Gardens on Tour 2014: Stratford Drive Garden


Naturalistic gardens can, I find, be hard to photograph unless they contain strong lines of hardscape (pathways to lead the eye, walls as backdrops, focal-point sculpture or plants, generous negative space to give visual relief, etc.). Gardens on Tour, sponsored by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, annually showcases Austin gardens in which native plants play a lead role. Such gardens tend to be naturalistic in design, as was the case with Saturday’s tour. While I find such gardens restful, akin to the experience of strolling a lovely nature trail, I prefer more-structured gardens.


There were two such gardens this year that really caught my eye. Yesterday I showed you Tait Moring’s personal garden at Bee Caves Road. Today it’s the Stratford Drive garden, designed by Glee Ingram, with a front-entry stream designed by Environmental Survey Consulting. Both gardens, though quite different stylistically, showcase native plants against eye-catching hardscape elements.


Take this monumental sculpture, for example. Created by Austinite Chris Levack, the crescent “horns” are a gateway to stone steps leading from the street (uphill at left) to the front door (downhill at right). Strong focal points like this help define space and lead the eye in this garden built on a difficult, steeply sloping lot.


The house is modern, and a towering three stories tall in back, where the land drops into a forested canyon.


Extensive decks on different levels provide outdoor lounging areas…


…like this one on the lower level.


The owners are bold with color, choosing to paint this wall Greek blue and the garden wall celery green — rich colors that reminded me of gardens I saw in Phoenix and Tucson.


Comfortable sofas and a treehouse view


From the lower garden, these lovely steps made of flagstone and river rock lead up to a garden gate.


Terraced patios and gardens tame the slope alongside the steps.


Here’s the celery-green wall I mentioned, and a work-of-art steel gate by Chris Levack.


The home’s front door is interesting in its own right, with rectangles of glass providing a sense of openness.


Near the front door, this limestone “fireplace” trades fire for water. A dripping fountain trickles over maidenhair fern into a small pool behind the grasses.


The water appears to flow under the front walk and reappears as a naturalistic stream flowing alongside the front foundation.


Surrounded by a lush garden of ferns and other wet-tolerant natives, this water feature delivers a pleasant surprise for visitors and a cooling, beautiful daily view for the homeowners.

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

13 Responses

  1. Superb use of stone on the steps and the “fireplace” or “waterplace”. Gives me grand ideas. Thanks for showing/sharing them.

  2. TexasDeb says:

    So much to like here. The garden terraces are lovely themselves but the pops of color and sculptural elements certainly take everything up a notch.

    A question: In theory I’d love a water feature such as this flowing stream but fear the loss due to evaporation would make it unfeasible and expensive. Pam, is it your impression that a feature like this is amenable to being used (ie filled) only occasionally or would something like this be a full time element in terms of needing to be filled and constantly running?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I expect it’s both expensive and high maintenance, TexasDeb. I did ask one of the company’s designers, while at a different garden with a front-entry stream, whether the drought has affected demand for such features. He said no, which surprised me since water conservation is mandated by the city. I expect it’s because many of their clients are located outside Austin city limits, in wealthy communities such as Westlake, where watering restrictions are less stringent (Westlake homeowners are currently still allowed to water twice a week, for example). Just my theory, anyway. —Pam

      • TexasDeb says:

        That surprises me too. Here in Rollingwood we are restricted two ways – first by mandated watering days and again by prohibitively high rates on water use above a certain level. Both are effective – we think very carefully now about what we plant and how much water it would take to flourish. I’m honestly surprised more folk here haven’t ditched their water hog lawns but the tide does seem to be turning (slowly) away from swaths of St. Augustine.

  3. Kris P says:

    The garden has a lot of great structural features. I particularly liked the horn-shaped gateway and the steel garden gate, not to speak of the front door. Thanks for the tour!

  4. Jane scorer says:

    Wow ! Fantastic strong line and colour. the blue is very similar to that used in the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech. As in your photos, it is shown off to best advantage against a clear blue sky – it just wouldn’t work here in the grey UK !!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Those colors do look great against a blue sky. Strangely Austinites don’t do a lot of colored walls. But these show that we can definitely pull it off. —Pam

  5. peter schaar says:

    Well shown, Pam! This garden is really interesting. I will echo your preference for structured gardens. When I was actively designing my biggest wish was a client who would want a rigidly formal, symmetrical garden in the Italian renaissance mode using only native plants. That would have been such a fun assignment. Sadly, that client never appeared.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m still waiting to see a large, structured garden at the Wildflower Center, Peter. The naturalistic gardens there are very beautiful, and I enjoy them, but I think it would also be inspiring to see how native plants can be used in formal or contemporary gardens with strong lines. —Pam

  6. Evan says:

    Ah, the door, the gate, the flagstone steps, the colors. So many marvelous features in this design. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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