Snow day in Austin! It only takes a dusting


The flakes started hitting my windshield at 2:30 pm over in central-east Austin. By the time I got home I thought it was all over, but the heavy, gray sky and cold temps convinced me to start pulling pots of tender succulents up against the sheltering walls of the house, and I tossed sheets over them for good measure.


And then fat flakes started falling like something out of a Christmas movie. Hey, this is Austin — it hardly ever snows here, and we had reason to lose our minds.


Snow!!! By dusk it had begun to accumulate — at least on the plants, if not on heat-holding stone and concrete.


We threw a few snowballs scraped off the deck rail, tasted a few snowflakes (they were ripe), and watched the dog frolic in the strange cold stuff.


He’s a cold-weather lover, like his mama.


I can’t remember it ever snowing here this early in the season. When snow or ice storms happen — only about every 5 to 7 years — it’s usually in January or February. Our last real snow was in February 2011.


I measured a half inch of snow at my house. My friends on the south side of town got even more. Even family and friends in Houston — Houston! — joyfully posted pics of snowy yards on Facebook.


Of course school was cancelled today. Don’t laugh (too hard) at us — we don’t know how to drive in this stuff, and we don’t have road de-icing equipment down here. Just let us enjoy a miraculous almost-white Christmas.

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

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.

Sedgey front garden and xeriscape terrace


For one West Austin homeowner, this is the view from her front door: an undulating, rhythmic front walk of poured-concrete pavers wending through a meadowy swath of Berkeley sedge, soap aloes, and purple heart, with a scrim of yaupon hollies shielding the view of the street. A traditional lawn? No way — who wants to mow?


Here’s the street view at the other end. The left edge of the property is naturalistic under some large live oaks, although a collection of spiky heat-lovers gets some breathing room in a gravelly bed along the path’s edge.


A cluster of Yucca rostrata adds drama (and screening) at the curb. I think that’s ‘Little Ollie’ dwarf olive underfoot.


Whale’s tongue agave and purple heart combines a velvety blue-green with rich eggplant.


Farther up the path it grows shady, and Texas palmetto appears among the Berkeley sedge.


Yaupon berry adds a pop of red in fall and winter.


In the home stretch to the front door, the paver path straightens out, cruising past foxtail fern and sago palm on the left. A concrete wall creates a psychological separation between the public side of the front garden and the more-private entry space. Another wall, barely visible at far-right…


…screens the garage and parking area along the driveway from view of the front door. Here on the door side of the wall, a low-maintenance shade garden contains Berkeley sedge, mahonia, palmetto, and purple heart.


That wall extends straight out into the garden, lowering to knee height as it pulls away from the house. An arching, glossy green sago palm stands alongside.


Low-maintenance evergreens fill in under a big live oak. (I should know this one but need help on the ID.)


On the driveway side of the wall, a rain chain funnels roof runoff into a storm or French drain. Low-care and shade-tolerant Chinese mahonia, variegated flax lily, and palmetto combine with a Japanese maple and bamboo muhly to soften the contemporary design.


The owner installed three light towers near the front door. It would be cool to see these lit up at night.


This fence along the driveway caught my eye. It appears to be made of painted PVC pipes and somehow reminds me of a musical score. Or maybe a downtown skyline. Every other pipe is cut to a set height, but the other pipes are staggered to create up-and-down patterns.


Another section, with a gate to the back yard, shows a more rhythmic pattern.


Believe it or not, this custom fence runs all the way around the back garden. The standard lawn is shrunken to a broad path, with a band of sedge and bamboo muhly grasses along the fence. A gravel-and-steel stair leads past an elevated terrace (which I’ll come back to)…


…to a sloping back yard. A rain garden of Berkeley sedge occupies a wide swale below the house, ready to soak up runoff. Beneath the home’s expansive roofline, a dry gravel garden with whale’s tongue agaves occupies the rain shadow.


There’s still plenty of room left for lawn under a spreading live oak.


Let’s head back up the steps to that elevated terrace.


The terrace is essentially a rooftop garden, with Yucca rostrata, Mexican mint marigold, whale’s tongue agave, and purple heart.


A curved metal rail offers a canyon view. The open space was designed for patio seating, the landscape architect told me. Can you guess who he is?


If you guessed Curt Arnette of Sitio Design, you are right! He’s created another striking and lovely garden for a lucky Austinite. My thanks to the homeowner for allowing me to share her garden with you.

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

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.

Hill Country style in Sitio-designed garden of architect Duke Garwood


A month ago I visited a Rollingwood garden designed by landscape architect Curt Arnette of Sitio Design. It’s owned by the architect of the contemporary Hill Country-style home, Duke Garwood, whom I also had the pleasure of meeting.

Let’s start in back, where a limestone patio bordered with shaggy zoysia turf flows out to a resort-worthy swimming pool. A palm- and Yucca rostrata-studded garden steps up around the pool and creates an enticing view from inside.


In the foreground, a circular stone fire pit filled with fire-safe blue glass stands ready to warm chilly evenings. I love the meadowy (unmown), ‘Emerald’ zoysia grass edging the patio.


Fan-like giant hesperaloe grows along the foundation, underplanted with cascading silver ponyfoot.


The pool’s edge is beautifully constructed of cut limestone, while limestone boulders hold the slope behind the pool and form the naturalistic waterfall, as well as a diving rock at right.


Gorgeous stonework


Beyond the pool, massive boulders terrace the slope and create planting beds for palms, yuccas, firebush, golden thryallis, and coral bean, which combine to create a tropicalesque look.


Yucca rostrata in the foreground, with pomegranate and coral bean


Natural stone supports the curved and notched waterfall wall, and extends underwater like limestone at natural springs all around Austin.


One last wide shot


Now let’s tour the front garden. Water figures prominently here too, leading visitors along the front walk via a rill that traverses a series of limestone walls. To the right of the limestone walk, whale’s tongue agaves and tufts of Berkeley sedge fill in gaps among flat-topped boulders.


The walls also create a safety rail of sorts, blocking a steep drop-off behind them, and the tops function as planters.


Red yucca and silver ponyfoot thrive up top.


Pipes jut from the golden limestone upper walls and spill water into the pale limestone troughs below. The water flows along the rill…


…and into a galvanized-steel sluice, which pours into a cylindrical pond that evokes an old stone cistern. Bristly heads of Yucca rostrata peek up from the slope behind the rill and pond.


I believe that’s bigfoot water clover (Marsilea macropoda) encircling one side of the pond.


Along the front walk, ‘Blonde Ambition’ blue grama grass…


…and orange narrowleaf zinnia thrive in hot, sunny conditions.


The cut-limestone paving of the front walk is fitted around natural boulders.


Just past the circular pool, a stair leads down to a landing, and from there down to the garage. Another stair off that landing leads up to Duke’s home office (at left).


The limestone stair with natural boulders holding a planting bed of palmetto and Berkeley sedge. Contained by the paving (and maybe a sunken barrier too?), horsetail reed grows vertically against the house at the top of the steps.


Texas palmetto and firebush


Steel sluice fountain, as seen from the steps


The garage and driveway sit at the bottom of the slope, with a row of bamboo muhly at left. To orient yourself, the limestone wall-fountain runs along the front walk behind the yuccas at top-right.


It’s woodsy and more natural looking here. Morning glory twines charmingly up a native juniper. Nandina grows below. (Although beautiful and tough, nandina is an invasive plant in our greenbelts and toxic to birds, and so it’s one of the few plants I recommend eradicating.)


I believe Curt told me that Duke designed this cool contemporary steel fence and gate. That’ll never rot!


It’s always a pleasure to see a beautiful house and garden so well integrated. My thanks to Duke for giving me a tour of his home too!

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

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.

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