Evening garden design musings

Dusk is falling more softly as summer wanes, and the lingering evening glow is inviting, even if Austin is still hot and dry. Here are a few random shots from a recent walk-around at dusk. (The rest are in my post about foliage gardening apologies.)

This view emphasizes the arcs and circles that dominate the back garden design. The curvy swimming pool and two small, circular patios at each end were installed by the previous owners. I’ve continued to build on those curves with the stock-tank pond, sunburst paving, and stucco walls. Even the round pot fountain and boxwood balls emphasize the circular theme.

The limestone retaining walls along the back of the house (on the right) were also inherited from the previous owners, and they echo the curves of the pool. The new stucco walls repeat the curves, with modern flair, on the back side of the pool.

The commercial-grade string lights are from the Light Bulb Shop on Burnet Road. I love the soft glow they put out — perfect for parties! Hint: you can buy them online as well as in the store. We had ours wired into an outdoor light switch.

Looking in the other direction, toward the stock-tank pond and back deck. The gravel path leads uphill to the front garden.

Let’s check in on a passalong plant from Reuben Muñoz at Rancho Reubidoux while we’re here. Pilo (Pilosocereus pachycladus; do I have another named plant?) survived the spring deluge and has put on an inch or two of growth. Looking good!

My agave with the deadliest bite, the ‘Sharkskin’, is growing well too. It doesn’t mind heat or drought. I wish I felt the same way. But hey, it’s September, and fall is coming.


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

The Gardener of Good and Evil makes my garden look good

Water visually cools Pam’s back garden. Photo by Lori Daul.

Although she claims both a halo and a pitchfork in her blog name, Lori Daul of The Gardener of Good and Evil is purely a force for good — or at least that’s what I believe after seeing how beautifully she photographed my garden.

The repetition of plants and paving draw the eye to Pam’s stock tank pond. Photo by Lori Daul.

Lori came over one recent morning to take promotional shots for the Inside Austin Gardens tour on October 17. She’s on the tour’s organizing committee, and, as I mentioned earlier this week, my garden will be one of the stops on the tour. See “Oh, Deer!” on the Inside Austin Gardens website.

A stone fish stays cool in the stock tank pond. Photo by Lori Daul.

Lori kindly gave me permission to repost her images, and I’m including her captions too. She captured the garden from quite a few new perspectives I haven’t exploited myself. Regular readers will notice there’s not one photo of Moby or a long shot of the garden shed or the steel-pipe planter out front — in other words, none of my own standby shots. Her photos help me to see my garden afresh!

Pam’s DIY stock tank pond anchors the back garden. Photo by Lori Daul.

I’ll let Lori’s images and captions speak for themselves, like a tour guide, with some follow-up comments from me. Like this: if you’re interested in making your own stock-tank pond, I’ve written a 3-part series to show you how it’s done.

A gazing ball gives a wider perspective of the back garden. Photo by Lori Daul.

This is an homage to East Side Patch garden, where I first saw a gazing ball cradled quirkily by a cedar stump.

An insect hotel adds a pop of bright color and a creative habitat to the front garden. Photo by Lori Daul.

The tuteur and “bee bungalow” are from TerraTrellis.

Some rustic texture in the front garden. Photo by Lori Daul.

The little metal wrens are from The Natural Gardener. I just screwed them onto my cedar bench. Other bird species are available too.

‘Margaritaville’ yuccas punctuate a sedge front lawn. Photo by Lori Daul.

The sedge is Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa). Here’s a post about planting the sedge lawn.

Color echoes in the front garden. Photo by Lori Daul.

That’s a ‘Green Goblet’ agave underplanted with woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata).

Garlic chives begin to unfold in front of a ‘Vertigo’ fountain grass. Photo by Lori Daul.

Spiky and soft contrast in this pairing of bamboo muhly, dyckia, and pink skullcap. Photo by Lori Daul.

It’s actually white skullcap (the foliage is identical, and blooms were sparse). The dyckia are ‘Burgundy Ice’, a cold-tolerant cultivar.

An “octotillo” bottle tree contrasts with the bright orange of Mexican honeysuckle and orange pots. Photo by Lori Daul.

Here’s a post about the ocotillo bottle tree, which Bob Pool made for me.

Blues upon blues. Photo by Lori Daul.

A low-water grouping on the back porch. Photo by Lori Daul.

Fish swim through a potted Sticks-On-Fire cactus. Photo by Lori Daul.

I totally copied this from Debra Lee Baldwin, who posted a photo of her own wine-charm fish on Gardening Gone Wild.

Succulents spill from a DIY cinderblock planter wall. Photo by Lori Daul.

Want to make your own cinderblock wall planter?

A colorful pot echoes the shape of its cactus. Photo by Lori Daul.

A cheerful gnome keeps an eye on the back garden. Photo by Lori Daul.

Blue bottles contrast with the bold yellow ‘Color Guard’ yucca. Photo by Lori Daul.

A tiny potted surprise. Photo by Lori Daul.

Color and form echoes in the back garden. Photo by Lori Daul.

A fun surprise in a pot of feathergrass, chili pequin, and manfreda. Photo by Lori Daul.

Mexican honeysuckle contrasts with the deep purple of a ‘Vertigo’ fountain grass. Photo by Lori Daul.

The hanging Circle Pot is from Potted, one of my favorite out-of-town garden shops.

A feathery arm of Mexican weeping bamboo softens a planting of Mexican honeysuckle. Photo by Lori Daul.

An intriguing low-water combo of sedge and Purple Heart. Photo by Lori Daul.

This was not on purpose. I tried to eradicate the aggressive purple heart before planting the Texas sedge, but we all know how that goes. For now I’m trying to keep a happy balance, which means yanking out handfuls of the purple heart whenever I get a chance.

Twist-leaf yucca and ghost plant make a great low-water grouping in a shady corner of the garden. Photo by Lori Daul.

Native nolina pairs with native Barbados cherry in a semievergreen combo. Photo by Lori Daul.

This Texas nolina has lived in this pot for 12 years (click and scroll down to 5th photo for an early picture). I brought it with me from my former garden, and it’s slowly grown to beautiful proportions, its spaghetti-like leaves cascading to the ground. The Barbados cherry is the dwarf variety, Malpighia glabra ‘Nana’.

Yucca rostrata shimmers against a deep blue backdrop. Photo by Lori Daul.

My thanks to Lori for making my garden look so good, even in the dead of summer, and for allowing me to share her photos! Visit the tour website to check out the other gardens that will be on the tour. There’s a lot to see!

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

It’s not hard to enjoy the Big Easy

If you want to feel that you’ve traveled to a foreign city without leaving the country, visit New Orleans and stay in the historic French Quarter. We made the 8-hour drive from Austin a couple of weeks ago — our first stop on a family road trip across the South — and stayed two nights in this genteel, relaxed, living-easy city.

What do you do in New Orleans? Well, you eat good food, admire the lacy ironwork and sunset-hued architecture of the Quarter, and listen to jazz players on every street corner. Doesn’t that sound nice?

The first morning we rose early to beat the heat (mission not accomplished) and strolled to the famous Cafe Du Monde, within spitting distance of the mighty Mississippi River, for an order of sugar-powdered beignets. After this decadence, we walked past Jackson Square and the magnificent St. Louis Cathedral, pictured at the top of this post.

The back of the church overlooks a plaza where fortune tellers, portrait sketch artists, and jazz bands gather, attracting throngs of tourists.

It’s a good place to people watch.

I spotted a statue near Cafe Du Monde that I recognized from 30 years ago, and asked my daughter to pose…

…echoing this 1985 photo of her much-younger mama.

I did a lot of gawking at the fern- and ivy-bedecked balconies throughout the French Quarter.

Balcony gardening is a way of life here.

I caught a glimpse of an architectural sketch in the window of one local business.

Horse-head hitching posts line streets throughout the Quarter.

When the sun grew too hot, we ducked into Napolean House for muffalettas and a Pimm’s Cup. The building is a 200-year-old landmark, its aged walls hung with dozens of portraits of its namesake.

Hotel Provincial offered a shady respite during the heat of the afternoon, with a pretty courtyard fountain…

…and two swimming pools.

The French Quarter isn’t the only neighborhood worth exploring. The Garden District also beckoned. We took a streetcar (it was, disappointingly, a less picturesque substitute bus on that day) along a pleasant, 45-minute route to reach this new-money, American-settled neighborhood (as opposed to the older, French-Creole Quarter) of glamorous, 19th-century mansions. I didn’t take a single photo, despite the beauty of the neighborhood — not even when we passed vampire novelist Anne Rice’s childhood home.

I did take photos in the spooky Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, which borders the Garden District. Established in 1833, it’s one of several “cities of the dead” found throughout the older neighborhoods. Because New Orleans sits below sea level and the water table is high, the dead weren’t buried (legend says coffins would pop out of the ground when it rained) but laid to rest in above-ground tombs that contain entire families or fraternal groups.

I’ve always loved touring old cemeteries. Ironically, they seem to bring a city’s history to life.

Plants are colonizing the tombs, gaining toeholds in crevices and crumbling mortar.

These ferns seem to grow out of bare stone.

New Orleans has plenty of spookiness to go around, and our first evening we explored the House of Voodoo, where picture-taking was forbidden — so no shrunken head pics for you (just kidding, but we did see lots of voodoo dolls).

The House of Voodoo sits across the street from what we really came for: a jazz show at Preservation Hall. I’d last been here during my college years and was ready to make another pilgrimage.

Preservation Hall hosts nightly, 45-minute concerts of traditional, swinging jazz, performed acoustically by jazz veterans. It’s open to all ages, and I’d purchased VIP tickets ahead of time so that we could get a seat right up front.

The place is charmingly rustic: a few rows of bench seating and pillows on the floor for the audience. No air conditioning — that’s right, in New Orleans in the summer. You’ll sweat through the show, but it’s worth it. Photos and video are forbidden during the performance, but here’s where the band played: trombone on the left, cornet and vocals in the middle, clarinet on the right, and piano, bass, and drums in the back.

I’ll end my New Orleans travel post with a pretty, garden-pattern dress I spotted in a shop window. Look carefully, my fellow hot-climate gardeners: those are prickly pear pads along with tropical foliage — fun!

Next up: Exhibits at Atlanta Botanical Garden and Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

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