Playful, found-object art garden of Shari Bauer: Inside Austin Gardens Tour 2017

Last weekend I was invited to visit (along with other garden bloggers) the 5 private gardens that’ll be on the Inside Austin Gardens Tour this Saturday, May 6. Hosted by the Travis County Master Gardeners, the tour typically features homeowner-designed and -maintained gardens rather than fancy designer gardens, so you know you’ll see uniquely personal spaces.

The most unique garden on this year’s tour has to be Shari Bauer’s garden in Spicewood. (With two Spicewood gardens on the tour, maybe it should have been renamed Inside and Outside Austin Gardens.)

Shari has adorned her hillside garden perched above the Pedernales River with whimsical sculpture, shrines, and structures she’s whipped up from found objects and thrift-store finds. Even the front grille of an old Willys Jeep is putty in her hands. She turned this one into a one-of-a-kind fountain spilling into a cascading pool. Encircled by lush foliage like philodendron, the vignette reminds me of the scene in Jurassic Park when Dennis crashes his Jeep, right before the dinosaur eats him!

The tropical look continues as you climb uphill, where you find bromeliads growing on tree trunks and tropical houseplants summering outdoors.

Turquoise is Shari’s favorite color, she told us, and she uses it liberally throughout her garden.

After the Jeep fountain I didn’t think anything would surprise me, but this piano did. Draped and stuffed with succulents and cacti, the piano is playing to Shari’s tune.

A closer look reveals fun potted arrangements inside the lid.

Shari creates rooms with furniture, chandeliers hanging from trees, and doorways that invite you in.

Her sense of humor is on full display at every turn. Next to an old sewing machine stands this dress form clad in succulents and “bling.”

Notice the “nipple” piercings.

The head is an agave adorned with dozens of earrings and brooches.

Along another path, a painted shrine with Madonna figurines and an old telephone urges visitors to call their mothers.

In a sunny clearing, a doorway appears. Open it…

…and the path leads to a yellow bench sheltered by a boat standing on end — with a hanging light that actually works. Seated are Cat of The Whimsical Gardener and Linda of Patchwork Garden.

Shari recycles a lot of silver serving pieces, like these teapots turned into a chandelier…

…and a compote turned into a cactus planter. The white spines and hairs of the cacti look quite nice against the tarnished silver.

A turquoise-painted deck offers a stunning view of the Pedernales River, wonderfully full again after previous years of drought.

Here’s Shari, who appeared to be as joyful as her garden.

That’s quite a nice view.

“This is where we count the stars,” reads a sign on the deck’s fire-pit table. Sounds like a nice way to spend an evening.

Up next: The east Austin garden of Daphne Jeffers, a colorful cottage garden out front and a serene Zen garden in back.

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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.

Rock scrambling at Bull Creek on New Year’s Day

For a New Year’s Day hike, we explored Bull Creek again, doing a bit of scrambling among the boulders on the cliff edge. It was a glorious day, about 74 F degrees and sunny. My daughter struck a few poses above the creek. I call this one The Moonrise Kingdom, after the Wes Anderson movie.

Here’s The Instagram. In the distance, the setting sun lit up the cedar trees and live oaks on the bluff, giving this illusion of spring greens or maybe early fall color.

The creek winds along the bluff, and we surmised that the enormous boulders in the creek were once part of the cliff behind us, and fell off after a millennia of being undercut by the water.

My husband exploring the creek boulders

The cliff is mostly vertical, but native plants have managed to find toeholds in the cracks, like this beautiful Texas nolina, which cascades over the rock face like Rapunzel’s hair. Sadly, invasive nonnatives like ligustrum are colonizing the cliffs too, but we saw evidence that a native-plant group is working to eliminate them: many ligustrum trees have been cut down, and others have been girdled, which will kill them.

Farther along the creek, limestone ledges create mossy grottos. Spring water trickled over some of the ledges like mini-waterfalls.

We found the wagon tracks carved into the limestone creek bed in an earlier era. For more info, see my post about the tracks from late November.

Bull Creek is a special part of Austin. An afternoon visit was a beautiful and peaceful way to start the New Year.

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 © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Bull Creek beauty worth fighting for

Bull Creek winds through one of the most scenic areas of Austin, under vertical limestone cliffs softened with maidenhair fern and dripping with water from numerous springs. In spring and summer, Austinites love to swim in the creek’s deep-water holes (although high levels of bacteria, often from dog poo washing into the creek, have in recent years made swimming less appealing). But autumn and winter are my favorite seasons for exploring the creek and hiking the trails that crisscross its length.

We can access Bull Creek just a mile from our house, at Spicewood Springs Road and Capital of Texas Highway, so that’s where we usually go. But last Sunday, David and I explored a different stretch, entering Bull Creek District Park at 6701 Lakewood Drive.

It’s a lovely stretch, with steep cliffs and enormous slabs of rock, long ago eroded from the cliff walls, creating picnic-worthy islands.

Kids scrambled on the rocks, and we saw a bouldering group setting up fall mats nearby.

Although it’s been dry lately, the creek was running nicely.

This shallow section was popular with people who brought their dogs.

We’d read on a park kiosk about wagon tracks from the 1800s in the limestone bed of the creek here, and we found them just upstream from the park entrance.

I can’t find more details online, but we speculated that farmers bringing goods to town traveled the edge of the creek to bypass the cliffs, and over the years their metal-rimmed wheels carved channels into the soft limestone.

We were amused to see small fish swimming in the channels where wagons once rolled.

There’s also a lovely grotto here, with maidenhair fern and bright-green moss wallpapering the underside of a rocky overhang.

Water drip, drip, drips from the mossy walls like a gentle rainshower…

…filling a small pool of clear water below.

Just beyond the grotto, the wagon tracks diverge into two paths and then fade away where, I’m guessing, the wagons would climb back up the creek bank to continue on. It really brings history to life to see these old tracks.

Beyond that, a weir creates a low waterfall. We turned around here and headed back downstream…

…passing a deep swimming hole under a natural waterfall.

The black, writhing trunks and limbs of live oaks evoke calligraphy, don’t they?

Flameleaf sumac (I think) starting to turn

We also drove to the section of the creek nearest to our house and walked Inga’s Trail. The wooded trail following the creek was much less crowded than the Lakewood area.

There are lovely, deep holes along the creek here too.

Wild places in our city, like Bull Creek, are a treasure we must preserve for all of us. But right now a developer is proposing to build an 11-story hotel right along Bull Creek at Old Spicewood Springs Road and Yaupon Drive, on a particularly fragile piece of land that’s also one of the most scenic drives in Austin. I’m not anti-growth, and I believe in urban infill projects that can help reduce sprawl, but an 11-story hotel along the creek, along with requisite parking and traffic, will certainly negatively impact water quality and the scenic beauty of the area.

I don’t know whether we can stop it, but we need to try. Please sign this petition against the project, which asks the City of Austin to annex the property so it will be subject to city development oversight, and asks the county not to approve the plan. Let’s be smart about Austin’s growth and save what makes Austin so special to residents and visitors alike!

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

Want to know how I got started as a garden writer? Read page 16 of On the QT, the newsletter for GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators. I’m honored to be featured in an article by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens!

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!

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

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