water feature

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.

Frogs in the fountain…and some toads, too!

Since Jeff built this beautiful fountain for me a few months ago, I’ve spent a lot of time peering in behind the rocks to monitor the adventures of our resident frogs and toads.  I feel like they’re pets (though I’m sure that THEY don’t feel that way).

 It’s just perfect for this spot.

My favorite place to sit outside, the fountain bubbles and drips and makes beautiful music.

And it’s so inviting – a little cooling oasis in the middle of summer sun.

If you build it, they will come!  Hello, Freddie Frog.  Nice to meet you. A few days after Jeff built the fountain, it became the favorite summer water park of a couple of Rio Grande Leopard frogs. Even on 105 degree days and despite its being in the sun in the afternoon, the water in the fountain remained cool and inviting every day.

And thus began the saga of the slippery ones.  I’d occasionally scare one hopping from plant to plant surrounding the fountain.

And as I was becoming more and more obsessed with them, I went on the hunt for them when they weren’t in the fountain.
There are two frogs enjoying our new water feature.  Little Freddie, shown in the first two frog photos, and Frieda, above.  I assume she is his mother, since he’s bright green and her coloring is more brown and the perfect camouflage for burrowing into my pots.  Sometimes they are both in the fountain together, and sometimes they spend some quality alone time in the fountain.
Then came the TOAD….

And once he got in that fountain, he didn’t move.  He’d spend days in there, seemingly in the same spot.  A squatter – just daring the frogs to come back.

I missed my frogs, but came to like Tad, the toad, too.  I’m not sure why I like frogs better than toads. Toads are lumpy and bumpy and look like they would feel icky to touch.  Frogs are green and shiny and speckled and smooth and even though I wouldn’t touch them (there would be that girl screaming thing along with falling back onto the ground in terror thing), they just seem prettier.
When it rained last week, Tad the toad hopped out of the fountain to frolic wherever toads and frogs frolic.  He must have stayed out past curfew, because after two days of an empty fountain, Frieda, the mom frog, is back.  She’s just hanging out on this pretty almost-fall-like day.  
I reached around to the back of the fountain with my iPhone to get this picture.  They don’t mind my peeking around from the front, but every now and then the dogs like to see what’s going on in the fountain, so our hopping friends have taken up residence behind the rocks most of the time.
You can see some of the rocks are turning green.  I’ve been very careful not to disturb the frogs and toads, but this week I am going to carefully remove those specific rocks and clean them by hand and rinse them and put them back into the fountain.  I don’t put bleach in any of my outdoor water features —  I certainly wouldn’t want even a few drops of that in my gin and tonic!  
 I love having more wildlife friends to enjoy in our landscape, so frog or toad, they’re all welcome here.

Austin Garden Tour on Saturday May 3 will delight and inspire

This Saturday from 9-4, the Travis County Master Gardeners, are sponsoring their annual Inside Austin Garden Tour.  As always, they have a great garden tour in store — full of interesting gardens sure to give you ideas and inspiration to take home.

You can see the sneak peek of the first 3 gardens in my last post here.  This post covers the other 3 gardens, which incorporate two very different design styles and also demonstrate the broad range of plants that will thrive in the Central Texas area.  

Austin Neal’s garden — a contemporary and rustic design – showcases many water wise plants and creative containers and art work.

 This fabulous fence sets the stage as you enter the garden.

 Grave and wooden walkways create an interesting walk to the front door.

 This mobile of wasp nests dangles in front of you as you approach the door.

 A mix of succulents and native perennials fill this drought-tolerant garden.

 Raised vegetable beds filled with good soil will ensure a season of good crops.

Planters lined the fence, made of re-purposed supplies and filled with tough-as-nails succulents and cacti.

The Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden was filled with native and adapted plants that should be on everyone’s plant list.

Stroll through these plants — they are all labeled so visitors and tour participants can take notes and head to their favorite local nursery with a shopping list.

 Demonstration plants include everything from ground covers to trees.

 Perennials and herbs are also part of the garden.

 This stunning bloom was definitely putting on a show of us.

 Lori Daul’s garden is an amazing display of soft and sculptural plants.

Her entire front yard — only lawn when she purchased the house, is now filled with both sunny and shady spots with layers and layers of plants.

 Texture plays a big role in Lori’s garden, as do sight lines and paths that lead the visitor through beautiful garden spaces.

In her back yard, the beds are very wide, allowing for layers of plantings to stand out.

 Instead of a free-standing, upright bottle tree, Lori created a unique look using her mesquite tree as a bottle tree.

 Whimsical garden art fills her beds.

 Several water features add sound and interest throughout the garden.

Her use of sculptural, drought-tolerant plants next to the soft beauty of her rose collection makes a wonderful contrast.

 Containers also help to add interest and texture to her beds.

 Her coordinating blue fence and swing create a lovely oasis to sit and enjoy the garden.

Mixed among the perennials, Lori also has quite a few edibles mixed in her ornamental beds.

As you might tell, Lori’s garden was my favorite.  And, she’s a personal friend of mine.

Her garden is not to be missed.  So include the Travis County Master Gardeners annual Inside Austin Garden Tour on your Saturday plans.  It’s going to be a beautiful day.  The tour runs from 9-4 and is self- guided.  Click on the link above for ticket information.

Enjoy the tour!

Saturday, May 3rd, don’t miss the Inside Austin Gardens Tour 2014 for inspiration & ideas

As they do every year, the Travis County Master Gardeners, have put together a great garden tour — full of interesting and inspirational gardens for experienced and novice gardeners alike.

This year’s tour – next Saturday, May 3rd from 9-4 should be on your calendar.

I was invited to preview the gardens with fellow garden bloggers last week, so I have some inside scoop for you here.  This is the first of two posts that will highlight the gardens. 

The first garden was that of Dugie and David Graham, high on a hill in north Austin where they deal with a serious slope and hungry deer.  Their garden was full of beautiful bones and hardscape that made the best of their landscape.

 A beautiful pond cascades down the back hillside, providing a home for plants, wildlife and art.

Stone beds with dappled shade make a lovely home for native and xeric plants.

 On a landing, this beautiful wooden table sits atop a creative stone floor.

Guarding the path down the hill, these columns with trellises provide beautiful and unique support for some stunning roses.

The second garden was Jerry Naiser’s, owner of Real Green Pest and Lawn Service, Naiser’s garden  is controlled by a highly sophisticated 32-zone drip irrigation system.  The system includes moisture sensors that enable him to provide just the right amount of water to each garden zone.

 This focal point as you enter the garden from the side yard is this dramatic trio of fiery fountains.

 With a very lush, tropical feel, the garden sports citrus trees, caladiums, cannas and grasses.

 Vegetables and annuals fill beds and vertical spaces as well.

 As you follow the bed around the back of the garden, this longhorn sculpture guards the entrance to the back patio area.

 A secluded seating area in the back corner of the garden is a hideaway for relaxing in hanging chairs and a hammock.

The covered patio off of the back of the house was transformed into this trendy outdoor kitchen, complete with flat screen tv.

The next landscape was that of Robin Howard Moore.  Her garden was a mix of traditional and eccelctic.  


 Alternately, tropical and cottage-style.

 With a few interesting focal points.

 Cobalt blue pots and a bottle brush tree added color and interest.

 A step back revealed the towering trees covering her beds.

This charming combination against a wall evoked an old-world feel.

Tomorrow, the rest of the beautiful gardens you can see on next week’s tour.

Stunning San Francisco Fling garden tour of my dream garden…

The San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling was an amazing adventure into a myriad of unique and beautiful gardens and micro climates.  I expected the weather in San Francisco to be cool and comfortable.  Not so.  As is often the case when I’ve traveled to the annual garden flings, they were having an uncharacteristic heat wave.  (The Texas bloggers have a theory that we bring the beat with us – a tradition we’d love to put an end to!) 

San Francisco was tolerable, though as we ventured further out from the city, it was hotter (103 one day walking through the gardens) and drier.  Of course the beauty of the micro climates is that it enabled us to tour a wonderful variety of gardens, all within driving distance. 

On the last day, we visited the Ann Nichols Garden in Oakland.  This was my favorite garden by far, filled with mysterious paths, babbling water features, unique artwork and an intricate garden of tropical plants and desert plants mixed with traditional plants.  (I have a soft spot for tropicals and I garden in the scorching heat of the southwest in Austin, Texas.)

As you arrive, the garden rises from the street in a succulent-lovers hillside of hot with the tropical colors of agaves, yuccas, phormium and cannas. 

Everyone ooohed and ahhhhed over this intricate spiral agave.  It can’t take our arid heat, so I won’t be searching for one to plant in my garden.

I finally tore myself away from the hillside to follow a delicate, almost-hidden path up to the house.  Lined with papyrus, aloes, ground cover and cannas, it led me to my ultimate destination — a stunning brugmansia, its bell-shaped blooms dripping over the path to envelop garden visitors in an apricot  canopy.

Winding on the other side of the house is another path, filled with ground cover, succulents and grasses, that leads you up into the back garden.

Along the property line is a fence/trellis/jungle creation that hosts bromeliads, tillandsias ferns and other exotic

But unlike so many side gardens that are just an avenue for reaching another area, this was a mystical garden of its own.  Flanked by layers upon layers of plants, the steps lead through a series of unique, artistic ponds that are part of a larger waterway system and all connected. 

 The water runs through channels from the upper lever water feature down to the other ponds.

Here’s a garden blogger capturing a photo in the garden…you’ll laugh at this one.  I was trying to remember who this was and I remember that I was wearing a peach blouse that day, wondering who else did.  Then I realize this is a mirror that was hanging on the fence and that’s ME in the picture!  Working on a creative photo shot, I captured myself and then promptly forgot about it.  In any case, the mirror, tucked behind a treasure trove of plants, was a delightful find for garden visitors.

Next to the gate at the top of the stone steps, a tile mural covers the wall as a backdrop for the pond.  Notice the cat in the mural – you’ll see him again in more art in the back garden.

Now onto the back garden.  There are 3 levels in the back garden.  Through the gate and continuing up the stairs, you pass another water feature as you’re drawn to another gate.

But wait, that’s a door, or is it.  No, it’s a gate… It’s a door to a building, painted to look like the gate, with our friend the cat perched on top and his friend waiting for him at the bottom.  So clever and entertaining.  (And there’s another brugmansia to the left…sigh…)

And then it’s off to the right and up another set of steps, flanked by glorious loropetalums in pots, and up onto the small patch of lawn.  In this lush setting, the grass itself is a focal point.

It was also a perfect gathering spot for the garden bloggers to share their thoughts on this amazing garden.  Ann Nichols even invited a few of us inside the house to view the back garden from upstairs, which is the perch from which I shot this photo.

 Then it’s up the stairs once more, through this Dr. Seuss-like allee of weeping sequoia, tied together and leading you on to the last gate of the garden, a replica of the first gate and the painted gate.

 There are several delightful seating areas in the upper garden, which is filled with fragrant roses, succulents and phormium.
And the look back down the hill, framed by the sequoias, to the back of the house and our friends enjoying refreshments and good company.

The back of the house is flanked by a lower-level patio area, filled with pots of suculents and a rock lined retaining wall filled with hot colors and wonderful textures.

You can see why I fell in love with this garden.  I’m sure I could have spent the entire day there and still not seen everything it has to offer,