August 31, 2022
What a summer this has been for Austin. Hot as hell, rainless and dry for months. And then, finally, a mid-August deluge of rain drenched parts of the city — I got 4.75 inches in a few days, though friends in South and West Austin got much less — which brought relief. Let this summer from hell end! I can handle temperatures in the low to mid 90s.
But before summer goes away (lol, it’ll last until October), I’ll share some photos from July and August that I’ve been hanging on to. I didn’t spend much time in the garden this summer, but when I did I always found moments of beauty and interest despite my reluctance to sweat. Like this bumblebee among purple skullcap and Mexican feathergrass (top image).
If I zoom out you can see a mound of purple skullcaps (Scutellaria Wrighti) grew on the edge of the Hellstrip, sandwiched between two driveways and the street. This tough little native was not fazed by the brutal summer and provided nectar for the bumblebee daily.
In island beds, the ‘Old Mexico’ prickly pear has finally risen from the dead – that is, the snowapocalypse of 2021, which has returned it to its dinosaur-bone stump. It is almost back to mature form and will soon resume its plans for world domination.
‘Bhanji’ Whale’s Tongue Agave shows a bit of a pop with yellow, sun-dappled leaves after the blistering heat of summer. My other whale tongues did not react this way, even in more sun. strange
Succulents are enjoying the bright shade of the front porch and are color coordinated with the wasabi paint color of the front door.
Mexican honeysuckle (Spicy justice) is finally back, having died to the roots last winter. The welcome mat is back for hummingbirds.
But man oh man, did this understory planting suffer this summer. Despite some extra watering throughout its root zone, the large Japanese maple is showing curled, crisp leaves and some large branches have turned completely brown. Under its canopy, the giant Ligularia is stunted and sad, though I think it will come back this fall. Some ‘Everillo’ sedges turn brown in too much sun. This is a tricky spot because the roof sheds a lot of water here when it rains, and the water runs off the driveway into the dry creek, so these thirsty plants do well in a typical summer. But this was no ordinary summer.
Happily, on the other side of the front walk (in the background), the very dry-loving plants in the gravel garden are doing great without more attention than usual: Agave ovatifoliaRed yucca, toothless sotol, dwarf myrtle and anacacho orchid trees.
I rarely ventured into the side garden, I’m sorry to say. Last time I saw it, it was doing fine with no attention from me, with automatic watering once a week.
In the back garden, plumbago loves the heat and swells its head.
Moby Jr., a bulbil-clone from my original whale’s tongue agave, floats contentedly in a sea of silver ponyfoot in one of my old stock-tank planters.
Lanceleaf blanket flower (Gallardia aestivalis) has gone to seed, but the white puffs on the tan stems are also pretty.
Bat-faced Kapia (Cuphea llavea) is blooming and happy, and represents Austin’s bat obsession.
‘Munglow’ mangove survived last winter’s deep freeze even in a container I left outside. The main plant died at the roots (no surprise there), but I found a few pupae under the dead leaves this spring. I continued to weed out the pups until this solitary specimen was all that was left. What should I try to protect this winter? Probably not. It’s heavy and has nowhere to put it, and it’s easy to replace certain plants if needed. Or maybe I’ll find more chicks!
Soap Aloe (Hello Maculata) solidified along the south-facing wall for more than a decade. It just keeps pumping full out.
Spotted leaves are beautiful even without flowers.
‘Quadrucolor’ agave is another sun-or-bright-shade beauty. I grew it in a pot and left it last winter as well. I can’t remember if it survived or if it was a puppy replacement.
local datura (Former Wright) returns each spring, either from roots or from volunteer seedlings. It may droop during drought, but recovers quickly with little water or rain. Yes, it is highly toxic, but only if you eat it. No deer, so I might as well grow it up front. I love its salad-plate-sized, night-blooming, fragrant flowers.
Hawks love nectar in them too.
I look forward to cooler, patio-sitting days. Will September be the new October this year? It will be a nice break after this summer. Do I count it? Haha!
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It’s juicy time Austin Cactus and Succulent Society’s Fall Show and Sale Sept. 3 and 4 at the Austin Area Garden Center at Zilker Botanical Garden. Includes a plant exhibit, plant and pottery sale, silent auction, and plant raffles. Open from 10 am to 5 pm. Entry to the garden is free with payment.
Learn about garden design from the experts here Garden Spark! I host private talks with inspiring designers, landscape architects, and writers several 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. Just click on this link and ask to be added. You can find this year’s speaker lineup here.
All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Excavation. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.