Gorgeous weeds and walls at the Wildflower Center


With a hat tip to Phoenix landscape architect Steve Martino, who coined the phrase “weeds and walls” to describe his design style — planting native plants for toughness and building walls for structure — here are some of the beautiful weeds and walls at Austin’s own native-plant showcase, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I visited yesterday to see the early spring show, like gray globemallow (Sphaeralcea incana).


Native trees are at peak bloom all over town, and the Wildflower Center was colorful with Texas redbuds (Cercis canadensis var. texensis)…


…grape Kool-Aid-scented Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora)…


…and Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana).


The entry gardens are framed with fabulous stone walls that reference the architecture of Texas’s Spanish missions and German settler homesteads. This one contains a zigzagging sluice for recirculating water to spill into a pond.


Two red-eared slider turtles, including a baby turtle resting its head on the back of another’s shell, were basking on a rock, enjoying the warm spring sunshine.


Arched and linteled walls frame a long view to a window.


In the central plaza, a spiraling cistern tower (yes, it collects and stores rainwater) is the signature building of the Center. The cafe’s rooftop seating offers a place to enjoy the view, but you can also climb all the way to the top of the tower for sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.


This wall extends from the cafe and used to contain a dripping water feature in the stone window, which supplied a narrow trough of water below. I just noticed yesterday that the water feature is gone, and the trough is now filled with plants. I wonder what instigated the change?


Golden groundsel (Packera obovata) grows at the base of the tower — and was in bloom throughout the gardens.


In the children’s Little House garden, Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) swathed a coyote fence in fragrant yellow blossoms.


Inhale…and ahhhh


Limestone walls mark the entrance to the demonstration gardens, where a flowering Texas redbud arches toward the light.


Blazing orange California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) add hot color to a gray-green cactus bed.


At another pond near the butterfly garden, I stopped to admire this Roger Foster “ocular” sculpture, carved from native limestone. Foster’s sculptures are currently on display throughout the garden, but you may remember seeing one in Lee/The Grackle‘s garden too (click for my tour of Lee’s East Austin garden).


It’s been almost a year since the new family garden opened to the public, and I enjoyed seeing how the plants have grown. This silver-blue bed contains ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress (Cuppressus arizonica var. glabra) and Wheeler’s sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri). Nice, but wouldn’t it be fun to see a smattering of California poppies in here to liven things up in spring? Or ground-covering winecup?


Walls of massive limestone blocks build up raised beds of sky-reaching yuccas and create “pictograph”-adorned tunnels and caves for children to explore.


Spanish bayonet (Yucca faxoniana), I think


Caves beckon youngsters to explore behind a waterfall.


Bronze sculptures of animals are placed throughout the family garden, including this one I hadn’t noticed before.


Water collection is an important feature at the Wildflower Center. I love these galvanized-steel cisterns — so handsome. A rain garden around it collects the overflow.


If you haven’t been to the Wildflower Center lately, or ever, it’s well worth a visit. In another few weeks, wildflowers will be at peak bloom, including bluebonnets, but the WC has a lot more going on than just wildflowers. It’ll teach you to love our native Texas “weeds.” And the walls aren’t bad either.

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Treasure hunting at Adkins Architectural in Houston


Since last summer’s visit to once-upon-a-dream-like Bella Madrona in Portland — a garden in which junk and architectural relics are transformed into mysterious, magical art — I’ve been on the hunt. For what? For ways to add a spark of discovery to my garden, and in particular for cast-iron earthquake stars. I already had a few and decided to collect a dozen more to set in the gravel path of my front garden — an homage to Bella Madrona, which had a star-studded path that I adored.


Earthquake stars are star-shaped bolts traditionally used on tie rods that run through buildings to hold them together. They’re commonly seen on Civil War-era buildings in South Carolina, where I grew up. Today you can find old stars and, more often, reproductions in antique and junk shops and farm-supply stores — or at least you can in the Lone Star State, where stars are beloved as a decorating motif. Callahan’s General Store in Austin carries them, but I found them priced lower at Adkins Architectural Antiques & Treasures in Houston. I was there last weekend, and so we stopped at Adkins to check it out.


What a treasure-hunter’s lair the place turned out to be, with so much more than just earthquake stars. Architectural remnants and reproductions were stacked head-high in the patios around the shop, which is located in a rambling, old house sheltered by a massive live oak.


We poked around in the yard, finding everything from Victorian-style furnishings, containers, and fencing pieces…


…to whimsically goofy statuary. What is this guy — a fur trader wearing a rabbit-eared hat?


And doesn’t everyone need a griffin to grace their garden? No, me neither, but it was fun to imagine.


Inside we discovered a warren of rooms packed with a hoarder’s assortment of architectural doodads, perfect for giving your home a bit of vintage charm or for repurposing into something totally new. Everything was neatly organized, and the salespeople were friendly and helpful.


I found bins of earthquake stars, including some 6- to 7-inch stars marked down to $3 each.


These aren’t antiques, but they will do the job.


“The streets of town were paved with stars,” sang Frank Sinatra, and now so is my garden path. It’ll remind me of Bella Madrona every time I walk it.

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I’d love to have your vote in the Better Homes and Gardens 2015 Blogger Awards. Skip through to the Gardening category, select Digging, and then skip to the last page for your vote to be counted. You can vote as much as you like. Thanks for your support!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Early spring at Thompson+Hanson nursery in Houston


Last weekend in Houston we popped into Thompson+Hanson, an elegant boutique nursery with a mouthful of a name, located on W. Alabama Street. It was late afternoon on a chilly, damp day, and the place was quiet, but we enjoyed browsing among their lovely potted displays, like this fiesta of succulent color.


And this charmingly potted arum lily.


Dogwood branches, even faux like these, evoke early spring.


Twig spheres, massed along a wall draped with still-dormant vines, echo the shape of clipped boxwood shrubs and create a classically beautiful vignette.


My friend Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden and I visited the nursery last spring (click the link for my post), on a warmer, sunnier day, and had lunch at its cafe, Tiny Boxwoods. On this chilly afternoon, the cafe’s patio was closed down.


But the lawn was green, and Bradford pears were starting to flower along the fence. Spring is just a moment or two away in Houston.

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I’d love to have your vote in the Better Homes and Gardens 2015 Blogger Awards. Skip through to the Gardening category, select Digging, and then skip to the last page for your vote to be counted. You can vote as much as you like. Thanks for your support!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.