Linda Peterson’s green-walled xeriscape garden: San Antonio Open Days Tour


The highlight of the recent San Antonio Open Days garden tour, as I knew it would be, was Linda Peterson’s beautiful xeriscape and green-walled courtyard garden. Twice before I’ve had the pleasure of exploring Linda’s garden (in September 2015 and April 2016), and the artistry of her plant combinations, skillful pruning, and integration of garden art always delights.


Since I’ve written about Linda’s garden twice before (see links in top paragraph), I won’t do a play-by-play of her garden features. Let’s just stroll, shall we? First, the front garden outside the gray-green courtyard walls…


Agave weberi with purple-flowering cenizo. Lucky Linda for having her barometer plant — i.e., cenizo — burst into bloom for the tour! The timing of an ephemeral cenizo bloom cannot be planned since it responds to rainfall and/or air pressure changes.


A pair of octopus-armed steel agaves accent a corner planting of cenizo (pruned up like small trees), sprawling dalea, and ‘Blonde Ambition’ grama grass.


Linda has a knack for artfully pruning plants. She’ll prune up foliage to show off trunks or lift a plant’s “skirts” above the gravel mulch. Even shrubby rosemary gets neatened up with selective under-pruning.


A sinuous live oak’s snaky limb reaches out from a hole in the wall to embrace a stump seat and a wood-plank table.


It’s wonderful, and a one-of-a-kind feature that epitomizes Linda’s embrace of the Texas climate and its natural beauty.


A side view from the front walk, where a stepping-stone path leads around the tentacled live oak


Society garlic blooming alongside another steel agave


My friend Cat and I both exclaimed over this cute-as-a-button flowering plant, which looks like a compact gomphrena. I can’t remember the ID from Linda, but I distinctly remember her telling me she found it at Lowe’s. Go figure! Update: It’s Gomphrena ‘Pinball Snow-Tip Lavender’ — what a mouthful.


“Beware: Sharp spiny plants with evil intent” — that dry humor is a dead giveaway that Linda made up this sign herself. And of course we gardeners know the real purpose of such a sign is to protect our precious plants, not the people who read it. Mind your feet, people!


Doesn’t look particularly evil, does it?


Heading around to the side yard


I always get a kick out of this grinning crocodile planter.


A Gulf fritillary butterfly enjoying purple lantana


Wavy-leaved prickly pear


Another big Weber agave


Tree limbs embrace overhead, as soap aloes hoist orange-flowered bloom spikes.


On the other side of the front yard, a side path widens into a small patio with a rustic bench. A green cloud of bamboo muhly grass hides the neighboring driveway from view.


“I’m nuts about you,” this stone squirrel could be saying to the Agave mediopicta ‘Alba’. (Groan)


Palms in culvert-pipe planters and a Weber agave


Looking back from the end of the path you get a marvelous view of the writhing arms of the Weber agave underplanted with writhing foxtail fern, backed by writhing live oaks. That’s a lot of writhing!


Step into the walled courtyard and you’re in Linda’s private outdoor living room. A pair of metal rhinos contemplates crossing the patio for a drink at the Mexican beach pebble “stream.” A winding river of soap aloes echoes the curving stone stream, and a variegated agave seems to wave encouragingly.


Metal armadillos root around in the garden bed.


The patio by the outdoor fireplace looks bigger and more inviting than ever. Linda has lightened up this year with fewer chairs and a see-through table.


An outdoor rug adds a bit of coziness and definition too.


A built-in bench along the wall holds an assortment of pumpkins, squash, succulents, and a candle lantern.


Even the metal barrel cactus were lit during the tour!


Such a relaxing space


Don’t you want to lounge here and take a nap under the live oaks?


A metal iguana guards a stand of ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum and a container fountain.


A couple of chairs plumped with pretty teal pillows with small mirrors sewn on for sparkle


I love Linda’s flowers made of bent copper tubing.


They show up so well against the minty green wall.


Heading around to the back garden, you stroll past a collection of potted plants and an elevated deck with cattle-panel privacy screening.


Cattle panel deck skirting is cloaked with fig ivy. No, it doesn’t stay this way on its own. Linda trims it to show off the grid pattern of the wire panel.


Understated pots in shades of brown are guarded by a metal horny toad — Texas’s state reptile, ya know.


A faux-bois fountain is a focal point at the end of the driveway.


An umbrella-shaded patio beckons where the path curves around the house.


A hanging wicker egg chair and bench offer additional seating.


Two metal giraffes nibble bamboo leaves nearby.


There’s not a patch of lawn in this low-water garden, but even so it feels lush and green.


Where there used to be a bottle shrub, Linda now has a hanging bottle tree, a less-common variation on the trunk- or pole-style bottle tree of the South. Linda uses lots of hanging objects — plants, lanterns, bottles — to draw the eye upward into the trees.


On a terrace off the back of the house, privacy is assured with a striking, contemporary privacy screen, which Linda designed out of leftover scraps of roofing metal (after their standing seam roof was installed) and she and her family riveted together. A bubbling fountain container topped with blue slag glass and a collection of containers completes the appealing scene.


Container detail


My thanks to Linda for sharing her remarkable garden again and letting us linger there so long!

And thank you, dear reader, for following along on my recap of the San Antonio Open Days Tour. I unfortunately ran out of time to see a couple of the tour gardens, but I enjoyed the ones we saw. For a look back at the old San Antonio style of the Tupper Beinhorn 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.
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Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy on November 4.

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.

Color-blended garden retreat of designer Barbara Katz: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


Opening the summer issue of Country Gardens magazine a few days ago, I felt an immediate jolt of recognition at seeing, on pages 10-13, one of the gardens we toured during last month’s Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling. It’s the garden of Bethesda, Maryland, designer Barbara Katz, one of the first private gardens we toured and one of my favorites.


Barbara’s front flower garden, a deep curving border around a small oval lawn, is a traffic-stopper — or at least a stopper of 50 eager garden bloggers. But just wait until you see the back garden!


But before we head to the back, let’s explore the front. My eye went straight to variegated yuccas (‘Bright Edge’?), their lemon-yellow stripes echoed by yellow yarrow, yellow-and-white lantana, and tawny Mexican feathergrass (I think) — a combo that would be at home in Austin.


A curving stone walk leads past shrub plantings to a front porch with red Adirondack rockers…


…and two plant stands with eye-catching succulent combos.


A variegated spineless prickly pear and Agave desmettiana fill one planter.


In the other, a spiny euphorbia stands tall with a paddle plant and Portulacaria afra (thanks for the ID, Diana!).


There was much to see out here, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on the back garden, so I headed along the side-yard path. No throw-away space here but rather a golden shade garden with hostas, sedge, and a redbud tree (maybe ‘Hearts of Gold’). Dark-green shrubs in the background make the golds pop.


Foliage detail


A few blogger friends stopped here to admire the plant combos too, including Gail, Tracy, and Jennifer.


Entering the back garden, where a generous stone patio bridges house and garden…


…you’re led to a small pond and waterfall…


…that stair-steps down from the top of a 12-foot slope, where a gazebo roof entices you to climb up and explore.


What an oasis…


…and not just for goldfish.


Barbara told us that she’d created this garden for clients who later decided to move. Spontaneously, she and her husband purchased the home in order to acquire the garden. She laughingly told us that in this way she was able to get a professionally designed garden — her own — without having to pay for it.


I doubt she ever sits down in her garden, but this comfortable seating area in the shade of a tall tree is inviting.


Barbara pays careful attention to color combinations, both flowers and foliage. One side of the back garden is planted with an orange, white, and purple color scheme.


Caramel-tinged heuchera, New Zealand sedge, and an orangey peach echinacea. Update: Barbara kindly identified the sparkly white flower as a catmint (Calamintha ‘White Cloud’).


Rusty orange coleus matches a rusty orange planter.


Even the garden art plays into the color scheme.


The other side of the garden features yellow, pink, blue, and maroon plants.


Which is your favorite?


Purple-leaved loropetalum and a purple-pink daylily


Now let’s climb the steps up the slope…


…stopping to admire the falling stream, which looks completely natural…


…and beautiful planters on the steps.


I enjoyed Barbara’s playful garden art, like this lizard seemingly sunning himself on a boulder…


…and this “bottle fly.”


You enter the upper garden via a perfect circle of emerald lawn, a calm counterpoint to the lush garden beds. Behind the pink hydrangeas on the far side of the circle (near owner/designer Barbara in the orange tank top)…


…a path leads to a nearly hidden stone patio and bench. Here are Garden Design publisher Jim Peterson and his wife, Val, chatting with Barbara’s husband.


Tucked amid the hydrangea blossoms, a woman’s face peeks out.


A more-traveled path beckons across the top of the slope…


…leading to a woodsy gazebo.


From here you enjoy a view of the house and lower patio and an upper pond with a bubbling fountain.


This plume poppy (Macleaya cordata) stands tall in a pot near the gazebo (see the gazebo picture, above), so pretty against a burgundy Japanese maple.


Stokes’ aster ‘Klaus Jelitto’ in full bloom alongside a shady birdbath. On her Facebook page, Barbara recently wrote that the aster is “still going strong after 22 years in the exact same spot, with zero maintenance.”


A closeup


A lilac-and-blue lacecap hydrangea harmonizes…


…as do these cute little plants growing in the cracks of a mossy stone path — rose campion?


Looking back to the circular lawn — what a stunning space!


There’s not an inch of this garden that didn’t wow me. I’m thrilled to have been able to visit.

Up next: Scenes from Brookside Gardens and a Patrick Dougherty twig sculpture. For a look back at the whimsical woodland garden of Ellen Ash, 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.
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Book Giveaway! I’m giving away a copy of a fun new book, Potted, that’ll inspire you to DIY your own uniquely cool garden planters for porch, patio, or deck. Just leave a comment on my giveaway blog post to enter (click the link and comment there), and good luck! The giveaway ends Friday, July 14, 2017.

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.

Rawr! Dino fun at Austin’s favorite putt-putt place


It’s the perfect time of year for outdoor play in Austin, and, boy, did we play this long Thanksgiving holiday! We’ve walked around Lady Bird Lake, played at John Gaines Park in Mueller neighborhood, hiked at Bull Creek, seen a couple of movies (Arrival is excellent, Fantastic Beasts a bit of a snooze), and — of course! — played a couple of rounds at Peter Pan Mini Golf on Barton Springs Road.


Peter Pan Mini Golf has been around since 1948, and it recently got a refresh, with refurbished obstacles and all-new landscaping. The place is fun for kids and adults (you can BYOB and even tote a beer cooler from hole to hole if you want).


The iconic T-Rex — it doesn’t fit the Peter Pan theme, but no one seems to mind — looms over the hill on which the mini-golf is built, making it an imposing figure on or off the course.

Our family loves to play putt-putt, and Peter Pan is one of our favorite places to play in Austin. Have you ever putted under the T-Rex?

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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Want to know how I got started as a garden writer? Read page 16 of On the QT, the newsletter for GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators. I’m honored to be featured in an article by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens!

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!

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

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

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