Friday, March 17, 2017

Touring the Post-Winter Landscape Reveals Positive Changes

A frequent gardening question regards how to plan a landscape to look good year round. That's exactly what I had in mind when I planned our landscape nearly five years ago.  My landscape not only needed to look good in winter it also had to brave our brutal summers.  With an emphasis on native heat and drought tolerant plants the summer garden has been working well for a while.  That still leaves those winter freezes to figure out and with so many evergreen (or ever silver in my case) native plants to choose from it's pretty easy to put together an interesting winter landscape.  Over the years I've tweaked my original ideas to make it look even better.  Back in February, after a three-day freeze, I took a photo to document how the front landscaping looked after what passes for winter in South Central Texas.  As I was taking these photos a neighbor walked by and commented on how good my landscape looked.  Then she added that it looked the same as any other time of year.

I thought so too until I took at look at the same angle this week in mid-March.  What a difference.  Plants are greener and bright yellow Damianita blooms highlight the front beds.  Still I'm happy with the way things look in the first photo too.  It can't look like this every day even if I used fake flowers which would fade in our heat anyway.

Our average last freeze/frost date is March 2nd so we're well past the average danger zone though I remember losing some plants to a late March freeze just last year.  The safe date is March 20th and it looks like we'll make it without a late freeze this year.  That's also the first day of spring so it's time to take stock of the landscape before it arrives.

Damianita was a recent addition to the landscape and replaced existing Lantana 'New Gold' which looks terrible in the winter.

Lantana looked so awful during winter months that I couldn't find any photos to show.  The best I could do is that brown heap of sticks in front of the palm is how Lantana usually looks in winter.

I much prefer Damianita (those green shrubs in front of the agave) which remain green all winter and cycle their blooms from spring to fall.

Damianita also braves summer heat next to a south-facing driveway and only needs water once a month even in July and August.

Damianita also replaced lantana in the island bed.  Deep green foliage adds color in winter.

Damianita brightly blooming this week with Yucca Rostrata in the background.  I've been impressed with the quick growth of the yucca since I purchased it two years ago as a small one-gallon plant at the big blue home improvement store.

While we're at it we'll tour the rest of the garden since it's been a while.  I was surprised to see red barrel cactus blooming.  It's younger than my golden barrels which have not bloomed yet.  The orange flowers don't open wide, this is about the most they open even on a sunny day.  Each flower opens in succession around the ring.

Four-nerve Daisy sporadically blooms atop long stems.

Golden Barrel and Agave Cornelius picks up golden color echoes.  Agave Cornelius added just last fall produced a pup which will eventually be transplanted to replace Color Guard Yucca which looked great along the driveway but are short-lived.  Pups don't range far from the parent plant making this compact (3'-4' wide) variety of Agave Americana a good choice for landscapes.

Then there are those cute ruffly edges I carefully chose by looking through every plant the nursery had in stock.  Agave Cornelius has made it through with just a few spots due to a rainy winter.  I mounded it up slightly which worked out well for drainage which all agaves need and drainage has been a problem in this spot.  Native twist-spine barrel cactus in the background.

Dotty African Hosta foliage invites close inspection in the shady garden

Into the back yard where dormant Buffalo Grass is waking up.

Texas Bluebonnets are in full bloom along with Prairie Verbena.

I just love having wildflowers in the garden.

Bored yet?

Some are going to seed already.

Checking out the circle garden where native Muhly grasses stay green and soften rocky edges.

Tazetta 'Golden Dawn' narcissus planted in fall of 2015 have multiplied and returned much to my surprise, well not exactly a surprise since they are marketed for this climate where most bulbs tend not to make it through our summers.  Blackfoot Daisy on the left.

Another view from the tank garden.

Behind the deer fence Belinda's Dream Rose has been covered with blooms this spring.

Belinda's Dream in full bloom

Grandma's Yellow because every Texas garden should have a yellow rose, especially in San Antonio.

What's a yellow rose without a cactus near?  I planted spineless Opuntia around the base.

Painted Petals, shared by my friend Melody and blooming here for the first time.

Abutilon unknown variety.  One stem has variegated leaves and the other is solid.

Yucca Rigida planted just a year ago is blooming.

Bloom just emerging earlier in the week.

Just a few days later it's moving quickly to produce its stalk of bell-shaped flowers.

We're just getting over leaf drop season and the back yard remains buried in live oak leaves.  Eventually we'll get them all raked and moved behind the shed to compost.

That view of squiggly live oaks over the fence shows where I still have the most work to do sprucing up the container plants and moving them around to their summer spots.

That's the tour for late winter as we head into spring.  I'm happy with the changes made to brighten up the winter landscape and how the garden is shaping up all around.


  1. Looking good, Shirley! Do you have any problems with deer antlering your agaves or yuccas out front? I've taken to caging many of mine through the fall and winter.

    1. Antlering has not been a problem with the agaves out front though I have concerns. They hit the Agave americana in back several times before we put up a fence. Maybe I should put more cages out. We've started putting large rocks around trees instead of cages which helps keep them at bay.

  2. I love seeing the subtle changes in the landscape as seasons progress. They can be lost on casual observers and non-gardeners, though. Gardeners just pay more attention to plants and the natural world in general than most people. Your comment about Color Guard yucca is one that really brings home the stark differences in your climate compared to mine. That's pretty much a forever plant, here, virtually indestructible. Is that spineless opuntia 'Ellisiana'? Is it completely smooth, or does it have glochids? I've been thinking of trying that plant in my garden.

  3. It's Opuntia 'Luther Burbank' and is completely smooth because it was hybridized as a food source. A very good non-prickly plant to get the look of cactus without the spine. Yucca Color Guard essentially grows too well in our climate and is basically spent once it blooms so it needs to be replaced within three years. The resulting pups are less vigorous than nursery stock so it takes a while for them to show up well in the landscape.

  4. Everything looks perfect--especially the Muhly grass ... and the roses ... and the Bluebonnets ... and the Damianitas. And of course, I always love to see the structure, architecture, and pathways of your garden.

  5. Your garden is impressive, Shirley! I'm going to look around for Damianita, which I can't recall seeing for sale here. The Dotty African Hosta looked a little familiar and I realized I'd planted it once as Ledebouria - I wasn't thrilled with it the first year and ended up pulling it out but, after seeing your garden, I think it's worth another try in a shadier location. As to lupine, I've repeatedly tried to get it established in my garden without success, even though it grows wild in the immediate area - I've heard that it requires specific soil micro-organisms but, whatever they are, it appears they're lacking in my garden.

    1. I had to read my post again to see how I wrote about the African Hosta. Funny the things I don't notice in my own writing--it's just African Hosta without the Dotty! It's Drimiopsis maculata and slightly different from Squill or Ledebouria which doesn't grow well in my garden either. Damianita is a locally indigenous plant specifically well suited to rocky limestone soils. I know Lupines do well on the west coast so you might find some. They are annuals and we replant each year from seed.

    2. My Drimiopsis is in a pot. Seeing it in your garden reminds me that mine needs repotting and cherishing.

  6. So fun to get a tour of your yard and see what's new! The wildflowers are such a spirit-lifter after such a cold winter (for us!) and make everything right with the world. What would we do without flowers? Glad the painted petals bloomed this year! You will have them forever and everywhere, such a "generous plant"!

    1. You can always drive by on your way to the car wash! Forever is good since I don't have to think about them until they take over.

  7. Looks gorgeous! Bluebonnets are a bit slower to wake up over here---I haven't seen many so far.

    1. I've noticed that East Texas gets Bluebonnets later than we do even though you're just as hot. Might be the clouds and humidity nearer the coast.

  8. Great contrast between winter and spring photos. I agree on lantana vs. damianita...the former really needs a different use given it's winter dormant "look". What says it all to me is that far view of the agave, flowering damianitas, all the soft plantings around the drive, then that amazing house with the stone and roof line.

    1. Should have credited you in the post David since it's your posts on bringing natives into the landscape that always has me rethinking how things can improve with the right plants.

    2. Just remembered you are house hunting though I think this house is pretty much a Texas look. We'll enjoy seeing what you find and how you landscape your new digs.


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