garden decor

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.

Garden art, water features & sweet seating vignettes in this garden on Inside Austin Gardens tour

Be sure to put the popular Inside Austin Gardens Tour on your calendar – it’s a garden event you don’t want to miss.  Saturday’s tour provides a rare look inside six private gardens and one public experimental garden.  The gardens demonstrate the practical beauty, variety and stamina of native and well-adapted plants in Central Texas gardens.

I was invited to a preview tour with other local garden bloggers, and that means you get a sneak peek at the wonderful gardens that will be on the tour.  
Cottage garden in Crestview
1315 Cullen Ave 78757
This garden was a delightful, free-form space, full of garden art, seating areas and eclectic touches around every corner.  Multiple paths wind through plants and interesting features and focal points. 

If you’re looking for creative inspiration for gardening, water features or found garden art, don’t miss this garden.

Stunning L.A. garden’s lovely vignettes delight at every turn…

We discovered a rustic paradise among the gardens we visited in L.A. last weekend (you can see the other garden I’ve already blogged about here).  We drove around and around to the top of a steep hill with spectacular views of the mountains, where our generous hosts, Joy and Roland, welcomed us.

A large, sleek kitchen, entertaining and living area became part of the outdoor experience, with huge floor-to-ceiling glass doors that opened entirely. As the inside intermingled with the outdoors, multiple seating and viewing vignettes were scattered around the fully cleared top of the hill.

After some wine and appetizers, we headed to the path to make our way down the hill.

 Sumptuous succulents filled containers, nooks, and crannies at every turn.

 A whole host of focal points shine at strategic places winding down the hill.

 These succulents spill off of the hill as you approach the house from the driveway.

The Joy and Roland have added layers and pathways over many years, creating mini beds and spots to sit and appreciate the view different vantage points.

 This is a collector’s garden – filled with a wide variety of succulents and other plants, adding interesting contrast, color and texure.

Carefully crafted stonework with unique designs defines the slope — a artful masterpiece in itself.

The attention to detail is so striking.

 More nooks and crannies flank the entrance to the spectacular wine cellar.

 Cut into the side of the earth, the cellar was mercifully cool on a 100+ degree day.  I felt as if I had stepped back in time – with cool stone and rows of bottles inside – offering just enough room for an intimate wine party.  A long hallway will soon be connected via tunnel to just outside the house, the next major project already planned and waiting to be implemented.

This would be my favorite seat in the garden.  Close up and far away, both views equally enchanting.

 Empty on the way down, but by the time we came by again, someone had taken up residence in my spot.

Fully content and unfazed by visitors to his garden, the dog, Domino,  thinks this is a great spot, too.

In front of the bench, a delightful pond filled with koi provides entertainment as the Koi dart around under the shade of beautiful plants.

A statuesque heron stands guard over the koi, who also have many deep areas to hide for predators, just in case the heron falls asleep on the job!

Don’t forget to look up.

I could sit for hours and watch the fish and the view; electronic devices have nothing on this.

Another outdoor room awaits.

More vertical gardening — these mid-century modern hanging planters from Potted bring color and contrast to this magical hot tub oasis.  (More posts to come, as we visited both Potted and the home of the store’s owner on this fabulous trip.)

Rustic and natural, this hideaway brings outdoor living to a new dimension.

 I also saw these planters in the garden of a fellow blogger in Seattle who blogs at Danger Garden.

The echo of a subtle orange glow on the tips of these succulents is an artful planting design touch.

Another view up the hill, filled with interesting plants, containers and found garden art that Joy has collected over the years, like this sweet deer statue.

The mostly mild California climate yields big, beautiful plants like these aloes.

 The repetition of these gorgeous anemones creates a dramatic ridge along the hillside.

I’ve tried to grow these in Austin with no success.  But I’ve see them used as stunning elements in LA, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle gardens.

Nestled ear the top of the hill, this greenhouse is home to garden tools and pots now, and awaits more delicate plants as the weather cools.

By the end of our visit, Domino tired of us and went back to his own bed to take a break from the sweltering heat.

A huge thanks to Joy and Roland, for your hospitality and for opening your home and garden to us. The garden is magical, and masterfully crafted and I loved spending time in it and I’m pleased to be able to share a small part of it with others through this blog post.

Heavenly hillside gardens on Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto

Last week marked my participation in the 8th Garden Bloggers Fling.  Held this year in the lovely city of Toronto, I flew to Canada with Fling travel mate, Pam Penick, of Digging.

The weather, at least 10 degrees or more cooler than back home in Austin, welcomed us as we prepared for 3 days of jam-packed garden tours.  On the bus at 8:30 a.m. each day, our itinerary was filled with eye-opening private gardens, public gardens and other interesting Toronto highlights.

On our first day, we toured a series of hillside gardens located around High Park’s Grenadier Pond.

Nothing says “welcome to my garden” like an open gate — inviting almost 80 garden bloggers to meander about, enjoying the cool morning and oohing and ahhing over luscious plants, vivid vignettes and beautiful views.

This cozy little corner window was framed by a lush green vine, delightful square flower pots and some a variety of pretty plants.

There were many amazing plant specimens to take in on our garden tours — some of which I recognized, but many of which we cannot grow in my Zone 8b garden in Central Texas.  So I thought of the landscape beds as beautiful arrangements filled with eye candy.

While many of the plants shown here — like these wide-leafed hostas — won’t be part of my plant palette at home, there is a place for good garden design in every landscape.

I particularly like seeing interesting garden decor adding a focal point to an otherwise ordinary space in the garden.

I feel like I didn’t do this garden justice with my photography.   I was on the phone for 15-20 minutes, working with the AT&T rep, trying to authorize my husband to buy me a new phone.  I left mine somewhere in the Chicago O’Hare airport.  Thus ,my photography was limited to half-hearted, one-handed snaps.  But I managed without a phone.  In fact, it may have helped me focus more on being in the moment – once I quit trying to get one via Fed Ex!

As we walked down the street, even small spaces in the limited front yards were filled with pretty plants, all tucked into the rocks.

One of the things I observed was the frequent use of burgundy and lime-colored foliage in the landscape.  With the sunny days, they often made for beautiful design contrasts, but tricky photo-taking.

I loved happening upon these darling metal flowers towering over the real ones.

Large, lush plants dotted the hillside down to the pond – which you can see here off in the distance.  I guess that’s what happens in gardens with good soil and abundant rainfall.

Little bits of rock retaining walls partnered with sweet little plants to adorn the way down, or the way up, depending on how you look at it!

Almost to the bottom, here’s a shot of the broad expanse of the pond, a lovely reward for making the trek down the hill.

Gardeners are all about the details.  Framed by a gnarly piece of wood, this pod viewing spot is a something to see all on its own.

I took a total of 1,415 photos on this trip, so it may take me a while to post about the entire excursion.  There were so many wonderful sights to see, and our Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling hosts, Helen Battersby, Toronto Gardens, Lorraine Flanigan, CityGardening Online, Veronica Sliva, A Gardener’s World, and Sarah Battersby,  Toronto Gardens and Fiesta Gardens, did an amazing job of delighting us each and every day.

Next up — an artist’s garden, full of inspirational creations designed to wow as much as the landscaping itself.  Check back for some design insight and beautiful art in my next post.

Delightful garden tour on a challenging slope …

It’s a treat to get together once a month with other Austin garden bloggers to share stories, enjoy each others’ gardens, eat, drink and pass along plants at our plant swap.

On Saturday, we were treated to double the fun.  In addition to our monthly gathering at the stunning garden of David and Jenny of Rock Rose, we also ventured nearby to their neighbors and were given a guided tour of another beautiful garden.

Located on approximately one and one third acre, this garden’s hills and vales are interwoven with ribbons of rock and drainage solutions that blend into the landscape. 

As we walked into the back yard, I was immediately drawn to this line of dramatic whale’s tongue agaves.  They sit perched atop a river rock berm, surrounded by softer foliage that draws the eye far out into the garden.

Here’s a longer shot of how they are incorporated into this first layer of the overall landscape.

A closer look at the other plants reveals a cottage-like aesthetic, complete with a bird bath, gazing ball and obelisk to serve as focal points throughout the space.

The blend of sun-loving plants crosses traditional garden style boundaries in some areas, making the garden more intriguing.

Then the path evolved into a more desert-like garden, filled with sculptural cacti and agaves and garden art.

As dry as the garden appeared, it was hard to imagine the torrential rains that must have swept through these beds only days before.

As you keep meandering through the back of the garden, you wind your way through a shadier, wooded pathway.

Just as the garden becomes sunnier again, so does the garden decor.  Brilliant pops of orange and cobalt blue are sprinkled throughout this section of the landscape.

Hot garden plants fill the brightly colored planters.

A single orange slice of wall acts as a backdrop for this dramatic planter, home to either a sago palm or a dioon edule.

More beautiful tropicals.

This is a view from the garden back to the house and a covered patio area. 

Another painted wall houses this creative trellis displaying an array of cacti in terra cotta pots.

Just past the driveway, this colorful rooster seems to be peering through the salvia to spy on our group of gardeners.

This chocolate mimosa makes a striking statement against this dark wooden gate the the bright limestone.

This Asian-style bench welcomes visitors as they near the front door — and just beyond — this imposing soldier seems to be guarding the entry area as well.

The garden was spectacular — I loved not only the collection of plants, but also the fascinating garden sculpting to address drainage issues.

Special thanks to the homeowners for inviting us to share in their beautiful space.

Hill country garden charm in the heart of San Antonio…

The last stop on our visit to San Antonio gardens was another xeric garden, filled with drought-tolerant plants, both soft and sculptural. You can come along on the first two gardens of tour with me to see Melody’s and Heather’s gardens here.

Then we toured the garden of Shirley, who blogs at  Rock, Oak, Deer.  I ‘d seen Shirley’s garden through her camera lens many times, yet when we arrived, I was surprised to find that she wasn’t gardening in the country, but in a suburban neighborhood.  Her style and plant choices created an oasis that made the rest of the world seem far away.

Well-placed plants serve to let the grasses and yuccas and perennials all shine.

Shirley uses repetition in her garden to create a dramatic effect.

Definition draws the eye through the space.

In the back yard, the focus is on perennials and grasses.  Her rustic shed with its cedar posts and porch make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.  The arbor on the right is the entry for a deer-proof fence, protecting delicate plants and vegetables from the curious and hungry deer.

Leading to the shed, this circle garden is filled to the brim with flowing perennials and grasses.

Her unique rock garden design is home to a lovely collection of yuccas, cacti and agaves.

Rustic art and pots are scattered about to add interest throughout the garden.

The river rock path guides you around the plant-filled stock tank and circle garden to the shed.

Garden art on a rustic table is tucked away in the shade.

Whimsical elements make true garden art from a simple grapevine.

A collection of sweet somethings brighten up the front of the shed.

Because deer are frequent guests to the back yard, extra protection for new or special plants is a must. This rough cedar fence fits right into the landscape.

Up on the the large, shady deck, succulent planters adorn the windowsills.

All around the deck, pots and paraphernalia bring color to the shady spots.

Even the outdoor fireplace boasts a collection of perky little pots.

Since we’ve toured Austin gardens often with Shirley, it was a special treat to wander through her garden with her.  The entire garden was intentional and peaceful.  She’s clearly mastered the art of gardening with the rocks, oaks and deer that she writes about.  Special thanks to Shirley and her husband for hosting us in your garden.