Agave and upper patio garden on a slope


Close-ups are great for appreciating the beauty of a single plant, but it’s harder to convey the overall feeling of a garden with a wide shot. While taking a break this afternoon from design work, I stepped into the back garden with camera in hand and took this series. It really conveys the feeling of my hillside Austin garden, I think—its spiky, evergreen foundation, limestone walls and cedar fencing, abundance of vertical accents, and overstuffing of focal-point pots. The carpet of live oak leaves on the patio (and in the pool) would convey to any central Texan that this is mid-March, when our evergreen canopy trees—see those contorted trunks in the background?—disrobe briefly as new leaves push forth.


We’re looking down on my garden from the upper patio next to the house. Moby, my beloved ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave (A. ovatifolia), anchors the upper raised bed. In the bed that steps down behind him, a trio of softleaf yuccas (Y. recurvifolia) and bottle tree riff on each other’s still-armed form. By the yellow motel chairs, a ‘Margaritaville’ yucca tops a spiraling culvert planter. I like stair-stepping vertical accents down the slope—think exclamation-point cypresses in Tuscany, minus the timeless sophistication!


Inching closer, extraneous detail gets filtered out, and you notice the purple spiderwort and orange Mexican honeysuckle blooming in the background. The softleaf yucca is sending up a bloom spike too.


Closer still and lower, you notice the afternoon light incandescing the leaves of the Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata aztecorum) in the background. In front, Moby’s broad, cupped, powder-blue leaves serrated with orange teeth take center stage.

Of course, I have other “rooms” in my garden, but this section really says Tecolote Hill to me. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also the first area I started planting when I moved in 3-1/2 years ago. How about you? Does a certain area of your garden represent the overall feeling you’re going for, even if it’s a new garden like mine?


By the way, my blog Digging is a finalist for Best Gardening Blog in the Readers’ Choice Awards at About.com. I’d love to have your vote. You can vote once a day (it’s on a 24-hour cycle) until March 21. So vote early and often! Thanks for your support! (And thank you to Pamela Price for the vote graphic.) Click to VOTE.

All material © 2006-2012 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

13 Responses

  1. Katina says:

    3.5 years? really? it’s already been that long? wow, time flies…

    It sure does, Katina. —Pam

  2. Good idea (and I’m picturing 2 more matching culvert planters behind the yellow metal chairs…sorry). And good question…yes, 3 such places at the home garden (one’s along the arroyo below the W side of the house…part ledge on our property, the other a borrowed view off the property into that arroyo).

    More culvert planters—now you’re talking! How nice that your borrowed view and your created views are reflective of each other. That’s gardening with a true sense of place. —Pam

  3. Swimray says:

    Pam,
    You can never take too many photos of your agave. I ogle it every time you post pics of it.

    I’m glad you like it, Swimray, as Moby is quite the camera hog. —Pam

  4. peter schaar says:

    I like the varied spiky agaves marching down the slope very much. BTW, it looks as if there is a fire in the brush just outside the fence on the right side of the first photo. Am I seeing things?

    Nope, that’s my neighbor’s red-tip photinia hedge in spring leaf. :-) —Pam

  5. Tara says:

    We have an area in our backyard (the only really shaded area on our property) that we just started planting in but I have really high hopes to make it something that reflects the things I love.

    Sounds wonderful, Tara. I love that you are focused on your shade garden rather than your sunny spaces. So many gardeners lament shade. —Pam

  6. Indie says:

    I’m not much for spiky plants, but holy slugbait that’s an awesome agave! The large agaves are such great striking focal plants.

    We’ve only been in our house for two years, but the front yard is really taking shape and shows off some of the plants I love – lots of vines and ramblers and color!

    Vines and ramblers and color in a front-yard garden must be a cheery sight every time you pull in the driveway. I love it! —Pam

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Girl, time does fly. Your garden is such an inviting place. I always want to stroll through those spiky plants to land in one of your seating areas. Moby is such an attention getter too.

    If ever in Austin, you’re welcome to take a stroll through my garden, Lisa. :-) —Pam

  8. katzien says:

    Oh thank heavens!! An un-tidy shot of your patio and garden….finally! For the rest of “99% gardeners,” I think it’s a relief to see that even the glam-gardeners don’t always have a perfectly pristine yard. Wabi and I were chatting yesterday as she shared some horsetail with me, and she said ‘my yard is too messy right now to have people over.’ But…I think that it’s all our projects-in-progress and grand ideas that people like to see and hear when visiting each other’s garden-yardscapes. Because really…it’s never done…there’s always something being built, worked on, carved out or fanagled together. It’s where hands get dirty and that’s the fun part.

    Oh Katzien, my garden always has leaf litter, oak sprouts, and nut sedge popping up here and there. Don’t ever think there’s a garden that doesn’t have “issues” of one sort of another. ;-) And yes, seeing projects in progress can be very inspiring. Blogs are great for offering up “real” gardens that way. —Pam

  9. You’ve done an incredible amount, in a short time.

    We’ve been here about that long, and haven’t gotten as much done. We’ve had to start over with plants a couple times, now…..cold, and/or drought problems. But, we’re still working on it, and learning more and more. It’ll never be completely ‘done’.

    We have a great ‘borrowed view’, as David put it. The Deer Grove, Creek, Elli’s Meadow, and the golf course, are great backdrops for all our work.

    Keep on inspiring us. I’ve learned a lot about what will survive here, from you.

    Thanks….

    Yes, you are quite lucky with your borrowed view, Linda, and you are smart to have capitalized on it as you have. And hey, you keep on inspiring me too, OK? —Pam

  10. Lucy Abbott says:

    Hi Pam! I love this post. I enjoyed seeing your back garden from a higher perspective. Very Nice! I love all the structures plants as well as man-made. I also like that you ended this post in a way that sent my mind thinking. I believe it must be my Parterre that most reflects my garden as well as my gardening style. I enjoy using formal elements and then mixing in informal plants. Thanks for sharing your garden!

    Your parterre is such a lovely part of your garden that it doesn’t surprise me to learn it best reflects your style. I always admire it in your posts! —Pam

  11. Layanee says:

    You know how much I love that agave which I can only admire from afar. It is so substantial.

    More so all the time, Layanee, not to mention a camera hog. ;-) —Pam

  12. Phillip says:

    That is such an awesome plant!

    Moby, you mean? Thanks, Phillip. I love him too. —Pam

  13. […] we learned, is taken apart for shipping and reassembled on-site. So really this is just a big bottle tree. […]

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