Agave and cactus splendor in the garden of Matt Shreves


For Foliage Follow-Up this month, I’m taking you on a tour of Matt Shreves’s garden near Lake Travis. A succulent and cactus lover (check out his spikealicious Instagram page), Matt has turned an ordinary yard into a tapestry of foliage texture, color, and bold form.


Let’s start out front, where he’s terraced a sloping entry garden to create multiple levels for planting. A spiky assortment of agaves, beaked yucca, and palms, softened with masses of Mexican feathergrass, salvias, skullcap, and blue oat grass blue fescue (which I’ve never seen in Austin), creates a colorful welcome.


A small patio with colorful Adirondacks sits at the top level, a perfect spot from which to admire the garden.


With those blue fescues, it reminds me of a California garden, although the whale’s tongue agaves, beaked yucca, pink skullcap, and feathergrass are all perfectly at home here in Austin.


At the end of the driveway, a massive golden barrel cactus and other potted succulents await their forever home.


Palms bookend the garden, accenting the Spanish-style house.


Climbing the steps to the front door, let’s pause to admire the little patio. Plants fill every available space, including the steps to a pair of French doors, where chartreuse-leaved annuals fill baskets hanging from the porch lights.


By the front door, purple-tinged ghost plant spills out of a turquoise pot, with a golden ‘Joe Hoak’ agave glowing in the background.


A closer look at that gorgeous ‘Joe Hoak’, with plumbago just starting to bloom alongside it.


Another pretty succulent pot by the door


Passing through Matt’s house, you enter the back yard to this focal-point scene: a mounded rock garden bristling with agaves, columnar cacti, and barrel cacti, with frothing silver ponyfoot spilling over the rocks. An Austin sign — the same one I have on my own blue wall — reminds you that you’re in Central Texas, not Palm Springs.


A side view


Neatly groomed agaves and cactus in silvery green, powder blue, and moonshine yellow


The long rock garden undulates along a stone wall, set off by a small lawn in front. At one end of the yard, a fire pit patio invites relaxation under a live oak draped with string lights.


A perfect spot to enjoy the garden in the evening


Another view from the back porch


Looking back at the porch, where a red wall contrasts with turquoise chairs


Old man cactus and beaked yucca are charismatic flora for a dry garden.


Beautiful blue-green agave leaves outlined by black teeth and spines. Notice the ghostly leaf imprints on the leaves, from when they were still furled.


A small porch at the other end of the garden is home to an assortment of small potted succulents.


Two rows of tiny potted succulents adorn a hanging metal shelf.


Heading back to the back porch…


…you see a rustic wooden buffet that Matt has styled with an eye-catching collection of potted plants, a Mexican mirror, and faux water buffalo horns.


Two lower shelves contain beautiful arrangements that are deceptively simple. A section of tree trunk seems planted with succulents, but actually the plants remain in their nursery pots, tilted to look as if they’re growing in the hollowed out trunk. On the bottom shelf, another branch (or driftwood) disguises the nursery pots of more succulents, and a narrow metal tray holds others.


I caught a hazy portrait of Matt in the mirror as I photographed the fascinating arrangement on top of the buffet.


A red toolbox and small wooden box, with their lids thrown open, make fun cachepots.


Earth-toned living stones (Lithops) cluster amid matching gravel in a terracotta pot — a striking display.


Matt has a great eye for arranging his collection of interesting and unusual plants, and for foliage form and texture, his garden really shines. Thanks for the garden tour, Matt!

This is my May post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden this month — or one you’ve visited? 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! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. 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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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.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers 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.

Dynasty Drive flowers and bonus hosta garden: Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling


A garden tour within a garden tour was offered on day two of the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling, held in mid-July.


Bused to a half-dozen lovely private gardens on a local Master Gardeners tour (see my upcoming post about the Walden Road garden), at one point I found myself admiring a colorful prairie-style garden along Dynasty Drive, near a house that wasn’t even on the tour.


How amazing is that, to have such a wealth of gardens in an area that even the non-tour yards look gorgeous?


The flowering extravaganza of the front yard continued around the side yard, which was adjacent to a neighborhood tennis court. As I followed the flowers…


…several bloggers heading back toward the bus said, “You must see this garden. The owner is inviting us in.”


Owners Julie Carley and Gary Mosiman were standing at the entrance to their expansive back garden, lush with hostas and ligularia in shade, lilies and daylilies in sun, and inviting passing bloggers to have a look. As it turns out, they were scheduled to be on a different tour the next day, or so I understood. It was a lucky bonus garden, then, for the Flingers!


Brightened with variegated hostas — and not a slug- or snail-chewed leaf in sight — the garden shows how beautiful a shady foliage garden can be (in the upper Midwest).


You talking about me?


With a little more sun, daylilies appear.


In the center of the garden, a sweeping lawn (no water shortages in Minnesota!) provides a verdant space to rest the eye. In the sunny border around it, brightly colored lilies and daylilies vie for attention.


I love a garden with lots of places to sit and enjoy the view. This simple concrete bench offers the perfect spot to breathe in the lilies’ fragrance.


Looking uphill, you can see what a huge elevation change there is between the house and lower garden. A deck helps bridge the gap between indoors and out.


Panning right, you see an elevated patio with steps and a retaining wall of wooden timbers — a beautiful way to bring the house and garden together. (And look, there’s Rebecca from Buda, Texas!) Climbing steps on the left (not pictured)…


…you arrive at an intimate, bark-mulched seating area shaded by a tall tree.


It offers views across the garden, including the upper patio on the other side.


Zooming in


And now here’s the view from the other patio.


Elevation changes add so much interest to a garden, and the broad curves of the planting beds set off the lawn to perfection.


More hostas under the trees


These oversized, rippled hosta leaves are lovely.


Ligularia (‘The Rocket’?) adds a swath of sunshine with its golden flower spikes.


What a beautiful garden!


Here’s one of the owners, Julie (left), explaining something to Diana and Gryphon. I’m grateful to Julie and Gary for spontaneously sharing their garden with us.

Up next: The Walden Road garden, one of the gardens on the Master Gardeners tour. For a look back at the flowery and art-filled Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 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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Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Chanticleer rocks a Gravel Garden


I’m excited to show you the Gravel Garden at Chanticleer, a Philadelphia-area “pleasure garden” I visited with my friend Diana in early June, as it’s one of my favorite spaces. Planted on a long, open slope overlooking the Pond Garden, the Gravel Garden reminds me of Austin in many ways, although the surrounding lush scenery and tall conifers remind me that I’m not in Texas anymore.


Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) with upturned pink petals flourishes here.


A few droopy, white-petaled purple coneflowers add variety — maybe Echinacea pallida?


I love them all.


The hillside is planted like a wildflower meadow, a pollinator’s paradise.


I didn’t find ‘Husker Red’ penstemon on the plant list, but I believe that’s what this pale-pink, burgundy-leaved penstemon is.


It looks wonderful with the purple coneflowers.


A living bouquet


One more


Bees loved the penstemon too.


As you climb the slope, you’re at eye level with the flowers, surrounded by their beauty. Turning around, you get a nice view of the Pond Garden.


But let’s keep going up, climbing granite-block steps…


…and stopping every foot or so to admire blooming plants.


At the top, a gravelly meadow opens to view on the left — incongruously bordered (to my Southwestern eyes) with a golden-hued Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’). Japanese maple and desert-friendly Yucca rostrata — the tall, spherical-headed plant in the background — don’t usually appear together in Texas gardens, after all, but here apparently anything is possible.


The meadow in early June was frothy with white lace flower (Orlaya grandiflora), crimson poppies, and Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima).


One of the yuccas was sporting a bloom spike.


Feathergrass and white lace flower


Prickly pear cactus and orange poppies, a classic dry-garden combo


A narrow path leads through the small meadow to a pair of stone-slab benches tucked under a redbud. On the left, a silver-blue Agave americana is surrounded by blue fescue ladies-in-waiting.


American agave, ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue, autumn sage (Salvia greggii), and Mexican feathergrass — all familiar to Austin gardeners except the blue fescue.


From the benches you can admire the agave’s muscular form and steely blue color.


Diana got a few shots of it too.


A bright blue sky smeared with white clouds, Yucca rostrata, feathergrass, and poppies — gorgeous!


Another meadowy garden spreads out at the feet of a big old shade tree. The Ruin looms behind. Constructed on the site of the estate owner’s house, which was torn down after his death (it was one of three houses on the property; two remain), the Ruin is a folly “overgrown” with young trees and vines and evoking a sense of mystery and history. I’ll show it in my next post.


Like furniture that’s been dragged outdoors to air out, a stone sofa and two armchairs sit just outside the Ruin and make surprisingly comfortable seats.


Diana and I enjoyed our picnic dinner here (on Fridays in summer, the garden stays open late and allows picnicking), having the couch and chairs all to ourselves — and the glorious view.


Occasionally a few other picnickers wandered over to admire the stone seats and exclaim over the stone remote control on the sofa’s arm. What’s on TV tonight?, joked more than one person.


I lifted my arm at the surrounding garden. This.

Up Next: Chanticleer’s mysterious Ruin Garden. For a look back at the Cut Flower/Vegetable Garden and magical Bell’s Woodland, 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

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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