Early summer flowers brighten my Texas garden


I didn’t realize how many white flowers I’m growing until I photographed what’s blooming this week. Let’s start with pale pavonia, aka Brazilian rock rose (Pavonia hastata). I love the tissuey white flower with a maroon eye and veins.


I grew a moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba), one of my old favorites, from seed this year, and it’s growing up a cattle-panel trellis on the deck, reaching for the sun. The plate-sized flowers are delightfully fragrant when they open in the evening.


Well, OK, this magnolia isn’t in my garden but a neighbor’s, but I’m enjoying the flowers on my walks. I don’t actually love the trees themselves here in Austin because they always look a bit dry and chlorotic in our alkaline, relatively shallow soils. But the enormous, creamy white flowers of Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) are something to behold and to smell — so gorgeous and lemony fragrant.


They remind me of my childhood in South Carolina, where magnolias grow better than in Austin thanks to acidic soil and higher rainfall.


One last white flower in my garden right now is the white variety of pink skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens ‘White’), such a tidy, pretty native plant for bright shade. The ivory flowers stand out against a steel-pipe planter and dark-leaved ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckias.


Purple flowers are abundant too, starting with summer-blooming vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), which I keep shrub-sized through regular pruning and cutting to the ground every February.


‘Peter’s Purple’ bee balm (Monarda fistulosa ‘Peter’s Purple’) is putting on a big show right now, getting plenty of attention from visitors and bees.


And heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata), a spring-blooming native, is almost done. Here’s a picture from a week or two ago, at peak bloom.


And why not — I’ll throw in a big, blue rose of a plant, my neighbor’s whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), surrounded by red autumn sage (Salvia greggii), part of a curb-side garden I planted for her to blend with my own. These are tried-and-true plants for sun or morning sun/afternoon shade.

So what’s blooming in your garden right now that you really love?

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 Tanglewild Gardens and 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.

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Garden Dialogues with John Fairey at Peckerwood


Heading east through pine country toward Hempstead, Texas, I arrived after a couple of hours on the road at Peckerwood Garden last Saturday. The draw, aside from a chance to see this beautiful 45-year-old garden again, was to hear its creator, John Fairey, talk about it in conversation with Houston landscape architect Keiji Asakura.

Part of The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Garden Dialogues series, this was my second Garden Dialogues (and third CLF event), and I find them valuable for a chance to hear about design directly from garden creators including landscape architects, designers, artists, and self-taught master gardeners like John Fairey.


As I took my seat (wow, what a stunning location for a garden talk, right?) and read the brochure for the event, I was startled and pleased to see that I was quoted in it — anonymously, but still! The quote came from my 2012 article about John Fairey for Garden Design magazine:

“John has expanded the palette of plants for gardeners in the South, Southeast, and Texas,” says [Bill Noble, director of The Garden Conservancy]. “His garden has a lot to teach.” After a lifetime of teaching, Fairey remains himself an eager learner, continually experimenting with plants and treating his garden as an artist’s canvas on which he paints with light, foliage, and even the wind.

How about that!


The garden that afternoon was indeed painted with light.


And although there wasn’t much wind, a congregation of filament-foliaged Mexican grass trees (Dasylirion longissimum) gently shimmied as air currents caressed them.


Painting with wind and foliage


Sarah Newbery, Peckerwood’s foundation board president, introduced Mr. Fairey and his interviewer, Mr. Asakura.


For the next hour or so, they conversed about how the garden came to be, the plant collections, lessons learned, and Mr. Fairey’s plant-hunting expeditions. I’d heard some of the stories before, but others were new, and it was wonderful to be part of an intimate group of keenly interested garden lovers from Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, and other cities who’d come to listen and learn and pay homage to a man who’s done so much to advance our knowledge about rare plants and gardening in Texas.


I took a few notes on my phone:

Mahonia is Mr. Fairey’s favorite plant collection. He’d like a better collection of cycads.

The light, mystery, magic of the garden — that’s what he wants visitors to appreciate.

His number-one design advice: start with your inside views and design outward from that. Number two: consider positive and negative space when planting trees and shrubs in order to create rooms and define spaces within the garden.

Visit Edward James’s garden Las Pozas in Xilitla, Mexico. It’s all about space. Also, go visit the ethnobotanical garden in Oaxaca, Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca — “one of the great gardens of the world.”


After the conversation and questions from the audience, we were invited to walk through the garden. Sarah Newbery pointed out plants and features and gave us more of the history of the garden.


As I strolled along I struck up conversations with other attendees and met such interesting people as Carolyn Kelley, one of the landscape architects who designed the plaza and gardens at Austin City Hall (for my post about the City Hall gardens, click and scroll halfway down). I also met designer Richard Hartman of The Plant People in Fort Worth and Adam Black, Peckerwood’s lion-maned director of horticulture.


A gate constructed out of plow discs, with a wood-and-wire trellis fence and arbor screening John Fairey’s private residence from the larger garden


The dry garden near Mr. Fairey’s house is one of my favorite areas, with a kaleidoscope of bold form and texture. The vertical pleats of the tall cacti (and who knew these would grow in southeast Texas?!) echo the vertical lines of the home’s steel siding.


Abstract sculptures reside in the garden too, like this wedge-shaped vertical piece holding its own amid bold-leaved palms and agaves.


One more look


Thanks for another great visit, Peckerwood, and for another interesting garden discussion from The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

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 is organizing 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.

Octopus’s garden patio at Cenote


I’d like to be under the sea, in an octopus’s garden in the shade. And so we were, one recent Sunday morning, on the lovely patio of Cenote cafe in east Austin.


A fierce metal octopus by 20 Digit Design holds court near the door, tangled in a net-like strand of twinkle lights.


Picnic tables on an expansive decomposed-granite patio offer plenty of outdoor seating, but it’s really the lush screening of palm, bamboo, Italian cypress, bamboo muhly, and star jasmine that makes this space so appealing.


Along the sidewalk, planted along a beachy picket fence, palmettos, sunflowers, and grasses entice you in.


A steel-and-wire arbor smothered in fragrant star jasmine welcomes you and screens diners from the busy street just outside. What a great place to enjoy a beautiful spring day.

He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been, in his octopus’s garden in the shade. –The Beatles (of course)

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

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

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.

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