Bull Creek beauty worth fighting for


Bull Creek winds through one of the most scenic areas of Austin, under vertical limestone cliffs softened with maidenhair fern and dripping with water from numerous springs. In spring and summer, Austinites love to swim in the creek’s deep-water holes (although high levels of bacteria, often from dog poo washing into the creek, have in recent years made swimming less appealing). But autumn and winter are my favorite seasons for exploring the creek and hiking the trails that crisscross its length.


We can access Bull Creek just a mile from our house, at Spicewood Springs Road and Capital of Texas Highway, so that’s where we usually go. But last Sunday, David and I explored a different stretch, entering Bull Creek District Park at 6701 Lakewood Drive.


It’s a lovely stretch, with steep cliffs and enormous slabs of rock, long ago eroded from the cliff walls, creating picnic-worthy islands.


Kids scrambled on the rocks, and we saw a bouldering group setting up fall mats nearby.


Although it’s been dry lately, the creek was running nicely.


This shallow section was popular with people who brought their dogs.


We’d read on a park kiosk about wagon tracks from the 1800s in the limestone bed of the creek here, and we found them just upstream from the park entrance.


I can’t find more details online, but we speculated that farmers bringing goods to town traveled the edge of the creek to bypass the cliffs, and over the years their metal-rimmed wheels carved channels into the soft limestone.


We were amused to see small fish swimming in the channels where wagons once rolled.


There’s also a lovely grotto here, with maidenhair fern and bright-green moss wallpapering the underside of a rocky overhang.


Water drip, drip, drips from the mossy walls like a gentle rainshower…


…filling a small pool of clear water below.


Just beyond the grotto, the wagon tracks diverge into two paths and then fade away where, I’m guessing, the wagons would climb back up the creek bank to continue on. It really brings history to life to see these old tracks.


Beyond that, a weir creates a low waterfall. We turned around here and headed back downstream…


…passing a deep swimming hole under a natural waterfall.


The black, writhing trunks and limbs of live oaks evoke calligraphy, don’t they?


Flameleaf sumac (I think) starting to turn


We also drove to the section of the creek nearest to our house and walked Inga’s Trail. The wooded trail following the creek was much less crowded than the Lakewood area.


There are lovely, deep holes along the creek here too.


Wild places in our city, like Bull Creek, are a treasure we must preserve for all of us. But right now a developer is proposing to build an 11-story hotel right along Bull Creek at Old Spicewood Springs Road and Yaupon Drive, on a particularly fragile piece of land that’s also one of the most scenic drives in Austin. I’m not anti-growth, and I believe in urban infill projects that can help reduce sprawl, but an 11-story hotel along the creek, along with requisite parking and traffic, will certainly negatively impact water quality and the scenic beauty of the area.

I don’t know whether we can stop it, but we need to try. Please sign this petition against the project, which asks the City of Austin to annex the property so it will be subject to city development oversight, and asks the county not to approve the plan. Let’s be smart about Austin’s growth and save what makes Austin so special to residents and visitors alike!

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

Want to know how I got started as a garden writer? Read page 16 of On the QT, the newsletter for GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators. I’m honored to be featured in an article by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens!

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!

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

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

Autumn stroll around Lady Bird Lake


Autumn rarely sets our trees aflame here in central Texas, and this year’s fall color looks to be more of a dud than usual. But still, you can find a few russet tinges if you squint, especially in the coppery needles of bald cypresses around Lady Bird Lake.


My family and I walked the 3-mile loop between MoPac and the Pfluger Bridge over the Thanksgiving holiday.


Well, they ran and I meandered with Cosmo, taking lots of photos along the way. I love walking here when the weather cools off.


On this gray day, it wasn’t very crowded, which was nice.


Virginia creeper climbing a bald cypress is putting on a mini fall show of its own.


Bald cypress roots, drinking deeply


The cypresses line the hike-and-bike trail like a giant’s hallway.


Yes, I will apparently even take photos of a public restroom if the design is interesting.


The Trail Foundation has really upped its game in the design of public toilets along the trail.


The Heron Creek restrooms, designed by Mell Lawrence Architects, look like monk cowls made of raw steel and board-formed concrete.


Moving on


Turtles! I’m familiar with the red-eared slider, perching below the other two. But what kind of turtle is at the top of the branch? A soft-shell?


Almost at the turning point: the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge


A spiral ramp leads up to the bridge on the north side of the lake, but let’s pause in the Pfluger Circle, designed by Austin’s own Christy Ten Eyck, before we go up. With limestone-block benches around the circle, surrounded by Anacacho orchid trees, palmettos, and other native plants, it functions like a large council ring, one of my favorite design motifs.

Here’s a nice article about council rings, although — surprise! — the author used one of my photos without asking or even linking back to my site, which I wish people wouldn’t do. Respecting copyright (is it yours? If not, ask before using) is easy to do — and the right thing to do.


My rant over, let’s go up the ramp cloaked in fig ivy. Yes, it does seem as if we’re walking backwards, doesn’t it?


Looking down on the circle from the top of the ramp


My daughter is checking her phone down there.


A wider view captures a glimpse of the state capitol in the distance.


Beachy, curvy, wooden side-walls line a portion of the bridge.


Along the main part of the bridge, steel rails allow for views of the water.


Graffiti on the train bridge: Ninja Style Kung Fu Grip, reads one, which I’m sure the guy needed as he hung from the bridge to spray-paint. Never Give Up, reads another with Pac-Man outrunning killer ghosts.


Greening up the bridge are several raised garden beds maintained by volunteers. A couple were a bit anemic, but this one totally rocked.


Well done, Joan McGaffigan!


Back on the trail on the south side of the lake, this bench offers a nice overlook of the historic Lamar Boulevard Bridge — and an Austin-style re-creation of the bridge scene from Manhattan.


Where the trail diverts along Barton Creek for half a mile or so, I stopped on the wooden pedestrian bridge to watch kayakers…


…and paddleboarders.


Looks like fun


A little more fall color


And more orangey bald cypress


I sat in this spot for a little while, admiring the turquoise water of spring-fed Barton Creek and the orange needles and knobby “knees” of a solitary bald cypress.


Kayakers paddled up the creek…


…and, after a bit, paddled back toward the lake.


So peaceful


Nearby, the steel gazebo at Lou Neff Point offers a nice vista of downtown…


…between the trees.


Firecracker fern was still in full bloom, with a sulphur butterfly nectaring there.


Check out those yellow eyes!


Yuccas, agaves, and native flowering perennials and trees grow in terraced beds on the hillside here.


Beautiful yuccas, like exploding fireworks


Regular trail denizen Woode Wood was serenading passers-by.


A little gold adds to the subtle fall color along the trail.


Near the end of my loop, as I crossed the MoPac Pedestrian Bridge, I noticed that an old Live a Great Story sticker continues to hang on. I took a similar picture of this sticker, with a paddleboarder below, a couple of years ago, when we were having a much more colorful autumn (click for the fall glory).


Downtown beyond the trees


Yes, Austin is pretty wonderful!

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

Want to know how I got started as a garden writer? Read page 16 of On the QT, the newsletter for GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators. I’m honored to be featured in an article by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens!

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!

What’s hot in garden design — or about to be? I interviewed designers and retailers across the U.S. to find out! Natural dye gardens, hyperlocalism, dwarf shrubs, haute houseplants, sustainability tech, color blocking, and more — check out my 2017 Trends article for Garden Design and see if anything surprises you.

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

Catch me on CTG, at Wildflower Center book-signing & more!


It’s back-to-the-garden time in Texas, and it’s also garden-talk season! I’m making a few appearances around Texas this fall (see below), and you can also catch me this weekend on Austin’s own Central Texas Gardener TV show. Last fall, right before my garden was on tour, CTG producer Linda Lehmusvirta and her crew visited my garden to film it, and me talking about it.


It airs this weekend on KLRU and other stations around the South and Southwest, and it’s already online. Watching myself on TV is not my favorite activity (I’m way too introverted for that), but I hope it conveys what I was going for with my garden. It’s no designer showcase, and it’s far from perfect. It’s a personal garden that makes me happy, where I experiment with plants and design ideas and feel connected with nature. I hope that comes through, and it’s always my hope to share my gardening enthusiasm with others!


Huge thanks to Linda, cameraman Ed, and the rest of the CTG crew for sharing my garden on the show! And for mentioning my books too…


…which (cue suave segue) I’ll be autographing tomorrow (Friday) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s gift store from 1 to 3 pm. Tomorrow is the members’-day portion of their Fall Native Plant Sale, so if you’re coming out for that, I hope you’ll drop in at the store and say hi. Visitors and members alike, it’s a great time to visit the gardens, which are gorgeous this time of year.

Here are sneak peeks of my two books, which I’ll be signing from 1 to 3 pm. Remember, if you’re a member, you get a 10% discount in the gift store!


In one week, next Saturday the 22nd, I’ll be speaking at Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, and it’s going to be a lot of fun! Activities are going on all that weekend, but the main event is Saturday evening, with beer and wine, live music, an art exhibit, delicious food, and yours truly presenting the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens.” Hope to see all you South Texans there!


Earlier this month, I was super excited to learn that esteemed magazine The American Gardener featured The Water-Saving Garden in its reviews section in the Sept/Oct 2016 issue.


They devoted a whole page, in fact, to books about managing water sustainably in the garden, which is terrific.


Here’s what they say about my book.


Speaking of water-saving gardens, here’s a quick look at my favorite plants this week, as our second spring begins: autumn sage (Salvia greggii) and whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia) in my neighbor’s garden that I planted for her.


And in my own streetside garden, ‘Pink Flamingos’ muhly with hot-pink autumn sage and dark-purple ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum (Pennisetum purpureum ‘Vertigo’ from Proven Winners, a trial plant they sent me) in the background.


And just for fun, a mosaic glass-tile prickly pear at The Domain shopping center in north Austin.


Happy fall, y’all!

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

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!

I’ll be speaking at the Antique Rose Emporium Fall Festival 2016 in Brenham, Texas, on Saturday, November 5th, 1:30-2:30 pm. Come on out to the Antique Rose Emporium’s beautiful gardens for a day of speakers and fun! My talk, with plenty of eye-candy photos, is called “Hold the Hose! How to Design a Water-Saving Garden that Wows.” Meet me afterward at the book-signing table!

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.

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