Garden Spark talks kick off with Scott Ogden, and you’re invited!

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’ve decided to host a series of garden talks by well-known design speakers out of my home, and I’m calling it Garden Spark!

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 nationally known designers and authors, and they just don’t come around that often.

Hosting at home will help me keep down expenses and create a fun, intimate experience for a small number of guests (30). To attract excellent speakers I’m paying them a fair speaker fee, raised through ticket sales. If you’re not in the speaking biz, you might not know that speakers are often asked to present for free or for a nominal honorarium. Even if a speaker is hoping to promote a business or a book, it can be hard to justify the enormous amount of prep time for a good talk, which for garden speakers involves not just the talk itself but putting together a slide show of gorgeous photos that required a lot of time and maybe travel money to get. Since many organizations that might want to host great speakers are nonprofits, volunteer-run, or otherwise strapped for funds, bigger-name talks just don’t happen.

I’m hoping to change that with today’s launch of Garden Spark. For the cost of a dinner out or a movie, two drinks, and a popcorn, you can enjoy seeing a great garden speaker in a cozy, personal setting. Just SEND ME AN EMAIL requesting an invitation, and I’ll send you more info and a link to the event page, where you can register and pay conveniently by credit card. Keep in mind, there are only 30 seats — that’s how many I can fit in my living room — so secure your seat early! And please do share the event with your garden-loving friends and any garden clubs or master gardener groups you belong to!


I’m excited to announce that our very first speaker, on February 2nd, will be Austin designer and author Scott Ogden, who’ll present “The Moonlit Garden”:

Update 1/6: ***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.***

In Austin’s hot climate, outdoor activity picks up during evening hours as temperatures cool, and this is true for nature as well as people. Many plants and flowers bloom in the evening, and for this reason romantic gardens for nighttime enjoyment have long been part of landscape traditions around the world, as in ancient Persia, with its jasmine-shrouded, enclosed formal plantings centered on rills of water; classical China, with reflecting pools, moon gates, and naturalistic limestone rockwork; and the English white garden composed of plants with silvery foliage and pale, sweet-scented flowers.

Scott Ogden’s visual presentation, “The Moonlit Garden,” explores how plants with features that shine during evening hours – silvery foliage, pale bark, or white or yellow flowers that can be enjoyed in dim light; glistening, silky textures; dramatic forms; and highly reflective foliage – combine artfully with dark-leaved plants for contrast and with pale native limestone, subtle lighting, and gentle sounds from dripping water to create sensual gardens beautiful day and night.

Scott is a nationally known speaker and designer of public and private gardens around the country, including the award-winning Tropical Mosaic Garden in Naples, Florida, and the refurbished Sibley Horticulture Center at Calloway Gardens in Georgia. Here in Austin, in addition to many beautiful private gardens, his design work includes the innovative xeriscape garden at Rollingwood City Hall. Scott is the author of The Moonlit Garden, Garden Bulbs for the South, and Gardening Success With Difficult Soils and co-author, with his wife, Lauren Springer Ogden, of Plant-Driven Design and Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens.

After the talk, Scott will be selling his books, and I’ll have light refreshments to enjoy while you meet Scott.

What: Garden talk by designer/author Scott Ogden on creating a “moonlit garden”

When: Thursday, February 2nd, 7:30-8:30 pm, with a book-signing until 9 pm

Where: Private home in northwest Austin (zip 78759) — my house, in fact

How to attend: Send me an email for an invitation and a link to the event page

Garden Spark is a nonprofit speaker series on garden design, open by invitation and hosted in my home. Admission goes entirely to compensate our excellent speakers. I keep nothing and am hosting this event for the sole reason that I want to hear great garden speakers in Austin, and I want to share that with fellow avid gardeners.

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.

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.

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

Urban meadow and security landscaping at Austin forensics center and police station


How many police stations have landscaping like this? I spotted this raised meadow while driving through East Austin recently and slammed on the brakes to get a better look.


From the street — 812 Springdale Road, in the Govalle neighborhood — you see this along one side of the property: rolling berms with a rusty steel edge resembling rounded waves.


To the left of the berms is the raised meadow, laid out in a contemporary pattern that radiates outward in concentric arcs.


When you walk into the space, it becomes more maze-like, with paths that turn back on themselves as you search for the center.


You have to work your way there…


…where you find built-in benches…


…overlooking what must once have been an intentional water feature but is now just a stagnant, icky pool that’s probably breeding mosquitoes. Maintenance is always crucial to a garden’s survival, and this one seems to be getting just a mow-and-blow treatment these days.


But still, it’s a cool design. I was intrigued!


What’s this unique landscaping doing outside a police substation and forensics center? I went online to find out and learned that the facility was constructed in 2004 with a friendly face for the surrounding neighborhood (you’d never know there was a blood-spatter analysis room and a firing range inside), replacing an older police station surrounded by a blight of security fencing.


Instead of ugly fencing, security from vehicular attack (car bombs? ramming?) is now achieved through defensive landscaping — the rolling berms and elevated, steel-edged meadow.

As TAG International, the design team, explains:

“Security was a major design priority, with the goal of achieving a high level of threat resistance without projecting an unwelcoming image. Many passive security strategies were utilized to deliver heightened security without diminishing the center’s friendly presence in the neighborhood….Landscape features were also designed to protect the facility through the utilization of berms as further vehicle impediments.”


As it happens, this is more than just an updated version of a moated castle.


The landscaping is also a public arts project — and the elevated meadow of native plants is arranged in a fingerprint design as a tribute to the investigative work performed at the police station and forensics center. Cool, huh?

According to the public art directory at NowPlayingAustin, the project is titled “Elevated Prairie”:

“To complement the function of the facility, this earthwork consists of a simple labyrinth in the shape of a fingerprint, composed of low, steel-walled planters landscaped with native Texas grasses. At the center of the ‘fingerprint’ is a small fountain, surrounded by a seating area. Beyond the central planters is an area of low, rolling berms, which echo the fingerprint pattern and radiate across the remaining common lawn areas of the site. Medium: Steel planters, fountain, earth berms, and native landscaping”


Here’s another look at the street view — definitely eye-catching!


The native-plant meadow, while degraded through lack of real gardening attention, is still attractive thanks to the strong bones of the design and regular mowing. Although the planters are overrun with weeds, some of the original native plants are still blooming, like mealy blue sage, attracting butterflies and bees.


Native plants also make up the more traditionally designed foundation plantings around the facility, including bur oak, American beautyberry, and dwarf yaupon. While a bit overclipped, these are holding up well, proving that native shrubs and trees — just like non-native shrubs and trees — are easier to maintain than more gardener-needy perennials, annuals, and ornamental grasses, wonderful as those are.

Do you know of any other defensive landscaping efforts in your city? I’m intrigued by this, and it’s so much more attractive than concrete bollards, a row of boulders, and other typical security landscaping measures.

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

I’ll be speaking at the Antique Rose Emporium Fall Festival 2016 in Brenham, Texas, on Saturday, November 5th, 1:30-2:30 pm. Come on out to the Antique Rose Emporium’s beautiful gardens for a day of speakers and fun! My talk, with plenty of eye-candy photos, is called “Hold the Hose! How to Design a Water-Saving Garden that Wows.” Meet me afterward at the book-signing table!

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!

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

South Texans, I’m presenting at Planta Nativa in McAllen


Do you live in the Valley, Corpus Christi, or San Antonio? South Texans, I hope you’ll join me on October 22nd to hear my presentation and enjoy the festivities at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival, held at beautiful Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen!

My evening presentation is called “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” and I’ll be sharing lots of images of waterwise gardens and talking about how to make a beautiful garden that doesn’t waste water and gets the most out of every drop that falls from the sky. Before my talk, enjoy wine and beer sampling in the Quinta Mazatlan courtyard, food by Texas Chefs Association featuring local growers, live music, and an art exhibit and sale featuring Valley artists.

This festive and educational event begins at 6:30 pm and ends at 9:30 pm. Tickets cost $20; advance purchase required at Quinta Mazatlan.

I’ll be autographing The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself or as a gift. Meet me at the book-signing table after the talk, or earlier that day in the gardens.

Please help me spread the word, and I hope to see you there!

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

Austinites and native-plant shoppers, I’ll be at the member’s day Fall Plant Sale at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Friday, October 14. I’ll be signing books from 1 to 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. Even if you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. I hope to see you there!

I’ll be speaking at the Antique Rose Emporium Fall Festival 2016 in Brenham, Texas, on Saturday, November 5th, 1:30-2:30 pm. Come on out to the Antique Rose Emporium’s beautiful gardens for a day of speakers and fun! My talk, with plenty of eye-candy photos, is called “Hold the Hose! How to Design a Water-Saving Garden that Wows.” Meet me afterward at the book-signing table!

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!

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

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