Urban meadow and security landscaping at Austin forensics center and police station


How many police stations have landscaping like this? I spotted this raised meadow while driving through East Austin recently and slammed on the brakes to get a better look.


From the street — 812 Springdale Road, in the Govalle neighborhood — you see this along one side of the property: rolling berms with a rusty steel edge resembling rounded waves.


To the left of the berms is the raised meadow, laid out in a contemporary pattern that radiates outward in concentric arcs.


When you walk into the space, it becomes more maze-like, with paths that turn back on themselves as you search for the center.


You have to work your way there…


…where you find built-in benches…


…overlooking what must once have been an intentional water feature but is now just a stagnant, icky pool that’s probably breeding mosquitoes. Maintenance is always crucial to a garden’s survival, and this one seems to be getting just a mow-and-blow treatment these days.


But still, it’s a cool design. I was intrigued!


What’s this unique landscaping doing outside a police substation and forensics center? I went online to find out and learned that the facility was constructed in 2004 with a friendly face for the surrounding neighborhood (you’d never know there was a blood-spatter analysis room and a firing range inside), replacing an older police station surrounded by a blight of security fencing.


Instead of ugly fencing, security from vehicular attack (car bombs? ramming?) is now achieved through defensive landscaping — the rolling berms and elevated, steel-edged meadow.

As TAG International, the design team, explains:

“Security was a major design priority, with the goal of achieving a high level of threat resistance without projecting an unwelcoming image. Many passive security strategies were utilized to deliver heightened security without diminishing the center’s friendly presence in the neighborhood….Landscape features were also designed to protect the facility through the utilization of berms as further vehicle impediments.”


As it happens, this is more than just an updated version of a moated castle.


The landscaping is also a public arts project — and the elevated meadow of native plants is arranged in a fingerprint design as a tribute to the investigative work performed at the police station and forensics center. Cool, huh?

According to the public art directory at NowPlayingAustin, the project is titled “Elevated Prairie”:

“To complement the function of the facility, this earthwork consists of a simple labyrinth in the shape of a fingerprint, composed of low, steel-walled planters landscaped with native Texas grasses. At the center of the ‘fingerprint’ is a small fountain, surrounded by a seating area. Beyond the central planters is an area of low, rolling berms, which echo the fingerprint pattern and radiate across the remaining common lawn areas of the site. Medium: Steel planters, fountain, earth berms, and native landscaping”


Here’s another look at the street view — definitely eye-catching!


The native-plant meadow, while degraded through lack of real gardening attention, is still attractive thanks to the strong bones of the design and regular mowing. Although the planters are overrun with weeds, some of the original native plants are still blooming, like mealy blue sage, attracting butterflies and bees.


Native plants also make up the more traditionally designed foundation plantings around the facility, including bur oak, American beautyberry, and dwarf yaupon. While a bit overclipped, these are holding up well, proving that native shrubs and trees — just like non-native shrubs and trees — are easier to maintain than more gardener-needy perennials, annuals, and ornamental grasses, wonderful as those are.

Do you know of any other defensive landscaping efforts in your city? I’m intrigued by this, and it’s so much more attractive than concrete bollards, a row of boulders, and other typical security landscaping measures.

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

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.

High desert in bloom at Santa Fe Botanical Garden


Two weeks ago today we drove west on a spontaneously planned, cutting-it-close-with-the-first-day-of-school, two-week road trip through West Texas, northern New Mexico, and western Colorado. One of our early stops was Santa Fe, New Mexico, a beautiful old city we once regularly visited but hadn’t seen in 16 years. One of its newest attractions, opened in 2013, is the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

Sited close to town on Museum Hill, the garden — still in its infancy, with only Phase 1 open at this time — makes for a pleasant hour-long meander under china-blue desert skies, with the rugged folds of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains visible in the distance.


Although the terrain is high desert (Santa Fe’s elevation is 7,199 feet), the sun-washed garden appears surprisingly lush with roses, lavender, switchgrass, agastache, and mullein.


Sparingly used as accents, cacti like eye-catching ‘Snow Leopard’ cholla (Cylindropuntia whipplei ‘Snow Leopard’) stand out beautifully, especially against the wine-colored blossoms of Mojave sage (Salvia pachyphylla) and reddish-pink sandstone walls.


I love that peachy-pink color echo!


Low walls create small garden rooms furnished with benches.


My daughter tries one out next to a stunning Mojave sage.


Any chance this can tolerate the Gulf of Mexico humidity and drenching rains of Austin? I wish! (See High Country Gardens for its listing, which suggests annual rainfall of 10-20 inches.)


Sometimes you have to get low to get a shot of a cool plant.


Here’s her quarry: a little prickly pear with valentine-like pads.


Warm-hued paths of decomposed granite edged with sandstone lead in straight lines through the main garden. Stone blocks add extra seating and natural accents.


Mullein and switchgrass


Agastache


Straight-line gravel and flagstone paths divide the main garden into a grid, with an orchard of fruit trees and an eco-lawn of native turf grasses anchoring the center.


Peach tree


In long borders on each side, shrub roses and lavender add color and fragrance.


Bees were working the lavender.


Roses and lavender, a treat for the nose


Another view of the orchard and lawn


Geranium ‘Rozanne’…


…and hardy plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) seem right at home here too.


Bluestem ephedra (Ephedra equisetina) caught my eye with its slender, upright, blue stems that are reminiscent of horsetail. Although dry loving, it’s clearly a spreader.


Several contemporary sculptures were on temporary display during our visit, including this one by Bill Barrett.


A wider view, with boulder-like sculptures by Candyce Garrett, part of the garden’s permanent collection


‘Radiant’ crabapple (Malus × ‘Radiant’), laden with rosy fruit against green and gold leaves (turning already?)


One more


We just missed by a couple of months the opening of Phase 2 of the garden, Ojos y Manos: Eyes and Hands, “a place to explore ethnobotany – the shared history of humans and plants in northern New Mexico – through hands-on experiences and observation.” Just across the red bridge — the 100-year-old Kearny’s Gap Bridge, relocated from Las Vegas, NM — workers were busily moving soil and stone and preparing planting beds for the projected October opening.


Back at the entrance, we rested in the shade of a tall-backed stucco banco, next to a trickling wall fountain.


Across the patio, a stylized ramada of rusty steel poles and bundled sticks crisscrosses over benches, offering little shade but creating interesting shadows.

Landscape architect W. Gary Smith, who designed the family garden at Austin’s own Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, designed Santa Fe Botanical Garden “to demonstrate environmentally sustainable gardening.” I’m sure it must already be inspiring locals to plant many of the beautiful plants on display here. I look forward to visiting SFBG again one day to see how it has matured.

Up next: Sightseeing in Santa Fe.

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

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.

Magical mosaics in the garden of Wouterina De Raad, Part 2: Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling


Yesterday I shared Part 1 of my visit to Wisconsin artist Wouterina De Raad’s mosaic sculpture garden, which was the final garden — and my favorite — on the recent Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling. Today I’ll end my Fling series with Part 2 about Wouterina‘s delightful, exploratory garden.

In addition to Wouterina’s fanciful sculptures, the exuberant garden is accented with a half-dozen small structures like this stucco (or concrete?) “little house” with sky-blue trim. They make charming focal points and backdrops for plants and sculpture, like the Statue of Liberty pictured at right.


Check out this supersized fish bench, with a mosaic-tile woman reclining like Jonah in the whale!


In another part of the garden, three human figures are actually chairs themselves.


They even have flowerpot heads.


This one wears succulents in her hair and bracelets on her arm.


Many of Wouterina’s creations wear strings of lights, and this piece looks like an actual lamp. How I’d love to visit her garden at night. I did find this article in the StarTribune that has a couple of photographs of the garden lit up, so check it out.


Another little house — this one colored a rosy salmon. Two sculpted jaguars support a bench by the door.


Wouterina has matched plants to the house color, amplifying the effect.


Peeking in the window of one little house reveals an audience of Wouterina’s creations peering back at me. In a nod to the farm country that surrounds the garden, a rusty old toy truck transports toy horses, cows, and ears of corn!


Behind the house, another arch supports a sculpted snake — who seems to be reading the “Outhouse” sign.


A flock of mosaic crows or ravens occupies this corner of the garden, including one at a birdbath…


…two on an arch, and two more on stumps up ahead.


In a sunny spot, with a big barn as a backdrop, crimson poppies spill over a low fence made of windmill blades.


Behind the poppies, Wouterina grows rows of vegetables, and mesh stars dance along an old section of iron fencing.


I remember asking someone what this plant is, but I forgot. Update: It’s a thalictrum. Thanks, Helen!


Foliage color contrasts


Allium seedheads and a mermaid figurine


A wider view…


…with a mosaic fish sculpture swimming above the garden.


The underwater theme continues with a mermaid and fish sculpture.


What is she holding up, a lamp? Again, I’d love to see this place at night.


Horsetail fills a fish planter at her feet.


I spotted Susan and Layanee sitting on a sculpted bench nearby, engrossed in conversation. What a spot for it.


A glimpse of farmland just past the garden’s edge


A playful bench and table set is another Wouterina creation. The benches are, I think, caterpillars with distinctly cat-like faces. A colorful sculpted bird sits on this one’s head.


And a monkey (?) takes this one for a ride.


Near a chicken coop stand two more sculpted birds.


A mermaid in dramatic repose


Oh, hello!


Tucked amid plants, a sculpted blue jay planter contains a flowering hosta (surely the signature plant of this year’s Fling).


A mosaic planter and pedestal are softened by surrounding grasses.


This chicken throne invites the Chicken Queen — whoever that might be — to take a seat.


Wouterina likes to elevate pots on pedestals in her garden beds, like this one tucked amid white and pink yarrow. Looking on in the background…


…are a sculpted woman holding birds and plants and her companion, a red-crested bird.


In a sunny spot at the edge of a field, I found another small garden room. At the end of the path, arches of rebar stand out against the sky.


Beneath the rebar arches, a sculpted planter draws the eye…


…to a view of the field beyond.


The ground-level view is lovely too, with contrasting foliage colors and textures.


As our visit drew to a close, I lingered near the house, where I found this tiered birdhouse…


…and an alert dog watching from the hydrangeas.


He looks friendly, doesn’t he?


As I reluctantly headed to the bus, I overheard Vicki asking Wouterina about a lovely little euphorbia.


Like giving gardeners everywhere, Wouterina immediately offered her a division. Lucky Vicki!

My thanks to Wouterina for sharing her magical creation with us. And huge thanks to the organizers of the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers FlingAmy Andrychowicz, Kathleen Hennessy, and Mary Lahr Schier — for all their work in putting together a wonderful weekend of garden tours, happy hours, and dinners! If you’re a garden blogger and are interested in attending next year’s Fling, it will be held in the Capital region — Washington, D.C., northern Virginia, and Maryland — and hosted by Tammy of Casa Mariposa (click for early details). Hope to see you there!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing many of the gardens of the Minneapolis Fling. For a look back at Part 1 of Wouterina De Raad’s Mosaic Sculpture Park, click here. You’ll find links back to all my Minneapolis Fling posts at the end of each post.

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

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.

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