spikes of the sparkler sedge and the hot gold Cuban duranta that’s now just emerging from dormancy.

My new passalong bronze iris from Robin at Getting Grounded went into this bed along with some coleus to mirror the lime and purple on the other side.

These foxtail ferns (my first ever) will provide some structural contrast for the rock rose volunteer in the center that I babied over the winter.  The yellow zinnias will coordinate with the yellow skeletonleaf golden eye and the bright edge yucca further down the bed.

I can’t wait to see the brilliant purple Amistad savlias bloom next to the bright edge and the agapanthus.  (It’s still hard to envision it all since almost nothing is blooming quite yet.)

This vignette is at the end of the path – yellow columbine, golden grass, sun coleus, creeping jenny, a yellow lantana and hidden – a copper plant that will grow to become a nice tall bronze backdrop on the left.

This is just a little slice of the bed behind the pool.  The ginormous Maggie roses used to live here.  Now the center piece will be this Miss Molly buddleia, surrounded in front by a semi-circle of pure yellow bulbine.  On either side of the bed are phlox paniculata and lavender trailing lantana and Mexican oregano.

I moved the Amistad salvias from behind these bright edge yuccas last fall.  They just didn’t do well in this bed – I think it was too hot for them here.  The stock tank I painted holds an evergreen wisteria planted in the fall – check out the amazing bloom color here.  So now between the two I have three Mexican honeysuckles with their hot orange blooms to play off the purple, yellow and lime.  Love those combos.

So, now I wait, and water a lot by hand.  Bought a few new expandable hoses (yes, I love them and will do a post soon).  And I’m using rainwater from the tank, so that feels great.  I think there are probably 200-250 gallons in there and that’s going to go fast if it’s going to be 90 every day.

I’m happy with the result and enjoyed walking through the garden tonight with gin and tonic in hand, surveying all the new things and appreciating my garden.

Spring really is here.

After a record-setting high of 93 last week and then a low last night of 41, we’re officially on the roller coaster.

Central Texas is covered in Live Oak neon green dust and our budding beds are littered with dead oak leaves and pollen.

The winds are gale force and the rain is non-existent. Lake Travis is down 8 feet already.

But it’s time to start cleaning and clearing and planting in the garden.

The to-do list seems endless. However, like most things, it’s best just to pick one small task and start.

So, today I checked off one of many items on my spring clean-up garden to-do list.

Thrillers, spillers and fillers have taken up residence in the two giant pots on the front porch and I must say they are quite happy there. (Well, let’s say I am happy with them there.)

I usually fill these pots with an explosion of hot annual color, but I was tempted by these Cordyline a shopping trip to some new nurseries last week. And then the Diamond Frost Euphorbia jumped into my wagon (the deer ate them in my beds last year, but pots on the porch will be *should be* safe). They were soon joined by the Asparagus Fern and the lovely Coleus.

What’s on your spring garden to-do list? Any thrillers, spillers and fillers in your future?

Beautiful bursts for fall foliage follow-up…

Fall has arrived in Central Texas.

Thank Goodness!

We’ve been eagerly awaiting its arrival, having tired of endless summer.

But the days are in the 70s and the nights have even dipped down to 40 a time or two.

Our prodigious perennials have begun to wane, blooms fading, leaves yellowing and stalks turning spindly.

I love fall.

It’s a great time to grow fall vegetables. And I’m always amazed at the fall color.

We certainly don’t get the brilliant displays of color like gardeners in the north and east, but we do get some small bursts by certain trees and shrubs.

This small Crape Myrtle in my front bed has transformed itself with these beautiful hues of yellow and orange that almost make it look illuminated.

The big Burr Oak has some warm color, too, though it’s a little slower to change — perhaps this lumbering giant is slow to do many things. But it does drop the biggest leaves on the planet! (I might be exaggerating just a bit here.)
The Loropetalum love the chill – their deep plum-colored leaves provide a wonderful contrast in the garden.
My other Crape Myrtles – at least 15 feet tall – are reaching into the big blue sky with their fall colors and seed balls.
This Dwarf Pomegranate is still green as green can be, but the fruit is ready to ripen and bringing on its own fall color.
And one of my favorite color combinations – a coleus and a potato vine. Both seem unfazed by the cooler weather and I’m so glad.

Pam of Digging invites us to share our fabulous foliage photos on the 16th of each month and this month, there’s much to see.

What’s your favorite foliage in the garden now?