European formality with relaxed Texas style in Ware Garden: San Antonio Open Days Tour


Last Saturday I road-tripped to San Antonio for the Open Days garden tour, sponsored by the Garden Conservancy. Shirley Fox of Rock-Oak-Deer was one of the organizers this year, and I was eager to see the gardens that she’d chosen for the tour.


The Ware Garden is the grandest, an estate-size property entered via a gate with stag sculptures on limestone pilasters. A long, curving drive leads past clipped yew and boxwood hedges, and you might think you’re only going to see lawn and live oaks.


Not so! Masses of tufty Mexican feathergrass add subtle golden color and texture beneath live oaks along the drive, where a dry stream channels runoff.


A circular pool and spouting fountain appear near the house, set in an emerald lawn amid the dark, gnarled trunks of dozens of live oaks.


And here it’s seen from the home’s front terrace. The live oaks make this scene magical, elevating it from something classically formal and rather ordinary — a fountain in a big, open lawn — and giving it a fairy-tale, dark-wood dimension. There’s a sense of mystery here.


Turning around, you see the front steps to the house — not at all ostentatious but rather a study in elegant simplicity: a pyramid of limestone steps, potted boxwood spheres, and a scrolled iron lantern alongside a handsome wooden door.


Side view


Walking around the house, you get a jolt of humor from a glass-mosaic cow wearing the Texas flag and gazing at a limestone-edged swimming pool, as if longing to take a dip.


In front, a fountain splashes in a raised rectangular pool, with a rill that leads the eye across the pool, where it stops at a perfectly manicured boxwood hedge, clipped to the same dimensions as a limestone retaining wall to the right.


Past the pool, a gentle slope is terraced with a low limestone wall. The house wraps around a rectangular lawn studded with more live oaks.


Clipped boxwood in various pots makes a simple and elegant accent throughout the garden.


Shallow limestone-and-gravel steps lead past a wing of the house with expansive windows, which I imagine provide a lovely view of the evergreen landscape. I believe that’s our native palmetto (Sabal mexicana) lifting its droopy-leaved fans to mingle with live oak limbs.


Palmetto and cast-iron plant add lush-leaved, subtropical San Antonio style (also common in Austin).


Details are simple and clean lined.


Rustic features like the rough cedar arbor are pure Central Texas.


The brochure says that the owners “envisioned a European garden reminiscent of a hotel where they had lived for three years. Architect Don McDonald…designed terraces around the house as a stage for beautifully sheared boxwood hedges and classic European pots planted with boxwood balls.”


A relaxing limestone-and-gravel terrace along the guest house…


…enjoys a view of the swimming pool and those wonderfully bent and twisted live oak trees and a gray-trunked Texas persimmon.


At the end of the lawn, a vine-draped cedar pergola with a faux bois bench offers a shady place to enjoy the view.


Looking back toward the main house


The beautifully pruned live oaks are the stars of this understated garden.


A lacy limb drapes around a narrow window in the guest house.


A small terrace off the main house features a built-in outdoor fireplace made of limestone.


A carved stone flower makes a pretty accent on the gravel paving.


A last look at the fountain, pool, and Cow Tex.


On the opposite side of the house, by a detached garage, a terraced boxwood parterre and center patio are framed by a monumental, grid-like trellis constructed of rough cedar posts and cloaked in fig ivy. The trellis runs from the garage to the house, connecting the two and creating a sort of window-walled garden room.


Clipped boxwood parterre, set off by limestone-and-brick paving.


In the central patio space, a faux bois table and chairs invite you to sit and enjoy the view. Under that long, snaking live oak limb, a handsome limestone trough and outdoor faucet make an outdoor sink.


The faux bois looks remarkably like real wood.


The elegant — and enormous — detached garage creates another sheltering wall for this outdoor space.


At a corner of the garage, in a space that might easily be overlooked, a wooden folding chair and white-garden urn create a pretty vignette.


There’s more to explore from here, as a limestone-paver path leads between boxwood spheres and olive and pine trees out to an olive grove.


Nearby, beneath the shady canopy of live oaks, classical planters and a wooden table and chairs beckon.


The classicism of this garden, tempered with rustic Central Texas features like limestone edging and shaggy cedar posts, is very appealing. European formal landscaping meets relaxing Texas style in the Ware Garden, and I loved it.

Up next: The Tupper Beinhorn Garden in San Antonio’s Monte Vista neighborhood.

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

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.

Visit to Fort Worth Botanic Garden and Japanese Garden


Although I’ve been to Dallas and its well-known public garden many times, until last weekend I’d never visited the botanical garden in nearby Fort Worth, just 45 minutes to the west. While not showy like Dallas Arboretum, Fort Worth Botanic Garden is a pleasant place to stroll amid perennial gardens, arbors and gazebos (likely popular with wedding parties), and woodsy trails.

On this early October day, monarchs were passing through, fueling up for their journey to Mexico.


I’d never seen this type of big, golden bee before. When I posted a picture on Instagram, a reader identified as possibly a male valley carpenter bee. That’s esperanza (Tecoma stans) he’s enjoying.


Orange and pink hibiscus adds tropical color.


Fluffy, cotton-candy wisps of our native Gulf muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) were catching the light.


Another native plant, fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), was a hit with honeybees.


This massive arbor, with a rough-cut tree trunk serving as the top rail, is a striking portal.


The real attraction of the garden, however, is the Fort Worth Japanese Garden, which has a separate parking area and an entry fee (the main garden is free). The entry tower, pictured here, makes an impressive gateway into the garden.


Roofed arbors beckon you further into the 7.5-acre garden.


The garden was constructed in 1973, and while the first part with a large wooden pavilion around a zen garden (not pictured) has a somewhat dated feel, it’s neatly kept. I especially enjoyed the main part of the garden, which is a strolling garden built around a large pond (see below).


It’s certainly not as crowded as other Japanese gardens I’ve visited, like Portland Japanese Garden, and it’s a pleasant place to spend an hour or more in leisurely enjoyment of the outdoors, with some very nice Japanese-style structures and garden art.


I like this somewhat contemporary pagoda sculpture.


Coming around a bend in the path, this was a fun surprise: a trio of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys on stone steps leading nowhere.


A large pond occupies the central part of the garden, with a winding path leading around it and offering scenic views like this arching moon bridge.


This small gazebo perches at the water’s edge amid a scrim of Japanese maples.


Lacy leaves of Japanese maples overhead.


Koi followed us around the pond like hungry pups waiting for a handout. The garden sells fish food, and many visitors were delighting in feeding the colorful fish.


Look at those open mouths!


Whoa! This big boy could practically swallow your arm.


Decks like this one offer up-close pond-viewing places.


Beautiful bark on what my friend Diana identified as an elm tree.


A pretty teahouse seems to float over the pond, framed by bald cypress and pine trees.


Heading around to the gazebo


Stone lantern


The very earliest Japanese maples were beginning to turn.


Such beautiful fall color — and unexpected. I thought we’d be too early for it.


I’ve always liked bamboo-and-basin fountains like this.


A “floating” path of stepping stones attracts adventurous and sure-footed explorers.


Another deck offering a scenic spot to enjoy the pond.


A flaming red and orange Japanese maple attracted my eye — so beautiful against a clear blue sky.


Climbing up the slope we found a large elevated deck and a cluster of roofed shelters that seemed meant for weddings or other events. With their sharply peaked roofs and cross designs, they almost seem Scandinavian, don’t they?


Back on the main path, I spotted palmettos along a stream with a small waterfall…


…and enjoyed a new view of the moon bridge.


More decks


A tricolored heron (as a fellow photographer ID’d it) was fishing for minnows swarming around a mess of fish food that had been tossed in the pond.


I stopped to watch him for about 15 minutes as he inched toward the water…


…stretched out his neck…


…and struck!


He was an effective fisherman.


A fellow fisherman got in his way a few times: a long water snake that coiled and flashed through the water in pursuit of minnows. I was amazed how many passersby were afraid when they saw it, sure it was a water moccasin that would leap out to get them. But no, it was nonvenomous and just wanted a fishy meal.


This lovely wooden pagoda near the exit stands about 20 feet tall.


A nicely designed gift shop beckons near the exit…


…its porch framing a view of a young ginkgo in golden fall glory.

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

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.

New foundation bed, sedge lawn update, and fall color


The front garden by the house has undergone some major changes since we lost a tree last winter. But after some summer angst as formerly shaded foundation shrubs burned up, and some fixes, I’m feeling good about it again.


Here’s how it looked before, with the live oak before removal.


And here’s the stump and empty swath of lawn — the only lawn that was left in our entire yard — right after the tree came down. It happened in December, and I immediately started worrying about the Japanese maple and foundation shrubs, which would now receive a lot more sun in summer, although the north-facing house does give them some protection. I also knew that last bit of lawn had to go. I’d only kept it because it was chock-full of oak sprouts, which are easier to mow than remove by hand from a planting bed, and I hoped that once we ground out the stump, the sprouts would wither away (sadly that has not been the case).


So out came the lawn and the semicircle of metal edging that had kept it tidy. I laid a natural (not chopped) limestone edge to keep soil and mulch out of the dry stream behind it.


In February I planted rows of 4-inch ‘Scott’s Turf’ sedge (Carex sp.) from Barton Springs Nursery and a toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) slightly off-center. The sedges looked so tiny!


But 7 months later, the sedge is fluffy and full — not all the way filled in yet, but close. You’ll notice one more change: the foundation bed has been replanted. That just happened. As I’d feared, the shade-loving Chinese mahonias and holly fern that had long occupied the foundation bed burned up under the Death Star’s rays.


Good riddance to the holly fern. I’d hated it. I regretted losing the Chinese mahonias, but I have others. I replaced them with two dwarf Texas palmettos (Sabal minor), as large as I could afford because they’re so slow-growing. I also shifted into more shade an ‘Everillo’ carex that was showing sun stress. Between the palmettos, for height, I placed a tall, narrow pot just outside the drip line of the eave with a ‘Pineapple Express’ mangave and silver ponyfoot. The mangave is a little too small — something with more heft would look better, like ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave — but I really wanted to try this one.


Side view


The combo of ‘Sparkler’ sedge, ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia, and ‘Everillo’ sedge by the front porch stayed pretty shady all summer thanks to the porch roof, so I was able to preserve it.


Happily, the Japanese maple at the far end came through the summer with only a little curling of its leaves by August. It’s getting a half day of morning sun now, but the other trees shade it from the afternoon sun, thank goodness.


On the sunnier side of the porch, these dry-garden plants thrive with only occasional hand-watering: toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) in the tall pipe, red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) in the red planter, Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’ on the left, dwarf myrtle (Myrtus communis ‘Nana’), and ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia (Dyckia choristaminea ‘Frazzle Dazzle’) in the small steel planter.


After the two quick deep freezes last winter, it look a long time for the normally evergreen flax lily (Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’) to recover, but by midsummer it was looking good again. I like how the stepping-stone path seems to cut through a swath of it — the eye reads it as one mass.


The surviving Chinese mahonia are growing in a loose hedge along the fence.


Farther out along the driveway, there’s white skullcap, bamboo muhly, and ‘Burgundy Ice’ dyckia.


And beyond that are new ‘Micron’ dwarf yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria ‘Micron’) and foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri), plus Texas sotol (Dasylirion texana), gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), spineless prickly pear, and golden thryallis (Galphimia gracilis).


Peeking around from my neighbors’ vantage point, there’s purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) mixed in with the golden thryallis, plus gray globemallow (Sphaeralcea incana) starting to bloom.


By the street, crouching low — because this is a small plant — you see purple skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii), a super performer in a hot, sunny, gravelly site often visited by passing dogs. Not a browned spot is visible anywhere on it. Those are ‘Color Guard’ yuccas in the background.


The big ‘Green Goblet’ agave in the terraced bed on the other side of the driveway is doing well. Woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata) carpets the ground beneath it.


Ruffled, fuzzy mullein is a silver accent.


My other sedge “lawn,” this one planted with ‘Berkeley’ sedge (Carex divulsa), is looking OK although not as fluffy as I would like.


Maybe it would be happier with more sun. At any rate, it does remain green with little maintenance. That’s a wide-leaf giant hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera ssp. chiangii) and white Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii ‘Alba’) on the right.


I’m always pretending the neighbors’ plantings are mine (I did plant them for them). Here’s lantana with a little Turk’s cap that self-seeded and Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) in fall bloom.


The side path to the heart gate is quieter with masses of two grasses: inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa). On the cedar table…


…is a galvanized cake stand I punched a few drainage holes in, which holds some silver balls, stone hearts, a shell fossil, my friend Dustin’s cast-stone diamond, and pine cones.


Wow, the Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) has really grown this year. I do nothing with this — ever. So easy!


On the back deck, my little Moby Jrs are growing too.


It’s so much easier to enjoy the garden in fall — and maybe soon we’ll have actual fall temperatures along with the recent welcome rains. Come on, October!

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.

Follow