Wildflower season, owlets, and native plant sale at Wildflower Center


When the universe offers a weekend of perfect weather, don’t squander it. Central Texans, if you’re looking for something to do outside this weekend, head on over to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Their spring native-plant sale is being held both Saturday and Sunday, so you can shop for treasures for your garden. Plus you’ll see plenty of wildflowers and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the great horned owl chicks in the entry garden.


I dropped in for a quick visit on Thursday morning and found the meadows of spring wildflowers — the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush — transitioning to summery yellows.


Prickly pear and Engelmann’s daisy (I think)


The bluebonnets may be past peak, but they’re still pretty, and you should find plenty to enjoy.


The main reason I went, however, was for the great horned owlets. Every year a great horned owl nests behind a sotol planted high in a wall niche in the entry garden. I missed mama owl on this visit, but I did get a good look at one of the two fuzzy chicks. And it got a good look at me too.


A guy taking pictures told me he saw mama owl deliver breakfast earlier that morning — a dark-feathered bird, probably a grackle or pigeon. Now and then, as I watched, they seemed to tear at what remained of the carcass.


The pond garden offers attractions other than owls, of course. Like this gorgeous magenta iris.


And ruffly purple irises by the spillway in the wall.


Kids are always drawn to water, and these young visitors were no exception.


In a sunny meadow, pink penstemons stood erect among spring-green grasses and a Lindheimer muhly just putting out new growth.


Fly your pink flags, penstemon!


A quick glance at the spiraling cistern tower in the main courtyard


Columbines with their comet tails, held aloft on delicate stems


More penstemon, with a patch of bluebonnets in the background


Along the shady Hill Country stream, a dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) seems to lift a hand in greeting.


Pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) and Texas bluebonnets in stock-tank planters lean together for an embrace in the central Display Garden. These were pretty, but I have to say I thought this area looked a little unloved. A stock-tank pond was listing to one side, and many of the beds seemed a bit paltry. But then again, the Display Garden has never been my favorite part of the gardens. I keep hoping something great will go in here one day.


Aside from that one complaint, I enjoyed my visit and the wildflowers, and I encourage you to put aside your weekend to-do list and get on out there to enjoy it too.

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
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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!

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

Festive spring at Lucinda Hutson’s purple cottage


Many times over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Lucinda Hutson‘s purple cottage in the Rosedale neighborhood of central Austin. It’s always a riot of flowers and festive decor. On Tuesday I stopped by to visit again and am so glad I did. Butter-yellow blossoms of Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) were mingling with tall snapdragons in a rainbow of colors in her cottage-style front garden.


Snappy snapdragons


Here’s the street view of her gothic-style purple “casita,” as she calls it, and the tall, shapely ginkgo tree she planted 30 years ago — a rarity in Austin.


Red bloom spikes of red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) are coming up.


A large prickly pear (Opuntia ‘Old Mexico’) is showing its love with a heart-shaped pad.


More Jerusalem sage


Datura (D. wrightii) blossoms were furled, waiting to open until dusk.


Here’s one that had bloomed last night, looking a bit like a deflated balloon — or, from this angle, a pinwheel.


Lucinda even has datura on a pretty mosaic-tile paver.


Pastel snapdragons stand tall in a purple pot by the front porch.


Her colorful porch is decorated with imagery from Mexico and the Desert Southwest, a tribute to her El Paso upbringing.


We were both pleased to spot a monarch caterpillar munching on milkweed, but it was nearly out of plant to nosh on. I hope it’s ready to pupate.


Heading toward her back gate, I stopped to admire her rambling nasturtiums. This is an annual that always tempts me, but I never get around to growing it.


It makes a perfect combo with red-stemmed chard growing in a pot.


Now let’s head into the back garden, under the arbor abloom with ‘Don Juan’ roses. Lucinda’s yard is pretty small, and she’s turned the rear half of her driveway into a patio garden, with the arbor marking its entrance.


A carved stone fish sits atop a 6-foot stone wall that shields her back garden from view. It hints at what’s to come.


A mermaid grotto on the other side! Mermaids and shells adorn a tiny pond, where fig ivy and ferns green up the limestone wall and trickling water mutes the noise of passing cars.


To the right, against a wooden fence painted turquoise, another mermaid holds court under an arbor decorated with seashells and strands of colored capiz shells. In a planter at her feet grow “under-the-sea” plants like aloes, echeveria, sedum, and snake plant.


It creates a delightful seaside mood in the front half of her former driveway, along with patio seating for two.


A greenhouse and vine-covered arbor occupy the middle of the old driveway, where Lucinda has hung an old door panel decorated with tin milagros (Mexican folk charms). This used to be Lucinda’s back door, but the lower half rotted. When she installed a new door, she cut the bottom off this one and turned it into garden art.


As you pass through the middle arbor, this comes into view: an old garage painted purple, with a colorful tile mosaic along the eaves. A raised bed filled with vegetables and annual flowers occupies the sunny middle.


Potted marigolds, pelargoniums, and other annuals add even more punch to the scene.


Lucinda always takes the time to add pretty touches, like this basket stuffed with potted annuals.


There are several Virgins of Guadalupe in this section.


I believe Lucinda calls this folk-art version Our Lady of the Bathtub.


And another, paired with ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ rose, which smells so sweet.


Another view of the raised vegetable-and-flower bed, with the greenhouse behind it.


Colorful pillows dress up a cedar-branch bench.


And St. Francis presides over a pot of red begonias.


This adorable cat plate reminds Lucinda of a beloved former pet, Tita.


Chard pairs with red pelargoniums here.


Red poppies pop against the purple garage.


The seedheads look pretty too.


Lucinda’s back deck is party central, with two tables covered in Mexican oilcloth set up as a buffet against the purple wall of her garage.


Comfortable patio seating under a purple umbrella says, “Make yourself at home.”


A colorful carved-wood fish planter


Lucinda told me she’d just planted up this cactus-themed strawberry pot — with succulents, of course. Perfect!


In a decorative cabinet on the wall, a wren had built a nest and sat tight as Lucinda pointed her out to me. Sweet little bird.


The back of the purple garage is painted turquoise, and Lucinda’s Tequila Cantina is always set up and ready for a party.


Metal mariachis never tire of playing, and a tequila bottle tree mulched with corks playfully illustrates Lucinda’s fascination with the agave liquor.


Drinking companions


A sun porch at the back of her house has mosaic-tiled stairs that lead up to the kitchen. Lucinda calls it her “stairway to heaven,” and considering the goodies she whips up in her kitchen, it really is. Here’s Sancho, her cat, coming to greet us.


A closer look at the tilework, with little milagros, fishes, and faces mixed in.


Back out front, bees were busy among the purple blossoms of ‘Amistad’ salvia.


Thanks, Lucinda, for sharing your colorful home and garden with me again! Readers, if you’d like to see more of Lucinda’s garden, here are my other posts about it:

Christmas in Mexico at Lucinda Hutson’s home and garden, December 2015
Lucinda Hutson’s purple cottage, cantina garden, and Viva Tequila!, April 2013
Lucinda Hutson’s Easter-egg colorful garden, April 2012
Enchanted evening in Lucinda Hutson’s cantina garden, April 2011
El Jardin Encantador: Lucinda Hutson’s garden, October 2009
Lucinda Hutson’s enchanting garden, April 2008

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Central Texans, don’t forget the San Antonio Watersaver Landscape Tour is this Saturday, April 9, from 9 am to 3 pm. Reserve your shuttle time for this FREE walking tour of 6 water-saving gardens in the Inverness neighborhood.

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!

I’m on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

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

Palms and dinosaurs at McKee Botanical Garden


Two weeks ago, in mid-March, the family and I drove to Orlando for spring break. Before heading home, we stopped in Vero Beach, Florida, for a day at the shore and to visit McKee Botanical Garden. Yes, those are dinosaurs in the garden. Roar of the Dinosaur, featuring the life-sized creations of Guy Darrough, are displayed throughout the garden through May 1. Fun for the kids, no doubt, but I found them distracting. Still, I’d just enjoyed Orlando’s theme parks, so why not?


Happily, there’s plenty to see other than dinosaurs. This small public garden is a resurrected fragment of an 80-acre garden park that attracted droves of tourists from the 1930s through the 1960s. Operated by Waldo Sexton, an eccentric builder and nurseryman, and Arthur McKee, a Cleveland industrialist, McKee Jungle Gardens was famous for a “cathedral” of 300 royal palms, an extensive orchid collection, waterlilies, monkeys, and an alligator, Ole Mac. (The dinosaurs would likely have fit right in.) Disney World stole away its tourism base, however, and the garden was closed in 1976. Developers tore out most of the garden to build condos and a golf course.


Today, thanks to the efforts of locals and a land trust, 18 acres of the garden have been restored, showcasing palms, bromeliads, waterlilies, and other native subtropical and tropical plants.


The place does look a bit Jurassic, doesn’t it?


Richly colored bromeliads glowed in the sunlight during our late-morning visit. In the background, Spanish moss hangs from a tall, spreading oak.


A fallen tree trunk, arched at the edge of a pond, hosted an artful display of bromeliads and other plants.


Powdery blue culms of a beautiful Bambusa chungi


The silky plumes of this tall, grass-like plant caught my eye as well. Anyone know what it is? It’s tiger grass (Thysanolaena maxima). Thanks, Max!


Or this long-stemmed cluster of pink flowers — some sort of begonia?


Another temporary exhibit on display in the garden is a large-scale “stickwork” by artist Patrick Dougherty. Dubbed The Royals and sited amid the remaining royal palms, it’s like an oversized playhouse made of pliable willow branches, many of which showed signs of green-leaved regrowth. Dougherty’s fantastical stick structures last only until weather and time bring them down.


One of Waldo Sexton’s creations is The Hall of Giants, a 2-story wooden clubhouse that resembles something the Swiss Family Robinson would have constructed. A ruin after 20 years of abandonment when the garden shut down, it’s been restored to man-cave glory thanks to a grant from Florida’s Division of Historic Resources.


Sexton’s old bell collection is displayed along the porch eaves.


Inside it’s all elk-lodge timbers and iron lanterns. The crowning feature is a gleaming, 38-foot banquet table made from a single slab of Philippine mahogany. What a tree it must have come from!


Just outside, Sexton’s enormous Spanish Kitchen has also been restored, with room to grill 100 steaks at a time, according to garden lore. Those guys must have had some kind of parties here back in the day. Today the hall and outdoor kitchen are rented out for weddings and other events.


McKee Garden is small enough to see in about an hour, and even though I’m not especially into tropical plants, I enjoyed our visit.


It gave me a sense of Florida’s history, the costs of its rapid development, and the commitment of today’s residents to restoring some of what was lost.

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

TODAY AT NOON: Join me for Coffee with the Author at noon, April 6, at Holy Grounds
KUT’s Jennifer Stayton will interview me about water-saving gardening and host a Q&A with the audience — which I hope will include YOU. Afterward I’ll sign copies of The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!. I hope to see you there for this intimate, lunchtime event. Holy Grounds coffee shop is located in downtown Austin in the main building of St. David’s Episcopal Church at 301 East 8th Street. You can park in the surface lot in front of St. David’s main doors.

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!

I’m on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

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

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