Linda Peterson’s green-walled xeriscape garden: San Antonio Open Days Tour

The highlight of the recent San Antonio Open Days garden tour, as I knew it would be, was Linda Peterson’s beautiful xeriscape and green-walled courtyard garden. Twice before I’ve had the pleasure of exploring Linda’s garden (in September 2015 and April 2016), and the artistry of her plant combinations, skillful pruning, and integration of garden art always delights.

Since I’ve written about Linda’s garden twice before (see links in top paragraph), I won’t do a play-by-play of her garden features. Let’s just stroll, shall we? First, the front garden outside the gray-green courtyard walls…

Agave weberi with purple-flowering cenizo. Lucky Linda for having her barometer plant — i.e., cenizo — burst into bloom for the tour! The timing of an ephemeral cenizo bloom cannot be planned since it responds to rainfall and/or air pressure changes.

A pair of octopus-armed steel agaves accent a corner planting of cenizo (pruned up like small trees), sprawling dalea, and ‘Blonde Ambition’ grama grass.

Linda has a knack for artfully pruning plants. She’ll prune up foliage to show off trunks or lift a plant’s “skirts” above the gravel mulch. Even shrubby rosemary gets neatened up with selective under-pruning.

A sinuous live oak’s snaky limb reaches out from a hole in the wall to embrace a stump seat and a wood-plank table.

It’s wonderful, and a one-of-a-kind feature that epitomizes Linda’s embrace of the Texas climate and its natural beauty.

A side view from the front walk, where a stepping-stone path leads around the tentacled live oak

Society garlic blooming alongside another steel agave

My friend Cat and I both exclaimed over this cute-as-a-button flowering plant, which looks like a compact gomphrena. I can’t remember the ID from Linda, but I distinctly remember her telling me she found it at Lowe’s. Go figure! Update: It’s Gomphrena ‘Pinball Snow-Tip Lavender’ — what a mouthful.

“Beware: Sharp spiny plants with evil intent” — that dry humor is a dead giveaway that Linda made up this sign herself. And of course we gardeners know the real purpose of such a sign is to protect our precious plants, not the people who read it. Mind your feet, people!

Doesn’t look particularly evil, does it?

Heading around to the side yard

I always get a kick out of this grinning crocodile planter.

A Gulf fritillary butterfly enjoying purple lantana

Wavy-leaved prickly pear

Another big Weber agave

Tree limbs embrace overhead, as soap aloes hoist orange-flowered bloom spikes.

On the other side of the front yard, a side path widens into a small patio with a rustic bench. A green cloud of bamboo muhly grass hides the neighboring driveway from view.

“I’m nuts about you,” this stone squirrel could be saying to the Agave mediopicta ‘Alba’. (Groan)

Palms in culvert-pipe planters and a Weber agave

Looking back from the end of the path you get a marvelous view of the writhing arms of the Weber agave underplanted with writhing foxtail fern, backed by writhing live oaks. That’s a lot of writhing!

Step into the walled courtyard and you’re in Linda’s private outdoor living room. A pair of metal rhinos contemplates crossing the patio for a drink at the Mexican beach pebble “stream.” A winding river of soap aloes echoes the curving stone stream, and a variegated agave seems to wave encouragingly.

Metal armadillos root around in the garden bed.

The patio by the outdoor fireplace looks bigger and more inviting than ever. Linda has lightened up this year with fewer chairs and a see-through table.

An outdoor rug adds a bit of coziness and definition too.

A built-in bench along the wall holds an assortment of pumpkins, squash, succulents, and a candle lantern.

Even the metal barrel cactus were lit during the tour!

Such a relaxing space

Don’t you want to lounge here and take a nap under the live oaks?

A metal iguana guards a stand of ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum and a container fountain.

A couple of chairs plumped with pretty teal pillows with small mirrors sewn on for sparkle

I love Linda’s flowers made of bent copper tubing.

They show up so well against the minty green wall.

Heading around to the back garden, you stroll past a collection of potted plants and an elevated deck with cattle-panel privacy screening.

Cattle panel deck skirting is cloaked with fig ivy. No, it doesn’t stay this way on its own. Linda trims it to show off the grid pattern of the wire panel.

Understated pots in shades of brown are guarded by a metal horny toad — Texas’s state reptile, ya know.

A faux-bois fountain is a focal point at the end of the driveway.

An umbrella-shaded patio beckons where the path curves around the house.

A hanging wicker egg chair and bench offer additional seating.

Two metal giraffes nibble bamboo leaves nearby.

There’s not a patch of lawn in this low-water garden, but even so it feels lush and green.

Where there used to be a bottle shrub, Linda now has a hanging bottle tree, a less-common variation on the trunk- or pole-style bottle tree of the South. Linda uses lots of hanging objects — plants, lanterns, bottles — to draw the eye upward into the trees.

On a terrace off the back of the house, privacy is assured with a striking, contemporary privacy screen, which Linda designed out of leftover scraps of roofing metal (after their standing seam roof was installed) and she and her family riveted together. A bubbling fountain container topped with blue slag glass and a collection of containers completes the appealing scene.

Container detail

My thanks to Linda for sharing her remarkable garden again and letting us linger there so long!

And thank you, dear reader, for following along on my recap of the San Antonio Open Days Tour. I unfortunately ran out of time to see a couple of the tour gardens, but I enjoyed the ones we saw. For a look back at the old San Antonio style of the Tupper Beinhorn Garden, click here.

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

Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy on November 4.

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

24 Responses

  1. Kylee Baumle says:

    Linda’s garden is BRILLIANT. There’s so much I love about it. Like… EVERYTHING. Wow. Thanks for sharing it, Pam!

  2. Kris P says:

    I loved this garden the first times I saw it in your posts and Shirley’s and I still do. I was surprised to discover that I even liked the large metal agaves! There are some lessons for me in terms of the layout of the succulent beds too. I wish I had the coverage of magnificent oaks like those in Linda’s garden but, even with the departure of my tree-hating neighbor, I need to make do with smaller-scale trees.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I think Linda feels the same way I do about all the live oaks — there’s a love-hate relationship when you garden under them, as they never stop popping up oak sprouts and dropping debris. That said, they are beautiful and iconic trees in our part of the world, and that shade sure is nice in the summer. As you point out, they also give succulents lovely dappled light that keeps them from burning under the Death Star. —Pam

  3. Jenny says:

    We also visited Linda’s garden on the Conservancy tour day. If a garden could look even better the third time you see it then this was the time, and such perfect weather. I too remarked on that cute gomphrena plant-‘Pin ball snow tip lavender’ I wonder if our Lowes would get it next year or any nursery for that matter. I am forever looking for plants that stay small and compact. I think she found it in the fall but it would be better suites to Austin in the spring.

  4. The writhing in this garden is so interesting. I love the limb going through the fence. The ‘evil’ plants are quite nice. They are probably like the cute dog sitting on the front porch that will bite you if you dare to go on the porch. ;)

  5. ks says:

    I’ve enjoyed each and every post you’ve shared on this garden Pam. I was thinking about the house/wall colors this time and how changing them would completely redefine the atmosphere of the garden. This green tone seems like a perfect choice to take the rough edges off hot climate.

  6. My jaw is on the ground here, this is such good design and bones, I’m speechless.

  7. Yes I could be very happy here, it was wonderful to see it again. Oh and I’m stealing “Beware: Sharp spiny plants with evil intent”… for exactly the reason you note…

  8. Heidi says:

    This garden is always a joy to see, it’s maintained so well. The cenizo looks lovely, surprised it does so well in the shade.
    As I am always looking for inspiration, the hanging bottles and lanterns, and the fig ivy covered panel definitely caught my attention.
    She was so creative with the cool privacy panel, goes so well with the metal art pieces.
    I do have a question, probably a dumb one, how are the pea gravel areas kept so neat, weed and leaf litter free?! This is something I am struggling with in the areas that I have pea pebble, my area is in full sun though.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Heidi, I expect that Linda always keeps her garden neat, but I am also aware of the extraordinary tidying that goes on for weeks before opening one’s garden to the public. When you see a leaf- and weed-free garden on tour, rest assured that the homeowner has spent untold hours making everything as perfect as she can. At least that’s how I do it. Gardens on tour are idealized gardens — just like if you had guests to your home you’d buff and shine the kitchen and bath and vacuum the dog’s hairballs in the living room. The day-to-day reality is probably a little more relaxed. For Linda’s sanity, I sure hope so, anyway! —Pam

      • linda peterson says:

        Heidi – thanks for your very kind compliments on the garden!

        About the maintenance of the pea gravel, I find that the weed problem lessens with each passing year, possibly because I am now incapable of getting the mail without automatically pulling every nasty little bugger I encounter on the way. The gravel mulch is at least a couple of inches thick (with no weed-blocking fabric)in almost all the garden, and of course that helps because you can spot the weeds sooner, they pull out easier, and they don’t spread as fast. Then of course we seem to always be short on rain, and if I water at all I do so only “at” each plant, so the weeds are left thirsty. Disclaimer: none of this applies when it comes to nutsedge, wild onions or oak suckers, the banes of my existence, but those are mostly confined to a few areas where I can TRY to pull or just gleefully whack them off as low as possible.

        ..As for leaves and litter, I swear by my Ego battery-powered blower, and have perfected a guffaw-producing stance wherein I am balanced on one foot while lifting plant foliage up with the other, all the while waving the blower about to remove the offending crud. Trust me, your neighbors’ days will be SO brightened watching you! Part of the reason I do prune so many things up a bit is to make this maintenance easier, and an hour or two every other week can get the whole yard pretty tidy (except for 2-3 weeks in spring when the live oaks drop all their leaves and then their tassels, but that is a good time to pull the curtains & clean out closets instead).

        Hope this helps. As for Pam’s comment about my sanity, that ship, alas, has sailed long ago.

  9. Lara Leaf says:

    Of all your wonderful photos, for some reason, the one that I keep going back to look at is the grouping of brown pots with a variety of plants displayed against the house wall, with the metal horny toad. It is hitting all the right notes for how I am feeling today! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Pinch me, I must have died and gone to heaven. This is what my dream garden would look like (maybe with even more agaves). Everything about it strikes all the right chords. The color of the house and walls is perfect. Do you know what it’s called? I can see painting our house that color.

    I was happy to see a metal agave and barrel cactus. Apparently I’m not the only one who likes those!

    • linda peterson says:

      Hi, Gerhard! Thanks for the head-swelling compliments from a fellow agave fan…I am happy to share the name of the color, & will email you with it as soon as I can dig it up…It IS a wonderful color that changes a lot with the light, and is even fantastic when it rains and the oak trunks look like charcoal strokes against it…Watch your inbox for “Rushing color”.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m glad you liked the virtual tour, Gerhard! And Linda, thank you for taking the time to answer reader questions. This is one of the things I love about blogging — making connections. —Pam

  11. Ruthie Burrus says:

    Pam – What a beautiful, interesting garden. Love the way she trims the fig ivy – surely a labor of love. I’m dying to know how she keeps the weeds down in all that gravel? Any ideas?

    • linda peterson says:

      Hi, Ruthie! So glad you like our garden…The fig ivy is not a labor of love so much as an exercise in obstinacy…Keeping the waffly pattern is proving to be a major, boring pain, and unless you don’t mind your family consulting with mental health professionals on your behalf, I would NOT recommend going down that dark path.

      About the weeds in gravel, I just wrote a long boring answer to Heidi, Commenter #8, that blathers on about that subject and which will hopefully work for you, too. Thanks!

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