Waterwise outside, oasis inside a walled Sonoma garden


Last August a family road trip took me through Sonoma, California, where I had the pleasure of seeing a garden I was writing about for Garden Design magazine. The owner, Marilyn Coon Stocke, had generously extended an invitation to me and my family, and so we stopped by after a visit to Cornerstone Sonoma and its gardens.


My earlier phone interview with Marilyn had been mainly about the garden inside the courtyard walls, which she’d hired landscape architect Mike Lucas to build to block the wind and provide privacy from the road. But as we approached her garden gate, I was wowed by the waterwise exterior garden. Blazing orange flower spikes of kangaroo paws towered over tuffets of chartreuse lomandra. Both plants hail from Australia and are water thrifty and heat tolerant, allowing Marilyn to focus limited water resources on her interior courtyard garden.

By the parking area, a tumbleweed-like sphere of barbed wire makes a sculptural, Wild West-style accent.


How I wish we could successfully grow kangaroo paws here in Austin! Alas for our sauna-like summers.


Majestic Weber’s agaves punctuate a meadowy front garden of lomandra and tall verbena.


Large cutout windows in the white walls of the courtyard offer peek-a-boo glimpses of the secret garden inside. A barn-door-style shutter can slide closed to keep out the wind.


Eucalyptus and bottlebrush (Callistemon) add more Australian foliage.


Inside the courtyard, a sheltered, green oasis greets you, and a trough-style water feature flanked by an elevated terrace leads to the front door.


A bisecting path frames a view of the trough’s scupper fountain through towering agapanthus blossoms.


The agapanthus flowers were nearly spent by early August but still lovely.


To the right you see steps leading up to the front door, and a row of ‘Livin’ Easy’ rose standards.


The apricot-orange roses echo the orange of the kangaroo paws outside the wall.


Boston ivy traces green-leaved tendrils across the white walls, making a green frame for the window views.


And what a view through this window! I love seeing that big Weber’s agave flexing its muscles amid purple salvia, with a row of eucalyptus trees and golden hills beyond. In the foreground, a firepit and built-in seating offer a reason to stay a while.


Opposite the window, the firepit axis leads straight out of the courtyard and through an allee of ornamental pear trees, which reference the property’s history as a pear orchard.


As a focal point at the end of the allee, a water feature made from a manganese rock crusher — essentially a giant dish — bubbles gently. From here, the garden proper ends, and the path leads to the wilder parts of the property and, eventually, to a borrowed view of a neighbor’s vineyard. Ah, the beautiful Sonoma wine country.

My thanks to Marilyn for the tour of her lovely home and garden! It was a treat to meet her too. If you’d like to read more about her garden, just get your hands on a copy of the Winter 2018 issue of Garden Design and look for my article on page 54.

P.S. Marilyn’s home and garden fortunately escaped damage from the Sonoma wildfires last fall, which I was relieved to hear.

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 this May 3rd-6th! 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 © 2006-2018 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

The twinkliest town in the Hill Country


If you want to see trees made of light and a charmingly illuminated main square, go visit Johnson City, a small town of 2,000 residents, located about an hour west of Austin. Every December they turn their town into a beautiful spectacle of light — called Lights Spectacular — and it’s all completely free and free of traffic jams.


We finally escaped a monster traffic jam near downtown Austin during Wednesday rush hour, and from there it was an easy drive with Texas-style Christmas tunes playing on Sun Radio. Ever heard Kacey Musgraves’s “A Willie Nice Christmas”?: May we all get higher than the angel on the top of the tree.

Ahem.


The most incredible display is at Pedernales Electric Co-op, where 1.2 million LED lights transform dozens of mature live oaks around their headquarters into branching, dazzling nebulae. Photos cannot convey how magical it is.


Being live oaks, the trees still have all their leathery leaves, which faintly reflect the lights, creating a cloud-like halo above the sinuous trunks.


And ah, those trunks and branches and limbs of light! Each one is picked out in exquisite detail through masses of lights. Larger lights thread through the leafy canopies above.


Kids run around under the lights, couples hold hands, and families gaze upward, their faces illuminated by the arboreal glow.


After walking around the co-op to view all the trees, we strolled a couple of blocks over to the town square to admire the waterfall effect of lights hanging from the Blanco County Courthouse.


On the courthouse lawn a reindeer paddock contains Santa’s herd until Christmas Eve.


The surrounding businesses get in on the action too.


Lots of lights and plenty of small-town charm.


Maybe some of these are residential homes?


I love this one.


This house has its own tree of light.


Back at the co-op, a light-adorned tractor was pulling hayriders around, and a food truck offered cups of hot chocolate. A guy playing a guitar sang Christmas carols under the trees.


This place will take the stress out of your holiday.


And as Kacey sings in her Willie song:

I hope you have a really
A really, really Willie nice Christmas
And Willie Happy New Year too
Have a Willie happy Hanukkah
Feliz Navidad-ukkah
A Willie happy Kwanzaa ’cause it’s all the same
A Mele Kalikimaka, hey
Whatever way you wanna say
Just have yourself a
Really, really, really
A really, really Willie nice 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.
_______________________

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.

Flora and fauna of Oregon in copper at UO Alumni Center


If you happen to be in Eugene, Oregon, and want to see beautiful nature art, visit the University of Oregon’s Ford Alumni Center and look for the big hearth wall. On a visit to this pretty college town last summer I fell for the work Contemplari Natura by alumna Tallmadge Doyle.


The work consists of 21 etched and colored copper panels that depict the flora and fauna of Oregon, built into a wall of Lebanon cedar surrounding an 8-foot-wide fireplace. Each exquisite panel reveals a lifelike glimpse of an indigenous creature, such as frog, turtle, fox, and octopus, as well as native plants like fern and elderberry.


Lovely, aren’t they? Imagine cozying up to a hearth amid such scenes as these. For more of Doyle’s artwork, visit her website.

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.

Follow