Sharing nature’s beauty in the garden of Diana Kirby


I’ve enjoyed many a visit at the garden of my good friend Diana Kirby, designer at Diana’s Designs, garden columnist at the Austin American-Statesman, and publisher of the blog Sharing Nature’s Garden. But inexplicably I’ve never done a photo tour of her lovely garden, and I’m remedying that today with photos from a mid-October visit.

Diana’s garden rocks tropical-style color and bold foliage in back by her swimming pool, but in front along the street, where it’s hot and dry, she created a large, tiered bed with drought-tolerant native and adapted plants like autumn sage (Salvia greggii), society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), fall aster (Aster oblongifolius), and gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida). Silvery foliage and purple and pink flowers offer a cool but colorful look for hot summers.


Yellow appears in fall when golden thryallis (Galphimia gracilis) starts to bloom. All these plants are deer resistant, by the way. The deer in Diana’s southwest Austin garden don’t seem to be as voracious (or pesky in terms of antlering damage) as in other parts of town, but they will eat obvious deer candy like roses and tender succulents, so she chooses plants with strongly scented, hairy, or fibrous leaves.


Closer to the house, along the front walk, variegated flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’), purple-leaved Chinese fringeflower (Loropetalum chinense), and annual zinnias thrive. (Zinnias get eaten in my garden, for comparison.)


The garden gets much shadier by the front door, with several small trees along the stone-edged walk
and a lush understory.


I love this shady combo of ‘Sparkler’ sedge (Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’), Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), sago palm (Cycas revoluta), and root beer plant, aka hoja santa (Piper auritum).


Persian shield, ‘Sparkler’ sedge, and asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’)


I am in love with this spiky pink hairdo of a plant, Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’, which I assume Diana brings inside in winter. Its pink coloring is enhanced by surrounding pink lantana and the rosy fruits of a pomegranate tree.


Like an exploding firework, right?


Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) adds vibrant purple spires nearby.


Heading around to the back garden, you pass through a woodland trail, where stepping stones sitting flush with river rock double as a dry stream during downpours.


This naturalistic garden is chock-full of shade-loving plants.


A cool oasis on a hot summer’s day


And these adorable ceramic fish love it too! I was with Diana when she bought these at The Arbor Gate in Tomball, Texas.


Cobalt appears again in a ceramic pot with ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda and a ceramic bird.


A bubbling birdbath fountain is for the birds — and maybe the deer. Diana is more tenderhearted than I — ha!


A serene Buddha head rests against a tree.


And a plantable lady’s head wears a squid agave (Agave bracteosa) hairdo.


Fishhooks senecio trails from a steel wall planter with a little ceramic mushroom tucked in.


Diana keeps her pots interesting in the backyard too, like this blue starburst of a yucca entwined with chartreuse sweet potato vine.


More potted plants and colorful decor adorn her back porch.


Potted plants on a table by a window create a pretty view inside and out.


And there’s a comfy place to sit too. I love that little orange foo dog!


Diana may love color as much as I do.


A galvanized metal tray and fun potted plants jazz up a table display.


Diana is a total dog lover, and one even shows up in her garden decor.


Chocolatey red, orange, and yellow — plus a pumpkin — combine for a pretty fall container.


Just off the back porch, a shady pocket garden sits between a party-sized covered cabana and an outdoor kitchen — perfect for entertaining, which Diana and her husband enjoy doing. I didn’t get pictures of those spaces, which is ironic, because they’re where I’ve spent the most time in Diana’s garden. Next time!


I also didn’t get a photo of Diana’s lovely swimming pool — must have been too focused on the plants — but it’s the focal point of the cabana and the back porch. All around the pool and patio, Diana has planted an exuberant mix of tropical and subtropical plants for a lush, colorful garden that’s really at its peak in mid-summer. Here you see a burgundy-variegated banana, yellow bells, hibiscus, and mounds and mounds of lime-green sweet potato vine. The limestone steps lead down from the pool deck to the lower garden behind the pool.


Potted succulent in a cobalt pot surrounded by sweet potato vine


Bat-face cuphea (Cuphea llavea) adds red-hot color and cute little bat faces.


In the lower garden just outside a fence that keeps the deer out of her back yard, Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida) blooms amid agaves and ornamental trees, with a neighbor-screening backdrop of evergreen junipers behind them.


Whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), one of my faves


‘Sharkskin’ agave — one I covet but don’t have a good spot for, with those stiff, dagger-sharp leaves


Fading hibiscus flower, lovely even past peak


The dangling, tubular flowers of Iochroma ‘Royal Queen’ remind me of chandelier earrings.


I think of hibiscus as Diana’s signature plant because she has several varieties and often posts pictures of their salad-plate-sized flowers. They add such a tropical look to her garden, even though they are winter hardy.


Duranta aglow with dangling yellow fruits — the golden dewdrops that give this plant its common name.


From the pool patio, a new flagstone path winds through the lawn to a new rose garden that Diana is working on (no pics, since it’s currently a work in progress, and Diana will, I’m sure, do a big reveal on her own blog), as well as to her vegetable garden and greenhouse. Planting pockets built into the path allow heat-loving portulaca to add colorful bouquets along the walk.


Looking back along the portulaca path toward the pool cabana and surrounding garden


A large greenhouse is tucked behind a scrim of annual cosmos and hardy lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus). The family vegetable garden is visible at left, behind a fence swathed in cypress vine, which keeps out two active dogs.


Self-sowing annual cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) has even twined onto the veggie-garden gate, but it still opens just fine.


Dainty, tubular red flowers and ferny foliage are signature qualities of cypress vine. It can be an aggressive self-seeder in the right conditions, but in my own garden it didn’t return.


Beautiful artichoke foliage


And back into the front garden, along the side of the house, flowery senna (Senna corymbosa) was awash in golden blooms.


Cool purple spires of Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) make the senna glow even brighter.


My thanks to Diana for letting me photograph her garden, and for sharing it so generously over the years!

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

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

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.

Autumn stroll around my garden


Autumn is my favorite season in the garden, when the Death Star abates and cool breezes blow in from the north, pushing that Gulf Coast humidity back to Houston where it belongs. The sky goes china blue, fall perennials burst into bloom, and fall-blooming grasses incandesce in the slanting sunlight.


I’ve been doing a lot of tidying and fluffing in my garden over the past few weeks because I had two photographers visiting plus a Garden Spark talk with 30 attendees who were invited to explore. And now I invite you to take a virtual stroll around the garden with me too.


But first, a salute for our tired old roof, which just got reshingled this week. It’s always a little stressful to have a roof torn off when you’re a gardener, but they were careful of the plants and I’m thrilled to have new shingles in an updated gray color.


In the island bed, ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum has grown to tall-dark-and-handsome proportions. The first freeze will turn it to brown straw, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.


Here’s the view from our front door, with dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), foxtail fern, pale pavonia, and ‘Sparkler’ sedge, my shade garden, deer-resistant faves.


Looking toward the house, with white skullcap, ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia, variegated flax lily, bamboo muhly, and ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge.


Entry garden, hot and dry on the left and mostly shady on the right.


I redid the right-side foundation bed a couple of months ago, adding and rearranging dwarf Texas palmettos, spreading plum yew, ‘Everillo’ sedge, and a potted ‘Pineapple Express’ mangave. The wire “ball weeds” adding height to the mangave pot are from redgrassdesigns on Etsy.


The dry side is a gravel garden with ‘Vanzie’ whale’s tongue agave, toothless sotol, red yucca, ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia, and dwarf myrtle, plus ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo.


Now let’s stroll toward the terraced bed by the garage, where ‘Green Goblet’ agave holds court with woolly stemodia and mullein (a volunteer mullein is blooming in the decomposed-granite path by the garage), with another ‘Vertigo’ grass glowing burgundy in the background. A trio of ceramic balls adds a little color.


Looking lengthwise across the front garden you see the Berkeley sedge lawnette and potted foxtail ferns on cantera stone columns. In the long view you can see ‘Pink Flamingos’ muhly blooms glowing pink.


A TerraTrellis tuteur echoes the color of the ceramic spheres and adds height to the sedge garden. I’m trying a dioon here too, a plant I’ve been wanting to grow for a while now.


Standing at the corner of my neighbor’s driveway, we get to enjoy a view of her whale’s tongue agave and autumn sage in full bloom, with my garden in the background.


Prior to the photographer visits, I didn’t want to put up deer caging around plants that the bucks like to antler. But the wide-leaf giant hesperaloe at the front corner of the garden is particularly vulnerable, so I improvised with these low-profile, bent pieces of cattle-panel wire. It worked, although I did see evidence of a little antler-rubbing damage this week, so I quickly put up deer caging around this plant, the ‘Green Goblet’ agave, and a small possumhaw holly.


The side-garden path, with a ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress visible beyond the gate. The path is lined with simple masses of pale pavonia, bamboo muhly, and inland sea oats.


A little stopping place along the path, with Mediterranean fan palm and blue mistflower attracting butterflies.


Self portrait in silver balls


In the back garden I have more leeway to play with plants that the deer would like to eat. Succulents are shown off in the cinderblock wall planter and in a narrow bed alongside the gravel path.


A closer view (here’s how I made it), with ‘Espresso’ mangave and squid agave in the foreground.


The upper patio was looking inviting prior to the roofing work, when I had to move everything away from the house. Oh well, it gives me a chance to powerwash the patio, which I’ve been meaning to do.


I enjoy my tentacled wall decor.


A closer look. In the green Crescent pot is a ‘Platinum Beauty’ lomandra I’m trialing from Southern Living Plant Collection.


I’m also trialing their ‘Marvel’ mahonia.


My new whale’s tongue agave, replacing Moby, who bloomed and died, is surrounded by silver ponyfoot.


Steps make a natural display space for potted plants (and are soon to be powerwashed!). Purple oxalis in a turquoise pot gets all the attention, of course.


Strolling past the pool and the raised bed behind the house, which is accented with a couple of blue pots


One contains a toothy, long-tongued Audrey monster.


The stock-tank pond garden is one of my favorite spaces.


The ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood spheres are recently clipped. I try to keep them all at the same height, even though one side of the garden slopes lower than the other, so as to create the illusion of level ground.


A slightly wider view shows the faux shed that my husband built to hide the pool pump equipment.


Bamboo muhly and ‘Color Guard’ yucca glow below the deck.


I recently replanted the lady’s head planter with succulent “ringlets.”


At the Alberta Street Fair in Portland this summer, I bought three metal dragonflies from Brian Comiso of Steelhead Metalworks. They ended up not fitting in my suitcase, so we borrowed a hacksaw and cut the stakes off, then had Bob of Gardening at Draco weld them back together when I got home.


Opposite the bamboo muhly and ‘Color Guard’ yuccas, a trio of squid agaves in culvert-pipe remnants stands amid white mistflower and forsythia sage.


Speaking of which, forsythia sage


Moving an umbrella stand revealed the hiding place of a striped garden snake, chilled in the morning air and not eager to move. So dapper in its striped suit!


It’s the time of year to admire the purple-black berries of Mexican beautyberry before the mockingbirds eat them all.


Another ‘Green Goblet’ agave, with dusty blue-green leaves, lolls in the lower garden beside a holey limestone boulder.


Strolling up the side path you pass a ‘Sapphire Skies’ Yucca rostrata, my oldest and biggest one. The ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress behind it echoes the frosty color, as does a blue pot.


At the gate, butterfly vine tumbles over the fence, its chrome-yellow flowers in full bloom.


Looking back down the path


Lori of The Gardener of Good and Evil gave me this ferox agave as a large pup from one of her giants. I planted it in a sapphire pot with blue-gray Mexican beach pebbles as a topper. Eventually (soon?) it’ll start pupping, but I love it as a solitary specimen.


Yucca rostrata and the stock-tank pond


Climbing up on the deck you see the sunburst pattern of the patio stones around the pond.


The other direction


A wider view


This adorable metal bat was a birthday gift from my mom.


And our stroll ends with a long view across the pond garden, lower patio, and swimming pool. Swimming season is definitely over. Patio season is well underway.

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.

Oxblood lilies trumpet summer’s end


Whoo-hoo, we made it through another summer here in Texas! For almost a week, lower temperatures (80s and low 90s) with even lower humidity, combined with recent rains, have rejuvenated my gardening spirit. The plants are feeling it too, perking up and starting to bloom again. But my hands-down favorite of the fall harbingers (although beautyberry runs a close second) is the trumpet-blast of deep-red oxblood lily (Rhodophiala bifida).


Forgotten all summer, these Argentine bulbs spring out of dormancy with the first good rain in late summer. Hooray!, they seem to shout. Fall is coming!


I think they look especially great with ‘Bright Edge’ yucca, whose moonshine-yellow stripes pick up the yellow of the lilies’ stamens.


Texas native chile pequin (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum) makes a good partner too as its red peppers ripen in late summer.

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 ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

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.

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