The twinkliest town in the Hill Country


If you want to see trees made of light and a charmingly illuminated main square, go visit Johnson City, a small town of 2,000 residents, located about an hour west of Austin. Every December they turn their town into a beautiful spectacle of light — called Lights Spectacular — and it’s all completely free and free of traffic jams.


We finally escaped a monster traffic jam near downtown Austin during Wednesday rush hour, and from there it was an easy drive with Texas-style Christmas tunes playing on Sun Radio. Ever heard Kacey Musgraves’s “A Willie Nice Christmas”?: May we all get higher than the angel on the top of the tree.

Ahem.


The most incredible display is at Pedernales Electric Co-op, where 1.2 million LED lights transform dozens of mature live oaks around their headquarters into branching, dazzling nebulae. Photos cannot convey how magical it is.


Being live oaks, the trees still have all their leathery leaves, which faintly reflect the lights, creating a cloud-like halo above the sinuous trunks.


And ah, those trunks and branches and limbs of light! Each one is picked out in exquisite detail through masses of lights. Larger lights thread through the leafy canopies above.


Kids run around under the lights, couples hold hands, and families gaze upward, their faces illuminated by the arboreal glow.


After walking around the co-op to view all the trees, we strolled a couple of blocks over to the town square to admire the waterfall effect of lights hanging from the Blanco County Courthouse.


On the courthouse lawn a reindeer paddock contains Santa’s herd until Christmas Eve.


The surrounding businesses get in on the action too.


Lots of lights and plenty of small-town charm.


Maybe some of these are residential homes?


I love this one.


This house has its own tree of light.


Back at the co-op, a light-adorned tractor was pulling hayriders around, and a food truck offered cups of hot chocolate. A guy playing a guitar sang Christmas carols under the trees.


This place will take the stress out of your holiday.


And as Kacey sings in her Willie song:

I hope you have a really
A really, really Willie nice Christmas
And Willie Happy New Year too
Have a Willie happy Hanukkah
Feliz Navidad-ukkah
A Willie happy Kwanzaa ’cause it’s all the same
A Mele Kalikimaka, hey
Whatever way you wanna say
Just have yourself a
Really, really, really
A really, really Willie nice Christmas

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

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.

Fall color and grassy plumes for December Foliage Follow-Up


Despite our one-day snow last week, it still looks pretty autumnal in my garden this Foliage Follow-Up. The Japanese maple stubbornly refuses to acknowledge fall until December, when the Christmas lights go up on the house and red balls go up on the agave by the door. Then, out of solidarity or perhaps a sense of tardiness, it blushes red too. Well, this year it’s more of a rusty red than the brilliant red of more congenial years for fall color in Austin.

Even the native river ferns, sheltered from frost by a live oak canopy overhead, are green and unwithered. Beyond, native dwarf palmettos and golden sedge along the foundation and a potted agave, sotol, and hesperaloe add shades of evergreen. Yellow-variegated ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo adds its own bright foliage and stems in the back corner of the gravel garden.


The ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge “lawn” has gone a bit tawny in response to the chilly weather, but the white-and-green variegated flax lily is unchanged by a hard freeze as yet — and I am crossing my fingers that this year it doesn’t get knocked back by one.


No such worries with tough native grasses like pine muhly, which is putting on a fine autumnal show with an airy scrim of tan wand-like inflorescences.


I love how it looks with similar fireworks-like explosions of ‘Color Guard’ yucca and Texas sotol.


The frosted, wine-colored and toothy leaves of ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia look good no matter the season (so long as we don’t get a prolonged deep freeze) and contrast nicely with the tiny leaves of white skullcap and chartreuse billows of bamboo muhly.

This is my December 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! 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.
_______________________

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.

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.

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