Today was especially fun because Jill Nokes held a book-signing in the gift shop. Here she is holding a copy of her new book, Yard Art and Handmade Places: Extraordinary Expressions of Home, which she’d just autographed for me. Jill is a well-known landscape designer in Austin and author of the classic reference How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest. I can’t wait to sit down and read her latest.
MSS of Zanthan Gardens met me at the Wildflower Center for the book-signing and for lunch. After a tasty wrap (hers) and a mediocre sandwich (mine), we purchased our inscribed books and then parted ways. The skies were heavy and gray, but I had the gardens nearly to myself, so I couldn’t resist a quick look around.
The welcoming main courtyard hosts summer concerts, weddings, and parties (see the party lights?), but it was empty today. Anchoring the grassy circle in the middle, a deep, crystal-clear pond, styled to resemble a Hill Country spring-fed pool, reflects the sky. The brown bags lining the paths are luminarias, which will be lit for the Luminations winter celebration on December 8 and 9.
Panning to the right, you get a better look at the native limestone that paves the courtyard in a circular pattern like wide ripples.
Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria ) in full berry. The Wildflower Center’s gardens contain only plants that are native to central Texas, giving many visitors and even locals their first look at the variety and beauty of the native flora. You won’t see stiff, leggy, tea-rose gardens here. As part of the Center’s mission to “increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes,” its website contains a database of native plants for all regions of the country, a resource for gardeners nationwide.
Bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum ). This beautiful buttery yellow monopolized my attention.
How rarely we Austinites see this kind of fall color.
I last saw the bigtooth on my trip to Lost Maples.
It was hard to tear myself away.
Mostly, however, the gardens were a study in green, gray, and tan. That’s when I began to notice the bones of the garden: stone walls, winding paths, and of course the evergreen, structural yuccas and agaves. These stiff, spiny yuccas looked especially striking paired with feathery, waving grasses.
Havard agave amid Mexican feathergrass (Stipa tenuissima )—another pairing of spiky and feathery.
Naturalistic designs seem the obvious choice for native plants. But in the demonstration garden, you see an example of native plants used in a formal, symmetrical design.
A wonderful pairing of silver and tan—Gregg dalea (Dalea greggii ) and Gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris )
Sotol (Dasylirion ) leaf detail
Here’s what the whole plant looks like. I love its symmetrical, starburst form.
I saw this flower on the way out, but I didn’t get an ID.
Does anyone know it? Update: Joe Marcus at the Wildflower Center has ID’d it as Plumbago scandens. Thanks, Joe!