Turning a neighborhood median strip into a garden


A few years ago I toured Colleen Jamison’s beautiful garden in central-west Austin, and a few days ago I had the pleasure of a revisit. It is still wonderful! But here’s what wowed me before I even stepped foot in her garden: a median strip down the middle of her street that she’s transformed, little by little, into a garden for her neighbors and passersby to enjoy.


Wow, just look at this lovely space, with staggered benches inviting one to rest under an allée of crepe myrtles. Colleen says she started planting the median years ago to block an unwelcome view of trucks parked directly across the street from her house. And then she just kept expanding it.


As you’d expect, the median lacks a water source for irrigation, so Colleen chose tough, mostly native plants that can thrive without regular watering once they’re established, like Mexican feathergrass and crepe myrtle, shown here, as well as retama, Texas mountain laurel, iris, blue mistflower, prickly pear, and agave. (Note: she does water new plants by hand until they’re established.)

Colleen’s eye for design is evident in the repetition and massing of relatively few species of plants, which also makes maintenance easier, and in the way she breaks up the bowling-alley effect of a long, narrow space by zigzagging benches along the length and creating a focal-point mound of blue mistflower in the center of the path.


The blue mistflower mound marks the end of the crepe myrtle allée and the start of a retama allée.


Turning around and looking back toward the middle, you get to enjoy the effect all over again.


So inviting! And so well maintained too.


The allée pathway widens in the midsection of the median to embrace both sides of the street, inviting access.


Directly across from Colleen’s garden, the median is more densely planted in cottage-garden style — the better to hide those trucks! Actually, the trucks may be long gone now, but this was the earliest section she planted, and it’s lush with Texas mountain laurel, prickly pear, iris, and agave. A metal sunflower makes a cheerful accent.


From the median, here’s the charming view of Colleen’s house and front garden. What a gift she’s given to the neighborhood with her own garden and the median garden.


For fun, here are a couple more images from Colleen’s garden, including a ruffled kalanchoe in a mint-green vase…


…and this peaceful side-yard garden with a classical fountain, a pillow-strewn bench for comfortable lounging, and masses of pretty shade-garden plants.

Don’t you wish you were Colleen’s neighbor?

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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

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.

Wildflower fields abloom at Wildseed Farms


A wildflower photo safari is my springtime ritual, and I especially like to drive out to the Texas Hill Country to photograph wildflowers against the rugged hills, rocks, and prickly pear. This spring, thanks to a mild winter, Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) are carpeting roadsides a few weeks early, so there was no time to lose if I wanted to see our state flower in its blue splendor.


Here’s what a field of bluebonnets looks like — sparkling blue heaven.


Unfortunately, while I saw plenty of bluebonnets along the roadsides from Spicewood to Llano, there was nowhere to safely pull over to photograph them, and I didn’t see any fields in bloom. Even scenic Willow City Loop off Highway 16 was downright sparse.


Happily, there’s always Wildseed Farms just east of Fredericksburg, where you can view farm fields of wildflowers, which they grow for their seed-selling operation. (Here’s my obligatory annual pickup truck-and-wildflowers picture.)


Right now Wildseed Farms has fields of bluebonnets and corn poppies in full flower.


Yesterday’s high winds made photographing the long-stemmed poppies challenging.


I always like spotting a few pink poppies amid the red ones.


I’ll leave you with a view of Enchanted Rock, which always deserves a detour if you’re driving Highway 16 north of Fredericksburg.

For my previous wildflower safaris, check out these blog posts:
Wildflower drive through the Texas Hill Country, March 2016
An Easter wildflower safari, April 2015
Wildflower safari in the Hill Country, April 2010
Texas wildflower Bloom Day, April 2010

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

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.

Exploring Mueller’s Southwest Greenway, public art, and Texas Farmers’ Market


A week ago, my dad and I popped over to east Austin’s Mueller neighborhood for a springtime stroll around the Southwest Greenway. They have some pretty big spiders in those parts!


I love this sculpture, Arachnophilia by Houston artist Dixie Friend Gay, which stands 23 feet tall and straddles the walking trail. Her belly is full of green and blue glass gazing balls! Gigantic agaves add a living sculptural element alongside the trail.


Texas redbuds were in full bloom, and I had to stop and admire each one.


The trail skirts a small lake in the center of the park…


…where we spotted a great blue heron and a few white egrets fishing or frogging, plus lots of ducks.


The Southwest Greenway was planted with native grasses and other Texas prairie plants in partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In late winter, tawny grasses predominate. But flowering trees are already coloring the prairie landscape, and soon wildflowers will steal the show. In the distance you can see two sculptures by Austin artist Chris Levack, Wigwam on the left and Pollen Grain on the right.


Here’s a closer view of Wigwam, with curving beds of prairie grasses and perennials at its feet.


With mass plantings of native trees and perennials, the Greenway shows how to use native plants in a contemporary way.


I like this tiny formal lawn too, which leads to a bench secluded by native shrubs, ornamental trees, and grasses.


Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) shows off golden, sweet-scented flowers at this time of year.


The spiny, gray-green leaves are pretty too.


Ah, but the early spring glory of flowering redbuds and Mexican plums!


A closeup of Texas redbuds in bloom. Why, I wonder, aren’t they called pinkbuds?


Mueller is a planned community built on the site of Austin’s old Mueller Airport, and some of the original airport structures have been preserved, like this old hangar. Dad and I were happy to stumble on the Texas Farmers’ Market in full swing here, which operates every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm.


Vendors were selling vegetables, honey, sauces, bread, and more.


And since it was just a few days before Mardi Gras, a band decked out in tie-dye, purple, and beads, the Mighty Pelicans, were playing zydeco and blues. It was a party!


As we headed back to our car, we couldn’t help noticing a bunch of kids on a playing field wearing clear plastic bubbles. They’d run at each other and rebound hilariously. One kid got stuck upside-down and had to be righted with help from his coach.


I later learned it’s called bubble soccer. Who knew?


Near the science-based playspace for kids called Thinkery , we encountered another delightful public sculpture, Lake Nessie.


The glass-tiled sea serpent was created by Arachnophilia artist Dixie Friend Gay.

I love all the public art at Mueller, and the generous park spaces. It’s a fun place for a Sunday stroll.

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

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 upcoming talk with James deGrey David 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. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

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

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