Out and about in Austin nurseries and parks


Lately I’m taking as many garden photos with my phone as with my “real” camera, and these often get posted to my Instagram. But not all of them, and sometimes I like to share them on my blog too. So here’s some cool stuff I spotted last week at my favorite local nurseries, Lady Bird Lake, and — why not? — even a medical center’s parking lot.

Pictured above, from said medical center’s parking lot, is one of my favorite scenes from the week: a silver-green agave with striking banding and leaf imprints, rising star-shaped from a mat of silver ponyfoot. Simple and beautiful.


At the same center (this is somewhere off Hwy. 620), island beds of Knock Out roses and Mexican feathergrass are anchored by pruned-up, spiky-headed Yucca rostrata.


Now let’s visit some of Austin’s best nurseries, starting with Barton Springs Nursery. Every year I love to catch their enormous American beautyberry in full berry, with cobalt-blue pots adding a harmonizing hue.


This plant is probably 10 feet across. Here’s a look at the other side. If you’re not growing American beautyberry, why not?


Inside BSN’s gift shop, I spotted these fun saguaro vases and ring holders. I resisted the camp on my first visit, but I came back a couple days later, with my daughter in tow, and when she went gaga for them too I snagged the powder-blue saguaro on the left.


A herd of dinosaurs — colorfully painted plastic toys with cut-out holes planted with succulents — roved near the registers. My sister-in-law got me a dino planter for Christmas last year — the blue brachiosaurus — and it brightens my home-office windowsill.


Maybe I need a set.


Up in Cedar Park, I stopped in at Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery for a few things and paused to admire this new water feature with tough-as-nails blackfoot daisy and some type of succulent (a cold-tender euphorbia, maybe?) planted alongside it.


Back down to South Austin for a morning visit to The Natural Gardener, where I spotted this furled flower almost ready to open.


And in the gift shop, my books — one of each — were on the bookshelf. I know it’s not easy for nurseries to stock books in this era of Amazon and in conditions where books might get soiled (i.e., unsellable), so I really appreciate those like The Natural Gardener that make the effort. After all, not every local gardener knows the best books for Texas gardening, and nurseries can help by showcasing regionally appropriate titles, or even by keeping a suggested reading list on their website. A website reading list need not be purely regional, of course; it can be staff favorites for all kinds of popular gardening topics! By the way, here’s my own suggested reading list.


Over to Lady Bird Lake’s hike-and-bike trail, where I admired a copper-colored dragonfly hanging out near the water.


I looked at him, and he looked at me with those big bug eyes.


I also saw lots of bald cypress and native palmettos along the lakeshore.


Swans, ducks, and turtles too. They all thought I might have some food and swam right over. Sorry, guys!


And off they went into the setting sun.

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

Austinites and native-plant shoppers, I’ll be at the member’s day Fall Plant Sale at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on October 14, and I hope to see you there! I’ll be signing books between 1 and 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. If you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. Hope to see you there!

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets are on sale at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

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!

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

Hot child in the city: August Foliage Follow-Up


Surely August will be our last worst month here in central Texas. It can’t possibly remain blisteringly hot and humid through September, can it?


Yes, it can, and it probably will, but that’s why I love agaves, yuccas, prickly pear, and other tough plants. They breeze through a Texas summer looking as cool as an Austinite floating in spring-fed Barton Springs Pool. Here’s one of my current favorites, Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’ (formerly Agave parryi ‘Cream Spike’), a pup given to me last fall by Bob Beyer of the blog Central Texas Gardening. Just look at those cream-and-lime-striped leaves and tidy, red teeth lining each crimson-spined leaf.


Agave x leopoldii is also a fine small agave for a sunny deck or patio. It needs some winter protection, but its coppery summer coloration — a little stressed from heat and drought — is especially lovely.


Out front, in the Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn, lemony ‘Margaritaville’ yucca easily withstands summer’s heat.


For the first time, I’m experimenting with keeping tillandias — aka air plants — outside during the warm months. I’ve managed to keep the big one on the left alive indoors for a couple of years, and I’d hate to lose it. But they look so perfect in my new Tentacle Pots that I decided to take the chance. I hope they don’t burn up in Austin’s summer heat! They’re in filtered shade, and I’m misting them with distilled water once a week.


Since today is Foliage Follow-Up — a celebration of great foliage — let’s venture outside my own garden for a moment. I spotted this honor guard of ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon hollies at the “castle” house in South Austin. Its narrow, upright form and tidy, evergreen leaves make ‘Will Fleming’ a great screening plant for a tight space, or a striking vertical accent.


At the same house, in the hell strip outside a limestone wall, a zigzagging row of large, silver-blue agaves is eye-catching too — like campfires with tongues of blue flame. Atop the wall, prickly pear finds a crevice home. None of these plants minds the heat or the Death Star, and they make architectural additions to the summer garden.

This is my August post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on in your garden 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! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. 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

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!

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

Out and about in Houston: Public art and an artful home


Houston doesn’t always get a lot of love, especially from Austinites who invoke it as a negative example of soulless sprawl and traffic. True, Houston is a sprawling major city with congested highways (although I swear Austin may be its equal in traffic jams). But in-town you’ll find vibrant neighborhoods of historic and modern homes, terrific restaurants, international diversity, one of the best universities in the country, and world-class art museums. I may be biased, having spent my college years there and having a sister who lives there, but I embrace the tongue-in-cheek slogan that’s popped up in the Bayou City in recent years: “It’s OK to love Houston.”


Monumental Barn Owl by Geoffrey Dashwood

My daughter, a friend of hers, and I recently visited Houston and spent a fun-filled Saturday seeing public art at the Cullen Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the live oak-shaded Rice University campus. Since my sister and I attended Rice in the 1980s, the campus has added a number of modern sculptures and other works of art…


…like this one by Barcelona artist Jaume Plensa, titled Mirror.


“The figures are modeled in letters from eight alphabets – Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hindi, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin and Russian,” the Rice website explains. “The artist considers this dialogue and interaction as central to learning, and more importantly to understanding, between people and cultures.”

Last year, my sister and sister-in-law showed us another example of Plensa’s work along Buffalo Bayou. I enjoyed seeing more of his work on campus.


The Rice campus itself, founded in 1912, is filled with beautiful examples of neo-Byzantine architecture. A more recently constructed building, Duncan Hall, which houses the Computational Engineering department, is always worth a look during a tour of Rice because of its kaleidoscopic painted ceiling.


The iconic 45°, 90°, 180° sculptures — the girls are standing on 180°, with the Campanile (bell tower) looming behind them — were installed the year before I entered Rice (i.e., quite a few years ago). Three pink granite monoliths in the Engineering Quad represent 45-, 90-, and 180-degree angles. 180° was a popular spot to hang out, sneak a beer, make out, and be photographed when I was a student, and there’s no reason to think anything’s changed. (The other two slabs, at slanted and vertical angles, are harder to climb.)


Another distinctive horizontal structure on campus is the luminous Twilight Epiphany, a Skyspace by James Turrell. I wrote about this Skyspace last fall, so click for full details and morning-light photos. This time, we were keen to experience the twilight show, which is more popular, so we made reservations.


Taking photographs during the light show is prohibited (although I don’t see why, so long as you don’t use a flash), but here are a couple I took while we were waiting for it to start. The white-walled space and benches are inside the grassy pyramid seen in the previous photo. There’s also a row of benches on a second level just under the floating roof.


The white roof with a central square cutout is washed with a slow-changing sequence of colored light, which changes your perception of the sky as the sun sets or rises. It’s a meditative experience to sit there for 40 minutes, gazing upward as the sky seems to pulse with energy. It can be a bit dizzying and make you feel like a tiny creature inside an Easter sugar egg — or at least that’s how it seems to me.

Austinites, there’s a Skyspace right here on the UT campus too, and although it’s smaller and less dramatic than the one on the Rice campus, it’s definitely worth a visit.


Another transcendent Turrell work can be experienced at the Museum of Fine Arts, a tunnel passage called The Light Inside. As with Twilight Epiphany, you don’t merely view the work. You step inside it. The art is light somehow made physical.

As you enter the tunnel, the vanishing-point black flooring is echoed by a black ceiling, with fog-like color suffusing the space on each side. Are there walls? You can’t really tell as you’re walking through. Space just seems to drop off along the edge of the black walkway, melting into a void of rich color. It’s mildly disorienting, as if you might accidentally fall off the edge into space. The color changes every 15 minutes or so, an attendant told me. I wish we’d stayed longer to experience each color. Next time!


I can’t end my recap of Houston art without showing off the artful beauty that my sister and sister-in-law have brought into their own home via new wallpaper and wainscoting. This is their dining room paper — gorgeous!


And here’s their mudroom, with a colorful Chinese dragon motif. And to think I used to disdain all wallpaper (after removing layers of dated paper in numerous houses over the years). Now I love it, and the bolder the better.


As you can see from my own foyer!


Their dogs are pretty adorable too. Here’s Layla, in a portrait taken by my daughter.


And here’s Sammy, stretched out like Cleopatra on the living room sofa. Thanks, Rebecca, for sharing your photo, and thanks, Sis and SIL, for a wonderful Houston visit!

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

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!

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

Follow