Nonirrigated native plant garden of Lee Clippard is a foliage lover’s dream


Earlier this month I visited the East Austin garden of Lee Clippard, blogger at The Grackle, and his partner, John. The first fall rains had just arrived, following a relatively mild summer, so their foliage-centric garden of native plants was looking lush and green. I’d never have guessed, if Lee hadn’t told me, that he didn’t once irrigate his garden all summer, aside from a one-time spot watering of a wilting American beautyberry just off the front porch.


Smart plant choices make the no-water garden possible, although of course even these drought-tolerant natives must have water to get established. Once established though, the plants are on their own. Lee chucks the ones that don’t thrive and adds more of those that do.


You might recognize Lee’s garden from my book, Lawn Gone!; I profiled his garden in an early chapter. Lee screened the front garden with shade-tolerant foliage plants like palms, loquat, and Turk’s cap to give privacy and a sense of enclosure to a small gravel patio and to create green views from their windows.


Streetside, all that textural foliage makes for a secret-garden effect. What’s on the other side?


Entering the front garden you see a rectangular gravel patio edged with chopped limestone. A patio set used to sit here, but now there’s just a simple, wooden bench, very Zen.


A triangular stone sculpture sits in a soft patch of Texas sedge (Carex texensis) along one corner of the patio, framed by loquat and paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida).


It’s a serene, inviting space framed by sedge and yuccas, with leafy shrubs along the perimeter screening the street from view. The stone path at right makes a friendly path for the mailman to cut through from the neighbor’s yard.


Lee gardens with a goal of attracting wildlife, with flowering prairie plants like coneflower where he has more sun along the driveway, and plenty of roosting and nesting places for birds, insects, and other beneficial wildlife.


He lets plants stand after they go to seed in order to provide food for birds. A large spineless prickly pear adds structure to this “wilder” section of the garden.


Around back, a wood-slat arbor and gate invite you into the back garden. Spanning the gap between house and detached garage, the arbor offers shade from the Death Star and enclosure for their dog. A lovely cut-stone path set in gravel draws the eye and foot into the space.


To the right, on the wall of the garage, a trough fountain with a small copper spout pours a thin stream of water that seems to cool the sizzle of a hot day.


Ahead, a grilling station is set up near the back door, which leads to the kitchen. Hanging from a corner of the eave, a rain chain directs rainwater, when it comes, to a bowl filled with colorful, egg-shaped river rocks.


Native horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis), considered a weed by some, provides a low-maintenance, no-water groundcover.


I think Lee made these concrete bowls, which he uses as succulent planters and to hold pretty river rocks.


The stone path makes a right-angle turn behind the garage, leading to a gravel patio and, farther along, to an herb garden. Here at the corner, terracotta pots of cactus and succulents attract the eye…


…and soften the base of four cedar posts that support a “ceiling” of string lights around the gravel patio.


Lee and John inherited the mortared-brick Celtic knot with the house, but they enlarged the patio space around it to make more room for entertaining. It’s a beautiful focal point for their patio.


They made the 8-foot-long wooden bench themselves. It’s backed by a fringe of inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).


Red, recycled-plastic Adirondacks add hot color.


The purple berries of American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) add plenty of rich color too.


Enjoy them while you can, before the mockingbirds find them!


The back of the garage is a place for Lee to showcase his potted-plant collection. He and John also use the wall (hung with a sheet, I assume) for showing outdoor movies with friends.


An insect hotel hangs from the corner of the house, part of Lee’s effort to attract bees and other beneficial bugs.


Behind the garage, Lee and John made a small, raised-bed herb garden. Anchoring the space is a signpost pointing to places that have special meaning to them. Wooden chaise lounges offer a place to catch a little sun, and a wooden-slat screen hides a view of the neighbor’s yard. In front of the screen, a tufted lawnette of Texas sedge (Carex texensis) makes an emerald groundcover.


We live in a big country, don’t we? A thousand miles, at least, whether you head for the East Coast or the West.


Pomegranates are ripening.


And lantana is blooming — more fall color that attracts butterflies.


And here’s another look at the Texas sedge lawnette.


I love that quilted look.


A metal grackle is a reminder that this is the home of The Grackle blog. If you haven’t ever read it, do. Lee’s posts are always thoughtful and beautifully photographed, with good information about wildlife and native-plant gardening and Tex-Zen design.

My thanks to Lee and John for sharing their inspiring waterwise garden with me again. Readers, if this has whetted your appetite for more, click for my spring 2012 visit to Lee’s garden. Also, see Lee and John discuss the design of their garden on Central Texas Gardener.

This is my October post for Foliage Follow-Up. I’d love to know what lovely leaves are making you happy in your October garden (or one you’ve visited). Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage plants their due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave your link to your Foliage Follow-Up post in a comment. I really appreciate it if you’ll also include a link to this post in your own post (sharing link love!). If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Monarchs flutter into Dallas Arboretum on fall migration


We weren’t the only visitors to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden last Sunday. Aside from all the human visitors, hundreds of monarch butterflies arrived on the north wind blowing into Texas and settled into the garden for a rest stop.


I understand their fall migration is stalled out at the moment because southerly winds have returned. But not to worry: north winds will return soon and speed them on their way to Austin and on to Mexico.


After all that flying, they sure were hungry.


They flapped past in their eagerness to hit the snack bar of salvia, red yucca, and lantana. It warmed our hearts to see them, knowing their numbers are in decline, and having just watched a film about their life cycle, Flight of the Butterflies, at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.


I showed you the fall extravaganza of Pumpkin Village in my last post, but there’s much more to see at the Arboretum. Fall bedding annuals like these marigolds make a cheerful show, although they were not attracting the butterflies.


What else was showy? Blazing red gomphrena, for one.


Add variegated tapioca and you have a sunglasses-worthy combo.


Interesting water features appear throughout the gardens, like this negative-edge pool overlooking White Rock Lake in the Woman’s Garden.


And this tumbling stream in the Red Maple Rill garden.


How about supersized, water-spouting toads? The Arboretum has those too.


Kids are always drawn to these “frog fountains” and play in the spouting water in the summertime.


On this day it was comfortably cool — no toad spray needed.


This squirrel appreciated a drink of puddled water though.


Several charming sculptures hint at the presence of water, like the playful Chico y Chica de la Playa (Boy and Girl on the Beach).


The Playdays young woman tentatively dips her toes into an imaginary pool filled with frogs. White Rock Lake in the distance adds a real water view.


As always, lots of pro photographers were in the garden (too many, in my opinion), including at least a half-dozen doing photo shoots with girls in candy-colored, frothy, Scarlett O’Hara-worthy quinceanera dresses. Something about this girl posing in the Fern Dell put me in mind of a fairy tale, maybe Thumbelina?


Speaking of ferns, I spy a leafy frond through the stone lantern’s window.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Arboretum visit. For a look back at the light-hearted, colorful Pumpkin Village and autumn displays, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Dark-fantasy woodland, Asian teahouse and more at Bedrock Gardens, part 2


In my last post I introduced you to Bedrock Gardens, created by Jill Nooney and Bob Munger in Lee, New Hampshire, on a former dairy farm. It’s a place of thoughtful design, beautiful views, eye-catching plant combinations, and fanciful found-object sculpture created by Jill.


Continuing our tour, let’s pause to admire one of Jill’s sculptures, a sinuous, plant-like, blue base cradling a glass globe.


Hex Rock (at left) terminates a long axis view, and when you arrive you see, tucked under the trees, a large stone spiral set in moss. Behind it, a curving line of spinning roof ventilators atop culvert pipes seems to rise from the ground.


I use culvert pipes as vertical planters in my own garden, so I delighted to see them turned into art in Jill’s.


The Spiral Garden looks out on an allee of newly planted Chinese fringetree (Chionanthus retusus). The fringetrees have replaced a mature allee of Korean mountain ash, which Jill cut down when she learned it was invasive. A torii gate in the center draws the eye and invites you in.


Looking left, back toward the espaliered apple fence and arborvitae hedge, you see GrassAcre coming into late-summer glory. Little bluestem, switchgrass, and hakone grass create a soft, abstract picture, with the sculpture SyncoPeaks as focal point.


Looking right, another axis view opens up, leading the eye to the Baxis, a tall pergola in the shape of a double triangle. Stumpy remnants of the destroyed Korean mountain ash trees seem to scuttle like Thing toward this new destination.


Looking back toward the torii gate as the setting sun bathes the garden in golden light


Nearing the Baxis, with tall grasses and pines framing the view


This is a monumental arbor. A few benches offer a place to rest and enjoy the view.


But you might want to watch your back because from here things begin to get a little spooky. This gazebo-like sculpture with bones hanging in the middle sets the tone as you enter a shadowy wood.


Mosquitoes began to harry us as the sun dipped to the horizon, and we saw monster-sized representations as well.


Hurry, before they get us!


Tree men appear. Is that what I think it is?


Jill confirmed that it was. They seem to be having a Bacchanalian orgy with other trees.


Then again, maybe it’s just an arboreal nudist camp.


Stump creatures watch with sinister intent. I was starting to feel like I’d stepped into another world, a Pan’s Labyrinth.


As I emerged from the woods, I wanted to warn this charming metal family — Papa in a beret, Mama in earmuffs — not to go in there. But then again I’d just walked through with my own kids, and we thought it was a hoot.


Sun-like sculptures echo the setting sun behind the pines.


After the eerie Dark Woods, a clearing appears. A mirror-like pond reflects the surrounding trees and is bridged on one end with an elevated walkway reminiscent of a Japanese moon bridge. A red bench in the center overlooks the pond.

Framing the bridge and bench are tall stumps of trees that have been cut off at about 12 feet. I don’t recall what Jill told me about these trees, but I like how she uses everything that happens in her garden, even the tragic things (like the removal of the invasive mountain-ash allee), to create art.


Another peaceful pond-viewing spot


I felt a sense of urgency at this point, as the sun was rapidly sinking, to see everything, so I hurried along the path toward a large metal arch — a sculpture of 3 acrobats leaping across the path.


The acrobats usher you into an Asian-style garden containing a small pond and a teahouse just large enough for a bed. Jill says she and Bob sometimes enjoy sleeping in the garden.


A birch arrow on the ground gleams in the fading light, pointing the way to…what?


I followed.


Steps lead past waterfall-like ledge stone carpeted in pine needles.


As I reached the top I looked up and gasped: a “halo” floats high above a columnar stone sculpted on all sides with serenely smiling faces.


This sculpture is from Cambodia, Jill told me. She and Bob enjoy traveling around the world to visit gardens, and perhaps they bought this home from one of their trips.


The sculpture sits in center of a knoll behind the teahouse, and the halo above creates a tension, a feeling of energy, here.


But Jill’s sense of humor is evident here as well.


The teahouse has a marvelous swoopy, arched roof.


Heading back toward the main gardens, I passed this tall stone table set in a gravel circle: a mushroom in a fairy circle?


A tall, metal arch marks entry into Conetown, a pinetum of about 50 dwarf and standard conifers.


The gateway arch is charming in its own right.


Conifers of all shapes and colors surround a central lawn…


…with variegated grasses, silvery shrubs, and other plants adding different textures to the scene.


Now we’re approaching the back of CopTop, the covered patio that overlooks the Wiggle Waggle, an undulating rill we explored in part 1 of this tour.


Seats made of old farm equipment swivel to take in views in all directions.


The views are excellent indeed: meadowy GrassAcre, the Wiggle Waggle, Conetown, and more.


GrassAcre


A closer look


To the left of CopTop and Conetown, an undulating hedge has echoes of Piet Oudolf.


Ahead, the Wiggle Waggle


Here’s the pergola we spotted in part 1, which I promised I’d show you later. Jill calls it the Landing, and it sits amid a rock garden planted on the slope that leads back up to the barn and house.


Horse-head sculptures created by Jill riff on the neighboring horse pasture.


The pergola has a fine view of the Wiggle Waggle, CopTop, and GrassAcre, with more farm-detritus swivel seating.


In the last light of evening I popped up to the garden around the house and barn, which sit close to the road in the style of most hundred-year-old homes.


On a ledge outcropping lurks…


…a hungry praying mantis made by Jill.


A tiny dancer twirls nearby, her pointed toe an old syrup tap for maple trees.


Birdhouses made of old sap buckets (I think)


A gazebo or arbor made of culvert-pipe columns and glass-globe finials adds permanent color to the garden, which I’m sure is welcome during New Hampshire’s long winters.


This piece looks sort of tribal to me, but its parts are all about farm life.


Jill’s stash of materials and a few works in progress are tucked off to the side of the driveway. I wonder what this is — a Willy Wonka candy-making contraption?


I admired a rainbow assortment of her tuteurs.

Jill and Bob, who at ages 65 and 71 still do all their own maintenance, have begun thinking how they might ensure the garden’s preservation when they’re no longer physically able to take care of it. They founded Friends of Bedrock Gardens as a tax-exempt charity and hope to raise funds that will allow them eventually to convert Bedrock into a public garden, cultural center, and horticultural sanctuary amid the rapid suburbanization of southern New Hampshire. The couple are generous with their garden, opening it monthly for public tours and hosting numerous events and classes. Click here for more information about visiting the garden.

Huge thanks to Jill and Bob for sharing their incredibly creative garden with me and my family. What a treat to be wowed for two solid hours of strolling and exploring. It was a highlight of our New Hampshire vacation.

If you missed part 1 of my tour of Bedrock Gardens, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.