Modern, easy-care garden of Austin designer B. Jane


I’ve long admired designer B. Jane‘s contemporary-style gardens here in Austin, including one I wrote about for Austin Home last year. Last week I visited B.’s personal garden in Central Austin’s Brentwood neighborhood and fell hard for her lawn-free, block-planted front yard.

A straight walk of Lueders limestone zigzags toward the front porch, leading the eye first to house numbers affixed to a low concrete wall. The wall curves off to the right, creating a small garden room encircled with white-flowering Mexican olives, red roses, and chartreuse shell ginger. In front of the wall, block plantings of spineless prickly pear and Gulf muhly provide greenery and separation from the street. Spreading below, silver ponyfoot shines like a moonlit pool of water.


A closer look at the low-walled entry to the front garden room, flanked by Mexican olives (Cordia boissieri) in bloom


Asymmetrically-cut limestone leads to a circular gravel “skirt” around a tree trunk, neatly edged with concrete, which in turn is framed by chartreuse-leaved ginger plants.


I love B.’s cast-stone Girona fountain from Campania International, which has a slightly submerged platform on which birds can easily bathe.


The color and texture of the fountain work so well with the concrete wall.


Here’s a side view from the driveway. B. uses asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’) as a frothy, evergreen groundcover (foreground) — which probably needs Central Austin’s higher temps to survive our occasional hard freezes.


Square pavers lead from the driveway to the front porch. Another gravel circle gives definition to a young live oak and adds a geometric element. At the corner, a whale’s tongue agave pairs with a mutabilis rose, and I believe B. said that’s a viburnum hedge along the porch.


Orange and turquoise show up throughout B.’s back garden, but the first hint of that color scheme appears on the front porch, with a retro-modern front door painted tangerine and a turquoise glider softened with orange throw pillows and a striped cushion. The doormat echoes the cushion’s colorful stripes.


In the backyard, an ipe deck offers plenty of space for a 6-person dining table and a couple of low-slung white chairs with turquoise cushions and colorful, striped pillows. A white bench allows clear views of…


…a clean-lined swimming pool bordered with colorful waterline tiles, a rectangular play lawn, and an evergreen screen of bamboo bordered by a low wall offering extra seating. The detached structure at left is a home office for B.’s husband, with expansive windows shaded by awnings of steel beams and rods.


At the far end of the pool, an ipe deck outfitted with a trio of chaises longues is backed by a notched Lueders limestone wall.


Sun worshippers can hang out here, and when the sun sets, a stone fire pit in the corner offers a spot to warm up.


The view from the lawn


The back deck


A built-in grilling station also serves to screen the deck from the neighbors and enclose the space.


Wood is conveniently stored below.


A container planted with cactus and ghost plant accents the edge of the deck.


In another corner, a collection of gray cast-stone pots contains citrus, herbs, orange-flowering hibiscus, and succulents, including orange-hued sticks-on-fire euphorbia.


Rosy pink cacti — including one in bloom — and an echeveria get the glam treatment with gold glass mulch in this container.


Opposite the chaise longue deck, tucked between the house and the detached office, a small roofed patio offers shady seating and a buffet table.


The wooden fence hides a storage area.


To the right of the sun deck with the chaises, a private patio just off the master bedroom offers a Zen-style retreat with Loll seating, a screen of bamboo (Bambusa textilis ‘Gracilis’), and a hot tub…


…as well as a beautiful outdoor shower. No spidery recesses in this open design, while still hidden from neighbors by fencing and the bamboo. The building just past the hot tub (at left) is B.’s home office.


She let us peek inside to see a hanging sculptural branch adorned with tillandsias, feathers, and other natural talismans, made by the talented vertical-garden artists at Articulture.


Looking back toward the main garden


B. is disciplined about color and uses it so effectively, like here in the pool tiles, arranged for a random effect. The tiles pick up the colors of the doors and plant containers and the water itself. Brisket, a German short-haired pointer mix who loves to swim, jumped in for a soak while I was admiring the pool.


And little wonder, for this is a garden to relax in and enjoy — even for dogs! Thanks for the tour, B.!

For more pics of this garden and others, check out the website of B. Jane Gardens.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Calling all pond lovers! The Austin Pond & Garden Tour is coming up June 3rd (North Austin ponds and night pond) and 4th (South Austin ponds). Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased online and include entry to all 20 ponds.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

RIP, wren chicks — you were no match for a rat snake


Tragedy for the wrens raising week-old chicks in a birdhouse I’ve been observing from my office window. Yesterday morning, as I sat down at my desk, I looked out to check on the little family — I’ve been watching the parents feeding the chicks — and something looked strange. I got up for a closer look and gasped as I realized a snake was coiled inside the birdhouse, its scaly side blocking the doorway.


Just the day before, I’d photographed the wrens feeding their peeping chicks.


But overnight, apparently, a rat snake had Houdinied its way up the side of the house (yes, rat snakes can climb brick walls), about 8 feet from the ground, and across a foot of space to reach the birdhouse opening on the side facing away from the wall. It was quite a feat.

I was on deadline for a writing assignment, so I camped out in my office all day, looking up periodically in hopes of seeing the snake emerge. But the darn thing stayed put all day long, only occasionally shifting position and revealing the tip of its tail.


Finally I left to make dinner, and afterward I popped back into my office for another look. It was dark outside, so I had to use a cell phone flashlight to see — and I spotted movement. “The snake’s coming out!” I yelled, and everyone came running. The pics are blurry because it was dark, but you can see the snake stretching for the brick wall while still anchored in the hole. Amazing.


Our lights and activity startled the snake, and rather than risk a tricky descent it retreated back into the birdhouse, slithering in like an octopus squeezing itself through a hole.


Going, going, gone. And so are the wren chicks, sadly. But snakes have to eat too, and it’s been fascinating to watch. Being wildlife friendly means accepting nature’s brutality, which was happening even with the wrens as they fed live caterpillars and other insects to their young. I won’t kill a snake in my garden unless I feel it poses a danger to my family, and rat snakes are harmless to humans and largely beneficial, as they do hunt rodents.

Still, it’s painful to lose the wrens.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Calling all pond lovers! The Austin Pond & Garden Tour is coming up June 3rd (North Austin ponds and night pond) and 4th (South Austin ponds). Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased online and include entry to all 20 ponds.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Newborns and other wildlife in the garden


While I was turning off a hose Monday, water dribbled into a thick stand of inland sea oats, and something moved among the grasses. I saw a small head and thought, cat. Having endured a year of a neighbor’s cat using my gravel path as a toilet, I’m not kindly disposed to cats in my garden, so I squirted it again, trying to shoo it out.

A fawn, surely no more than a day old, emerged on wobbly legs, its spotted coat dripping. Dismay washed over me, and I froze and anxiously watched to see what it would do. It walked a few steps across a path and wedged itself between the lattice fence and a bamboo muhly grass, lying on a bed of live oak leaves that camouflaged it well.


I backed away quietly and left the area to give it time to settle down again. A little while later I walked cautiously back around to see if it was still there. It was doing what fawns do: lying completely still in the hope that I couldn’t see it.


I shot a few pics with my telephoto lens, giving him plenty of space. What a sweet face. He stayed put, waiting for mama to return, until late that afternoon.


Other newborns are making their presence known too. Wren chicks are peeping for regular meals in this birdhouse that hangs outside my office window.


Over the past week, Mama and Papa Wren have been darting in with a steady supply of insects and larvae for their hungry chicks.


Yummy!


Who’s first?


Time for another grocery run.


Finally, I got a kick out of this sight a few days ago: a dragonfly resting on my metal dragonfly.


Life imitating art! (Except a dragonfly doesn’t actually have long antennae like a butterfly.)

Are you watching any wildlife activity in your garden this spring?

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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