Springtime visit to the Garden of Good and Evil

Last weekend Lori, a gardener in southwest Austin who blogs at The Gardener of Good and Evil, hosted a meet-up of local garden bloggers. It was my second visit. I’d seen her lovely garden three years ago and posted about it then. Lori loves roses, and in 2010 they dominated her garden. Today, due to the drought and increasing shade from maturing trees, Lori has reduced the number of roses and added plenty of structural plants like agave and yucca to contrast with the billowy foliage of her roses and ornamental grasses.

As you approach the house, a dramatic scene greets you: Agave weberi on one side of the front walk, Agave americana on the other. ‘Margaritaville’ yucca, salvias, rosemary, and feathergrass are tucked in at their feet, and shrub roses and bamboo muhly back up the agaves to completely screen half the front garden from view.

Annual poppies make a cheerful appearance here as well.

A straight-on view of the front walk shows a feathergrass gauntlet accented with California poppies. Lori constructed the front walk herself out of concrete pavers and cinderblocks.

Stepping up into private front garden, you’re treated to eye-catching combos like this: ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia, smooth sotol (I think), yellow bulbine, ‘Color Guard’ yucca (in the pot), and Mexican feathergrass.

A wider view reveals the front walk (leading through the feathergrass) and a perpendicular walk that runs in front of the house and around to the side.

A hidden patio composed of a geometric arrangement of concrete pavers comes into view from the front porch.

A closer look reveals a fun accent: a half-face planter. We’ll see many more of these placed throughout Lori’s garden.

The deep, shady porch provides respite from the Death Star. Lori has accented the eaves with cut-out wooden stars inspired by the garden of Donnis Doyle.

Along the front porch, foxtail fern softens the step in a pretty pot, with a diminutive ajuga colonizing the shady gravel path. Heartleaf skullcap and flowering violas add seasonal color.


Taking the perpendicular path along the front porch, you enter the geometric patio, where you’re treated to multicolored ‘Mutabilis’ roses and a color-coordinated aeonium in the face planter.

A closer look

A narrow side path bordered by Mexican feathergrass leads to the back gate — a charming peek-a-boo gate, with metal screening creating a window and framing a garden view.

From the other side it’s just as appealing. Lori has stained her fence and gate blue, the color of her home, porch, and wooden decks. The plants really “pop” against that dusky blue.

The long, narrow side garden is greened up with a mix of fence-hugging vines and bright, variegated groundcovers, all mulched with shredded wood, with no edging to separate planting bed from path.

Walking along the path, you see another face planter ahead, with Southern wax myrtle screening the rest of the garden from view.

Lori has mixed dwarf ruellia, both purple- and white-blooming, and variegated liriope along the path — “a strategic choice,” she says, “since I don’t have lighting in that side yard. All of those whites glow at twilight so I can see where to walk. I water it only rarely, even during periods of horrible drought, and cut it all down to the ground once a year, so it’s pretty much the perfect low-maintenance planting.”

A cut-leaf philodendron marks the end of the path, and it’s underplanted with that brightly variegated liriope.

Now the back garden opens to view. Deep borders along the fence lines are packed with a mix of textural, blooming, and structural plants, many of which are native to central Texas: datura, rosemary, heartleaf skullcap, prickly pear, agaves in pots, roses, Mexican buckeye, Mexican feathergrass, and bamboo muhly, to name a few. A bit of lawn remains, and it functions primarily as a wide, curvy path through the garden and as a negative space to rest the eye.

A native mesquite tree anchors the center of the garden, its sculptural limbs supporting a feathery canopy of leaves.

One branch serves as a bottle tree, with carriage screws supporting an assortment of blue bottles.

A deep porch and a Florida room (not pictured) along the back of the house provide plenty of space to sit and view the garden. A shed (pictured), brightened with window-like mirrors, anchors one end of the porch. In the L-shaped space between shed and porch, Lori solved a persistent drainage problem by constructing a decomposed-granite patio raised one step to the level of the porch. A double line of concrete pavers leads the eye (and the feet) from the porch directly to the lawn.

I like the way Lori created a bed around the mesquite that’s mostly at ground level but also continues at patio level, with feathergrass and pink evening primrose planted directly in the decomposed granite.

Pink evening primrose

This beautiful vessel fountain is a new addition since last time I visited. Plumbing pipe pours water into a glazed, sculptural container, which spills into an arrangement of Mexican beach pebbles. The water circulates into an underground basin and back up through the pipe. Update from Lori about the basin: “The basin for the fountain is by John Lamos, an artist based in northern California. He specializes in lightweight sculpture using sustainable materials.”

Following the line of pavers, your eye is drawn to a trio of face planters arranged on a low retaining wall.

Blue-green heartleaf skullcap behind the faces will be blooming soon.

Another trio — this time golden barrel cacti in a metal planter. Ice plant trails along the edge.

Lori has a flair for displaying pots in an eye-catching way. In this collection on her patio, she sets another face planter on a mini-plinth of concrete pavers and elevates a cobalt-blue pot on a few tinted pavers. Glass beads and Mexican beach pebbles used as mulch add a finishing touch.

An enormous cardoon adds bold foliage to a small vegetable garden planted along the shed.

Looking back to the mesquite bed. Light-catching grasses are complemented by chunky Opuntia pads and sword-like agave leaves.

The fountain is pretty from every angle.

On a wall on the covered porch, Lori creatively hung a leftover section of gutter, painted it blue, and planted it up with grandfather’s pipe (Callisia fragans) cuttings. The shady space is brightened with mirrors disguised as windows.

Blue is definitely the color of choice in Lori’s garden, including in this charming vignette along a corner of the foundation. Yellow in the golden barrel cactus, yucca, and agave makes a perfect complement.

At the gate on the other side of the house, a variegated agave and purple heart in a silver container, set on a homemade plinth of concrete pavers, make an eye-catching focal point. A round mirror reflects light like a silver moon.

Along the back of the house, a line of ‘Color Guard’ yucca is surrounded by colorful, blooming ice plant, orange narrowleaf zinnia, and blackfoot daisy. Like all of Lori’s garden, it’s a charming and creative combination with an element of surprise.

Lori, thanks so much for letting me come back to photograph your garden as it continues to evolve! Readers, if you’d like to read my previous post about the Garden of Good and Evil, click here.

You’re Invited!
I’ll be at
BookPeople on Saturday, May 4, at 4 pm , along with author Jenny Peterson, to talk briefly about design tips for losing the lawn or paring it back. Jenny will be sharing styling tips for houseplants. And we newbie authors will BOTH be signing copies of our books! Whether you have a green thumb or a brown one, let’s fill up BookPeople with people who care about plants and the earth!

The talk is free and open to the public, and I’d love to see a lot of friendly faces! If you do want an autographed book, BookPeople requires an in-store purchase. Just FYI.

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

24 Responses

  1. Great tour with so many inspired ideas. I love the screen door in the privacy fence and the mirror windows. Thanks for sharing the tour.

    That screened gate is such a great idea, isn’t it? I’m glad you enjoyed the tour, Freda. —Pam

  2. Jenny says:

    Lori has an amazing garden and you have captured it to perfection. She has the artists eye for design and detail and incorporates so many budget conscious, innovative ideas. I loved her covered porches where you could just sit and enjoy the garden even on a very warm day.

    Yes, Lori definitely has an eye for design and arrangement. It was a treat to visit her garden. —Pam

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I just love the lush look of this garden. Despite it being in such a dry climate she has made her garden look plumb tropical.

    She does have a “full” garden, Lisa, and isn’t it lovely? I would like to point out that in a normal year, Austin gets 33 inches of rain, and Austin generally has a pretty lush look (not like Houston, of course, but not arid like west Texas either). The last few years, however, we’ve gotten considerably less rainfall, and Lori is adjusting, as most of us are, by planting more and more xeric plants. —Pam

  4. Mamaholt says:

    HOLY cow…that is soooo beautiful!!!

    Lori is so cool, isn’t she?

    I need to wrangle myself a private invite.

    Yes and yes, Mamaholt. You need to get yourself to our monthly meet-ups, girl. You’re missing out! —Pam

  5. Dustin says:

    I love the bottles in the trees!

    It’s a creative way to make a bottle tree, isn’t it? —Pam

  6. Shirley says:

    Lori has created a pretty and fun garden that just invites you in to explore all the cool spaces. There are so many good ideas and vignettes here. The pots on plinths made of pavers is just one I plan to put to use right away. Thanks for the lovely and detailed tour.

    My pleasure, Shirley. I love her creative touches with everyday materials too. —Pam

  7. If I hadn’t already converted to be a lover of the feather grass this garden would have certainly pushed me over the edge. I’m also terribly fond of that irregular paver patio in the front…nicely done Lori!

    Ah, feathergrass — so beautiful in spring. Does it grow well in Portland, Loree? —Pam

  8. So INSPIRING!!! Thank you!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the tour, Sue. —Pam

  9. ChrisG says:

    Wow – Lori has totally outdone herself! This is my first view of her garden – so sorry I missed the meet-up. I’ve gotten several great ideas from these pics. Great job both to Lori and Pam for the blog post.

    Thanks for “touring” with me, Chris. Lori’s garden really is full of great ideas. —Pam

  10. Great design, spaces and details – the paver/CMU block steps / path is amazing. To put so many plants and elements in one place and have it come out so well is rare. Even as the death star torments downward? Thanks for this – I had no idea!

    Austin and its gardeners are full of surprises, eh? I’m glad you enjoyed the tour, David. Are you coming out for the Wildflower Center tour again this year? —Pam

  11. wendy says:

    Pam I really love your garden photo’s. Texas needed the extra attention!!

    Thank you, Wendy! —Pam

  12. Heather says:

    Thanks for a great tour, Pam. I love that peekaboo gate and the face planters. And opuntia paired with rosemary! So nice!

    Lots of nice touches here, Heather. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. —Pam

  13. Droooooling! I am a HUGE fan. Her garden is full of so much texture. My favorite is her use of levels!

    Yes, she does make the most of even slight elevation changes. And that adds so much to her garden. —Pam

  14. Wow, everything about that garden is exquisite! Where do I start? I guess the things that send it over the top are the hardscapes, the unique garden decorations, and the planting combinations. Everything is full of character, but all of it is classy and creative.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, PP. I’m happy to have had the chance to share it with everyone. —Pam

  15. Thanks for sharing this garden. I love the repetitions throughout, particularly the use of blue accents, like the take on the bottle tree, and the face planters.

    The repetition of those face planters made them such a special part of the garden, Kris. It was like a treasure hunt to see where one would pop up next. —Pam

  16. Layanee says:

    I so enjoyed that garden walk. What a beautiful and serene setting. Loved it all.

    Thanks for popping by and “touring” with me, Layanee. —Pam

  17. Alison says:

    What an absolutely fabulous garden! I enjoyed this post and your photos very much. Thanks for taking us along. There are so many great ideas, it really gets my brain jumping.

    Mine too, Alison. In fact, I worked on my potted plant display yesterday morning, inspired as I was by Lori’s garden. —Pam

  18. This was a wonderful garden walk through with great tips and comments related to garden design. The photos provided a lot of inspirations.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the tour, Charlie. —Pam

  19. Scott Weber says:

    So beautiful, I can practically feel the Feather Grass brushing my ankles :-)

    It’s very soft, Scott, as you no doubt know. ;-) —Pam

  20. I’ve thought several times of attending one of the meet-ups. This looks like a garden I’m sorry I missed.

    Who do I contact for a schedule? And, are somewhat outside of Austin bloggers allowed?

    Thanks for the tour.

    Hi, Linda. I’ll send you an email regarding your questions. —Pam

  21. Amy says:

    My kind of garden. Love the pattern of concrete pavers in the decomposed granite in the hidden patio and the masses of heartleaf skullcap. And, although I don’t need a peek-a-boo gate in the garden, I find myself wondering where one might fit in…great tour!

    I’m so glad you some good ideas from the tour, Amy. Me too! —Pam

  22. Claire says:

    I love the fountain! Who made the basin?

    Claire, I understand that it was made by a local (Austin) artist who is no longer located here. (Another gardener has tried to find him, to no avail.) It’s beautiful, isn’t it? —Pam

  23. Jennie Brooks says:

    Beautifully written and photographed. I enjoyed it greatly.

    Thanks for stopping by, Jennie! —Pam

  24. Lori says:

    Oh, your pictures are fabulous, Pam! I was really looking forward to seeing what would catch your eye. It’s such a treat to see what other people notice when they visit my garden. And I am amused to see that Killer (the cat) was apparently keeping an eye on you.

    And to answer the question above, the basin for the fountain is by John Lamos, an artist based in northern California. He specializes in lightweight sculpture using sustainable materials.

    Thanks for the info about the maker of your fountain basin, Lori. It has really attracted the interest of my readers! And thanks again for allowing me to photograph your garden for a post. You’ve created such a special place, full of personality! —Pam