European formality with relaxed Texas style in Ware Garden: San Antonio Open Days Tour


Last Saturday I road-tripped to San Antonio for the Open Days garden tour, sponsored by the Garden Conservancy. Shirley Fox of Rock-Oak-Deer was one of the organizers this year, and I was eager to see the gardens that she’d chosen for the tour.


The Ware Garden is the grandest, an estate-size property entered via a gate with stag sculptures on limestone pilasters. A long, curving drive leads past clipped yew and boxwood hedges, and you might think you’re only going to see lawn and live oaks.


Not so! Masses of tufty Mexican feathergrass add subtle golden color and texture beneath live oaks along the drive, where a dry stream channels runoff.


A circular pool and spouting fountain appear near the house, set in an emerald lawn amid the dark, gnarled trunks of dozens of live oaks.


And here it’s seen from the home’s front terrace. The live oaks make this scene magical, elevating it from something classically formal and rather ordinary — a fountain in a big, open lawn — and giving it a fairy-tale, dark-wood dimension. There’s a sense of mystery here.


Turning around, you see the front steps to the house — not at all ostentatious but rather a study in elegant simplicity: a pyramid of limestone steps, potted boxwood spheres, and a scrolled iron lantern alongside a handsome wooden door.


Side view


Walking around the house, you get a jolt of humor from a glass-mosaic cow wearing the Texas flag and gazing at a limestone-edged swimming pool, as if longing to take a dip.


In front, a fountain splashes in a raised rectangular pool, with a rill that leads the eye across the pool, where it stops at a perfectly manicured boxwood hedge, clipped to the same dimensions as a limestone retaining wall to the right.


Past the pool, a gentle slope is terraced with a low limestone wall. The house wraps around a rectangular lawn studded with more live oaks.


Clipped boxwood in various pots makes a simple and elegant accent throughout the garden.


Shallow limestone-and-gravel steps lead past a wing of the house with expansive windows, which I imagine provide a lovely view of the evergreen landscape. I believe that’s our native palmetto (Sabal mexicana) lifting its droopy-leaved fans to mingle with live oak limbs.


Palmetto and cast-iron plant add lush-leaved, subtropical San Antonio style (also common in Austin).


Details are simple and clean lined.


Rustic features like the rough cedar arbor are pure Central Texas.


The brochure says that the owners “envisioned a European garden reminiscent of a hotel where they had lived for three years. Architect Don McDonald…designed terraces around the house as a stage for beautifully sheared boxwood hedges and classic European pots planted with boxwood balls.”


A relaxing limestone-and-gravel terrace along the guest house…


…enjoys a view of the swimming pool and those wonderfully bent and twisted live oak trees and a gray-trunked Texas persimmon.


At the end of the lawn, a vine-draped cedar pergola with a faux bois bench offers a shady place to enjoy the view.


Looking back toward the main house


The beautifully pruned live oaks are the stars of this understated garden.


A lacy limb drapes around a narrow window in the guest house.


A small terrace off the main house features a built-in outdoor fireplace made of limestone.


A carved stone flower makes a pretty accent on the gravel paving.


A last look at the fountain, pool, and Cow Tex.


On the opposite side of the house, by a detached garage, a terraced boxwood parterre and center patio are framed by a monumental, grid-like trellis constructed of rough cedar posts and cloaked in fig ivy. The trellis runs from the garage to the house, connecting the two and creating a sort of window-walled garden room.


Clipped boxwood parterre, set off by limestone-and-brick paving.


In the central patio space, a faux bois table and chairs invite you to sit and enjoy the view. Under that long, snaking live oak limb, a handsome limestone trough and outdoor faucet make an outdoor sink.


The faux bois looks remarkably like real wood.


The elegant — and enormous — detached garage creates another sheltering wall for this outdoor space.


At a corner of the garage, in a space that might easily be overlooked, a wooden folding chair and white-garden urn create a pretty vignette.


There’s more to explore from here, as a limestone-paver path leads between boxwood spheres and olive and pine trees out to an olive grove.


Nearby, beneath the shady canopy of live oaks, classical planters and a wooden table and chairs beckon.


The classicism of this garden, tempered with rustic Central Texas features like limestone edging and shaggy cedar posts, is very appealing. European formal landscaping meets relaxing Texas style in the Ware Garden, and I loved it.

Up next: The Tupper Beinhorn Garden in San Antonio’s historic Monte Vista neighborhood.

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.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy on November 4.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors 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.

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

Cottage garden meets Zen garden: Inside Austin Gardens Tour 2017


Ever get the hankering to have two different styles of gardens at once? Daphne Jeffers — whose east Austin garden will be on the Inside Austin Gardens Tour this Saturday, May 6 — made it happen, with a flowery cottage garden out front and, in a surprising change of pace, a Zen garden out back.


Along the street, her riotously colorful garden is a gift to the neighbors and to pollinators.


Daylilies add rich color amid purple- and pink-flowering perennials.


A few poppies were still blooming.


I bet there are excellent butterfly- and hummingbird-watching opportunities here.


Head around back via a side-yard gate, and the colors become calmer and a contemplative mood prevails.


What a surprise! Bamboo fencing, an Asian-style shed, and clipped greenery introduce a meditative Japanese-style garden.


A gravel path leads around a small lawn to bermed planting beds with junipers, stones, and dry stream of Mexican beach pebbles.


From a bench tucked in a back corner, you enjoy a small waterfall trickling over limestone rocks into the pebble “pool.”


Native Texas mountain laurel has been carefully pruned for sculptural effect.


I especially admired the effect of the bamboo fencing in enhancing the Zen garden mood.


It appears to be made of rolled bamboo screening laid against a frame of lattice attached to an existing chain-link fence. Wooden framing supports it and gives a finished look.


Near the back porch, a spherical stone basin accepts a trickle of water from a bamboo fountain.


Daphne’s shady back porch, accented with potted succulents…


…is the perfect spot to enjoy the scene, which includes an Asian-style screened structure protecting a collection of bird feeders from squirrels and pigeons. Smaller birds can fit through the screen holes in order to feed.

Up next: Scenes from three more gardens on the tour, ranging from suburban to country farm. For a look back at Shari Bauer’s whimsical found-art garden, click here.

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.
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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.

How to prune clumping bamboo


I’ve known many people who are afraid to plant any kind of bamboo, even a clumping type, for fear it will take over their yard — and with good reason. Here in Austin, many a back yard is clogged with running bamboo, which is often planted for privacy along a fence but quickly metastasizes, spreading across the lawn and into the neighbors’ yards as well.

Clumping bamboos, however, don’t “run,” making them garden-safe.* Even so, they grow vigorously enough to require regular pruning in order to look their best. Take ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo, for example (pictured here). I usually prune it twice a year, in late spring and early fall, to keep it from looking like a shaggy green beast and to give it shapely definition. Here it is in beast mode (above) — lots of leaves amid a thicket of culms (the canes) that are arching over the gutters and blocking a window.


And here it is after an admittedly exuberant pruning. I removed about a quarter of the culms entirely, all the way to the ground (never cut them off halfway, which causes ugly side growth), and limbed up others, revealing the green-and-yellow stripes on the exposed canes.


I start by trimming off the side branches that grow along the culms, starting at ground level and pruning up to just above my head. How high up you prune should depend on the height of the bamboo. You do still want to have plenty of leaves up top to keep the plant healthy.


Using a pair of sharp bypass pruners, clip off the stems close to the culm, holding onto them with your free hand to keep from making a mess below. Just toss them in a bin for composting later. And be careful not to nick your free hand with the pruners!


I use a long-handled pruner for getting into the culms and pruning out weak ones or those leaning over the gutter. I also thin out culms that spread beyond the original planting.


And that’s it. It’s a pretty Zen activity, really. Here’s another look at the overgrown beast, before pruning. Nothing wrong with this, of course, if you need a green screen that won’t run, but it’s too much for a small space like this one.


And here it is after an hour of pruning. Leggy, airy, and out of the gutter!

Here are a few more bamboo-pruning resources:

I first learned about limbing up bamboo on the Austin blog Growing Optimism, which also features a nifty bamboo-and-zip-tie fence to hold leaning canes away from paths: Growing bamboo in a narrow space – pros, cons, and a solution for support

For expert advice, watch Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty explain how to prune bamboo: How to Prune Bamboo – Instructional Video w/ Plant Amnesty

Also, watch Austin’s own Merrideth Jiles share his extensive knowledge of bamboo, including pruning tips, on Central Texas Gardener: Bamboo Basics | Merredith Jiles |Central Texas Gardener

And finally, here’s a helpful list of clumping bamboos for Austin from The Great Outdoors nursery. By the way, although TGO’s guide says bamboo needs to be watered twice a week during Austin’s summers, I have not found this to be true in my garden. Once a week works fine for my established bamboos ‘Alphonse Karr’, ‘Tiny Fern’, and, to a lesser extent, Mexican weeping bamboo.

*Note: Clumpers do gradually expand but not aggressively. Please, do your research to learn which is which before buying. I can’t think of any reason to plant a runner, frankly.

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

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.

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