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Saturday, November 18, 2023


In 2021 we moved into a grey house. The previous owners loved grey both inside and out.


Somehow I had to try to make it work with the things we brought with us taking the emphasis off the grey. Inside was one thing outside another. It would have been a huge undertaking to change the color of the house not to mention getting permission from the HOA review board! All the terracotta pots of plants I brought with me didn't look right against the clean modern lines of the grey house. And so began the change. It also brought with it a simplification which was the reasoning behind moving here in the first place. Grey and black planters and square rather than round to complement the formidable, square patio pillars, softening the area. Away with all those tiny pots which dried out too quickly and maybe a new beginning with a coat of paint.

 I was lucky to find some square planters on sale at 50% of the price. With a little negotiation ( a few had dings) we managed a great deal. All the pot feet were pained black. Now for the plants. Drought tolerant plants which require little to no water when I am away from home. They must also tolerate vast swings in sun and shade as the sun moves across the sky from winter to summer. 


 Cactus and succulents and small agave  the obvious choice. Shout if you can identify this small agave.


I already had a few nice specimens and purchased several elephant food plants, Portulacaria afra, for the larger pots. Elephant food can be grown in full sun or part shade and is very drought tolerant. And there is a variegated version which I think I like even better. The stems are dark burgundy and look stunning against the pale foliage.



Elephant food roots easily from cuttings but will need to be protected from frost. A friend of mine who lives in S.Cal. uses this as a ground cover on his hillside and has a small 'nursery' of pots he has rooted to increase their spread. After the new year I will cut back one of the plants and start my own nursery. Growing in the ground would probably not work here as we have too many nocturnal visitors.

I have never been a huge fan of variegated plants but  now find they are very suitable to tone down my large areas of grey. The plant below, Pereskia acuelata also came from my Austin garden. It seems to prefer this climate and has coped well with a long hot summer.

Looking across from the patio are the 3 A. desmettiana variegata and Joe Hoak I planted 2 years ago. They have grown well despite having their lower leaves eaten by critters I try to rescue pups as soon as they appear or they would be eaten too. Is there any hope for this one? Of course,but it may take a few years of potted life. 


The old bird bath stand and planter have joined the grey world too. 


I do have plans to add color to the edges of the garden. Newly purchased Tecoma stans 'Sparklette' seemed like a good choice as it grows to 3' and is frost hardy. It may die back to the ground during a very cold winter. In another part of the garden I have replaced a Photinia with sparklette. There was nothing wrong with the photinia as it was healthy and evergreen and did put on a great display in the spring but I just felt there were too many other plants with more merit.

 It grows alongside aloes and  Tecoma capensis, Cape honeysuckle, an original planting. The hummingbirds love this bush.

This white alyssum has returned from last year. It seems to be an easy variety to grow, unlike the purple with which I have had no success.

I am thinking of taking out some of the pavers alongside the pillars and planting vines. The only problem will be irrigation during periods when we are gone. But that will be a job for the new year when we return from our winter travels. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my garden friends. May the holidays bring you lots of gardening joy.


  1. You've done a great job with fitting your posts - and plants - to your home's lines, Jenny. The variegated Agave may be A. applanata 'Cream Spike' - it stands out nicely in the pot. Thanks for the introduction to Tecoma 'Sparklette' too - it's a much more manageable size than the other
    Tecome I've seen.

    1. I certainly hope sparklette grows as stated. There are some huge Tecoma in or area. More manageable sized plants are needed for smaller gardens. I will check out cream spike. A lovely name. Jenny

  2. I new palette and colour to reflect a new life. I always think of you gardening with terracotta, but the changes you've made work really well for your new home. I sense a lot of learning along the way from your post. Exciting!

    1. It would have been better if I had left my pots and plants behind. So many have died. They liked Austin life much better. But things are slowly coming together. Miss you and Austin gardeners so much.

  3. All is looking quite lovely, Jenny, and it's interesting to learn the "why" behind the changes you've made to your color palette. I agree with Kris that the small agave looks like 'Cream Spike'. Is that a passalong from me, I wonder? I've shared a few pups over the years. I believe my original was from Bob Beyer.

  4. The new containers look great. You are right in that the terracotta probably would be too glaring against the grey. However, the red flowers of the Tecoma and the red foliage and stems look stunning against the grey. Red always seems to be a challenging colour to incorporate but it works perfectly for you. The garden has really developed nicely and looks like it has been there longer than it has.


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