Sharing nature’s beauty in the garden of Diana Kirby


I’ve enjoyed many a visit at the garden of my good friend Diana Kirby, designer at Diana’s Designs, garden columnist at the Austin American-Statesman, and publisher of the blog Sharing Nature’s Garden. But inexplicably I’ve never done a photo tour of her lovely garden, and I’m remedying that today with photos from a mid-October visit.

Diana’s garden rocks tropical-style color and bold foliage in back by her swimming pool, but in front along the street, where it’s hot and dry, she created a large, tiered bed with drought-tolerant native and adapted plants like autumn sage (Salvia greggii), society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), fall aster (Aster oblongifolius), and gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida). Silvery foliage and purple and pink flowers offer a cool but colorful look for hot summers.


Yellow appears in fall when golden thryallis (Galphimia gracilis) starts to bloom. All these plants are deer resistant, by the way. The deer in Diana’s southwest Austin garden don’t seem to be as voracious (or pesky in terms of antlering damage) as in other parts of town, but they will eat obvious deer candy like roses and tender succulents, so she chooses plants with strongly scented, hairy, or fibrous leaves.


Closer to the house, along the front walk, variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’), purple-leaved Chinese fringeflower (Loropetalum chinense), and annual zinnias thrive. (Zinnias get eaten in my garden, for comparison.)


The garden gets much shadier by the front door, with several small trees along the stone-edged walk
and a lush understory.


I love this shady combo of ‘Sparkler’ sedge (Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’), Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), sago palm (Cycas revoluta), and root beer plant, aka hoja santa (Piper auritum).


Persian shield, ‘Sparkler’ sedge, and asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’)


I am in love with this spiky pink hairdo of a plant, Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’, which I assume Diana brings inside in winter. Its pink coloring is enhanced by surrounding pink lantana and the rosy fruits of a pomegranate tree.


Like an exploding firework, right?


Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) adds vibrant purple spires nearby.


Heading around to the back garden, you pass through a woodland trail, where stepping stones sitting flush with river rock double as a dry stream during downpours.


This naturalistic garden is chock-full of shade-loving plants.


A cool oasis on a hot summer’s day


And these adorable ceramic fish love it too! I was with Diana when she bought these at The Arbor Gate in Tomball, Texas.


Cobalt appears again in a ceramic pot with ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda and a ceramic bird.


A bubbling birdbath fountain is for the birds — and maybe the deer. Diana is more tenderhearted than I — ha!


A serene Buddha head rests against a tree.


And a plantable lady’s head wears a squid agave (Agave bracteosa) hairdo.


Fishhooks senecio trails from a steel wall planter with a little ceramic mushroom tucked in.


Diana keeps her pots interesting in the backyard too, like this blue starburst of a yucca entwined with chartreuse sweet potato vine.


More potted plants and colorful decor adorn her back porch.


Potted plants on a table by a window create a pretty view inside and out.


And there’s a comfy place to sit too. I love that little orange foo dog!


Diana may love color as much as I do.


A galvanized metal tray and fun potted plants jazz up a table display.


Diana is a total dog lover, and one even shows up in her garden decor.


Chocolatey red, orange, and yellow — plus a pumpkin — combine for a pretty fall container.


Just off the back porch, a shady pocket garden sits between a party-sized covered cabana and an outdoor kitchen — perfect for entertaining, which Diana and her husband enjoy doing. I didn’t get pictures of those spaces, which is ironic, because they’re where I’ve spent the most time in Diana’s garden. Next time!


I also didn’t get a photo of Diana’s lovely swimming pool — must have been too focused on the plants — but it’s the focal point of the cabana and the back porch. All around the pool and patio, Diana has planted an exuberant mix of tropical and subtropical plants for a lush, colorful garden that’s really at its peak in mid-summer. Here you see a burgundy-variegated banana, yellow bells, hibiscus, and mounds and mounds of lime-green sweet potato vine. The limestone steps lead down from the pool deck to the lower garden behind the pool.


Potted succulent in a cobalt pot surrounded by sweet potato vine


Bat-face cuphea (Cuphea llavea) adds red-hot color and cute little bat faces.


In the lower garden just outside a fence that keeps the deer out of her back yard, Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida) blooms amid agaves and ornamental trees, with a neighbor-screening backdrop of evergreen junipers behind them.


Whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), one of my faves


‘Sharkskin’ agave — one I covet but don’t have a good spot for, with those stiff, dagger-sharp leaves


Fading hibiscus flower, lovely even past peak


The dangling, tubular flowers of Iochroma ‘Royal Queen’ remind me of chandelier earrings.


I think of hibiscus as Diana’s signature plant because she has several varieties and often posts pictures of their salad-plate-sized flowers. They add such a tropical look to her garden, even though they are winter hardy.


Duranta aglow with dangling yellow fruits — the golden dewdrops that give this plant its common name.


From the pool patio, a new flagstone path winds through the lawn to a new rose garden that Diana is working on (no pics, since it’s currently a work in progress, and Diana will, I’m sure, do a big reveal on her own blog), as well as to her vegetable garden and greenhouse. Planting pockets built into the path allow heat-loving portulaca to add colorful bouquets along the walk.


Looking back along the portulaca path toward the pool cabana and surrounding garden


A large greenhouse is tucked behind a scrim of annual cosmos and hardy lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus). The family vegetable garden is visible at left, behind a fence swathed in cypress vine, which keeps out two active dogs.


Self-sowing annual cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) has even twined onto the veggie-garden gate, but it still opens just fine.


Dainty, tubular red flowers and ferny foliage are signature qualities of cypress vine. It can be an aggressive self-seeder in the right conditions, but in my own garden it didn’t return.


Beautiful artichoke foliage


And back into the front garden, along the side of the house, flowery senna (Senna corymbosa) was awash in golden blooms.


Cool purple spires of Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) make the senna glow even brighter.


My thanks to Diana for letting me photograph her garden, and for sharing it so generously over the years!

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.

New roof and Sway Your HOA article in Wildflower magazine


Exciting developments around here. For one, we had our old, hail-beaten roof replaced, and not only does the new roof completely freshen up our home, but the workers took great care not to damage the garden in the process. If you’re in the Austin area and need a new roof, I highly recommend Straight Solutions.


For a comparison, here’s our old, sad roof, with a poor patch job around the porch gable that we added. And now back up — ahh. If anyone’s wondering, we went with composite shingles for cost reasons, and the color is Tamko’s Weathered Wood.


Below the steep roof, plants are looking good — zero damage from the re-roofing. I sure would like to see some rain in that dry creek though. We’ve had a rainless autumn.


One of my favorite shade combos along the dry creek: ‘Sparkler’ sedge, ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia, and ‘Everillo’ sedge


In other news, I have an article in the latest issue of Wildflower, the biannual magazine of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


It’s called “Sway Your HOA,” and it’s about how to persuade your old-school HOA to permit sustainable landscaping practices like reducing lawn and planting native plants. If you subscribe — and you should (you get the magazine by becoming a member of the Wildflower Center) — look for it on page 42.

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.

Water-saving Ridgewood Road Garden: Austin Open Days Tour 2017


The talented Annie Gillespie of Botanical Concerns designed the water-saving garden at Ridgewood Road, the next garden in my recap of Austin’s recent Open Days Tour. From the street you’re invited to stroll through a low-water garden of oaks, grasses, agave, and yucca to reach the house via a stepped-back landing and pea-gravel path.


Here’s the other end of that gravel path where it meets the parking area by the house. Densely layered plants help screen a neighbor’s house from view.


I love these barbed-wire spheres — a Western accent.


From the driveway, a square-paver (or stone) path leads past a pea-gravel patio to the front door. A front-yard patio is a great way to create a sense of welcome, plus it puts to use space typically devoted to lawn. Bamboo muhly lines the path along the foundation.


Rough-hewn wooden chairs at a round table look like works of nature rather than human made.


Such an inviting space, even if just for the eyes.


Near the front door, a vertical stone fountain adds the sound of water.


Where the path turns toward the door, a bench carved from a weathered old tree trunk stops the eye and offers a resting spot.


My friend Cat enjoys a moment amid flowering Mexican bush sage.


Continuing on around the house, we spotted this L-shaped screen creating a private nook around a bathroom window. Adorned with prayer flags, Moroccan-style lanterns, and a Mexican sculpture of the Madonna, the tiny garden is clearly a visual retreat for those enjoying the view from inside.


Tom Spencer, in his old garden (8th photo), used to have a carved Madonna just like this one.


One more view. I’ve seen lanterns like these for sale at Barton Springs Nursery. This is a lovely way to display them.


Coming around the back of the house, a small patio glows like a rainbow with a colorfully painted bench and red flower planter.


Farther along in the gravel path, a roofed cedar swing takes in the view. The path also serves as a filtration trench (hidden under the gravel) to cleanse rainwater runoff, since the steeply sloped back yard sheds water downhill into a watershed.


But the real goal in making a water-wise garden is to keep runoff from happening at all. Annie designed the entire garden to slow the progression of water and give it time to soak in. “What you want to do with water is slow it down,” she says in a Central Texas Gardener episode about this garden.


Terracing behind the house helps keep runoff from eroding the slope. It also creates space for a small patio to bridge the gap between house and garden.


The view from the gravel patio includes a focal-point steel-dish tower planted with an agave, Big Red Sun-style.


The gravel path leads past stacked-stone raised planters behind the house.


Looking back toward the home’s screened porch, there’s the homeowner (in the yellow blouse) talking with visitors.


Winding along the side fence, a nicely designed dry creek directs and slows runoff from the front yard and roof downspouts when it rains.


Pomegranates ripen on a small tree in one of the raised beds.


The gravel path leading out of the back garden is paved with a heavier gravel — clearly made for slowing down runoff.


And here’s that same path as it rounds the corner of the front house back to the driveway. Another dwarf pomegranate with rosy fruits softens the corner. Pink skullcap flowers on either side of the path.


And here’s the fun group of bloggers I was touring with that day: Jennifer of Victory or Death!…in the Garden, Cat of The Whimsical Gardener, me, Shirley of Rock-Oak-Deer (who drove up from San Antonio), Laura of Wills Family Acres, Lori of The Gardener of Good and Evil, and Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden. By the way, 6 of these bloggers will be attending the Garden Bloggers Fling tour and blogger meetup in Austin next May 3-6. If you’re a garden blogger and want to Fling with us, click here for info about signing up. There are only a few spaces left, so don’t delay!

Up next: Designer Tait Moring’s canyon-side garden. For a look back at the waterwise drama of the Lakemoore Drive Garden, 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.

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