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.

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.

In the Thicket of things: An urban boutique nursery in Portland


Sopping up a plateful of sausage gravy with fluffy, fist-sized biscuits at a picnic table outside of Pine State Biscuits, I glimpsed an open gate and profusion of plants just a dozen yards away, tucked behind a nearby building. We were in Portland, Oregon, on a mid-August morning, enjoying breakfast at a popular spot on N.E. Alberta Street (the line to get into Pine State wrapped around the building but moved fast). After we put away our biscuits, we strolled over to browse the nursery, charmingly named Thicket.


It’s an adorable, enticing boutique nursery, filled with plants I was sure I could not grow here in Austin, so I simply window-shopped.


They have a nice selection of small pots for the urban or porch gardener…


…scrumptious plants for small urban yards…


…and trendy pitcher plants for container ponds.


And what have we here? A nice succulent selection too!


Lovely succulent containers adorn the nursery. I liked this one with pastel echeverias and an echoing ‘Blue Boy’ Yucca desmetiana.


Lipstick-pink bromeliads in a galvanized tub are eye-catching too.


A succulent tapestry


I want them all.


Notice the fall-like foliage of the trees in the background, echoing the orange crocosmia blooms in the foreground. Nope, it wasn’t fall color. Just an example of the rich foliage colors available to those in the Pacific Northwest. No, I’m not bitter.


Wouldn’t these succulents look pretty planted up in a rusty old wheelbarrow?


I’m glad we had the opportunity to get lost in Thicket one morning, with bellies full of biscuits, before setting off on other Portland adventures.

Up next: The beautiful Portland Japanese Garden. For a look back at Portland’s classical Lan Su Chinese 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

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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