Wildflower Center aglow with the spirit of the season


Luminarias glowed and tree lights twinkled throughout the native-plant gardens at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center during last weekend’s annual Luminations event. I’ve been several times over the years, but this time the lights extended all the way to the new Family Garden.


We got there at opening and enjoyed the lights as evening fell.


My young nephew was with us, so we headed straight for the Family Garden, passing this golden bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum) along the way. That’s a russet bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) at the turn in the path.


In the fading light I was wowed by a mass planting of Lindheimer muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri), whose bleached inflorescences stood tall enough to partially hide a bench. I wish the border of Lindheimer muhly in my own garden looked this fabulous, but it doesn’t get full sun and the grasses remain much smaller and floppier.


Wrapped in lights, a row of Arizona cypresses (Cuppressus arizonica) in the Family Garden made living Christmas trees.


Musical performances were scheduled throughout the garden’s pavilions, including this one, adding a holiday soundtrack to the festivities.


Luminarias lit the way back to the main gardens.


It struck me as kind of strange to be walking through dark gardens by candlelight, where all you could see was glowing paper bags. But it was nice too.


Back in the main courtyard, it was a party, with a steel band playing, people smiling and talking, and hot chocolate being handed out.


We popped into the gift shop. Of course.


I found a glass armadillo ornament, which I immediately realized we needed for our tree. I also perused the shop’s extensive garden-book selection.


Oh, looky here — autographed copies of Lawn Gone! are on display right up front!


At last it was time to go, and at the exit we stopped to ooh and ahh over this enormous live oak, seemingly lit with fairy lights all the way up into the evergreen branches. I was even more impressed to realize that the lights were not physical lights but projected images from four upward-pointing projectors at ground level. How clever, and no ladders required!

Merry Christmas, y’all!

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Join me at Wildflower Center shopping event December 7th


Want to do a little garden-themed holiday shopping this weekend? Come to the 24th annual Wild Ideas Shopping Event at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. I’ll be there on Sunday, from 1 to 3 p.m., signing copies of my book, Lawn Gone!, and I’d love to meet you! Please come say hi even if you don’t need a book because otherwise I’ll just be standing around twiddling my thumbs for two hours, m’kay? I hope to see you there! Still need convincing? Admission to the gardens is free Dec. 5-7, and the new Family Garden is fun for all ages, so you can make an afternoon of it and still get your holiday shopping done too.


This is me at the Wildflower Center’s gift shop last year, all excited to see my book offered for sale there. The Wildflower Center was my earliest inspiration to create a sustainable garden in tune with our difficult climate. I hope my book offers some inspiration and can-do encouragement as well.


If you’re considering Lawn Gone! for a Christmas or Hanukkah gift, here’s a 1-minute video about it. By the way, if your intended recipient lives outside of Texas, I’m happy to tell you that Lawn Gone! is for gardeners and would-be gardeners everywhere, with pictures and plant recommendations for all parts of the U.S.

Here are full details about this weekend’s Wild Ideas Shopping Event:
December 5, 6 & 7 at the Wildflower Center in southwest Austin
Free admission!
20% discount on all store merchandise
Members receive their standard 10% discount in addition to all special discounts!

Friday, December 5 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Joy Fisher Hein offers her porcelain-based wildflower jewelry for sale – Noon to 4 p.m.
Bill Albert provides vases and bowls made from native woods – Noon to 2 p.m.
Sarah St. Laurent encaustic art demo – 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, December 6 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Artist Mary Gregory – 1 to 4 p.m.
Jack Gilmore signs Jack Allen’s Kitchen recipe book and brings food samples – 1 to 4 p.m.

Sunday, December 7 – noon to 5 p.m.
One-hour apparel sale: 25% off all apparel! – Noon to 1 p.m.
PAM PENICK signs LAWN GONE! – 1 to 3 p.m.
Taste Yaupon Tea – 1 to 4 p.m.

Vendors Saturday and Sunday in Visitors Gallery
Wildflower Days 2015 Artist: Denise Counley
Wild Soap Bar
Flat Flower Designs
Joan Edelstein – Arts & Passions Scarves
Mae Mae Stiles – M-Squared Jewelry
Mary Fulton – Agaritaville Pottery
Curtis Laudermilk – Handcrafted Mesquite
Ralph Yznaga Photography
Lisa Camomile – Decorated Glassware
Barbara Attwell – Felted Creations
Mollie Williams – Bottle Garden
Sherri Jones – Watercolor Paintings

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Autumn amble at New York Botanical Garden


After touring Wave Hill on October 11, my daughter and I took the train to the New York Botanical Garden. Although both NYBG and Wave Hill are located in the Bronx, mass transit between the two ate up some time, and we had tickets to a Broadway show that evening. We knew we wouldn’t be able to stay long enough to see all 250 acres and 50 gardens.


Rather than stress about it, we explored at random, taking paths that wound around enormous boulders fringed by Japanese forest grass and white anemones and into woods tinged yellow and orange.


The afternoon was overcast and chilly, but the morning rain had ended, and we saw more people here than we had at Wave Hill. From a nearby sports arena we heard an announcer’s voice, cheers, and air horns. The cool weather, turning leaves, and game noise reminded me of fall days in the Southeast, where I grew up.


All that we lacked was the smell of wood smoke in the air.


I’ve admired council rings since first encountering one at Chicago Botanic Garden’s Evening Island. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have one in a home garden, with a fire pit in the middle?


I loved this meadowy scene atop a boulder-strewn rise.


It was one of the prettiest areas we saw.


Grasses, garlic chives gone to seed, asters, and pink daisies combined in a tapestry of fall color.


In a lower part of the garden, a swale for collecting and funneling rainwater leads the eye to a mound of vertical boulders.


A closer look


Woodsy paths beckoned with leaves just starting to turn.


Chipmunks scurried here and there, collecting nuts for winter…


…and stopping to eat one or two.


Who could resist a path like this? Not us.


My daughter picked up a fallen leaf and made a hair ornament of it.


Nothing bought in a store could be as pretty.


Fallen leaves adorned the ground too.


On a bridge high above a creek we looked down on more golden trees.


We saw a few reds as well.


A lovely native plant garden with a large pond offered a boardwalk stroll…


…past woodland borders with plenty of fall color.


Ferns were still green then but probably not for long.


At the sunnier end, we noticed a swath of colorful pitcher plants in the mucky soil along the decking.


Aren’t they lovely?


I’m noticing pitcher plants everywhere these days, especially in container plantings. Are they the plant du jour, wresting the crown away from tillandsias?


From wet-loving plants to dry-loving, this garden has it all. Devil’s tongue (Opuntia humifusa) looks quite happy, even in New York (yes, it’s native), nestled amid heat-reflecting boulders.


This must be a birder’s paradise with so many food sources, including coneflowers and grasses gone to seed.


I wish I’d taken a few photos inside the gift shop, which was quite nice and very large as botanical garden gift shops go. An extensive gardening book section captivated me for a while, and imagine my delight when I saw that they carried my book, Lawn Gone! — and it was even displayed face out! I swear I didn’t turn it that way for the picture.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my garden visits from New York. For a look back at Wave Hill (1 of 2 posts), click here. And for my extensive write-up of the High Line (1 of 2 posts), click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.