Garden Spark design talk with James deGrey David, and you’re invited!

Update 2/8/17: ***THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT. If you’d like to hear about future Garden Spark talks, please get on the mailing list. Send me an email and let me know you’d like to be added to the email list.***


Garden of James deGrey David and Gary Peese

I’m pleased to announce the second Garden Spark talk of 2017: Austin landscape architect James deGrey David will present “Looking at Gardens: A Personal View” on March 30th. And you’re invited!


Photo courtesy of James deGrey David

Looking at Gardens: A Personal View

“I like clarity in a garden. I don’t want my eye to wander and get too far ahead. I want it to be clear what I am looking at. Hardscape (paths, patios, terraces, walls, arbors, and other built features) is a key element in leading the eye through a garden. From the moment you step out of a car and onto a path, you are analyzing the home and garden. First impressions matter not only for your guests but most importantly for yourself. I’ll discuss how to build your garden into an exciting progression of spaces that lead you in and out of your home.

Each garden is unique, influenced by climate, soils, shade and shadow, and exposure to light. Hardscape materials can provide a stage for plants and plantings. Outdoor seating and dining areas, pools and water features, and lighting will be interwoven into ideas of garden design. This will all come together as a series of interrelated possibilities for your home and garden.”

Speaker bio: Landscape architect James deGrey David, of David/Peese Design, chaired the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program for many years and founded Gardens, a boutique nursery and home-goods shop in Austin (closed in 2010). An avid plant collector, James and his partner, Gary Peese, have created a masterwork garden in the Rollingwood neighborhood, which they’ve regularly shared with the public on Open Days tours. After three decades of tending their acclaimed home and garden, the couple are in the process of relocating to Santa Fe.

After the talk, I’ll have light refreshments to enjoy while you meet James.

What: Garden talk by landscape architect James deGrey David: “Looking at Gardens: A Personal View”

When: Thursday, March 30th, 7:30-8:30 pm, with a meet-and-greet until 9 pm

Where: Private home in northwest Austin (zip 78759)

Update 2/8/17: ***THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT. If you’d like to hear about future Garden Spark talks, please get on the mailing list. Send me an email and let me know you’d like to be added to the email list.***

Please note: Ticket sales are final. If the event doesn’t fill or is cancelled due to any unforeseen reason, full refunds will be given.

What is Garden Spark?

Garden Spark is a nonprofit speaker series on garden design, open by invitation and hosted in my home in northwest Austin. 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 launched Garden Spark in January 2017. Join the Garden Spark email list for invitations delivered to your inbox 24 hours in advance of public announcements; simply click the link and ask to be added.

Garden Spark talks are for anyone with an interest in gardening, garden design, and learning from design experts. You won’t find anything else like this in Austin! I know because I’m always looking for garden presentations geared to avid and experienced gardeners, by well-known designers and authors, and they just don’t come around that often.

Hosting at home keeps down expenses and creates a fun, intimate experience for a small number of guests: just 30 people. To attract excellent speakers I’m paying them a fair speaker fee, raised through ticket sales. For the cost of a movie, drinks, and popcorn, you can enjoy seeing a great garden speaker in a cozy, personal setting. Admission goes entirely to compensate our excellent speakers.

I expect to host 3 to 4 talks per year. James David’s talk will be the 2nd talk this year, with one more tentatively scheduled for mid-October 2017. Details to be announced later this year.

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!

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

Read This: Gardenista


I got behind with my self-declared Book Review Week last week, but I’m back on track today with my review of Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces (2016, Artisan) by Michelle Slatalla. Since it was a fall release, I’d hoped I might find it under the Christmas tree, but I ended up buying my own copy after the holidays and have been savoring it for weeks.

Lushly illustrated with photos of beautiful patios and outdoor living spaces — in which plants play a significant, if not starring, role — the book provides plenty of eye candy. My favorite part of the book, “Thirteen Gardens We Love,” showcases a variety of well-designed gardens with a decidedly verdant and romantic ambience — mostly urban patio gardens, with a few larger properties thrown in — in detailed, 10- to 16-page spreads. The glowing, Instagram-worthy images are punctuated with a short intro about each garden and captions explaining key design elements, followed by a 2-page spread called “Steal This Look,” which calls out aspects of the design that create a certain style, like Moroccan Modern and Rustic Glamour, to name two.

All of the gardens featured in this section are in New England, mostly New York and Massachusetts (6); London, England (3); and California (3); with one exception — a welcome surprise! — from Austin, Texas (Christy Ten Eyck‘s garden, which I’ve photographed myself several times). I would have preferred more variety in locations, but I enjoyed each garden anyway and lingered over the images.

That’s half the book. The next two chapters feature, respectively, the use of color in the garden and 8 “creative ways to get more from your garden,” and there’s plenty to admire here too. The following chapter, Design Ideas, I found least useful, even simplistically silly, in showing how to create a few outdoor projects. For example, a “simple outdoor sink” is suggested as a project for a DIY garden workspace, but what’s shown is a galvanized bucket placed under an existing faucet — or a faucet that you’ve had a plumber install (i.e., not very DIY). On page 301, the author suggests using a propped-up pitchfork as an impromptu hose-sprayer support for irrigation. Um, no. And Christy Ten Eyck’s rustic-elegant outdoor shower constructed of wire mesh (page 304) is described as a DIY-friendly “Simplest Shower.” I’ve asked Christy about that exact wire mesh and learned you’d need to be a skilled welder or hire one to recreate her McNichols mesh outdoor shower enclosure.

Aside from those stumbles of oversimplification, there’s plenty to interest those who like to style outdoor spaces with a similar attention to detail as the interior, as well as anyone who enjoys paging through pictures of lovely gardens, learning about the gardeners who created them, and getting inspiration for their own gardens. And if the book whets your appetite for more garden gorgeousness, you can always pop online and surf Gardenista’s website, a sister site to the hugely popular Remodelista.

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. Subscribers get 24-hour advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

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

Book Review Week: The Garden Bible


I’m kicking off Book Review Week here at Digging (yes, I had time to read a few gardening books over the holidays and want to share my faves) with The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space (2016, Images Publishing) by Barbara Ballinger and Michael Glassman.

While “garden bible” is a bit of a misnomer — the featured projects are largely patios and terraces with outdoor fireplaces, pergolas, and swimming pools rather than plant-rich gardens — readers who are keen to learn the nitty-gritty of a designed outdoor living space will find plenty to interest them. More than two dozen landscaping projects around the U.S., plus one in Australia, are featured, and each includes useful info such as budget, site problems and solutions, and key design details, plus 2 or 3 pages of before-and-after photos. I like that the authors offer suggestions for cost-saving alternatives for certain features, which helps in understanding how one might save money by choosing less-expensive materials or finishes that involve less-skilled craftsmanship.

Who will enjoy this book? Homeowners who are considering hiring a designer to create an outdoor living space will find inspiration for what can be accomplished, even on a challenging site, and learn what size budget may be required. Garden designers and gardeners who appreciate professional hardscaping will also find inspiration.

A couple of quibbles: I noticed a number of typos as well as instances of designer-speak that lack clarity for the layperson, and California projects are over-represented. But these are minor issues. Overall I enjoyed seeing a variety of well-designed outdoor living spaces from across the country and getting a sense of the budget and challenges that each design addressed.

Disclosure: Images Publishing sent me a copy of The Garden Bible for review. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

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

Book Review Week is happening all this week right here at Digging! Do you have an Amazon gift card from the holidays burning a hole in your pocket? Need a good gardening book to get you through winter? Come here first for my recommendations.

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.

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