Creek Show 2016: Light-based public art along Austin’s Waller Creek


Five temporary, light-based art installations come to glowing life each evening through Saturday in downtown Austin along Waller Creek between 5th and 8th Streets. It’s called, simply, Creek Show, with a carnival-esque monster-fish logo (it’s alive!) that I still don’t get, but it’s fun, it’s free, and it’s all part of the effort to revitalize long-neglected Waller Creek through the Waller Creek Conservancy.

This glowing green extinct sea lizard “swims” under the 8th Street bridge. Here’s more info about it:


This part of Waller Creek is currently little more than a concrete-edged drainage channel that often floods. Playing on the watershed theme, this colorful installation represents rainclouds ready to drop a gullywasher into the creek.


The colors change as you stand there looking at it, washing the tunnel wall with light and reflecting in the creek.

Here’s the description:


Walking north to south along the creek we came to the last installation at Easy Tiger Beer Garden, which was packed with mellow patrons at picnic tables along the creek. A rainbow of red light arced up from the creek below…


…over a pedestrian bridge and back down into the creek.


This should be a permanent addition, I think.

Here’s the description:


Waller Creek has been the subject of grand redevelopment visions over the years, like creating Austin’s own San Antonio River Walk. But I think the current vision, which seems to have momentum under the leadership of Peter Mullan of the High Line in NYC, will be a better fit for Austin: part of a chain of parks along Waller Creek, with an emphasis on nature and park-like access.

So go on out and visit Creek Show, Austin, and show your support for Waller Creek’s redevelopment. It’s sure to be a treasured new park in downtown Austin.

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

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

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.

Mellow fall garden for November Foliage Follow-Up


Today is Foliage Follow-Up, a day to celebrate great foliage after the flower celebration of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Let’s take a spin around the back garden for my foliage faves this month, starting with the stock-tank pond garden. No flowers here since the water lilies slowed down. You’re looking good, ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood underplanted with Texas sedge (Carex texensis), squid agaves (A. bracteosa) in culvert-pipe planters, and pond crinum (Crinum procerum ‘Splendens’)!


On the deck, potted prickly pear (Opuntia macrocentra) is taking on a purple edge thanks to cooler temps. Sewing needle-like spines are a bonus!


One of my favorite little agaves is ‘Cream Spike’, a passalong from Bob Beyer of Central Texas Gardening. I adore those red teeth.


Agave x leopoldii, with cool curly white filaments. Both agaves pictured here must be brought inside during freezing weather.


My Austin sign faded this year, but I like its new placement against the blue stucco wall. A prickly pear passalong from Shirley of Rock-Oak-Deer, ‘Santa Rita’ (Opuntia santa-rita ‘Tubac’), is getting established in the blue pot, with balancing help from a few bamboo stakes. Yucca rostrata peeks over the wall.


In a galvanized tub on the upper patio, I’m growing native Texas tuberose (Manfreda maculosa), artichoke agave (A. parryi var. truncata), and a new trial plant from Proven Winners: ‘Quicksilver’ artemisia (Artemisia stelleriana ‘Quicksilver’).*


It’s growing well in bright shade and needed very little water throughout the summer months, even with a late spring planting. It’s described as “vigorous” on Proven Winners’ website, and I’d treat it as such — i.e., I’d be very careful about setting it loose in the garden. Certain creeping artemisias, like ‘Oriental Limelight’, can be very aggressive, and ‘Quicksilver’ may prove the same.


But for a container you don’t want to water every day in the summer, it’s a great choice as a spiller under a xeric “thriller” like an agave or manfreda.


I’ll close my foliage-focused post with a last look at the pond garden with ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood balls, my favorite sitting area, and plenty of still-green foliage.

This is my November post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

*Proven Winners sent me this plant to trial in my garden. I’m writing about it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

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

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

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.

Visit to Quinta Mazatlan, birding, and Planta Nativa Festival


Texas is a big state, and living in the center of it means that whichever direction you travel, it’s a long drive to the state line. Last weekend, that meant a 5-hour drive to the Rio Grande Valley, where Texas shares a border with Mexico. My destination? Quinta Mazatlan, a city-owned nature and birding center on the grounds of a 1930s Spanish Revival-style estate, where I’d been invited to give the keynote presentation at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa Festival on October 22.


My husband and I drove down on Friday and arrived in time for an early-evening stroll around the grounds. I’d never been to the Valley before (which is not actually a valley but a flat river delta), and I imagined a lusher, rainier climate than Austin’s, with citrus orchards as far as the eye could see. However, while temps are nearly tropical (zone 9b), McAllen is surprisingly dry, with 22 inches of annual rainfall — 11 fewer inches than Austin receives.


The gardens at Quinta bristle with rustling palm leaves, including native Texas palmetto (Sabal mexicana) and imported L.A.-style Mexican fan palms (Washington robusta).


Cacti mingle easily with the palms and other xeric plants.


A dozen or so bronze animal sculptures appear throughout the gardens, including this bird-osaurus sort of creature on a twiggy rebar stand.


The actual birds we encountered were exotic to our eyes, with exotic-sounding names as well, like the chachalaca, a chicken-sized bird that darted around at ground level like a roadrunner, occasionally fluttering into low trees.


Tame and seemingly ready for a handout, the chachalaca may be the center’s mascot.


In an hour’s stroll, we saw many other species as well, including a beautiful yellow-bellied bird called the great kiskadee and circling flocks of whistling ducks, whose whistle-like cries could be heard overhead.


We sat for a while in this boulder-seat amphitheater facing a shallow pond, where birds came to drink as the sun went down.


We didn’t see any of these critters during our stroll, but we kept an eye out, just in case.


I’d love to see a horny toad one day, the state reptile of Texas.


Heron sculpture at a pond


Around back of the main house, we found a charming dance space under the outstretched limbs of a large tree. A wooden stage stands ready for the band, with string lights overhead to illuminate the sandy dance floor.


Entering a gated arch, with tall palms adding Hollywood glamor overhead…


…we found ourselves in a walled courtyard with pergola-shaded seating.


Cantera stone columns support a tile-and-beam ceiling. An in-ground water feature bisects part of the courtyard. This space would be filled with festival guests the following evening.


Bougainvillea clambering along a wall


Another gated arch led to a lawn set up with chairs for my talk. The next day, a big LED screen and stage were set up.


These Spanish-style gates are so inviting.


At the front of the house, an old stone fountain has been converted into a planter filled with succulents and bird of paradise, the latter appropriate for a center that’s a magnet for bird watchers during the big spring and fall migrations.


The Valley is on the migratory flight path for many species, making it a birder’s paradise at certain times of the year. Inside, a board shows what species are currently visiting the grounds.


I was also delighted to see several lovely displays of my books set up in the gift shop!


How nice!


Lots of wonderful gift items were displayed throughout the shop, and we didn’t leave empty handed.


Exploring the mansion, we found South Texas native plants lining the main hall, ready for the next day’s plant sale.


An agave tapestry


The next evening, I headed back to Quinta Mazatlan for a pre-talk book signing while festival attendees shopped for plants, bid on art…


…and enjoyed food and drinks under softly glowing strings lights in the courtyard.


Just before 8 pm, drummers moved out to the stage and began tapping a booty-moving rhythm.


It worked like a charm. People followed the music and took their seats. Some couldn’t resist the beat and were soon dancing in front of the stage.


It was the most festive group I’d ever spoken to, with a velvety sky overhead, an occasional bat swooping silently on the hunt, and a happy crowd interested in new ideas for gardening with less water, more native plants, more wildlife, and more beauty!


I met many interesting people passionate about the native ecology of South Texas while I was there, not least these women who organized Planta Nativa: Carol Goolsby, Environment Education Supervisor at Quinta; Colleen Hook, manager of Quinta Mazatlan; and Betty Perez, owner of Perez Ranch Nursery. (I neglected to get a photo during the festival, but I have this one from a speaking event in San Antonio last spring, which they attended.) Huge thanks to them and other members of the board for hosting me.


I came home with memories of a new and interesting place, new connections made, and even some beautiful homegrown limes — evidence of those citrus orchards I expected! — given to me by a lovely woman named Chris. Thanks to all who came!

Up next: Sightseeing along the Rio Grande, where a hand-pulled ferry still operates today.

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.

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