Vicki Blachman likes playin’ outside in her rosy, leafy garden

I met Vicki Blachman, who blogs at Playin’ Outside, at the first Garden Bloggers Fling here in Austin in 2008. She’s been a warm, light-hearted, steady presence at the Fling and other local blogger events ever since, and I’m glad to know her — not least because she knows her way around a kitchen and whips up a delicious spread when bloggers visit.

Last week, after a blogger meet-up at her garden, Vicki let me come by again and photograph her garden at the peak, or nearly, of her many flowering roses. But first I want to show you her brand-new, lawn-gone front garden, which is deeply shaded in the morning but gets hit with a blast of the Death Star in the afternoon — tricky gardening conditions.

She’d been gardening in back for a long while but hesitated out front, worried that lawn-loving neighbors wouldn’t like it if she ripped hers out. So she left a swath of grass along the sidewalk at first. But her neighbors’ enthusiasm for her new front garden was so encouraging that she pulled out the last bit of grass last year and took the garden all the way to the street.

A gravel path inset with cut stone (soon to be replaced by something less slippery when wet) curves through the front beds where once there was only grass and invites visitors in. It connects with the original builder’s walk — a narrow strip of concrete between the driveway and the front door — and widens there too for a more gracious and functional entry. Note how generously sized the new path is, and that gravel never needs watering!

Now Vicki’s front garden hosts birds, butterflies, and other pollinating insects while adding color and texture for her to enjoy from her front porch, and for the neighbors to enjoy as they stroll by.

Vicki’s hired fellow blogger and metalworker Bob Pool to construct a number of leaf-themed pieces for her garden, like this house number that sits amid damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) near her driveway.

In the sunny side yard, ‘Mutabilis’ rose blooms against blue sky.

Another Bob Pool creation, this steel gate invites you into the back garden.

In the side garden, poppies were blooming…

…and glowing in the sunlight.

Vicki has created inviting vignettes throughout her garden, even in the narrow side garden where this bench lined with pillows sits comfortably alongside a profusion of pink roses.

A late iris was blooming by her Mexican birdbath.

And the roses, tucked in wherever Vicki has a patch of sun, were in lush full bloom as well.

‘Pat Austin’ rose

To green up and hide her back fence, Vicki has installed several trellises, including these topped with Bob Pool-crafted, vine-and-leaf-themed metalwork.

White potato vine (Solanum jasminoides) climbs in the shade.

A tiered arrangement of potted plants makes a green backdrop on the back patio…

…where white patio chairs and tables invite you to sit a spell and enjoy the fish pond.

Vicki has lined the edge of her concrete patio with dozens of potted plants, creating a sense of enclosure and a low wall of greenery.

Adjacent to the patio is a curved swath of lawn for her dog and for openness in the center.

Vicki’s garden feels much larger than it is thanks to winding paths through her borders and her gardened-up side yards. On the far side of her house, a stepping-stone path wanders past a gorgeous ‘Peggy Martin’ rose (the pink rambler), with a few mango-colored roses nudging in for space too.

Rich color

Vicki installed a large water-collection tank in the side garden a few years ago to save water, and I bet she’s glad to have it in our ongoing drought. I neglected to take a photo, but you can read about it here and here on her blog.

As part of her efforts to make a sustainable garden, she’s also built insect hotels for solitary bees and other beneficial insects — bee B&Bs, she calls them. The one shown above has the advantage of holding her hose as well.

A few more insect hotels hang on her charming Lucky Buddha beer-bottle tree. Each of those bottles is in the shape of a smiling Buddha, which makes for a fun surprise when you see it.

One more photo of the roses

I had such a nice visit with Vicki that I forgot all about taking her picture. So I’m resharing this one of Vicki sporting a banana-slug fascinator that she made and wore at the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling. Doesn’t this say so much about Vicki’s playful personality, not to mention her one-of-a-kind style? Thanks, Vicki, for sharing your lovely, peaceful garden with me!

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

30 Responses

  1. Helen says:

    Vicki was one of the people I loved meeting in SF and wished I lived nearer to so it’s great to see her garden which seems generous and glamorous just like Vicki. I love that she has dug up her front lawn too.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Vicki is a lovely person, isn’t she? I’m glad to be able to share her garden online. Look for her on PBS’s “Central Texas Gardener” this fall or next spring. Her garden was recently taped for the show. —Pam

  2. Alison says:

    What a lush, beautiful Texas garden Vicki has! I love the lucky Buddha tree, and the bug hotel/hose holder is brilliant. Great idea to enclose the patio with potted plants too. And all that rusty metal art — that really speaks to my heart.

  3. It was a treat to see my garden through your eyes, Pam. Thanks for the perspective.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thank YOU for sharing it with me, Vicki. I wish I’d been able to share more long shots to show off your overall design, which is wonderful, but the sun-and-shadows defeated me. Next time! —Pam

  4. Gail says:

    Vicki’s garden is a treat, as is Vicki! Thank you both for the tour. Your insect hotel is inspiring!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      A stroll through Vicki’s garden leads to many wonderful vignettes and surprises, like the insect hotel. She is quite creative. —Pam

  5. I was interested in this post because I am a new member of the lawn-gone club–my backyard lawns anyway. Nice design.

    Very nice. I love the plants and the rusty yard art. You’d never know this garden is in Texas with the lush, green feel.

  6. Lori says:

    I’m so glad you had your camera! I was kicking myself for only having my phone, and my phone hard drive was too full to take pictures! I am gonna be stealing soooo many ideas from Vicki. I especially liked her insect hotels that hung from planter hooks in the side yard, and of course you know how fond I am of her roses. I wish I could remember the name of that peach and yellow one. I loved how it picked up the orange and yellow of the bulbine next to it. She has really turned her entire yard into a garden since I’ve seen it last, and I love that. There’s no wasted space at all, and you can really tell what an amazing cook she is by her variety of herbs and other edibles. And her vertical screening solutions were great!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Ha — I had my camera because I talked her into letting me come back to photograph her garden for my blog! I wouldn’t have ambushed her during our blogger meet-up, but I’m not shy, as you know, about asking for a private visit later with my camera. ;-)

      Thanks for your comment pointing out so many of the things I love about her garden too — and the ones I neglected to mention, like all her edibles. —Pam

  7. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I loved meeting Vicki on the S.F. Fling and am looking forward to seeing her (and you) in Portland this year. Vicki’s garden is as playful and lovely as its gardener! Bob Pool’s work is wonderful! Thanks for the fun tour.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I can’t wait for the Portland Fling, Peter. Even more Austin bloggers are coming this year, but we’re going to try very hard not to let the heat tag along with us. —Pam

  8. That peachy yellow rose Lori likes is a ‘Pat Austin’ – one of the David Austin roses. All of the roses have to get along with nothing more than compost and mulch and that one limps along a bit during the blazing hot summer. Glad you guys caught her on a good day.

  9. louis says:

    What a lush garden! Those pinky/orange roses are stunning!

  10. Bob Pool says:

    One of my favorite people and a very innovative gardener. Every time I go, I have a new list of plants I need to buy. I love working for her as she has the coolest ideas for gardening stuff. Well, that and she makes a grand cheese cake, and I do mean grand.

  11. Ann Daly says:

    I am loving those Bob Pool works and insectaries!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Bob has made so many gates, trellises, and metal art for the Austin bloggers. Just give him the idea, and he can make it. —Pam

  12. Oh…this makes me even sadder, that I had to miss the meet-up at her house.

    Her garden looks wonderful. I love all the color. And, Bob’s work is gorgeous.

    I hope to get to see her garden in person someday.

    Thanks for the tour.

  13. Thank you for the tour Pam, I really enjoyed seeing more of Vicki’s garden. I can see her personality shine through in many of the creative layers. (can’t wait to see you both in July!)

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m looking forward to it, Loree, and that anticipation will only grow as the heat returns in earnest by the end of this month. —Pam

  14. TexasDeb says:

    Such creativity on display. Hat’s off to Vicki and Bob Pool as well. Taking lawn out is becoming its own reward as it opens up all sorts of gardening space in our imaginations as well as our actual lots. Seeing spaces such as Vicki’s will hopefully be just the nudge for more people to explore new options. And those roses – sigh… Just gorgeous. So happy you went back to take us all along on a personal tour.

  15. Heidi says:

    I stink at growing roses but enjoy admiring gardens where they thrive. Love the patio and it’s furniture and the metal work is a perfect accent for Texas. Thanks for the tour!