Wishing you a merry and bright Christmas!

The Christmas tree is aglow.

Festive ornaments add cheer.

Family gathers close, and memories of past Christmases are retold.

Lights shine across the city…

…and we’ve spun under the Zilker Christmas Tree on its 50th anniversary.

Neighbors’ houses glow like magical fairylands of light.

And troubles are put aside for an evening and a day of quiet or festive celebration.

Magical lights in our 'hood #xmaslights #christmaslights #austin #merryandbright

A video posted by Pam Penick (@pamdigging) on

Friends, I wish you all a warm and wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, or other solstice holiday! See you in 2017!

And if you missed my post about the Highway 360 Xmas trees, please click here and enjoy!

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.

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Decking the cedar trees on Loop 360, an Austin Christmas tradition

Just after Thanksgiving every year, Austinites who live along scenic Loop 360 are treated to the festive sight of roadside juniper trees decked out in creative, colorful decorations, turning miles of highway into a drive-by Christmas parade.

It started off, years ago, with just a few trees suddenly sporting tinsel and colorful glass balls.

But the idea caught hold among merry-making Austinites, and nowadays any juniper (we Texans call ’em cedars) along the highway is likely to be targeted by decorating elves.

Some people decorate with a certain theme in mind, like this Denver Broncos tree.

Others go traditional, with tinsel, ribbons, colored balls, and bows.

For drive-by appreciation, the decorating elves know to go big. Shrimpy ornaments are lost to view as drivers zoom by on the highway, so oversized ornaments are key.

So is picking a tree that’s not too tall, so you don’t have to leave the top undecorated. Just toss that tinsel up there.

Right-sized trees are, it seems, in such demand that people are putting “hold” tags on their favorites well before Thanksgiving.

The bee tree is one of my annual favorites. Empty detergent and other large plastic bottles are spray-painted black, striped with yellow duct tape, and given wings of screening mesh.

You can’t miss the bee tree, and I look for it every year.

I also got a kick out of this picnic tree adorned with pink and yellow paper plates and plastic cups and forks.

Snowman face decorations have turned some trees into green, unmeltable Frosties.

Ray Ray’s Pledge, an Austin-based advocacy group that educates people about the danger of leaving young children unattended in hot cars, decorated this tree. Yellow ducks are inscribed with safety facts and calls to activism. White ducks are inscribed with a year and the number of children who died in hot cars that year.

This year, 2016, has seen 39 hot-car deaths, a tragically high number since such deaths are entirely preventable. Ray Ray’s Pledge website — named after baby Ray Ray Cavaliero, who died after her father accidentally left her strapped into her car seat for 3 hours on a hot day — offers lifesaving safety suggestions. Even if you think it could never happen to you, if you have a young child or grandchild, please read them.

Other trees are decorated in memory of a loved one…

…like this tree for Emily.

And this one in memory of Grandma Lola. I like that idea.

It’s kind of sad, though, that they have to put up a sign asking people not to take their ornaments.

Sticking with shades of blue and green helps this tree stand out.

On a lighthearted note, a Pac-Man tree wins my vote for creativity and humor.

Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are chased by ghosts Pinky, Blinky, Inky, and Clyde, all of them cut out of colorful plastic plates with painted eyes.

Ms. Pac-Man sports a plastic-plate hair bow and red lips. Super cute!

A local geocaching group reserved this tree, which they decorated with colorful foam links and old CDs for sparkle…

…plus clear balls stuffed with geocaching log sheets. I like that this group, Geocachers of Central Texas, has scheduled a clean-up of tree decor on December 31. That’s responsible decorating…

…as another sign reminded fellow decorators. In general people are really good about coming back to undecorate the trees and restore the roadside to its natural beauty.

But for now, we enjoy the festive spectacle.

It’s a heartwarming holiday tradition in the best spirit of Austin: spontaneous, creative, and full of goodwill.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

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

Need a holiday gift for the gardener, new homeowner, or environmentalist on your list?
Please consider giving one (or both!) of my books. They’re packed with plenty of how-to info for newbies as well as lots of inspirational photos and design ideas for more experienced gardeners! Order today from Amazon (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!) or other online booksellers (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!), or find them anywhere books are sold.

“In an era of drought and unpredictable weather patterns, The Water-Saving Garden could not come at a better time. With striking photographs and a designer’s eye, Penick shows us just how gorgeous a water-wise garden can be. This is the must-have garden book of the year!”
Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants

“This thoughtful, inviting, and thoroughly useful book should be required for every new homeowner at closing. It has the power to transform residential landscapes from coast to coast and change the world we all share.”
Lauren Springer Ogden, author of The Undaunted Garden and coauthor of Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Lucinda’s Dia de los Muertos garden

My friend Lucinda Hutson celebrates Dia de los Muertos like no one else I know. Her colorful, Mexican-inspired home and garden in the Rosedale neighborhood of central Austin grows even more vibrant for Day of the Dead, and inside she stages elaborate table displays and beautiful altars around mementos and photos of her departed loved ones.

Lucinda invited me over for a visit on Saturday morning, as she was finishing up her decorating. She’s adorned her purple casita, as she calls it, with Day of the Dead grocery bags from HEB — clever!

In a ginkgo tree, colorful papel picado banners with skull imagery flutter in the breeze.

Fluttering throughout her garden, monarchs are fueling up for the last leg of their winter migration to Mexico.

They love the orange and yellow cosmos standing tall on leggy stems. To keep it from flopping, Lucinda has tied bunches of stems together and staked them upright.

A bed of yellow chrysanthemums makes a good lounging spot for four skeletons.

Purple mums fill round pots on her new brick patio, which replaced a small front lawn that was struggling.

Along the gravel driveway, potted vegetables on limestone blocks make a pretty border.

Chard and other edibles are easy to harvest here.

A long raised bed contains more vegetables. In the background, a butterfly skeleton hangs under an arbor of sky vine, with scattered blossoms arrayed by Mother Nature at her feet.

Lucinda found the dress, wings, and other costume elements in thrift shops and put it all together with the help of her longtime garden assistant Ernesto.

The wings catch the morning light.

On the old driveway in the back garden, a raised vegetable bed is edged with colorful salad plates.

Our Lady of the Bathtub is a permanent fixture in the garden.

As is the handmade gate that reads El Jardin Encantador: the enchanting garden.

Peeking in the back door…

…you see what Lucinda calls her “stairway to heaven” — a mosaic tiled back stair.

Along the purple wall of her detached garage, she stacks low tables dressed with Mexican oilcloth for a pretty succulent display space.

Her tiny front porch is all decked out too.

A Day of the Dead skeleton head greets visitors at the door.

Inside, the first thing you see is Lucinda’s Dia de los Muertos altar in her sherbet-colored living room, adorned with decades’-old (but amazingly fresh looking) sugar skulls, candles, family photos, and little mementos of things her loved ones enjoyed.

Lucinda lost her mom recently, and she pointed out old photos and items that remind her of her mother: queens on playing cards, a bottle of Dewar’s.

On her dining table, which she was setting up for a small party later on that evening, Lucinda had arranged a Day of the Dead display of skull plates and bowls, candles, wine bottles, sugar skulls, and skeletons.

Sugar skull and sugar caskets

So many fun details wherever you look!

A quick peek in Lucinda’s kitchen reveals strings of chili lights and and Dia de los Muertos cards with lights.

Another altar is set up on the dining room buffet.

More photos of her beautiful mom along with sugar skulls and lustrous silver containers and spoons.

Tiny skeleton musicians with spring necks, legs, and arms dangle from the chandelier.

Lucinda’s festive home and garden — and her own festive spirit — could brighten any dull day. My thanks to her for sharing her beautiful garden with me again!

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

I’ll be speaking at the Antique Rose Emporium Fall Festival 2016 in Brenham, Texas, on Saturday, November 5th, 1:30-2:30 pm. Come on out to the Antique Rose Emporium’s beautiful gardens for a day of speakers and fun! My talk, with plenty of eye-candy photos, is called “Hold the Hose! How to Design a Water-Saving Garden that Wows.” Meet me afterward at the book-signing table!

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.