New Central Library – “Austin’s front porch” – boasts rooftop garden and more


Austin is head over heels in love with our new Central Library, a marvelous civic structure by Lake|Flato that is much more than a library. It’s a community space for all of Austin in a prime location on Cesar Chavez Street near Austin City Hall and across from Lady Bird Lake.

Since its grand opening in October, I’ve visited several times, and I’m excited to be on the team bringing Garden Bloggers Fling attendees here for our welcome reception in a private event space next May.


The library is one of the first places in Austin that our bloggers will visit, and the beautiful native-plant landscaping at street level will make a strong first impression.


This public patio along Cesar Chavez, screened from the busy street by massive block-style benches and native trees, grasses, and perennials, is adjacent to our event space — nice!


Doubles as a bouldering structure?


Inside — shazam! Floating steel stairs and wooden walkways dizzyingly change direction, Hogwarts-style, as they rise through an airy atrium.


Everywhere, an eye-candy assortment of colorful, modern chairs beckons visitors to get comfy and read.


Booths are designed for working with others, with a downtown view to boot.


Light and bright


A red “lip” chair, and beyond the red porthole window is a children’s area.


Continuing the red theme, a gigantic cuckoo clock silhouette hangs in the atrium, but instead of cuckoos the birds represent Austin’s oft-unloved grackles.


It’s accompanied by a video installation of an oversized grackle silhouette in a window-like frame. The bird’s head occasionally flicks around in a lifelike way, creating a moment of surprise.


Climbing up all 6 floors, you pass airy book stacks, meeting rooms, and reading spaces…


…like this open reading room furnished with inviting chairs and tables.


The room’s windows overlook one of the coolest spaces in the library, at least for garden lovers — the rooftop native-plant garden. Look — there’s an oak tree up there!


Yuccas, flowering perennials, and grasses flow across a mounded central planting bed, with seating all around and an L-shaped arbor for shade.


One side looks south over Lady Bird Lake and east toward downtown, offering a beautiful view.


Lady Bird Lake, with the Long Center and Palmer Events Center on the other side


Relaxing and reading in the garden


I love this space.


From the east side of the rooftop garden, you get a great view of the new 2nd Street Bridge, aka the Butterfly Bridge, which spans Shoal Creek.


Circling back around to the atrium stairs, you get another glimpse of the rooftop garden. And more lip chairs!


Another incredible space, and one that epitomizes Lake|Flato’s style, is the reading porch, just past the children’s area. An open-air space that invites readers to get out of the air conditioning and enjoy Austin’s weather, the screened porch has an enticing mix of seating, fascinating geodesic dome lights, and child-friendly valve wheels on the walls that you can spin, plus Big Ass Fans (real name) to keep readers comfortable.


Those colorful sofas. Those woven ottomans. Those lights!


This little cutie found some pinwheels.


The exterior is wonderful too, and includes a steel shade panel with laser-cut quotes about reading and books. Below that, facing pedestrian-friendly 2nd Street, is where a soon-to-open cafe, Cookbook, will offer cookbook-inspired dishes and drinks (including alcoholic beverages).


The landscaping was still being planted in late November, but the bones are in place. Update: Lake|Flato tells me that the landscape architecture firm behind the design is Coleman & Associates.


Limestone slabs create raised planting beds — and new buildings are sprouting up behind the new plants.


I like the naturalistic planting of native plants along the Shoal Creek ravine, with a nice view of the Butterfly Bridge beyond.


At dusk, the “wings” are washed with softly colored lights that segue from yellow to green to red.


A wide pedestrian sidewalk floats along the side of the bridge.


It’s a lovely, human-scaled bridge that echoes Austin’s arched Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360.


Austin is lucky to have this magnificent public library in such a scenic part of downtown. I look forward to spending many pleasant hours here.

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

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

Sedgey front garden and xeriscape terrace


For one West Austin homeowner, this is the view from her front door: an undulating, rhythmic front walk of poured-concrete pavers wending through a meadowy swath of Berkeley sedge, soap aloes, and purple heart, with a scrim of yaupon hollies shielding the view of the street. A traditional lawn? No way — who wants to mow?


Here’s the street view at the other end. The left edge of the property is naturalistic under some large live oaks, although a collection of spiky heat-lovers gets some breathing room in a gravelly bed along the path’s edge.


A cluster of Yucca rostrata adds drama (and screening) at the curb. I think that’s ‘Little Ollie’ dwarf olive underfoot.


Whale’s tongue agave and purple heart combines a velvety blue-green with rich eggplant.


Farther up the path it grows shady, and Texas palmetto appears among the Berkeley sedge.


Yaupon berry adds a pop of red in fall and winter.


In the home stretch to the front door, the paver path straightens out, cruising past foxtail fern and sago palm on the left. A concrete wall creates a psychological separation between the public side of the front garden and the more-private entry space. Another wall, barely visible at far-right…


…screens the garage and parking area along the driveway from view of the front door. Here on the door side of the wall, a low-maintenance shade garden contains Berkeley sedge, mahonia, palmetto, and purple heart.


That wall extends straight out into the garden, lowering to knee height as it pulls away from the house. An arching, glossy green sago palm stands alongside.


Low-maintenance evergreens fill in under a big live oak. (I should know this one but need help on the ID.)


On the driveway side of the wall, a rain chain funnels roof runoff into a storm or French drain. Low-care and shade-tolerant Chinese mahonia, variegated flax lily, and palmetto combine with a Japanese maple and bamboo muhly to soften the contemporary design.


The owner installed three light towers near the front door. It would be cool to see these lit up at night.


This fence along the driveway caught my eye. It appears to be made of painted PVC pipes and somehow reminds me of a musical score. Or maybe a downtown skyline. Every other pipe is cut to a set height, but the other pipes are staggered to create up-and-down patterns.


Another section, with a gate to the back yard, shows a more rhythmic pattern.


Believe it or not, this custom fence runs all the way around the back garden. The standard lawn is shrunken to a broad path, with a band of sedge and bamboo muhly grasses along the fence. A gravel-and-steel stair leads past an elevated terrace (which I’ll come back to)…


…to a sloping back yard. A rain garden of Berkeley sedge occupies a wide swale below the house, ready to soak up runoff. Beneath the home’s expansive roofline, a dry gravel garden with whale’s tongue agaves occupies the rain shadow.


There’s still plenty of room left for lawn under a spreading live oak.


Let’s head back up the steps to that elevated terrace.


The terrace is essentially a rooftop garden, with Yucca rostrata, Mexican mint marigold, whale’s tongue agave, and purple heart.


A curved metal rail offers a canyon view. The open space was designed for patio seating, the landscape architect told me. Can you guess who he is?


If you guessed Curt Arnette of Sitio Design, you are right! He’s created another striking and lovely garden for a lucky Austinite. My thanks to the homeowner for allowing me to share her garden with you.

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

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

Garden rooms and green roof at Cloverleaf Drive Garden: Austin Open Days Tour 2017


This year’s Garden Conservancy-sponsored Open Days tour in Austin featured gardens in a variety of styles and a variety of neighborhoods (not just West Austin). I especially enjoyed exploring the Cloverleaf Drive garden, which, along with Jackson Broussard’s, is located east of I-35 in a “regular-folks” neighborhood. It was designed by Casey Boyter, one of 3 female designers represented among the 6 private gardens, which I also think is a great move by the tour organizer.


Let’s start with the street view, and this unusual sight: an arch of normally upright, columnar ‘Will Fleming’ yaupons. I was quite surprised to see ‘Will Fleming’ used this way, and I wondered if it was planned from the start or decided on later.


A deep curbside bed of low-water plants like agave, gopher plant, purple coneflower, and woolly stemodia shrinks the lawn to a more manageable size.


A pretty garden gate on a wood-slat fence admits you into the back garden…


…and a nicely fitted limestone patio and what Casey calls a rubble wall, with bricks and other salvaged materials tucked among the stones. Casey specializes in this sort of wall, as does Jackson and Tait Moring, whose garden was also on tour. I’m starting to think of a rubble wall as a distinctive Austin look.


Looking left along the house, you see a gravel patio with a willow bench, red-flowering container plants, and other enticements.


But first let’s take the gravel path that curves invitingly from the gate through mistflower, spineless prickly pear, and native palmetto to a low curved wall…


…which offers seating around a portable fire pit. I love this. It reads like a council ring, one of my favorite design features in a garden. Native inland sea oats grasses nod in the foreground.


Another view. Check out that wall detailing.


And one more, with agave, salvia, grasses, and roses adding greenery all around.


A rectangular lawn adds a swath of soft green — and a play space for kids or dogs — in the center of the back yard. But the majority of the yard is a gravel-path ramble through generous garden beds of native and adapted plants, leading to various patio destinations. This kind of garden really appeals to me. Also, notice the galvanized-panel fence, which adds a contemporary note — or industrial, depending on how you look at it — to the garden.


Instead of tucking the garden shed in a back corner, Casey placed it in the middle of the rear property line, which serves to divide the yard into two distinct spaces. Creating multiple garden rooms makes any garden feel larger, and it works here too. Charmingly, the shed is topped with a green roof of prickly pear and native grasses. Casey is a green roof pioneer in Austin.


You might ask, do the homeowners want to look out their windows at a shed, even as cute a shed as this one? Well, they don’t. A two-level, wood-slat screen draped with an evergreen vine creates another garden-room division between the patio with the willow bench and the rest of the yard. On this side of the screen, inland sea oats line the lawn — a fun juxtaposition of native grass and turf grass.


The long view


A closer look at the shed and its green roof. I like the sliding barn door and its chevron-pattern construction and the built-in potting bench along the side.


From the shed area, you peek over a narrow planting bed and see another gravel patio with two Adirondack chairs and Carolina cherry laurels.


Walking around to see what’s there, you find a small stock-tank pond with tall papyrus and a yellow waterlily.


A sweet discovery


Here’s the designer, Casey Boyter, who was on hand to answer questions about the garden.


Along the side fence, an Adirondack loveseat offers a resting place amid sedge and oakleaf hydrangeas.


A double gate of wood slats offers access on this side.


From here you enjoy a long diagonal view across the garden to the fire-pit patio.


Agaves grow in and around a traditional concrete birdbath — another fun little surprise.


View of the shed and a loquat tree to the right


I can’t get enough of that agave in the birdbath. It makes a cool focal point.


Heading around to the willow-bench patio at the back of the house


The horizontal wood-slat screen draped with coral honeysuckle vine makes a nice backdrop to this open patio furnished with charming willow loveseats and chairs. I don’t know what the red-flowering plant is — something tropical, I think — but it adds a nice jolt of color to this largely evergreen garden.


I like how the screen keeps you from seeing the whole garden at one glance. You have a reason to go outside and explore, with tantalizing glimpses of other garden rooms around each side.


A metal sun hangs from the screen — no need for nails if you use a hook. The screen is constructed in 3 parts, with the center section stepped back about 4 inches and built about 6 inches taller than the panels on either side, giving the screen depth and a nice symmetry.


The rustic pots work well with the rustic willow furniture.


Utterly charming, don’t you think? And attainable. These are inexpensive gravel paths and DIY-able screens and readily available native plants. The key is thinking through the space and how you want to divide it, while keeping a certain openness in the garden rooms you make. Or hiring a designer to figure that out for you!


And what a great way to get rid of a lot of lawn too.


I enjoyed this garden and know it must be very liveable for the lucky owners.

Up next: The contemporary garden and poolside retreat of designer B. Jane. For a look back at landscape architect Jackson Broussard’s personal garden, click here.

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring 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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