Luminations lights up the Wildflower Center for Christmas


Luminations, the annual holiday light display at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, didn’t happen last year. But it returned this year for a 4-night run that ended Sunday night. Our family went last night and had a lovely time viewing the lights along the paths and the garden’s native Texas plants.


Glowing luminarias lined the entry walk along the aqueduct, which was washed with purple and blue light.


The entry pond was otherworldly, transformed by magenta and electric blue light. Luminarias zigzagged up the stone watercourse on the back wall.


Glowing with light, the pathways through the garden were especially enticing.


Even the Central Garden, normally my least favorite area of the gardens, was transformed by light.


Trees lit up in red and green led to a bright window…


…where a UT Tower made of gingerbread was on display.


Every time I visit, the Arizona cypresses in the Family Garden seem to have grown another few feet, and they looked beautiful adorned with ornaments and lights. Starburst-shaped sotols grow in front.


Candlelit luminarias lined the play spiral’s walls, and colored lights illuminated the walking tree stumps (which look like ents, or the aliens in Arrival).


Another view, with glowing trees in the background.


I went gaga over a huge, glowing moon light.


Isn’t it wonderful?


I’m not sure if the moon terrain is printed or projected, but it was beautiful.


A gravelly garden of wheeler sotol and hesperaloe was washed in blue light, as luminarias marched along a low wall.


It’s always so nice to see Austin come together to enjoy the season at events like Luminations.


It’s one of my favorite places in Austin, and one of my favorite times of the year.

For more Luminations photos, from when I attended in 2014, 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

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.

Visit to Fort Worth Botanic Garden and Japanese Garden


Although I’ve been to Dallas and its well-known public garden many times, until last weekend I’d never visited the botanical garden in nearby Fort Worth, just 45 minutes to the west. While not showy like Dallas Arboretum, Fort Worth Botanic Garden is a pleasant place to stroll amid perennial gardens, arbors and gazebos (likely popular with wedding parties), and woodsy trails.

On this early October day, monarchs were passing through, fueling up for their journey to Mexico.


I’d never seen this type of big, golden bee before. When I posted a picture on Instagram, a reader identified as possibly a male valley carpenter bee. That’s esperanza (Tecoma stans) he’s enjoying.


Orange and pink hibiscus adds tropical color.


Fluffy, cotton-candy wisps of our native Gulf muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) were catching the light.


Another native plant, fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), was a hit with honeybees.


This massive arbor, with a rough-cut tree trunk serving as the top rail, is a striking portal.


The real attraction of the garden, however, is the Fort Worth Japanese Garden, which has a separate parking area and an entry fee (the main garden is free). The entry tower, pictured here, makes an impressive gateway into the garden.


Roofed arbors beckon you further into the 7.5-acre garden.


The garden was constructed in 1973, and while the first part with a large wooden pavilion around a zen garden (not pictured) has a somewhat dated feel, it’s neatly kept. I especially enjoyed the main part of the garden, which is a strolling garden built around a large pond (see below).


It’s certainly not as crowded as other Japanese gardens I’ve visited, like Portland Japanese Garden, and it’s a pleasant place to spend an hour or more in leisurely enjoyment of the outdoors, with some very nice Japanese-style structures and garden art.


I like this somewhat contemporary pagoda sculpture.


Coming around a bend in the path, this was a fun surprise: a trio of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys on stone steps leading nowhere.


A large pond occupies the central part of the garden, with a winding path leading around it and offering scenic views like this arching moon bridge.


This small gazebo perches at the water’s edge amid a scrim of Japanese maples.


Lacy leaves of Japanese maples overhead.


Koi followed us around the pond like hungry pups waiting for a handout. The garden sells fish food, and many visitors were delighting in feeding the colorful fish.


Look at those open mouths!


Whoa! This big boy could practically swallow your arm.


Decks like this one offer up-close pond-viewing places.


Beautiful bark on what my friend Diana identified as an elm tree.


A pretty teahouse seems to float over the pond, framed by bald cypress and pine trees.


Heading around to the gazebo


Stone lantern


The very earliest Japanese maples were beginning to turn.


Such beautiful fall color — and unexpected. I thought we’d be too early for it.


I’ve always liked bamboo-and-basin fountains like this.


A “floating” path of stepping stones attracts adventurous and sure-footed explorers.


Another deck offering a scenic spot to enjoy the pond.


A flaming red and orange Japanese maple attracted my eye — so beautiful against a clear blue sky.


Climbing up the slope we found a large elevated deck and a cluster of roofed shelters that seemed meant for weddings or other events. With their sharply peaked roofs and cross designs, they almost seem Scandinavian, don’t they?


Back on the main path, I spotted palmettos along a stream with a small waterfall…


…and enjoyed a new view of the moon bridge.


More decks


A tricolored heron (as a fellow photographer ID’d it) was fishing for minnows swarming around a mess of fish food that had been tossed in the pond.


I stopped to watch him for about 15 minutes as he inched toward the water…


…stretched out his neck…


…and struck!


He was an effective fisherman.


A fellow fisherman got in his way a few times: a long water snake that coiled and flashed through the water in pursuit of minnows. I was amazed how many passersby were afraid when they saw it, sure it was a water moccasin that would leap out to get them. But no, it was nonvenomous and just wanted a fishy meal.


This lovely wooden pagoda near the exit stands about 20 feet tall.


A nicely designed gift shop beckons near the exit…


…its porch framing a view of a young ginkgo in golden fall glory.

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

Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy on November 4.

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.

Pumpkins in the land of Oz at Dallas Arboretum


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! But the woman in front of the curtain? That’s Diana, my friend and fellow explorer last weekend at the annual Pumpkin Village at Dallas Arboretum. This year the Arboretum carries you off like a tornado to “The Wonderful World of Oz,” with pumpkin houses representing Auntie Em’s house, the Wicked Witch’s castle, the Emerald City, and more.


I’m always amazed at what the festival staff pulls off, and this year’s Oz theme may be the best yet. A yellow brick road spirals through piles of pumpkins — more than 90,000 pumpkins, squash, and gourds are used for the display — toward Auntie Em’s house…


…where a big pumpkin appears to have flattened the Wicked Witch of the East. Her stripe-stockinged legs are all that’s left of her, those famous ruby slippers already on someone else’s feet.


In a “cornfield” of dried stalks, the Scarecrow points the way to the Emerald City.


I half expected him to come to life and start dancing.


In a grove of trees stands the Tin Man, already wearing his ticking heart gift from the Wizard.


The Cowardly Lion, wearing his flowerpot crown and medal of courage, stands nearby.


Little pumpkins strung vertically with twine hang from the trees.


One of those trees isn’t very happy about trespassers! Check out that face…


…and a clenched twig fist, ready to hurl a small pumpkin!


Black sweet potato vine darkens the pumpkin house that belongs to the Wicked Witch of the West.


One of her flying monkeys perches on the roof.


The Emerald City’s pumpkin house is adorned, appropriately, with green sweet potato vine.


Inside each house, murals depict scenes from the story.


Munchkin Land is represented with a white pumpkin house…


…with its own sweet potato vine doorway.


Building materials


A small “lake” of gray and white pumpkins is home to a flock of geese gooseneck gourds. So clever!


The place was, naturally, a madhouse with families picking out pumpkins in the pumpkin patch and taking pictures of their kids. I’m just a big kid myself and delighted in exploring the place. Although I searched, I never did see Dorothy, Toto, or the Wicked Witch and wonder if I missed them or if the Arboretum hires actors to play them or what.


Pumpkins are a theme well beyond the Oz display. We spotted these decorated pumpkins, with push-on features you could purchase in a kit.


So cute!


I love all three of these.


The Arboretum is all about wowing you with masses of annuals and perennials in showy arrangements.


That style of garden is not usually my thing, but the Arboretum does it so well that I always end up enjoying the spectacle.


Yellow marigolds — a cottage garden classic done to perfection here with purple-black castor bean plant and bordered by a row of orange pumpkins.


Artfully piled pumpkins of every color and shape surround large containers overflowing with big tropical leaves and annual color.


So much orange and yellowwww — I love it! Golden rudbeckia and orange mums about to pop are edged with orange pumpkins.


Rudbeckia ‘Sonora’, maybe?


Black sweet potato vine, croton, and millet make a wonderful autumnal combo in this pot, set off by lipstick-pink flowering canna in the background.


Gorgeous cannas


Golden narrowleaf zinnia


An allee of crepe myrtles, their bare lower branches making web-like shadows on the ground, leads to…


…a small plaza with four bronze toads spouting water toward the center.


I’d love to see the garden again in a couple of weeks, when all the Japanese maples turn orange and red. In the foreground is a touchable shrub I’m now wondering if we can grow here in Austin: ‘Franky Boy’ arborvitae.


A ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple offers some early fall color.


Spiderweb catching the light


A curved arbor of sky vine offers a tantalizing glimpse of a stone fountain.


Sky vine blossoms (Thunbergia grandiflora)


I always enjoy this playful sculpture at the base of a formal stair lined with potted boxwoods: Chico y Chica de la Playa (Boy and Girl on the Beach).


Must be a nude beach.


Millet (thriller), marigold (filler), and sweet potato vine (spiller) make a cool combo.


Who knew pumpkins could make so many plants look even better?


And this! Weeping blue atlas cedar with variegated liriope and big, orange pumpkins.


‘Tis the season for pumpkin enjoyment, so if you have a chance to visit Dallas Arboretum this fall, the pumpkin display runs through November 22nd.

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

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in San Antonio on Oct. 14th and Austin on Nov. 4th.

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.

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