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.

Beautiful, xeric plants in the Sonoran Desert Landscape

Against the backdrop of the rugged Santa Catalina Mountains, tough, structural plants dot the landscape of the Sonoran Desert.

The Garden Writers Association Symposium Tucson, Arizona, included several days of tours of local gardens — an excellent introduction to the unique beauty of the desert.

 This is the view from the lobby of the La Paloma Resort where the symposium was held.

 Cacti, yuccas,  hardy woody perennials and trees thrive in the desert, where the temperatures soar into the 100s throughout the summer, yet also dip below freezing in winter.

 These cool, columnar Mexican Fencepost cacti (Pachycereus marginatus) bring height to the flat desert expanse.

 This desert garden was full of nooks and crannies filled with smaller species of cacti and aloes.  With approximately 2,500 different species of cacti, and about 400 different kinds of aloes, there are plenty from which to choose.

 Pots and other garden art and decor provided strong bursts of color in many of the desert gardens we toured.

 This citrus grove at the Benedictine Order of the Sisters of Adoration was lush with fruit.  The trunks are painted white to help cool the trees.

There were some more tropical plants — like these palms — throughout the desert, though clearly they require much more water to survive the harsh climate.

The light on the mountains at dawn and dusk was stunning. Inspiring hues of coral and lavender wash over the horizon, enveloping the harsh landscape in a robe of gauzy color.