Xeric and stylish gardening in San Antonio, Texas

Going to “Ragna school”…part 1

I am so fortunate that friend and fellow blogger, Shirley from Rock-Oak-Deer, put me in touch with her friend Ragna.  Yes, the Ragna that was recently on Central Texas Gardener, and featured on Shirley’s blog herehere, here, and here.

I went to “Ragna school” for 3.5 hours in her garden this week and I did not leave the same woman/gardener.  The thing about gardeners and garden bloggers, I am learning, is that they share a lot.  They share in knowledge, they are generous, and if you want mentorship, all you have to do is ask!  It blows my mind.

I am so excited to show you around a little (through a few posts!); I know many of you have seen her fabulous gardens already, but gardens never stay the same, and Ragna self-reports she changes things around A LOT.  Oh and by the way, her name is not pronounced “rag-na”, but rather “rawg-na.”  I have been saying it in my head wrong all this time, and I thought you may want to say it “right” in your head too. ;)Ragna and the monkeysHere is the lovely Ragna at the start of our tour with my two monkeys, whom she was both sweet and brave to invite.  Ragna came out to meet us and we started off our tour here under her incredible Arroyo Sweetwood (Myrospermum sousanum) tree.Arroyo Sweetwood (Myrospermum sousanum)Ragna grew this very special tree from seed, and she reports it is easy to do so.  Speaking of seeds – the seed pods are so beautiful (I am kicking myself I did not get a good photo).  They are approx 4 inches long and glow a neon chartreusey-green… MAGICAL.  The best part…Ragna reports that the pods stay that intense color for months and months and do not even begin to turn brown until we are well into fall.  Hell strip bedIsn’t this a beautifully put together little hell-strip end cap?  Native velvet pod mimosa tree (Mimosa dysocarpa), Opuntia Santa-Rita ‘Tubac’, blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum), little bunny grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘little bunny’), and a little pride of barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) seeded itself in front of the opuntia on its own. What is that red plant in the back, you ask?firecracker fernIt is the most intensely red firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis) I have ever seen.  So gorgeous!Large front bedThis anchor front garden bed pulled me in – I loved this eclectic-looking combo (yet still easy enough to duplicate) of yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), cold-hardy mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) , with a few key pots and art mixed in to make it Ragna-style. Typically I find native yaupon holly a little boring – SHAME ON ME.  Ragna uses them in a few key areas around her home, and she maintains them to perfection.  I also noticed that she likes to utilize their limbs as picture frames to surround special scenes like this one…yaupon framePretty, eh?  behind the hedgeShe has a special way of framing scenes, and it continues throughout her garden.  I enjoyed this very natural scene behind the front hedge of tough Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’, agave (weberi?), Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), and wooly butterfly bush (Buddleja marrubiifolia).  When it fills in, this bed is going to be even more dynamite.  Ragna has a way of making even the most natural scenes funky – in this one, a few pots she painted brightly, and a very eclectic hardscape arrangement.  Yep, she Ragna-styled this area too.  Everything in this garden is interesting and fun to look at – LOVE IT!wormwoodAnother natural scene – Ragna rescued this wormwood from a near-by field.  In behind you see part of her container collection.The Ragna collectionCheck -it -out! it's aliveLove this one! It is ALIVE! puya potLove these too!  Also, her use of large hanging baskets, with funky plants, in her trees looks amazing.bird bathAnd look at these!  Ragna sure has a special way of displaying her collections.  Next, I am going to show a few pictures without chatter.  I know I learned so much from her arrangements and the flare containers add within the landscape – I hope you get as many ideas as I did.  WOW lone pot adds so muchOkay sorry…chatter already…but look at what this tiny container adds to this scene!  It finishes it off.  She does not miss a single opportunity!pots galore my favorite vignette holly fern canna and gold dust plant Night-Blooming Cereus hanging basket agave Huge lizardThere is also a lot of non-living art around Ragna’s garden, check out this scary lizard.  But look closer…Wasp eatin' lizard!It is alive!  No, just kidding.  BUT, that is a real wasp nest.  Ragna said she leaves the wasp nests around her home alone.  She says they take care of the aphids for her.

We are going to move around back on my next post.

What I learned most in Ragna’s front garden –

1-Containers add so much to the landscape.

2- Trees are so important – so important I am going to do a post just on “Ragna’s Trees” so please stay tuned.

3- Be flexible.  In speaking with Ragna, so many of her plants seeded themselves and she rolled with it.  They look incredible.  I am still in the “I want what I want where I want it stage” – completely unrealistic.  Also, Ragna has re-invented her front garden many times over many years – due to deer…due to pests…but she rolled with it.

As years go by, I can only dream of being as good a gardener as Ragna….as flexible and as skilled …

Thank you Ragna, for sharing your garden and your knowledge.

Stay tuned y’all….for “The Stress-Free Zone”…A.K.A. Ragna’s backyard.


  1. Oh, I’m so glad you had fun on your visit and learned from Ragna. It’s so important, especially in our climate to learn from other gardeners since there aren’t many other resources.

    • Yes ma’am – I feel so lucky to have you so close! And now to know Ragna as well. Thank you Shirley :) -xericstyle

  2. Wow Heather — do you ever have a great relationship with your camera! You just point and shoot (or so it seems) and out pops a perfectly arranged picture.

    Folks, Heather is beautiful and brilliant and her children adorable. They were both so well behaved during all the hours of their visit. It was a delight! And I’m looking forward to many more get togethers as Heather lives just a couple of miles from me.

    • Awe- that is too sweet, and generous! I would love to take better pictures and feel the ones I did take do not do your garden justice! We loved meeting you and mister Bob too…and we have so much in common beyond just gardening, y’all living next door to dear friends, and being our neighbours too! SMALL WORLD! Thanks again, xo -xericstyle

  3. WOW! What a cool garden. It makes me realize all the work I have to do in mine;) She really does have a flare for putting containers together. I’ve gotten a ton of inspiration. Thank you for the tour.
    PS I really like the fern in the 6th pic from the top. Beautiful! Do you happen to know the name of it? Was it in the ground or in a pot? Sorry for all the questions…I’m a little fern obsessed right now:)

    • It sure was, Steph…and I felt the same way. My head was spinning. I am not sure on that fern, but I would be happy to ask Ragna for you. Oh and if you are fern obsessed…if you look at the picture of the holly fern window box, to the left you see firecracker fern arms. She planted it in the shade, she said it never really flowers, but Steph, the effect the foliage “wires” has is stunning! Vine like but not a vine… it is so neat! -xericstyle

    • Ragna said it is Plumosa Nanus – happy shopping, Steph! -xericstyle

  4. Oh, I see what you are saying about the firecracker fern branches. Very neat! I really appreciate the info on the fern. I will be on the lookout for it the next time I’m at the garden center.
    PS The hubby and I have some very kind friends who potted up some Jimson weed. I decided to pass on the little plants after finding out they can get out of control. If you think you might be interested in them, please let me know. I know several Austin garden bloggers grow them in their gardens. I’m just trying to find a home for the little babies:) Here is link if you need more info on them: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/355/

    • Aren’t they neat – I wish I got a better photo for you. Thanks for thinking of me on the Datura…but after reading more I am a little nervous about them too, so I have to pass. Thanks again though :) -xericstyle

  5. Great post.
    It’s always good to learn from gardeners in your area. Especially ones who have been so successful. They’ve found out what works, and what doesn’t.
    And, it’s good to see gardens from different points of view.
    Looking forward to more…..

    • Amen! I feel so fortunate to have Shirley and Ragna so close to me. They are a wealth of knowledge. -xericstyle

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