Leaf-peeping, zombies, and Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas


Last Friday my husband and I drove up to northern Arkansas for an extended weekend just before Halloween, hoping to see colorful fall foliage while making a first-time visit to Eureka Springs. I didn’t know what to expect from Eureka Springs aside from hilly terrain, natural springs, and Victorian homes from the town’s heyday in the late 1800s, when tourists sought out the “curative” spring water.


Eureka Springs is indeed very hilly — its nickname, Little Switzerland, is well earned — and we did see leaves of gold and red, although overall it hasn’t been a great year for fall color in Arkansas due to unusually dry conditions. The town is utterly charming, with hundred-year-old houses along every street and a bustling downtown of well-preserved Victorian-era buildings turned into shops, hotels, and restaurants.


In town, footpaths bypass the winding roads and offer mountain-goat-friendly shortcuts up and down hills. We climbed one from a downtown park, up through a neighborhood of sweet, front-porched homes, and then up to the iconic if a bit rickety Crescent Hotel, with commanding views of the surrounding hills. And then we walked back down to town for lunch at Mud Street Cafe. It was perfect sweater weather, with bright blue skies and blushing trees and leaves crunching underfoot.

Halloween in Eureka Springs: All-Out Decorating and Zombie Crawl


We stayed at the delightful Heart of the Hills Inn (not pictured), in its cozy and comfortable Carriage House, located on the Historic Loop along Summit Street. Every house in the neighborhood was all-out decorated for Halloween, including this crazy-spooky house-turned-witch just down the street.


We soon learned that Eureka Springs has a contest for best Halloween decorations, and this one took 3rd place, if I recall correctly. Note the ghoul climbing up over the roof!


Friendly porch-sitters waved at rubbernecking passersby.


Downtown, thankfully, there were no early Christmas trees or Santas adorning storefronts. Halloween and fall were being celebrated in full measure, as they deserve.


Even the murals and graffiti in alleyways got into the spirit of things.


The Babadook?


On the Saturday before Halloween, zombies shuffled into town, looking for braaaaiiiins. It was the 6th annual Zombie Crawl parade, and we joined the throngs lining historic Spring Street to watch the undead go by. Amid skele-zombies and go-go zombies…


…an Elvis zombie appeared, taking selfies with his fans. Clown zombies were unamused.


This hospital-patient zombie was downright scary.


Zombie kids were imprisoned in cages (à la the Child Catcher’s wagon in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang — remember that?), attesting to the presence of zombie catchers.


An Umbrella Corporation pickup truck rolled by too, which I spotted the next morning on a Sunday-quiet street.

Thorncrown Chapel: Sanctuary in the Woods


For something completely different, I was excited to finally see the architecturally celebrated Thorncrown Chapel, a soaring, glass-walled chapel in the woods just outside of town.


Designed by architect Fay Jones and completed in 1980, the design reflects both Gothic influences and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style.


The transparent walls seem to bring indoors the surrounding woods and rocky bluffs.


Or perhaps you feel as if you’re outdoors and communing with nature.


It’s a truly beautiful structure.

Ouachita National Forest


In search of fall foliage, we drove through the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains. The area around Eureka Springs and Bentonville had the best color (I’ll share some in my next post about Crystal Bridges Museum and the Chihuly exhibit there), but here are a few views from the more subdued Ouachita.


Orange and yellow amid the green


We’ll have fall color in Austin — such as it is — in another few weeks. But it was nice to get an early taste in Arkansas.

Up next: Chihuly in the Forest and more at Crystal Bridges Museum.

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

Saturday, November 4th: Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy.

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.

Hello, winter — you’ve zapped my garden


Hello, winter! We’re not used to seeing you here in Central Texas. Despite predictions of a mild winter, with the warming influence of a La Niña, we’ve already had two multi-day stretches of hard freezes, with a couple of nights dropping into the upper teens.


The result? Brown, brown, brown plants. Semi-melted agaves and aloes. Tender succulents reduced to mush. (Notice the potted ‘Monterrey Frost’ squid agave looks great though!)


Considering that my garden didn’t have a single hard freeze last winter, this has come as a shock, not only to my marginally hardy plants but to my eyes. I’m not used to seeing so much brown. And I have to admit that I don’t like it.


Oh, the natives are fine, of course. They can take temperature extremes in stride. The Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) on the left still looks green and happy. So do certain exotics, like pale pavonia (Pavonia hastata) and ‘Sparkler’ sedge. But bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) and foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri), both of which I rely on heavily because they thrive in dry, dappled shade and deer don’t touch them, have become as dry and bleached as straw. I can only hope they’ll come back from the roots.


It’s the same story with Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’). Mushy and brown.

If you’re wondering, yes, I cut back the dianella in the front garden because I couldn’t stand its straw-like ugliness near the front door. But generally I recommend waiting on cutting back until mid-February to give roots a little protection, to avoid stimulating early growth that could get zapped by another freeze, and to give shelter to wildlife.


In the back garden, the stand of Mexican honeysuckle, usually green all winter, is blackened and sad.


Even my normally winter-hardy ‘Jaws’ agave shows some bleached-out freeze damage.


This is when yuccas really shine, like these ‘Color Guard’ yuccas. Winter weather doesn’t faze them. Let’s sing the praises of ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood too, impervious to polar vortexes. Gah, the poor bamboo muhly behind the yuccas, though.

I’m sure those of you in colder climates are finding it hard to sympathize. What can I say? Mild winters are surely our reward, here in Texas, for putting up with blistering summers, right? RIGHT??


Ah well. Spring is already stirring here in Austin, as the Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) shows. By mid-February new growth will be glowing green throughout the garden, and winter clean-up will begin in earnest.

This is my January post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness — or ugliness — 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! 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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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

2/25/17: Come to my talk at the Wildflower Center. I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. My talk is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

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. The first talk with Scott Ogden has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Outdoors at The Domain’s Rock Rose


My mother and I had lunch in the new Rock Rose section of The Domain (a New Urbanist-style live/work/shop development in North Austin) last week and poked around in the shops afterward. Naturally, I yanked my phone out along the way to take pictures of cool landscaping features, like this steel planter that doubles as a patio retaining wall at The Dogwood bar. Foxtail fern, silver ponyfoot, and red roses make a pretty, sun-loving combo. I like their painted sign-mural too.


Here’s a simple idea, taken from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture store: a prickly pear pad (or two) stuck in contemporary pot topped with gravel. Why haven’t I ever done this with prunings from my opuntias?


A cloud-like arbor of aluminum or stainless steel floats over a public plaza near the Northside Lawn. It’s eye-catching as a sculptural element, and I suppose it offers filtered shade on hotter days.


A John Lennon song lyric mural is just begging to be used as a backdrop for engagement photos. It struck me as a hopeful message for these turbulent times too.

Rock Rose at The Domain, with a slew of local restaurants that we north Austinites formerly had to drive downtown or to South Austin to enjoy, feels a little like Disneyland, with its clean, walkable streets and idealized-Austin vibe. It has its haters, but it’s OK with me. A walkable shopping/dining area that’s not inside a mall (yuck) and that’s beautifully landscaped made for a nice day out with my mom. I’ll be back next time to try out East Side King’s Thai Kun.

Click for a look at the landscaping and public art in the original section of The Domain.

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

Need a holiday gift for the gardener, new homeowner, or environmentalist on your list?
Please consider giving one (or both!) of my books. They’re packed with plenty of how-to info for newbies as well as lots of inspirational photos and design ideas for more experienced gardeners! Order today from Amazon (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!) or other online booksellers (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!), or find them anywhere books are sold.

“In an era of drought and unpredictable weather patterns, The Water-Saving Garden could not come at a better time. With striking photographs and a designer’s eye, Penick shows us just how gorgeous a water-wise garden can be. This is the must-have garden book of the year!”
Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants

“This thoughtful, inviting, and thoroughly useful book should be required for every new homeowner at closing. It has the power to transform residential landscapes from coast to coast and change the world we all share.”
Lauren Springer Ogden, author of The Undaunted Garden and coauthor of Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens

For a sneak peek before you buy, check out my book trailers!

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

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