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.

Why do we blog?

The social media explosion forever changed electronic communication around the globe.  The advent of web blogs brought a new, dynamic opportunity for gardeners to communicate with other gardeners.

Suddenly, as more and more gardeners entered the blogging realm, the could read blogs to get real-life information about what works and doesn’t work in their gardens.

They were able to share the highs, lows, quirky stories, and unique experiences and Gardeners embraced this new realm.

Even at the very first Garden Bloggers Fling held here in Austin a decade ago, we had breakout sessions to discuss the future of blogging.  Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens spoke about the evolving social aspects of blogging.  Kathy Purdy of Cold ClimateGardening discussed the emerging technical issues of maintaining a blog.  Bloggers shared their experiences with Blogger and Word Press programs, monetizing blogs, and the future of blogging.  Even a decade ago, this issue was a burning question.

As the next waves of social media washed over the internet, bloggers expanded their reach, adding Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to expand their outreach repertoire.  Families, jobs, and even gardening, got in the way of publishing detailed and let’s face it, time-consuming posts.

It’s so simple now – throw up140 characters, a great photo, and a snippet of information, and voila, you’re done.  More people see these condensed, tiny bytes of information.  It only takes a few minutes out of your day.

Does this mean that the world of blogging is quietly slipping into the dark of night, a light soon to be extinguished by the new rush to post as fast as you can in real time?

I’d argue no.  While some bloggers find other social media channels more to their liking, others prefer to continue blogging, using those tools to promote their longer, detailed posts.

I’m in the latter camp, and I’m not alone.  Blogging gives me something that none of the other outlets do.

It allows me to express my passion for gardening and to share it with others.  My posts provide information, tips, lots of photos and the story that is continually evolving in my garden.  In return, I’m grateful to have the perspective of others from around the world to expand my horizons with the same cornucopia of detailed information.

The blogging world may have lost a few gardeners to a faster medium that better suits their needs, but I would argue that there will always be a yearning for all that nitty gritty information we dive into on our respective blogs.  We trial plants for each other, we share tips, we experiment, and we celebrate our successes and commiserate over our losses.

There will always be a thirst for knowledge and a demand for detail.  Nothing will replace a blogs ongoing personal perspective that readers can’t always find on a newsstand or in a book. This fulfilling electronic connection cultivates a loyal readership and friendships that span the globe.  It’s why we blog and it’s why we garden bloggers gather each year for the Garden Bloggers Fling.

And, I feel privileged to be among this special group of garden bloggers.  We’ll celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Fling May3-6.  See you all in Austin in 97 days!

 

By | 2018-01-27T17:30:47+00:00 January 27th, 2018|Blog, bloggers, Fling, Sharing Nature's Garden|2 Comments

Gardening trends in my landscape

I’m always fascinated about the transformations in the garden each year.  From month to month and season to season, small adjustments often result in big changes.

Here are some of the new plants and hardscape changes in my landscape this year.

January:  We enjoy watching the animals that wander, fly and hop into our garden.  My husband keeps about 10 bird feeders full.  We regularly see cardinals, titmice, sparrows, scrub jays and blue jays, wrens, mockingbirds, road runners, woodpeckers, finches, doves, cliff swallows, and every couple of years, a painted bunting.  Several birdbaths and birdbath fountains provide water for sipping and bathing.

February:  Last year, spring came very early, and the nurseries were full of beautiful plants at least a month ahead of schedule.  If they are selling them, we should be buying them, right?

I didn’t count how many trips I made to our independent nurseries in Austin.  Several times a year, I make all the rounds and come home with the SUV full of flowering friends.

 

Orders I placed over the winter also begin to arrive, ready to join the garden.  The slew of catalogs, full of vibrant photos of unique plant specimens give us visions of plants as we settle in for our long winters naps

They provide promise as gardeners experiment with new colors, sizes and varieties.

March:  I was delighted with the spread of my ground orchids this spring.  The Bletilla striata finally began to naturalize in the woodland garden, making the shady path pop with brilliant fuchsia blooms.

April:  When writing about Central Texas gardening, lush is a rarely used adjective.  But, it was the perfect description for our beds after a unseasonably warm spring and much-needed rains.

May:  This month marked the return of the Rio Grande Leopard frogs to the garden.  We often find them resting in plants in the morning, showering in our accessible fountains during heat of the day, and skinny dipping in the pool at night.  Fletcher runs around the pool in the dark, flushing them out from the neighboring plants so they jump into the pool.  He whines and paces around the perimeter, frustrated that he can’t get to them.  No worries, they can jump back out of the on their own.

June: With most of the garden filling nicely by the onset of the heat, I often shift my focus to decor, pots and creative elements in the landscape.  This piece of aged cedar inspired me to place a few bromeliads in the shade bed.  They had to come in later in the summer, but they added a nice touch for a while.

 July:  By now, the veggie garden provides us with an ongoing  variety of great fruits and vegetables.  Sadly, it is also the time for stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs to attack the tomatoes.  Almost impossible to eliminate, I get depressed about the impending demise of my tomato crop. They multiply so quickly, it’s impossible to control them by hand squishing or spraying them with the hose.

 

 

August:  The dog days of summer are also prime time for many of our native and adapted tropicals.  Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, is bursting with blooms by now, like electric orange fireworks all over town — and along the sides of our pool.

September:  This month marked the beginning of my major landscaping project for 2017.  The removal of the playscape paved the way for a new garden.  Eager to create something different, I settled on a pie-shaped parterre garden.  Using the same Oklahoma flagstone in the existing garden path, I had my crew create a rough-edged set of symmetrical beds.  To save money and recycle, I kept some of the pea gravel from the playscape area to build the pathway.

October:  More progress on the parterre.  We revised the existing left path to the vegetable garden, taking out the decomposed granite, flagstone steps and river rock.  This path was a continual source of frustration and weeds.  In spring, it brought forth a profusion of bluebonnets and winecup that were stunning.  But the remaining 10 months of back-breaking proved too much.  We then created a mortared flagstone path, leaving a few periodical spaces for plants — a guarantee that they wouldn’t be able to spread.  I added another path to reach the new parterre.

November:  Fall also brought forth blooms from the newly planted Phillipine Violet, Barleria polytricha.  My first experience growing this plant, it was awelcome addition to the tropical garden.

 

 

 

Finally, we finished the parterre and paths.  Well, almost.  I still need to add one more rose bush and all the accompanying border plants in the beds.  I filled the planting holes in the pathways with purslane. You can be sure I will post after pictures in the spring when the beds are full and blooming. To complete the focal points, I added a center birdbath, a wooden framed mirror on the back fence to provide interest and give the space more dimension, and a floral-themed bench to sit on and enjoy the growing garden.  If you look closely, you can see my taking this photo in the mirror. Once those elements were in place, I sat on the bench and marveled that I have never really looked at my garden from that vantage point.  It’s a wonderful and reflective place to sit and I’m so pleased to see my vision come to life.

December:  This month shocked all Central Texas gardeners with a surprise snowfall.  Not the dusting and melting immediately variety of snow we occasionally see, but a solid inch of sticking snow.  It turned the garden into a southwestern version of a winter wonderland.

Luckily, the blanket of snow insulated the plants and we were spared the worst possible damage of the unseasonably early freeze.

Winter has officially settled in and January feels like January, just colder than normal.  Seed catalogs sit by my chair as I cozy up to the fire with my hot tea, dreaming of garden plans to come in 2018.

What were your favorite garden additions in 2017?  New plants, new beds, new hardscape — what rocked your garden last year?

 

 

 

 

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!