A not so memorable road trip to the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show…

My years in Georgia allowed me to be a regular attendee of the Southeastern Flower Show–a fabulous explosion of color, creativity and educational opportunities, not to mention pretty good garden world shopping. I have also been lucky enough to experience the Philadelphia Flower Show and Canada Blooms! in Toronto.

With those memorable garden show experiences in mind I have literally gnashed my teeth that the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show always seemed to fall when other commitments took precedence. From 2009-2012 my hopeful heart actually purchased advanced tickets which went unused because I just couldn’t seem to get there! A week or so ago a whim took me again to their website to check the dates and I was excited to see that the other goings-on in my life had left an open spot to make that road trip for a day at the 2019 show. I was also confused by the fact that this year’s show was to be held at Cal-Expo in Sacramento. More about that was revealed as I read through their website which includes a brief history of the 34 year old event.

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The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show started as a fundraiser in 1985 for the SF Friends of Recreation and Parks and was originally called the San Francisco Landscape Garden Show. Twelve years later the show was acquired by an events company and given its current moniker. The famed Cow Palace was the show’s home for the next ten years until, in 2009, the San Mateo Event Center became its venue and another change of ownership occurred. Yet another event company acquired the show in 2013. 2018 marked a long awaited return to the historic Cow Palace which the event owners had hoped would be its permanent home. According to http://www.sfgardenshow.com “due to unresolved scheduling issues and the pending California State Legislature’s move to tear down or sell off the Cow Palace, the Show has found a new home at Cal Expo, in Sacramento.”

A road trip to Sacramento always offers the chance to visit a couple of good garden centers in the area so with nothing to lose and, as disconnected as it may sound, I set out on the road to our state capitol for this venerable San Francisco event! Having no previous Shows to compare it with I have no idea if the 2019 effort was typical so I am going to fall on the side of positivity and declare this to be a ‘transition year’ with hopefully more vibrant Shows to come. Let me be clear–the local Sacramento gardening community was out in force, represented by numerous specialty clubs, their community gardening organization and their Master Gardeners. Everyone was very pleasant and helpful with their well manned booths offering brochures and experts to encourage and consult. Several had make and take activities for both adults and children. My comments about the Show overall in no way diminish their efforts and participation–a good garden show starts with time and attention from its owner or promoter.

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Master Gardeners consult and advise
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The River City Food Bank’s Growing Circle highlighted the work of the local community gardening collective

Other than the awning in the first photo there was virtually NO SIGNAGE anywhere on the show floor which was one large room. There was neither an information area as you passed through the Main Entrance nor a sign directing you to an information area anywhere else in the Show. There was NO show program or brochure giving you the layout or timeline of what was happening on the two small stages. Toward the end of my visit and while I was in search of a restroom I happened on a pleasant volunteer at the very back of the space in a small booth (also without signage.) She had a pile of printed out maps of the layout attached to a schedule of events and advised me that their color brochures had never arrived. If I’d had a piece of paper, a Sharpie and some tape in my bag I would have made a sign to put by the entrance to let visitors know she was back there!!

The highlights of any flower show for me are the display gardens designed and installed by local landscape designers and contractors. They should be a cutting edge look at what’s new and upcoming in the landscape industry and have always been a source of inspiration for my own garden. The Show’s website has photos from previous years 2015 and 2016 showing 14 and 11 display gardens respectively. In 2018 it looks as though 13 were expected but only 9 appear in the digital brochure online. A preview of this year lists 14 display garden participants but there were only 7 on the floor. Only one of them inspired me to get my camera out of my bag!

A Fire Resistant Garden was the submission of Nathan Beeck from Clearwater Designs Inc. and was not only really interesting but very timely given the recent devastation in areas all over our state.

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Looking across the reflecting pond (which also serves as a water source for fire suppression) to a cosy sitting area

The designer encourages us to think outside of the box to create new California landscapes using materials and plants resistant to fire. The room was dark and the garden’s hard surfaces were also quite dark–a combination which challenged my mediocre photography skills.

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Another view of the pond and  covered structure

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The structure is predominantly steel and the wood that is used has been charred with an ancient Japanese technique called Shou sugi ban which makes it fire resistant. Dianella and ferns have been tucked into pockets to soften the hard surface.

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The pockets allow for greenery at a variety of heights

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The plantings were provided by Brent Cruz of Site One Nursery and were selected for their fire resistance. Everything was clearly labeled and a plant list was available for the taking. This display garden was definitely a winner for me!

Although flower arranging is not a particular interest of mine, flower shows often present interesting themes and challenges to those who excel at this art and I like to walk through just to see how individual flower arrangers meet the task. As with the rest of the venue there was NO signage to give visitors a clue as to what the displays parameters were to be–no statement of theme, zip, nothing. Only after I got home and went back to the website I learned that the flower arranging participants were members of the Sogetsu San Francisco Bay Area group. Maybe I would now know what ‘sogetsu’ is had there been some explanatory or educational signage provided by the show…this is not the responsibility of the participants but of those organizing the show.

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I really appreciated the skill of the bonsai artists whose works were on display. The morning of my visit a number of the contributors to this exhibit were on hand to answer questions but again,  no signage other than what the plant’s owners had provided.

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Just barely starting to leaf out!

A quick pass through the marketplace offered little of interest to me. Although there were several specialty plant vendors who seemed to be attracting interest there were far too many booths of what I consider to be non garden related goods. I have never used a Cutco knife in my garden and I think the window companies are better served at the ubiquitous ‘home and garden’ shows next to the solar companies. Here’s the best of what I saw.

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Lorena’s Edible Garden had lots of herbs and herbal products
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Dan’s Dahlias was the most colorful booth at the show!

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Now if I’d had anything resembling a brochure…I might know the names of these booths! Even after I had accidentally found the lady hidden in the back with the maps I was still in the dark as the booths were numbered on the map but there was no key nor a list of vendor names. If I had paid for a booth with the belief that guests would walk out the door with something in their hands to refer back to that had my business’s name and contact information I would probably be pretty unhappy…

My single purchase was this perky little clay armadillo. My sweet digging David’s childhood nickname was Armadillo and I’m an easy mark for any new ones I can add to my collection.

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This little guy is instantly recognizable to Fresnans as a Margaret Hudson sculpture.

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You got it–I traveled to SACRAMENTO to go to the SAN FRANCISCO Flower & Garden Show and purchased a clay sculpture from an iconic FRESNO artist’s gallery. All in all an efficient and productive day trip, don’t you think?

Generally I have taken the attitude that if I am disappointed in an event or tour I just don’t post about it. There is already enough negativity in the blogging world and no need to add more but my day at the San Francisco Flower & Garden left me with many lingering questions. This show has been listed on more than a few lists of ‘Top Ten Flower Shows’. I have many readers in the Bay Area and would love to know–has the event simply declined over the years with changes of ownership and now location? How did it seem to you compared to previous years? Am I judging too harshly given its transition to a new city and venue? Does this show have a real future in Sacramento? Love to hear your experience and insights on this event.

Origami squared…

An overnight jaunt to Southern California allowed my husband and I a brief visit to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to view their current exhibit of art in the garden entitled Origami in the Garden2 (actually the little above the line 2 as in the mathematical annotation for squared–no idea how make my keyboard do this.)

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One of two standing cranes by Kevin Box which greet visitors to the exhibit

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden spreads over 86 acres in Claremont, California and is the largest botanic garden dedicated to California native plants. Its mission is grounded by a philosophy of biodiversity and the importance of bringing real world conservation applications to the public through horticultural education, scientific research and sales of native plants. This garden is yet another public resource I never had the opportunity to visit in the decade+ that I lived in Southern California and today because our arrival is already late in the day and the light waning, we will only see a small part of the grounds. Visit their website http://www.rsabg.org for all the details about the garden, its events and resources.

There are no better words to describe this exhibition, an intersection between art and nature which will remain in the garden until April 14, 2019, than those on the website: “Origami in the Garden2 is an outdoor sculpture exhibition of larger-than-life origami creations. Created by Santa Fe artists Jennifer and Kevin Box, the sculptures capture the delicate nature of Origami, a paper art form originating in Japan and celebrated around the world. Crafted in museum quality metals, the artworks each tell the story of a single piece of paper as it transforms into a soaring bird, emerging butterfly, galloping pony and many other remarkable forms. The exhibition features the Boxs’ own compositions as well as collaborations with world renowned origami artists: Tim Armijo, Te Jui Fu, Beth Johnson, Michael G. LaFosse and Robert J. Lang.”

The guide we picked up at the entrance not only contained a map of the botanic garden’s various areas but an easy-to-read as you walked along guide specific to the location of each of the 16 outdoor sculptures celebrating art and nature through the lens of origami. Super cool was an Audio Tour phone number to call on your cell phone to hear additional information from the artists. As you stopped at each sculpture you dialed the number and at the prompt entered the audio tour number listed on both the map and the artwork’s signage. It was really fun to hear the actual artists talk about their pieces and the audio content expands upon what was on the printed placards by each piece. My husband took charge of navigating our route and queuing up the audio for each piece on cell speakerphone, leaving me free to let my senses take in the garden and my camera lens to wander. Unfortunately, this freedom had no immediate effect in improving my photographic skills but I looked very professional, as if I had an assistant along to do my legwork. By the time we had seen seen and heard about each piece it was past sunset and almost dark–and 4:58 pm, only 2 minutes shy of the garden’s closing. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Crane Unfolding by Kevin Box

This sculpture is the first origami-inspired work by Kevin Box and is crafted from painted cast stainless steel on a steel base. In his words, “The origami crane is a symbol of truth, peace, beauty and long life. This crane reveals the meaning of its life as it unfolds into a star.” To him, the folded crane is a representation of what we see on the surface of life, while the unfolded crane is a representation of the beauty hidden beneath–there is more to life than what meets the eye.

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Painted Ponies, a collaboration between Kevin Box and Te Jui Fu, a Chinese origami artist

Painted Ponies frolic in Fay’s Wildflower Meadow. They are fashioned from powder coated aluminum and represent an example of an origami technique called kirigami which means cutting paper. Scissors are used to make four cuts in the paper square and these cuts enable more easily achieving the detail needed for the ponies’ legs and ears. The symbol on the red pony’s hindquarters is a nod to the collaborative nature of this piece. The Chinese character of Te Jui’s last name, Fu, is enclosed in a box representing the metal sculptor’s surname.

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Duo by Jennifer and Kevin Box

The white bird or dove is a global motif recognized as a symbol of peace and the human spirit. In nature, cranes mate for life. These painted cast stainless steel cranes symbolize that quality of pure devotion.

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Duo occupies a peaceful space at the end of a stream bed in the Percy C. Everett Memorial Garden which features examples of grouping together plant material with similar water needs. I loved this large bubbling rock!

Who Saw Who? by Kevin Box, Tim Armijo and Robert Lang stems from a sort of after the fact collaboration. The raptor and mouse in their original origami forms were each cut from single sheets of paper: the mouse by Tim Armijo and the raptor by Robert Lang. Kevin Box cast each in bronze at different times and set them aside in his studio. It was not until he caught a glimpse of them later that they appeared to be looking warily at each other–predator and prey frozen in time and metal.

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Seed Sower & Seed  by Kevin Box, Michael G. LaFosse and Beth Johnson

Seed Sower by papermaker and origami artist Michael G. LaFosse and Seed by Beth Johnson were cast in patinated bronze by Kevin Box. The duo explore the role squirrels play in the life of a healthy forest.

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Nesting Pair by Jennifer and Kevin Box

When Jennifer and Kevin Box built their home and studio together, they were reminded of two birds building a nest. The bronze casted olive branches symbolize peace and compromise and form the nest. The artwork emerged naturally at a time in their life together when they were discovering and accepting the need for compromise to build a happy marriage. The addition of the two cranes, mated for life, resting comfortably on a nest of compromise completes this beautiful and very personal piece. Thank you, Jennifer and Kevin!

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Hero’s Horse by Kevin Box and Robert J. Lang

The origami Pegasus was folded from a single uncut square of paper by physicist Robert J. Lang based on a sketch designed by Kevin Box. The artists’ collaboration eventually produced a 25 foot tall fabricated metal sculpture now found in Dallas, Texas. This smaller version was then created from painted cast aluminum on a steel base. Kevin Box shares, “Hero’s Horse is a story of hope, reminding us that who faced with impossible odds help is on the way and good will always win the day.”

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Folding Planes by Kevin Box

Seven simple folds transform a blank page into an airplane in flight. Each fold is symbolic of a choice or action to transform an invisible idea into a reality and repeats a common theme in Box’s work–the story of a piece of paper dreaming of flying.

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Selected nights throughout the run of the exhibition RSABG will be open in the evening with its pavilions and other structures festooned with luminarias  and Japanese lanterns to see the sculptures by moonlight.

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Conversation Peace by Kevin Box

The term “conversation piece” refers to an interesting or intriguing object that sparks conversation. In this interpretation of the game rock-paper-scissors, the paper has won by folding itself into a peace crane and flying just out of the scissors’ reach. This artwork represents the sculptor’s belief that conversation is the key to the peaceful resolution of serious conflicts, many of which arise from our misunderstanding of each other.

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Rising Peace by Kevin Box

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As we round the gift shop to our last sculpture we have almost totally lost the light. The Johnson Memorial Oval is a wonderful setting for Rising Peace, allowing it to be viewed from all sides. At a distance the family of cranes appear to be rising into the night sky.

Although my focus was to at least see each one of the 16 sculptures I did see many interesting plants. This time of year there is not much expectation that a California native plant garden would be awash in bloom and this one certainly displayed evidence of a long and droughty summer not long gone by.

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A single cluster of flowers on XChiranthofremontia lenzii, an intergeneric hydrid introduced by Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. This was a massive tree/shrub with just this one glowing spot of golden orange, clearly the reason its common name is Fremontodendron ‘Pacific Sunset’.

If you are anywhere in the greater Los Angeles/Inland Empire area you still have plenty of time to take in this inspiring exhibition. A more in depth reading of the written materials I picked up at the entrance revealed an extensive educational program and a retail native plant nursery on site. Although this garden is a 3+ hour drive for me I’ve bookmarked their website to check back now and then so I don’t miss interesting upcoming events  I might be able to piggyback on to future SoCal trips.

P.S. Check out http://www.outsidetheboxstudio.com to learn more about metal sculptor Kevin Box, his work and collaborations with other artists!

 

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