Garden of Gary Ratway and Deborah Whigham and their Digging Dog Nursery


Stepping through a dark-leaved doorway in a beech hedge into the display gardens at Digging Dog Nursery, located in Albion, California, you feel a bit like Alice falling into the rabbit hole. What awaits on the other side? A potted boxwood draws you through the hedge…


…and then wow! A ribbon of emerald lawn leads you past a deep bed of flowering perennials, shrubs, and trees, set off by a mist of blue catmint in front.


Owners Deborah Whigham and Gary Ratway, the husband-and-wife team who founded Digging Dog 35 years ago and operate it as a mail-order nursery of unusual and hard-to-find plants, kindly allowed me to stop by earlier this month, on a day the nursery was closed. I was passing through on a family road trip up the Northern California coast, and I was thrilled to visit the nursery’s display gardens that I’ve heard so much about over the years.


Fog was settling over the gardens on that late August afternoon, softening the light and making foliage and flowers, like these eryngium, seem to glow.


I didn’t recognize most of the plants, so I can’t ID them for you. You cool-climate gardeners may know them anyway, and we hot-climate gardeners probably can’t grow them. So let’s just soak in the beauty, shall we?


Flowers the color of crushed peppermints


Looking back along the path


Steely blue eryngium


At the end of that long grassy path, steps are planted with geranium and other low growers.


From the steps you get a view of another long path, and an unusual sight…


…weeping silver pears (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) trained on vertical arcs of rusty steel along the path. They remind me of leaping dolphins, or the crests of large waves.


A tidy pot of horsetail reed acts as a focal point and marks a crossroads where another path leads off to the right.


Past the horsetail pot, the path terminates at a wooden bench. But let’s turn right at the intersecting path, where you see…


…a raised circular pond, taller than any stock-tank ponds I’ve seen, encircled by perforated steel panels. Very cool!


Waterlilies float on the surface, including coral-pink ‘Colorado’, which I grow in my own pond. Beyond the pond, hornbeam columns and a wavy, Oudolf-inspired hedge add geometry and architecture to a meadowy garden. Pointy conifers make a sawtoothed frame in the distance.


I stepped around the pond and then looked back to admire those striking weeping pears, silver against a dark-green hedge, with the early-turning foliage of some other trees (I forget the name) beyond the hedge. In the foreground, small burgundy-leaved shrubs add yet more foliage color.


Here’s Gary, the designer of this beautiful garden. He’s also a landscape architect and founder/owner of Integrated Design, and a delight to talk with.


Tall grasses and flowering perennials mingle in harmony.


Great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), one of my favorites here.


Another view


Rattlesnake master rising tall and pale


Vivid crocosmia against a backdrop of tawny ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass


All these vivid colors, not to mention the cool weather (around 60F), made it feel like late October or early November to this Texan.


Hydrangea and grasses


My daughter took this picture of a globe thistle (Echinops) and shared it with me. I wish I could grow these!


One of many handcrafted benches in the garden


This small overlook offers a view of the hornbeam columns and wavy hedge.


Fuchsia dangling alongside the path. These were blooming everywhere in the Mendocino area.


Another lovely path with a bench at the end


Jerusalem sage (Phlomis) and red hot poker (Kniphofia)


Such beautiful scenes, everywhere I looked


Even the non-gardeners were enjoying the visit.


A small orchard and vegetable garden, sited where there’s enough sunlight amid all the tall redwoods on the property.


The walls and columns that provide architecture and create garden rooms are Gary’s creation, made of rammed earth, and blend in nicely with the plants and gravel paving.


A clematis scrambles up a column.


Inviting paths to explore, everywhere you turn. I could spend hours here.


More fuchsia


A nearly black shrub makes a perfect foil for bright-green fern and hot-pink anemone.


Anemone closeup


The peeling ginger trunks of paperbark maple glowed in the late afternoon light. (Thanks for the ID, Evan.)


At its base, a shining white anemone


A closer look


Gary and Deborah’s home is located on the property, behind the nursery. I’m not sure how much of the gardens is their personal space versus nursery display gardens. It seemed to blend seamlessly as Gary led us through. This, however, is their own back patio, where a sunset-hued succulent wreath hanging on a metal chair frame caught my eye.


Lovely


A grotto-like pond filled with waterlilies is accented with potted plants including a stunning Stachys ‘Bello Grigio’. On a back ledge sits a toy VW Bus, a reminder of one Gary once drove.


More glowing succulents and grasses (sedges?) on a dining table


And more unique pots and plants by the back door, including a giraffe-necked, nearly black aeonium.


I adore that pinched pot on the right.


One of Digging Dog’s many four-footed ambassadors


At the front of the house, you walk through a sparkler-like tunnel of giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea).


Grasses and rammed-earth wall panels


Huge thanks to Digging Dog owners Deborah and Gary for welcoming us into their home and garden and showing us all the beauty they’ve made there! It was a delight to meet them.


If you’re not familiar with Digging Dog Nursery, check out their online catalog and see what treasures you can find. If you’re in the area and want to visit, they do also sell retail, but check their hours, as they’re off the beaten path and not open to visitors every day. Their website lists their summer hours currently as Tuesday by appointment only; Wednesday-Saturday 10 am to 4 pm.

Up next: Dramatic coastal views at Goat Rock Beach, Mendocino, and Russian Gulch State Park. For a look back at the beautiful Sunset Test Gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma, 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.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Cactus & Succulent Society hosts its Fall Show and Sale on September 2 & 3, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Road). Come see rare and beautiful cacti and succulents and shop for plants and handcrafted pottery. Admission is free with paid entry to Zilker Botanical Garden ($2 adults, $1 children and seniors).

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.

Long views and classic garden rooms in Brinitzer Garden: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


Much as I love my contemporary-naturalistic garden, and enjoyed puttering in my flowery cottage garden before that, my next garden — whenever and wherever that turns out to be — is going to be more like this one: smaller, with formal garden rooms laid out along axis views, and planted mainly with evergreens for less seasonal maintenance.

This beautiful and classic garden belongs to Arlington, Virginia designer Scott Brinitzer, and we saw it on the second day of touring during the Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling in late June. We entered the garden via this long gravel path, drawn in by a striking focal point: a potted purple cordyline in a dusty blue pot in front of a pumpkin-colored shed door.


You can see the same pot in this photo, pulling double duty now as a focal point viewed from a spacious stone patio off the back of the house. Framed by a low hedge of clipped boxwood, feathery clumping bamboo, and panels of gray lattice fencing, the pot works like a visual magnet, drawing the eye into the next space along the L-shaped gravel path that connects various garden rooms.


I might have mirrored the lattice panels for additional privacy, but leaving them open provides more air flow, which is a plus in a Southern garden.


I love the color choices, which give a contemporary edge to the classic design. (Compare with the door’s previous incarnation in blue, as seen in Scott’s portfolio pics on his website.)


Here’s the opposite view, looking away from the shed toward a small circular patio and a pair of white Adirondacks. This pathway is a double axis, with carefully considered views that pull your eye toward focal points in each direction — an effective design technique for directing the movement of people through a garden and making the most of a small space.


The circular patio acts as a visual pause at the end of the path…


…as well as a turning point for a pathway to the driveway.


The old garage still sits at the end of what was once a long driveway. Scott told us that he kept part of the driveway up by the street and converted the rest into a water-permeable gravel path and garden, helping to cut down on water runoff from his property. Yes, that makes it a water-saving garden!


Heading back to the stone patio, wire chairs take up very little space, visually, as they cluster around a lion’s-head wall fountain.


I love how the fountain is cloaked with moisture-loving moss and softened by a clematis vine. A yellow hosta echoes the yellow-themed container planting at left…


…filled with ‘Color Guard’ yucca, variegated Solomon’s seal, and (I think) ‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis.


Lion’s-head fountain and purple clematis


Other patio pots contain caramel-colored plants, for an interesting change of pace.


New Zealand sedges, I think


Enveloped by the garden, the house is shaded by lovely trees, which Scott planted in his own and his neighbors’ yards as part of a streetwide beautification effort. A swooping wall of concrete aggregate encloses the front garden and the front porch — the creation of the home’s former owner.


Built-in urns are planted with a variety of succulents.


Scott’s dog, a cute Norwich terrier named Kobe, hung out with us as we toured the garden and enjoyed the wine and snacks the owners generously provided.


He seems pretty happy living here, doesn’t he?

Up next: My visit to the Smithsonian Gardens and U.S. Botanic Garden on the National Mall. For a look back at the pollinator-friendly Casa Mariposa garden of Fling planner Tammy Schmitt, plus a winery and garden center visit, 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.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

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.

Modern, easy-care garden of Austin designer B. Jane


I’ve long admired designer B. Jane‘s contemporary-style gardens here in Austin, including one I wrote about for Austin Home last year. Last week I visited B.’s personal garden in Central Austin’s Brentwood neighborhood and fell hard for her lawn-free, block-planted front yard.

A straight walk of Lueders limestone zigzags toward the front porch, leading the eye first to house numbers affixed to a low concrete wall. The wall curves off to the right, creating a small garden room encircled with white-flowering Mexican olives, red roses, and chartreuse shell ginger. In front of the wall, block plantings of spineless prickly pear and Gulf muhly provide greenery and separation from the street. Spreading below, silver ponyfoot shines like a moonlit pool of water.


A closer look at the low-walled entry to the front garden room, flanked by Mexican olives (Cordia boissieri) in bloom


Asymmetrically-cut limestone leads to a circular gravel “skirt” around a tree trunk, neatly edged with concrete, which in turn is framed by chartreuse-leaved ginger plants.


I love B.’s cast-stone Girona fountain from Campania International, which has a slightly submerged platform on which birds can easily bathe.


The color and texture of the fountain work so well with the concrete wall.


Here’s a side view from the driveway. B. uses asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’) as a frothy, evergreen groundcover (foreground) — which probably needs Central Austin’s higher temps to survive our occasional hard freezes.


Square pavers lead from the driveway to the front porch. Another gravel circle gives definition to a young live oak and adds a geometric element. At the corner, a whale’s tongue agave pairs with a mutabilis rose, and I believe B. said that’s a viburnum hedge along the porch.


Orange and turquoise show up throughout B.’s back garden, but the first hint of that color scheme appears on the front porch, with a retro-modern front door painted tangerine and a turquoise glider softened with orange throw pillows and a striped cushion. The doormat echoes the cushion’s colorful stripes.


In the backyard, an ipe deck offers plenty of space for a 6-person dining table and a couple of low-slung white chairs with turquoise cushions and colorful, striped pillows. A white bench allows clear views of…


…a clean-lined swimming pool bordered with colorful waterline tiles, a rectangular play lawn, and an evergreen screen of bamboo bordered by a low wall offering extra seating. The detached structure at left is a home office for B.’s husband, with expansive windows shaded by awnings of steel beams and rods.


At the far end of the pool, an ipe deck outfitted with a trio of chaises longues is backed by a notched Lueders limestone wall.


Sun worshippers can hang out here, and when the sun sets, a stone fire pit in the corner offers a spot to warm up.


The view from the lawn


The back deck


A built-in grilling station also serves to screen the deck from the neighbors and enclose the space.


Wood is conveniently stored below.


A container planted with cactus and ghost plant accents the edge of the deck.


In another corner, a collection of gray cast-stone pots contains citrus, herbs, orange-flowering hibiscus, and succulents, including orange-hued sticks-on-fire euphorbia.


Rosy pink cacti — including one in bloom — and an echeveria get the glam treatment with gold glass mulch in this container.


Opposite the chaise longue deck, tucked between the house and the detached office, a small roofed patio offers shady seating and a buffet table.


The wooden fence hides a storage area.


To the right of the sun deck with the chaises, a private patio just off the master bedroom offers a Zen-style retreat with Loll seating, a screen of bamboo (Bambusa textilis ‘Gracilis’), and a hot tub…


…as well as a beautiful outdoor shower. No spidery recesses in this open design, while still hidden from neighbors by fencing and the bamboo. The building just past the hot tub (at left) is B.’s home office.


She let us peek inside to see a hanging sculptural branch adorned with tillandsias, feathers, and other natural talismans, made by the talented vertical-garden artists at Articulture.


Looking back toward the main garden


B. is disciplined about color and uses it so effectively, like here in the pool tiles, arranged for a random effect. The tiles pick up the colors of the doors and plant containers and the water itself. Brisket, a German short-haired pointer mix who loves to swim, jumped in for a soak while I was admiring the pool.


And little wonder, for this is a garden to relax in and enjoy — even for dogs! Thanks for the tour, B.!

For more pics of this garden and others, check out the website of B. Jane Gardens.

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

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Calling all pond lovers! The Austin Pond & Garden Tour is coming up June 3rd (North Austin ponds and night pond) and 4th (South Austin ponds). Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased online and include entry to all 20 ponds.

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.

Follow