Look for my articles in Garden Design on Mosaic Gardens and Steve Martino desert garden


Do you take Garden Design magazine? I’m pleased to be a contributing writer, and in the Summer 2017 issue you’ll find two articles I wrote about gardens in Arizona and Oregon that couldn’t be more different.


“Into the Arroyo” tells the story of an unlikely desert garden designed by “weeds and walls”-master Steve Martino in partnership with his visionary client, who came to love the natural beauty of the desert after relocating from greener, lusher pastures in the Northeast. The 14-page spread delves into the design of this garden and what it means to the owner, and you’ll linger over the gorgeous photos of jewel-toned stucco walls and bold desert plants. (As it happens, I visited this garden in person in 2014, and it’s truly a remarkable space.)


“The Oasis Builders” is a profile piece about garden designers Buell Steelman and Rebecca Sams, the husband-and-wife owners of Mosaic Gardens in Eugene, Oregon — and it’s the cover story! The 14-page article explores the designs of 4 of their wonderfully lush and plant-rich gardens.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy and give them a read!

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 on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

posted in Desert, Design, Magazines

Read This: Gardening with Foliage First


Today is Foliage Follow-Up, my monthly meme that encourages us to focus on often-underappreciated foliage plants, rather than spotlight-hogging flowers. That means it’s the perfect day to review a new book by two foliage-loving design experts, Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz.

Gardening with Foliage First: 127 Dazzling Combinations that Pair the Beauty of Leaves with Flowers, Bark, Berries, and More is an excellent follow-up to their award-winning Fine Foliage (click for my review). At 340 pages and much beefier compared to the slim Fine Foliage, Gardening with Foliage First delves more deeply into the art of combining foliage plants for subtle beauty and long-term impact in a garden.


Photo courtesy of Karen Chapman

And an art it is! After all, this is what we pay designers to do for us, when we look up one day and notice our garden is a “disappointing mélange of midsize green leaves” once the flowers have finished blooming, or there’s nothing to look at in winter. Chapman and Salwitz are adept at lifting the veil on design decisions and explaining why certain plants pair well together. With clear explanations enlivened by a cheeky sense of humor, they make garden design more approachable. They show, for example, how you can match the darker color along the edge of a leaf to the berries or leaves of another plant, making both plants shine brighter, or how to play the shaggy shape and texture of one plant against the fine-leaved daintiness of another.


Photo courtesy of Karen Chapman

Generously illustrated with a photo of the whole scene, plus close-ups of each plant, each combo (there are more than 100 altogether) is given a 2-page, sometimes 3-page, spread, and they’re helpfully organized by whether they’re appropriate for sun or shade, as well as by whether peak season occurs in spring/summer or fall/winter.


Photo courtesy of Karen Chapman

Of course, for us Central Texas gardeners, “sun” and “summer” mean something entirely different than in the cool, moist Pacific Northwest, where the authors live, and our gardening conditions differ in other ways too, particularly in the alkalinity of our soil. Put simply, we just can’t grow a lot of the plants featured in the book. So while readers in cooler regions of the country can likely copy featured plant combos “verbatim,” we hot-climate gardeners must get a little more creative, coming up with similar-looking plants that grow well here that can be subbed in for those that don’t. I actually find that to be a fun exercise and marked up my book with notes on possible substitutions.


Photo courtesy of Karen Chapman

Not every plant will have a suitable counterpart for our hot climate, but a surprising number do. For example, in the combo pictured above, I mentally subbed out the ‘Bed Head’ dahlia for pomegranate, the ‘Concorde’ barberry for loropetalum, the pineapple lily (Eucomis) for pineapple sage, and the golden Korean fir for ‘Yukon Gold’ yaupon holly.


Like so! What do you think? Can you come up with other substitutes I didn’t think of?

Wherever you garden, experienced gardeners will have fun using the featured combos as a jumping-off point for their own inventive pairings. And new gardeners will learn how to look at plants more observantly in order to create similar combos (or copy these if they work for your region) that rely largely on foliage, which gives a richer, more durable dimension to a garden than just planting for flower color. After all, you need both to make a stunning garden.

This is my June post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

Disclosure: Timber Press sent me a copy of Gardening with Foliage First 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

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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.

posted in Books, Design

Modern, easy-care garden of Austin designer B. Jane


I’ve long admired designer B. Jane‘s contemporary-style gardens here in Austin, including one I wrote about for Austin Home last year. Last week I visited B.’s personal garden in Central Austin’s Brentwood neighborhood and fell hard for her lawn-free, block-planted front yard.

A straight walk of Lueders limestone zigzags toward the front porch, leading the eye first to house numbers affixed to a low concrete wall. The wall curves off to the right, creating a small garden room encircled with white-flowering Mexican olives, red roses, and chartreuse shell ginger. In front of the wall, block plantings of spineless prickly pear and Gulf muhly provide greenery and separation from the street. Spreading below, silver ponyfoot shines like a moonlit pool of water.


A closer look at the low-walled entry to the front garden room, flanked by Mexican olives (Cordia boissieri) in bloom


Asymmetrically-cut limestone leads to a circular gravel “skirt” around a tree trunk, neatly edged with concrete, which in turn is framed by chartreuse-leaved ginger plants.


I love B.’s cast-stone Girona fountain from Campania International, which has a slightly submerged platform on which birds can easily bathe.


The color and texture of the fountain work so well with the concrete wall.


Here’s a side view from the driveway. B. uses asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’) as a frothy, evergreen groundcover (foreground) — which probably needs Central Austin’s higher temps to survive our occasional hard freezes.


Square pavers lead from the driveway to the front porch. Another gravel circle gives definition to a young live oak and adds a geometric element. At the corner, a whale’s tongue agave pairs with a mutabilis rose, and I believe B. said that’s a viburnum hedge along the porch.


Orange and turquoise show up throughout B.’s back garden, but the first hint of that color scheme appears on the front porch, with a retro-modern front door painted tangerine and a turquoise glider softened with orange throw pillows and a striped cushion. The doormat echoes the cushion’s colorful stripes.


In the backyard, an ipe deck offers plenty of space for a 6-person dining table and a couple of low-slung white chairs with turquoise cushions and colorful, striped pillows. A white bench allows clear views of…


…a clean-lined swimming pool bordered with colorful waterline tiles, a rectangular play lawn, and an evergreen screen of bamboo bordered by a low wall offering extra seating. The detached structure at left is a home office for B.’s husband, with expansive windows shaded by awnings of steel beams and rods.


At the far end of the pool, an ipe deck outfitted with a trio of chaises longues is backed by a notched Lueders limestone wall.


Sun worshippers can hang out here, and when the sun sets, a stone fire pit in the corner offers a spot to warm up.


The view from the lawn


The back deck


A built-in grilling station also serves to screen the deck from the neighbors and enclose the space.


Wood is conveniently stored below.


A container planted with cactus and ghost plant accents the edge of the deck.


In another corner, a collection of gray cast-stone pots contains citrus, herbs, orange-flowering hibiscus, and succulents, including orange-hued sticks-on-fire euphorbia.


Rosy pink cacti — including one in bloom — and an echeveria get the glam treatment with gold glass mulch in this container.


Opposite the chaise longue deck, tucked between the house and the detached office, a small roofed patio offers shady seating and a buffet table.


The wooden fence hides a storage area.


To the right of the sun deck with the chaises, a private patio just off the master bedroom offers a Zen-style retreat with Loll seating, a screen of bamboo (Bambusa textilis ‘Gracilis’), and a hot tub…


…as well as a beautiful outdoor shower. No spidery recesses in this open design, while still hidden from neighbors by fencing and the bamboo. The building just past the hot tub (at left) is B.’s home office.


She let us peek inside to see a hanging sculptural branch adorned with tillandsias, feathers, and other natural talismans, made by the talented vertical-garden artists at Articulture.


Looking back toward the main garden


B. is disciplined about color and uses it so effectively, like here in the pool tiles, arranged for a random effect. The tiles pick up the colors of the doors and plant containers and the water itself. Brisket, a German short-haired pointer mix who loves to swim, jumped in for a soak while I was admiring the pool.


And little wonder, for this is a garden to relax in and enjoy — even for dogs! Thanks for the tour, B.!

For more pics of this garden and others, check out the website of B. Jane Gardens.

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

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Calling all pond lovers! The Austin Pond & Garden Tour is coming up June 3rd (North Austin ponds and night pond) and 4th (South Austin ponds). Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased online and include entry to all 20 ponds.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented 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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