New perspective on the stock-tank pond garden

I don’t think I’ve ever shown this view of the stock-tank pond garden and shed. I shot it through the living-room windows, which is why the colors are a bit dark and green-tinged. But it’s fun to study an elevated long view of what I normally photograph from ground level, or nearly bird’s-eye, straight down, from the deck.

This is the first spring that I’ve been satisfied with this area. I’ve reworked it several times over the 5-1/2 years we’ve lived here, struggling to find plants that would thrive in the root-twisted soil under the live oaks at right, and that would still provide an echo of the sun-baked garden at left. Finally, after many missteps and tweaks, this part of the garden is lushly filled out and currently in springtime bloom with old favorites purple coneflower and heartleaf skullcap and new favorite ‘Peter’s Purple’ monarda. Evergreens like bamboo muhly, ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood, ‘Color Guard’ yucca, and squid agave elevated in culvert-pipe planters fill in for year-round greenery and structure.

The real story of our back yard that rarely gets told in my garden pictures is the trees. Because we’re on a steeply sloping lot, your view from windows in the dining room and den — the highest elevation on the first floor — is of the elevated deck (see top picture) and, beyond that, live oak trunks and branches. But from the sunken living room, you get this ladder-height view of trees and garden.

Have you photographed your garden from a new perspective lately? The roof, upper-story window, or even from atop a stepladder? It really gives you a fresh look at your design.

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

19 Responses

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I think you should be quite happy with this scene. It draws the eye. I would want to be sitting out there by the tank listening to the water bubble and watching to see what drops by.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Lately it’s been a great blue heron, Lisa. What a shock it was to see that enormous wingspan rising out of my garden when I stepped outside. One of my big goldfish went with him. —Pam

  2. Mary says:

    Beautiful! I love the variety of textures, heights and greens/purples/pinks. The shed is a pretty focal point. I see some outdoor lighting draping over to the oaks–I bet it is quite enchanting at night, too.

    Good point about different perspectives. I should have my husband snap a few photos the next time he’s cleaning the gutters or up on the roof.

  3. TexasDeb says:

    As part of Heather at Xericstyle’s Wide Shot Meme I go to an upper deck and get a bird’s eye view of the back (shocking!) and across the street to get the wider views curbside. It is a really interesting process as I often get over-focused on what I consider problem areas I’m trying to address.

    This (point of) view is so very pleasing. And even more so considering the work you put into it first. Thanks for revealing that it has taken you 5 years of experimentation to get the look you are after. I see somebody else’s photos and often mistakenly assume they just planted and all at once, voila! A view to admire.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yep, 5 years — keeping it real! Sometimes people think that those who design for a living get it exactly right the first time, Deb, and nothing could be further from the truth. My hope is always to get the hardscape right the first time because that’s not easy or affordable to redo. But plant choices are always, to some degree, a matter of trial and error. Anyone who says differently is planting plastic. —Pam

  4. Alison says:

    Looking at the garden from inside the house, or from an upper story window, IS a good way to get a fresh perspective on your design skills. I don’t photograph mine often from the windows, but I certainly do look at it often through them. In fact, every morning I check out the back garden from a small window in our bedroom, before I’ve even had my first cup of coffee.

  5. Jenny says:

    The view from the house is so important and your photos demonstrate that you have achieved such a view. It does take time to get a garden to ones satisfaction and the ability to remove and replant is the definition of a true gardener. So glad you made it. I’m having somewhat of a tussle myself with the thoughts of removing the dwarf hollies which were not what I call a dwarf. So many other places to refresh is part of the problem.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Our house, an early 70s ranch, was unfortunately not built with much consideration of outdoor views. The front windows are nearly all in closets or bathrooms. The back windows are better but don’t take advantage of the views as much as they could. I envy the inside-outside connection of your home, Jenny, which makes you feel as if you’re in the garden even when you’re inside. —Pam

      • Jenny says:

        That is true Pam but we did get to ask for that very feature. Of course along with that goes faded furniture and carpets.

  6. I struggle with being able to remove and replant, but you and Jenny keep giving such great examples and motivation. Thanks for your well worded “lessons” that help all of our gardens grow and improve.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Your garden is so lovely that I have trouble envisioning any struggles on your part, Vicki. But I am a big believer in moving plants around as needed. I find such tweaks to be easy and a much better solution than living with a plant that turns out to be ill-suited to its spot.

      Any Austinite reading this and thinking about moving a plant as we slide into June: wait until October! —Pam

  7. Shirley says:

    Your garden does look so good from that view and it is a bit different than we’ve seen before. I do try to find new views and perspectives around my garden.

    Love the Peter’s Purple, I added one last year and will add more since they are so gorgeous and pick up the color of Gomphrena Fireworks.

  8. peter schaar says:

    LOL, Pam. Plastic plants is what clients seem to want! Designers know better. And while we are good at designing gardens for others, designing our own is definitely a different story! My last garden evolved over a 25 year period, and my new one looks as if it will take the same. Sigh. I’ll never live to see it!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Well, since a garden is never done, we can all say that, Peter! But you’ll still enjoy what you can do in 5 years, as I have. :-) —Pam

  9. I well remember when you were just starting this area and trying to figure it out. It’s come a long and successful way!

    And I have to smile at the idea of your garden having winter gem boxwood since what gives it that name is not what you need to worry about — cold hardiness!

    I remember hearing John Elsley (who is currently Dir. of Hort at Wayside) say you should take photos from your roof. We did that a number of times in the early years of the garden. It was the way to really understand certain design features that were not as apparent when you were standing in the midst of them. Also did it to make notes of the pattern of snow melt for planting early bulbs.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Ha, that’s true, Linda. Boxwood hardiness is not an issue for us, although we obsess over agave hardiness instead. And we Southerners also obsess over having green winter gardens since we’re unaccustomed to a significant winter downtime and don’t ever get snow cover. That’s why I love ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood. Its rich, green color all winter adds structure when perennials have gone to sleep.

      I like your idea of using rooftop photos to study snow melt patterns! —Pam