January 12, 2013

A Broad View Reveals Micro-Climates

Here in zone 8 Austin, Texas it takes winter a while to arrive.   And it's not long before spring is hard on it's heels.

So in an effort to live more intentionally, I ventured out after our 2.7" of blessed cold rainfall and took a look-see.  It's a lot easier to really look hard at your surroundings when you're not so worried about stepping on a rattlesnake.

The soft, subdued winter hues were relaxing and it was so quiet ... no ac units humming, no noisy lawn equipment; just the trickle of water, bird song and the gentle breeze.

Taking my time I took note of how different everything looks after a winter's soaking rain.

I love the skeletal forms of the flame leaf sumac amongst the heavily textured grasses.  I even like the contrasting dark green background of juniper although its pollen makes me constantly clear my throat (which is mild compared to others who suffer 'cedar fever').   I love the evergreen quality that is Austin with its numerous Live Oak trees and junipers.

Coming back into the garden it was easy to see it.  Really see it.  While we've had several freezes, micro-climates throughout the garden have left pockets of tender plants to stand until the ultimate freeze comes along.

My garden is in this strange, wondrous state of in-between.  

Tender variegated flax lily (foreground),  dwarf palmetto (middle), nearly dormant Turk's cap (rear middle)

With the Turk's cap nearly dormant the flax lily is really stealing the show.  Although the lily is tender, it has escaped damage so far.  When frozen in the past, it has come back from the roots.

The palmetto is new, added last spring, and will eventually grow into the space serving as a nice textural, evergreen shrub visually softening the wood fence.  It isn't a dense shrub so the other plants will be able to grow amongst its foliage.  As it grows larger, the Turk's cap may need to be relocated but as the palmetto is a slow grower, they are fine for now. 

The shady garage bed; rear from left to right : Japanese yew, forsythia sage, cast iron, philodendron, variegated ginger, Japanese aralia, Japanese yew.  Middle from left to right:  pineapple sage (view obstructed), flax lily (struggling), yellow columbine, variegated ginger, Japanese maple, heartleaf skullcap, cast iron, sparkler sedge, oakleaf hydrangea, river fern, mondo grass.  Front left to right: yellow columbine.

Seeing this bed in partial dormancy is really unusual and it struck me the other day how pretty it is like this.  Still lush with lots of nice texture and color.  Typically the pineapple sage, philodendron and ginger would be dormant as are the forsythia sage, oakleaf hydrangea, Japanese maple and river fern.

The pineapple sage continues to draw in winter bees and butterflies on warm, sunny days.  

Tighter view of the heartleaf skullcap (just beginning to revive for it's spring show), Japanese aralia (behind the stump), sparkler sedge (right) and oakleaf hydrangea (lower right).

Cast iron (left), Japanese aralia (rear right) and sparkler sedge (lower right).  I love how the variegated foliage is brightening up this shady spot. 

The face of the coffee root sculpture watches over this part of the garden with a sage expression.  She stands out nicely against the brick wall and is more salient with the leaves of the maple (left) now scattered at her feet. 

Across the garden, the beautiful, silver bark of the native Texas persimmon grows amongst river fern (foreground of fountain), variegated ginger (behind the gate), star jasmine (trellis left) and Martha Gonzales rose.   Salvia mexicana stands tall at the back of the photo.  All the tender plants show a bit of damage but not enough to distract from the lush verdant display of the plantings.

Micro-climates are making a huge difference in my garden this winter.  It's the perfect marriage of a semi-dormant garden and no mosquitoes!  We've been finding a little bit of time here and there to relax out here and enjoy the unique view these micro-climates have offered.

What's growing in the micro-climates around your garden?


  1. Love your pictures... But seeing that I live in the north.. Nothing is growing in my garden as it is under snow... although we haven't got as much this year. We do have a couple patches of green grass showing.

  2. I have not ventured out today. We have lost most of the snow now and have hit double digit temps (Celsius)so perhaps I will see what buds are out tomorrow.

  3. I do love seeing your garden in these long shots. You have some nice touches with the wall sculpture and the bubbling urn and your evergreen foliage. My micro-climates right now consist of a snow patch and a mud patch and some churned up sod that the plow scraped up! Ha -- I like your micro-climates so much better : )

  4. Cat, I don't know if I've ever seen a tour of some of your beds before -- at least it's been a long, long time. Looks wonderful!

    Micro-climates are hard to detect in my garden, but I'm sure they're there. If this winter continues to be mild, it may be even more difficult to tell what's going on.

  5. Cat, Your garden is so beautiful! Everything looks so green and lush. Your photos are gorgeous, as usual. Thank for posting this. I have a shady area that I was debating on what to plant in it. You've given me some inspiration and wonderful ideas! I've decided that I like gardening in Winter. No bugs and hot sun:)

  6. Hi Cat,
    How nice to see a broader view of your garden!! I just love the sparkler sedge. Just checked it out on the Monrovia site and I see that it is hardy for my area. Do you think it takes a lot of water? I'll bet that sweep of columbine is so pretty in the spring :-) Very pretty garden area! Glad to hear you are getting some of the rain, too! I thought I had a little micro climate on the back (south) side of my house, but the freezes over Christmas time reduced my California elephant ear to mush. It should come back from root, but last year it never even froze. I am glad we are having a little bit more normal winter this year, though, so hopefully the bad bug population will be reduced some. We can always hope, right :-) Take care.

  7. I have to say, I don't know I've ever seen a wide view of your garden before and it is really pretty. I love all the greenery and shapes up against that brick wall. At this time of year in the north I don't notice any micro-climates but rather snow drifts. Some plants are completely buried and others bare. Gives me an idea of beds that could use some extra mulch where they haven't got snow cover.

  8. Your garden has stunning with all of its textures and soft hues! What a wonderful view of your garden!

  9. Everything is pretty much dormant after lows in the teens. I do however enjoy the tawny colored shades of the grasses and broadleaf seedheads. Happy winter! Glad you got all that rain.

  10. Your garden wears winter very well! I love all the whimsical touches throughout your garden too. What a feast for the eyes! I have some volunteer wild strawberries that are flowering and fruiting near my garage. They must be in the perfect spot and get just enough heat from the side of the house to keep them fruitful at this time of year. I love how nature can be so unpredictable!

  11. We've had a hard freeze which should have killed off all the tender annuals in my garden, yet I still have plants growing here and there. Micro climates can work wonders. Love that sparkler sedge by the way. I'm adding that to my future acquisitions list.

  12. I think we should do more looking in the winter and it is far too easy for us to hide indoors during the cold months. It is nice to see a more bleached and winter view of Austin which I am used to seeing looking so bright and warm

  13. i am grateful for the rains we received this week. my plants (the few i have) are much more 'bitten' by the freezes than those you showed. :)

  14. Funny you should ask as the melting snow revealed a snowdrop...lovely to see your garden with all its beautiful foliage

  15. Beautiful photos as ever Cat, and what a great overview of your not-so-dormant garden. I am hoping to mimic your underplanting of the acer with yellow aquilegias, assuming the seed saved comes aproximately true and germinates, I have never forgotten that image. What amused me most was that lovely shot of the sumac and grasses. I have spent a lot of time staring at photos on the web and in magazines whilst pondering how to reinvigorate my new front garden. One of the images I love is a grove of multi stemmed trees (I don't know what they are) carefully underplanted with a sea of festuca. Your shot of the naturally occuring combination is every bit as beautiful! Still learning about my own microclimates...

  16. Oh my! I like Austin in winter! What a stunning place to be at this time of year. Your garage garden is so pretty! Believe it or not, a lot of plants are growing here--they're just covered up by snow. The Hellebores were budding in early December, but they probably won't bloom until March. But I'm trying to appreciate the winter landscape a little more this year, because snow will help supply needed moisture for the coming growing season. Thanks for sharing your beautiful scenes, Cat!

  17. Beautiful, thoughtful post. There's nothing growing in my garden now, except a few garlic seedlings that have sprouted. Beautiful pictures too!

  18. My answer's simple - nothing (...is growing in my microclimates) - just sitting there. An extension agent friend in Z 9a Las Vegas NV told me his low was 14F in one side of his building plantings, and 23F on another - same building. I forget what is growing on which side, but too bad he doesn't blog on it! Your variety is interesting and really carries mid-"winter" nicely, and I like your young Dwarf Palmetto hiding in it all.

  19. All micro climates are buried under a deep blanket of snow here... thankfully, as that is the only way to assure the plant's survival in the deep freeze of Winter that is upon us. Love love love the coffee root sculpture... and do I dare add... covet, covet, covet?

  20. Your micro-climates are so interesting and something I often forget about. I know my shady side, the northeast, has a very different micro-climate than my southeast. It was so nice to see a tour of your garden and all the various plants you have placed. The coffee root sculpture is so beautiful and looks so nice in that spot.

  21. Hi Cat,
    I enjoyed your microclimates. We have them in Nebraska, too. Things on the south and east of the house come up sooner than in the rest of the yard. As far as that goes, I sometimes see things coming up in others' gardens that aren't up in mine yet. I saw the first of the daffodils about half an inch out of the ground today.

  22. My entire garden, micro-climates and all, are asleep under a blanket of snow. It is bitterly cold here ( -20 degrees Celsius). Your pictures are lovely in this post Cat, especially the third one with all the sparkles of light.

  23. Your place looks beautiful. And I love the third photo from the top.


Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."
~A.A. Milne

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