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!

Austin pre-Fling road trips… Antique Rose Emporium

Knowing I would miss the actual first day of the group itinerary, I front loaded a couple of extra Austin days leading up to the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling. There would be no way to see that day’s private gardens but I wanted to at least see the public things the group would cover on that first day and a few side trip suggestions in our pre-Fling materials had captured my attention–high on the extras list was a road trip to the Antique Rose Emporium about 2 hours east of Austin in the small town of Independence, Texas.

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This 8 acre display garden, event venue and retail nursery was established in 1984 by Mike and Jean Shoup. Holding a Masters Degree in Horticulture and growing woody perennials for the landscape industry and retail centers since 1976, Mike grew weary of the green shrub grind and turned his attention to finding plants native to Texas which could fill the same purpose as those ubiquitous go-to foundation plants currently in favor. It was on one of those plant finding forays that Mike first encountered everblooming roses growing happily in desolate and uncared for country areas. His fascination with and acquisition of what he calls “pioneer roses” or “survivor roses” became the foundation of the Antique Rose Emporium. In addition to the roses available in the retail garden center they have a huge mail order inventory and ship all over the continental United States. Mr. Shoup is also the author of Empress of the Garden, a gorgeous coffee table book laden with photos and growing tips.

Upon pulling into the gravel parking lot I have to say it looked exactly as I thought it would–like the garden of a family well settled into their land for generations. The retail part of the business is tucked beautifully and naturally into an area overflowing with shaded beds, borders, vintage buildings and whimsical garden art.

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Come on in! Who could resist?

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The Beatrix Potter themed Children’s Garden overflows with all things Peter Rabbit! Friendly squirrels top the fenceposts on the purple picket fence.

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One of several bottle trees 

In the foreground you can see a great stand of blue Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’, a Texas native mealycup sage. It is growing in many large perennial colonies all over the display gardens and at about 30″ high is much taller than the mealycup sages I see in California garden centers. I learned that it was found at the Central Texas gravesite of Henry Duelberg by Texas horticulturalist Greg Grant who introduced it along with a white mealycup sage found at the grave of Henry’s better half–appropriately called Salvia farinacea ‘Augusta Duelberg’.

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Salvia farinacea ‘Augusta Duelberg’

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A variety of pathways, brick and gravel, offer approaches to the display gardens and historic buildings on the site. This one, smothered in a green canopy just begs you to walk through with the promise of wonderful things on the other side.

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A second homage to the humble terra cotta pot marks the entry to retail plant area. I had seen this wonderful sculpture in an article in Southern Living Magazine years ago and have never stopped talking about how to add a similar feature to my garden.

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Looking back from the retail area
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Huge surface roots from a very old crape myrtle–natural garden art!
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The corn crib (which you see the side of in the distance in the previous photo) was moved to its current home from about 300 yards away.
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A closer side view
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Manager Gayle Wehring confirmed this was a ‘found’ Phlox-variety unknown but clearly very happy! 
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Looking back over the shade bed into the retail area
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Meandering tiny stream

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Treasures and Trellis, a c. 1850 classical cottage moved from nearby town Cat Springs, sits surrounded by cottage gardens and a path inviting you to stroll

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The 2 story McKnight-Hairston stone home originally sat on this acreage. The homestead included a detached kitchen, smokehouse, milk house, corncrib and barn. Only ruins of the detached kitchen remained when the Shoups purchased the land. The stone kitchen has been restored and is surrounded by a period cottage garden and a perennial border.

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Stone kitchen perennial border
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Looking across the circular center garden toward the stone kitchen
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This unknown small flowered pale pink rose all but obscures a low stone border wall
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Well maintained, wide walkways carry you from the more densely planted areas out into open areas with expansive views

There are a number of locations in the display gardens which are very popular for weddings and community events. Above you look past these HUGE rebar tuteurs covered with roses and other vines to a picturesque white gazebo. It was very cloudy throughout my visit but at this point it looked as though the skies would open up at any minute.

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I can easily imagine a bride walking on her father’s arm through these crisp white wooden arches to met her groom in the gazebo
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This chapel was built a few years ago as a meeting house
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A wide open meadow filled with roses, perennials and grasses on the side of the chapel

One of the most appealing things to me about these display gardens and the variety of spots to hold formal and informal gatherings was that they look exactly like what they are–country gardens. They are not manicured and clearly face all the challenges a home gardener with a large property would face–too many plants and not enough hands. They looked as though nature was really at work here: annuals reseeding, bees and butterflies pollinating, roses resting to bloom once again, real life, real gardening!

The drive from Austin was wide open and easy. The gardens were inviting and inspiring and I know would be different upon every visit. Thank you to the Antique Rose Emporium for being one of the Garden Bloggers Fling Austin 2018 sponsors. You can read more of their story and check out their online mail-order rose catalog at http://www.antiqueroseemporium.com

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Howdy from Austin…

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Ninety two garden bloggers from 28 states plus Canada and the UK met up in Austin, Texas last week for the 10th anniversary of the Garden Bloggers Fling. The Fling started in Austin in 2008 as the brainchild of garden writer Pam Penick and so it was a fitting that it return to its roots. Host/Chairperson Diana Kirby and her committee arranged great accommodations, transportation and meals for us in addition to a stunning itinerary of private gardens, public gardens and the hottest in Austin’s retail garden center world.

As a second time Flinger I was not quite as shell shocked this time at the sheer amount of gardening knowledge and talent surrounding me as we toured and dined together for several days. This year Pam asked each of us to send a photo and short bio to be included on the Fling’s website to help us recognize and get to know each other–especially useful for first timers. In addition to hobby gardeners (i.e., ME) our numbers included professional landscape designers, freelance garden writers, garden authors with multiple books to their credit, horticulturalists who find and develop new plants and seeds, the publisher of a spectacular garden magazine and the editor of another, many current and former Master Gardeners, garden speakers, garden coaches and those whose passions are the pursuit of about any gardening niche you can name. If you are interested in Who’s Who at the 2018 Fling go to the Fling’s page at http://www.gardenbloggersfling.blogspot.com and click on the OWL in the right hand column for a look at the bios.

As a first timer last year, I conscientiously sat down every night, no matter how late or how tired, dumped my camera’s memory card onto my laptop and sorted through the day’s photos. Along with my notes on each garden I could at least develop a framework for each post I wanted to write based on my best photos. I think I posted 3 times while still at the Fling and then used the next two or three weeks to cover the rest of the gardens. This year, with my trusty Mac Book Pro at the St. Apple Hospital for the Near Fatally Wounded getting a $900 solid state transplant there was no place for my photos to go! I have been using that nightly shoot and dump regimen for years–in fact, the only memory card I owned for my Canon was the 1 GB one that came with it. My first Austin stop was Precision Camera–one of the Fling’s local sponsors–to purchase a handful of extra memory cards.

Arriving home a couple of days ago, life encroached on my blogging time immediately–the garden, left under my husband’s care in 90 degree weather for 8 days, had to be walked and any emergency care needed was dispensed. I will do a separate post on the deadheading chores awaiting me. Now with 1095 photos downloaded and ready to be reviewed, the fun starts. My fellow blogger Kris Peterson (her Late to the Garden Party blog is at http://www.krispgarden.blogspot.com) set a great example in her first post-Fling offering this morning by comparing her photos to old time postcards. You’re all ready at home and unpacked by the time your travel postcards reach your loved ones, giving them just a glimpse into what a good time you had. I am going to follow her lead by offering a single pic peek for each location now and follow up with more complete profiles as time permits.

ANTIQUE ROSE EMPORIUM

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I had a couple of free days before the fling itinerary started so I took a road trip to Brenham, Texas to visit the Antique Rose Emporium. This iconic retail and mail-order rose source has been featured in many gardening magazines. The multi-acre location includes a number of demonstration gardens filled with roses and perennials and is a popular wedding venue.

NATURAL GARDENER

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Back in Austin, this destination nursery has a farmyard vibe with lots of display gardens featuring edibles, herbs, fruit trees and perennials. I loved this flowing stream highlighting riparian friendly Texas plants. The Natural Gardener was slated to be our luncheon location on the first full day of touring which I would miss so I was excited to fit it in on this day.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER

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The Wildflower Center is a groundbreaking botanical garden featuring only plants that are native to Texas. This gem was first up on the Fling’s itinerary, falling on the day I would not be able to travel with the group. Their late closing time on Tuesday allowed me to add it into the first day I toured on my own.

SOL’STICE

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The following day, heading west to Fredericksburg, I ran across this funky local art/plant place and landscape design firm in Dripping Springs. I so wanted to take this rusted birdhouse (made by Steve Southerland) home!

FRIENDLY NATIVES NURSERY

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Matt Kolodzie and his nursery/landscape design business are all over Central Texas Gardener’s pages, both web and paper. Specializing in Texas climate and soil friendly plants, his Fredericksburg location was a delight. Matt is definitely a Friendly Native–he spent a lot of time talking plants with me and even offered to take me around to see Texas gardens done well!

PEACE GARDEN

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This serene scene was an unexpected addition to the second day on my own. The Peace Garden sits directly behind the Museum of the War of the Pacific in Fredericksburg’s historic downtown and was a gift from the people of Japan. I happened to pass by its open gate on my way to Main Street to have lunch and window shop a bit.

WILDSEED FARMS

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Wildseed Farms is a retail nursery business and event space on the highway between Fredericksburg and Austin. I made a quick stop on my way back to Austin to find a pretty ordinary garden center operation within some nice display garden areas and pleasing Hill Country architecture.

Fast forward…after a less than 24 hour trip from Austin to Atlanta/Athens, GA to see my future daughter-in-law receive her Masters Degree in Social Work I joined up with the Flingers to find out that torrential rains had kept most of them under cover at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Natural Gardener and the day before’s 3 private gardens. I had never glimpsed the sun and the the skies had threatened on the two days I was on my own but apparently Mother Nature was saving it all up for the other 91 bloggers. Whew!!

SATURDAY

GARDEN OF COLLEEN JAMISON

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Shady respite is the theme of this tree canopied garden which incorporates lots of casual seating amongst borders and beds filled with subtle color.

GARDEN OF PAM PENICK

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Texture and diversity rule in this sloping back garden. The space boasts several large shelves of rocks around which Pam has planted all manner of visually pleasing and wildlife friendly plant materials. This garden is full of interesting garden art and artifacts –watch for the full post with more photos soon.

GARDEN OF B JANE

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B Jane’s stated garden goal for her own garden was to “create a resort vibe” and if this gorgeous outdoor shower off the master bedroom doesn’t do that there is just no help for you. B Jane is a professional landscape designer and builder–see more of her work at http://www.bjanegardens.com.

GARDEN OF DONNA AND MIKE FOWLER

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A small town rural garden filled with Texas natives, reseeding wildflowers and whatever else strikes the owners fancy. Yes–there is a hippo story to tell…

TANGLEWOOD GARDENS

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Skottie O’Mahony and Jeff Breitenstein relocated from Seattle to Austin in 2013 with the dream of establishing a daylily hybridizing nursery. Their 1.7 acre garden overflows with tropicals and Moroccan influences.

SUNDAY

GARDEN OF LUCINDA HUTSON

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Cookbook author Lucinda Hutson’s La Casa Moradita (the little purple house) in historic downtown Austin cottage bursts with color at every turn and has been featured in magazines and PBS gardening shows. A devotee of all things Texican, this unique gardener greeted with open arms and wearing purple cowboy boots. This is one of the most personal garden I have ever visited–I am saving the best pics for the full post!

GARDEN OF RUTHIE BURRUS

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Ruthie’s Garden Haus was featured in Southern Living magazine in April 2017. Built from stone gathered on the property and salvaged tin roofing, windows and doors it is the backdrop for a climbing rose called Peggy Martin, sometimes referred to as the Katrina rose.

GARDEN OF MARGIE MCCLURG

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A trip to Butchart Gardens on Canada’s Victoria Island inspired this homeowner to transform her courtyard back garden into a beautiful space to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

ZILKER BOTANICAL GARDEN

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The Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden, along with the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, are popular Sunday afternoon strolling spots.  We took time for lunch here before moving on to the final few gardens.

GARDEN OF TAIT MORING

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Local landscape architect Tait Moring has gardened this spot since 1997. His goal to celebrate the Texas Hill Country’s natural beauty is reflected in his use of native trees, shrubs, perennials and succulents. He characterizes his garden as a “test kitchen” for regional plants and is committed to the garden being a safe haven for local wildlife.

GARDEN OF KIRK WALDEN

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This relatively new home and garden (2013) replaced an abandoned house surrounded by invasive shrubs and weeds. Being in the front seat on the bus worked well for me at this garden–not everyone was able to photograph the terraced patio, spa and pool (and its phenomenal view) without anyone else in my shot. The home sits high on a bluff overlooking deep blue Lake Austin. Just bury me here.

ARTICULTURE

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We ended our day with a Texas barbecue dinner at Articulture, a creative indoor gardening boutique with a plant filled back yard event space. This happy hour with food and drinks inspired by Lucinda Hutson’s cocktail recipes was the perfect way to end our Austin Fling.

Every one of these gardens has so much more to see than the single photo I chose for this postcard peak. Hopefully I’ve lured you in and you keep an eye out for the longer, more complete posts as I publish them.

Plantspotting in Pasadena…

With barely a day home from AQS QuiltWeek (see We quilt this city…) I’ve changed out my suitcase to accommodate Southern California’s warm weather and am off for a few days in the LA area while my sweetie attends a conference. The garden gods have graciously arranged this international neurology meeting to coincide with the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days event in Pasadena.

Open Days is the Garden Conservancy’s education program which offers special invitations into private gardens all over the United States. The tours are self-guided and usually within reasonable driving distance of each other to allow you to see every one within the designated open hours. Visit http://www.opendaysprogram.org for information on gardens by location and date for the rest of 2018 and http://www.gardenconservancy.org for information about the Garden Conservancy and its mission to save and share outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public.

Pasadena is one of my favorite garden cities. It has it all–beautiful public spaces, tons of historic architecture, interesting neighborhoods with lots of diversity in home sizes and styles and residents who all seem to have a green thumb. I would venture a guess that it is something in the water but these days no California city seems to have plentiful water! Pasadena gardeners, along with those in several cities in the Bay Area, have risen to the occasion with some of the most well done waterwise and drought tolerant landscapes I have seen in my travels. A strong statement given their moniker ‘City of Roses’! You can see additional Pasadena gardens in my post The Ellen 5 get Rich in Pasadena….

Six private gardens plus La Casita Del Arroyo Garden (a City of Pasadena property maintained primarily by the Pasadena Garden Club) were included and I will post on four of the private gardens. As the day warmed up and my time grew short I left La Casita Del Arroyo for another visit. First up–the Penner Garden.

THE PENNER GARDEN

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In this era of every HGTV show touting the value of curb appeal it is immediately obvious that this home is more about privacy and family than making a splash in what is all ready a very WOW neighborhood. A 7 passenger golf cart ferried garden viewers up and down this very steep tree canopied driveway–a few of us made the climb on foot and regardless of how you got there the payoff was at the top.

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The mid-century single story home on the bluff overlooking the Arroyo River was designed by Smith & Williams in 1963. The post and beam residence is surrounded by mature oaks, olive trees and palm and the renovation of the outdoor spaces was designed to maximize their existing role in the landscape.

As we approach the wide entrance adjacent to the carport these agaves (terrible with succulents-let me know if I’m wrong) foreshadow the emphasis on groups of plants with strong structural qualities, an aesthetic which I think fits the home’s architecture well. Mature podacarpus of unknown variety have been limbed up to soften the stucco wall and provide some textural contrast.

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I imagine these are spectacular lit at night.

As the back garden vista opens up it is clear why this home is at the top of the hill rather than street side.

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The view of the river bed and distant mountains is spectacular!

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From every vantage point you are held captive by the vista.

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Mid photo on the left is the historic Arroyo Bridge.

So now that you have recovered from the big picture–there’s a lot going on in this very family friendly garden which was renovated by landscape architect Nord Erickson to maximize outdoor entertaining space as well as create a more natural transition to the  hillside vegetation lying beyond.

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There are multiple seating and entertaining areas. Above you can see this great grouping of egg like woven chairs which surround a fire pit. What looks like a red sculpture tucked under the roofline’s overhang is actually a giant chair with multiple places to sit–the homeowner says his kids love to do their homework perched comfortably on this big red thing!

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This fully outfitted outdoor kitchen, complete with a pizza oven, is tucked up next to the home and has raised beds to accommodate veggies and herbs.

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Stone steps tucked at the end of a small area between the infinity pool and the downslope of the bank of the riverbed give you access to another intimate seating area–this is definitely the after dinner wine sipping venue.

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I loved the steps taking you up the other side which incorporate these large boulders and offer a planting pocket sporting a mass of succulents. The landscape architect’s plant palette is restrained in both color and number of plant choices. His selections are repeated throughout the garden and used in masses. Rosemary and cape plumbago peek over the short retaining wall.

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As you ascend those steps the emphasis on massed plants with architectural qualities is evident. In the foreground, the strap like narrow leaves of a mass of dianella (not sure which one but lower than most) are in start contrast to the geometric planting of a very spiny barrel cactus and its smaller blue gray succulent companion. Rosemary under the palm provides yet another leaf form and texture.

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Here is the view from that area back into the rest of the garden. The garden has a beautiful sense of enclosure given that the view from one side is just about forever– private, yet expansive!

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Three bushy olive trees planted in square metal forms sunk in the ground soften the stark white stucco wall of this wing of the home. Yet another table and chairs, this time funky red ones, offer a shaded place to dine or play games. You can be in the vicinity of whatever is going on in the pool without being right in the middle of it.

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Looking back at the home from the far side of the pool you can see that this home has the extensive walls of glass so evocative of the mid-century modern style and which provide a seamless transition to the outdoors and vistas beyond. A comfy sofa and chairs provide another shady spot for hanging out.

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Just one more look before we go! It seems as though lately we have been focused on  creating ‘garden rooms’ in our landscapes–looking to provide a little mystery as we move from one part of the garden to another. This garden could not be more different. From the vantage point of the last of those sculptural agaves in the first photo the entire space is in a single visual plane. This garden is beautifully designed to take best advantage of its location and is in total harmony with the home it enhances.

I often find ‘bonus’ homes and gardens as I move from one tour garden to the next and include them in my posts. Fun stuff along the way is always a great addition to any adventure.

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This peacock flew (?) up to this driveway gate only a few feet from where we were waiting for the Penner garden to open. Apparently in nearby Arcadia (which is relatively close to the Los Angeles Arboretum) there are literally bands of roving semi-wild peacocks inhabiting residential neighborhoods. Who knew? My guess is that they are cute just about as long as deer are cute in a residential neighborhood–just until they poop on your car or eat all your perennials to the ground.

Sierra Azul and Sculpture IS in the Garden…

Happy New Year to all my gardening friends! A very warm December and early January has lured me away from my computer and into my garden more than usual for what is supposed to be winter. Before I catch you up on what’s going on in the Queen’s little 1/2 acre I want to close the loop on the Watsonville trip I wrote a bit about in my December 6, 2017 post Gardening with Goat Hill Fair….

One of the facets of chronicling my garden travels for this blog that has proved an unexpected pleasure for me is learning a little about the history of the communities, events and gardens I visit. Even as a native Californian there are so many places in my own state that I have never visited!

Watsonville is the second largest community in Santa Cruz County. The city of  Santa Cruz has always been a popular beach destination for Central Valley residents and those of us who stayed in town for college thought that our friends who went of to UC Santa Cruz had died and gone to heaven…to party forever! I am pretty sure Watsonville–just a few miles away–was never on our radar. Watsonville was settled in 1852 and named after Judge John H. Watson who arrived in the Pajaro Valley and set up a claim on a portion of the Bolsa Del Pajaro, a land grant belonging to a prominent Mexican-American settler. Watsonville’s history is based in agriculture, growing products such as strawberries, apples (it is the home of Martinelli Cider), berries, lettuce, mushrooms and cut flowers. The rich, fertile land and favorable agricultural climate of the Pajaro Valley remains the basis of the area’s agricultural success today.

I have been buying plants grown by Sierra Azul Nursery from my local garden centers for many years and so I was excited at the prospect of visiting the nursery and meeting its owner, Jeff Rosendale. Jeff’s wholesale operation, retail nursery and demonstration garden are located on E. Lake Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds and enjoy a spectacular view of the distant mountain peaks. The nursery’s name is taken from the mountain range of the same name. The southern half of the Santa Cruz Mountain Range is divided in two by California State Highway 17 into what the colonizing Spanish called the Sierra Moreno, “brown mountains”, to the north and Sierra Azul, “blue mountains”, to the south.

Sierra Azul Nursery & Gardens specializes in plants from the 5 Mediterranean climate zones–remember the great mosaic art piece at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden (see November 6, 2017 post SLO down for this Central Coast botanical garden) describing these 5 zones? Most of what the retail part sells is grown on the property.

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Owner Jeff Rosendale’s 2 acre demonstration garden adjacent to the retail nursery offers insight into what many of the plants he grows will look at mature size during various times of year. While it is not a manicured garden, it is a very realistic representation of how a wide variety of native and non-native trees and shrubs can work together in large scale borders.

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The rocket ship like conifer in the background is Sequoia sempervirens ‘Mt. Loma Prieta Spike’, unfortunately no longer being grown for retail purchase. I loved it!!

In 2006, Sierra Azul’s demo garden became the backdrop for a project of the Pajaro Valley Arts Council dubbed Sculpture IS in the Garden, an extensive installation of art pieces from California artists. The open air exhibition now runs from June 1-October 31 yearly. Even though the event was technically over when I visited Sierra Azul many of the art pieces were still in the garden, along with pieces Jeff has acquired for his permanent garden collection. The 2017 event showcased over 90 pieces of original art. Included each year are works (many for sale) in a variety of styles and media, including steel, wood, ceramic, bronze, glass and concrete. Many are large scale. Some are static, some bend in the breeze. The winding open spaces of the garden drew me through the beds and borders, finding something new to admire at each turn. Over 1,000 pieces of sculpture have been featured in the garden in the past 11 years. Here’s a small sampling of what I saw.

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This playful Pisces greets visitors just inside the property’s gate.
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This organic representation of earth hangs high in the trees.
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Bird and Gear by William Huffman was one of the pieces offered for sale.
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Another large scale piece rising from the landscape–I loved the fanciful rusted iron face!
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One of a series of colorful ceramic totems–I am obsessed with totems in the garden.

This huge bronze and steel sculpture entitled Woven Ring by Paul Cheney was my favorite piece–it can be yours for $7000.

Recognizing that I was lucky to even see a few of the pieces displayed this year I am putting a 2018 road trip to Sierra Azul on my calendar DURING the exhibit dates so I can get the full experience, including taking in the plantings during their best season.

I  spent a very enjoyable hour strolling the retail nursery and selecting a few interesting additions for my garden. The retail area is compact and gardener friendly. Like plant families are grouped together with lots of variety in each area. I am assuming that having your growing operation just steps away allows Jeff to keep just a few of each plant on display with the possibility of providing a larger quantity of a single species  upon demand.

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Phormium and Cordyline varieties  with the demo garden in the background.
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Lots of Pittosporum on the left and Leucadendron just past them

Garden centers in Southern California, the greater Bay Area and Central Coast are finding that plants of Australian and South African origin fit the bill for drought tolerant plantings in their warm winter climates. I see more and more varieties of Leucadendron and Banksia–genera with both interesting foliage and flowers. We see few of these in my somewhat colder winter valley. Sierra Azul has a nice selection in both these plant groups. They are fascinating to me but I am not sure about long term winter survival in my garden.

This huge Banksia integrifolia dwarfs the little redwood check out cottage!

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Lots of Banksia, including integrifolia, await shoppers
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Leucadendron argenteum or Silver Tree
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Leucadendron salignum ‘Golden Tulip’

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I had to keep my hands in my pockets while passing this Correa ‘Wyn’s Wonder’. I love the dainty bell shaped flowers BUT the three Correa, although a different variety, I planted in the driveway circle last year were the only plants I lost–dead, dead, dead!

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This was a new one to me–called Astelia nivicola ‘Red Gem’–and described as an evergreen perennial for shade.
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There were many Grevillea to chose from–including this one Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’.
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I never met a sage I didn’t like!
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My booty accumulates!

Some of my purchases have all ready found places in my garden, others are resting in my holding area awaiting the right spot. Take a look!

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Salvia repens x namensis–a low selection with leaves similar to scented geraniums
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Salvia repens x namensis–bloom closeup
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Salvia semiatrata–very delicate looking but purported to be 4 feet tall and wide
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Salvia semiatrata–bicolor bloom closeup
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Pelargonium quercifolium–common name oak leafed geranium
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Salvia mellifera ‘Calamity Jane’
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Heuchera maxima–a California native with huge leaves
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Salvia somalensis–bright green velvety foliage

So many of the specimens I purchased are new to my gardening experience. It will be fun to see how they perform and share their success or failure with you. Sierra Azul Nursery & Gardens has a permanent place on my ‘make time to stop’ list if I am anywhere at all close. Check out their website at www.sierraazul.com for more information and contact information–also a series of pictures of lawn free landscapes Jeff has designed. A++ for a great selection of plant material, helpful gardening advice and a welcoming garden for a picnic lunch when I have done my shopping!

 

 

Gardening with Goat Hill Fair…

Twice a year Goat Hill Fair comes to the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds in Watsonville, CA. I had read several articles about this self described vintage marketplace over the last few years and so I headed north to Watsonville to see it for myself. I have a few garden art projects ideas for which I have been accumulating vintage garden tools, flower frogs and hose ends–Goat Hill sounded like a fun day with promise for a few new acquisitions. As I do with any first road trip to a city I scoured the internet for other good garden destinations I could fold into my trip. As if by fate, I found that Watsonville is home to literally dozens of wholesale growers and a sprinkling of retail specialty growers, some only open by appointment.  Unfortunately my time frame and that of a couple of the specialty plants people just did not mesh for this trip and I had to be content with a visit to Sierra Azul, Jeff Rosendale’s nursery and 2 acre demonstration garden east of Watsonville and only two giant steps away from the Fairgrounds. Sierra Azul did not disappoint and is worthy of its own post.

The Fairgrounds were my first stop. Let me say that the ladies (and I think one gentleman) who produce and curate this vintage marketplace have got it all together. Parking is well organized and painless and the venue has a turn of the century feel to its buildings which works in concert with Goat Hill’s farmhouse chic ambiance.

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Goat shaped chalkboards point the way
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One of several pieces of beautifully restored vintage farm equipment on display
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Goats are everywhere
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These gals were playing bluegrass as I approached the fair’s three buildings
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Every booth was beautifully presented
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Wide aisles and open booths made it really easy to shop
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I regret talking myself out of the blue wooden sled
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Airstream chic
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Great vintage felt banner flags
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Every vendor was unique and the merchandise very appealing
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Run TOWARD this food truck if you ever have the chance

Although I did not find as many vintage garden goodies as I had hoped for I did purchase these three old watering cans. Old galvanized watering cans have become increasing hard to find on sites like eBay and Etsy–these three are well used but heavy and solid and were pretty good bargains.

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Goat Hill Fair will return to the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds in May 2018. Unless you are a hardcore shopper it is easily done in a half of a day. They have a hold area to which each vendor can have a runner deliver your purchases for you to gather up at day’s end and a car pick up hold area for oversized or heavy purchases, complete with enthusiastic young people to load it all up for you. Check out their site at http://www.goathillfair.com or follow them on Instagram and Pinterest.

NEXT UP: Sierra Azul Nursery and Sculpture IS in the Garden

 

Greystone Mansion and Gardens…

My quick overnight jaunt to Los Angeles allowed me time to visit one more venue on my list of lesser known garden sites: Greystone Mansion and Gardens, also called the Doheny Estate, in Beverly Hills. A heads up if this post inspires you to spend an afternoon at this lovely historic home and gardens which are now a city park, complete wth its own on site ranger: when your GPS tells you to turn off Sunset Blvd. onto Doheny Road–make sure you turn on Doheny ROAD not on Doheny DRIVE. I saw many other beautiful estates and gardens during the 30 minutes I spent going in circles on Doheny Drive but not one homeowner invited me in to take photos. Apparently this is common enough that a very explicit caution about just that is printed on the brochure–which of course you do not have until you get there!

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View of the Inner Courtyard

The gardens’ brochure offers a brief Doheny Family history to help you put Greystone in its proper context. In 1892, Edward Doheny Sr. and his business partner discovered the first productive oil well in Los Angeles. With the opening of additional deposits in California and Mexico they became one of the largest producers of oil in the world. In the 1910s Mr. Doheny Sr. purchased a number of land parcels in what is now Beverly Hills, creating the 429 acre Doheny Ranch. The 12 and a half acre parcel which became the site of Greystone was on the western edge of the ranch. In 1926 the senior Mr. Doheny gave the land to his son, Edward “Ned” Doheny Jr. and his wife Lucy.

Southern California architect Gordon B. Kaufmann designed the 46,054 square foot 55 room home in the English Tudor style. It took 18 months to build the mansion, outbuildings and install the landscape at a completion cost in 1928 of $3,166,578. The house is built of steel reinforced concrete faced with Indiana limestone and has a Welsh slate roof. The grounds included a tennis court, kennels, garages and stables, a fire station, swimming pool and greenhouse.

Ned Doheny was tragically shot and killed within a year of the family moving into their new home. Lucy Doheny, her five children, and eventually her second husband remained at Greystone until 1955 when she sold the mansion and 18 acres of land to Chicago industrialist Henry Crown. Mr. Crown never occupied the home instead starting a long tradition of using the property as a movie location–over 69 films have been made there to date. The City of Beverly Hills purchased the property in 1965 and the grounds were dedicated as a city park in 1971. The American Film Institute was based at Greystone from 1969-1972. Greystone was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

The grounds of Greystone are open daily with plentiful free parking (I am pretty sure this is the only place in metro LA that has plentiful free parking) and the mansion is the site of many cultural events and activities.

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Looking down into the Forecourt of the Formal Garden.

Landscape architect Paul Thiene and lead designer Emile Kuehl created a series of terraced gardens and lawns that reflected a mixture of styles, most notable are the Italian Renaissance inspired gardens above the house. Parking is at the highest point on the hill and so you wind downhill through these gardens to approach the mansion.

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You go down stone stairs into the Forecourt and then back up another set to the Formal Garden.

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On a clear day you can probably see the ocean from this classic garden. The plant materials are as you would suppose them to be in a garden of this style: clipped boxwood, ‘Iceberg’ roses, columnar yews and mature single trunked crape myrtles.

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Classic fountain at the furthest sight line

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From the Forecourt another stairway leads me to another sparkling fountain and the Cypress Walk.

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I love the simplicity of the soaring cypress allee complimented only by the stone walk, lawn and French lavender snuggled in their bases. The massive retaining wall which supports the Formal Garden above is not left without ornamentation–each of these framed alcoves houses a small bubbling pool.

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Two more sets of stone steps down and walk along the back of the Inner Courtyard Wall brings me to the West Courtyard . This curved swathe of Camillia sasanqua is at least 100 feet long and reinforces the philosophy of using great quantities of a restrained variety of plants so that the mass has reasonable proportion to the adjacent structure. These blooms are shaded by mature Southern magnolias.

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This stone area would have served as the car park for the mansion. Guests could be dropped off right at the archway which shelters the home’s main entry. It was not atypical for home built in this era to have the ‘front door’ in the back–thus preserving the views from the front of the home. The Inner Courtyard (first photo) lies on the other side of the entrance archway.

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This stone path leads me from the West Courtyard entrance to the Reflection Pond. More clipped boxwood and white roses in formally geometric beds.

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This koi filled pond is visible from Greystone’s Mansion Terrace which spans the entire width of the back of the home.

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The walkways and this terrace are paved with colorful stone (slate?) which is complimentary to the home’s facade and the slate roof.

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It is hard to believe that this property is actually in the city until you catch the stunning view from the balustrade of the Mansion Terrace.

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Copper gutters, brick chimney pots, leaded glass windows and, of course, that great Welsh slate roof.

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A long curving path with multiple sets of steps on the east side of Greystone leads me downhill in front of the mansion in an effort to get the ‘curb appeal’ photo. This planted slope appears to have been updated with broad groups of grasses, shrubs and ground covers which have more drought tolerance than the uphill formal areas.

There are some small areas of succulents–this is one of very few plants I saw that probably would not have been part of the original plans–I am sure that just like everywhere else in water starved California attempts at xeric modifications are being made in areas that will not take away from the overall garden atmosphere.

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At the bottom of the hillside property the original Gatehouse now serves as Greystone’s main office.

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Tucked up against the Gatehouse is the small but formal Rose Garden.

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I am not sure what the cultivar name for this rose is but it is powerfully fragrant even late in the season.

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This modern day brick lined roadway leads to the original Stables, Garages and Greenhouse.

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To give you a sense of the scale I am standing on that paved road looking across the lawns and planted slope uphill to the imposing home.

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A number of paths through the broad lawn allow you to descend the hillside toward the west side of the house. This would be similar to the view seen by guests as the approach Greystone on the driveway that will take them to the West Courtyard. Can you imagine?

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More modern day pathways lead visitors back to the home’s elevation. This pretty little Magnolia stellata was unexpectedly in bloom!

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Sort of like the back stairs in a home, several sets of stone stairs on the west end will lead me back up to the far end of the Formal Garden. Interestingly, I saw none of these openings when I was IN the Formal Garden.

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View from the first landing looking back at the West Courtyard

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Gorgeous hardscape

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Uphill one more terrace level–there is a bridge at this level connecting the garden to the home via a second story walled courtyard.

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Back stairway landing hidden at the west end of the Cypress Walk

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Arriving the back way to the elevation of the Formal Garden I find the site of the original Pool House and Pool. The bricked over pool is popular for wedding receptions and community events. Without my Greystone brochure map I would have missed this entirely. It is directly adjacent to the fountain end of the Formal Garden but totally obscured from view by the trees and high courtyard wall.

I have come full circle–from top to bottom to top again–and I am sure I have missed lots of landscape detail along the way. Greystone is a fairytale mansion surrounded by formal and informal gardens styled perfectly to complement its era and architecture–a fun afternoon for gardeners and historic home buffs alike.

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Yes–there really is a Beverly Hills Park Ranger–a polite young man with a spiffy uniform and a very nice ride!