Structure + Soft = Powerful Designs

June 14th, 2012 Posted in Nurseries, Summer plants, drought, garden bloggers, garden design, garden projects, native plants, passalong plants, plant propagation, shade plants, tomatoes, vegetables

Although I’m fond of tidy, highly structural gardens, mine doesn’t make that list. I do have many non-fussy anchors, but I wouldn’t be content with an essentially static garden. I’m a drama queen and I like surprises! This sure was a surprise:  my Iceberg rose blooming its head off with thryallis and cenizo.

Cenizo, Iceberg rose, thryallis
That group only gets water once a week in summer if rain veered past us (yet again!). A few years ago, I replaced the red tip photinias in this AC side yard with these and other sun lovers that I relocated from too much shade.

My altheas/Rose of Sharon that came with our 1950s house have hung around through many a dry year. This new beauty is a passalong from Bob Beyer.  In a few years, this large shrub will be big enough to complete the “living wall” that I’m creating for our patio cove “enclosure.”

Pink althea, Rose of Sharon
This part of the back “prairie” is in riot-mode with milkweeds, Turk’s caps, pavonia, lantana and passionvine. It’s a wildlife riot, too!

Milkweed, Turk's cap, rock rose, lantana
Old-fashioned fragrant petunias in patio containers are heading into summer break, though not quite ready to give up their perfumed performance. I’ve been cutting them back a little and feeding with a seaweed/fish emulsion/molasses drink which they appreciate.

Old-fashioned pink petunias
In a fence bed, this spring I added some red billbergias. They get shade mixed with blasts of sunlight. I just love this color and their tidy form that so beautifully complements the spilling plants beyond them.

Red billbergia
On CTG this week, that’s just one of many plants that Tillery Street Plant Company’s Jon Hutson highlights in his talk with Tom.

Jon Hutson Tillery Street Plant Company
I’ve known Jon since he ran innovative Floribunda in south Austin. We were thrilled when he opened equally innovative Tillery Street in east Austin! It’s just across the street from Boggy Creek Farm and down the street from Springdale Farm. Since many talented artisans have located nearby, this is the latest go-to place for food, plants, and art!

On CTG, responding to viewer requests, Jon combines structural and softer forms for sun and shade. He explains how to diversify our gardens with drought-tough companions that strengthen our designs with contrasting forms.

Tom Spencer and Jon Hutson at Central Texas Gardener
One he brought along is native candellia (Euphorbia antisyphilitica). Isn’t this nicho at the Wildflower Center just so appropriate? A plant “candle.”

Candellia at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Cent
Get Jon’s list for outstanding additions from upright yuccas to floppy yellow firecracker fern and silvery native groundcover woolley stemodia. I grabbed this shot at Mueller on a cloudy morning. In sunlight, its silver absolutely shimmers!

Woolly stemodia
Another on his plant list is foxtail fern. Mine (this one in a pot) are soft-structure perfect in psycho lighting: dry shade peppered with a brutal spear of afternoon sun. Beyond are inland sea oats and potato vine (Solanum jasminoides) on an obelisk.

Foxtail fern and inland sea oats

Jon brings along a Mangave ‘Bloodspot’, a cross between Manfreda and agave. Since these are great non-fussy structures, Daphne makes Manfreda our Pick of the Week with her insight and planting tips. Gardener Brent Henry has clay soil, so he mixes in decomposed granite to improve drainage.  His Manfredas get partial sun with most of the sun in the afternoon, but shaded by a bur oak.

Manfreda bloom stalk
Gardener Matt Jackson snapped these pictures of native Manfreda virginica for CTG.

Manfreda virginica

Manfreda virginica flower buds

When I first heard about ‘Macho Mocha’ years ago, it was considered a Manfreda. By the time Pam Penick divided some of hers for me, it was categorized as a Mangave.
Manfreda (Mangave) 'Macho Mocha'

Whatever. You’ll see them as both names. As Daphne tells us, the native Manfreda maculosa is considered the Texas tuberose. That’s on my list!

So, once you have your structural succulents, how do you divide these vigorous plants? Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents shows us how.

Eric Pedley East Austin Succulents Central Texas Gardener
In 2011, Eric met with CTG for astounding design ideas with succulents. Now, he’s joined spaces with Jon’s Tillery Street Plant Company. In one visit, you can fulfill your garden dreams, encouraged by two hard-working home-grown owners who are passionate about plants and ready to share their knowledge with you.

To complete our east Austin tour of innovative ideas that combine structure with softness, take a tour of Lee Clippard and John Stott’s garden.

Many gardeners, like Russell Bauer, have asked us about blossom end rot! Daphne explains why this happens and what you can do.

Tomato blossom end rot Galveston Texas AgriLife
Thank you to Dr. William Johnson, Texas Agrilife Extension/Galveston for sharing his picture! Usually, the second crop comes out clean, as Russell shows us with his second harvest.

homegrown tomatoes
Certified Backyard Habitat gardener Susan Brock shares this picture from her organic garden: another reason to diversify your garden. Cardinals selected her Knock Out to raise a new family!

cardinal nest in Knock Out rose
Stay cool until our visit next week, Linda

  1. 16 Responses to “Structure + Soft = Powerful Designs”

  2. By Pam/Digging on Jun 14, 2012

    I still love ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave, but ‘Bloodspot’ is my new favorite. It’s a tidy little plant, very symmetrical, and perfect for a container or raised bed, where it can be enjoyed up close. ‘Macho Mocha’ is a monster by comparison. I’m really seeing the difference that sun has on the ‘Macho Mocha’ this summer: I have one that gets only dappled sun, and it’s nearly pure green; the other gets several hours of direct sun, and it’s beautifully freckled with maroon coloring. Based on this experiment, I say give it at least 3-4 hours of sun for best color.


    Linda reply on June 14th, 2012 4:55 pm:

    Yes, Pam, my ‘Macho Mocha’ does have beautiful spots but I know it would have more in just a tad more sun. I plan to move some of the pups to sunnier areas this year. At the same time, whatever it’s coloration, it’s a beautiful addition to this part shade/hot sun area, and I thank you so much. And I’m definitely adding ‘Bloodspot’ to my list. Too darling!


  3. By Bob Beyer on Jun 14, 2012

    From Jon’s plant list, wonder is Agave murpheyi ‘Rodney’ is the same as Agave murpheyi ‘engard’ (white variegated margin)? Rodney Engard is the person who apparently discovered it.


    Linda reply on June 14th, 2012 4:52 pm:

    Now that I don’t know, Bob! The names keep changing on us, but yes, Rodney is the one who discovered it.


  4. By Tina on Jun 14, 2012

    I like your riot–mine is similar. I haven’t had much luck with my Manfreda and I suspect it sits in soil that’s too heavy. Sigh. And I love that Iceberg rose!


    Linda reply on June 14th, 2012 4:51 pm:

    Hi, Tina! I hesitated on Manfreda a long time for that reason. I just added some decomposed granite to the site and it’s done beautifully! Try mounding it up just a little with that and some pea gravel. That Iceberg has been quite remarkable. It’s in a side yard that I never really see unless I go out to check.


  5. By cherie foster colburn on Jun 15, 2012

    LOVE the fragrant old petunias, Linda. Just wish they lasted through our summer humidity and heat. GREAT idea to cut back and hit them with a bit of fertilizer, but guess their fragrance morphs when fish poop hits them, huh? c:


    Linda reply on June 15th, 2012 3:11 pm:

    Hi, Cherie! No, the fish emulsion dissipates pretty quickly! I keep mine in pots, so they usually make it through. And then they seed back into the pots or elsewhere!


  6. By Ann on Jun 15, 2012

    Linda, Is CTG available on iTunes anymore? I don’t seem to get fresh episodes there anymore. Hope you’re well! Ann


    Linda reply on June 15th, 2012 3:09 pm:

    Good question, Ann! Let me check on that. Also, were the Ann in the Statesman last weekend? If so, great story!


  7. By Iris on Jun 15, 2012

    Although I’m still a bit intimidated by roses, I love your Iceberg so much that I’m willing to take the leap. I guess I should wait until fall to get one, right? Lovely altheas, too. Looking forward to this weekend’s CTG!


    Linda reply on June 15th, 2012 3:08 pm:

    Hi, Iris! Yes, I think you would love it and it would fit in beautifully with your iris theme. But definitely wait until fall. It blooms even in winter and is lightly fragrant. I never fertilize and it never gets blackspot!


  8. By Dee/reddirtramblings on Jun 17, 2012

    Such a riot of cool color Linda. Wonderful. I love your blooms. Did you know I can’t grow ‘Iceberg?’ I’ve tried several times. It just doesn’t like it here. I once didn’t enjoy Altheas, but I’ve changed my mind. The newer cultivars are quite interesting, and the garden I just finished rehabbing had one as a limbed up tree. Branches hung down, flowers dripping from their ends.~~Dee


    Linda reply on June 18th, 2012 3:25 pm:

    Now that’s interesting about Iceberg! But you have so many outstanding plants and your design is just so magnificent. Yes, isn’t it interesting how our tastes in plants change? Ooh, wouldn’t that be a fun blog! That dripping althea sounds just lovely!


  9. By Kathleen Scott on Jun 20, 2012

    I almost quit reading your blog because I’m so jealous. Your pictures are gorgeous, you can plant roses and daylillies and anything that grows here.

    We have no soil and the wildlife limit our plant possibilities and methods. I learned the hard way when I used fish emulsion to plant a cedar sage. A raccoon dug it up five nights in a row trying to get at the fish…

    You might be interested in the current post at Hill Country Mysteries. It’s a common problem.


    Linda reply on June 20th, 2012 5:25 pm:

    Hi, Kathleen! You are such a sweetie! My garden doesn’t even come close to yours.

    I used to have a problem with fish emulsion with dogs/cats (mine!) but thank heavens they got over that. Ick fish breath. But fabulous info on the raccoon. Indeed, I’ll head over to your blog right now!


Post a Comment