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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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

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.

Exploring Mueller’s Southwest Greenway, public art, and Texas Farmers’ Market


A week ago, my dad and I popped over to east Austin’s Mueller neighborhood for a springtime stroll around the Southwest Greenway. They have some pretty big spiders in those parts!


I love this sculpture, Arachnophilia by Houston artist Dixie Friend Gay, which stands 23 feet tall and straddles the walking trail. Her belly is full of green and blue glass gazing balls! Gigantic agaves add a living sculptural element alongside the trail.


Texas redbuds were in full bloom, and I had to stop and admire each one.


The trail skirts a small lake in the center of the park…


…where we spotted a great blue heron and a few white egrets fishing or frogging, plus lots of ducks.


The Southwest Greenway was planted with native grasses and other Texas prairie plants in partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In late winter, tawny grasses predominate. But flowering trees are already coloring the prairie landscape, and soon wildflowers will steal the show. In the distance you can see two sculptures by Austin artist Chris Levack, Wigwam on the left and Pollen Grain on the right.


Here’s a closer view of Wigwam, with curving beds of prairie grasses and perennials at its feet.


With mass plantings of native trees and perennials, the Greenway shows how to use native plants in a contemporary way.


I like this tiny formal lawn too, which leads to a bench secluded by native shrubs, ornamental trees, and grasses.


Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) shows off golden, sweet-scented flowers at this time of year.


The spiny, gray-green leaves are pretty too.


Ah, but the early spring glory of flowering redbuds and Mexican plums!


A closeup of Texas redbuds in bloom. Why, I wonder, aren’t they called pinkbuds?


Mueller is a planned community built on the site of Austin’s old Mueller Airport, and some of the original airport structures have been preserved, like this old hangar. Dad and I were happy to stumble on the Texas Farmers’ Market in full swing here, which operates every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm.


Vendors were selling vegetables, honey, sauces, bread, and more.


And since it was just a few days before Mardi Gras, a band decked out in tie-dye, purple, and beads, the Mighty Pelicans, were playing zydeco and blues. It was a party!


As we headed back to our car, we couldn’t help noticing a bunch of kids on a playing field wearing clear plastic bubbles. They’d run at each other and rebound hilariously. One kid got stuck upside-down and had to be righted with help from his coach.


I later learned it’s called bubble soccer. Who knew?


Near the science-based playspace for kids called Thinkery , we encountered another delightful public sculpture, Lake Nessie.


The glass-tiled sea serpent was created by Arachnophilia artist Dixie Friend Gay.

I love all the public art at Mueller, and the generous park spaces. It’s a fun place for a Sunday stroll.

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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Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The upcoming talk with James deGrey David has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Latest critter in the pool: Western slimy salamander


Add this western slimy salamander to the list of crawly critters that have fallen into our swimming pool. We spotted it at the bottom of the shallow end after our recent rains. David got the net without much hope of it being alive, but it moved when he scooped it up and sluggishly stirred as we set it down. Cute little fella!


We’d never seen a salamander in the garden before, so we were excited, although we were both sorry about the pool dive. We set it free in a pile of leaf litter with hopes for its full recovery.


What is it about the pool that attracts critters, especially in the fall? Add the salamander to a coral snake we rescued from the pool in September, carefully


…and a convention of 8 large trapdoor spiders — or maybe tarantulas; it’s hard to tell — at the bottom of the pool in October 2015, which I belatedly realize I never shared with you here. You’re welcome! These large but harmless spiders (except for the heart attacks they cause) come out from under the rocks at night after an autumn rain, and many, sadly, end up going for a swim. We pulled another 10 out of the bottom of the pool this fall after a big rain, as well as a very-much-alive one that had managed to climb atop the floating chlorine basket. Shiver.

It all makes you a bit wary when you stick your hand in the filter basket to clean it out.

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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Need a holiday gift for the gardener, new homeowner, or environmentalist on your list?
Please consider giving one (or both!) of my books. They’re packed with plenty of how-to info for newbies as well as lots of inspirational photos and design ideas for more experienced gardeners! Order today from Amazon (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!) or other online booksellers (Water-Saving Garden / Lawn Gone!), or find them anywhere books are sold.

“In an era of drought and unpredictable weather patterns, The Water-Saving Garden could not come at a better time. With striking photographs and a designer’s eye, Penick shows us just how gorgeous a water-wise garden can be. This is the must-have garden book of the year!”
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All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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