Gardens on Tour 2009: Academy Drive garden

On Saturday I joined Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden, Lori of The Gardener of Good and Evil, and a friend of Lori’s from Arizona to visit four private gardens on the Wildflower Center-sponsored Gardens on Tour, an annual tour of gardens that predominantly feature native Texas plants.

Our first stop was in south Austin, right off trendy South Congress Avenue, where we saw an edgy (literally), fun, and funky bungalow garden. The homeowners collaborated with designers Laurie Kemp and Josh Henderson to carve out an off-street parking area and gain privacy in a busy, urban environment. The photo above shows the view from a lower parking area looking up at the raised lawn and garden next to the house. The triangular design of the steel retaining wall brings to mind the prow of a ship. On the left, a wooden ramp leads to the front door; on the right, a scored-concrete path meanders toward a back-yard home office.

A water feature composed of large rocks provides a focal point in the triangular front lawn. That’s a golden leadball tree (Leucaena retusa ) by the house.

A closer look

A front-deck extension to the home’s front porch offers a bigger seating area.

Along the side path to the back yard this cool combo of lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina ) and silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea ) caught my eye.

The narrow side yard is maximized with a curving path and a swath of shade-loving inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium ) that hide the end of the path from view, making the space feel larger and inviting the visitor to explore around the bend. This is the view looking back toward the front garden.

In the back yard, a gravel patio, a playful collection of vintage electric and neon signs, and an old cushioned sofa offer relaxation SoCo-style.

A container planting of cactus and silver ponyfoot, low grasses, foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri ) and more signs amp up the fun.

Outside the front fence, along the street, a hot and sunny xeric garden combines Mediterranean, Australian, and native plants. Red-flowering Grevillea mingles here with a Mission olive tree, American agave, Gulf muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris ), Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima ), and silvery ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea ) groundcover.

Another look

While small, this garden packs a big punch thanks to a strong geometric design, different elevations, intriguing plant choices, and fun decor. The homeowner, who is friendly, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about his garden, was available to answer questions, as was one of the designers. Visiting this garden was a great start to the tour.

Tune in soon for a look at the Rockcliff Road garden.

All material © 2006-2009 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

17 Responses

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I just love it when you give us a tour of the gardens you tour. The signs would be such fun to light up when you had a party. I love the container of cactus and ponyfoot. I can’t wait to see the other gardens.

    Thanks, Lisa. I’ll get them up as soon as I can. —Pam

  2. Chookie says:

    Such a cool garden, and excellent photographs from you! (But gosh, that hardscaping looks expensive!)

    It does indeed. Only one of the gardens on this year’s tour could be viewed as achievable by a homeowner-gardener’s own hand. But in my opinion the hardscaping in this garden must have been worth every penny for the effect it achieved. —Pam

  3. What Lisa said… the days following an Austin garden tour, we are treated to some wonderful posts with great pictures. Thank you!

    My pleasure, Carol. —Pam

  4. Thanks for another great garden tour. I was sad that my day was too full for this tour. Next year, I’ll plan better. Looks like it’s one not to miss.

    I enjoy this one each year, Linda, and it’s predictable as it always falls on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. —Pam

  5. Mary Beth says:

    I have one small container of ponyfoot – that I have been totally underutilizing . . . thanks for sharing what my ponyfoot COULD add to my garden. Great tour, Pam!

    This was not the only garden to show off a carpet of silver ponyfoot, Mary Beth. You’ll see something similar in the Buckeye Trail garden when I get the pictures up. —Pam

  6. I love garden tours. I always get so inspired and get great ideas! Love the water feature they have. –Jackie

    It’s really cool, isn’t it? I love seeing unique water features. —Pam

  7. Barbara H. says:

    Thanks, Pam! What a great garden tour. I, too, love the water feature. Love especially the rectangular strips extending out into space.

    It’s an interesting juxtaposition of natural (the stone) and the man-made (the strips), isn’t it? —Pam

  8. Gail says:

    Pam, Thank you for your always delightful tours and fantastic photos! I had to look again and again at the ponytail to see that is wasn’t glass or rock…way cool! Love this garden. I am a SoCo girl at heart living in a conservative ‘burb in Nashville! Sigh! Gail

    Do you mean the ponyfoot, Gail? It does make a stunning groundcover. I could see you gardening in SoCo and loving it! —Pam

  9. Laura says:

    While I agree this garden is absolutely beautiful, I wonder what the cost was and whether or not the average homeowner could afford to install a landscape like this? I’m hoping the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center will put a few homeowner-created gardens on their tours in the future. I’d like to see what the average person with an average budget is able to do in the garden on their own.

    I’m not entirely sure, but I think the Master Gardeners tour may be a better venue to see what homeowner-designers come up with, Laura. It’s being held this year on October 24. —Pam

  10. Brenda Kula says:

    Oh, I do love the whimsical touches! And the pairing with the lamb’s ears!

    This was a lighthearted garden, Brenda. I loved it too. —Pam

  11. Jean says:

    Very interesting water feature. Interesting also to see silver ponyfoot, which has become common in Austin as a groundcover. I finally found it where I live but am afraid it would become a nuisance with all the rain we get here. (Though I bought one anyway for a potted arrangment.) Can’t wait to see the rest of the tour sites.

    Thanks for following along with the tour, Jean. —Pam

  12. Cindy, MCOK says:

    I hope next year I can tag along with y’all and see the gardens for myself. If not, though, I’ll rest secure in the knowledge that I’ll feel like I was there, thanks to you!

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it, Cindy. See you in Chicago for more gardens! —Pam

  13. Wow. I’m moving in. You don’t think they would mind do you? FABULOUS!

    It’s a great garden, isn’t it? And that triangular point even looks a little dangerous, perfect for your garden, Loree. —Pam

  14. This garden shows that working with a pro really produces something special. What a lovely space. It sounds like the entrance ramp is just a design feature; but think about how many handicapped access ramps we’ve seen that are ugly and don’t go with the house or landscape. This shows that even essential elements for living can be beautiful. Thanks so much for these pictures. (I thought the next garden was wonderful but I think this is even better!)

    Yep, I prefer this more-designed garden to the naturalistic one also, Linda. Of course, this is an urban garden compared to the other one, and it requires more structure to make a small space so functional. —Pam

  15. nancy says:

    When I lived in Austin I loved the Wildflower tour. It gave me exposure to plants that I was not familiar with and since they were gardens usually designed by professionals, it gave new ideas that I had never seen before of plants and combinations. I also liked the Master Gardener tours because, like you said Pam, it is more on the scale of what the average homeowner could do with hardscaping.I was sad to misss it this year but hopefully next year when I’m not so busy with previous obligations. Mark my calendar now! Saturday before Mother’s Day..

    Good idea, Nancy. I try not to miss this one or the Open Days tour. One of these days I’ll make it to the Pond Tour also. —Pam

  16. Layanee says:

    Dichondra as a ground cover….gorgeous!

    Yes! —Pam

  17. Wow – wonderful to see all that water – not what you think of when you think of “Texas!” – Great stone pathways, and I really enjoyed seeing the garden fence using saplings and wire fencing – that’s an idea I’d like to copy for deer fencing. I wonder if I can do that with redwood saplings – of which we have quite a few, growing, that need to be thinned. Great pics – very enjoyable post!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the three tours I’ve posted pics from so far. There’s one more still to come. —Pam