Foliage architecture (and art) on Rice University campus


At my alma mater in Houston last month (right after Hurricane Harvey), I appreciated the marriage of foliage and architecture at the Brochstein Pavilion, a remarkable structure and hub of student activity that didn’t exist when I was a student at Rice University.

A hedge of tightly clipped horsetail divides the pavilion’s patio from the main sidewalk, all of which is shaded by a wide trellis of aluminum tubes. The trellis roof seems to float ethereally over the space and provides a good deal of shade, which, if you’ve ever been to Houston, you know is essential. It also evokes the floating roof of the campus’s James Turrell Skyspace.


I’m always surprised by how much I love a bosque. I find them inviting and visually soothing. The one at Brochstein Pavilion runs alongside the building, just across the main sidewalk. According to an article in ArchDaily:

“Responding [to] the grid of the building, a bosque of 48 specimen Allee Lacebark Elms rise from a plane of decomposed granite and provide an organizational framework that humanizes the scale of the space. A generous concrete walk connecting the library and the pavilion bisects the grove into garden rooms whose perimeters are defined by plantings of African Iris. Long black concrete fountains filled with beach stone occupy the center of each space, filling the garden with the murmur of running water and reflecting the filtered light through the canopy.”


The contemporary trough fountains were leaf-strewn a week after Harvey, but otherwise the landscape appeared to have held up well.


On the other side of the pavilion, a broad allee of Southern live oaks — one of many such live oak allees on the Rice campus — shelters additional seating and leads the eye to a sculpture by Jaume Plensa called Mirror.


While I was on campus, I visited Fondren Library, where I knew there was a display of Mike Stilkey’s book sculptures. (Here’s an article about his exhibit at Rice Gallery.) I first discovered Stilkey’s work at the L.A. home of Joy and Roland Feuer (scroll down for their Stilkey installation). His work is striking, often humorous, and instantly recognizable. Speaking of trees, Stilkey used a book about Texas trees for the “capstone” of this monumental book sculpture…


…seen in full here, seemingly balanced atop a small stack of books painted with wavy apartment towers and whimsical animals.


I found other pieces throughout the library, like this doleful water bird in a top hat…


…and a giraffe peeking from a stairwell over a railing…


…and a slinking cat.


I’ll leave you with one last book sculpture that brings us back around to the theme of trees as architecture. And thanks for bearing with me as I veered off-topic a bit with my Foliage Follow-Up post!

This is my October post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden or one you’ve visited 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! I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

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

Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy on November 4.

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.

Review of The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly, and how we can help in Texas


The first wave of migrating monarch butterflies has reached North Texas and will be fluttering through Austin and other parts of Central Texas by next week. Despite their seeming fragility, these tenacious creatures migrate each fall as far as 2,800 miles from the northern U.S. and southern Canada to their wintering grounds in central Mexico. It’s a miraculous annual event, and we Texans have front-row seats.


Monarchs are in trouble, though. Due to habitat loss, drought, flood, the use of pesticides and herbicides, and especially the widespread eradication of milkweed, which is the sole food source for monarch caterpillars, monarch populations have plummeted by 90% in the last 20 years. These distinctive butterflies need our help, and each of us can make a difference by creating a healthy habitat for monarchs in our own yards and gardens. Here in Texas that means planting fall-blooming nectar plants for migrating monarchs to fuel up on as they journey to Mexico and milkweed for northbound monarchs to lay their eggs on (and their caterpillars to feed on) in the spring. Plant both nectar plants and milkweed in your garden now.


Awareness of helpful gardening practices is the first step, but there’s plenty more you can do to aid monarchs, as author Kylee Baumle shows in her accessible and well-illustrated book The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly (St. Lynn’s Press, 2017). Kylee, a longtime blogger at Our Little Acre, raises and tags butterflies as a citizen-scientist, successfully lobbied her state legislature in Ohio to create a monarch-supporting license plate, and has led a tour to the monarch’s wintering grounds in the mountains of central Mexico. In her new book, she shares the inspirational life story of the monarch as well as its current peril, and offers guidance for those wishing to create a butterfly-friendly garden or help in other ways.

The Monarch is an engaging introduction for gardeners and wildlife lovers wanting to know more about our most iconic butterfly. It would also be a good book to share with older children, who will be fascinated by the monarch’s epic journey. And what better way to get kids or grandkids involved in the garden than by inspiring them to help these beautiful creatures?


While you’re reading and watching for a fluttering parade of orange-and-black wings in Central Texas, here are some other ways to celebrate the monarch this month in Austin.

Flight of the Butterflies
What: Movies in the Wild: An outdoor showing of an inspiring documentary about monarch migration
When: Friday, October 6, gates at 6 p.m., movie at dusk
Where: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave., Austin
Cost: $12/ticket for ages 5 and up; tickets are available Friday at the Wildflower Center, or save time by purchasing in advance online. Members get 50% off (be sure to sign in on the purchase page).
Details: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and the Wildflower Center are transforming the Family Garden into a theater for one night only. Spread your blanket on the play lawn, and enjoy Flight of the Butterflies, a film about the great journey of migrating monarchs. Bring a picnic and enjoy free brews from North by Northwest Brewery! No outside alcohol permitted. Kettle corn and ice cream available for purchase. Fun activities will include monarch mask-making and a flighty photo-op.

Monarch Appreciation Day
What: An Austin-area butterfly celebration offering fun for the entire family
When: Saturday, October 21, 9 am to 4 pm
Where: Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin
Cost: Free with admission to the garden; admission is $1 for children (ages 3-12); $2 for adults, Austin resident (ages 13-61); $3 for adults, non-resident (ages 13-61); $1 for seniors (age 62 & over)
Details: Family-friendly activities including nature crafts, see a monarch eye-to-eye, learn how to attract pollinators year-round, learn how you can be a Pollinator Pal.

Disclosure: St. Lynn’s Press sent me a copy of The Monarch for review. I reviewed 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

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

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.

Two must-read books for succulent lovers: Succulents and Designing with Succulents


All you succulent junkies, listen up. If you love succulents or want to learn how to grow them, two newly released books by succulent-gardening trailblazers Debra Lee Baldwin and Robin Stockwell need to be at the top of your must-read list.

Let’s start with Designing with Succulents by “Queen of Succulents” Debra Lee Baldwin. This is a completely revised 2nd edition of the book she published a decade ago, when succulents were just taking off as “it” plants and interest in waterwise gardens was growing, especially in drought-prone regions. I gave the 1st edition a rave review when I read it in 2009, and I just finished the revised 2nd edition (2017, Timber Press), eager to see what had changed.


Photo by Debra Lee Baldwin. Design by Steve McDearmon of Garden Rhythms.

In a word, everything. Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed., doesn’t just have a new cover and an updated, photo-rich design. It also contains a trove of new information and 100 additional images. Thanks to Baldwin’s expertise on succulents from propagation to design, beautiful photographs, and personable writing style, the book retains its well-deserved status as the bible for succulent gardeners.


An Austin succulent garden. Photo courtesy of D-CRAIN.

I can hear you wondering: Is the book just for California gardeners and others in frost-free climates? Absolutely not. While those of us who experience winter freezes can’t easily transform our entire yard into a succulent garden — although see the D-CRAIN-designed garden in the above photo for warmest-part-of-Austin inspiration — we can still grow tender succulents in pots that we bring indoors or into a greenhouse for protection in winter. I have a potted succulent collection that I enjoy from spring through late fall, and they’re much easier to grow than thirsty annuals. Plus those of us in the Southwest and South can grow in the landscape plenty of succulents hardy to the upper teens or low 20sF, and Baldwin has growing info and design tips about these as well.


Photo by Kyle Short, courtesy of Debra Lee Baldwin. Design by Gabriel Frank of Gardens by Gabriel.

Aside from all the practical information, what I appreciate most about the book is the breadth of design advice — useful for any kind of garden but especially those incorporating succulents — and beautiful, wide-view (not just close-up) photos of gardens. Helpfully, in the final chapter, Baldwin also includes descriptive recommendations of 50 waterwise plants that pair well with succulents, since few of us will give over our entire gardens to these fleshy plants.


Surfer dude, former nurseryman-owner of Succulent Gardens, and most especially succulent proselytizer Robin Stockwell — aka “the Succulent Guy” (do all the succulent experts have nicknames?) — has also written an excellent book: Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Designing, and Growing 200 Easy-Care Plants (2017, Oxmoor House).

Stockwell brings an artistic sensibility to the use of succulents, writing:

“I thought of my nursery as a paint store, my plants as the paints, and my inventory as the palette with which to work. The designers and home gardeners who bought my plants were the artists; they chose plants as a painter does paints — for a specific garden that became their living canvas.”


Photo courtesy of Time Inc. Books/Jennifer Cheung

While he focuses mainly on the West Coast in terms of turning one’s yard into a succulent garden, Stockwell gives equal time to container gardening and even DIY projects involving succulents, which one can achieve no matter where you live — putting that artistic appreciation of succulents to good use.


Photo courtesy of Time Inc. Books/Thomas J. Story

He shows the many ways succulents can be used for temporary adornment, including in succulent wreaths, hair ornaments, cake garlands, gift toppers, planted beach rocks and driftwood, green-roof birdhouses, succulent-topped pumpkins for table centerpieces, and more, offering handy tips on creating these yourself.


Photo courtesy of Time Inc. Books/Marion Brenner

Creative succulent containers, like this arrangement of stacked pots, are fun and simple even for beginner succulent gardeners.


Photo courtesy of Time Inc. Books/Caitlin Atkinson

My only quibble with the book is that some (maybe all?) of the garden profiles that appear throughout the book have previously appeared in Sunset publications. It gave me a sense of déjà vu: hadn’t I read about these gardens before, literally word for word, and seen these photos? It was only then I noticed that Sunset garden editor Kathleen Norris Brenzel is credited on the title page, although not on the cover. I suspect these portions of the book are hers. While the repackaging surprised me, the garden profiles do nicely illustrate how to design with succulents, and most of them were fresh enough for me to enjoy again. They also include a handy “get the look” inset, with pithy advice for translating elements of each design into your own garden.

Overall the book is eye-catching with a clean graphic design, photo details called out with arrows and inset text, and information presented in easy-to-digest short paragraphs. At the back of the book, Stockwell lists his favorite plants, each one nicely photographed, as well as care and propagation advice.

You’ll savor both books, and they’ll teach you everything you need to know to start growing or get better at designing with succulents. Whether you can grow them in-ground or in winter-protected pots, succulents are beautiful, addictive plants. And it’s OK to feed this addiction — it’s a healthy one!

Disclosure: Timber Press sent me a copy of Designing with Succulents and Oxmoor House sent me a copy of Succulents for review. I reviewed them 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

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

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.

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