Garden Designers Roundtable: Our Home Gardens


Regular readers know that I often post about my own garden projects and my garden’s evolution. Heck, when I started blogging 6 years ago, that was the whole point. Today I have a good excuse for posting home-garden pics because it’s this month’s topic for Garden Designers Roundtable. It can be fun to see what garden designers are up to in their own gardens, especially high-end, design-build folks who install fabulous gardenscapes for their well-heeled clients and may do something creative and extravagant on their own back forty—if they’re one of the rare designers who gets paid at that level.

That’s not me, though, nor 99% of the designers I know. I’m a do-it-yourselfer (or hire-it-yourselfer) with a limited budget, just like most of my clients. I have a wish list for my own garden, and I’ve checked off a few projects during the 3-1/2 years we’ve lived in our current house, and I’ve put a lot of sweat equity into the garden. But my list still contains the bigger projects I dream of, mostly involving wall building or patio roofing—expensive projects that will just have to wait until the piggy bank is fuller. So, without further ado, here are a few before-and-after shots of my garden, which is always “in progress,” just like yours, I imagine.


Before: A small lawn surrounded by live oaks occupied the middle level of our back yard when we moved in.


After: I laid a sunburst stone path that radiates out from a stock-tank pond focal point, with new garden beds under the trees and a shed built by my handy husband to hide the swimming pool mechanicals.


Before: We were fortunate to inherit limestone-faced raised beds along the back of the house, but they were a mishmash of scrawny and overgrown plants when we moved in. I pulled out everything and added several inches of good soil.


After: Now it’s a crazy jungle of spiky and variegated plants that I love.


Before: Slippery grass led down a steep slope on both sides of the back yard. I’d already started adding beds when this picture was taken, and we’d recently installed a wood fence in front of a patchy redtip photinia hedge, gaining privacy.


After: A crushed-gravel path edged in free rock from the local cemetery, with drought-tolerant beds on either side, makes a safe, pretty passage through the garden.


Before: Looking up the other grassy slope in the side yard, a fence blocked the view, and those fantastic boulders were wasted, just sitting in the lawn.


After: A crushed-gravel path provides no-slip footing, and I moved the fence up-slope, closer to the street, to gain more back-yard space. New beds and the path flow around the boulders, giving them natural presence.


Before: Out front, Asian jasmine and star jasmine carpeted a live oak berm in the center of the circular drive. Easy-care but boring.


After: A new deer-resistant, drought-tolerant garden is still filling in. The blue, green, and gold garden contains ‘Color Guard’ yucca (Y. filamentosa ‘Color Guard’), softleaf yucca (Y. recurvifolia), gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longiflora), foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Meyersii’), bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata), ‘Sparkler’ sedge (Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’), Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus drummondii), variegated Miscanthus grass, majestic sage (Salvia guaranitica), silver Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis var. argentea), Artemisia ‘Powis Castle,’ copper canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii), spineless prickly pear (Opuntia), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana), Lindheimer nolina (Nolina lindheimeri), and Texas nolina (Nolina texana). I usually also add annual ‘Senorita Rosalita’ cleome and red cordyline for long-season, drought-tolerant color.


Before: An expanse of St. Augustine grass out front


After: A new streetside garden, with a gravel parking strip in front and generous path behind, welcomes visitors at the curb, gives me a place to stroll through the garden, and eats up a whole lotta lawn.

Want to see what other designers around the country are doing in their own gardens? Please visit Garden Designers Roundtable for links to the other Roundtable participants, or click below:

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

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

23 Responses

  1. Love this post Pam! Of course I’ve seen most of the ‘afters’ over the years I’ve been reading your blog but getting to see them all here together along with photos of what you inherited…wonderful! I bet it was fun to put together too.

    Thanks, Loree. Yes, it was fun for me to see the before-and-afters too, although I didn’t take quite as many “befores” from various angles as I should have, I now realize. That’ll be a lesson for me to remember next time I start a project. —Pam

  2. Mary Gray says:

    Pam, what a treat! You have done a TON in just 3 1/2 years! I think my favorite parts of your garden are that awesome sunburst paving, and the garden you’ve created out by the street. Genius! Have any of your neighbors followed your lead and ripped out their St. Augustine? :o) You clearly have a fantastic eye and know exactly what to keep and what to change. Love your choice of materials, too…the metal pond, the gravel paths, etc. Your clients are lucky!

    Thanks, Mary. My immediate next-door neighbors were inspired enough to ask me to design new shared gardens between our yards, which we installed earlier this spring. I’ve enjoyed having room in my neighbors’ yards to expand my vision—bwah ha ha! —Pam

  3. Sweat equity, indeed! Your improvements to this property are amazing, Pam. I’m so impressed with your approach to using native materials – for both hardscaping and plantings. No doubt you are setting the standard for the entire neighborhood! Thanks for the tour.

    You’re very kind, Jocelyn. My neighborhood is still largely a lawn-and-tree ‘hood, but I’m seeing more and more xeric beds popping up along the streets, where grass really suffered last summer. I wish I could take credit, but reality tells me that my house, off the beaten track on a quiet street, hasn’t been the reason. People in Austin are just wising up to the fact that water shortages are in our future, and they want landscaping that is tough enough to endure drought and heat. Yay for them! —Pam

  4. Absolutely gorgeous! Can’t tell if my favorite is the stock tank pond (love the radiating hardscape pattern) or the lushly landscaped sideyard. And clever of you to have documented with befores. I never quite seem to manage that…

    Thanks, Susan. The pond and surrounding paving is my favorite feature, for sure. There’s always something going on in a pond, and a sunburst pattern is lively too. —Pam

  5. Wonderful tour, Pam! Someday I’ll get the chance to see it in person, and I can’t wait! I love the crushed gravel paths, too, as they’re not only safer but so much prettier than the spotty lawn. And that sunburst stone path absolutely makes my heart melt. Love, love, love your garden!

    Thank you, Rebecca—you are very sweet. I look forward to your someday Austin visit and would love to welcome you into my garden. Between Jenny and me, we’d keep you busy with fun garden visits. —Pam

  6. Peter Lecca says:

    Dear Pam,
    I recently found your blog and was excited to see the great pics from the Dallas Open Conservancy Tour. I enjoyed the tour and the great diversity of the gardens. I have eliminated my lawn about 5 years ago and feel validated by blogs like yours. My home definitely is easy to spot on my street in Coppell . Thanks for all your great photo’s and encouragement.

    Sincerely,
    Peter Lecca

    Hi, Peter. Thanks for your comment. People in drought-plagued regions are seeing the wisdom of eliminating or reducing lawn these days, and examples like yours offer plenty of inspiration. Way to go! —Pam

  7. Richard and I enjoyed your post with the before and afters. We are DIYers and working through our make-over to simplify, reduce maintenance and be more drought-tolerant in the garden. Like you, we have a “wish list” for the future.

    Your garden is very inspiring for DIYers and for those dealing with drought and deer. You’re an honorary Southwest gardener, Freda. :-) —Pam

  8. Lisa says:

    Pam,
    I was just musing about how interesting it was to meet the gardeners/artists in their gardens (during the Asheville Fling) and thinking about how their gardens reflected their spirit and personality.

    After reading a couple of Fling posts, I noticed that you’d just done a design post, and it was delightful to see how your own garden looks in its before and after transformations!

    Hi, Lisa. It was so nice to see you again in Asheville at the Fling. I just popped over and read your thoughtful musings about the personal nature of gardens. You are exactly right. (I’d have left this comment on your post, but I wasn’t able to without an account.) —Pam

  9. Andrew Keys says:

    I adore and envy your garden and everything you’ve done with it. That pretty much sums it up!

    Aw, thanks, Andrew. I’m going to pop over to your blog now and see how your New Orleans-inspired garden in New England is coming along. —Pam

  10. Kaveh says:

    I really love that stock tank pond and the stone work around it. I’m thinking of adding something similar to my own garden. I just have to figure out where to put it.

    Have fun with your interpretation, Kaveh! Luckily those stock tanks come in many different diameters, so if a large one won’t fit, I bet you’ll find room for a smaller one. —Pam

  11. Laura says:

    I am impressed at everything you’ve done in such a short time. Wow!

    Thanks, Laura. I have spurts of fanatical garden-making in the cooler months. Summertime is when I sit back and plan for the next year. —Pam

  12. I am craving the metal fish pond and in awe of all the movement you have got into that specific area. It is like everything is whirring around. Such energising vitality!
    Best
    R

    I do love my circles and spirals, Robert. Thanks for your fun comment! —Pam

  13. Debbie says:

    Pam , What an amazing transformation in such a short time. Like Robert, I’m craving that fish tank, what a wonderful focal point for your garden. Dynamic yet calming at the same time.

    Thank you, Debbie! I’m having fun playing with a circle theme in this garden. —Pam

  14. Pam, you are truly gifted!! You have such a great skill for vision and bringing out the most in a landscape- bravo!!!

    I’m blushing, Christina. Thanks for the kind words. —Pam

  15. Nice! I love the before and after shots. They’re so inspiring!

    Thanks, PP. I always encourage people to take lots of photos of the uglies before starting a gardening project. Then you can appreciate all you’ve done later. —Pam

  16. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I am always amazed at how much you have accomplished when I see before and after pictures. You work so hard. Plus keeping up with family and a book that needs attention. Such fun to see how your garden is evolving.

    I’ve given up sleep, Lisa. ;-) —Pam

  17. I remember when you were putting in the stock pond, love the hardscape around it now. Super befores and afters. I need to read more about your crushed stone steps/walkway. Our slope needs something.

    Thanks, Janet. The crushed-stone hillside path was pretty easy to do. Here’s a post about its construction (with pea gravel; I switched out to crushed gravel after realizing the pea gravel moved too much). —Pam

  18. I love all your photos and your all your gardens – but that bermed bed in the front…the changes…just awesome!!!!!

    Thanks, Heather! The new plants are so much more interesting—and fun to grow—than Asian jasmine. I love it too. —Pam

  19. Beautiful! I never get tired of seeing that pond with the radiating stone surround. Great post outlining the changes over time. A good reminder of how much you have accomplished in just three years.

    Thank you, Shirley. Before-and-afters are so great for reminding one how much has been accomplished, even when it seems the to-do list has only grown instead of shrunk! —Pam

  20. Scott Weber says:

    I love these retrospective posts, Pam…you’ve accomplished an unbelievable amount in such a short time…and I honestly think your stock tank/sunburst pavers scheme is one of my favorite designs ever :-)

    How flattering! Thanks, Scott. :-) —Pam

  21. Laura says:

    Your stock tank pond is such a wonderful focal point and the pathway with stone sides is both buget-wise and inviting. I know you installed most of this yourself, which is even more amazing. Come and be my neighbor! :-) Laura

    Laura, thanks for the offer, but after all this work, I can’t move any time soon. ;-) Thanks for your comment! —Pam

  22. Nice to get a full tour and see how all the pieces fit together. Really filling in and looking good.

    Thank you, Linda. It’s looking even better now thanks to our copious spring rain. Most of these “after” photos are from last fall or very early this spring. —Pam

  23. Cynthia Thompson says:

    I love that you are very detailed in this garden make-over of yours. Details are very good and I I can at least picture your garden’s transformation.