Drive-By Gardens: South Congress Avenue in Austin


This drive-by is really a walk-by. I was on South Congress Avenue on Sunday afternoon, the center of the funky-hip Austin universe, enjoying a blue-sky, 80-degree day with my family. Fall, winter, and spring days like this are what sustain me through Austin’s broiling summers.


When my face was not tipped up to the mellow sunshine, I was simply trying to take in all the action on the street, which included picture-perfect views of the state capitol, a string band playing on the street corner, throngs of people strolling along the street, unique shops with doors flung open…


…and even a couple guys riding horses down the busy street. Where in the world did they ride in from? They tied up their horses at Doc’s and went in for a drink and later rode back up the street.


Lots of businesses along the street have containers full of agaves and other architectural plants, but some have enough space for actual gardens, like this eye-catching combo outside TOMS, a shoe store/coffee shop. A silver agave holds court with full-skirted Berkeley sedge cascading down the slope around it. Turk’s cap and a silver-white cenizo add height along the top of the slope. I don’t recognize the plant on the right, but is that basil at the bottom?


Across the street, at the minimalist-Zen Hotel San Jose, a hip boutique hotel…


…the surrounding gardens wow, especially as they are tucked into slivers of planting space along the sidewalk and parking area. Here giant hesperaloe’s sword-like leaves create drama above a waterfall of silver ponyfoot.


Streetside, mottled crepe myrtle trunks rise from grassy beds of Aztec grass and rain lily in bloom after Saturday’s downpour. I saw so much more on S. Congress and wish I’d taken more pictures…


…but I want to jump to nearby South Lamar for a moment and show you a new outdoor garden area at Mockingbird Domestics. Mockingbird has always carried a few pots and succulents, but now they’ve dedicated an outdoor patio to the garden, with furniture, mod steel chimineas, steel planters (tempting!), concrete pots…


…and a metal jackalope, which I fell in love with a little bit. This garden patio could be really awesome if they spruce it up and do the same enticing merchandising that they do inside. Maybe they’ll take some inspiration from my favorite L.A. garden shop, Potted, but with a Texas twist.


Back to South Congress, and this eye-catching mural on the side of TOMS’s shop. I want to give thanks to you, dear reader, for being here — for reading and commenting and making up this virtual gardening club that I’m so happy to be a part of. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Autumn amble at New York Botanical Garden


After touring Wave Hill on October 11, my daughter and I took the train to the New York Botanical Garden. Although both NYBG and Wave Hill are located in the Bronx, mass transit between the two ate up some time, and we had tickets to a Broadway show that evening. We knew we wouldn’t be able to stay long enough to see all 250 acres and 50 gardens.


Rather than stress about it, we explored at random, taking paths that wound around enormous boulders fringed by Japanese forest grass and white anemones and into woods tinged yellow and orange.


The afternoon was overcast and chilly, but the morning rain had ended, and we saw more people here than we had at Wave Hill. From a nearby sports arena we heard an announcer’s voice, cheers, and air horns. The cool weather, turning leaves, and game noise reminded me of fall days in the Southeast, where I grew up.


All that we lacked was the smell of wood smoke in the air.


I’ve admired council rings since first encountering one at Chicago Botanic Garden’s Evening Island. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have one in a home garden, with a fire pit in the middle?


I loved this meadowy scene atop a boulder-strewn rise.


It was one of the prettiest areas we saw.


Grasses, garlic chives gone to seed, asters, and pink daisies combined in a tapestry of fall color.


In a lower part of the garden, a swale for collecting and funneling rainwater leads the eye to a mound of vertical boulders.


A closer look


Woodsy paths beckoned with leaves just starting to turn.


Chipmunks scurried here and there, collecting nuts for winter…


…and stopping to eat one or two.


Who could resist a path like this? Not us.


My daughter picked up a fallen leaf and made a hair ornament of it.


Nothing bought in a store could be as pretty.


Fallen leaves adorned the ground too.


On a bridge high above a creek we looked down on more golden trees.


We saw a few reds as well.


A lovely native plant garden with a large pond offered a boardwalk stroll…


…past woodland borders with plenty of fall color.


Ferns were still green then but probably not for long.


At the sunnier end, we noticed a swath of colorful pitcher plants in the mucky soil along the decking.


Aren’t they lovely?


I’m noticing pitcher plants everywhere these days, especially in container plantings. Are they the plant du jour, wresting the crown away from tillandsias?


From wet-loving plants to dry-loving, this garden has it all. Devil’s tongue (Opuntia humifusa) looks quite happy, even in New York (yes, it’s native), nestled amid heat-reflecting boulders.


This must be a birder’s paradise with so many food sources, including coneflowers and grasses gone to seed.


I wish I’d taken a few photos inside the gift shop, which was quite nice and very large as botanical garden gift shops go. An extensive gardening book section captivated me for a while, and imagine my delight when I saw that they carried my book, Lawn Gone! — and it was even displayed face out! I swear I didn’t turn it that way for the picture.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my garden visits from New York. For a look back at Wave Hill (1 of 2 posts), click here. And for my extensive write-up of the High Line (1 of 2 posts), click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Native plants and modern garden furnishings at Redenta’s Garden Arlington


Whew! I just got home from a whirlwind trip to New York City to visit public gardens, and does Austin ever feel blissfully small and non-crowded in comparison to Manhattan. The High Line was the highlight, and I’ll have pictures for you soon. But first I’ve been wanting to share my recent visit to Redenta’s Garden in Arlington, between Dallas and Fort Worth.


This is the second Redenta’s location I’ve visited. The first was Redenta’s smaller Dallas shop and urban nursery, which carries contemporary pots and accessories that reminded me somewhat of West Coast garden shops I’ve visited.


Both locations have a hip potting bar where you can plant up containers with succulents and cactus.


Fermob bistro sets and other colorful, contemporary garden seating can be found here as well.


I imagine tender succulents are tucked in the greenhouse in the winter, but on this October visit it was open to refreshing breezes.


In addition to contemporary style, Redenta’s is known for its native plant selection, and that’s what the suburban Arlington location really offers: room for more plants.


While Redenta’s isn’t as big as Austin’s Barton Springs Nursery, not to mention The Natural Gardener, it does have a nice selection of drought-tolerant beauties like hesperaloe with yellow bloom spikes as well as the standard coral-pink. I think I see some red ‘Brakelights’ in there too.


The yellow hesperaloe echoes the color of a classic motel chair sitting by a silver Airstream camper in the display yard. I could tell this area is usually a focal point of the grounds, with seating and pots on an urbanite (recycled concrete) patio, shaded by a striped awning. But we visited the day after a strong windstorm had hit the Dallas area, and the nursery was still picking up after the damaging winds.


Yucca rostrata shadows and a succulent “R” for Redenta’s add punch to this vignette.


At the other end of the yard, more seating is grouped around a metal-ring fire pit, surrounded by pots of agave, yucca, and prickly pear.


This is very “Austin,” don’t you think?


The Yucca rostrata were tempting, but how would I get one home? Instead I was drawn to the display of Hover Dishes on the front porch. I haven’t found these for sale anywhere in Austin (although I’ve ordered one directly from the Vancouver manufacturer, Pot Inc.), but Redenta’s had a great selection.


I selected the orange Dolga pot, and my DH gave it to me for my birthday, which just happened to be that day. Perfect timing for a visit, eh? I’m going to hold onto it over the winter and plant it up with succulents in the spring. Or maybe I’ll fill it with pumpkins and hang it right now!


Inside the shop, Redenta’s has more containers and garden accessories…


…including a selection of Steel Life containers, which are also hard to find at Austin nurseries.


Overall I like the Dallas Redenta’s better for their garden-shop offerings, but the Arlington location has a bigger plant selection and more outdoor furniture. Lucky Dallas-Forth Worth gardeners to be able to shop at both!

For a tour of the Dallas Redenta’s, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.