Heather’s Xericstyle garden in San Antonio


Last week I roadtripped south with a few friends to see the gardens of our San Antonio blogger friends, Heather Ginsburg of Xericstyle and Shirley Fox of Rock-Oak-Deer, plus Shirley’s neighbor and gardening friend Melody. I posted about Shirley’s garden here. Today I’ll show you Heather’s garden.


Heather boldly ripped out her entire front lawn when she moved into her suburban ranch house a few years ago. A Canadian transplant, she had a lot to learn about gardening in hot, dry, south-central Texas, but she’s a quick study and soon filled her garden with native grasses; agaves, yuccas, and prickly pear for structure; and flowering perennials for color and to attract wildlife.


As she experimented with lawn alternatives that can survive with only enough supplemental water to get them established, she started a blog called Xericstyle and won over lots of followers with her enthusiasm and her fresh, modern take on the xeriscape garden.


Along with the garden overhaul, Heather and her husband did a lot of work on their house to modernize it, including giving their front porch a facelift with fresh colors and accessories like these mod chairs and zigzag-patterned, orange-and-white pillows. That frothy, silver-green groundcover is ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia.


Terracotta pots filled with sotol, prickly pear, and golden barrel cactus add to the orange color scheme.


The side view


Heather orange-creamsicled her front door, and an orange Circle Pot trailing a Rapunzel-like succulent adds more bold color. And how about this for a fun surprise: Heather hung a string of glass votive holders on the front door…


…and planted them with succulents too!


Butternut squash-colored paint on the brick siding combines well with a grayish orange pumpkin.


A detail on the fence to her back garden


While many of Heather’s potted plants are one-plant-per-pot, like this yellow firecracker fern…


…she’s not afraid of creating combos like this cactus, feathergrass, and silver ponyfoot mash-up.


Heather ripped out all the lawn in back as well, replacing it with a large decomposed-granite patio by the back door that flows into the side yard, creating a sense of openness and room for several seating areas. She broke up the expanse with an island of perennials and potted herbs, accented with a orange-painted bamboo tuteur.

To the left, just out of frame, is an area Heather has been experimenting with, trying to find a lawn alternative that will stand up to kids’ play plus not require regular watering. Frogfruit was a partial success, but a large section suffered this summer in full sun without supplemental water. Heather continues to experiment, and one of the things I love about her blog is how she candidly details these plant trials.


A Mexican Fiesta flag string adds fun color across the back porch. That’s Cat of The Whimsical Gardener snapping me snapping her. I think we have a series of pictures like this. Just beyond Cat you can see a red bench and chairs around a fire pit.


Around the corner of the house are two picnic tables for gatherings of family and friends. A Day of the Dead skull is the centerpiece on one table.


A closer look shows that it’s also a succulent planter.


Hanging on the fence are repurposed exhaust pipes that Heather and her husband turned into succulent and cactus planters.


Heather always has a big, beautiful smile on her face, and she only looks serious here because I caught her explaining something (probably something about worms!). I adore her sense of style, especially that skirt. Thank you, Heather, for taking time off work to give us a tour of your lovely, xeric-style garden! For more, you really don’t want to miss Heather’s star turn on Central Texas Gardener. Her enthusiasm for tough native and adapted plants (and worms!) is contagious; you’ll love it.


Heather and Shirley, plus Rambling Wren, are the only San Antonio garden bloggers I know of, despite the fact that San Antonio is considerably larger than Austin. I wonder why that is? San Antonio is a beautiful city, with more colonial history and old-Mexico influence than you see in Austin. It’s also a particularly adept city at conserving water. In fact, the City of Austin has modeled some of its conservation efforts after San Antonio’s successes. I think Alamo City gardeners have a lot to teach about gardening in drought and heat, and I’d love to see more gardeners there start blogging to share their successes and experiments, and to give interested readers an intimate picture of gardening in central-south Texas.

Up next: Melody’s lushly planted San Antonio oasis of passalong plants framed by rustic cedar arbors and stucco-and-stone structures. For a look back at Shirley Fox’s Hill Country-style garden, also in San Antonio, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visiting a San Antonio garden with rocks, oaks, and deer


Ahh, I’m back and enjoying our mellow Texas fall after a garden-visiting weekend in New York City, and guess what I’ve been doing since I got back? Yep! Visiting more gardens.

Last Friday a few friends and I headed south to San Antonio to visit the gardens of two Alamo City bloggers and a gardening friend. I’ll give you our visits in reverse order, starting with Shirley Fox’s garden, known on her blog by its challenging features: Rock-Oak-Deer.


Shirley organized our visit and still made time to show us her garden as well. This was my second visit; I first saw Shirley’s garden in summer 2013 (click for my post). This iron bedstead, planted as a garden bed (wink), is new since then, and I think it fits perfectly with the rustic Hill Country style Shirley has cultivated. Plus it’s just fun.


In a pot, Shirley has corralled a clump of variegated St. Augustine. Yes, just like the popular lawn grass, only with stripes!


Her Circle Garden was in full, meadowy bloom thanks to a collection of grasses mixed with flowering annuals and perennials.


And there’s Shirley in the orange blouse, her own camera at the ready.


I collect metal spheres in my own garden, so it was fun to spot a few in Shirley’s as well. I like how she’s given this one some prominence by displaying it atop a pot.


Looking at the Circle Garden from the other direction, you get a better sense of all the grasses. That’s pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia) in the left corner, one of my new favorites since Michael at Plano Prairie Garden introduced me to it.


The tall wire fence along the side of her garden keeps deer out, giving Shirley space to grow particularly deer-tasty plants. She and her husband built the cedar-arbor gate.


Here’s another new, dynamic feature since I was last here: a crevice garden planted with yuccas, agaves, and cactus.


In the dappled light under live oaks, Shirley grows shade-tolerant plants and succulents in pots.


The fireplace wall along her back deck is a nice spot to display potted plants and garden decor.


I was intrigued by this fuzzy-leaved tradescantia.


A new screened porch is the biggest addition since I was last here. Shirley and her husband constructed it themselves at one end of their shady deck so they can enjoy being outdoors even during our buggy summer spring, summer, and fall.


It’s spacious inside, with an accent wall made of painted corrugated-metal roofing asphalt roofing panels. (Thanks for the correction, Shirley!)


The front-yard gravel garden — notice not one shred of thirsty lawn — was looking good with a mix of cool blues, golden yellows, and emerald greens, all foliage-based color.


Small boulders and Mexican-style terracotta pots add to the south-central Texas look.


A purple prickly pear looks especially lovely next to a pockmarked limestone boulder.


And I had to stop and admire Shirley’s large ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia), a little sunburned by the Death Star but still looking very content with room to spread its flukes.

Thanks, Shirley, for opening your garden to us and for organizing a fun day of garden-visiting in San Antonio!

Up next: Xericstyle Heather’s lawn-gone, family-friendly garden.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visit to Wave Hill in New York City, Part 2


Wave Hill, an estate garden in the Bronx in New York City, which I visited on October 11, was romantically blowsy in the Pergola, Elliptical, and Flower Gardens near the entry. But it got a bit bolder, even Hollywood, in the Aquatic and Monocot Gardens.


These two gardens share a large, hedged “room” that visually separates them from the rest of the gardens. I’m nuts about those Dr. Seussian yuccas at the far end, their pincushion heads atop skinny trunks of varying heights. Like golden fireworks exploding against dark-green hedges, you can almost hear them going pow Pow POW! My daughter, standing with her umbrella, provides a sense of scale.


Although first frost couldn’t be far off, the pond plants were still full and lush. The water lily even had buds, though they were closed tight against the chilly rain.


Large, arching grasses with rosy plumes anchor each end of the pond…


…adding to the beautiful fall show.


Golden and variegated foliage cozies up to butter-yellow flowers for a nice color echo.


Clustered pots of tropicals by the bench offer sun-kissed color and bold foliage.


It’s formal symmetry done beautifully. The long pergola at the far end of the pond is part of the Monocot Garden.


I won’t bore you with the definition of monocot (the garden’s website explains; maybe you know, but I had to look it up). Let’s just say this garden is all about bold foliage.


Spiky and tousled heads of agaves in pots mingle with grasses, colocasia, bulbine, and other interesting foliage plants for a display that might even look at home in Austin.


Gourds dangle from the pergola, just begging to be turned into birdhouses.


Chartreuse foliage and a nearly black canna add to the drama.


We took shelter from the rain under the long pergolas that line each side of the pond garden.


No planting opportunity is overlooked, not even cavities in the toothy, stone walls that edge the pergolas.


The two pergola walks lead to stunning focal-point containers backed by a green hedge and set amid a grassy groundcover. This may be toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) with small succulents.


By now the rain was really coming down, so we ran up a shady path to a covered pergola, where we shook off the rain, sat on a bench, and admired the view.


That’s the Hudson River in the distance.


This is the Wild Garden, which, according to the garden’s website, “was inspired by the informally planted English wild gardens as championed by William Robinson (1838-1935), an influential nineteenth-century author and garden designer.”


Tiers of tall grasses and cane climb the hilly edge of the garden.


Lovely combos like these were starting to show fall color.


This meadowy, forest-edge view reminds me a bit of the Oudolf design on the High Line.


Just downhill from the Wild Garden, planted in the ruins of a former greenhouse, you enter the Herb and Dry Gardens.


Stone paving and walls retain and reflect heat and give this garden strong structure.


Climbing the stone stairs…


…you reach the Alpine House, where beautifully arranged troughs display rock-garden plants.


Just look at all these! They reminded me of an elegant, English version of my own succulent cinderblock-wall planter.


The effect is like a bonsai landscape.


Diminutive, gnarled trees in pots were ready to blaze into fall color too.


Inside the Alpine House, viewable through large, open windows, more rock-garden plants are displayed in pots amid artfully placed boulders.


Pitcher plants, hooded and open-mouthed like a chorus of cobras, enjoy a sunny spot on a wall nearby.


To escape the chilly rain, we had lunch in the cafe, located inside this lovely, old home.


Behind the other house on the property, beneath its rear terrace, we discovered this charming grotto pond.


A tall, trunking yucca or nolina out front reminded me of home, though it was incongruously set amid woodland-style shrubs.


A lawn sloped off to one side, framed by trees in pointilist, early-fall color.


Nodding, sleepy sunflowers were feeding a flock of birds until we walked up. Little bluestem was blushing at their knobby knees.


More fall color


As the rain pattered to a stop and the mist began to lift, we took a last long look at the view across the river. The Palisades and tall buildings on the opposite side were coming into clearer view.


On a drier day we’d have sat for a while in the Wave Hill chairs.


But I didn’t really mind the rain. It let us pretend the garden was ours for a couple of sweet hours.

Up next: An autumn stroll through New York Botanical Garden. For a look back at Part 1 of my visit to Wave Hill, click here. For my tour of the High Line park and garden in Manhattan, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.