English garden in Virginia horse country: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


Attending Garden Bloggers Fling is always a whirlwind of garden touring and socializing with other bloggers. I come home with ideas bouncing around in my head, as well as a sense of new connections made and friendships renewed — not to mention hundreds of photos to sort through and share here at Digging.

This year’s Capital Region Fling was hosted in the Washington, D.C. area (including Maryland and northern Virginia) by the indefatigable Tammy Schmitt of Casa Mariposa. I’m going to share the gardens in reverse order, starting with a rural estate garden near Middleburg, Virginia — the last private garden we visited, and a vision of English-country relaxed elegance.


The estate consists of 180 acres, if I recall correctly, and a historic home dating to 1790 — which boggled my mind. That’s ancient for a young country like the U.S. As we walked up the drive, we first passed a fenced vegetable garden (top photo) and a handsome black-stained barn.


This is horse country, as Tammy told us, although if horses live here I didn’t see any.


The home itself is well proportioned and inviting, and the owner welcomed us here and gave us a little history of the place. She and her husband bought the property not long after they married in the 1970s. When she decided to make a garden, she traveled to England to visit and study as many gardens as she could before starting her own.


As you enter the left side yard, you pass a white stucco garden shed with a standing-seam roof and classical wall fountain framed by twin trellises, clipped boxwood, and bronze heuchera.


And then the back-yard lawn opens before you, flowing out from a raised terrace off the back of the house. The house overlooks a long perennial border (not visible here), past which rolling green fields spread out to a wooded horizon. Walking toward the white arbor at left…


…you enter a formal side garden with boxwood-lined gravel paths.


A birdbath acts as a focal point along one path, with white hydrangeas blooming beyond.


At the end of the path, two hare ornaments face each other atop a low stone wall…


…one of several charming animal figures I spotted in the garden.


The path curves around a flowering white hydrangea to a sunny border anchored by a semicircular pond.


Its formal edge softened with a line of variegated grasses and geranium, the pond contains lotus, waterlilies, and other water lovers.


A banjo-playing frog adds a humorous note.


For humans who love getting wet, a swimming pool beckons, with a row of chaises and striped towels that echo the orange and gray patio stones. Fence-lined fields stretch off in the distance.


A tilted verdigris urn cemented into the patio spills water into the pool.


Past the pool, a sunny parterre garden is backed by a picturesque, hip-roofed garden shed.


At its center, pink sweet peas clamber over a rooster statue.


The shed is nestled amid shrubs and perennials.


As the lot slopes gently downhill, the garden steps down into a sunken lawn framed on one side by a stone wall and row of trees.


Chinese Chippendale-style chairs make conversation areas at each corner of the wall.


Atop the wall, a bronze fox slinks past.


A stone birdbath with carved koi adorns another part of the wall.


A pair of weeping trees guards a white gate leading out to the horse fields.


Purple drumstick alliums stand tall in a sunny perennial border.


Bees were busy at their work here.


Hydrangeas, however, were the stars of the early summer garden. Here a white hydrangea overhangs a blue lacecap, with cleome filling in below.


Heading back through the white arbor toward the house (note the compass carved into the stone paver)…


…I stopped to admire more alliums in a long mixed border of perennials, shrubs, and trees.


A stone path cuts through the border, under arching tree limbs, to an inviting black gate overlooking sun-washed fields.


A pastoral view


What a treat it was to visit this beautiful, English-style rural garden in northern Virginia’s horse country.

Up next: The colorful garden of designer Linda Hostetler.

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

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

Life is beautiful at Moroccan-inspired Tanglewild Gardens


As we roll toward summer here in Austin, this gardener begins to fantasize about decamping for cooler climes, like the Pacific Northwest, a gardener’s paradise. So it was surprising and enlightening to hear Skottie O’Mahony and Jeff Breitenstein, longtime Seattle residents who are now cultivating an exotic, ambitious garden in North Austin, explain why they moved to Central Texas three years ago:

“We needed to move to a warmer and less rainy climate,” they said, and Austin’s long, hot summer (combined with regular watering) jump-starts their tropical-esque garden each spring, encouraging early, lush growth. The couple also hybridizes daylilies — they’re currently growing more than 1,000 cultivars — and they can establish new plants from seed much faster here than in Seattle. So there you go — sometimes the Death Star can be your friend!


When I visited Tanglewild Gardens last weekend with a couple of friends, Skottie and Jeff hospitably invited us into their home, a 1971 split-level that they’ve transformed inside and out with Moroccan-influenced furnishings and decor, and out through the back door onto an expansive, comfortably furnished porch.


White stucco walls and black trim, a tiled roof, and oversized Moroccan lanterns create an exotic mood, even under cloudy skies threatening rain. The porch roof is clad in old cedar boards that Jeff and Skottie repurposed when they tore out an existing fence to build their garden walls. They used the fence boards on their living room ceiling as well, to wonderful effect — and as Skottie pointed out, less waste went into the landfill.


The swimming pool and back porch came with the house, but the white stuccoed walls are their addition, for Moroccan-style enclosure and privacy and to create distinct garden rooms.


String lights traverse the courtyard for evening enjoyment of the garden. Windows in the walls that extend outward from the house are inset with Moroccan-inspired, laser-cut metal panels, allowing air flow and a hint of the gardens beyond.


Antique doors in the walls create beautiful focal points and invite you to explore the rest of the garden. A mirror at the far end of the pool cleverly creates the illusion of another doorway.


Vernonia flower. Skottie says that in Seattle, when you drop something on the ground it grows, but in Texas you’re lucky if half of what you plant survives. Gardening here has been a learning curve, he admits.


Two enormous Texas mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora), native trees with wisteria-like flowers in spring, were here when they bought the house. Not realizing what they were, they almost cut them down until an arborist convinced them otherwise. The ghost lanterns are Halloween decorations that Jeff liked so much he decided to leave them out year-round.


A tiki bar in the pool courtyard is adorned with a flowering desert rose (Adenium obesum) and, in the smaller pot, a Texas touch — ball moss, our native tillandsia.


More desert roses adorn a tray table next to an intricately carved teak doorway.


Let’s step through…


…into the Moon Garden, which is filled with pale-leaved and fragrant, white-flowering plants for evening enjoyment.


A tall, black-painted fence lets the pale plants shine. Tall, shaggy-trunked palms add height and structure, and a tiered fountain anchors a sitting area with benches.


A white-flowering vitex and moonshine-yellow cannas glow in low light.


Three carved figures — Thai rice goddesses — adorn the rear fence.


Beautiful artwork


Another Moroccan doorway beckons here. They had the walls constructed to fit the wooden doorways they’d collected from antique dealers.


Looking back toward the rice goddess figures


Moving on, this part of the garden, just below the pool courtyard, is densely shaded by live oaks, and tropical-looking rice paper plant (Tetrapanax papyrifer) grows abundantly.


Looking back up toward the pool courtyard


Heading away from the house, you come to their daylily breeding beds, all carefully labeled in raised wooden planters. A garage and shed, which the couple transformed with Thai-style accents like carved wooden panels, tiled roofs, and cedar-board skirting, enclose the space.


More daylily beds plus a cedar-skirted greenhouse


Inside the greenhouse grow flats of coleus cuttings, which they plan to plant once the daylilies are done, to fill the gaps with foliage color.


Walking to the back of their lot, an area they planted just last year, you get the feeling that the garden is even larger than its 1.7 acres. Water is abundant. They have a well, a spring, and a stretch of Tar Branch Creek (visible at lower-right), which sold them on the property. Eager for more gardening space, they left behind a tiny garden in Seattle, a plot the size of their current swimming pool area.


Another porch is visible off the back of the garage.


An upside-down tree, seeming to scuttle like Thing in the Addams Family, makes a sculptural focal point for the far end of the garden. Jeff explained that the tiny iron star affixed to it denotes a special tree in their garden and is one of five they’ve given a badge of honor. When I pointed out that they’ve adopted the Texas state symbol like natives, he laughingly said they were glad to have Texas stars now, to keep up with their Vancouver friends who adorn their gardens with Canadian maple leaves.


Here’s a surprising sight in their garden, one that they inherited with the property: a sword poking right through an old tree! Texcalibur, they’ve dubbed it. It looks as if it was placed years ago in a crotch of the tree or hacked into its trunk, and the tree grew around it, sealing it inside its widening trunk. Or is it a trick, I wondered, with two halves of a sword stuck on either side of a limb to look like it goes through?

Curious to know more, I searched online later to see if anyone had written about a sword in a tree in North Austin and found an article by Mike Cox, complete with a legend about Spanish explorers and hidden gold. In the 2011 article, an unidentified Austinite in his 70s is quoted as saying he saw what looked like an old Spanish sword in a tree near Walnut Creek in the late 1940s, when he was in the 7th or 8th grade. There’s also a Reddit thread that mentions rumors of a sword in a tree, although no one seemed to know exactly where it was.

And now Skottie and Jeff have lucked onto it. Putting aside the improbability that it’s actually a Spanish sword from the 1700s, it’s still got to be pretty old if it was already embedded in the tree back in the 1940s. When I shared the legend with Skottie, he said, “That is wild about the sword tale. Don’t I wish there was gold back there. Mostly what we find while digging is burnt foil and glass. I think the sword points to the former owner’s garbage burning area.” So much for legends, but still, what an interesting thing to find on your property. And imagine the tall tales you could spin yourself!


The real treasure to be found here, of course, is the garden that Jeff and Skottie are making, an exotic eden that evokes Morocco and Thailand with a Texas twist.


Vita pulchra est, Latin for Life is beautiful, is spelled out on their garden shed, and indeed it is. Thanks for the tour, Skottie and Jeff!


Local readers, if you’d like to see their garden yourself, you can this weekend. Tanglewild Gardens is one of four gardens on the Austin Daylily Society’s free tour this Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. You might also like to follow the Facebook page for Tanglewild Gardens.

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

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tanglewild Gardens and Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Calling all pond lovers! The Austin Pond & Garden Tour is coming up June 3rd (North Austin ponds and night pond) and 4th (South Austin ponds). Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased online and include entry to all 20 ponds.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

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.

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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