Howdy from Austin…party at Lucinda’s

My apologies that the Austin posts have been appearing in dribs and drabs. Lots of May travel pushed my own late spring garden tasks right on in to June and I have not caught up yet. Add to that some June travel, lots of mountain cabin maintenance (when the smoke from surrounding blazes was not too bad), my husband’s retirement and too many other distractions to list. I think these are supposed to be my Golden Years…

I like to introduce posts about private gardens with a nice wide photo of the garden’s street side vista to let you take in what any walker, runner or bicyclist would enjoy as they pass by on their daily routine. This time I’m going to introduce you to the garden creator first, as she sets the stage better than any wide shot could.

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Lucinda Hutson is a cookbook author, garden and lifestyle author and lover of all things “Texican”. Lucinda is a self described tequila aficionada and the golden nectar is the focus of her latest book, Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking and Other Agave Adventures. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and has lived in and gardened on her urban Austin cottage property for over 41 years. Her website (www.lucindahutson.com) entitled Life is a Fiesta with Lucinda! is a party for both your eyes and your spirit.

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How can you not love a gardener who wears purple cowboy boots??

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We arrive at Lucinda’s casita “La Morada” (little purple house) in a dappled early morning light that only exaggerates the cottage’s whimsical, Texas style fairy tale aura. Being a girl whose own garden graces a home with a purple front door and matching trellis work, how can I not be tickled by this brightly colored bungalow? The bright white trim allows the bold colors to pop while also acting as a unifying detail. Lucinda has done what we all secretly want to do–she has painted her home to delight herself rather than for resale!

The sculptural tree trunk is that of a ginkgo tree, planted by Lucinda 36 years ago from a five gallon can. She shared that it is one of the oldest and tallest ginkgo species in Austin.

A purple house deserves a pink door in my book and the floral themed tile accents set the tone for the layer upon layer of detail the rest of the home and garden offer. Just to the left of the arch you can see Lucinda’s tiled house number leap right off its purple backdrop.

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Sancho, the resident gato, keeps a watchful eye on his garden’s visitors.

Lucinda’s garden was originally an organic herb garden, an integral part of her life as an author of books and articles about cooking and entertaining. But as many gardens do, it evolved over time into a gathering spot for friends and neighbors and a place for Lucinda to try new plants and observe the constant buzz of nature around her.

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At the time of our visit the front garden was predominantly green, some plants having finished their early spring flowering and other summer bloomers not yet at their prime. Please go to her website and take the photographic garden tour and you will see much abloom plus an great display of vining  and climbing beauties ablaze with bright flowers.

Lucinda graciously invited those who desired to go through her home to reach the back garden as a way of spreading out the traffic flow in the small space. I decided to take the gravel path, passing the shady woodland area, into the wide side courtyard.

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This side courtyard is appropriately called the Fish Pond and Mermaid Grotto and is awash (no pun intended) with all things of the sea.

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This lushly planted area abounds with a great variety of foliage and blooming plants, including many pots.

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Even the stone wall behind the pond has a fish swimming across it!

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The mermaid altar rises from a sea of copper troughs in which succulents and sansevieria are planted, as if on the sea floor.

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On the cottage side of the courtyard this Haitian mermaid and friends swim in a sea of purple.

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Colorful pots echo the purple and hot pink color theme.

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An open area with seating perfect for relaxing with a glass of iced tea separates the Pond and Mermaid Grotto from the Kitchen Garden, where the cool blues and purples of the sea give way to yellows and oranges evoking the Texican theme.

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All manner of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers grow in raised beds and containers. You can get a glimpse in both photos (near the greenhouse) of Our Lady of La Tina in her bathtub shrine keeping an eye on all that grows here.

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Lucinda unabashedly admits that her garden is both water and labor intensive. Although she has an extensive drip system many hours, especially in the hottest parts of summer, are needed with a hose in hand, making sure every little corner and pot has been covered.  Winter is not without effort as she must move many succulents and tropicals to the greenhouse or garage for protection from the cold.

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In the last three photos you can see little snippets of the numerous plates Lucinda uses to border her Kitchen Garden raised beds, a play on her “garden to plate” theme. Not to leave the cutlery out, these shiny cuties pop their heads up from the herbs and veggies.

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This unique corn themed mosaic window frame is right across from the Kitchen Garden and easily visible from Lucinda’s kitchen.

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The Interior Patio packs a lot of goings on into a compact area. As you round the end of Lucinda’s cottage she has displayed her colorful collection of wooden Mexican wicker seated chairs.

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This entrance to her collection of Latin books, artifacts and collectibles is called the Stairway to Heaven.

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I took just a peek but a few of my fellow bloggers found a lot to see!

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A potted green room divider separates the cottage from the balance of the garden. I love the unique “awning” wrapping the corner and extending across the back of the house.

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A large wood deck offers umbrella covered dining opportunities and the gateway to Lucinda’s Creative Cathedral, an aromatic cedar cabin where she does all her writing.

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The cabin offers a dark, cool haven in contrast to the brightly painted and lavishly decorated garden exteriors.

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This great spot in Lucinda’s garden is perfect for plant display or to have a bite to eat. The multitiered benches are covered with weather friendly oil cloth.

The back part of the garden houses the Tequila Cantina including a unique tequila bottle tree.

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Notice the mulch–bottle corks! No found object fitting Lucinda’s themes goes unused.

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An outdoor shower is handy just in case anyone imbibes a bit too much. An open area of flagstone patio allows Lucinda to set up her party tables, chairs and fixings in whatever style suits the to-do!

Lucinda’s garden is intimate in size and in its ability to give you a window into her life and personality. Few of us are bold enough to live life as large as this garden does.

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We admired, lingered, chatted, took pictures and notes AND I’m sure a few of us probably asked to come back again, like reading a book the second time to catch all those things you missed the first time. Lucinda’s garden is like a party everyone wants to be invited to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howdy from Austin…digging under the Death Star

In addition to her award winning blog Digging, Pam Penick’s garden creds include founding the Garden Bloggers Fling in 2008, an eight year run as a garden designer and freelance writing credits in well known garden magazines such as Garden Design, Country Gardens and Wildflower. In her spare time (?) she has authored two books, Lawn Gone! and The Water Saving Garden, and organizes an annual series of Garden Spark Talks in her home featuring local designers and garden experts.

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A little borrowed landscape as you approach Pam’s home

My Central California summer shares the heat and drought challenges Pam faces. She calls Austin’s scorching summer sun the Death Star and confides that she does the majority of her gardening in the spring and fall, as I do, and tries to relax in her pool, as I do, through the dog days. Having seen many of Pam’s garden elements from reading her blog over the last few years, I wasn’t sure I would see anything new but I hoped to expand my knowledge of the proverbial ‘spiky things’ that thrive in her landscape. An additional garden challenge for her is what Texas gardeners coyly refer to as ‘deer pressure’. When I lived in Georgia we called ’em like we saw ’em–those #$%&@#ing deer! Periodic torrential rains necessitate well thought out systems of dry stream beds and terracing to direct water away from home foundations and slow runoff down to mitigate erosion, hoping that your plan allows some of that water to percolate down into the landscape. Pam has approached her garden’s challenges with apparent good humor and the willingness to keep trying until she focuses in on the right solution.

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Pam describes her home as a “nondescript 70’s ranch”–the fact is that most of us live in nondescript ranches or bungalows or colonials of some vintage. Not to imply that all gardeners regard their homes as brick and mortar backdrops for their effort but for me it’s the garden that makes the home, not the other way around. Pam has added an edgy vibe through her use of contemporary materials and architectural plantings plus a pop of color with her aqua front door.

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To the left of her front door this trio of rusty metal planters hold heat lovers not favored by her antlered friends and their families. On the bus Pam shared with us the story of being given the tall metal pipe (which is also sunk into the ground several feet) and the ensuing harrowing effort it took to get the large toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) into its new airy perch. The squaty one is a whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia).

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To the right Pam has planted a variety of leafy green and gray plants tucked up to the foundation, bordered by a gravel path to the back garden. Spring comes very early to Pam’s garden and thus many of her spring bloomers are well past their time.

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The rusted metal spiky ‘plant’ was added to the tall container to give it a little more vertical interest.

Pam’s front garden is mostly shaded by mature trees. A hill-like planting area provides a place to add a variety of shrubs, succulents and a few perennials which soften the circle driveway.

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Across the driveway a stepping stone path winds toward the back garden. The area features a semi-circle ‘lawn’ of ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge (top photo, far left) and a shade illuminating patch of flax lily (Dianella). Recently Pam posted photos on her blog of a newborn fawn resting in this shady patch, apparently waiting for mom to return from shopping or lunch!

There is a party going on in Pam’s back garden! She has created a strolling garden of exploration, with lots of places to sit, relax and enjoy the many views.

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In a relatively compact space Pam has created multiple garden rooms and seating areas, layering in potted cacti and succulents which do not require her daily attention through the hottest parts of the Austin summer.

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The very private and shady back garden is lit up in its center by a curvy, cool aqua pool.

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Ok–so where can I get one of these that says FRESNO? The rustic sapling (Juniper?) fencing seems to disappear into the shade.

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One of two elevated comfy seating and eating areas. The lot slopes down from the house to the fence and these raised areas offer great garden and pool views. Pam has used lots of interesting containers to add green at many elevations, softening the brick facade and prominent use of stone to make the downhill slope transitions.

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The extension of her home into the back yard in a sort of upside down T shape makes this first raised area totally private from the deck just a few feet away.

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The deck offers a perfect dining spot with a view of the pool, plantings and Pam’s favorite garden feature, the stock tank pond surrounded by a stone sunburst patio.

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Pam’s garden is clearly a very personal space and these two little bricks dedicated to her children and set into the sunburst patio are right on the top of my list of favorite Penick garden elements.

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Pam’s goal to welcome non-deer wildlife is brought up close on her deck with the nesting box she installed for her resident screech owls to raise their family each year. I am going to tell you one more time to check out her blog at http://www.penick.net for several posts from May 2018 chronicling her screech owl family’s progress.

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In a shout out to Austin’s famous bridge bat colony this rusty bat hangs in repose over the deck.

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Steps away from both the pond and the pool this vintage meets contemporary conversation area beckons. The pool patio walls offer additional seating and a spot for Pam’s pooch, Cosmo, to sunbathe.

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I’ve never met a bottle tree (bottle hedge? bottle shrub?) I didn’t want for my own and this one is no exception. The cobalt glass sparkles in the dappled shade. Pam’s lot beyond the pool drops off pretty sharply and there are many massive stones to scramble over. She told me they were all ready in the landscape when they purchased the home and conjectured that the stones might have been unearthed when the pool was dug and then just spread out across the property rather than hauling them away.

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Salvia guaranitica echo Pam’s color choices in much of her garden art.

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You leave the back garden via a very wide side yard. This grouping of lattice framed mirrors draws you along the path and makes what would have been the ubiquitous blank wall of the back of her garage shine! Pam gave us the tip that the mirrors are plexiglass rather than glass, giving the reflection a wavy interesting feel and making it less attractive and hazardous to birds.

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This rustic and shady seating area is secluded from street view by carefully placed plantings. I am truly convicted now that I must add more seating and feet propping up spots throughout my garden.

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As I make my way back to the front a contemporary blue tuteur rest upon a lawn of ‘Berkeley’ sedge in perfect color harmony with a trio of ceramic globes.

Despite a whole lot going on, Pam has developed her garden into spaces that are visually calming through repetition of plant and foliage shapes. She has chosen a really nice balance of contemporary and vintage throughout which seems to evoke the Texas ambience which has enveloped me since I arrived. Giving old stuff new life and combining it with modern materials and architecture keeps Austin funky and fun.

Run…do not walk to check out Digging:Cool Gardens in a Hot Climate (www.penick.net) If I was savy enough to offer you links to the individual posts I mentioned about the fawn and the owls, I would. But then you might not spend a delightful hour or two just scrolling through her great variety of posts, including a bevy of garden travel destinations she takes us to through her wonderful photography. I would start by clicking on the tab New? Start Here to get an overview of her extensive site–you’ll love it!

Howdy from Austin…almost above the clouds

After a whirlwind trip to University of Georgia in Athens which saw me on the ground for less than 24 hours sandwiched between a couple of 2 hour flights from and to Austin I fell into my Texas hotel room for a night’s rest. Up and out bright and early on Saturday morning I joined my fellow bloggers on the bus in anticipation of the day’s adventure. I learned that the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling had gotten off to a bit of a rocky–no, I mean rainy start as many of my companions commented on today’s promising weather.

Over the next two full days we would tour 10 private gardens plus spend a little time at the Zilker Botanical Gardens. Rather than sharing them with you strictly in the order we visited, I am going to mix them up over many days alternating large and small, formal and funky, dry and lush–hoping to give you a broad vista of what Austin gardeners are doing.

After winding up into the hills overlooking downtown Austin and the University of Texas Tower there was still more climbing to do to get to the always-in-progress garden of Ruthie Burrus.

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So here’s were we hopped off the bus at street level. In Ruthie’s own words her 2 acre property is “all about pollinators, native plants, and taking advantage of views and natural surroundings.” No where is this more well illustrated than on the long walk up her driveway. I expect there is probably a golf cart in play to get the mail and haul the trashcans back and forth because it is not a casual stroll but a lung pumping ‘lean into it’ hike. I’m going to walk you up in pictures rather than words!

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Halfway there

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Glancing back to make sure we haven’t lost anyone!

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The beautiful limestone Texas ranch house comes into view

The Burrus garden came to life into 2012 with the joint goals of a private retreat with ample outdoor entertaining spaces and a landscape which would provide natural habitat for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and moths to flourish. The ever-changing wildflower meadows which flank the driveway showcase native wildflowers, annuals and perennials amongst a backdrop of evergreen and deciduous hardwood trees and mature shrubbery. Ruthie’s garden is both a Certified Wildlife Habitat and a Certified Monarch Waystation. They have also built in a roof and gutter rainwater retrieval and storage system which includes a 10,000 gallon galvanized tank to provide chemical free irrigation to their gardens.

Ruthie has invited us to approach her back garden through her home. Her home has tremendous visual appeal–a variety of traditional Texas materials all pulled together to exude casual elegance. Liveablility always enhances a home beauty and this newer home has the warm feel of one lived for generations.

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Stone and stucco highlight the variety of facades through the shade of mature oaks
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This large colony of Jerusalem sage was just coming into bloom–I expect by afternoon it is in full sun
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Paths of massive stones wind among the beds
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A small side porch offers a welcoming rocker
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Long views to the distant hills from the front walkway

Ruthie shared that this side of her home is cool in the mornings and can be scorching in the afternoons. We enjoyed the dappled midmorning shade and I expect the front garden would look very different in full sun. I especially admired how Ruthie has used masses of a single species to fill large beds and borders. No frenzy of mixed color, just quiet drifts of many greens punctuated now and then with a drift of flowering perennial color.

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The Burrus front door is protected by a deep overhang and was totally in shade at the time of our visit. Even with my unsophisticated photography I think you can get that this is the reward for the long walk up the driveway. You can see straight through their home, across the pool to the skyline of Austin.

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Stepping out onto this beautifully styled outdoor living area the full impact of their bluff location is everywhere.

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The pool is a classic rectangle with a dark interior which I think allows your eye to focus on the skyline rather than the individual element of the hardscape.

Every choice Ruthie made for her inviting seating area is perfect and focuses on the homeowner’s connection to her garden and nature.

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Dramatic artwork depicting a nest over the woodturning fireplace
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Simple stone bowl planted with a single succulent species
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Rustic wooden container with mixed succulents

The garden wraps around the house on both sides. To the right there is a step down to a serene mixed perennial bed, beautifully viewed from the slightly elevated lawn. It strikes me that no area was deemed not important enough to create a beautiful view from the home’s interior.

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The back garden itself is quite shallow with a narrow lawn and bluff bordering beds whose contents provide color and interest without detracting from the views. As you walk the garden to the left in a circle which will eventually bring you back to the crest of the driveway there is so much to admire.

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Large dining area adjacent to a wall of windows allowing more great views from the interior
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Perennial and rose filled beds–I’ll volunteer to pull weeds here any day
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Tucked up close to the house is a great masonry and stone pizza oven–only a few steps from the dining area
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Another view of the Ruthie’s Garden Haus which I featured in the Austin sneak peak post

The Garden Haus anchors Ruthie’s Provence garden, a gravel filled area adorned with plantings of lantana, bee balm, roses and citrus trees. The haus is constructed entirely of vintage and salvaged materials and features rock gleaned from their property. Ruthie assured us that her haus is a very functional garden shed on the inside–not at all cute–I remain unconvinced and lustful for my own little stone house all the same.

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Jim Peterson, editor of Garden Design magazine and a loyal Fling sponsor, interviews Ruthie on video as she tells the story of her unique garden structure, adding that the climbing Peggy Martin rose inspired her desire for an old house to support an old rose.

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Just past the Garden Haus, Ruthie has hidden substantial storage and outdoor staging space for pots and supplies behind the rock walls–the open lawn offers lots of play space for the grandkids
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This peak through the fence and across the neighbor’s property offers a view of the Texas Colorado River
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As we come full circle back to the front Ruthie has tucked in a fanciful play area including a rustic platform tree house

As our group gathers around to start our downhill trek a murmur runs through the crowd that we have been offered the chance to go up to the 3rd floor observation tower above Mr. Burrus’s office space. I am not sure everyone got to climb up the narrow staircase to the small open air viewing platform–so sorry for those who missed it!

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We passed through Mr. Burrus’s office with its killer skyline view

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Another single file climb ended in a small circular platform with 360 degree views. The architecture of the home was so interesting from this drone’s eye view. Only room for 4 or 5 people at a time, we each tried for a quick photo then gave our spot over to the next person on the stairs.

Ruthie walked back down the long driveway with our group and as we pulled away on our bus bound for our next garden destination I could see her with gloves and sun hat, bent over in her meadow–the scene would have made a beautiful impressionist painting entitled Garden Woman at Work.

Austin pre-Fling road trips…Friendly Natives Nursery

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I found all the Fredericksburg natives to be very welcoming and friendly but none more so than Matthew Kolodzie, owner of Friendly Natives Nursery. His retail nursery and design-build firm sits amongst a shady grove of 150 year old post oak trees just a few blocks off Main Street.

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This day Matt and his small staff were busy ‘resetting’ the plant materials for the new season and straightening up after a windy night had left lots of large specimens laying down. With my camera clearly taking wide shots and my notebook in hand he may have easily recognized that I wasn’t a local shopping for native plants. When shared that I was from California he was very interested in what brought me to him–I described the Garden Bloggers Fling event and how I had found him through Central Texas Gardener (shout out to this great publication/tv show/blog who signed on as a Fling sponsor). He immediately encouraged me to bring the whole group to visit and asked me to share with one of our leaders, Pam Penick, his appreciation for her blog. I am not sure how his education as an engineer brought him to his passion for landscape design focused on native and well adapted plants but he clearly has a deep commitment to his role as an advocate and educator for those wanting to live with gardens evocative of Texas Hill Country style.

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The Friendly Natives property was owned in the 1900s by the local monument maker. Matt shared that there are still gravestones here and there that were left behind and one of the smaller outbuildings has written records of the stonemason’s orders on the wall. One of two small homes on the grounds acts as the cashier and gift shop area. It has been nicely restored and I would have been happy to just hang out on the porch all day.

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A nice variety of well maintained plants are arranged under trees and around seating vignettes. I was crazy over the potting shed pictured below.

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Matt and I talked plants for much more time than than he probably had to spare. I saw several interesting plants that I would love to try in my garden but the age old issue of ‘you can’t buy it unless someone grows and sells it’ came up–I did jot a few names down to survey my mail order sources for availability.

I met two of his three lady chickens. All three are called Michelle after Michelle Obama. Matt joked that all they ever said was “barack, barack” so the name just seemed appropriate. As we chatted, he leaned over to move a pot so that the gray Michelle could find a tasty morsel in the moist soil underneath.

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I loved the foliage combination of the variegated Silene dioica ‘Clifford Moor’ and the Salvia lyrata, or lyre leafed sage. I am game for pretty much any sage and this is one I have never seen in my area.

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Another foliage standout was Heucherella ‘Solar Eclipse’ shown below. The heucherellas are crosses of selections of heuchera and tiarella. Tiarella as a genus is much less tolerant of sun than heuchera are. I expect the crosses seek to get the best foliage variegation combined with greater sun tolerance.

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A casual query to Matt about where I might find a few well done residential landscapes to photograph brought an offer to jump in his truck and take a ride! Only a few blocks down toward Main Street were a residential landscape he had recently completed and the grounds of a local bed and breakfast he had refurbished. I also learn that the small front gardens of two local restaurants near the Japanese Garden of Peace were his work. Not wanting to take up any more of his time I declined his very kind offer of a guided tour and bade him good-bye, reflecting on what an asset he is to his community. He is clearly the kind of plant professional who is generous with his time and knowledge without regard to whether you actually have business to give him. He is the kind of nurseryman that you then return to when you have defined your project because he remember how well you were treated on your previous encounter.

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This wide side yard, almost the size of a second city lot was installed by Matt Kolodzie to include a covered dining area, a graceful fountain and a fire pit under the mature canopy of existing trees.

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This is the imaginative yard on the other side of the same home–also a very wide space with significant exposure to the street. Although not part of Matt’s design I wanted you to see the watering cans lined up on the stone planter playing the role of garden art! I saw this rustic fencing which I believe is made from native juniper trunks, executed in many variations all over Central Texas.

Below is a series of photos from Matt’s garden project at the Sugarberry Inn. The inn is anchored by a vintage home. Additional modern cottages were added on one side. The entire property backs on Town Creek.

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New waterwise streetscape installed under existing trees
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Central Texas has given me a whole new appreciation for the architectural qualities of the Hesperaloe flower stalk

Each of of the little cottages has a rocking chair front porch. The plantings are repeated throughout and include salvias, rosemary, Texas redbud, abelia and a gorgeous cinnamon colored rose which echoes the siding color.

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This one is my choice!

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This serene end of day relaxing area is at the far end of the little row of cottages. The creek is behind the outdoor fireplace and just down a small slope. I can see this design being perfectly suited to a small residential garden as well.

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A winding path from the fireplace seating area leads to a slightly downhill seating vignette. This dry creek bed was designed to carry runoff from the property down to the creek. Matt told me that it had proven itself in recent hard rains.

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Pretty plantings wind from the cottages to the rear of the original home which serves as the office. This was a pretty dang cute B & B–walking distance to Main Street’s shops and restaurants and the museum. Too bad you probably couldn’t afford to live there year around.

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I really enjoyed the short time I had in Fredericksburg. The drive from Austin was relatively easy with little traffic, the town’s history and architecture compelling and the unexpected Garden of Peace the cherry on top. I rate this road trip 5 stars!

 

Austin pre-Fling road trips… heading west

On my second adventure day before the start of the Garden Bloggers Fling 2018 I headed west toward Fredericksburg. In my quest to be just a little less structured when I travel I left Austin without a specific itinerary other than to stop by Friendly Natives, a locally owned nursery and landscape business, and stroll the streets of this picturesque Hill Country community founded in 1846 by the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants.

Heading out on Highway 290, it was only a few miles from Austin proper before I had to make a quick U-turn in Dripping Springs to check out the town’s bespoke nursery and garden art gallery Sol’stice owned by landscape designer Christopher Smartt and his mom, Irene Anderson.

My own geriatric Volvo station wagon: hauler of plants, amendments, stone and all other garden related materials, has developed a keen sense of knowing when and how to turn on a dime when someplace off the road calls my gardening name but the shiny new rental car perhaps had not known me long enough to anticipate my desires!  This small house on just 3 acres packs in a ton of curb appeal–who could not stop to check out this huge metal guitar? I pulled in right behind mom Irene who invited me to look around while she made a quick trip to the post office.

There is lots of interesting garden art made by owner Chris and other predominantly metal artists. Many of the very large pieces are scattered through a small forest of mature trees to the nursery at the back of the property. The little house, too is chock full of local art in a variety of mediums.

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Chris offers full service landscape design and installation focusing on native and waterwise plants. There is a little bit of everything for sale and every plant looks even better in this shaded relaxed setting.

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Irene and I chat about mutual garden concerns–woefully inconsistent rainfall et al–and I get the sense Sol’stice offers this mom the great blessing of combining the things she loves most–her son, art and gardening–into a very comfortable life/work existence. I entered through the garden but left through the art gallery and could not help but admire the natural wood posts holding up the door overhang and their whimsical adornments.

If you would like to learn more about this not quite in Austin full service nursery, the yard art and artists represented by the gallery go to their website http://www.solsticegardens.com or check them out on Facebook or Pinterest.

Back on the road to Fredericksburg…

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Old pickups never die in nearby Johnson City. This one took on a hip new life as a sign for a sort of industrial chic meets Texas ranch house second hand store.

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I also made very quick stop at Wildseed Farms which has been growing fields of wildflowers for the production of seed for over 35 years. There’s a nice nursery operation, lots of interesting structures and a kind of touristy gift shop. Surrounded by open fields the wind was very strong! It was a too late in the season to enjoy vast vistas of colorful wildflowers in bloom but I imagine it is quite a sight in early spring.

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There were several pockets of colorful larkspur still going strong within the confines of the garden center area. Wildseed Farms does have an online site at http://www.wildseedfarms.com where you see see their 2018 Wildflower Reference Guide and Seed Catalog to order any of the native grass seeds, wildflower seeds and regional wildflower seed mixes.

Just one more sign drew me off the road before I reached the historic downtown district of Fredericksburg.

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It was not until after I returned to the hotel and googled Magnolia Pearl that I found it to be the home of an artisan clothing line composed of vintage fabrics and lace designed by Robin Brown.

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Layer upon layer of vintage Texas detail from the historic materials to the historic vehicle marked this 3 story clapboard abode as the perfect setting for an artistic soul to draw inspiration.

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Everything but the kitchen sink!

Fredericksburg’s main street was bustling with activity when I arrived at just about lunch time. I turned onto a side street to park and found myself only a few steps from a beautiful gate opening onto a courtyard garden called the Japanese Garden of Peace, a serene garden in the Asian style.

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This garden was a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the United States in honor of the friendship that existed between Admiral Chester Nimitz and Admiral Togo of Japan

The garden was empty save for one worker who was carefully grooming the plants, clippers and a small bucket in hand. A rake popped against the wall attested to the daily care the gravel requires to keep it looking perfect in every detail.

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The view as I peeked in the gate
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The raked gravel symbolizes ocean waves where stones and plantings stand in for the Pacific Islands

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The predominantly green garden must feel cool even on the hottest Texas days
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The gangplank style post and rope fence offers a nod to the garden’s Naval connection
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This flowing stream tells the story of a single raindrop returning to the ocean
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This replica of the garden meditation study of Imperial Japanese Navy’s Marshall-Admiral Togo was built in Japan, disassembled and shipped to Fredericksburg where it was reassembled by the same craftsmen who created it
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Japanese aesthetic meets Texas infrastructure

I learned that this garden is part of the 6 acre complex called the National Museum of the War of the Pacific which includes the Admiral Nimitz Museum. Nimitz was a Texas native and is memorialized in this statue in front of the museum.

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The garden was first dedicated and opened to the public in 1976 and then restored and reopened in 2015 and is a lasting symbol of peace and friendship between the two nations. It was an unexpected and delightful find. I would suggest that if you have the chance to visit this garden take time before you go to read about the garden’s history and the symbolism of the individual garden elements–it will add much depth to your experience. Go to http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org for lots of details. I experienced the garden with only a surface understanding of its significance from what I read on the rock plaque–sort of like going in the back door and not seeing the signage at the front where you find out who lives there. Awareness of the history and symbolism serves to increase the garden’s natural beauty.

Seems as though I’ve been on the road all day–still haven’t gotten to my stated destination–Friendly Natives. A little lunch and some Main Street window shopping will have to come first. I’ll leave you with a colorful feast I found in a mercantile selling all manner of fabric and fun things. This is for all you sewers and quilters out there.

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Really creative way to display bolts of fabric-like a rainbow on the wall!
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Way beyond your grandma’s red checked oil cloth for the picnic table–so many to choose from

NEXT UP: I will take you to Friendly Natives and show you a bit of what owner/designer Matt Kolodzie is up to around town

 

 

Howdy from Austin…The Natural Gardener

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On my first day out on my own before the Garden Bloggers Fling Austin 2018 officially began I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to The Natural Gardener, a destination garden center in South Austin known for its pioneering work in organic gardening and sustainable living. This family, dog, picnic, photographer friendly gardening experience was to be the luncheon destination for my group on Friday during my absence and I figured if it rated a spot on a packed itinerary; it should not be missed. I am still dodging and weaving around angry skies at this point in the day but again my pre-Fling visit did not suffer the gully washing rains that my group would contend with a couple of days later.

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Of course, the colorful annual offerings were right out front
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There was no shortage of spiky things
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Only been in Austin one day and all ready I love the rustic wood and galvanized vibe
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All the pollinator friendly perennials are colorfully tagged to show you what critters favor them

If I were an Austinite, The Natural Gardener would be in my ‘drop by once a week to see what’s new whether I needed anything or not’ category for good quality and well-tended plant materials but the shop’s main draw for me would be all of the other fun experiences and activities appealing to gardeners and non-gardeners alike. Its eight acres offer quiet areas of contemplation, places to swing and sway, lots of garden ideas to adapt, animals to pet and even an enchanted forest. Established in 1993 by John Dromgoole on a neglected farmstead after the site of his Oak Hill organic gardening business fell to the widening of Highway 290, The Natural Gardener has grown to be a vital community resource which includes display gardens, teaching gardens, farm animals, the retail nursery and many areas of wildlife habitat. Check out http://www.naturalgardeneraustin.com to see all this delightful spot has to offer. I’ll show you just enough to wet your appetite!

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The Frog Pond
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The Organic Garden with the Compost Tea House in the background–lots of good educational take home material is available 
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These greens are looking good!
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The Hill Country Stream
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This petite stream was one of my favorite vignettes
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The Herb Garden
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Fun painted VERY LARGE rainwater collection tank
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A small part of the sustainable living picture in play–they practice what they preach
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The arbor marking the return to the retail area is almost indistinguishable from the gnarled trunks of the Milletia reticulata vine
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Looking back into the gardens from the other side of the arbor–notice the Certified Wildlife Habitat sign
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Loved this natural edged planed wood plank siding used with the rusted corrugated metal on the check out shed not in much use due to the weather

Two of the rainwater catch tanks tucked in all over the retail nursery area–they are almost like garden art!

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As I walked up the road I found this whimsical metal gate and a bike hanging around just it case it might be needed
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No interesting thing goes unused
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The Labyrinth and its surrounding benches are a quiet contrast to the garden center and display garden’s bustling activity
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Willie Nelson’s guitar captured in apricot carpet roses
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Entrance to the Enchanted Walk through the woods
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The Butterfly Garden
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Leaving the Butterfly Garden
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Maypop passionflower vine
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The Natural Gardener’s passion for its mission is clear in the sign identifying their outdoor classroom space!
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The Farmhouse Store is a treasure trove for gardeners, birders and butterfly lovers all

Although I almost never purchase plants when I travel out of state (California’s laws about bringing in live plant materials are very specific) I always go to the independent local garden centers to see what’s going on. It’s easy to get the gardening pulse of a region by seeing what’s being sold to the gardeners with boots on the ground, so to speak. With the two Texas plant purveyors I’ve seen so far I am really impressed with the time and energy both have devoted to creating almost magical display gardens to give their customers an idea of what things really look like in the ground and in combination with other plants. Both have worked hard to be garden coaches and create gardening communities–far above and beyond just selling plants. The Natural Gardener’s brochure says it all!

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Howdy from Austin…Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin is the state botanical garden and arboretum of Texas. The internationally recognized botanic garden is dedicated to inspiring the conservation of native plants in natural and designed landscapes. The Center’s website at http://www.wildflower.org has a great overview of its history, mission and programs and states that it “promotes its mission through sustainable public gardens and natural areas, education and outreach programs, research projects, and consulting work throughout Texas and the surrounding region.”

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Founded by Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes as the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 and renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1997, the Center originally occupied land in East Austin and moved to its current site in 1995. A signature piece of Mrs. Johnson’s environmental legacy, it is a must see for any nature lover visiting the Austin area.

The Wildflower Center was to be first up on the Garden Bloggers Fling opening full day schedule–the day I would miss because of my 24 hour trip to Atlanta–and I was determined I would find an open spot for me to see it on my own. At a roadside stop to eat on the way back to Austin after visiting the Antique Rose Emporium I realized it was Twilight Tuesday and the Center would be open until 8 pm. I quickly finished my late lunch, reprogrammed my GPS was off! Later I would discover that my group had been overwhelmed by torrential rain the entire day of their visit and had not been able to see much of the grounds at all. When I visited two days earlier, the skies were periodically dark and threatening (as you will see in some of the photos) but I escaped without a drop.

A FEW QUICK FACTS about the Lady bird Johnson Wildflower Center as taken from http://www.wildflower.org

  • 284 acres total
  • 16 acre arboretum
  • 9 acres of gardens
  • 800 species of Texas natives plants
  • 5 major spaces: Central Complex, Central Gardens, Texas Arboretum, Family Garden, Natural Areas

The buildings and hardscape are constructed with locally harvested stones and designed to reflect regional architectural styles. All of the structures built harvest rainwater into a 68,500 gallon capacity storage system. The Center’s landscapes are managed to support a vast web of life, and have recorded more than 143 species of birds, 15 species of mammals, and 1800 species of insects.

I spent most of my time in the Central Complex and Gardens area, choosing not to stray too far from shelter should a storm catch me by chance. There is easily a full day’s worth of wandering around should you have that much time. The very nature of wildflower gardens is that they are ever-changing and would be equally beautiful, although different, at various times of the year. Membership would be a must for me if I were an Austin resident!

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My first glimpse of what would be lots of beautiful Texas stone put to use creating structures reminiscent of a historic almost ruin-like hacienda and grounds. This water storage tank is part of the rain catchment system–notice the metal water raceway feeding in at the top.

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As you enter the grounds this restful seating area adjoins a shaded wildflower meadow. Not much was in bloom this day but I could see the seed head remain of huge swathes of Texas bluebonnets which would have been a sea of blue only a couple of weeks ago.

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The distant stone arch literally draws you down the long walkway leading to the Central Complex.  This series of vine draped stone columns lends an air of walking back in time into Texas history. The rainwater raceway rests atop the columns.

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The Wetland Pond showcases plants naturally found along streams and ponds in Texas including Justicia americana, commonly called water willow, seen in the foreground with tiny white flowers.

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The water cascades down the rustic stone wall to hit this well worn, mossy rock its base.

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This lone bloom stood amidst a sea of cooling green–I believe this area would make you feel cooler in the blazing heat of summer, even if you really weren’t. This looks to me like  one of the Louisiana irises, often planted in water. The Wildflower Center has a superb plant database on its website and lists 4 native to Texas but this one didn’t look like any of the four.

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I love that the designer/stonemason incorporated planting spots in the inside corners of the archway–a great place to showcase this blue green spiky thing–unless I could see a plant marker that is about as close as I will get on MANY spiky things I encountered on this adventure. Even at some distance my eye was drawn up to this detail.

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Opposite the Wetland Pond, the arched stonework creates a sort of vestibule which almost obscures the modern door into the Auditorium.

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If you read my blog regularly you will have learn that my husband has an almost phobia like reaction to plants trained up any permanent hard surfaces so everywhere I go I take pictures of just that to show him that so far this stone wall has not fallen down yet from the imagined ill effects of green stuff touching it! This scrambler is Clematis texensis, commonly called scarlet leather flower or scarlet clematis. The red balls will open to petite, scarlet, downward-nodding, urn shaped blooms.

Passing under the last massive stone arch reveals the Courtyard anchored by the understated Courtyard Spring.

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Standing in this large area surround by buildings but with a wide open sky, I can imagine an age old Texan hacienda where the work happens during the day in the various parts of the home and then everyone spills out in the cool of the evening to eat, drink and relax.

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Shaded areas create a green buffer between the central open space and the structures, offering some visual softening of the stone and other hard surfaces. The Courtyard offers entry to the Great Hall and Classrooms, the Gift Shop and the Little House. The Little House is a single room structure on the southwest corner designed as a special place for children and includes a kid sized door.

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The Little House has its own back courtyard where many children’s programs are held. This whimsical critter keeps watch on the goings on through a stone opening just at kid level. The Little House also has its own garden filled with native columbine and Salvia greggii ‘Teresa’ as seen below. I love the pale pink tint of the ‘Teresa’ blooms.

 

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This vine draped pergola in front of the Little House marks the transition between the Courtyard and a variety of paths and small garden spaces. You can see a little peak at the Observation Tower just the top of the photo. I am headed that way!

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I wandered past the Color Garden, the Volunteers Garden and the Dry Creek Garden which is nestled at the base of a wall near the Observation Tower. Several mounds of Phlox pilosa, prairie phlox, were growing along the creek bed. I think the surrounding leaves are of Pavonia lasiopetala, a widely used Texas native commonly called pink rock rose.

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The Observation Tower stands tall over the other structures, appearing to be hundreds of years old and should you be able to get to the top, offering a 360 degree view of the surrounding country. The golden ball leadtree, Leucaena retusa, was totally unknown to me but one I would see many times more in both commercial and residential landscapes.

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Look how the weather changed just as I backed up to get a wider image of the Observation Tower. No amount of editing could lighten this up any more. It looked as though the rain was ready to pour down.

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It brightened up a little bit as I approached the meadow flanked pathway to the Luci and Ian Family Garden. There were still a few flashes of wildflower color to be found but given the state of the weather I decided to leave this fairly long ramble for another visit.

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The back side of the Great Hall and Classrooms building has walls of windows with a sweeping vista of the meadow. This small stone terraced bed represents plants found in the rockier mountain areas of Texas including the Yucca pallida, pale leafed yucca, which was coming into bloom. Even though falling in that ‘spiky thing’ category of plants which I have not favored I came to appreciate the structural beauty and wide variety of yucca by the time I left Austin.

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Passing through the Woodland Garden I entered the walled Central Gardens area which houses the Theme Gardens. Each small garden here is indicative of a specific habitat or region and showcases Texas appropriate native plant material. Here is just a sampling:

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South Texas Sampler-highlighting plant material from the southernmost areas of Texas
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Hummingbird Garden-big red sage, flame acanthus and hesperaloe all offer blooms loved by hummers
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Wandering Walkers Garden-honors those botanists whose collection and propagation of native plants made them available for use in home gardens

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These were the first of many stock tanks I would see used in Austin as water gardens and raised planters. Note how the back sides of the smaller ones have been altered to allow them to snug up tight to the larger center one.

The Greenhouses and outdoor propagation areas span one entire side of the Central Gardens.

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The Wildflower Center’s large greenhouse operation propagates plants for the gardens and is the site of research projects.  The annual native plant events offer educational outreach into the local gardening community and a chance for gardeners to try plants they have admired at the Center in their own gardens.

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The Pollinator Habitat Garden contains 350 different plant species, arranged in 10 plant communities designed to support butterflies and other invertebrates throughout their life cycles by offering water, food, protection and appropriate breeding conditions. The garden is an open air pollinator habitat, demonstrating the co-dependant relationship of plants and insects and the critical role of pollinators in biodiversity.

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The far side of the Central Gardens offers another pathway to the Family Garden. Given more time and better weather I think I would make the loop through that garden back to the first path but not today!

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I strolled back to the parking area on what must have been a service road behind the Silo Garden–I could have been 20 miles out in the country if I hadn’t known better–and found these blooms among the meadow grasses.

 

Now…if I only had a good Texas wildflower book!