Inside Austin Gardens tour features delightful deer resistant garden…

Last week I got a preview of the wonderful gardens that will be on the popular  Master Gardeners Inside Austin Gardens Tour 2015 on Saturday, October 17.  The tour provides a rare look inside six private gardens and a public experimental garden. 

With the theme of For Gardeners, By Gardenersthe tour showcases 7 gardens with distinctly different garden styles.  Each garden focuses on practical beauty, plant variety, and native or well-adapted plants.

Tickets for all 7 gardens are $19 in advance or $20 at any garden location on the day of the tour. Single garden tickets for $5 can also be purchased at each garden.  Purchase advance tickets here.

This is my sneak peek into the Oh Deer! – deer-resistant, not deer-proof garden at:
4503 Mountain Path Dr 78759

This is a garden I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many times.  It belongs to my good friend, Pam Penick, author of the garden blog, Digging, and the book, Lawn Gone. I’ve watched her transform this deer-resistant garden from a pedestrian suburban space when she and her husband bought this house, to the magical creation it is today.  She’s taken advantage of each of the garden’s unique spaces, adding interesting elements, a wonderful plant palette and a unique blend of styles.  Her recent addition of brightly colored stucco walls makes a dramatic impact in her garden.  Water features, eclectic art and a wonderful array of  plants await you at this delightful garden.  And the entire front garden frustrates Bambi and her family with its deer resistant variety of plants.  You don’t want to miss it.

Dramatic Danger Garden makes a point to welcome visitors from Portland Garden Bloggers Fling

The Portland Garden Bloggers Fling this summer delivered on every level.  I love visiting gardens all around the country and getting to know so many of the garden bloggers that I follow online. 

Learning about new plants from different zones is sometimes a double-edged sword. After falling  love with them, I realize they are not appropriate for my garden, and I’m forced to walk away from them at local nurseries because they don’t make the survivability cut for my suitcase. 

But not so in Danger Garden‘s amazing landscape.  Filled with agaves and yuccas and cacti that will not only grow but thrive in my Central Texas garden, it was dangerous indeed.  The danger – that I will come home inspired to search for many of the fascinating plants in her garden.

Garden bloggers prepare for the big tour – cameras at the ready!

Succulents like these like plenty of drainage — pea gravel and decomposed granite make excellent growing mediums for them.

We were welcomed to the garden with refreshing cold drinks and snacks.  A blistering hot day (for Portland and an outdoor garden tour) seemed appropriate as we ooohed and aaahed over Danger Garden’s heat-loving plants.

With space at a premium in this garden, container vegetables lined the driveway.

Pavers and bricks and patio stones created unique design angles to lead visitors through the garden and provide contrast to neighboring plants.

Leaving no area empty, trendy and perky hanging planters were scattered throughout the garden.

A riot of color and form, many non-succulent plants provided a softer foil to the more dangerous elements in the garden.

A small square of grass provides a place for the eye to rest while feasting on all the delightful plant specimens that surround it.

Agaves, yuccas and … hostas?  Yep – these water and shade-loving plants work side-by-side in this garden.

So many unique succulents to see.

Tucked in the back is a Zen-like covered patio area for relaxing.

These shiny metal planters give height and interest to the sea of succulents.

And pots — pots everywhere.  Each and every one different.

With clean lines and a contemporary feel, the patio offers a peaceful respite from the sun.

No empty spaces, here, either…

A unique horizontal fence is flanked in the back corner of the garden by tall plants of every conceivable kind.

Even within a bed, containers showcase specimen plants.

Little pops of color make me smile.

This bed looks like a miniature forest of tiny succulents.

The biggest danger in this garden?  Falling in love with the wonderful plants and the delightful design.

Old-world patina of New Orleans style captured in inviting Houston tour garden…

Last weekend,  my friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, traveled to Houston for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day’s Tour.   This was probably my favorite house on the tour.

Located in the posh River Oaks, the New Orleans-style theme of the home was carried throughout the multi-layered gardens surrounding it.  The old brick, wrought iron and garden charm of plants typically found in old gardens really appealed to me.

 Not only was the wisteria cascading down the front balcony beautiful, its heady scent helped to set the mood for the tour visitors.

This garden incorporated many different garden elements of style.  There were several areas with cottage-style layering like this front bed.

Houston gets much more rain than we do here in Austin.  While tour volunteers told us that they’d had temperatures down to 20* this winter, the gardens sure didn’t show it.  Most of them were filled with stunning azaleas, one of the hallmarks of the tour, but we also saw gorgeous delphiniums in many of the gardens.  Tall and majestic, and blue — they stood tall and proud — like exclamation points.

As ubiquitous as the azaleas, the sweet smell of citrus greeted us in almost every garden.  Lush with blooms or fruit, they made me long for a more tropical climate — and an orange or a lime or a kumquat!

An amazing pool was the centerpiece of the back yard.  With its palms, negative edge and geometric shape, it provided a different aesthetic in this part of the garden.

Several interesting statues and works of art were nestled around the grounds, like this camel carrying an obelisk.

This rhino was tucked into a far corner of the garden, down a long, winding path.  He seemed oddly out of place to me, but perhaps he represents something special to the owners.  That’s one of the joys of gardening – creating a space that reflects your personality and style, but also creating a space that is intentional and has meaning.  So, I decided to embrace the rhino.

And then across the grounds, another area with that French quarter feel – the foliage covered brick wall and the dark iron fountain as a focal point from afar.

There weren’t as many people on the tour when we started – we’re always tour-eager early birds.  These two volunteers had finished their work at another tour site and sat down to chat when they arrived to see this garden.  It certainly was the kind of peaceful garden that invited you to sit and admire it.

On the side lawn, another vine-laden fence — this one serving as the backdrop for a piece of sculpture.  The garden was so inviting, even the sculpture felt welcome to lounge on the grass.

 Another view of the fountain – beautifully crafted space with layers of color, texture and contrast.

This is the view from the sculpture side of the garden across the pool – looking into an enclosed pavillion-like space for entertaining.

The garden was also filled with several lush, plant-lined paths, leading mysteriously to another garden nook.

 Behind the wall and fountain is another treat — a more elaborately-designed space.

This aged king of the jungle was guarding the area – his mossy patina as inviting and interesting as the walls he was protecting.

 A closer look at the fountain on the other side and its little orange occupants, who all seemed to be very happy with their home in this beautiful garden.

Back through another secret pathway, lined again with a mix of plants — including this striking and sculptural agave.  It seemed to lure visitors in, while at the same time warning them not to get too close.

 This bucking horse seemed to be ready to romp around the garden.

 I love the look for old New Orleans gardens, with their old, mossy brick courtyards, fountains and wrought iron.  Although this estate was huge, it was designed with inviting spaces and elements that gave it a more personal and intimate feel.

Striking waterwise garden a hidden gem in the heart of the city…

A gardening road trip beckoned this weekend as I joined my friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, for a visit to Houston for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day’s Tour.

 This was my favorite garden in Houston, and it wasn’t even on the tour.  We were leaving the last house on the tour and lo and behold around the corner we happened upon this amazing display.

This garden is so uncharacteristic for Houston, where most of the gardens we toured were filled with azaleas blooming in a riot of pinks, nestled in with boxwoods and other manicured evergreen shrubs.

We parked immediately and hopped out to oggle the space and take some photos.  Hearing us from the balcony above, the owner, an architect, popped her head over and asked if we’d like to come in and see the rest of the garden.

“Oh, YES, please.”   (You don’t have to ask us twice!)

The front was filled with soap aloes, sedums, cacti, agaves, and silver pony foot – cascading and winding its way in between an ocean of water wise succulents.

Rustic pipes added an element of elevation to one end of the garden and put this blue glow agave on a pedestal for display.

These succulents arranged in the shallow pipe created a cacophony of color, echoing the colors of the other plants in the garden.

At the corner of the front gate, we get a little peek into and out of the front courtyard.  The fencing is entwined with a dragon fruit, giving the view both ways an interesting perspective, almost as exotic as the fruit itself.

Since it IS Houston, we weren’t surprised to see this planter with a beautiful aeonium, a succulent that I have found a little hard to grow in the dry environment in Austin.  It seems happy in Houston.

This beautiful current pool is both refreshing to the eye and great for exercising, in spite of its location in a smaller courtyard.

Adjacent to the pool inside the courtyard is a lush vegetable garden.  As we were visiting with the owner, who designed the garden and the house herself, she shared with us that the house is sustainable and filled with eco friendly features, from rainwater collection to solar panels and many other cutting edge elements.  We went around the side to get a good look at their rainwater collection tank, which holds water funneled down from the house roof.

Overflowing with hospitality, she then invited us up to see the balcony, which gave us a wonderful view of the courtyard below.  She and her husband also have a home the lake near Austin, where she was inspired by the more “Austin-esque” aesthetic she incorporated into their Houston home.

The back patio area was serene and minimalist, with a cool, almost Asian feel to it.

Pam and I couldn’t believe our luck.  First, in finding this gem, and second, in the opportunity to visit at length with an architect and designer who created this amazing space.

Toughing out the drought, agaves abound in my garden…

Like many Central Texas gardeners learning to cope with the drought, I have a growing collection of agaves in my garden. 

The common misconception about agaves is that they are giant monsters and that they all die after they bloom.  Most agaves are monocarpic, but a few of them are not.  What many call a century plant – a common name often used for many different varieties, doesn’t actually live for 100 years before its first bloom.  Most bloom at about 40 years old, primarily because of the soil, water and environmental conditions in which they are grown in landscapes.

This agave ‘Americana’ does get large – typically 5-7 feet tall by 8-12 feet wide (including its offsets, or pups).

There are many much smaller and manageable species that can be used as structural focal points in the landscape and beautiful potted plants. A few of the more compact agaves suitable for small gardens and containers that do well here include the squid agave, quadricolor agave, Parry’s agave and the regal Queen Victoria agave.
These agaves above are quadricolor agaves and they stay quite small.  Mine is about 18 inches tall.  It does create offsets, or pups — creating new plants through underground runners/roots.  This variety makes a great potted plant.

I believe this is a Webberi – it will get very large and it’s growing in a very xeric bed outside of my back fence.

This beautiful, deep green agave is ‘green goblet,’ a passalong Pam of Digging shared with me.   I love the uncommon color on this one, but be careful, the spines on this one are absolutely unforgiving!

This is an agave parryi truncata, which typically grows 2-3 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide – a very manageable size for a smaller garden.

This is what I believe to be agave ovatofolia, or ‘whale’s tongue’ agave.  Frequently confused with parryi agaves, they are sometimes mislabeled.    It is one of the agaves proported not to pup, and it grows to 3-4 feet tall and wide.  Because of its neat and uniform growth, it makes a wonderful focal point in the garden.

 This agave is called “blue glow” and it’s easy to see why.

 This variegated agave has fine spines and is quite happy living in partial shade with very little water. 

 One of my favorites is the “squid agave” with it’s delicate tentacles curling out into the sky.  After several years in this bed, this one is starting to produce quite a few pups. 

These prolific pups belong to my Agave franzosinii — a beautiful and graceful piece of sculpture that is the centerpiece of the raised bed at the entrance to our home.  They are a lot of work – removing them is a  regular chore because I don’t want a mass tangle of unruly agaves, I just want the one focal point.  But it’s worth it.

And here’s the mama Franzosinii from afar in its bed.  The Spanish dagger in the foreground had to find a new home, though, because it was stealing the show from the blue agave!  Can’t have that.

With the dire forecasts of this unbearable drought, I’m pleased with these xeric additions to my garden.  There are many more wonderful varieties to try, and many of them are on my list.

Spring garden projects…

It’s spring. Well, okay, it’s not quite spring yet, but it’s spring here in Central Texas for all intents and purposes.

It’s time to start the vegetable garden, to amend the soil, to pull lots and lots of weeds. And, it’s time to start planning those garden projects that have been nagging at me all winter.

Let’s be clear, every single bed has a project of some sort. There are holes to fill where the drought decimated plants we thought were indestructible. There are holes to fill where the 3-day below freezing cold snap the winter before killed things or stunted them so much they were never the same last summer.

There are a lot of holes to fill.

But this is an entire area that need revisiting. In the bed above, I actually started out with a plan and a vision of a tall, beautiful bottle brush tree with it’s deep red, wispy blooms set against the strong, structural contrast of a smooth blue agave with deep purple ‘May Night’ salvia scattered all around.

The best laid plans…

Three winters ago, I lost the first bottle brush tree and agave to an abnormally cold freeze. I’d planted the tree in the fall and wondered if it hadn’t had enough time to get established before the cold. So I replanted — another agave and a bigger tree — and I planted them in late spring.

Then we had another unusual cold snap and I lost the second tree. And the deer messed with many of my little salvias.

Early last summer, the bottle brush began to come back from the roots. After a few months I had a nice shrub…the same size as the agave. Not exactly the contrast I’d envisioned. In the meantime, a few irises I’d plopped in there began to grow and spread. And I hated the bottle brush shrub, but I didn’t want to kill it – it offends my gardening sensibilities to kill a plant with that much will to live.

A few weeks ago I pruned the bottle brush back into tree form. Multi-trunked, but still pretty and growing like crazy. The agave looks bad after one or two light freezes this winter, and it needs pruning. It’s also been taken over by the irises. (They are stunning right now) But they don’t go next to the agave – the form is too similar, their colors don’t work together…I could go on and on.

Further up the bed toward the house I originally had a dwarf crape myrtle in deep burgundy. It was literally cut in half by my guys on a pruning #fail. Some transplanted loropetalums didn’t survive there and there is one pathetic knock-out rose left hiding there.

This will be my first spring project. The bottle brush? Gonna keep pruning – it stays. The agave? I’ll prune it and think about it. The irises? They will move when the time is right. May night? Nah – something tougher will take their place. Some grasses might find their way there. I’m still hooked on the burgundy, deep purple, silvery gray color combo. Indigo spires would be delightful, but that’s a very windy spot and at their height, I fear they’d be whipped around like crazy there. But I know what I want there, so it will come together if I take my time.

I might even treat myself like one of my clients and draw out a plan.

Or not…

Stay tuned.

Two more beds to go…but I’ll save them for another day.

What’s your first garden project for this spring?