Hot summer survivors and new book news Leave a comment

August 21, 2023

This summer, y’all. Am I right, my fellow Texas gardeners? But even with two months of surface-of-the-sun temps and zero rain, at least a few plants are happy. Like this pink-flowering mammillaria cactus that burst into silken bloom a few days after I gave it a deep soaking. What a pick-me-up!

I’m also loving the dappled-moonlight coloring of ‘Moonglow’ mangave, which is thriving in bright shade.

This view is a little tougher for me to enjoy right now because my plumbago, skullcap, and new Shantung maple sapling are burning up. The ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods in full sun are sun-scorched on top. But hooray for ‘Fireworks’ gomphrena still blooming its little pink-puff heart out. And the tall beaked yucca is a summer- and winter-defying joy.

The view from my living room window. I’m glad I took the time to repaint the shed this spring because that refreshed blue is visually cooling things off — at least mentally. The stock-tank plants — woolly stemodia (which I planted in July!) and variegated agave — are doing well with supplemental hand-watering. I did have silver ponyfoot in there, which I expected to make a pretty silver-green groundcover by now, but it burned up this summer.

When you have a big turquoise focal point, why fight it? That’s why I repeated the pool color in chairs and shed doors. In the foreground, there’s a whole lot of burning-up plants (mostly hidden in this view) and an ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo struggling to recover from last winter’s Arctic freeze. If it’s not one extreme now, it’s another!

Mexican feathergrass and chile pequin — two native Texas survivors

Chile pequin peppers add good color at this time of year. The soap aloes in the foreground are sun-bleached but hanging on. I feel ya, aloes.

Garlic chives in the hellstrip have started flowering in defiance of the Death Star, offering a thimble of hope that fall isn’t too far off.

Pale-leaf yucca is another native that defies the Death Star and drought. Look at that beautiful blue-green color with golden edges.

New book!

And now for my news. Following two deep-freeze winters and now two blistering, record-busting summers, I decided it would be a great time to write a new book — ha ha — about Texas gardens. I’ve been crisscrossing this big ole state since early spring, visiting all kinds of gardens and choosing a diverse and inspiring group to photograph and feature. The book, which will come out in spring 2025 with Timber Press, will be full of beautiful Texas gardens and essays that tell their stories: how they came to be, the meaning they bring to their owners’ lives, and nuggets of wisdom about how the gardens are weathering our new normal of hot-and-cold, wet-and-dry extremes. It’s the book I’ve been wanting to read for many years, and I’m super excited to be working on it and meeting wonderful and generous gardeners and designers from Marfa to Houston and from Dallas to McAllen.

But man, what a year to be photographing gardens in Texas! It’s not easy here, is it, Texans? Still, we’re all in the same boat, and there’s something compelling about seeing what other gardeners are able to create, and how they keep trying, whatever their personal challenges. I know we will learn something from each garden’s story and be inspired to make our own gardens the best they can be, whether that means picking up the pieces after a summer like this one or relishing triumphs when plants show us what they’re capable of.

Hang in there. Fall is coming.

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Digging Deeper

Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance; simply click this link and ask to be added. The Season 7 lineup can be found here.

All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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