Digging Deeper with Keeyla Meadows at Urban Adamah…

The last day of my long Bay Area weekend was devoted to a Garden Conservancy Digging Deeper program at Berkeley community farm Urban Adamah.

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Urban Adamah was founded in 2010 by Adam Berman as the first urban Jewish community farm in the United States.  The farm’s seeds are rooted in a Connecticut farm-based residential leadership program. Adam envisioned an urban farm that would provide a fellowship program, offer Jewish agriculturally based experiential programs for youth and families, and contribute to food security in the East Bay. The farm moved in 2016 to its permanent home near Codornices Creek in Northwest Berkeley after  five years in a temporary location. The word adamah in Biblical Hebrew means ground or earth.

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A little hard to decipher as the metal sign over the entrance has aged–it reads “Love…all the rest is commentary”.

Berkeley artist and landscape designer Keeyla Meadows was brought in to design a city required swale when the 2.2 acre parcel was a blank slate. She went on to design the Pollinator Garden, the Children’s Garden and work with staff as other parts of the garden have been developed. Keeyla (on the left below) and Emily, the Urban Adamah Landscape Coordinator were our guides.

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We gathered in the center of a large circular planting bed to learn a bit about the farm’s history and philosophy. The core tenants of Urban Adamah are stated in this Mission Statement: “Urban Adamah seeks to build a more loving, just and sustainable world. We ground and connect people-to themselves, to others, and to the natural world. We do this by providing farm based, community building experiences that integrate Jewish tradition, mindfulness, sustainable agriculture and social action.”

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As we start our day together, Zumba teacher Kat leads us in noticing our surroundings and getting in touch with the wind and sky

Keeyla points out that almost every area of the farm has a central open area designed for small groups of people to meet and build relationships. This was a specific request made by Urban Adamah’s founder–places to gather as a community must be plentiful, welcoming and comfortable. The farm is open to the public most week days and is a lovely environment in which to enjoy the outdoors and observe nature at work–plus volunteer workers are welcome! We will explore most of the farm’s major areas, stopping to observe the plantings and ask questions as Keeyla and Emily share the design philosophy and challenges in developing this very young garden.

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We start at the Blueberry Meeting Circle where a ring of sturdy upright logs provide both seating for us and a podium for Keeyla.

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Without sharp eyes you might miss the ring of blueberries planted around the meeting circle, nestled amongst freely self sowing California poppies. Several native penstemons, blue-eyed grass and salvia also make their home here along with many Douglas iris.

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Gardeners are good multi-taskers. As Keeyla describe the soil building and design process for this area, one of our group pulls weeds as she listens. The farm is organic and weeding is a never ending task, especially in areas where self-sowers are allowed to have their way.

The Blueberry Meeting Circle is a charming front garden to the Aquaponic House where four levels of plants are stacked, producing lettuces, basil and other leafy greens.

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This buttery lettuce is planted with only a small amount of bark like material and its roots reaching down into the water below.

The bottom trays now hold a variety of plants being grown for their leaves textural experience, such as the gigantic Gunnera leaf and the surprising soft, almost furry, leaf of its neighbor.

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This tank is home to fish whose waste provides the natural fish emulsion nutrients to the plant via the circulation system of pipes.

We circle out of the Aquaponics House and return to the Blueberry Meeting Circle, a great vantage point to see the full length of the Urban Swale. the farm is adjacent to Codornices Creek which is in the midst of a civic restoration plan. The city of Berkeley required the installation of a swale on the farm’s property to prevent runoff of both rainwater and farm waste water into the creek.

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The Urban Swale, planted entirely in California natives runs from just beside the Blueberry Meeting Circle and along the farm’s front fence line almost to the entry gate.

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Hummingbird Sage

Hooker Creek boulders and Sonoma stone were brought in to form the bank stabilizing structure of the swale. Plantings were designed in repeating color bursts to keep your eye moving down the length of the swale. Keeyla calls this ‘weaving color’ throughout a space. Native plants requiring more moisture are planted lower on the bank while the more drought tolerate plants are higher up. The shape of the swale allows accumulated water to percolate slowly back into the ground. Keeyla’s choice of native plantings in part was to relate the swale to the creek and to honor the area’s indigenous peoples and their stewardship of the land.

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A little closer look at the beehive end. Notice the enormous Verbena ‘De La Mina’!
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Visitor to the ‘De La Mina’

Several varieties of California poppies were included in the original sowing of reseeding annuals. Subsequent seasons have produced some interesting color variations as the result of natural hybridization.

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Looking back as we wander the Urban Swale
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Fledgling bee colony
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Looking across the farm from the Urban Swale end

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As we walk to the far side of the farm to see the Pollinator Garden, Emily shares that this Administration Building was the first permanent structure built on the site; a great accomplishment after five years of a trailer office. The passionflower vines on the office trellises (and on the fences in the Urban Swale) were a concession to a former farm colleague who was instrumental in the early planning days. He loves passionflowers and would regularly harvest the fruit for use in tea and other edibles.

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Urban Adamah gives away 90% of the food it grows. The remainder is used on the farm for events and for use by residents of the farm. They host a weekly farmer’s market for anyone who needs food. Local grocery stores, including Whole Foods, contribute goods not yet produced on the farm. At any given times throughout the year they will produce all kinds of vegetables, herbs, stone and pomme fruits, potatoes, onions, eggs and milk.

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Crops are rotated regularly–vetch, Fava beans and crimson clover are planted as nitrogen fixing cover crops to be tilled back into the ground (after bean harvest, of course).

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The Pollinator Garden is our next stop–a melange of seasonal veggies surrounded by plants chosen specifically for their attraction of certain pollinators. Emily worked closely with Keeyla on the implementation of the design and credits this garden as awakening her desire to not only plant, but also be a designer. As we visit not much is in prime bloom. Emily explains what different shapes and colors are attractive to specific kinds of pollinators–tubular for the hummers vs flat for the butterflies, etc.–and the importance of having something for everyone if you want to maximize pollination.

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The Children’s Garden entrance is home to arbor seating–I haven’t been counting seating areas but I’m sure there at least 10. A young vine is on its way up to give visitors some shade while they get to know each other.

Urban Adamah has a full schedule of family friendly activities, including summer camp. The goals for children are the same as for adults; to build community; to foster Jewish traditions; to learn and practice sustainable agriculture and living.

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The Children’s Garden is only a stone’s throw from the creek and has its own swale to serve the same purpose as the first built Urban Swale. Keeyla also designed this garden and the swale is similar in planting with the exception of possibly more native wildflowers–sowing seeds is a popular activity on this side of the farm. Here you can see the swale emerging from under the bridge to the Earthbench meeting place.

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With the guidance of an educator from the Peace on Earthbench Movement (POEM) children built this garden gathering space using plastic bottles and other recycled materials over several camp sessions. Locally based POEM’s international mission is to encourage youth to turn plastic waste into artistic community gathering places. This is a project I would want to participate in–what fun!

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Looking down the Children’s Garden swale you see art created by children and displayed on the fence.

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A surprisingly unafraid hummingbird

Leaving the Children’s Garden we pass a newly constructed grape arbor tucked up against the street side fence.

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As yet unplanted, the arbor will be home to several grape varieties (you can see the barrels just outside the fence awaiting the vines) for a nascent partnership with the kosher winery directly across the street. The structure was built by local Eagle Scouts–notice every section has seating for several people.

We make a quick detour to the goat pen to meet Lev and Ivy and give them a snack pulled right from the field–and right in front of the Do Not Feed the Goats sign.

These two clearly recognize Emily and know she comes with goodies. They will not let her out of their sight!

On our way to talk about the Seven Sacred Species Garden we stop for a brief art activity. Keeyla has provided us with paper, colored pencils and markers, and string and asks us each to make a wish or a prayer to hang on the farm’s olive tree, telling us our thoughts will be released into the wind. The olive tree is the farm’s focal point, visible as soon as you enter the gate. A universal symbol of peace and one of the Seven Sacred Species, this tree was 42 years old when it was selected for the farm 18 months ago and the variety is one preferred for its oil. It actually sits mounded high because the farm’s electrical and water utilities are underneath it. Rocks were added to stabilize the raised planting area. I’m not sure how much of an olive oil crop you can get from one tree but I’m giving the farm extra credit for covering all the bases.

Had to make a quick trip back to the goat pen to retrieve an errant paper prayer from Ivy!

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The Seven Sacred Species are plants which deeply link spiritual beliefs to the natural world and play prominent roles in the Bible. They are olive, fig, date, wheat, barley, grapes and pomegranate. It was important to the farm’s founder to include these species on the farm and at this writing they have 6 of the seven, lacking only barley.

Several are represented around the entry gate.

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One of several young fig trees on the farm
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Pomegranate in the background–in the foreground is Etrog, a yellow citrus used during the Jewish holiday Sukkot
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Grapes will cover the entry trellis

There is a lone date palm near the Blueberry Meeting Circle and wheat planted in the crop beds. It is fitting that these species closely linked with the Bible would be at home in this place deeply rooted in Jewish traditions.

Our group had thinned a bit by now–many, including me, did not know the extent of the experience and had planned for less time. Those of us remaining took a break to gather fresh herbs, berries, greens and edible flowers to add to salad ingredients Keeyla had provided.

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A fresh dressing was made…
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Our table was set…

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Keeyla had made grape leaf dolma stuffed with barley and currents, polenta, small white pastries with dates, and a blueberry tart. A wonderful challah was the highlight for me–delicious.

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We filled our plates and gathered at a circle of benches to break bread and get to know each other a little better–exactly what Urban Adamah founder Adam Berman would have wanted.

This day was a wonderful experience and I would encourage anyone in the vicinity of Urban Adamah to take a few minutes to see the farm. I will close with a few more photos and several websites for you to get more information if you desire.

Here we go–

For more information about Urban Adamah, its mission and programs go to http://www.urbanadamah.org

For more information about Keeyla Meadows, her art, books and gardens go to http://www.keeylameadows.net

For more information about Garden Conservancy Digging Deeper programs go to http://www.gardenconservancy.org then click on Open Days, then Digging Deeper

For more information about the Peace on Earthbench Movement go to http://www.earthbench.org

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UC Berkeley Botanical Garden Spring Plant Sale…

The second day of this Bay Area road trip is devoted to a visit to the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley to take in their spring plant sale. The sea mist was still hanging in the air as I made my way up into the Berkeley Hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay. All I can say is thank goodness for navigation–a mere four miles from my hotel must have had 2 dozen lefts and rights to get to the 2 lane road into the hillside campus.

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The garden’s parking lots were full and signage led me uphill to the overflow parking some 3/4 of a mile away at Lawrence Hall. A free shuttle awaited to ferry us back down to the garden.

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It didn’t take long for me to realize I could not take photos, peruse plants and pull my wagon all at the same time so pictures are few because in this case, plants rule. The garden’s collections are all closed for the sale so only the main walkway seen here is accessible with all secondary paths being roped off.

The Botanical Garden was formally established on the UC Berkeley campus in 1890 with its current 34 acre location in Strawberry Canyon since the property was purchased in 1909. Ten thousand plant types are organized in 9 geographic regions of naturalistic plantings from Italy to South Africa, along with a major collection of California native plants. With the little bits I could see from the sale site I know I want to schedule another visit to see all there is off this beaten path.

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Here are a few vignettes visible from the walkway…

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The fabulous royal blue Ceanothus below was the backdrop for a display of varieties for sale.

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It was identified as Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus ‘Kurt Zadnik’ and it was no surprise to me that all of this particular one had sold in the few minutes since the sale opened. It is such a benefit to us to be able to see a plant we buy in a gallon can at its mature size and in excellent health. The common appellation Carmel creeper could lead you to believe it is a prostrate variety–not so!

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There were areas for trees and shrubs, California natives, succulents, shade lovers and sun cravers, houseplants and tropicals but the table with the biggest crowd was the collection of carnivorous plants. Amazing!

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I gathered up and paid for my precious cargo. All but one of the plants I purchased was propagated onsite from the garden’s collection. My booty includes 4 salvias, two of which have been on my acquisition list for a few years, a coveted Campanula incurva to add to a dappled shade area and a pelargonium with interested red patterned foliage. A day with new plants is a very good day for me!

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!

 

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!

Howdy from Austin…

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

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

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

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

ANTIQUE ROSE EMPORIUM

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

NATURAL GARDENER

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

LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER

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

SOL’STICE

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

FRIENDLY NATIVES NURSERY

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

PEACE GARDEN

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

WILDSEED FARMS

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

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

SATURDAY

GARDEN OF COLLEEN JAMISON

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

GARDEN OF PAM PENICK

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

GARDEN OF B JANE

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

GARDEN OF DONNA AND MIKE FOWLER

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

TANGLEWOOD GARDENS

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

SUNDAY

GARDEN OF LUCINDA HUTSON

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

GARDEN OF RUTHIE BURRUS

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

GARDEN OF MARGIE MCCLURG

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

ZILKER BOTANICAL GARDEN

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

GARDEN OF TAIT MORING

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

GARDEN OF KIRK WALDEN

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

ARTICULTURE

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

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

Greystone Mansion and Gardens…

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

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View of the Inner Courtyard

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

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

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

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

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Looking down into the Forecourt of the Formal Garden.

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

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

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

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Classic fountain at the furthest sight line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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View from the first landing looking back at the West Courtyard

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Gorgeous hardscape

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

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

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

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

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