European formality with relaxed Texas style in Ware Garden: San Antonio Open Days Tour


Last Saturday I road-tripped to San Antonio for the Open Days garden tour, sponsored by the Garden Conservancy. Shirley Fox of Rock-Oak-Deer was one of the organizers this year, and I was eager to see the gardens that she’d chosen for the tour.


The Ware Garden is the grandest, an estate-size property entered via a gate with stag sculptures on limestone pilasters. A long, curving drive leads past clipped yew and boxwood hedges, and you might think you’re only going to see lawn and live oaks.


Not so! Masses of tufty Mexican feathergrass add subtle golden color and texture beneath live oaks along the drive, where a dry stream channels runoff.


A circular pool and spouting fountain appear near the house, set in an emerald lawn amid the dark, gnarled trunks of dozens of live oaks.


And here it’s seen from the home’s front terrace. The live oaks make this scene magical, elevating it from something classically formal and rather ordinary — a fountain in a big, open lawn — and giving it a fairy-tale, dark-wood dimension. There’s a sense of mystery here.


Turning around, you see the front steps to the house — not at all ostentatious but rather a study in elegant simplicity: a pyramid of limestone steps, potted boxwood spheres, and a scrolled iron lantern alongside a handsome wooden door.


Side view


Walking around the house, you get a jolt of humor from a glass-mosaic cow wearing the Texas flag and gazing at a limestone-edged swimming pool, as if longing to take a dip.


In front, a fountain splashes in a raised rectangular pool, with a rill that leads the eye across the pool, where it stops at a perfectly manicured boxwood hedge, clipped to the same dimensions as a limestone retaining wall to the right.


Past the pool, a gentle slope is terraced with a low limestone wall. The house wraps around a rectangular lawn studded with more live oaks.


Clipped boxwood in various pots makes a simple and elegant accent throughout the garden.


Shallow limestone-and-gravel steps lead past a wing of the house with expansive windows, which I imagine provide a lovely view of the evergreen landscape. I believe that’s our native palmetto (Sabal mexicana) lifting its droopy-leaved fans to mingle with live oak limbs.


Palmetto and cast-iron plant add lush-leaved, subtropical San Antonio style (also common in Austin).


Details are simple and clean lined.


Rustic features like the rough cedar arbor are pure Central Texas.


The brochure says that the owners “envisioned a European garden reminiscent of a hotel where they had lived for three years. Architect Don McDonald…designed terraces around the house as a stage for beautifully sheared boxwood hedges and classic European pots planted with boxwood balls.”


A relaxing limestone-and-gravel terrace along the guest house…


…enjoys a view of the swimming pool and those wonderfully bent and twisted live oak trees and a gray-trunked Texas persimmon.


At the end of the lawn, a vine-draped cedar pergola with a faux bois bench offers a shady place to enjoy the view.


Looking back toward the main house


The beautifully pruned live oaks are the stars of this understated garden.


A lacy limb drapes around a narrow window in the guest house.


A small terrace off the main house features a built-in outdoor fireplace made of limestone.


A carved stone flower makes a pretty accent on the gravel paving.


A last look at the fountain, pool, and Cow Tex.


On the opposite side of the house, by a detached garage, a terraced boxwood parterre and center patio are framed by a monumental, grid-like trellis constructed of rough cedar posts and cloaked in fig ivy. The trellis runs from the garage to the house, connecting the two and creating a sort of window-walled garden room.


Clipped boxwood parterre, set off by limestone-and-brick paving.


In the central patio space, a faux bois table and chairs invite you to sit and enjoy the view. Under that long, snaking live oak limb, a handsome limestone trough and outdoor faucet make an outdoor sink.


The faux bois looks remarkably like real wood.


The elegant — and enormous — detached garage creates another sheltering wall for this outdoor space.


At a corner of the garage, in a space that might easily be overlooked, a wooden folding chair and white-garden urn create a pretty vignette.


There’s more to explore from here, as a limestone-paver path leads between boxwood spheres and olive and pine trees out to an olive grove.


Nearby, beneath the shady canopy of live oaks, classical planters and a wooden table and chairs beckon.


The classicism of this garden, tempered with rustic Central Texas features like limestone edging and shaggy cedar posts, is very appealing. European formal landscaping meets relaxing Texas style in the Ware Garden, and I loved it.

Up next: The Tupper Beinhorn Garden in San Antonio’s Monte Vista neighborhood.

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

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.

Foliage architecture (and art) on Rice University campus


At my alma mater in Houston last month (right after Hurricane Harvey), I appreciated the marriage of foliage and architecture at the Brochstein Pavilion, a remarkable structure and hub of student activity that didn’t exist when I was a student at Rice University.

A hedge of tightly clipped horsetail divides the pavilion’s patio from the main sidewalk, all of which is shaded by a wide trellis of aluminum tubes. The trellis roof seems to float ethereally over the space and provides a good deal of shade, which, if you’ve ever been to Houston, you know is essential. It also evokes the floating roof of the campus’s James Turrell Skyspace.


I’m always surprised by how much I love a bosque. I find them inviting and visually soothing. The one at Brochstein Pavilion runs alongside the building, just across the main sidewalk. According to an article in ArchDaily:

“Responding [to] the grid of the building, a bosque of 48 specimen Allee Lacebark Elms rise from a plane of decomposed granite and provide an organizational framework that humanizes the scale of the space. A generous concrete walk connecting the library and the pavilion bisects the grove into garden rooms whose perimeters are defined by plantings of African Iris. Long black concrete fountains filled with beach stone occupy the center of each space, filling the garden with the murmur of running water and reflecting the filtered light through the canopy.”


The contemporary trough fountains were leaf-strewn a week after Harvey, but otherwise the landscape appeared to have held up well.


On the other side of the pavilion, a broad allee of Southern live oaks — one of many such live oak allees on the Rice campus — shelters additional seating and leads the eye to a sculpture by Jaume Plensa called Mirror.


While I was on campus, I visited Fondren Library, where I knew there was a display of Mike Stilkey’s book sculptures. (Here’s an article about his exhibit at Rice Gallery.) I first discovered Stilkey’s work at the L.A. home of Joy and Roland Feuer (scroll down for their Stilkey installation). His work is striking, often humorous, and instantly recognizable. Speaking of trees, Stilkey used a book about Texas trees for the “capstone” of this monumental book sculpture…


…seen in full here, seemingly balanced atop a small stack of books painted with wavy apartment towers and whimsical animals.


I found other pieces throughout the library, like this doleful water bird in a top hat…


…and a giraffe peeking from a stairwell over a railing…


…and a slinking cat.


I’ll leave you with one last book sculpture that brings us back around to the theme of trees as architecture. And thanks for bearing with me as I veered off-topic a bit with my Foliage Follow-Up post!

This is my October post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden or one you’ve visited this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

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

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.

Visit to Fort Worth Botanic Garden and Japanese Garden


Although I’ve been to Dallas and its well-known public garden many times, until last weekend I’d never visited the botanical garden in nearby Fort Worth, just 45 minutes to the west. While not showy like Dallas Arboretum, Fort Worth Botanic Garden is a pleasant place to stroll amid perennial gardens, arbors and gazebos (likely popular with wedding parties), and woodsy trails.

On this early October day, monarchs were passing through, fueling up for their journey to Mexico.


I’d never seen this type of big, golden bee before. When I posted a picture on Instagram, a reader identified as possibly a male valley carpenter bee. That’s esperanza (Tecoma stans) he’s enjoying.


Orange and pink hibiscus adds tropical color.


Fluffy, cotton-candy wisps of our native Gulf muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) were catching the light.


Another native plant, fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), was a hit with honeybees.


This massive arbor, with a rough-cut tree trunk serving as the top rail, is a striking portal.


The real attraction of the garden, however, is the Fort Worth Japanese Garden, which has a separate parking area and an entry fee (the main garden is free). The entry tower, pictured here, makes an impressive gateway into the garden.


Roofed arbors beckon you further into the 7.5-acre garden.


The garden was constructed in 1973, and while the first part with a large wooden pavilion around a zen garden (not pictured) has a somewhat dated feel, it’s neatly kept. I especially enjoyed the main part of the garden, which is a strolling garden built around a large pond (see below).


It’s certainly not as crowded as other Japanese gardens I’ve visited, like Portland Japanese Garden, and it’s a pleasant place to spend an hour or more in leisurely enjoyment of the outdoors, with some very nice Japanese-style structures and garden art.


I like this somewhat contemporary pagoda sculpture.


Coming around a bend in the path, this was a fun surprise: a trio of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys on stone steps leading nowhere.


A large pond occupies the central part of the garden, with a winding path leading around it and offering scenic views like this arching moon bridge.


This small gazebo perches at the water’s edge amid a scrim of Japanese maples.


Lacy leaves of Japanese maples overhead.


Koi followed us around the pond like hungry pups waiting for a handout. The garden sells fish food, and many visitors were delighting in feeding the colorful fish.


Look at those open mouths!


Whoa! This big boy could practically swallow your arm.


Decks like this one offer up-close pond-viewing places.


Beautiful bark on what my friend Diana identified as an elm tree.


A pretty teahouse seems to float over the pond, framed by bald cypress and pine trees.


Heading around to the gazebo


Stone lantern


The very earliest Japanese maples were beginning to turn.


Such beautiful fall color — and unexpected. I thought we’d be too early for it.


I’ve always liked bamboo-and-basin fountains like this.


A “floating” path of stepping stones attracts adventurous and sure-footed explorers.


Another deck offering a scenic spot to enjoy the pond.


A flaming red and orange Japanese maple attracted my eye — so beautiful against a clear blue sky.


Climbing up the slope we found a large elevated deck and a cluster of roofed shelters that seemed meant for weddings or other events. With their sharply peaked roofs and cross designs, they almost seem Scandinavian, don’t they?


Back on the main path, I spotted palmettos along a stream with a small waterfall…


…and enjoyed a new view of the moon bridge.


More decks


A tricolored heron (as a fellow photographer ID’d it) was fishing for minnows swarming around a mess of fish food that had been tossed in the pond.


I stopped to watch him for about 15 minutes as he inched toward the water…


…stretched out his neck…


…and struck!


He was an effective fisherman.


A fellow fisherman got in his way a few times: a long water snake that coiled and flashed through the water in pursuit of minnows. I was amazed how many passersby were afraid when they saw it, sure it was a water moccasin that would leap out to get them. But no, it was nonvenomous and just wanted a fishy meal.


This lovely wooden pagoda near the exit stands about 20 feet tall.


A nicely designed gift shop beckons near the exit…


…its porch framing a view of a young ginkgo in golden fall glory.

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

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.

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