Gardens on Tour 2011: West Monroe Street garden


The distinguishing feature of West Monroe Street’s front garden, which I toured Saturday on the Wildflower Center-sponsored Gardens on Tour, is a no-mow Berkeley sedge lawn in place of the standard St. Augustine. Alternatives to the traditional lawn were definitely a theme on this year’s tour.


Designed by Rain Lily Design, karst stone retaining walls hold back the plantings from a gravel sidewalk running along the curb. It’s a thoughtful and welcoming gesture to provide firm footing and room for people to get in and out of cars parked on the street, and it saves your plants from being trampled as well.


The gravel laps up to a generously sized front walk. Here’s another good design lesson: make your main paths wider than you think they need to be. Such paths announce the entrance, say welcome, and are scaled in proportion with the house. A bonus is that a path is one less area you have to mow or water.


A lovely, overscaled pot on the front stoop provides room for a focal-point combination of tropical annuals.


The Berkeley sedge lawn offers fantastic texture, and its shiny foliage seems to gleam in the shady garden.


On the side of the house, along the driveway, a drainage problem was solved with a dry streambed of Texas river rock, with a custom steel bridge crossing over to the door.


A second door is accessed via a stair of wide stepping stones leading through the dry streambed.


The owners told us they overheard a couple of visitors on the tour complaining about the lack of flowers. Hello! This is a shade garden that relies on varying shades of green and plant texture. Flowers are a bonus, and we did see some Salvia guaranitica in bloom. The owners are not leaning on thirsty sweeps of impatiens or other overused annuals to “jazz up” their shade garden. This is a low-maintenance landscape, one that many non-gardeners (if they go on garden tours) would love to emulate.


OK, enough of the soapbox. Here’s a closer look at the steel-grate bridge over the dry stream.


The back garden shows its youth—it’s only a year old—more than the front; plantings are sparser. But intriguing garden art adds interest while plants fill in.


Behind the garage two enormous cisterns stand ready to cache rainfall—if we ever get any again (much of Texas is once again in a severe drought).


A custom steel light fixture arches over the back patio. That’s Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden smiling at me. She and Robin of Getting Grounded were my touring companions for the third year in a row.


One final image, and I don’t know if it belongs to this garden or the neighbors’: a corrugated metal fence along the side yard. It’s that industrial Texas look that’s become so popular in certain neighborhoods around town.

For a look back at the Bee Cave Road garden click here. Tune in tomorrow for a tour of the Stratford Drive garden.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

18 Responses

  1. […] tuned for a tour of the West Monroe Street garden. And happy Mother’s Day to all the moms reading this, including my […]

  2. Jenn says:

    Oh that green shade looks delicious to these desert sore eyes!
    We’ve had record low humidity lately. 2% humidity one day last week – that’s only been recorded 3 times since they’ve been tracking. Dry dry dry, and hot.

    Green shade, even if hot and or humid, looks lovely.

  3. Donna says:

    What an interesting garden with some unusual touches within.

  4. That is by far the prettiest no-mow lawn I’ve ever seen! I’m not a big lawn fan but I’m going to look into how well that plant does in my area because I’d like to inspire people who MUST have lawns to use something less demanding than regular grass.

  5. Love it! And seriously? People complained about lack of flowers. Well I guess it was a Wildflower Center sponsored garden tour but still, that’s just silly talk!

  6. Greggo says:

    Steel, steel. I love steel.

  7. S. Fox says:

    Great tours! A mall here in San Antonio uses Berkeley Sedge in their landscape and I love seeing there, but had thought it wasn’t drought tolerant enough for my yard. I’m definitely going to try it now thanks to you, the homeowner, and The Wildflower Center for showing all these great options in real yards.

  8. Denise says:

    Pam, these tour posts are such great reading. That steel grating solution, the cisterns, the stone work in the Bee Cave Road garden, so much to enjoy in these marvelous gardens. Sorry to hear about the continuing drought. These two gardens look ready for anything the Texas weather throws at them.

  9. David C. says:

    Thanks again! Industrial steel and plant massing – great when appropriate for the property’s climate, and this place nailed that perfectly, and designed it to be funky yet unified.

    I also appreciate that the owners did not give in to the cliche of flower power, even in pots. The US public really, really needs to graduate beyond such Victorian thinking!

  10. Scott says:

    Love these tours…love seeing other people gardens and how they’ve coped with problems…love the generous entry.

  11. Do you know where those cisterns came from? Other good sources would also be a big help. I am looking to put a few in our garden. Thanks.

    The galvanized cisterns were built by Innovative Water Solutions, Les. —Pam

  12. Carol says:

    I enjoyed the tour and commentary. That lawn has an interesting looking… I actually wouldn’t mind that here if it were hardy enough.

  13. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Ooooo this is a beautiful garden. I love the no mow lawn.

  14. laguna dirt says:

    loved the tour. may seems to be the banner month for these. (i just posted about our annual home and garden tour in laguna beach.) i always enjoy garden art, and really find the industrial texas look interesting! thanks for sharing. as usual, the photos were phenomenal!

  15. […] a look back at the West Monroe Street garden click here. Tune in tomorrow for tours of the Ridgecrest Drive and Eanes Circle […]

  16. Robin says:

    Pam, it’s interesting to me that I didn’t even realize that this garden didn’t have much flowering! It was a fabulous place, with so much to see. And the container out front was so stunning, and I realize now that it wasn’t flowering either, it was a container of foliage that was outstanding. Thanks for the great post summing it up and reminding me how much I enjoyed this garden.

  17. Jean says:

    Gee, it looks like the old ‘hood has really changed! I really like this yard.

  18. Sheila says:

    I love sedge lawns! They are so sexy looking!

    Should I put that in the book, Sheila? :-) —Pam

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