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.

Enchanting Lyndale and Como Park gardens at the 2016 Fling

As is always the case, there is much to see at a Garden Bloggers Fling, and our 2016 adventure kept us going at a fast pace.

I fell in love with the explosion of color where this beautiful beehive beckoned in the Lyndale Park Garden. I waited quite a while to get a solo shot of this amazing sculpture in the garden, as all the other flingers were as enthralled with it as I was. (You can see I didn’t quite let the last person get out of the frame. Tag yourself if that’s your elbow!)

This garden was a creative combination of formal beds with this refreshing fountain, and some unique displays of a wide variety of pollinator plants.

I was smitten by this display of Verbena bonariensis as the focal point in the midst of this checkerboard of annuals. I know this took a great deal of work to achieve, because my Verbena bonariensis is like a naughty child in the garden — it never stays put where I’ve planted it!

It was interesting to see so many plants thriving here that we can grow back in our gardens in Zone 8b in Austin, Texas, like the catmint and lamb’s ears and rudbeckia.

Blue can be elusive in the garden, so I was drawn to this monochromatic display filled with so many of the plants I love, like salvias.

This is the perfect example of how repetition in garden design packs a powerful punch.

And then I found the pink bed! Between the hot sun bearing down on us and the profusion of pink and lime color contrasts in this display, it wasn’t easy to get a great photo. But the Zinnias, Hibiscus, Fountain grass, Cannas and Cleomes were begging to have their photos taken. I had to oblige them!

Oh, and now I see that they were joined by Guara as well.

I grow cleome in my garden as well, although it gets a little weary of the heat about this time of year.

We also visited the Como Park Conservatory and gardens, where I have visited many times, as I lived in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area for four years, from 1988 to 1992. Conservatories always capture my fancy.

I first visited the Conservatory’s Sunken Gardens in the Spring of 1989, when snow still blanketed the grounds outside but bulbs brought spring indoors. This picture of my son was taken when he was 5.

He’s 32 now, and that is still one of my favorite photos of him. Visiting the park brought back many wonderful memories of our time there.

A pond of stunning water lilies greeted us as we approached the entrance.

The Sunken Gardens look so different at this visit. Purples and lavenders and limes seem to dot every surface of the space.

To see other posts of fabulous Fling gardens, check out my overview of Wouterina De Raad’s mosaic sculpture garden and the Eloise Butler Wildlife Garden and Bird Sanctuary.

Design, plant collections and spectacular, larger-than-life sculptures dominate fabulous Fling garden

It’s always interesting to poll Garden Bloggers Fling attendees about their favorite gardens. Some like gardens that showcase collections, some like gardens that highlight design. Personally, I had several favorite gardens at last week’s Fling in Minneapolis. But this one stood out above the rest, filled with beautiful plant selections, gorgeous design and the heart and soul of the artist and gardener who calls this stunning collection home.

Just across the border into the luscious, rolling hills of Wisconsin farmland, Wouterina De Raad’s Concrete Mosaic Sculpture Garden brought it all to the game. Chicken-lover, gardener, artist, and sculptor extraordinaire, De Raad, a self-taught artist, began creating life-size concrete and mosaic sculptures 27 years ago.

Of Dutch heritage, De Raad grew up on her family’s coffee and rubber plantation in Indonesia. She brings life to her sculpture garden by drawing on her upbringing in the Indonesian jungle. Her collection includes statues of jaguars, pythons, and other exotic and mythical creatures. Leading the tour through garden, she regaled us with the folk tales of her childhood, and the stories from her own life that inspired her unique creations.

Welcome to the garden — come on in!

Her love of the garden and all its inhabitants is evident in this oversized Monarch caterpillar bench, complete with the jungle-inspired monkey on its back. And, don’t miss the exotic bird on the monkey’s head.

The intriguing sculpture vignettes of the garden are bound together by pretty pathways and endless beds filled with beautiful blooms, stitched together like a life-sized garden quilt.

The perfect dog breed for the serious gardener. This one won’t dig up bulbs, eat tomatoes or chase chickens! You’d better watch out, Fletcher and Dakota, you could be replaced!

On one end of the charming clothesline, Momma and her young-un try coaxing a chicken off of the pole.

On the other end, Mr. America holds everything in line.

The garden also sports a seemingly endless array of little cottages, sheds, workshops and other quaint buildings, each its own palette for yet another display of De Raad’s artistic talent.

She wove a spell-binding tale about the jaguars in Indonesia as we passed by this building, closely guarded by her sculptural tribute to the fierce cats.

Sadly, my iPhone notes simply read, “jaguar story,” and I can’t remember the details.

I marveled at every turn at her innate ability to transform the most meaningful impressions of her life’s experiences into beauty and art.

The charming chicken coop, complete with its own namesake statues, was full of reused and recycled decor and several beautiful chickens.

I couldn’t really get any good pics of the chicks, and after all, the garden was calling…

But even the quaint bed in front of the chicken run was an art display. I can’ resist – De Raad left no stone unturned in bringing character into this part of the garden. Each of the border stones were given unique expressions, most of them smiling up at garden visitors.

And then, the chicken chair. Who wouldn’t feel like the queen of poultry sitting atop this perch?

With so much to see in this 3-acre garden, visitors can stop and rest at many lovely seating areas. This perennial border dotted with lilies frames the man and dog sculpture in the background. I didn’t catch the story of the body-less head the man is holding, but I’m sure it’s a doozy!

This seating vignette transports me to Alice in Wonderland…

Most of the sculptures in the garden are also lighted. I would have loved to seen this magical place in the evening, with all of De Raad’s concrete family members shining beacons across the garden.

After hours of editing and prepping, this post only skirts the beginning of this amazing garden. So, stay tuned, another post is yet to come!

Gorgeous gardens dominate 2016 Garden Bloggers Fling in Minneapolis

I just returned from a wonderful 5 days at the annual Garden Bloggers Fling, held this year in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a long weekend filled with good friends, good food and gorgeous gardens. It’s always so fun to spend time with long-time friends, some of whom came to the very first Fling in Austin, and to meet new Flingers and get to know them.

Our first stop was the Eloise Butler Wildlife Garden and Bird Sanctuary
. The garden includes 500 different plant species and more than 130 bird species.

It was a cool morning — which felt like heaven to this Texas girl who left behind temps in the 100s in Austin. We began walking through the most amazing wildflower prairie, walking through narrow paths with beautiful blooms up to my waist and higher. We brushed by many plants I knew, and many that I didn’t. Peaceful, serene and natural, the garden provided the perfect start our day.

I didn’t many photos in this garden, as I focused on being in the moment, truly able to reach out and touch the garden with every step.

These were some of my favorite blooms in the garden.

See how high the wildflowers were?

This is just a short, teaser post. Many more are percolating in my head, so check back soon!

More Chanticleer magic — the Tea Cup Garden

I really had no sense of the vastness that awaited me in all three of the gardens that my friend, Pam, of Digging, and I visited on our recent trip to the Brandywine Valley area of Pennsylvania.

Upon entering the third garden, Chanticleer, on the third morning of our trip, the sun was already high in the sky and the day was heating up. The entrance area is rather small – a covered outdoor area on a patio with a nice selection of planters and a desk where the staff politely welcomed us. We started where most people start, entering through the small Kitchen Courtyard Garden just beyond the entrance.

The initial courtyard is filled with creative planters as well as fresh flowers.

Each day, the gardeners scatter fresh-cut flowers in vases and containers like this throughout the garden. These float gently on top of the water in this pot.

Filled with an array of tempting tropicals, the next garden, beyond the ornate gate, is the Tea Cup Garden. It is said to change significantly from year to year or even season to season, as most of its plants don’t overwinter in the this cold-climate garden. Come on in, the weather’s fine.

Taken by this delicate display, Pam captures it with her camera.

Now, my turn!

I love the reflection of the light in the sky against the glass table top, adding another dimension to this vignette.

The namesake of this garden, a tea cup-like planter, provides the focal point of the inner courtyard filled with tropical plants.

Groupings of pots add interest around the perimeter of the courtyard on the right.

The left side of the courtyard includes a raised bed garden, filled with alliums, punctuated by two stunning ceramic planters with silver ponyfoot and bromeliads.

This marks only the beginning of the garden’s vast display of bromeliads. To add to the level of detail in both garden design and identification, Chanticleer’s website includes a meticulously created plant list for each garden. Which, by the way, changes with the seasons and the years. I assumed it would just be an alphabetical list, which would have made IDing plants complicated. Then I clicked on the link and found this
— amazing.

With a small collection of bromeliads, I can’t wait to get all my posts done and then take a good look at the plant list to start making my own wish list!

This delicate peach Brugmansia, ‘Charles Grimaldi,’ rests in a clever container, contrasting beautifully with the rich, eggplant colors of Begonia ‘sparks will fly’ and Neoregelia ‘Elwood.’
So, finally I get to the alliums.

My love affair with alliums began in 2009 at the site of the second Garden Bloggers Fling in Chicago. You can see my post about that tour here
.

I tried twice to grow them in Austin, but our weather heated up much too quickly for them (at least in the years I tried to grow them) and the foliage was fried to a crisp before they reached 1/2 of their mature height. I even planted varieties specifically known to grow in Zone 9, but it just wasn’t meant to be. So, they hold a special interest for me on garden tours to more temperate climates. I’ll have to settle for enjoying the onion blooms in my veggie garden.

Their kaleidoscope structure is even more intriguing up close and personal.

Naturally, Pam and I had to take a selfie with them, though they sort of look like they’re coming out of the back of our heads!

There were so many more beautiful plants and vignettes in the Tea Cup Garden — these are just the highlights. Next, we’ll venture further into the garden. If you missed my first two posts about our fabulous garden trip, you can find them here – Chanticleer’s Ruin Garden
, and here – Longwood Conservatory Garden post #1
(also filled with bromeliads).

I haven’t had time to post all week, but it feels great to “stroll” through my garden photos and share my memories with you. I’ll have another one soon!

Chanticleer’s Ruin Garden filled with magic and mystery…

I expected that Chanticleer would be the highlight of the recent garden trip I took with Pam Penick of Digging. I’d heard of the amazing gardens and had done a little research, but I was in awe as each and every element of the garden unfolded before me. On its website, Chanticleer claims to have been called “the most romantic, imaginative and exciting public garden in America.” They aren’t kidding. It towers above all the other public gardens that I’ve visited — not having missed a fling in 8 years — I’ve toured a few!

The Chanticleer estate was originally built in the early 20th Century by Adolph and Christine Rosengarten as a country retreat. It later became their permanent home and they bought additional neighboring land to give homes to their two children as wedding presents. One of those homes now serves as the entrance and offices and the other is the site of the estate’s Ruin Garden. In 1990, Adolph, Jr. left the entire property as a public garden and museum under the guidance of The Chanticleer Foundation. Today, the garden employs 20 full-time staff, among them 14 gardeners and groundskeepers.

That said, I’ll bring you through what I thought was the most innovative part of the garden — the Ruin Garden — for my first Chanticleer post.

Chanticleer’s Ruin Garden was built on the site of the original Minder house, which was given to Adolph Rosengarten, Jr. as a wedding gift. Composed of three ‘rooms’ – the Great Hall, the Library and the Pool Room, it evokes an air of crumbling history with a macabre undercurrent. The ruin isn’t really a ruin at all, but cleverly created hardscape backdrops into which succulents and shade plants are creatively tucked. Perched on top of a hill, it’s barely visible until you come right up on it.

The Library is scattered with displays of slate books.

Stone acorns appear to be entombed in the pages of an open stone book.

Dominated by a 24-foot reflecting pool shaped like a sarcophagus, the Great Hall is mesmerizing.

Every element in the room is reflected in the vast, dark pool.

Succulents fill the mantle and provide little pops of color in the water’s mirrored image.

The stillness of the water is enticing. I didn’t trail my fingers in the fountain, but enjoyed watching these two little girls prepare to test the waters.

The giant black water feature rests on a stone mosaic carpet.

Through the next stone doorway lies the ‘Pool Room.’

Here, polished marble faces rise up from the black depths to make themselves known to visitors. Their garish, mottled faces are disturbing, to say the least.

Beaten down by the water sheers, the faces are trapped forever in the pool.

I’m not sure if the girls were intrigued or frightened, but they did approach with some caution. The prospect of touching the cool water on a hot day won out over trepidation.

Next to the pool, a column lined with succulents seems sweet by comparison.

Delicate coral-colored succulents stand out along the post against the green and gray rooms of the Ruin Garden.

Stone acorns seem to be sprouting in a bed inside the Ruin Garden.

The plants and vines intricately woven throughout the walls of the Ruin Garden appear to have been there for centuries, however, this garden was created and opened to the public in 2000.

As we left the garden, a stone face peeked out from a bed of sedge, appearing to watch us leave.

Four acres of gorgeous gardens under glass at the Longwood Gardens Conservatory

Last week, my friend Pam, who blogs at Digging, and I embarked on a garden adventure unrivaled in my garden travels. Nestled in the Brandywine Valley region of Pennsylvania, we toured three public gardens, Winterthur, Longwood and Chanticleer.

I took thousands of pictures (in part because the hot summer sun kept me adjusting my light settings). I’m sure I collected enough photos to blog about for several months!

As a lover and collector of tropical and exotic plants, the Longwood Conservatory is high on my list of the gardens within the gardens of our trip. It includes 20 different gardens (yes, all inside this giant conservatory), and more than 5,500 types of plants. It was spectacular. While it included all the typical plants you’d find in most conservatories, there was so much more — an amazing array of plant combinations, beautiful design, and attention to detail at every step. I can’t even fit all of it into one post, but I’ve decided to just jump in and cover part of it as my first post of the trip.

The Conservatory was built in 1919 by Pierre S. du Pont, and was designed to be an indoor eden. The collection of conservatory buildings covers 4.5 acres. (The entire garden covers 1,077 acres.) Yes, 4.5 INSIDE acres of stunning gardens, including the Fern Floor and Alcoves, seen here, the Patio of Oranges, Waterlily Display, Silver Garden, Orchid House, Mediterranean Garden, Bonsai Display, Palm Garden, Desert House, Cascade Garden, Banana House, Camellia House, Green Wall, Indoor Children’s Garden (so amazing that this will get its own post soon!), Rose House, Tropical Terrace, East Fruit House, Garden Path, Peirce-du Pont House and the Exhibition Hall.

The grand entrance, pictured above, provides a preview of this massive sest of structures. Beautiful and unusual bromeliads are given a place of honor in this section of the garden.

Many of the water features were surrounded by bromeliads, as well.

I have a number of bromeliads in my house and in the cabana in pots, but the volume and diversity of these was astounding. Clearly I have a way to go in the collecting department!

And then there were the ferns. I was taken by the Mexican Tree Ferns, delicate and ephemeral, yet strong and sculptural, all at the same time.

And then there were these stunning Staghorn-like ferns.

Of course, no prehistoric journey would be the same without cycads.

This male cycad was sporting a new cone.

I love this grey species. It’s a shame that the light prevents me from reading the tag that I photographed — I’d like to find out if I can grow this one in my Zone 8b-sometimes 9 garden.

This gigantic Sago palm (though not a palm at all) dwarfs the sizeable Sansevieria below it.

I believe that these elephant ears are Colocasia amazonica – which means they are sure living up to their name here under the black bamboo.

I can’t name this one, but I love the black stems which mirror the black bamboo as well.

Great color combinations under this bamboo.

And, who can resist the appeal of this black bamboo? It’s so striking and exotic.

With 4.5 acres of conservatory gardens to cover, this will have to be it for your first peek. Thousands more photos and lots of blog posts to come, about the conservatory and Longwood’s other 1,000+ acres of outside gardens!