Agave and cactus splendor in the garden of Matt Shreves

For Foliage Follow-Up this month, I’m taking you on a tour of Matt Shreves’s garden near Lake Travis. A succulent and cactus lover (check out his spikealicious Instagram page), Matt has turned an ordinary yard into a tapestry of foliage texture, color, and bold form.

Let’s start out front, where he’s terraced a sloping entry garden to create multiple levels for planting. A spiky assortment of agaves, beaked yucca, and palms, softened with masses of Mexican feathergrass, salvias, skullcap, and blue oat grass blue fescue (which I’ve never seen in Austin), creates a colorful welcome.

A small patio with colorful Adirondacks sits at the top level, a perfect spot from which to admire the garden.

With those blue fescues, it reminds me of a California garden, although the whale’s tongue agaves, beaked yucca, pink skullcap, and feathergrass are all perfectly at home here in Austin.

At the end of the driveway, a massive golden barrel cactus and other potted succulents await their forever home.

Palms bookend the garden, accenting the Spanish-style house.

Climbing the steps to the front door, let’s pause to admire the little patio. Plants fill every available space, including the steps to a pair of French doors, where chartreuse-leaved annuals fill baskets hanging from the porch lights.

By the front door, purple-tinged ghost plant spills out of a turquoise pot, with a golden ‘Joe Hoak’ agave glowing in the background.

A closer look at that gorgeous ‘Joe Hoak’, with plumbago just starting to bloom alongside it.

Another pretty succulent pot by the door

Passing through Matt’s house, you enter the back yard to this focal-point scene: a mounded rock garden bristling with agaves, columnar cacti, and barrel cacti, with frothing silver ponyfoot spilling over the rocks. An Austin sign — the same one I have on my own blue wall — reminds you that you’re in Central Texas, not Palm Springs.

A side view

Neatly groomed agaves and cactus in silvery green, powder blue, and moonshine yellow

The long rock garden undulates along a stone wall, set off by a small lawn in front. At one end of the yard, a fire pit patio invites relaxation under a live oak draped with string lights.

A perfect spot to enjoy the garden in the evening

Another view from the back porch

Looking back at the porch, where a red wall contrasts with turquoise chairs

Old man cactus and beaked yucca are charismatic flora for a dry garden.

Beautiful blue-green agave leaves outlined by black teeth and spines. Notice the ghostly leaf imprints on the leaves, from when they were still furled.

A small porch at the other end of the garden is home to an assortment of small potted succulents.

Two rows of tiny potted succulents adorn a hanging metal shelf.

Heading back to the back porch…

…you see a rustic wooden buffet that Matt has styled with an eye-catching collection of potted plants, a Mexican mirror, and faux water buffalo horns.

Two lower shelves contain beautiful arrangements that are deceptively simple. A section of tree trunk seems planted with succulents, but actually the plants remain in their nursery pots, tilted to look as if they’re growing in the hollowed out trunk. On the bottom shelf, another branch (or driftwood) disguises the nursery pots of more succulents, and a narrow metal tray holds others.

I caught a hazy portrait of Matt in the mirror as I photographed the fascinating arrangement on top of the buffet.

A red toolbox and small wooden box, with their lids thrown open, make fun cachepots.

Earth-toned living stones (Lithops) cluster amid matching gravel in a terracotta pot — a striking display.

Matt has a great eye for arranging his collection of interesting and unusual plants, and for foliage form and texture, his garden really shines. Thanks for the garden tour, Matt!

This is my May post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden this month — or one you’ve visited? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

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.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

31 Responses

  1. Lea says:

    Wow! That is fantastic! I am awed by your photos. To see it in person, what a wonderful experience!
    For my Foliage Follow-up I have included a pretty Nandina as part of my GBBD post.
    Have a beautiful day!

  2. This is one of my favorite succulent gardens you have shown us. Wow, I have never seen such large Old Man cactus. I think those tall cactus and palms really enhance the garden. So many layers and heights in this garden. Happy FF.

  3. Diana Studer says:

    I was uneasy about the Plumbago hedge which has sprouted from the roots alongside my succulent garden – but yes – the soft sky blue flowers and the gentle blue grey leaves do sing together – thank you.

  4. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Matt had a great talent for arranging his fabulous collection of cacti and succulents both in the ground and out. What a spectacular garden; it must have been amazing to see it in person.

    My foliage follow-up post is fairly random as usual.

  5. Wow! I just love that pony foot plant you all grow. What a color. But I realize that what makes it so perfect is all those other silvery blues and gray greens of hot climate plants. It would never look the same in a northern garden. I’m just focusing on a couple of faves in my post.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m pretty sure I’ve seen silver ponyfoot growing in northern gardens, cascading from pots especially. It makes a nice annual “spiller” for pots of succulents and other dry-loving plants. But I do know what you mean: it has that hot-garden look with those silvery leaves. —Pam

  6. Lara Leaf says:

    Incredible garden. I would never have thought so many of those succulents / cacti would survive outside in central Texas. I usually see this diverse of a succulent garden in areas of California or Arizona that don’t have freezes, or the often wet winters that occur. I love succulent gardens. I have yearned for one for so long but, here in south Houston, there is just too much stifling humidity in summer and too much wet and cold in winter for one to thrive, except for such as an agave that has been placed in a well-draining area. Last summer was so wet that my pot of Senecio Mandraliscae (Blue Chalk Fingers), which I had been able to keep outside for several years, died from all the rain on it. *sigh* So far, the Golden Barrel Cactus is doing okay in its pot but my husband does bring it in in cold weather, so it’s safe on the porch when a wet, cold front arrives.

    I know you can grow things in/around Austin that don’t thrive here in Houston. I am in so much awe at the extent of this garden! My heart yearns!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Lara, like you, I was astounded by Matt’s collection of cacti. You just don’t see those columnar cacti here. The big gravelly berm is key to keeping their feet dry. I also asked him how much winterizing he has to do, and he does extensively protect his plants with frost blankets and caps for the tips of those tall cacti. And he replaces as necessary after a cold or wet winter. Clearly he has a passion for these plants and is willing to go the extra mile to make them work in Austin’s humid (and sometimes surprisingly wet) climate. —Pam

  7. Jenny says:

    Spectacular with a capital S. How does he do it? I think this is the most amazing cactus garden I have seen in the Austin area. Such beautiful design, too. He must have incredible drainage to keep his plants looking so good after the rainy summer we had last year and the winter freezes. Plus I think this area got that terrible hail a couple of years ago. Fabulous. I hope this garden will been a tour some day soon!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      The long cactus garden along the back wall is especially stunning, isn’t it — and surprising in Austin. See my reply to Lara Leaf, above, about his winterizing efforts. —Pam

  8. Mark and Gaz says:

    Love the way he’s arranged the succulents and the staging, well composed!

  9. Alison says:

    What a wonderful, creative, trippy garden. I love all the shapes and colors in that first long shot of the wall with the Austin sign. And thanks so much for the Instagram link, I’m following him now. My own Foliage Followup focuses on all the golden foliage in my garden. It’s here:

  10. Oh you must have had so much fun touring Matt’s beautiful garden, I know I would! I do love following him on Instagram.

  11. Leanne says:

    I love checking out your garden tours. I’ve never been to Austin, but I get a real sense of what it’s like to live there (and garden of course) from your blog. Here is my Foliage Follow Up from Williamsburg, Virginia.

  12. Rebecca says:

    What a tour! His place is fabulous and your photos are great!

  13. Evan says:

    Great tour! Parts of that garden do look like they would be equally at home in California or Texas. I love the mass of silver Dichondra.

  14. Renee says:

    Lovely! That is a great garden, and how funny that you both have the same sign. I really like the berms and how they emphasis the plants. My combo bloom&foliage post was a bit spur of the moment, so it’s a bit random!

  15. Kris P says:

    It does look like a California garden! It’s a good reminder that I should plant more silver Dichondra among my succulents too. Here’s my belated foliage follow-up post:

  16. I loved the tour of these magnificent succulent gardens! Thank you for sharing. My Foliage Follow-Up for May:

  17. […] months ago I visited the spikylicious garden of Matt Shreves, an Austin gardener I met on Instagram. Last month, he kindly invited the Austin blogger group over […]

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