I’m interviewed in Boston Globe about Texas gardening and blogging


“When Spotlight won Best Picture,” I asked the Boston Globe reporter the day after the Oscars, “did you celebrate?” Heather Ciras was interviewing me for a non-investigative story (thank goodness) about gardening and blogging. The night before, I’d been happy to see my favorite movie of 2016 — a true story about the Globe‘s 2001 investigation of a cover-up in the Catholic Church, and an excellent film — get the top award.

“I worked the Oscars, manning our social media, so it was very cool when Spotlight won,” she replied, “especially since we didn’t think it would. There were some cheers, then we got right back to work because we were on deadline.” I admit it: I couldn’t help picturing actors Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams hard at work, following leads and sniffing out cover-ups.

With Spotlight fresh in my mind, I felt a bit awed to be contacted by a Globe reporter. She’d seen my blog in the Better Homes and Gardens Blogger Awards and wanted to interview me for her column in the weekend Address section about homes and real estate. Her column, she explained, usually covers home decorating and includes interviews with home bloggers, but for a change she wanted to talk with a garden blogger. Naturally, I was at her service!


We did the interview in late February, and I sent her a few pictures of my garden. I didn’t know if anything would come of it, but last week she emailed to tell me that the interview was online and would be in print on April 24! Yippee! Here are a couple of screenshots of the online version. I called all over town on Saturday to try to find a local bookstore that carries the Globe, so I could pick up a copy, but no dice. Happily, Heather has promised to mail me a copy.

If you’d like to know what a Boston reporter (still waiting for winter to end) asks an Austin gardener (hands grubby from manic spring gardening), click here to read the interview. Our conversation is condensed, so there are some abrupt segues, and I have no idea what the Texas-gopher reference in the title means. But I’m thrilled to be spotlighted, so to speak, in the Boston Globe!

Here’s how Heather summed up the interview: “Penick shared with us her thoughts on using less water, how interior design and gardening overlap, and why plantings are best enjoyed with a margarita.”

Exactly.

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

I’ll be speaking on April 30, noon-12:30 pm, in Cedar Park, Texas, at Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery’s Lily Blossom Festival. My free talk is called “How to Garden Water-Wise, Not Water-Wasteful.” An old proverb reminds us that The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives. Don’t be a water-guzzling frog! I’ll be sharing my tips for making a garden that is water-wise, not water-wasteful. Stick around after my talk for a book signing, with autographed copies of Lawn Gone! and The Water-Saving Garden available for purchase.

Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, time TBA. Learn more about water-saving gardening during my presentation at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. I’ll be at the book-signing table after the talk, with copies of both The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone! available for purchase. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

I’m on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Dry-garden lushness: Linda Peterson’s San Antonio garden


Rooftop view of the walled courtyard and front garden. Not a blade of lawn grass anywhere, nor is it missed.

Seeing one of my new favorite gardens requires an hour-and-a-half road trip to San Antonio, but it’s worth every trafficky mile. Linda Peterson, whose dreamy garden I visited last September, invited a few friends over for tea after the San Antonio Watersaver Tour, and I was delighted to be included. Seeing Linda and her beautiful garden again in a different season, plus sitting down to a delicious high tea served by her charming daughters? Yes, please!

Courtyard Garden


Linda’s gray-green stucco home wraps around a large courtyard garden thanks to walls painted the same color. Linda and her husband built their home toward the rear of the property in order to preserve several sprawling, magnificent live oaks. The walls provide back-yard-style enclosure and privacy, and a generous stone patio and curving paths create seating areas and lead you through the space.


Linda led us up to her home’s flat roof via a spiral staircase so we could take in a bird’s-eye view. The perspective allows full appreciation of Linda’s planting style: massed groundcovers and shrubs, carefully pruned to show off their architectural forms. For example, the soap aloes (Aloe maculata) blooming at lower left are kept tidy by pulling out pups (baby aloes) from around their spiny leaves, leaving star-shaped solitary plants massed in a winding “aloe river.”


Panning right, you see a table and chairs in front of a focal-point fireplace, with wood stacked in niches on each side.


Back at ground level by the front door, a pair of metal rhinos greets visitors. Against the green walls of the house, the coral flowers of the soap aloes stand out nicely. The chartreuse groundcover in front may be Mexican sedum.


Agave weberi and prickly pear add year-round structure around a pot-style fountain.


Turning around, here’s what you see as you enter the courtyard.


Real and faux cacti mingle in a bed along the wall.


Succulent wreath on the fireplace


The long view from the fireplace seating. Don’t you just want to lie in that hammock all day?


And now we’ve circled back around to the rhinos. The swoosh of gray river stones is a nice touch, don’t you think? It looks like a stream the animals are about to cross.


Another view of the soap aloes, plus a wavy-armed variegated American agave


Linda collects metal and stone animals to adorn her home and garden. I don’t remember seeing this little armadillo last time I visited.


Linda is disciplined with her color choices, sticking with soft gray-green, ivory, and lavender with occasional pops of yellow. This purplish pink bougainvillea was, perhaps, the brightest hue in her garden.


It grows atop the arbor, offering cheery welcome to visitors.

Front Garden, Right of Front Walk


Winding paths lead both left and right into the front garden from the main walk. Turning to the right, a flagstone path widens into a small patio with a simple wooden bench, perfect for stopping to take in the view. Feathery bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) hides the next-door driveway, and a low cluster of lantana blooms frothily.


Most lantanas have hot-colored flowers: orange, red, gold. These have white-and-pale-yellow flowers that fit nicely into Linda’s restrained color scheme.


Another view. Notice how the gray-green flagstone harmonizes with the house/wall color and the cool colors overall. Details like these give Linda’s garden cohesiveness.


A wider view from the end of the path reveals a mass planting of foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri), whose foliage echoes the form of a nearby agave.


Three culvert-pipe planters along the foundation of the house elevate a collection of palms.

Front Garden, Left of Front Walk


Heading left from the front walk takes you past a large agave, flowering society garlic, and more foxtail fern.


Where the undulating arms of a live oak have been preserved via cut-outs in the stucco wall, a rustic picnic table provides a spot to pause and enjoy the scene.


Looking back toward the front walk and arbor, you see more soap aloes blooming. Linda has a lot of different plants, but she also repeats clusters of plants to great effect.


Continuing along the path, a silvery cassia (Senna phyllodinea) blooms in perhaps the sunniest part of Linda’s garden.


A closeup of the cassia flowers and flat, curled seedpods


And one more view of the silvery cassia, balanced with a large, architectural agave


Tucked among the plants, a stone crocodile planter filled with succulents grins like the cat who ate the canary.


A mystery plant with rich purple flowers. Anyone able to ID it? It’s cupflower, or Nierembergia scoparia ‘Purple Robe’. (Thanks, Gretchen, and Linda for confirming.)


One advantage of a gravel garden — Linda’s entire garden is mulched with tan pea gravel — is that it allows you to have open spaces, like the desert. Agaves and other dry-loving plants look very natural in a garden mulched with rock, and open space does too, allowing you to use fewer plants, if you wish. (In contrast, open spaces in a wood-mulched garden never look quite natural.)


Our native golden leadball (Leucaena retusa) displays its yellow pom-pom flowers alongside the driveway.


The flowers are eye-catching.


Another cluster of soap aloes, along with a nicely pruned prickly pear


Variegated American agaves catch shafts of light and seem to glow.

Rear & Side Garden


Alongside the driveway, a potted Arabian lilac (Vitex trifolia ‘Purpurea’) flashes leaves that are gray-green on top and lavender underneath. Potted drought-tolerant plants are a smart choice for a difficult spot with rocky or tree-rooty soil.


A back deck transitions between the house and the rear garden. I love Linda’s treatment of the deck skirting: sturdy wire (the same as on the trellis above) cloaked with fig ivy, which closely follows the wire’s grid pattern. At ground level, a swath of variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’) makes an easy-care groundcover that lights up the shade.


Here’s the view from the deck: a perforated metal lantern hanging from a tree, and a triangular faux-bois birdbath below. A Texas redbud effectively screens neighboring houses from view. Linda also strategically hangs pots of asparagus fern from the wire trellis to block undesirable views.


Back at ground level, a pruned-up hedge of variegated pittosporum turns these sometimes unwieldy shrubs into graceful small trees. Linda treats a number of her shrubs and woody perennials this way, including Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) and rosemary, to great effect. It allows for air movement and visual openness, she explains. Foxtail fern adds feathery texture below.


An umbrella-shaded pair of rockers offers a pleasant spot to sit. Clumping bamboo softens the wooden privacy fence and provides extra privacy from neighboring houses.


The screen of bamboo continues, planted atop a curving berm that softens the back corner. More foxtail fern adds evergreen, fringey texture.


Even a work area at the back of the house is brightened with special touches, like green bottles upended on bamboo poles stuck in pots of ferns and (I think) agapanthus Neomarica caerulea ‘Regina’ (see lcp’s comment below).


On a back terrace, succulents are displayed in pots glazed blue and brown.

Thank you, Linda — and daughters Demi and Sam — for a very special afternoon! Click here to read about my visit to Linda’s garden last September, and here for Rock Rose’s post about the garden and tea party.

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, time TBA. Learn more about water-saving gardening during my talk at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. Get a signed copy of my book after the talk. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

I’m on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

4 fun events for central Texas gardeners

Spring has sprung, and that means garden events are happening every weekend here in central Texas. Amid all the excitement in your own garden, it’s easy to miss hearing about something that you’ll kick yourself later for missing. So here’s my round-up of 4 upcoming garden events that include plant shopping, learning, and touring. Let’s go!

Zilker Garden Festival, Austin — April 2 & 3 (next weekend)


Zilker Garden Festival is back and better than ever! In its 59th year, the granddaddy of garden events in Austin has refreshed its offerings, which include plant sales (bring a wagon) and vendors (including my favorite pottery maker, Rick Van Dyke; click the link — I swoon over this stuff); food-making demonstrations (hydroponics, kombucha, beekeeping for honey); live music; a beer garden with locally made beer; good eats; a miniature railroad to entertain the kids (or their dads); and a flower show. Want a guided tour of the garden? A Grow Green plant expert leads one at 2:30 pm.

Zilker Garden Festival is the botanical garden’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and Zilker Garden needs our support. So come on out, knowing you’re supporting the garden while you’re having fun!


Best of all, local garden authors, including yours truly, will be on hand to meet you, talk gardening, and sign copies of their books for you! OK, maybe that’s not best of all, but it’s like a garden-themed Texas Book Festival, y’all. Seven authors will be manning the author booth by the flagpole at various times, so check the schedule if there’s someone you really want to meet or get a signed book from. Whatever subject you’re interested in, these authors are sure to cover it:

Trisha Shirey: Vegetable Gardening in the Southwest

Jenny Peterson: The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion and Indoor Plant Decor

Lucinda Huston: ¡Viva Tequila!; The Herb Garden Cookbook; and more

Judy Barrett: What Makes Heirloom Plants So Great?; Easy Edibles; Yes, You Can Grow Roses; and more

Cheryl Beesley: Landscaping with Edible Plants in Texas

I’ll be at the Author Booth on both days between 10 am and 2 pm (near the flagpole at the main building entrance), and I’ll have copies of The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone! for purchase ($20 each). I’ll gladly autograph them for you or to a gift recipient.

Zilker Garden Festival is open Saturday, April 2nd, and Sunday, April 3rd, from 10 am to 5 pm. For all the FAQs, including admission and parking info, click here.

Elements of Garden Design Workshop, Austin — Saturday, March 26


Do you wish you had a better garden but don’t know where to start? This Saturday morning (that’s right, THIS Saturday), designer and Statesman gardening columnist Diana Kirby is hosting a half-day garden-design workshop to teach you how to assess your existing landscaping with a designer’s eye, choose appropriate native and adapted plants to suit your favorite style of garden, and create a design on paper (including her review of your design ideas). Diana, who happens to be a good friend of mine and has a beautiful garden of her own, has taught classes for master gardener groups and is the owner of Diana’s Designs. She also blogs at Sharing Nature’s Garden.


The 4-hour workshop costs $199, and will be held at the Holiday Inn Express on US Hwy 290 West in Austin.

Coffee with the Author – With KUT’s Jennifer Stayton at Holy Grounds Coffee Shop, Austin — Wednesday, April 6, noon


Want to learn more about water-saving gardening? I’ll be talking with KUT’s Jennifer Stayton on April 6th as part of the Coffee with the Author series at Holy Grounds coffee shop, located downtown in St. David’s Church. No, this is not a religious type of discussion. As my friend Anna, who is the manager, explains, “St. David’s is a ‘green’ church — we have an active Environmental Guild and a smaller Gardening Guild. Good stewardship of the earth is one of our ministries.” As it should be for all gardeners as well!


A previous Coffee with the Author. Photo courtesy of Holy Grounds

At noon in the coffee shop’s courtyard, Jennifer will host a 30-minute Q&A with me, and afterward I’ll sign copies of my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, if you’d like one for yourself or as a gift. Come grab a coffee and a bite to eat (here’s the menu), and spend your lunch break with me!

Holy Grounds is located in the main building of St. David’s Episcopal Church at 301 East 8th Street. You can park in the surface lot in front of St. David’s main doors.

Watersaver Landscape Tour, San Antonio — Saturday, April 9, 9 am to 3 pm


Road trip! Austin may have lost its longtime spring garden tour, but San Antonio has one scheduled for April 9th — and it’s free! The annual Watersaver Landscape Tour was supposed to be held last fall, until the great rain-out happened, and this is the rescheduled date. Regular readers may remember my sneak peeks of two of the gardens, Pat Mozersky’s Mark Word-designed courtyard garden and Susan Bhatia’s dramatic modern xeriscape garden (pictured below).


All of the gardens are located in the Inverness gated community, accessible by shuttle for tour-goers. Parking and the shuttle are free, but you’ll need to reserve a shuttle time on the tour website (scroll down for the times). Once you’re shuttled into the neighborhood, you’ll walk from garden to garden. Docents will be on hand to answer your questions. Park in the Jewish Community Center at 12500 N.W. Military Highway, where you’ll catch your ride.

That’s a full slate of garden activities, so mark your calendars and join in the plant shopping, learning, and garden touring. Hope to see you at a few of these events! Oh, and if I’ve missed anything, please share it in the comments. So now you need to read those too.

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

Thanks to everyone who voted for Digging in the 2016 Better Homes & Gardens Blogger Awards. While my blog didn’t come out on top this year (two years in a row would have been too good to be true), it was wonderful to be nominated. Congratulations to the deserving winners, whose blogs you should definitely check out: Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden and Floret Flower Farm Journal.

I’m on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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