𓅛 Pumilo

Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Garden bed evolution and a newly named agave

August 21, 2021

It’s taken over a year, but this corner bed below the deck is finally moving in a good direction.

For several years this space was filled with a frothy cloud of bamboo muhly — fine for a hedge or background planting, but I didn’t want a monolithic swath of green for this space, especially after I took out the focal-point pond (nope, still no regrets, though I loved having it for many years).

For my first attempt, I envisioned something romantic, dare I say English? Something different for me! Funny, right? I gave it a try with ‘Icecap’ roses and ‘Midnight Candle’ mealy blue sage. Nope and nope. I knew the roses would want more sun, but dang it, I just had to try, didn’t I? They sulked, and even when they did bloom I hated the way the white flowers faded to tan and then hung on. The ‘Midnight Candle’ salvia was fine, but the epic February freeze took it out. And I’d always planned to replace the spindly golden thryallis (back-left corner) with a rose of Sharon, as soon as I could get the one I wanted.

So last fall I ripped out the roses and tried again with my patented move (not really) of multiple pots of a striking xeric plant. This not only showcases a cool plant and adds the power of repetition, it gives height to an otherwise low-growing plant. A xeric one, like ‘Color Guard’ yucca, won’t need watering all the time. I added dwarf ruellia ‘Southern Star Blue’ (practically identical to ‘Katie’) in front of the ‘Midnight Candle’ salvia, and when the latter died in the freeze I decided the ruellia was better without them anyway.

Recently I pulled out some underperforming iris and messy tall verbena and added Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) in back. I hope for flowers on those soon. And the baby ‘Purple Pillar’ rose of Sharon in the back-left corner is finally putting on some height, if the grasshoppers will just leave it alone. My blue tuteur from TerraTrellis adds complementary color and height, and the Orbit hanging planters from Potted are a dash of zany fun, spilling over with silver ponyfoot, topped with a scruff of ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia.

It’s looking lively and interesting but pulled together — I hope! I’m liking it more and more every day.

Speaking of ‘Purple Pillar’ rose of Sharon, here is my other one, a trial plant from Proven Winners, looking fab near the back gate. And look how well it’s playing with the lipstick-pink blossoms of pyramid bush (Melochia tomentosa). I saw this plant — a South Texas native — growing in my friend Cat’s garden and had to have one.

As soon as Barton Springs Nursery got more of it in stock last fall, I snagged one and then…I didn’t know what to do with it. I ended up sticking it here and kind of forgetting about it. But it not only established with minimal attention, it came through the February deep freeze like a boss. I need to try a few more in other sunny spots (if I can find any) in my garden.

While we’re here, let’s go through the gate and check out the eastern side garden, which I completely redesigned last fall-winter, replanting literally days before the February freeze. It’s filling in slowly but surely, which is especially good considering the freeze and the fact that after a month or two of regular watering on my part, it now gets watered just once a week via sprinkler system. I credit a wetter than normal summer for allowing me to slack off on my baby plants. Also deer, rabbits, and armadillos give everything out front a run for their money, so planting anything is a crapshoot.

While we’re meandering let’s stop to admire a few summer-happy plants, like this powder-blue Yucca pallida.

The sword-like but pliable leaves are so beautiful. They’ll poke the unwary, though.

The passalong crocosmia from my friend Melody’s garden in San Antonio bloomed better than ever this summer. I guess a deep freeze agrees with it — that and a wetter than normal summer.

And meet Ursula! Actually you’ve met her before. This is my variegated whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), passed along to me by a friend moving overseas. It survived the freeze and has regained much of its freeze-bleached moonlight-yellow striping.

I recently asked my followers on Instagram for name suggestions for her. Ursula — suggested by two people referencing both Ursula from The Little Mermaid and beautiful Ursula Andress — seems like a perfect fit for this prickly, Rubenesque, sea-creature-named queen of the garden. My thanks to everyone who participated in the naming process, and especially to Phyllis Steury (@psteury) and @noochapalooza for suggesting Ursula!

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