Diana C. Kirby

About Diana C. Kirby

Diana Kirby is a lifelong gardener and longtime Austinite, who loves the Central Texas climate for the almost year-round opportunities it offers for active gardening and seasonal splendor. Known as an impassioned and successful gardener, Diana began by helping friends design and implement their landscapes. Soon, she was contracted as a professional designer by a popular local landscaping installation firm, where she designed landscapes for residential and commercial clients for several years. In 2007, her new passion blossomed with the launch of her own firm, Diana’s Designs. ... Diana is a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, the Garden Writers Association of America, and she writes a monthly gardening column for the Austin American-Statesman. Diana teaches the Landscape Design classes for several county Texas Agrilife Extension Service Master Gardener certification programs and speaks about gardening and design for garden centers and other groups. Learn more about presentation topics, availability and speaking fees.

DC Smithsonian mall gardens pack a powerful punch

I’ve all but forgotten about the heat and the humidity and the bad hair, but I’ll never forget the 15 delightful little Smithsonian gardens along Washington D.C, Mall.

I had a quite a few favorites, so come along on the virtual Mall tour with me. I’m afraid I was so busy photographing that I didn’t link the gardens with their buildings or even their themes, so you won’t be getting a history lesson.  But, honestly, it’s all about the plants, right?

Ya gotta have a picture with the Washington Memorial coming out of someone’s head, right?

Laura, of Wills Family Acres in Austin, gets the honor in this multi-selfie photograph.

 

I’ll start with my favorite vignette.  I do remember this garden – it was Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

Full of familiar plants and creative combinations, I also spent the most time photographing this garden.

I may have to find this Yucca desmetiana ‘blue boy’ when I get home.

It seems strange to travel to Washington D.C. to find a new-to-me variety of yucca that I haven’t seen at our local Central Texas nurseries.

That’s the beauty of the Garden Bloggers Flings – we learn so much about plants in other Zones of the country.  And, we sometimes go home with fantasies of growing Zone 3 plants in Zone 8b.  (No names will be mentioned but her initials might be D.K.)

These delicate hydrangea flowers prove a lovely contrast to the sculpture of the tree they surround.

Living walls like this are growing popularity across the country.

The vibrant and varied composition of this wall is a virtual rainbow of color.  This ‘garden art’ with its hues of grey and green would be a stunning addition to any indoor or outdoor room.

Bridging two distinct styles, this formal fountain and globe are filled with a variety of  succulents and draped with silver ponyfoot.

It certainly fits the bill of container gardening rules with its collection of ‘thrillers, fillers and spillers.’

 

This garden flanks the Smithsonian Institution Building, also known as The Castle.

We did pay some attention to the museums and buildings along the mall, though I have to admit, our focus was primarily on the gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

These beds were full of plants I recognized – phormium, Japanese aralia, daisies, irises and lilies, to name a few.

Here, Mexican feathergrass, phormium and the ever-popular potato vine make a luscious lime combo.

Yucca rostrada and a grey agave (not sure about that one) are the focal points in this hot garden.

It was so evident that this garden was carefully curated for our enjoyment.

The building acts as a backdrop of these collections of coneflowers. The urn helps to give this part of the garden an English Cottage feel.

I’ll leave you with one last vignette — another colorful and contrasting combo of color and texture and form.

They grey/green of this yucca rostrata, paired with the delicate lavender blooms of, well, lavender make a lovely picture together.

The razor-thin straps of the yucca offer a completely different structure than the long, thin, wispy stalks of the lavender blooms.

This conifer is from another garden, although I forget which one. I fell in love with conifers in Chicago at the second fling.  One of our stops was a conifer farm with dozens and dozens of different varieties.  The texture and form often hold a surprise, with their almost rubber-like, thick leaves or long, fine needles.  My garden has a perfect spot for this one; sadly, it would fry in Austin.

These chives look like perky lollipops in the garden.

In spite of the sauna, we powered through it like heat-tolerant Texans, willing to do most anything to see beautiful gardens.

Lush hillside garden delights bloggers at Fling

Filled with a seemingly endless array of textures, colors, and forms, Barbara Katz’s garden provided a cool oasis on a hot summer day at the Garden Bloggers Fling in DC and Norther Virginia.

The back yard, filled with plants, stone and a babbling brook, evoked a Zen-like peacefulness.

The koi added a pop of color to the pond.

Japanese maples, decorative stone and conifers create a blend of beautiful textures.

This combo of bold colors is echoed in many different kinds of plants with similar hues.

The containers highlighted the same vibrant contrasts she wove into her garden.

 

Bloggers flocked up the steps into the upper lever of the garden.

At the top of the garden, a bench is tucked away waiting to provide a place to enjoy a contemplative moment.

This realistic iguana required a second look as we strolled through the garden.

Lush paths lead around the side of the house.

Bloggers spread out around the front yard, looking for the best shot of this cottage-style garden.

This unique and beautifully designed garden – cottage in the front and  Zen in the back, was delightful.

Take a step back in time at Hillwood Gardens…

It felt as if we stepped back in time when we toured the lovely grounds of Hillwood Gardens at the 2017 Garden Bloggers Fling in the Northern Virginia/D.C. area.  The grounds of the estate offered something for everyone.  From the formal areas to the cutting garden, Japanese garden and the pet cemetery, the patchwork of styles was delightful.

Filled with traditional and eclectic statuary, the grounds were dotted with whimsical touches.  This pair of sphinxes, half woman, half lion, drew many stares from visitors.

Across the lush lawn from the mansion, a flagstone patio marks the edge of a balcony overlooking the hilly lawn below.

I did not venture down the hill; my dog took me down on the street in our neighborhool 9 weeks before the Fling and I spent the entire trip hobbling around with a broken foot in a boot!

It was very manageable almost everywhere.  There were only 3 hilly gardens that I either couldn’t or chose not to navigate.  And I brought baggies to make ice packs for my foot every night.  The kindness of my fellow bloggers was astounding.  I believe that every single person asked me at least once or twice about how I was doing and asked if there was anything they could do for me.  It really touched me how kind and generous every one was.  Thank you all for your help and support.

In the midst of many formal garden elements, I found this border dotted with tropical plants and bold color contrasts a delightful surprise.

The Japanese garden lies down the path to the right of the patio.  The hillside garden winds through rocks and holds an extensive collection of Japanese style statuary. The stunning color combinations almost take your breath away and the varying textures and forms create fabulous contrasts.

What Japanese garden would be complete without a water feature, a pagoda and an arched wooden bridge.

The water feature brought an element of calm and cool to the garden, in spite of the heat of the day.

Down the path to the left of the patio a pet cemetery honors the furry family members of Marjorie Merriweather Post.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch and then I found my way to the cutting garden.  Filled with beautiful blooms of every size and color, the flowers were also given a helping hand with stakes and a a full length grid.  About a foot high, the grid allowed the flowers to grow straight up through it from early on, ensuring nice, straight stalks.

One of my favorite plants for its exotic look and structural shape, there was a big patch of Eryngium.

And, a few more whimsical statues to close out this blog tour.

Back to the work at hand, we shoot each other at the same time!

Another wonderful garden experience on our Capital Region Fling.

In a (tiny) Vase on Monday

After an out-of-town trip (only 24 hours), I was missing my garden.  Funny how quickly that happens.

Painful signs of our lack of rain awaited me, but some blooms just won’t be stopped.

I gathered a small handful of stems and put them in a new little vase that jumped into my shopping cart a few weeks ago.

In this vase you’ll find: verbena bonariensis, zinnias, a piece of plum yew, a foxtail fern, a bit of river fern, a piece of primrose Jasmine, and a small stem (not visible in the photo, sadly) of flowering senna.

Just a smattering of sweet blooms can brighten up any room in the house.  Check out more beautiful flowers at the hostess of In a Vase on Monday, Rambling in the Garden,  at https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com .

Happy Monday!

Garden Bloggers Fling cottage-style garden of Casa Mariposa

Long, hot days and late nights aside, the 2017 Garden Bloggers Fling, held two weekends ago in the Northern Virginia/DC area, had it all.  Surrounded by friends old and new, we toured botanical gardens, private gardens and the many gardens along the National Mall in D.C.

The Fling team did a fabulous job of hosting and things ran like clockwork.  Our chief organizer and hostess writes a garden blog at Casa Mariposa.  We were all excited to see her garden in person.

This quaint arbor and gate mark the entrance to the back garden.

The back garden was overflowing with a rainbow of blooms .

The back was a pollinator’s paradise,

Sweet birdhouses dotted the garden.

A collection of pots and garden art lined the back steps into the house.

A dry creek helps with drainage and provides a hardscape contrast to the delicate flowers.

The shady parts of the garden are brightened by variegated plants.

Bloggers, bloggers everywhere!

I may have to steal this clever idea.  Since dogs always want to run the fence line, we need to work with them, not against them! A cleverly concealed little fence gives the dogs room to run to their hearts’ content without tearing through the beds.

I loved all of the complimentary and contrasting colors in her garden.  I think this combination was my favorite. Opposites really do attract!

Stayed tuned for many more posts about the beautiful Fling gardens.

Marvelous Magnolia is a design destination…

I’m behind in my blogging right now (although I always feel like I’m behind!) because it’s been a very busy spring in the landscaping business.  I’m grateful for the nice weather and my fabulous clients and wouldn’t have it any other way.  Today I need a little pick me up, so I’m going to share with you my thoughts and photos from a recent day trip a few Austin garden bloggers took to visit Magnolia in Waco, Texas.

If you’ve been living under a cable tv rock, Magnolia is the brand-brain child of Chip and Joanna Gaines, whose wildly-popular television show, Fixer Upper, has taken the design world by storm.  They help people buy homes in need of updating and then transform them into gorgeous properties.

Following the Martha Stewart business model, they now have a retail outlet, online store, bakery, and food trailer court located at a property that previously only held old, dilapidated grain silos.  They now boast branded wallpaper, paint, you-name-it products for any kind of design imaginable.  They even have a small garden shop and garden at the Silos.

We put on our comfortable shoes and headed out for an early morning road trip on a beautiful day.

The silos themselves are under construction right now, and will be home to more retail space at some time in the near future.

I think modern farmhouse best describes Joanna’s most well-known style, but you could also call it romantic,

quaint,

curated,

massed,

and ecclectic.  I was smitten with all the collections of quaint items, and loved the use of repetition in the design of the store.  Just as in our gardens, repeating patterns, colors, items and forms adds interest to the design.

Let me tell you, this place is POPULAR.  Tour companies bus people in every day.  It is a zoo.  But it was a zoo we all had to see for ourselves.  The line to check out was 3 x the width of the large store.  But we chatted with others, picked up more items along the way as the line moved and just settled in.  It moved pretty fast and I have to give them credit for a very efficient check-out system with multiple helpers at each station that kept things moving smoothly.

After we conquered the store, we went outside to grab a table and peruse the food trucks for some tasty lunch.  My travel partners for the day, left to right  –

Rebecca of Rebecca’s Retreat http://rebeccasretreat.blogspot.com/   Wendy of The Rabid Gardener  http://rabidgardener.blogspot.com/   Robin of Getting Grounded http://getgrounded.wordpress.com

The hand-washing station and dog water bowl.

We didn’t stand in line at the bakery, having had enough of standing in the store and at the food trucks, but it looked adorable and had a lovely seating area.

The center of the outside area sported an artificial turf play and lounge area, bordered by slouchy-bean-bag-style chairs.  Toys were available to use and families relaxed here and let their kids enjoy the open space after being forced to keep their hands to themselves inside the crowded store.

No design opportunity wasted, this industrial steel framework now serves as a series of giant planter boxes and holds a large array of hanging baskets to soften and brighten the area.

In front of the entrance to the garden and garden shop, vegetables and colorful plants welcome visitors.

The garden shop is quite small, so we were only let inside in small numbers, but as expected, the wares included quaint succulents, pottery, seeds and garden art.  

The vegetable garden looked neat and lovingly tended.

I’d shopped at the online store before we went on our excellent shopping adventure, so I already owned some sweet Magnolia paraphernalia.  Here are just a few of the things I bought on our trip.

We had a delightful time, did some serious shopping and even stopped at a north Austin nursery on our way back into town.  Here’s what we learned about planning our next trip:  Tuesday afternoon is apparently the best time to visit.  Weekends and Mondays are always busy, and mornings bring in busloads of people.  So, if you’re planning to check it out, Tuesday mid-day may be your best bet.  Pack the patience, wear comfortable shoes and a hat and sunscreen, and enjoy!