Inside Austin Gardens Tour 2012: Ann and Robin Matthews Garden


I’m continuing my sneak preview of the upcoming Inside Austin Gardens Tour, hosted by the Travis County Master Gardeners. In my last post I showed you Donnis Doyle’s colorful, whimsical garden. This garden belongs to her next-door neighbors, Ann and Robin Matthews, and they’ve been friends and neighbors for nearly 40 years. The Matthews got started on their garden first, and then Donnis followed suit, and the two gardens riff on each other nicely.


The Matthews’ front-yard garden is lawn free, with decomposed-granite paths winding through curved beds filled with native and largely xeric plants. They favor electric blue accents, like this painted table-and-chair set, positioned behind a screen of plants for privacy while still allowing them to enjoy their front garden and say hi to the neighbors. A swath of Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) blankets the foreground, and you know this attracts swarms of butterflies on warm days.


Sotol (Dasylirion texana) and red-flowering lantana are tough, drought-tolerant survivors—and beautiful too.


The Matthews incorporate a lot of rock into their garden, but it’s not a boring sea of just one kind. They use decomposed granite for paths, light gravel for accent areas, and river rock for decorative touches, like this spiral.


They humorously embrace flaws, like this long crack in their concrete driveway, and turn them into fun features. They filled the crack with a river of blue glass beads, and a nearby sign advises, “When life gives you cracks, make rivers!”


Another look at the front patio. You can see neighbor Donnis’s blue-bottle-and-coffee-mug arch in the background. A friendly path connects the two gardens.


Robin and Ann are serious about collecting rainwater from their roof. When they installed a large cistern directly in front of the house, Robin built this screen of wooden posts and metal pipes to support a star jasmine vine. It screens the cistern so well I didn’t notice it until Robin pointed it out.


Sotol and esperanza (Tecoma stans), with another glimpse of Donnis’s house behind. Notice that she has a screen along the front of her house that echoes the screen Robin made to hide his cistern.


From the corner of the house, looking across the front garden. Isn’t this a nicer view to walk out to than a flat, boring lawn?


Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) in front of Gregg’s mistflower


More water-collection tanks, which the Matthews have decoratively painted. This will be the garden to see if you want info on harvesting rainwater.


The back garden opens spaciously, with a gravel patio extension providing spillover room for entertaining and eliminating the mowing and watering needs of a lawn.


The back of the property is more wooded, and a colorful bench and lattice arbor provide a sheltered spot to enjoy the view. A curtained faux window made with a mirror brightens up the shady space and creates the illusion of more garden behind.


I love this blue arbor looking onto a circular herb garden anchored in the center with an exuberant blue bottle tree festooned with party lights.


What a cool focal point this must be at night.


Colorful garden decor


Raised beds for vegetables along the back fence


Another view of the herb garden and blue arbor, looking back toward the house


Where the Matthews needed privacy along one side of their yard, they built a faux-stone pictograph wall that represents actual Native American pictographs, which these former schoolteachers have an interest in.


Other Southwestern accents include this metal lizard and cactus-and-succulent planting dish…


…as well as this clever homemade spiral made from metal tubing.


I like that the Matthews made a photo display of the evolution of their garden, which is easier to view on a tour than a photo album. Plus it shows that a garden doesn’t just happen overnight. When they were younger and busier with work, they didn’t have much time for gardening, but as their kids grew up they started making gardens, and in retirement they found time to really transform their yard into a personal retreat.


Tour Info
Date: October 20
Time: 9 am to 4 pm
Tickets for the tour (all of the gardens) are $15 in advance, or $20 on the day of the tour ($5 for individual gardens).

Gardening Demonstrations/Education Sessions at the Matthews Garden (same as for the Doyle garden since they are next door to each other)
9:30 am – A Fest for Wildlife with Valerie Bugh
10:15 am – Austin Grows! with Jake Stewart
11:30 am – Unconventional Landscape Snacks – Collecting and Cooking Insects with Wizzie Brown
1:30 pm – Planning an Edible Landscape with Sheryl Williams
All Day – The Wall Trip DVD by Ann and Robin Matthews

For a look back at my post about the colorful Doyle Garden, click here. Tomorrow join me for a tour of the herb-a-licious Studebaker Garden.

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

13 Responses

  1. Jean says:

    I’m finding this landscape very inspirational! I might steal that idea of metal tubing and stakes to hide my air conditioners.

  2. Alison says:

    Thanks for this look at another fantastic garden! There are so many wonderful, imaginative touches in both these places. I keep hoping I’ll find gardens like the ones you highlight from the Austin area when I go on tours, but you seem to have a concentration of them down there in Texas.

  3. laguna dirt says:

    I really love the screen for the water collection tank. How resourceful using old pipes. They look great in that irregular pattern against the red posts! Thanks for sharing this fun tour.

  4. laguna dirt says:

    Oh, and those driveway cracks filled with the blue glass are brilliant!!

  5. Shirley says:

    So many good ideas to take away from this fun garden, especially the screening and water collection. Pretty plant combinations too. I do like those round stepping stones, do they have pebbles in the center?

    Curtains on mirror, the lights on the ocotillo-style bottle tree, the blue glass river, all the little touches to discover would make for a fun and interesting tour.

    Shirley, those stepping stones were handmade by the owners. If I recall correctly, there were pebbles and petroglyph designs on each one. —Pam

  6. How creative! Like the others I love the metal pipe trellis and the colorful pebbles in the driveway cracks. Our cracks seem to be getting bigger so it won’t be long before I can do this to! Or maybe I’ll plant some super tough step-ables instead.

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I just love it when you start giving sneak previews of gardens that I will in all probablity never get to see. This one is fantastic. I love that wall with the pictographs. A great way to stop a view.

  8. RobinL says:

    I swear that Austin has the most incredible gardens I have ever seen! And although I would not quite call my garden xeric, after all this is the midwest, I saw some ideas to incorporate. I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, and have always collected black beachs, and now I’m trying to figure out how to use a spiral like that in my garden!

  9. How interesting. Looks like a fun, whimsical place to visit!

  10. Teresa says:

    I just loved all of their garden art, great job capturing so much of it!

  11. cheryl says:

    Is that a Nashville Warbler on the “dripping rock ledge”? So many wonderful and fun ideas in your postings! I wish I could be there to see these yardens in person but your photos make up for my staying home. Thanks!

    I think it IS a Nashville warbler, Cheryl. Thanks for the ID, and I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. —Pam

  12. Anna says:

    This garden has it all; vegetable garden, herbs, winding paths, handmade and purchased art, education, nice places to sit. What a peaceful and fun place to be.

  13. Gail says:

    So many wonderful and inspiring design ideas! Thank you for sharing.

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