Drive-By Gardens: Looking good in winter with lawn-gone gardens


I’m starting a new feature called Drive-by Gardens to show some of the many interesting gardens I see while driving around Austin on a daily basis to meet clients. Today I spotted three lawn-gone or reduced-lawn gardens that look pretty darn good for mid-winter, so let’s have a look!


The first is this adorable blue bungalow in West Austin. I guess that it was recently relandscaped because the plants are few and widely spaced. The limestone walk doesn’t look new though, does it? A mystery. Anyway, I like that the walkway is broad at the curb (about 9 feet wide), offering an open-armed welcome to visitors. Clumps of coppery grasses repeat along each side of the walk, leading your eye toward the front door, where two tall, red pots offer a jolt of warm color and hold two more ornamental grasses.


The garden is punctuated with evergreens to keep it looking lively in winter. The house and pot colors do so as well. A screen of bamboo poles hides the driveway (and maybe a front parking area?) from view. My drive-by impression? This is a welcoming garden that suits the colorful house and should become even more interesting as additional plants are added.


Here’s a bold homeowner! The large front yard of this ranch house in Allandale has been entirely converted into a vegetable garden. A long, curving, raised bed constructed of native limestone not only lifts the plants within easy reach (and keeps them away from dogs marking their territory) but also functions as a friendly barrier and indicator of private space, the same way a picket fence would.


Lettuces green up the wall/bed for winter. Inside the wall, additional raised beds lie fallow, neatly mulched, waiting for spring. The whole garden is paved with decomposed granite (DG), eliminating the lawn altogether. A generous DG strip along the curb serves as a walkway for visitors—a much smarter decision than bringing the wall all the way to the street, which would have blocked the car doors of visitors and been less welcoming.


The last drive-by garden for today is this somewhat contemporary, reduced-lawn garden in Tarrytown. Again, the welcome begins at the curb with a cut-stone walkway, accented with cut-outs filled with Mexican beach pebbles. Rather than making a beeline for the front door, the walk leads the way around a series of steel raised beds and follows the driveway toward the house before curving back toward the avocado-green front door and an inviting terrace.


The terrace is partially screened by another steel planter, anchored by a large agave and a shoestring acacia, both evergreen. Silver ponyfoot cascades over the edges of the planter, offering additional greenery. Roses, foxtail fern, sedge, and a philodendron (still green despite a few freezes) add their own softening greenery to the winter garden.


Looking back as I drive away—the terrace is nicely constructed with a sheltering arbor offering protection from the summer sun. A cattle-panel trellis, framed by the arbor’s posts, is planted with what looks like star jasmine, an evergreen vine that will provide additional privacy as it fills in. Wouldn’t it be great to have a front “room” like this instead of just a big swath of lawn?

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

16 Responses

  1. Shirley says:

    Love these with so many good ideas to take away. The front room looks especially inviting.

    It really does. And with our nice weather lately, it would even be pleasant in January! —Pam

  2. gail says:

    I like this new series Pam. Even though I garden in a different area of the country the design principles hold true. Each of the gardens you’ve shown have something to offer gardeners looking for ideas and inspiration to go lawn-gone.

    Good design is good design, right, Gail? —Pam

  3. Jason says:

    I love the low limestone fence and vegetable garden. In addition to marking private space, I think it just looks classy, and should head off at least some criticism from neighbors who don’t like the idea of a front yard vegetable garden.

    Great point, Jason. That wall definitely creates year-round structure, which is especially important in making a front-yard vegetable garden look appealing. —Pam

  4. All of these are terrific. I like the hidden court yard feeling of that last one.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the drive-by tour, Lisa. How I wish I could get into the back gardens of some of these! —Pam

  5. Those are all very nice, and very different gardens. LOOOooooove!

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the drive-by tour, Heather! —Pam

  6. Laura says:

    Oh, I LIKE this new feature. :-) Of the yards shown, my favorite features are the rock wall and the sheltering arbor. Thanks, Pam!

    Wasn’t this fun? I will have to do it again soon. Thanks for your comment, Laura. —Pam

  7. Shelley Boucher says:

    Loved and am inspired by all of these. Today discussed a new non-profit via St Edward’s that supports neighbors planting vegetables and sharing the vegetables with the neighborhood- can you imagine the community building that would take place ? Kind of like an extended block party. But some of the folks that I was talking to obviously lived in gated communities- so the beautiful idea was not well taken.
    That is a Sagittarian for you ( foot in mouth disease)
    Oh well, I like saying it like it is !!!

    Keep on talking, Shelley. You never know where or when an idea will take hold. I’d love to see it happen in your (and my old) ‘hood! —Pam

  8. The blue house and the Tarrytown house were really striking…enough winter interest balanced with some dormancy, to satisfy anyone, I would think! Winter drive-bys the best to illustrate design to me…good post idea…plz keep these coming.

    I plan to, David. Just need to remember to always have my camera handy! —Pam

  9. You know I love me some drive-by gardens (and have my own post coming up on Friday). These were fun to see and I look forward to your future installments.

    And I yours, Loree. Only yours are usually walk-by gardens, aren’t they? (You clearly live in a more gardened neighborhood than I do.) —Pam

  10. Carolyn says:

    Lovely drive by… I’m giggling at the thought of you hanging your head out the window to capture the images. Fell in love with the last one, I think it was the green door that captured my heart. I actually prefer a more formal look to the front entrance and the cozier feel in the back. But we live in an open landscape neighborhood with walking trails behind our homes and no fences over three feet high. Might feel differently otherwise. Enjoyed your post, Pam!

    I’m shameless, Carolyn, stopping the car, rolling down the window, and taking a picture of whatever catches my fancy. On occasion I’ve seen someone doing the same with my garden, especially my former front garden, which was especially flowery at certain times of the year. I always assume the photographer has good intent, and I hope people who see me taking pics will assume the same! —Pam

  11. Cat says:

    I love that olive green door!! Great idea for a post series!

    Colorful doors make me smile. Love that green one (kinda like my own!). —Pam

  12. Jeremy says:

    What a cool idea this new series is. I love driving or walking around neighborhoods checking out people’s landscaping and getting ideas for my own. Thanks for sharing. That Tarrytown house is a stunner.

    It really is inviting, isn’t it? Would you just love to see the back yard too? I know I would. —Pam

  13. jane says:

    Thanks Pam. You’ve given me an idea. I think I’ll take some winter pix of my own garden, It’s amazing what one sees looking at things from another angle so to speak.

    I used to see how my living room mantle looked by viewing it through a mirror. Maybe looking at a photo will let me see things that I don’t when I’m actually in the garden.

    Great idea, Jane. A new perspective is such a good way to really see one’s own garden with fresh eyes. Sometimes a rooftop or upper window or ladder perspective can help too. —Pam

  14. Mamaholt says:

    Oh, I love this feature too! I’ve done some posts on houses in my hood that I just love too. I am a shameless picture taker too.

    Love all those houses. The Tarrytown one is very me. (Me with $$$. ;))

    I’d like to make my yard more winter interesting. That’s when the accents sure come into play, isn’t it?

    “Me with $$$”–love it! Sunday drives to look at other people’s houses is something I grew up doing with my parents, and I still enjoy that kind of critical (evaluative, not necessarily negative) gawking. And now I can blog about it—what fun! —Pam

  15. Richard says:

    That’s a pretty big shoestring, do you know if it was there before 2011?

    I don’t know, Richard. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this garden. —Pam

  16. Anna says:

    I love looking into other people’s gardens (not in a snoopy way :), but I like to see their choices of plant combos, and to see what is doing well in the shade or direct sun. It gives me ideas that I might want to use sometime. Thanks,Pam, for this new feature. I think it’s great that these highlight regular gardens too, not just the avid gardener’s works of love (of course I enjoy seeing the gardens of professional and serious gardeners whenever I can.)

    I agree, Anna—there’s something to learn from any garden you see, whether homegrown or professionally installed. I’m glad you enjoyed the new feature. —Pam