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!

 

 

Dancing Dolls…

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Readers with good memories may recall I was suffering from an acute case of Salviamania in the early spring of 2016. I posted My sage advice to you is… in May and then 2016 Salvia update… as a follow-up later that year. I was truly obsessed with collecting every introduction in a few salvia series such as Monterey Bay Nursery’s Turbulent Sixties and Western Dancers introduced by Suncrest Nurseries. Since that time I have added additional cultivars from those series and others but until early this year had not been able to successfully introduce the long sought after Salvia microphylla hybrid ‘Dancing Dolls’ to my garden. Many of these named varieties are almost never in my local garden centers–both these series are filled with older introductions and I recognize the store’s buyers must attempt to provide a good mix of the hot new things plus the old standards. That dream of someone calling to check what’s on my list for this season before the orders are placed is not likely to ever become reality. Do they not know that I am the Queen of the Dirt? I find the greatest selection when shopping on the coast and in Southern California and even then being able to check another one off my list is pretty exciting. Two previous purchases of ‘Dancing Dolls’ in 4″ pots got lost in the shuffle somewhere along the way–I see them in my photographic record of what I have purchased but have no idea whatever happened to either of them!

Finally found another a couple of months ago and got it planted in the newer lawn free plantings along my front walk and I have been rewarded with its plentiful and perfectly colored lavender and pale pink blooms. ‘Dancing Dolls’ shares it 2004 parentage with ‘Shell Dancer’ which grows in my back garden but the colors are less creamy and much more clear and sharp. I love the way she plays so well with other lavender and dark purple blossoms.

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I am feeling as if I need to start scratching that little salvia itch again!

Austin pre-Fling road trips…Friendly Natives Nursery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This one is my choice!

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

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

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

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

 

Austin pre-Fling road trips… heading west

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back on the road to Fredericksburg…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Everything but the kitchen sink!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Howdy from Austin…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!

Deadheading daze…

The months of April and May are peak times in my garden–rapid growth and lots of perennials and roses in bloom. This year travel took me out of my garden from mid-April until 10 days or so ago when I returned from the Austin Garden Bloggers Fling. A few days home here and there did not afford me many opportunities to keep up with the daily maintenance my spring flowering plant heavy garden demands to looks its best. Adding to that was our very mild winter which brought many things into bloom earlier and thus looking a little longer in the tooth by mid-May than I prefer.

So even with my 1000+ Fling photos still needing attention and at least a dozen posts to write covering all the glorious garden I saw in Austin, I knew time must be devoted to deadheading at least the roses. This routine task becomes much more taxing as the heat of summer comes and I like to have them all cut back by late May so I can look forward to a nice repeat flush of bloom mid-summer.

In direct opposition to my sort of blowsy, frowsy, scrambling, climbing plant aesthetic my husband feels more comfortable when the garden is under a little more, even if still tenuous, control. He is sure that the minute he gives it an inch, the garden will take a mile and rampaging plants will have damaged stucco walls, weakened wood fences or tumbled out of beds and borders and onto sidewalks and patios. He is not much for that garden principle of blurring the lines or softening the edges by letting plants wander as they choose. To that end, the purple Lantana montevidensis planted on either side of the rock waterfall behind the pool is always on his radar and I swear he adjusts his travel schedule so that he will be home while I am gone for several days so that he can have his way with the purple interloper.

Daze 1

In this older photo taken from just off the patio you can see the lantana has scrambled over the boulders–just the way I like it!

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Several weeks ago when this photo was taken the lantana was just coming back into bloom after a brief late winter rest. Neither the climbing roses ‘Raspberry Cream Twirl’ on the fence behind the waterfall nor the cascading tree roses ‘Renae’ planted on either side had really come well into bloom yet.

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Here’s what I returned home to–both climbing and tree roses had bloomed steadily during my absence and my purple trailing lantana had gotten a haircut worthy of a pair of army boot camp recruits! The twiggy little mounds remaining can barely be seen at the bases of the ‘Renae’ roses. OK–I really wasn’t surprised and am practicing being grateful because it is one less cutting back task for me in an all ready busy spring. To his credit I do tend to let them go too long between trimmings. This particular plant responds well to his unmerciful cutting style and will reward me with lots of new growth and flowers in a couple of weeks. Speaking of drastic pruning, you may notice we now have a view of our over the back fence neighbors. Until last fall their very overgrown plantings of Xylosmacongestum and Nerium oleander towered over our garden, allowing only a peek at their roof. We lost 100% of our privacy when all those trees were topped with their stumps right below the top of the fence. You can see that they are making a small comeback with some new growth above the fence edge but it will be forever, or possibly never, until the full view of their second story is obscured. See below what we lost!

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I got busy today and deadheaded the ‘Raspberry Cream Twirl’ climbing roses (just barely planted in the above photo which is about 3 years old) on the fence. This dark pink striped climber has very long canes and it a great repeat bloomer.

Lavender Twirl

Daze 5The west side is done…now on to the east.

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With both climbers and the ‘Renae’ tree roses on either side cleaned up I gave the waterfall rocks a scrub down and let it run for awhile.

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‘Renae’ is pretty much a self cleaner and this is the first time I’ve have made an effort to deadhead midseason. I have 2 in the front garden and these two in the back which were planted a year later. Neither of the two has ever been as vigorous as the two in the front. I think it will be interesting to see if this deadheading will encourage renewed growth on the two that lag behind. The rose on the east side (right) has struggled since planting and only this year seems to be gaining some speed.

The front garden did not even seem to notice my absence. In our lawn removal/bed renovation projects the last couple of years I have eliminated almost all of the older roses, leaving only the modern carpet/ground cover types which require very little deadheading. I have put the last plants for this season in the newest of the formerly lawn areas and soon I’ll give you a tour. I used many 4″ containers and recent photographs reveal mostly the humus top dressing with a little blob of green here and there–let’s give these little guys some time to get going. Every year I look forward to the luminous white blooms displayed on this colony of trumpet lilies which rise behind a ‘Pink Supreme’ ground cover rose and a couple of salvias–Salvia fruticosa and Salvia chamaedryoides ‘Marine Blue’–not yet flowering. Soon these venerable three will be duking it out for dominance of the space and, if I am very lucky, spill right out onto the front sidewalk in search of the upper hand. Just the way I like it!

Smitten by all accounts…

2018 has been an unbelievably busy year both in out of the garden! Our January and February weather was mild enough to accomplish all of the “heavy lifting” work needed in the newest of our lawn free landscape areas. March gave us enough precipitation to keep the ground from crusting over but not so much that I could not get out and dig in plants purchased for the bed in the fall and overwintered in my back yard holding area. I also divided and moved in some plants which had proven southern exposure successful in the driveway circle bed last year. Still having some very large open spaces and a need for some white to temper the purples, lavenders, blues and pinks I took a road trip last week to one of my favorite garden centers–The Greenery in Turlock, CA. Not exactly around the corner for me but worth a trip every few months. I got so caught up in browsing I forgot to take more photos!

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Annuals and an addictive gift shop
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Perennials galore–stock is always fresh!
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My go to nursery for lots of plants in 4″ pots
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Shady gems and tons of good quality pottery
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Lots of varieties of barberry, abelia and other shrubs
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One of many fairy gardens throughout!

I may have been a wee bit too early for all of the newest waterwise stock to be in place. There were many salvia selections–mostly from the Salvia greggii/microphylla complex–but none of what was on my list. So even though I did not bring home anything to add to my bed in progress I did snag a couple of other very precious dark red specimens for my shadier areas.

In recent years I have been dabbling in adding a smidge of red to my garden. In deference to my existing palette the red MUST be a blue/red NOT an orange/red and these cooler reds are not nearly as plentiful and one would think. Salvia ‘Killer Cranberry’ is my touchstone for a workable red–if it looks ok in the same visual plane as the Killer it will work anywhere. A deep rich red is a beautiful foil for the many deep purples and lavenders in my garden as well as the clear pinks.

smitten 1

I have to say I almost ran toward this camellia in the shade section at The Greenery! A perfect marbling of red, pink and white distinguishes Camellia japonica ‘Tudor Baby Variegated’. Fortunately, I have room for yet another camellia in an area we actually shade cloth over during the summer months so I can grow camellias for cut flowers in the cooler months. Listed as a formal double and late spring bloomer, it was a must have for me.

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I never met a lenten rose I did not like and this one leaped into my cart with very little assistance. A little more purple than dark red or burgundy, it is a stunner called ‘Cherry Blossom’ from the Helleborus hybridus collection called Winter Jewels. The spent blooms, one of which you can see lower left, take on that typical lime green hue but still bear the dark edging. This was the only remaining flower in its prime throughout the half dozen or so gallon plants available to buy and it sold me!

So no white, nothing sun loving (or even tolerant) and certainly no new waterwise plants are calling my garden home after this trip but all together a fun day of seeing what’s as new and fresh as spring feels today.