Getting down into the gutter…

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There are no finer blooms than those of the hellebores in late winter. The only even slightly negative thing I can say about these lovely nodding bells is that you almost have to lay on the ground on your back to photograph their blossoms! This is one of a half dozen or so I sited up the slight slope of a narrow long side yard on our corner lot. So indeed, I was literally in the gutter with my camera propped on the curb trying to get this picture.

This is Helleborus x hybridus ‘NW Cotton Candy’ (also sometimes labeled ‘NGN Cotton Candy’) in its first winter bloom. The lawn in this side bed was removed in 2017 and the area replanted between late 2017 and early 2018. This 1 gallon plant went in just about this time last year, at the tail end of when hellebores are in full bloom in the garden centers.

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It is one of three and is tucked under the shady canopy of a mature Bradford pear. I have to give it stellar marks for vigor as this area is extremely dry shade with ample root competition for what little summer water is available. The trio was a little peaked through the hottest summer months but nothing more than to be expected of perennials not yet having settled into their new homes. The recent rains have helped tremendously and there is a nice first year show of blooms on each plant.

The Cotton Candy strain is one of a series of Northwest Garden Nursery hellebores produced from hand pollinated plants in the Eugene, Oregon garden home of Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne. The O’Byrnes have dabbled (their words–I’d call it way more than dabbling) in hellebore breeding since the early 1990s. You may be familiar with other strains in their wildly popular Winter Jewel series. I recently bought their ‘Ruby Wine’ which is almost black with a purple sheen. Although they are primarily breeders and wholesalers they do have select retail days throughout the year. Hellebore Garden Open Days each February offer opportunities to tour their garden. The 2019 Open Days are right around the corner–February 16th and 23th. Please visit their website http://www.northwestgardennursery.com to read all about the O’Byrnes and get a glimpse of their garden. Don’t miss clicking on the Gallery tab to see individual photos of their single flowered and double flowered strains–a feast for any gardener’s eyes!

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I first came to adore these so called Lenten Roses when I lived in Georgia where they multiplied readily under the protection of tall pines. While I admire their variety and their propensity to ‘pollinate amongst themselves’ producing seedlings whose eventual blooms look nothing like anything you what actually purchased, I love none more than the ones I just call Mary’s hellebores which were seedlings from the garden of my dear friend Mary S. Transplanted from my Macon garden to my California garden–a very long over the garden fence trip–they did not reach blooming age until after we had left Georgia but now provide me with bountiful blooms and memories, growing vigorously and offering me countless seedlings to pass along to yet another gardening friend.

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Origami squared…

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

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

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

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

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

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Crane Unfolding by Kevin Box

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

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

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

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Duo by Jennifer and Kevin Box

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

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

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

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

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

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Nesting Pair by Jennifer and Kevin Box

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

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

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

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Folding Planes by Kevin Box

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

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

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Conversation Peace by Kevin Box

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

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Rising Peace by Kevin Box

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

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

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

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

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

 

A minor miracle…

With the dry hills surrounding California’s Central Valley once again exploding as if by spontaneous combustion and my own garden in its holding on for dear life and trying to survive ’til September mode I witnessed this minor miracle a couple of days ago.

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First, a little backstory is needed. The Garden Bloggers Fling each year is blessed with many enthusiastic sponsors whose underwriting enables participants to experience 3+ days of great private and public gardens, meals to energize us and get some really fun goodies to take home for use in our own gardens. In addition, we often have gardening professionals representing our sponsors touring with us and providing us with the benefit of their knowledge and experience.

This year David Salman, founder and chief horticulturalist of High Country Gardens, toured with us and presented a short program while we lunched at Austin’s Zilker Botanical Garden. Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, High Country Gardens has been a pioneer in sustainable gardening for over 25 years, offering quality drought resistant, native and unique plants. David has personally developed many of the plants found in High Country’s catalog and I will always remember him as the gentleman who hopped off the bus with a baggie to collect some seed from a shrub on the roadside because it was the native of something he had long wanted to propagate. As part of our swag bag we each received a lovely gift certificate to order something fun from High Country’s mail order website.

By early June I had wound down enough from Austin to study the offerings at http://www.highcountrygardens.com and made my picks. Two of the the plants I ordered were perennials I saw growing well in Austin: Callirhoe involucrata (poppy mallow or wine cups) and a Scutellaria hybrid with dark violet blooms. While the Scutellaria (skullcap) I saw in Austin I think was the native I have never seen any skullcap for sale in any local retail nursery so I wanted to give one a try! My final pick was just for fun—Buddleia alternifolia v. argentea–common name silver butterfly bush or silver fountain butterfly bush. Please note on the plant tag above I have misspelled the variety name.

Now we are all over the butterfly bush in California but what we have here is primarily B. davidii, a reliable and tough summer bloomer for us. B. alternifolia is described as a spring bloomer and has arching willow like branches with cascading panicles of lavender flowers. Ultimately a large shrub at 8′-12′ by 8′-12′ it is highly attractive to butterflies and hummers plus friendly to bees.

When my mail order box arrived I quickly got the poppy mallow and skullcap into the ground as our planting window here had really all ready run out. Crossed my fingers and dug them in! Uncertain about a location for the Buddleia, given its mature size, I added its little 5″ deep pot to a mix of containers still needing a home. It was only about 3″ tall but had some nice healthy leaves on it. The tiny pot fell on its side and got lost in the shuffle and thus went untended and unwatered FOR WEEKS. By the time I noticed it the little guy was no more than a 3″ stick with a couple of yellowed leaves and dry as popcorn.

With nothing to lose at this point I stuck it in a smallish pot (can’t even think what died in this pot) and tucked it into an area that would at least get some sprinkler water a couple of days a week. Now only a few weeks later, I have not only new vegetative growth but the wee fellow is blooming! Just the little bit of hope that a discouraged gardener needs at about the time she is thinking a condo with a 5 foot square patio is looking pretty good!

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By the way, the poppy mallow (wine cups) continues to struggle but I am confident that it will get a foothold and be beautiful next year. The dark violet skullcap is having a stellar first summer, especially given it’s tardy planting. It has made a tidy little mass about a foot wide and is blooming well. Thank you, David!

Austin pre-Fling road trips…Friendly Natives Nursery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This one is my choice!

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

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

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

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

 

Austin pre-Fling road trips… heading west

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back on the road to Fredericksburg…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Everything but the kitchen sink!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Howdy from Austin…The Natural Gardener

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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