Tropical cottage style in Diane and Tom Peace’s garden

Diane and Tom Peace of Lockhart, 30 miles south of Austin, live and garden in two very different regions: south-central Texas from winter through early spring, and Denver, Colorado, from late spring through fall. Tom, a grower and nurseryman, owns Texas Mountain Flora in Lockhart, operates a design business in Denver, and is author of the book Sunbelt Gardening. I’d seen his and Diane’s Lockhart garden on Central Texas Gardener, and so I jumped at the chance to visit after a mutual friend introduced us.

Although I’d seen it on CTG, I was still surprised, as I wandered the garden’s narrow limestone paths, by how tropical it feels with wine-red bromeliads (in containers), ferns, palms, and other bold-leaved plants, which mingle in cottage-garden exuberance with cool-season annuals, lush groundcovers, and flowering perennials.

Jungle fever! It looks a bit like Florida to me.

As their collection of shiny disco balls dangling from a tree makes clear, Tom and Diane are having fun with their garden, playfully experimenting with what can grow in our mild winters while still surviving summer’s heat and humidity.

Patio living is pretty great during the cooler months, when they’re in Texas.

Evergreen structural plants like nolina, palm, bamboo, and yucca keep the garden interesting even when frost has killed back the perennials. Potted tropicals on the patio and in garden beds make warm-season accents. (They have a greenhouse off the back of the house to protect these plants in winter.)

Several unique sculptural pieces accent the garden too, like this glass-block tower bringing light to a shady corner.

A gigantic rebar trellis erupts from the middle of a path…

…supporting a delicate, bell-flowered clematis.

So sweet

Looking at the rebar trellis from the other side

Their garden showcases an interesting juxtaposition of plants, like this aloe keeping company with violas and a little white daisy.

On one side the garden, a grass path cuts through a border of purple violas, oxalis, and other annuals, with wine-bottle edging or hose guards. At the end of the path, a colorful bent-metal post, folded like origami, beckons you forward.

Another view

Nearly black bromeliads and a squid agave grow along a gravel path…

…under the shade of an arching palm frond.

Palms and bamboo (a runner planted by a neighbor, Diane said, which they continually have to whack back) create a green screen along the fence line.

Echoing the rounded “head” and skinny trunk of a tall palm behind it, a Yucca rostrata was in spectacular bloom.

A spray of creamy white flowers rises above the strappy leaves.

Strappy foliage echoes

Diane couldn’t stay during the visit because of a family obligation, so I wasn’t able to ask about plant IDs. But I’m so glad for the chance to explore her and Tom’s unique garden and hope to see their Denver garden one day too — which she says is bigger and even more enjoyable for them because of the lower humidity and lack of mosquitoes, the banes of summer gardening in Central Texas. But for winter through spring gardening, well, Texas has Denver beat!

Thanks for the lovely garden visit, Diane!

P.S. My friend Diana joined me on this garden visit, so you might at some point find more pics on her blog, Sharing Nature’s Garden.

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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

14 Responses

  1. Evan says:

    What a fun and diverse garden. Thanks for the tour!

  2. If I walked into a garden and saw disco balls hanging from trees I would know it is a party garden. It seems that your eye would never rest. Busy busy. Looks great. Makes me want to get out and plant some more.

  3. David C. says:

    I tried to remember this person’s name – once saw a lecture by him on him having those gardens, plus maybe another in the highlands of southern Colorado. Their combos of foliage in Lockhart are stunning. Agreed on your springs vs. theirs!

  4. Kris P says:

    I’ve had Tom Peace’s book for years so it was fun to see this garden through your eyes, Pam. Even though we’re anything but humid, there are still a lot of ideas SoCal gardeners can borrow here.

  5. catmint says:

    One outstanding feature is that glass tower sculpture. But it’s all superb. Perfect design.

  6. Tom E says:

    Amazing how the years go by and sun gardens turn into shade gardens — so different from the glorious collage of colors in the book 17 years ago! But I can see how the Colorado garden is winning out. I hope you go see it some time for us all.

    Our garden will be on Central Texas Gardener (again) on May 6 (10 years after the first show!). The show will have a daylily focus and mention our daylily convention coming up at the end of May. We will have an open garden day for our tour gardens, on Sunday May 28 I think. Please give us a mention if you can work it in.

    Your blog sparked a big club discussion when you talked about Zilker Botanical Garden moving in the direction of conservancy management. We’re all watching and listening!

    See you at your May Garden Spark.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      A 10-year follow-up on CTG will be very cool, Tom. I hope Linda shares a few images from a decade ago so we can see how it’s evolved.

      I’d be glad to share info about your open garden day. Do you have any more info? Is it free? Is there a website link with addresses?

      And yes, the ZBG Conservancy has been a conversation among the Austin garden bloggers too. I hope it succeeds! —Pam

  7. Tom E says:

    Our open garden day is a free affair on Sunday May 28 from 10:00 to 2:00. The map and any other details for the 10 or so gardens will be on our club website:

    It will be fun to see how we look to Linda on CTG, 10 years later. You garden “media” folks always put everything and everybody in the best light!

    I’m hoping in a big way that ZBG in a new management regime can make the garden easier to access and therefore easier to enjoy for all us nature lovers and flower children.

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