Jenny Stocker’s English Texas gravel garden

My friend Jenny Stocker, who blogs at Rock Rose, has shared her garden with me many times over the years. Each time I am struck anew by the beauty of her English-style xeric Texas garden, which shows many native plants to advantage in gravel-mulched, walled courtyards surrounding her contemporary stucco home in southwest Austin. On Tuesday a friend and I were treated to another visit, and I can’t resist posting about her garden again.

Pictured at top is my favorite space in Jenny’s garden, a sunny, open, sunken garden paved with stone and gravel and self-seeding little plants, surrounded by coffee-table-sized boulders, yucca, and taller flowering perennials. A comfortably furnished covered porch overlooks the sunken garden, a sapphire-blue swimming pool, and the greenbelt behind. On this early November morning, the garden was abloom with color and drenched in sunlight.

But let’s start at the beginning, outside the front walled garden, where Jenny likes to begin her visitor’s tour. This is the approach from the driveway, a rugged limestone path set in gravel. There are no formally delineated beds, just tough, native plants following the pathway’s edges. This area is not on irrigation, although Jenny mentioned she has hand-watered the plants a few times over the summer.

Cenizo in bloom

Along the wall that hides the front garden from view, a foundation planting of dwarf yaupon holly loosely echoes a line of boulders. Square mirrors on the wall masquerade as peek-a-boo windows.

Fall color, Texas style. We had difficulty identifying this volunteer. We thought it might be skeleton-leaf goldeneye daisy, but the leaves don’t look feathery enough. Update: Thanks to Tina for a possible ID as goldeneye (Viguiera dentata), a relative of the skeleton-leaf.

Walk through the gate in the monumental arbor that shelters it, and you enter the front courtyard, which I expect is sunny at midday and beyond. This is a beautiful gravel garden with tidy, mounding plants and ruby grass ‘Pink Crystals’ (Melinus nerviglumis).

Jenny’s front door is embraced by star jasmine, which must be incredible in spring bloom.

Jenny loves flowers, but she’s not at all afraid of spiky succulents, which add structure and interest throughout her garden.

Manfreda sileri

Golden barrel cactus

Passing through an intimate walled garden along the side of the house, you step into another large courtyard with a tall stucco wall dividing it from the next space—but tantalizing doors and windows offer glimpses of what’s to come.

A window in the wall offers a peek at an inviting seating area and more garden beyond.

But before we move on, let me rhapsodize about Jenny’s Philippine violet (Barleria cristata), which is simply gorgeous in full, bushy bloom.

Why am I not growing this plant?!

With those largish leaves and lush habit, it doesn’t look like a plant that would survive a summer like we just endured, much less look so good doing it.

Moving on…you pass through the open doorway in the stucco wall and enter the sunken garden and pool courtyard.

‘Fireworks’ gomphrena blazes away in the sun. I’ve seen this tall gomphrena all over central Texas this year.

It’s easy to see why this annual is so popular all of a sudden. Great color and height, wonderful in masses, heat and drought tolerant. Lovely!

The focal point of Jenny’s sunken garden is a birdbath and rabbit ornament, with the flagstones and boulders softened by flowering perennials, self-seeding annuals, and small grasses.

Great contrast between unyielding limestone and soft-textured flowers and grasses.

‘Radsunny’, a buttery yellow Knock Out rose

The garden style may be English (as are the owners), but Jenny plays up the Western theme on the covered porch with cowboy art and pillows and Mexican-pottery lizards. She’s corralled much of her succulent collection on the hearth, but these go in the greenhouse when a freeze threatens.

View from the porch

Yuccas, roses, salvias and more, plus rocks and walls, in a symphony of color and structure.

Narrowleaf zinnia and lamb’s ear make a cool combo.

Orange tithonia attracts butterflies in the sunken garden.

Everywhere you look, there’s texture and color.

Gomphrena, salvia, and ruby grass

A little New Mexico comes into play with a chile ristra spicing up a stuccoed wall.

A pedestal planter with Mexican feathergrass and narrowleaf zinnia anchors a circle of thyme.

The final walled garden contains Jenny’s potager. Screened frames keep hungry critters out of fall vegetables, while annual celosia pops up each year amid the pavers.

Jenny has been picking pomegranates and straining the seeds to top her breakfast cereal, but I saw a few more dangling from the branches.

I love that rosy color against the sandy-hued walls.

‘Bloodspot’ mangave and pyracantha in fall berry

Thank you again, Jenny, for sharing your garden with me. It’s beautiful as always, even after a very difficult central Texas summer.

For anyone interested in more of Jenny’s garden, especially in spring, read my other posts:
Jenny’s flower-licious walled garden
Feeding the soul in Jenny’s garden
Meeting Carol & a tour of Jenny Stocker’s garden

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

31 Responses

  1. gail says:

    I am speechless~awestruck is more apt a description. jenny’s garden is wonderful and so is your tour. Sighing from the beauty~ gail

  2. Thanks for visiting it, not to mention capturing what I saw in totally different light – looks like NM desert lighting the day you were there!

  3. Candy Suter says:

    What a beautiful place to photograph. And yours are incredible! She has done an incredible job on her lovely garden. Thanks for the great visit and inspiration.

  4. Victoria says:

    I love Jenny’s garden and enjoy reading about it on her blog. But it’s wonderful to see it through your eyes, Pam. Hopefully one day I’ll see it for myself – and yours too, I hope.

    You’d be welcome to visit mine whenever you make it to Austin, Victoria. —Pam

  5. Frances says:

    What a fabulous and beautiful garden, shown to its best by your eye and photography! I loved seeing the mix of hardscape and strong xeric plants, with the architecture blending all together so well. Yummy!

  6. Thank you for more photos of Jenny’s wonderful garden, slowly I’m starting to get a real sense of it. Funny I’ve seen those little square mirrors on her blog but I was still fooled by them, thinking they were windows.

  7. Jenny says:

    There is nothing nicer than to welcome friends into the garden on a beautiful fall day, as I did on the day you and Evelyn visited. Thanks for such a thoughtful and well written post. Well, Pam, you always write so well. Lovely photos too.

    Thank you, Jenny. You are always so generous with your garden, and I never tire of hearing how you and David made it all. —Pam

  8. Robin says:

    Pam, I’m always blown away by Jenny’s garden; she’s got the green thumb! And why aren’t we all growing that Phillipine Violet? It’s been on my “must have” list for years now and I still don’t have it! Jenny’s walled garden gives a lovely representation of what you could do with a front yard instead of grass, doesn’t it? Bring in some boulders, limestone pathways, DG and sit back and watch the show.

    Robin, Jenny’s garden is definitely a model for what a xeric front yard could be instead of grass. And she does have many areas for “sitting back” in her garden, but I don’t think they get a lot of use. She has always made it very clear that her garden is not low-maintenance, despite its self-sowing nature. A lot of thinning, transplanting, trimming, and editing is required, plus protection of her tender succulent collection. A more low-maintenance approach, as she has noted, would be to have more evergreens and less flowering plants. But for someone who enjoys gardening, this style of garden is very tempting indeed. —Pam

  9. Shirley Fox says:

    Jenny’s garden is just breathtaking and it’s so interesting to see it all as a tour the way you put this post together. So many ideas to aspire to also.

  10. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I enjoy reading Jenny’s blog from time to time. The way you have presented it makes me wish I could stroll through this beautiful place.

  11. Tina says:

    Wow!! is all that comes to mind. The yellow flower that you think might be skeleton-leaf goldeneye (Viguiera stenoloba), is, I think a relative, usually just known as goldeneye (Viguiera dentata). Is that possible?

    That looks like a good possibility to me, Tina. Thanks for the ID. —Pam

  12. How I wish I had been able to see Jenny’s garden when I was in Austin! It is unique and entrancing. The use of walls and windows to frame views is just perfect.

  13. Cyndi K. says:

    Agree….can’t get enough of her gardens! Thanks for identifying a lot of the plants – great post, Pam.

  14. Denise says:

    I never get tired of Jenny’s garden, so post away! I don’t recall seeing the approach from the driveway before, which I’m guessing is the opening to the entrance arbor. Very cool.

    Yes, that’s correct, Denise. A rugged outside-the-walls approach, through the entry arbor, and then inside the front courtyard. —Pam

  15. An interesting interpretation of an English garden.

  16. Darla says:

    Gorgeous gardens…..does she see many snakes?

    I don’t know, Darla. She does post about seeing plenty of deer and the occasional fox. —Pam

  17. Mamaholt says:

    It’s beyond stunning. To me, Jenny’s garden looks like the grounds of a beautiful spa. That pool…oh that pool. Did I mention that I am an excellent house sitter? Thanks for sharing it with us. I can’t stop looking!

  18. Melissa says:

    A truly spectacular garden, I am in awe. I was able to visit a few years ago during a garden tour and I was really struck by it’s relaxed beauty. Great photos Pam! I’ve tried the Phillipine violet and had no luck… it never grew and then froze and disappeared over the winter. I am doubly impressed to see it in Jenny’s garden thriving so nicely! wow.

  19. Jenny’s garden is always inspiring. To have so many blooms, after the summer we’ve had, is amazing.
    Hope she got all those tender things inside. It was 24 degrees here this morning. I know she has a cold zone there, as well.
    Thanks for the tour.

    She said this morning that she had a hard freeze, Linda. Her birdbath water froze 1/2-inch thick. She is certainly in a cold pocket. In my NW Austin garden it only got to 35 or 37 degrees. —Pam

  20. Jean says:

    My goodness, that is such a gorgeous garden! I feel lucky to have seen it in person. It seems to always be in bloom, and always have something interesting going on. I have been looking for that ‘Fireworks’ gomphrena for a couple of years but it hasn’t made it to our little world yet. We tried the Philippine violet in a master gardener bed but alas, it froze and never came back. I’ll bet Jenny’s walls help prevent that. Thanks for the lovely tour Pam!

  21. What a fabulous garden and lovely photos although I am curious why you call it an english style garden as to me in the Uk it looks very foreign!!

    Isn’t that interesting? Certainly Jenny has embraced a dry-garden aesthetic, and she loves desert gardens. But she says she was also inspired by Englishwoman Beth Chatto’s gravel garden. To my eyes, her courtyard gardens are English cottage style using native Texas and adapted plants. They have a flowery abandon that always seems British to me, but they also have the structure, thanks to those walls, that makes such a garden work so well in all seasons. —Pam

  22. Jeremy says:

    I love this garden. I follow Jenny’s blog and always enjoy the views. Thanks for sharing your photos for an even better perspective in the whole property.

  23. Laura Munoz says:

    I absolutely love Jenny’s garden. It is what my garden aspires to. I also very much enjoy Jenny’s blog. Aside from your blog, it’s one of the first I look at on a daily basis.

  24. It is lovely, and I’m taking especial note of the textural combinations! AS we enter our Death Star phase, not a lot will be happening in my garden for the next few months except for vegetable cultivation and soil improvement. I have a long haul ahead!

    Hang in there, Chookie! —Pam

  25. Lola says:


  26. Pam, thanks so much to you and to Jenny for the tour of her amazing garden. Although I was there with you, I learned so much from this post about the garden! Your photos are just fabulous too. Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Austin — would recommend you as a garden tour guide to anyone!!

    Hi, Evelyn! It was great to meet you while you were in Austin, and isn’t Jenny’s garden a treat? And ESP’s? I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit to Austin, and glad the weather cooperated gloriously while you were here. —Pam

  27. Scott Weber says:

    Love her garden…so glad you got to visit (and of course, it provided material for this great post!) Love that Gomphrena…must have some next year!

    Me too, Scott! —Pam

  28. Les says:

    What a spectacular garden, thanks for sharing it with us. I always tell my customers that it is not possible to have an English garden, unless you swap the plants for ones that grow well where you live. But when your plant palette looks like the one in this post, it moves beyond English to something unique.

  29. Always fun to see her garden through someone else’s eyes. And I am fascinated by the fact that her garden looks very Texan and yet her English heritage is there as well. Not easy to do given the plant palettes and different climates!

  30. […] of Jenny’s garden? Here are some of the posts I’ve written about it over the years: Jenny Stocker’s English Texas gravel garden – 11/3/11 Feeding the soul in Jenny’s garden – 4/28/10 Jenny’s flower-licious […]

  31. Candy Suter says:

    What an incredible garden! What a joy she must have every day when she looks out the window or just walk out her front door. Thank you for the tour! Your photos were awesome Pam!