Decking the cedar trees on Loop 360, an Austin Christmas tradition


Just after Thanksgiving every year, Austinites who live along scenic Loop 360 are treated to the festive sight of roadside juniper trees decked out in creative, colorful decorations, turning miles of highway into a drive-by Christmas parade.


It started off, years ago, with just a few trees suddenly sporting tinsel and colorful glass balls.


But the idea caught hold among merry-making Austinites, and nowadays any juniper (we Texans call ’em cedars) along the highway is likely to be targeted by decorating elves.


Some people decorate with a certain theme in mind, like this Denver Broncos tree.


Others go traditional, with tinsel, ribbons, colored balls, and bows.


For drive-by appreciation, the decorating elves know to go big. Shrimpy ornaments are lost to view as drivers zoom by on the highway, so oversized ornaments are key.


So is picking a tree that’s not too tall, so you don’t have to leave the top undecorated. Just toss that tinsel up there.


Right-sized trees are, it seems, in such demand that people are putting “hold” tags on their favorites well before Thanksgiving.


The bee tree is one of my annual favorites. Empty detergent and other large plastic bottles are spray-painted black, striped with yellow duct tape, and given wings of screening mesh.


You can’t miss the bee tree, and I look for it every year.


I also got a kick out of this picnic tree adorned with pink and yellow paper plates and plastic cups and forks.


Snowman face decorations have turned some trees into green, unmeltable Frosties.


Ray Ray’s Pledge, an Austin-based advocacy group that educates people about the danger of leaving young children unattended in hot cars, decorated this tree. Yellow ducks are inscribed with safety facts and calls to activism. White ducks are inscribed with a year and the number of children who died in hot cars that year.


This year, 2016, has seen 39 hot-car deaths, a tragically high number since such deaths are entirely preventable. Ray Ray’s Pledge website — named after baby Ray Ray Cavaliero, who died after her father accidentally left her strapped into her car seat for 3 hours on a hot day — offers lifesaving safety suggestions. Even if you think it could never happen to you, if you have a young child or grandchild, please read them.


Other trees are decorated in memory of a loved one…


…like this tree for Emily.


And this one in memory of Grandma Lola. I like that idea.


It’s kind of sad, though, that they have to put up a sign asking people not to take their ornaments.


Sticking with shades of blue and green helps this tree stand out.


On a lighthearted note, a Pac-Man tree wins my vote for creativity and humor.


Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are chased by ghosts Pinky, Blinky, Inky, and Clyde, all of them cut out of colorful plastic plates with painted eyes.


Ms. Pac-Man sports a plastic-plate hair bow and red lips. Super cute!


A local geocaching group reserved this tree, which they decorated with colorful foam links and old CDs for sparkle…


…plus clear balls stuffed with geocaching log sheets. I like that this group, Geocachers of Central Texas, has scheduled a clean-up of tree decor on December 31. That’s responsible decorating…


…as another sign reminded fellow decorators. In general people are really good about coming back to undecorate the trees and restore the roadside to its natural beauty.


But for now, we enjoy the festive spectacle.


It’s a heartwarming holiday tradition in the best spirit of Austin: spontaneous, creative, and full of goodwill.


Merry Christmas, y’all.

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“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!”
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Lauren Springer Ogden, author of The Undaunted Garden and coauthor of Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens

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

Rawr! Dino fun at Austin’s favorite putt-putt place


It’s the perfect time of year for outdoor play in Austin, and, boy, did we play this long Thanksgiving holiday! We’ve walked around Lady Bird Lake, played at John Gaines Park in Mueller neighborhood, hiked at Bull Creek, seen a couple of movies (Arrival is excellent, Fantastic Beasts a bit of a snooze), and — of course! — played a couple of rounds at Peter Pan Mini Golf on Barton Springs Road.


Peter Pan Mini Golf has been around since 1948, and it recently got a refresh, with refurbished obstacles and all-new landscaping. The place is fun for kids and adults (you can BYOB and even tote a beer cooler from hole to hole if you want).


The iconic T-Rex — it doesn’t fit the Peter Pan theme, but no one seems to mind — looms over the hill on which the mini-golf is built, making it an imposing figure on or off the course.

Our family loves to play putt-putt, and Peter Pan is one of our favorite places to play in Austin. Have you ever putted under the T-Rex?

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

Want to know how I got started as a garden writer? Read page 16 of On the QT, the newsletter for GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators. I’m honored to be featured in an article by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens!

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!

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

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

Creek Show 2016: Light-based public art along Austin’s Waller Creek


Five temporary, light-based art installations come to glowing life each evening through Saturday in downtown Austin along Waller Creek between 5th and 8th Streets. It’s called, simply, Creek Show, with a carnival-esque monster-fish logo (it’s alive!) that I still don’t get, but it’s fun, it’s free, and it’s all part of the effort to revitalize long-neglected Waller Creek through the Waller Creek Conservancy.

This glowing green extinct sea lizard “swims” under the 8th Street bridge. Here’s more info about it:


This part of Waller Creek is currently little more than a concrete-edged drainage channel that often floods. Playing on the watershed theme, this colorful installation represents rainclouds ready to drop a gullywasher into the creek.


The colors change as you stand there looking at it, washing the tunnel wall with light and reflecting in the creek.

Here’s the description:


Walking north to south along the creek we came to the last installation at Easy Tiger Beer Garden, which was packed with mellow patrons at picnic tables along the creek. A rainbow of red light arced up from the creek below…


…over a pedestrian bridge and back down into the creek.


This should be a permanent addition, I think.

Here’s the description:


Waller Creek has been the subject of grand redevelopment visions over the years, like creating Austin’s own San Antonio River Walk. But I think the current vision, which seems to have momentum under the leadership of Peter Mullan of the High Line in NYC, will be a better fit for Austin: part of a chain of parks along Waller Creek, with an emphasis on nature and park-like access.

So go on out and visit Creek Show, Austin, and show your support for Waller Creek’s redevelopment. It’s sure to be a treasured new park in downtown Austin.

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

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

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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