New Central Library – “Austin’s front porch” – boasts rooftop garden and more


Austin is head over heels in love with our new Central Library, a marvelous civic structure by Lake|Flato that is much more than a library. It’s a community space for all of Austin in a prime location on Cesar Chavez Street near Austin City Hall and across from Lady Bird Lake.

Since its grand opening in October, I’ve visited several times, and I’m excited to be on the team bringing Garden Bloggers Fling attendees here for our welcome reception in a private event space next May.


The library is one of the first places in Austin that our bloggers will visit, and the beautiful native-plant landscaping at street level will make a strong first impression.


This public patio along Cesar Chavez, screened from the busy street by massive block-style benches and native trees, grasses, and perennials, is adjacent to our event space — nice!


Doubles as a bouldering structure?


Inside — shazam! Floating steel stairs and wooden walkways dizzyingly change direction, Hogwarts-style, as they rise through an airy atrium.


Everywhere, an eye-candy assortment of colorful, modern chairs beckons visitors to get comfy and read.


Booths are designed for working with others, with a downtown view to boot.


Light and bright


A red “lip” chair, and beyond the red porthole window is a children’s area.


Continuing the red theme, a gigantic cuckoo clock silhouette hangs in the atrium, but instead of cuckoos the birds represent Austin’s oft-unloved grackles.


It’s accompanied by a video installation of an oversized grackle silhouette in a window-like frame. The bird’s head occasionally flicks around in a lifelike way, creating a moment of surprise.


Climbing up all 6 floors, you pass airy book stacks, meeting rooms, and reading spaces…


…like this open reading room furnished with inviting chairs and tables.


The room’s windows overlook one of the coolest spaces in the library, at least for garden lovers — the rooftop native-plant garden. Look — there’s an oak tree up there!


Yuccas, flowering perennials, and grasses flow across a mounded central planting bed, with seating all around and an L-shaped arbor for shade.


One side looks south over Lady Bird Lake and east toward downtown, offering a beautiful view.


Lady Bird Lake, with the Long Center and Palmer Events Center on the other side


Relaxing and reading in the garden


I love this space.


From the east side of the rooftop garden, you get a great view of the new 2nd Street Bridge, aka the Butterfly Bridge, which spans Shoal Creek.


Circling back around to the atrium stairs, you get another glimpse of the rooftop garden. And more lip chairs!


Another incredible space, and one that epitomizes Lake|Flato’s style, is the reading porch, just past the children’s area. An open-air space that invites readers to get out of the air conditioning and enjoy Austin’s weather, the screened porch has an enticing mix of seating, fascinating geodesic dome lights, and child-friendly valve wheels on the walls that you can spin, plus Big Ass Fans (real name) to keep readers comfortable.


Those colorful sofas. Those woven ottomans. Those lights!


This little cutie found some pinwheels.


The exterior is wonderful too, and includes a steel shade panel with laser-cut quotes about reading and books. Below that, facing pedestrian-friendly 2nd Street, is where a soon-to-open cafe, Cookbook, will offer cookbook-inspired dishes and drinks (including alcoholic beverages).


The landscaping was still being planted in late November, but the bones are in place. Update: Lake|Flato tells me that the landscape architecture firm behind the design is Coleman & Associates.


Limestone slabs create raised planting beds — and new buildings are sprouting up behind the new plants.


I like the naturalistic planting of native plants along the Shoal Creek ravine, with a nice view of the Butterfly Bridge beyond.


At dusk, the “wings” are washed with softly colored lights that segue from yellow to green to red.


A wide pedestrian sidewalk floats along the side of the bridge.


It’s a lovely, human-scaled bridge that echoes Austin’s arched Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360.


Austin is lucky to have this magnificent public library in such a scenic part of downtown. I look forward to spending many pleasant hours here.

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.

Just saying “Aloe!” and mullein around


Aloe there! (Anyone else into horticultural puns? Add yours in the comments, and show us aloe you can go.) I spotted this row of speckled soap aloes still blooming at Lady Bird Lake last weekend. Their coral-red candelabra blooms look especially pretty against a lime-green rebar fence.


I also enjoyed the view of Lady Bird Lake and the Lamar Bridge from the Pfluger pedestrian bridge. Someone is taking good care of a planter box on the bridge.


Back at home, I’ve been mullin’ where to add a few more mullein plants since my friend Tait Moring gave me some seeds this fall. This mullein is still blooming post-snow.


The little succulent planter is still doing fine too. With good drainage, Coahuila lace cactus and ghost plant can take our Central Texas winters in stride. The smaller sedum in the middle does well too.


Mullein sunshine. An Instagram reader recently advised that mullein is terribly invasive in drier regions like West Texas and beyond. I haven’t found it to be so in my own garden, although it does seed itself around like native Mexican feathergrass and inland sea oats. At any rate, it’s always smart to check your region’s invasive species list or ask a knowledgeable plant person before introducing a new plant into your garden.


I leave you with a menagerie of succulent planters I spotted at Blue Genie Art Bazaar. An Instagram reader saw this on my IG (@pamdigging) and expressed horror that anyone would kill a sea turtle and make a planter out of it. Hee hee — well, they DO look pretty real. But no, these are plastic animals that someone has been rather creative with.


They’re turtley fun! What a great way to add a little pandamonium (see what I did there?) to your windowsill garden this year.

All you pun-lovers, there are some amazing aloe and horticultural pun gifts on Etsy. Check ’em out.

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.

Canyon-side garden of Tait Moring: Austin Open Days Tour 2017


The final garden from the Austin Open Days Tour earlier this month is landscape architect Tait Moring‘s personal garden, which perches on a canyon’s rim just off Bee Caves Road. His entry garden is an appealing mix of formality (boxwood hedging, geometric raised pond, fig ivy neatly trimmed on the wall) and rustic informality (loosely planted Mexican feathergrass, colorful pots zigzagging on the steps, a country-style gravel driveway).


Color blocking with fig ivy and white limestone coping


Tait said a branch fell into the pond, and he decided to leave it for the goldfish to enjoy.


Waterfall detail, with ceramic turtle


A chunky pillar and low wall display oversized pots, one with grasses and salvia, the others with hesperaloe.


Across the driveway, a cactus dish sits on a limestone boulder amid grasses and goldeneye daisy.


A decomposed-granite trail leads back toward the property’s entrance. The busy highway just beyond is completely obscured by trees and bamboo along the property line. Gigantic stone spheres rest along the trail, leading you to a free-standing and inviting wooden gate.


Architectural relics lie alongside the stone spheres. These spheres once accented the planting beds in the Rollingwood Randall’s shopping center. When that shopping center redid its landscaping, Tait was lucky enough to acquire the spheres and brought them home to his own garden.


The wooden gate with unique fasteners and a hand knocker opens to a lawn circle anchored by a glossy black pot.


A wall of bamboo encircles the lawn. An opening with a stepping-stone path leads out of the garden to the highway shoulder just beyond.


The view from the bamboo doorway


Heading back through the wooden gate, I managed to photobomb Lori’s picture.


A round pot on a stone plinth echoes the sphere’s shape.


Another pot contains the sword-like foliage of a tall yucca.


Tait’s home doubles as his design studio, and his garden has storage space for plants for installations. A greenhouse, collection of white planters, and chandelier hanging from a tree give structure and interest to his plant-storage space.


An Indonesian-style turquoise post stands alongside a cedar fence post and echoes the blue of coiled hoses.


Painted post detail


A flora-themed wrought-iron gate divides the driveway between visitor parking and work equipment parking.


Fence detail


A rubble wall with gothic-arch niche and cedar gate marks the entry to Tait’s back garden.


The niche makes a fun display space for a trio of skull planters.


The detail of the wall itself is amazing, studded with geodes, turquoise glass, and fossils amid the rocks.


Let’s go through the gate to see the rest. I love the curved cedar trunk arching above the gate, and notice the skull and prickly pear tucked in the fig ivy atop the stone gatepost.


Straight ahead — a canyon view, with newly built houses cropping up on the ridge line. A cantera stone pillar topped with an agave dish and a round pond draw the eye across the lawn.


A closer view


Looking back through the gate


A planter pocket built into this side of the wall contains grama grass. Just beyond…


…a ‘Green Goblet’ agave (I think) in a blue pot


The rubble wall deserves a close inspection on this side as well.


Altar niche with hanging lantern


Fossils, green glass, and is that an amethyst geode?


It all fits together so beautifully.


Another carved cantera column supports a potted agave on this side of the lawn as well.


With a vine creeping up the column, a jungly mood is created.


On a perpendicular axis to the canyon view, the lawn stretches out beneath a large cedar (juniper) tree and leads to a swimming pool.


Hanging above Turk’s cap and inland sea oats, as if over an indoor dining table, a capiz-shell chandelier is a surprising sight as it tinkles in the breeze.


A lushly planted strip behind the pool runs alongside a stacked-limestone wall topped with a cedar fence.


The long view


Another cantera stone column stands here. It used to have a tiki-style stone head atop it, which I miss.


From shade into sun, the view back toward the house


Tait’s garden largely consists of water-conserving native plants and wildscape in the upper canyon. This swath by the pool is the only lawn Tait has, and he doesn’t baby it with excess water.


Heading into the canyon via a woodsy trail, you pass intimate seating areas, like this motel-chair grouping…


…and a contemplative stone bench.


The payoff comes along the canyon’s rim, below the house, where Tait built a beautifully crafted, semicircular bench around a stone fire pit.


Imagine sitting here and watching the sun set over the hills, and then roasting marshmallows around a cozy campfire.


Tait also nurtures — and by nurtures I mean he carefully leaves alone — a native Texas madrone. These white-trunked trees are notoriously picky about growing conditions and don’t appreciate well-intentioned “improvements” like removing cedar trees around them. Tait has wisely left his tree in its native condition.


A large Texas nolina sprawls nearby, like green spaghetti or a shaggy head of hair.


A rustic deck off the back of the house displays a collection of potted plants.


A patchwork path of stone and brick leftover from other projects leads from the deck…


…past native swaths of goldeneye daisy…


…to Tait’s vegetable garden, a potager of rectangular stone beds.


And here’s Tait, the tamer of the canyon’s edge and protector of its wildness. Thanks for sharing your garden, Tait!

This concludes my recap of the 2017 Austin Open Days Tour. For a look back at the water-saving garden on Ridgewood Road, click here.

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