David’s top 10 plants in our garden

August 31, 2020

First Tamara’s husband, David, guest-posted about his favorite flowers on his wife’s blog Chickadee Gardens. Then Loree at Danger Garden interviewed her non-gardening husband, Andrew, about his top ten favorite plants (not limited to flowers since her garden is foliage-centric), and included his haiku-like descriptions of each plant.

I was charmed. Loree suggested that others might want to do the same with their non-gardening partner, and so I roped David into walking around the garden with me, post-swim, on a 103-degree afternoon. Needless to say, flowers are few and far between in my garden right now (and always), but he had plenty to choose from among foliage plants.

David is not a gardener. In all the years we’ve been married, he’s never expressed interest in planting anything. He enjoys being outdoors to go biking or hiking, but he only spends time in our garden to do chores like weed-eating live oak sprouts and taking care of the pool. He has, however, done some wonderful hardscaping projects for the garden, including building the pool-pump shed and installing outdoor lighting. I tell you all this just to say that I really had no idea what he would choose as his favorite plants.

I don’t think he did either. But as we walked around the garden together, he had definite opinions about plants that he liked. I was intrigued to discover that he’s drawn to geometry, symmetry, glaucous foliage, and grasses. Also, while there are some flowers right now — for example, pale pavonia, Mexican honeysuckle, firecracker fern, orchid tree — he named as favorites just two plants currently blooming. He’s a foliage guy!

Without further ado, here are David’s top ten plants in our garden and why.

1. ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Blue Ice’): “Nice color. I like the triangular shape.”

This is one of my faves too. For fun, allow me to digress to show you how small this tree was 11 years ago when I planted it — about 4-1/2 feet. Today it’s as tall as our 2nd-story roof!

2. Bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa): “Fluffy.” Well said.

3. Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’): “I like the tails when they’re backlit.” Note to self: He’s absolutely right about the “tails,” so plant more of these next spring.

4. Inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium): “I like the oats, how they turn color from green to brown, and how they droop.” This is a pretty native grass, and underappreciated.

5. Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora): “A pleasant tree. Interesting trunk shape, waxy leaves, grape-smelling flowers.” This is a classic and excellent choice for someone in central Texas. While my tree is still immature, eventually this Hill Country native fills out into a lovely ornamental tree…

…that does this in early spring. Each wisteria-like flower cluster pumps out a fragrance like a grape Kool-Aid factory.

6. Silver Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis var. argentea): “I like the fan shape of the leaves.” A big, bold choice.

7. ‘Amistad’ salvia: “Really pretty flower color.” I agree.

8. Soap aloe (Aloe maculata): “The plant itself is kind of annoying [because of the toothy leaves when he was running wire for the outdoor lights]. But I like the spots on the leaves, and it has a really cool flower.”

Indeed, this plant bites and draws a little blood whenever I pull out pups around it. But it’s worth it for the starry, spotted leaves and candelabra of hummingbird-attracting flowers.

9. Whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia): “Nice color. Symmetry.” He knows which side his bread is buttered on, doesn’t he?

10. Beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata): “It’s poofy on top, and I like the color. It’s interesting that the trunk is made up of old leaves. Symmetry. Cool shape.”

I love his appreciation for the yucca’s skirt of brown leaves. Not everyone likes that, and many gardeners trim off the old leaves. But I see that as unnecessary work and figure the yucca has them for a reason. Even better to appreciate them!

Bonus plant: Even though he’ll read this, I’m going to out him for his very first choice, the humble boxwood, specifically the spherically clipped ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods in the Circle Garden. After he named it, he immediately wanted to take it back, feeling perhaps that it wasn’t a worthy or interesting choice. So I asked him what he liked about it, and he said the shape.

Exactly! I love native plants and big, bold plants and other more interesting plants too, but those clipped boxwoods add essential structure and geometry to the garden, especially amid the wilder-looking plants like white mistflower and sedge. I didn’t always see the value in a topiaried boxwood or three, but that all changed when I visited the stunning Austin gardens of James David and Jackson Broussard.

Anyway, that’s his list! It’s funny — I’ve gardened here 12 years, and I often point out things that interest me and that I think will interest him. But I never thought to ask what his favorite plants might be. I just figured he didn’t really care enough to have an opinion. But of course he does, and he has a taste for particular kinds of foliage. I think he would enjoy a visit to The John Fairey Garden, where foliage reigns supreme in bold plants from northern Mexico.

Update: Here are two more bloggers who asked their husbands about fave plants too, plus the original two:

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