Imagine a steep, overgrown hillside of invasive nandina, bamboo, and ligustrum. That’s what the homeowners on Stratford Drive looked out on after building a contemporary, 5-star green home (as rated by the Austin Energy Green Building program) in the Rollingwood neighborhood of west Austin. According to the brochure for Gardens on Tour 2011, the owners wanted landscaping that would not only tame the slope but be as sustainably constructed and maintained as their house.
That meant no lawn, the reuse of rock excavated during installation, terracing to slow runoff, the use of native plants, creation of wildlife habitat, an extensive rainwater collection and storage system—and of course a beautiful garden for the homeowners to enjoy. It starts with a naturalistic stream and series of waterfalls at the front door, constructed by Environmental Survey Consulting.
The stream leads you around to a beautiful gate by Chris Levack set in a pale-green, stuccoed wall.
The garden, designed by Glee Ingram of Growing Designs Custom Landscaping, flows down the hillside in a series of terraces.
Intimate patios provide destination points at different levels.
A juniper stump and slab of limestone are creatively repurposed as a plant stand.
Excavated rock from the building process was remade into retaining walls. Silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) spills over the edge of this one.
Bluestone or slate or whatever kind of stone they used on the steps is seldom seen in Austin, and it may not be the most sustainable choice, given the availability of locally quarried rock. But it does look lovely and picks up the gray of the large, round stones used as risers.
Elsewhere, limestone flags (our local stone) lead through shady beds of sedge.
As you step down through the terraced garden you glimpse the house’s rear elevation—all curves, color, sky-high porches, and even a 3-story rain chain.
The wow factor continues with a multi-level swimming pool spilling down the steep hillside.
Another look at the rear of the house
This rugged limestone stair continues down to a wilder area of the yard.
But along the top of the uppermost pool, a narrow stone path leads past beautiful retaining walls and terraced beds planted with xeric, sun-loving perennials.
Detail of the stone wall
A wooden deck accesses the lower level of the swimming pool, with this charming tree mural painted on the side of a structure that perhaps hides the pool mechanicals.
More sedge stands in for lawn along the path to the side yard.
An enormous cistern, one of two on the property, collects and stores rainwater. I love these galvanized steel cisterns.
Coyote fences made of cedar (juniper) posts screen both sides of the property.
This one wears a cap of metal flashing for some reason.
In the front garden, near the street, stand two horns made of juniper and pine, an embracing, textural sculpture by local artist Chris Levack, who is known for his popular Mueller neighborhood sculptures. It makes an intriguing gate to pass through going in or out of the garden.
All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.