Southern Gothic garden of Jeff Minnich: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


I didn’t expect to see a banana tree and sago palm in any of the gardens we visited during the Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling last month, but Arlington, Virginia, designer Jeff Minnich‘s garden is full of surprises.


Reminiscent of a New Orleans cottage garden with picket fencing and tropical-looking potted plants out front, and with black-humor garden art in back, the garden evokes a Southern Gothic vibe more common in the Deep South than in the Upper South/Mid-Atlantic region of Washington, D.C.


A potted banana makes a broad-leaved focal point in the tiny front garden.


Angel wing begonia brightens the shade in a grapevine-adorned terracotta pot.


Rounding the corner of the house into the side yard, you see two things: 1) that Jeff has made the most of his small front garden by continuing it into a fully landscaped side yard with a major water feature, and 2) that his lot drops dramatically from the back of the house. This pretty stream, which spills into small pools, turns into a waterfall just a few feet farther along.


Tucked in a patch of prostrate yew and sedge, a golden-eyed frog watches you pass by.


From a small patio at the back corner of the house, you enjoy a view of the waterfall, overhung with a lacy Japanese maple.


And then the garden falls away from the house into a wooded canyon — or so we’d call it in Texas — lushly planted with ferns, hostas, hydrangeas, Japanese maples, and other shade lovers.


Great old trees rise above the understory along this lower path.


White-flowering hydrangea brightens the dimly lit garden.


Climbing back up to the house, you reach a narrow back patio and a handy outdoor shower.


Jeff has a slightly macabre sense of humor, as evidenced by his garden art, like this statuary fountain of a headless woman cradling her own head. This got a lot of attention from the bloggers!


As did this — an agave whose stiff, spiky leaves were topped with tiny skulls.


I couldn’t help laughing when I saw it — and contemplating the “danger garden” aspect of growing agaves.


Potted clivia adds color and more of that subtropical New Orleans vibe.


Back out front, I was admiring an arched doorway of purple-leaved loropetalum when Karin of Southern Meadows walked through in her matching purple shirt. Of course I had to get a picture.


I also really like Jeff’s unpainted fence of staggered-height 1×1-inch cedar pickets. A small concrete urn planted with succulents tops this mossy baluster near the street, adding one more charming element to a wonderfully charming garden.

Up next: The Maine-evoking garden of Maryland designer Debbie Friedman. For a look back at Peg Bier’s woodland garden of discovery, 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.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

Modern, easy-care garden of Austin designer B. Jane


I’ve long admired designer B. Jane‘s contemporary-style gardens here in Austin, including one I wrote about for Austin Home last year. Last week I visited B.’s personal garden in Central Austin’s Brentwood neighborhood and fell hard for her lawn-free, block-planted front yard.

A straight walk of Lueders limestone zigzags toward the front porch, leading the eye first to house numbers affixed to a low concrete wall. The wall curves off to the right, creating a small garden room encircled with white-flowering Mexican olives, red roses, and chartreuse shell ginger. In front of the wall, block plantings of spineless prickly pear and Gulf muhly provide greenery and separation from the street. Spreading below, silver ponyfoot shines like a moonlit pool of water.


A closer look at the low-walled entry to the front garden room, flanked by Mexican olives (Cordia boissieri) in bloom


Asymmetrically-cut limestone leads to a circular gravel “skirt” around a tree trunk, neatly edged with concrete, which in turn is framed by chartreuse-leaved ginger plants.


I love B.’s cast-stone Girona fountain from Campania International, which has a slightly submerged platform on which birds can easily bathe.


The color and texture of the fountain work so well with the concrete wall.


Here’s a side view from the driveway. B. uses asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’) as a frothy, evergreen groundcover (foreground) — which probably needs Central Austin’s higher temps to survive our occasional hard freezes.


Square pavers lead from the driveway to the front porch. Another gravel circle gives definition to a young live oak and adds a geometric element. At the corner, a whale’s tongue agave pairs with a mutabilis rose, and I believe B. said that’s a viburnum hedge along the porch.


Orange and turquoise show up throughout B.’s back garden, but the first hint of that color scheme appears on the front porch, with a retro-modern front door painted tangerine and a turquoise glider softened with orange throw pillows and a striped cushion. The doormat echoes the cushion’s colorful stripes.


In the backyard, an ipe deck offers plenty of space for a 6-person dining table and a couple of low-slung white chairs with turquoise cushions and colorful, striped pillows. A white bench allows clear views of…


…a clean-lined swimming pool bordered with colorful waterline tiles, a rectangular play lawn, and an evergreen screen of bamboo bordered by a low wall offering extra seating. The detached structure at left is a home office for B.’s husband, with expansive windows shaded by awnings of steel beams and rods.


At the far end of the pool, an ipe deck outfitted with a trio of chaises longues is backed by a notched Lueders limestone wall.


Sun worshippers can hang out here, and when the sun sets, a stone fire pit in the corner offers a spot to warm up.


The view from the lawn


The back deck


A built-in grilling station also serves to screen the deck from the neighbors and enclose the space.


Wood is conveniently stored below.


A container planted with cactus and ghost plant accents the edge of the deck.


In another corner, a collection of gray cast-stone pots contains citrus, herbs, orange-flowering hibiscus, and succulents, including orange-hued sticks-on-fire euphorbia.


Rosy pink cacti — including one in bloom — and an echeveria get the glam treatment with gold glass mulch in this container.


Opposite the chaise longue deck, tucked between the house and the detached office, a small roofed patio offers shady seating and a buffet table.


The wooden fence hides a storage area.


To the right of the sun deck with the chaises, a private patio just off the master bedroom offers a Zen-style retreat with Loll seating, a screen of bamboo (Bambusa textilis ‘Gracilis’), and a hot tub…


…as well as a beautiful outdoor shower. No spidery recesses in this open design, while still hidden from neighbors by fencing and the bamboo. The building just past the hot tub (at left) is B.’s home office.


She let us peek inside to see a hanging sculptural branch adorned with tillandsias, feathers, and other natural talismans, made by the talented vertical-garden artists at Articulture.


Looking back toward the main garden


B. is disciplined about color and uses it so effectively, like here in the pool tiles, arranged for a random effect. The tiles pick up the colors of the doors and plant containers and the water itself. Brisket, a German short-haired pointer mix who loves to swim, jumped in for a soak while I was admiring the pool.


And little wonder, for this is a garden to relax in and enjoy — even for dogs! Thanks for the tour, B.!

For more pics of this garden and others, check out the website of B. Jane Gardens.

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

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Calling all pond lovers! The Austin Pond & Garden Tour is coming up June 3rd (North Austin ponds and night pond) and 4th (South Austin ponds). Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased online and include entry to all 20 ponds.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

Colorful LA garden of Potted maven Annette Gutierrez


I was in Los Angeles/Pasadena last weekend for the annual Garden Writers Association symposium, and boy oh boy, do I have some cool gardens to show you! Not all were on the GWA tours, which were limited to 3 private gardens and one public garden (the fabulous Huntington). My friend and traveling companion Diana Kirby and I spent two days prior to GWA visiting blogging friends and seeing their gardens as well.


One of these was the home garden of Annette Gutierrez, co-owner of the lust-inducing garden shop Potted and all-around fun and wildly creative person. We’d been online friends before I met her at the Garden Bloggers Fling a few years ago, and she generously arranged a day of private garden visits for us, starting with her own stylishly livable garden on a palm-lined street of 100-year-old bungalows in the Hollywood Hills.


Our mid-morning arrival during a heat wave of sunny, 100-degree days made photography a challenge, but we were eager to see it all. Here’s the streetside view of Annette’s charming home. A pair of giant pittosporums shelters and shades the front porch. The pinky-purple cordylines towering over the entry steps announce that a playful gardener lives here.


A small lawn bordered by xeric beds fronts Annette’s house, and I was swooning over this corner screen of Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata aztecorum). Be still, my heart! This is how it’s supposed to look, instead of the straggly canes in my own garden, which have endured multiple winter die-backs.


And then there’s the front porch, which is essentially Potted style distilled to its colorful, playful, plant-displaying essence. How could you ever enter this door and not feel cheerful?


A rust-colored City Planter with an orange address plaque and tillandsias sets the stage. Below, on a small table, a potted bromeliad and dracaena (?) add strappy lime and pink accents.


A wider view shows a lime-green bench picking up the window trim color. Also, notice how Annette has mulched the green potted plant with Mexican beach pebbles set on edge — lovely!


To the left, orange Fermob chairs and a vintage green glider invite lounging behind the pittosporum hedge.


Chartreuse and sky blue Circle Pots hang from the porch ceiling, adding another pop of color as they display cascading succulents.


Avert your eyes if the f-bomb offends you. Annette gave us a tour of her home’s beautiful, mod-meets-midcentury interior, and I couldn’t resist snapping this laugh-inducing terrarium in the guest room. She said a friend made it for her because she’s always losing her keys.


Next we went out a side door to explore a shady patio where Annette said the idea for Potted was hatched. She and her partner, Mary, spent a summer figuring out how to make these tile-inset pavers, and by the time they perfected it, they’d decided to open a garden shop together. The pups are Marley (cautiously approaching the stranger with the camera) and Phlea (standing on the side porch).


The side porch: I love this quiet, artful vignette. Phlea is pretty cute too.


Every space has something to look at, even the steps. Annette also likes to put seating throughout her garden, as do I. Chairs make great decor, even if you rarely sit in them.


The eggplant-colored siding makes a nice backdrop for her plants and accessories.


A fig shades the small patio, which is paved with Annette’s and Mary’s pavers.


Big-leaved plants, like philodendron and tree fern, give this space a lush, rain-forest appeal.


Upstairs, a covered porch off the master bedroom invites afternoon naps on a red-cushioned daybed. It overlooks the backyard swimming pool.


Turning around and looking lengthwise across the porch, you see iconic Los Angeles palm trees and…


…yes, it’s the Hollywood sign. What a view!


Staghorn fern enjoys the bright shade of the porch.


The back garden is, I suspect, where Annette and her family spend most of their time. The back wall of the house is a series of glass doors, which fold open to allow for that much-envied indoor-outdoor California lifestyle. The curvy, brick-edged pool looked very inviting on this hot day. A tiled wall at the back of the pool is a colorful focal point and gives privacy. At the right is a guest house, plenty of seating, and lots of potted plants.


Annette’s third dog, Amos, made himself comfortable on a sofa and didn’t mind posing for pictures. Look at that gigantic euphorbia (?) behind him.


I also love the golden succulent in the yellow dish planter on the coffee table.


A tiled outdoor shower gives swimmers a beautiful place to clean off.


Looking back toward the house


On the back patio, just off the kitchen, a pretty tiled table of Potted design offers space for outdoor dining. Freestanding umbrellas provide shade.


A rustic wooden buffet holds a collection of potted succulents, with more crammed in on the back steps.


Esther pots are a favorite of mine. In fact, I bought an Esther bowl while at Potted later that day. (Click for my 2013 post about Potted.)


Annette said cheerfully that she’d taken over the outdoor sink her husband wanted for backyard cookouts. It does make a terrific display space for more plants.


Really, every place in Annette’s home and garden is a perfect space for a potted plant.


I admired this faux grass pillow, which Potted used to carry. Talk about downsizing the lawn!


A small brick patio holds a Cazo fire pit (wish I had one!) and a few chairs, for chilly evenings. Annette’s daughter, years ago, decorated the little playhouse visible at right. The fun, Annette told us, was all in the decorating, and after it was done, her daughter never used it. That’s OK. I agree that most of the fun is in the decorating too.


The garden transitions into shade along the side of the house. Beyond the fence is the side garden with the fig tree that I showed you earlier.


While the pool grabs your eye as you step outside, here’s where I’d spend all my time relaxing: a comfortably furnished seating area right off the kitchen. Three white Orbit Planters hang at eye level above the wooden coffee table, displaying pale green succulents. Acapulco chairs offer comfy seating but don’t take up much space visually.


A peek into Annette’s delightfully styled kitchen. With the glass doors folded out of the way, it’s fully open to the back yard.


Looking across the dining patio


Every nook, cranny, and shelf is used to display Annette’s potted creations.


Nail-head alliums?


Another City Planter filled with succulents


The side yard, which contains Annette’s potting supplies and a work bench, is anything but utilitarian with this eye-catching path of poured concrete and Mexican beach pebbles. A trimmed hedge of bamboo provides privacy and a green view from interior windows. The driveway lies beyond the gate.


Another pretty vignette

Huge thanks to Annette for the delightful and inspiring home and garden visit, and for arranging for us to visit several of her friends’ gardens as well. More on those coming soon!

Up next: The ocean-view garden of Kris Peterson, an L.A. blogging friend at Late to the Garden Party.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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