Purple prickly pear for Foliage Follow-Up


Purple pot and purple prickly pear — ten years after planting I’m still enjoying the color echo, especially against the gray deck railing. Vivid orange pomegranate blossoms add a fun color contrast in the background.

So what leafy love is going on in your May garden? Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I really appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

West Texas meets the Big Easy in the courtyard garden of Curt Arnette


Each time I visit the garden of landscape architect Curt Arnette in southwest Austin, I am absolutely agog over the front courtyard, which occupies a corner lot on a typical suburban street of nicely kept lawns and foundation shrubs. His garden stands out in the best way possible, with texture-rich plant combos, understated but finely crafted hardscaping, and strong “bones.”

While managing to work within the constraints of his HOA’s landscaping rules (he used hedges rather than the low wall he wanted for enclosing the garden, for example), Curt has created a dynamic wonderland of spiky yuccas, agaves, sotol, and dyckia around the perimeter of the garden, which opens at a friendly, gated entry to reveal a clean-lined, New Orleans-style courtyard shaded by live oaks.


Let’s take a tour, starting at curbside. All those spikes and spines just sing in the morning light, like the spherical heads of Yucca rostrata beyond the boxwood hedge.


In the foreground, where a mosaic path of Lueders limestone invites you in, a powder-blue ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia) echoes the color of a wrought-iron gate.


The view from the street. A hedge of ‘Wintergreen’ boxwood makes up the “walls” of the courtyard; a canopy of live oaks, the ceiling. A trio of ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agaves and smaller dyckias (‘Burgundy Ice’, I’d guess) add drama, architectural form, and evergreen color that contributes year-round beauty. Light-colored gravel ties in with the limestone and flows seamlessly from path to plantings.


Another view


The beautiful gate, one side ajar, says welcome.


Path detail. Notice the precisely aligned focal point, across the courtyard, of a pair of potted flax lilies.


A floral-carved stone anchors the vignette.


The steel-edged planting beds are laid out geometrically around two live oaks, with the courtyard paving providing negative space for the eye to rest among the lush plantings. A few potted plants, like this ligularia, sit on limestone plinths for extra height, elegance, and attention.


Curt had just put up the string lights a day or two before, opting to use metal posts to get the configuration he wanted, rather than stringing them from the trees. Curt does all such work himself, with an eye for exacting detail.


To give architectural interest to the house, Curt attached a metal trellis above the garage doors and planted a ‘Mermaid’ rose on it. This vigorous and thorny rose must require a lot of careful pruning to be kept in bounds, but it is beautiful. Below, in the space between the garage doors, a potted smoke tree was in full flower, its bronze foliage harmonizing with the tawny pink of the brick siding.


Evergreen fig ivy is neatly clipped to frame the entry porch, emphasizing the front door.


An Easter lily cactus (Echinopsis subdenudata) was in gorgeous flower by the potted smoke tree. Curt found it at Far South Wholesale Nursery, but I saw on FB today that Tillery Street Plant Co. is carrying it, for you retail buyers.


Let’s zoom out for a second to admire this thick-trunked Wheeler sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri), which Curt has pruned up. A strip of gravel runs alongside the driveway, making it easier to get in and out of the car.


The courtyard garden as viewed from the driveway.


Closer view


Entering here you pass a steel container planted with citrus and softening perennials. The limestone pavers lead your eye diagonally across the courtyard to the gated entry.


An espresso-stained bench with a French-blue cushion is tucked into a recess of hedging in front of a window, a “rug” of limestone at its feet.


A potted paddle plant (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora) sits atop a handsome bird-bath pedestal. Silver saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) brightens the shady bed behind it.


Exiting the courtyard and revisiting the perimeter beds, which give neighbors and passersby a beautiful view, I admired this tiered limestone curbing layered with bluebonnets (lower level), ‘Blue Elf’ aloes (middle), and irises (top). I’m guessing those irises have blue or purple flowers. A collection of smooth river stones adorns the top curb.


Curt taught me the value of proper pruning at my first garden (the one before Green Hall), when he was our across-the-street neighbor. He’s a very precise gardener, but one who isn’t afraid to take risks and experiment with plants. I like how he’s made a low hedge of bamboo muhly grass (Muhlenbergia dumosa) in the hell strip. It’s only about 18 inches tall and seems to take radical pruning very well! Perhaps you could even make a parterre of this normally billowy grass, if you were so inclined.


At the corner, the hell strip is filled with manfreda, which was in spectacular full bloom, each bottlebrush flower standing four feet tall on a long, fleshy stalk.


The sun-blasted outer corner bristles with Yucca australis, two Yucca rostrata, and a large dish planted with golden barrel cactus and bunny ears cactus (Opuntia microdasys).


A closer view


That concludes another exciting visit to Curt’s garden. Thank you, Curt, for sharing it with me again!

For a previous post about the Arnette garden, click here. Search for “Sitio Design” in the search bar to find my tours of gardens Curt has designed for others.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Rock Rose garden abloom before the hailstorm


Two weeks ago my friend Jenny Stocker, blogger at Rock Rose and gardener extraordinaire, offered me a division of a water iris for my pond. When I arrived, mid-morning on a sunny, warm day, Jenny gave me a tour and then kindly set me loose to wander around on my own and take photos.


I’ve photographed Jenny’s England-meets-Texas garden on several occasions (links at the end), and I never tire of it. Her talent with design — although she’ll swear that everything just self-seeds, and she’s had little to do with it — means there are focal points and framed views galore, making her garden not only beautiful to explore in person but very photogenic.


When Jenny leads visitors around her garden, she always starts in the front courtyard and works her way around the side of the house, through the rose garden, and into the sunken garden pictured here. Stepping into the riotously blooming garden of native and cottage wildflowers induces oohs and ahhs, especially in springtime.


I’m going to give you the tour in reverse order, partly for a change of pace but also as a tribute. You see, Jenny’s garden was slammed by a hailstorm 5 days after I visited. The hail, which merely pockmarked my agaves in northwest Austin, unleashed its fury on southwest Austin and pounded flat her tender annuals, vegetables, and succulents. It broke glass ornaments and shredded the new, green leaves from the live oaks, strewing them across the ground like confetti. The sunken garden was especially hard hit.


A week later, she’s philosophical about the damage, knowing the shrubs, roses, and trees will rebound quickly, already seeing new growth on perennials, and hopeful that plenty of dormant wildflower seeds remain in the soil to emerge next spring. After all, her plants are Texas tough, and the natives especially are adapted to these destructive weather events.


It was painful to hear of her losses, and I’ve held off on posting these pre-hail pictures, worried they wouldn’t bring her any pleasure. But at a blogger get-together last Saturday, she assured me that she was fine and encouraged me to post. So here they are, with a reminder to enjoy moments of beauty whenever you see them.


The potager, abloom with Verbena bonariensis, poppies, and bluebonnets


The verbena seemed to be poking its flowery head above the wall separating the potager from the sunken garden for a better view.


I love this vignette of agaves clustered in a shallow, square planter atop a sturdy pedestal, with Mexican feathergrass and salvia billowing around.


Along one tan stucco wall, pine cones are strung on a wire for a casual, charming decoration.


Jenny has a flair for potted arrangements. Doesn’t the succulent in the center look like a miniature saguaro?


Austin is famous for its bat colony, and every Austin garden should have a few as well.


The spiniest plants have the most glorious flowers.


The view across the sunken garden. A doorway in a monumental wall frames the view…


…of a rose garden laid out in a circular design.


Round pavers lead around the central, circular bed of roses and bluebonnets.


I spotted an anole hunting amid the foliage, and he boldly posed for a photo.


Moving around the side of the house, you enter a small, walled garden of evergreen shrubs and vines. A pair of green umbrellas provides shade.


A handsome, silver dyckia shines against a backdrop of fig ivy.


Jenny has many unique pieces of garden art, including this circular ceramic hanging on a wooden gate.


On the door into her walled front courtyard, a rat-tail cactus (I think) cascades from a wall planter.


A variegated Agave desmettiana adds a sculptural accent by the door. Jenny moves these beautiful but tender agaves into the garage in winter.


Stepping through the doorway you see a large potted aloe and contemporary wall art.


A substantial arbor shades the garden entrance…


…but the garden itself basks in sunshine. Gravel mulch offers the perfect habitat for a carpet of bluebonnets in springtime.


A Lady Banks rose smothers the wall at left, while on the right, like an island amid a sea of flowers, an umbrella shelters a table for two.


A millstone-style fountain bubbles quietly nearby, offering an invitation to birds and other garden creatures. Lapped by pastel river rock, a lovely ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave lifts its arms toward the sun.


Welcoming visitors at the front door, a yellow star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) wafts its sweet fragrance into the house.


I smiled to see this bobble-handed Queen Elizabeth waving benignly in the breeze — a nod to Jenny’s English heritage?

My thanks to Jenny for sharing her garden with me again, and for the water iris, which bloomed for me the very next day. As for the hail, I hope she’s already seeing nature’s quick recovery underway in her garden.

For more posts about Jenny’s garden:
Jenny Stocker’s English Texas gravel garden
Feeding the soul in Jenny’s garden
Jenny’s flower-licious walled garden
Meeting Carol & a tour of Jenny Stocker’s garden

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.