Visiting the 9/11 Memorial, 13 years later


The blue-sky, sunny day was reminiscent of the beautiful morning of September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked and the World Trade Center towers fell.

During our trip to New York City in mid-October, my daughter and I visited the 9/11 Memorial. Now almost 15, my daughter was 18 months old on 9/11/01. She doesn’t remember it, but I will never forget the horror of watching on TV as the Twin Towers crumbled to pieces, the awful realization that our country was under attack, and the fear of not knowing what was happening and wondering if I should run back to school to pick up my son from his kindergarten classroom. My mother was flying into Austin that day to visit us, and I was relieved to reach her by phone when her plane was grounded in Dallas.


I couldn’t help reflecting on all this as we entered the memorial grounds. The memorial consists of two monumental black pools in the footprints where the former towers stood. Water cascading down the walls around the pools makes a rushing roar, a white noise that drowns out the sounds of the city.


The waterfalls pour into a square abyss in the center of each pool, which I found both disturbing and appropriate for conveying loss. A regularly spaced grove of swamp white oak trees provides shade, beauty, and life throughout the memorial plaza.


As you overlook the pools, your hands rest on the engraved names of the nearly 3,000 people who died where you are standing or in the other attacks on 9/11. The memorial’s website explains how the names are organized: “[The] names of the victims…are inscribed in bronze around the perimeters of the two pools. The arrangement of names is based on layers of ‘meaningful adjacencies’ that reflect where the victims were on 9/11 and relationships they shared with others who were killed that day, honoring requests from victims’ families for specific names to be next to one another.”


After looking at both pools we rested on a bench under the trees, taking in the view of the new One World Trade Center building, which would open the following month. The tallest skyscraper in the U.S. at a symbolic 1,776 feet, the new tower soars upward in a triangular point over the memorial pools.

I wish we’d also visited the Memorial Museum, which opened to the public in May, but the line to enter was long, and we needed to get back to the High Line for our return walk before it got dark. I will definitely make time for it the next time I’m in New York.

Postscript: I’ve held off on posting about my visit to the 9/11 Memorial because it didn’t feel right to write about it in concert with my garden-visit posts. The solemnity of Veteran’s Day today seems an appropriate moment. For more about my memory of 9/11, see a post I wrote on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Melody’s romantic garden of passalong plants in San Antonio


Last year Shirley of Rock-Oak-Deer blogged about the garden of her neighbor Melody. I had met Melody at talks I gave in San Antonio and Brenham, so I read about her garden with particular interest. And I was thrilled when Shirley and Melody arranged for me and a small group of friends to make a fall visit.


Melody and a welcome party consisting of her adult daughter and several friends greeted us as we drove up to her north San Antonio home. Ushering us inside she treated us to a spread of tasty muffins, ginger cookies, and fruit-flavored vinegars you mix with water. Happily munching we enjoyed a window-wall view of her beautiful swimming pool and garden.


Melody then gave us a tour of her garden, which was like an introduction to her friends and family who’d passed along many of her plants over the years. Isn’t that one of the joys of gardening, how plants given to us by friends have a special place in our hearts?


Planted under live oaks, with patches of sunlight that support a number of roses and flowering perennials, Melody’s garden feels much more rural than it really is. It’s actually in a suburban neighborhood, but her large lot and surrounding belts of trees, and even a barn that used to house her daughter’s horse, create a country-garden vibe.


A pair of rustic cedar arbors reinforces the illusion. Melody told us that she modeled the design on cedar arbors at the San Antonio location of Antique Rose Emporium, now closed. They reminded me of how much I miss that nursery and its gorgeous display gardens.


Decomposed-granite paths lead under the arbors into a large shade garden. Blue sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) climbs one of the arbors.


Lori of The Gardener of Good and Evil, my fellow roadtripper, adorned her hat with one of the blossoms.


A woodsy cedar bench and table in the shade garden is a perfect match for the cedar arbors. But what really caught my eye was a log planter.


Melody was growing a delicate fern in a hollow space in the log — so cool! She told me the name of the fern — not one I was familiar with — and then I promptly forgot. Update: It’s artillery fern (Pilea microphylla), a tropical, fern-like plant. Thanks for the ID, Ragna.


A lovely limestone barn now functions as a neat-as-a-pin, glowing toolshed.


Pumpkins on the wood-framed windowsill, overhung with vines — just another part of the romance of Melody’s vine-draped garden.


Speaking of vines, an entire fence was abloom with the beautiful pink flowers of coral vine, also known as queen’s wreath (Antigonon leptopus).


This Mexican native blooms in the fall with spring-like color before going dormant for winter.


It was the perfect backdrop for our hostess and queen of the garden. Thank you, Melody, for sharing your lovely garden with us! For more and better pictures of Melody’s garden, see Shirley’s two posts about it: a 2013 visit and a 2014 visit.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my San Antonio garden visits. For a look back at my tour of Heather’s xeric-style garden, click here. And for Shirley’s deer-resistant gravel garden, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Heather’s Xericstyle garden in San Antonio


Last week I roadtripped south with a few friends to see the gardens of our San Antonio blogger friends, Heather Ginsburg of Xericstyle and Shirley Fox of Rock-Oak-Deer, plus Shirley’s neighbor and gardening friend Melody. I posted about Shirley’s garden here. Today I’ll show you Heather’s garden.


Heather boldly ripped out her entire front lawn when she moved into her suburban ranch house a few years ago. A Canadian transplant, she had a lot to learn about gardening in hot, dry, south-central Texas, but she’s a quick study and soon filled her garden with native grasses; agaves, yuccas, and prickly pear for structure; and flowering perennials for color and to attract wildlife.


As she experimented with lawn alternatives that can survive with only enough supplemental water to get them established, she started a blog called Xericstyle and won over lots of followers with her enthusiasm and her fresh, modern take on the xeriscape garden.


Along with the garden overhaul, Heather and her husband did a lot of work on their house to modernize it, including giving their front porch a facelift with fresh colors and accessories like these mod chairs and zigzag-patterned, orange-and-white pillows. That frothy, silver-green groundcover is ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia.


Terracotta pots filled with sotol, prickly pear, and golden barrel cactus add to the orange color scheme.


The side view


Heather orange-creamsicled her front door, and an orange Circle Pot trailing a Rapunzel-like succulent adds more bold color. And how about this for a fun surprise: Heather hung a string of glass votive holders on the front door…


…and planted them with succulents too!


Butternut squash-colored paint on the brick siding combines well with a grayish orange pumpkin.


A detail on the fence to her back garden


While many of Heather’s potted plants are one-plant-per-pot, like this yellow firecracker fern…


…she’s not afraid of creating combos like this cactus, feathergrass, and silver ponyfoot mash-up.


Heather ripped out all the lawn in back as well, replacing it with a large decomposed-granite patio by the back door that flows into the side yard, creating a sense of openness and room for several seating areas. She broke up the expanse with an island of perennials and potted herbs, accented with a orange-painted bamboo tuteur.

To the left, just out of frame, is an area Heather has been experimenting with, trying to find a lawn alternative that will stand up to kids’ play plus not require regular watering. Frogfruit was a partial success, but a large section suffered this summer in full sun without supplemental water. Heather continues to experiment, and one of the things I love about her blog is how she candidly details these plant trials.


A Mexican Fiesta flag string adds fun color across the back porch. That’s Cat of The Whimsical Gardener snapping me snapping her. I think we have a series of pictures like this. Just beyond Cat you can see a red bench and chairs around a fire pit.


Around the corner of the house are two picnic tables for gatherings of family and friends. A Day of the Dead skull is the centerpiece on one table.


A closer look shows that it’s also a succulent planter.


Hanging on the fence are repurposed exhaust pipes that Heather and her husband turned into succulent and cactus planters.


Heather always has a big, beautiful smile on her face, and she only looks serious here because I caught her explaining something (probably something about worms!). I adore her sense of style, especially that skirt. Thank you, Heather, for taking time off work to give us a tour of your lovely, xeric-style garden! For more, you really don’t want to miss Heather’s star turn on Central Texas Gardener. Her enthusiasm for tough native and adapted plants (and worms!) is contagious; you’ll love it.


Heather and Shirley, plus Rambling Wren, are the only San Antonio garden bloggers I know of, despite the fact that San Antonio is considerably larger than Austin. I wonder why that is? San Antonio is a beautiful city, with more colonial history and old-Mexico influence than you see in Austin. It’s also a particularly adept city at conserving water. In fact, the City of Austin has modeled some of its conservation efforts after San Antonio’s successes. I think Alamo City gardeners have a lot to teach about gardening in drought and heat, and I’d love to see more gardeners there start blogging to share their successes and experiments, and to give interested readers an intimate picture of gardening in central-south Texas.

Up next: Melody’s lushly planted San Antonio oasis of passalong plants framed by rustic cedar arbors and stucco-and-stone structures. For a look back at Shirley Fox’s Hill Country-style garden, also in San Antonio, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.