Inside Austin Gardens Tour 2009: Cheryl Goveia’s garden

The fall Travis County Master Gardeners tour today featured six gardens that fit the theme of “Sustainable Gardening for Urban Wildlife.” Three of them are the creations of Austin garden bloggers. Each one offered something unique and personal. But by far the most colorful and fun-loving garden belongs to Cheryl Goveia of Conscious Gardening, located in the Crestview neighborhood of north-central Austin.

Cheryl’s garden is 13 years old, and her plant choices and overall design are well-chosen and inviting. But her whimsical, artistic touches really steal the show. Take her fence flowers, for example, ingeniously fashioned out of paint can lids, circular mirrors, and bottle caps. Adults and children alike were fascinated by them.

Cheryl uses numerous arbors to divide her space and invite you into it. This large arch welcomes visitors to the front garden.

As you head around the side of the house toward the back, the color heats up, beginning with the bold yellow paint on the house siding. An aloe and red yucca’s cool greens show up beautifully against the warm yellow.

A blue bird bath adds a jolt of color amid pink Salvia greggii.

Another arbor, this one with an Asian flavor, marks the entry to the back garden.

A gigantic double purple datura was loaded with folding, ruffled blooms, including this one at eye level.

Strands of rusting bottle caps, one of Cheryl’s repurposed creations, hang from the trees in slinky shapes.

A closer look

I love this bright-red door against silver, galvanized metal siding.

Color pervades Cheryl’s garden, brightening up even this rustic gate.

Another arbor marks the entry to the vegetable garden.

The veggie garden’s low, weathered fence comes to life with a collection of blue bottles on rebar posts running along the top.

An ocotillo is a rare sight in Austin. To keep it from drowning during our typical winter rains, Cheryl has planted it high on a mounded berm of gravelly soil. I meant to ask her if this one has gone through a winter yet; this winter, predicted to be cool and rainy, will be a real test for this true desert plant.

Chickens reside comfortably in the large coop at the rear of the garden.

People are comfortable in Cheryl’s garden too. Intimate seating areas abound, inviting you to sit a spell, or warm your feet by the fire.

Desert willow vine

A charming play structure clings to the side of a large tree. Children would be right at home here, where swings and other play things are tucked among the plants.

Near the coop, this marvelous chicken fabric hangs in the window of a converted detached garage.

What fun color!

Under Cheryl’s creative touch, old paint cans wired to a fence become succulent planters.

And here’s where all the paint-can lids went: more flowers on a swoopy privacy fence.

And more

A whole garden of them

Cheryl’s colorful, exuberant, anything-goes style reminds me somewhat of Lucinda Hutson’s garden, which she opened to late-stayers at Spring Fling Austin in 2008. As it turns out, I ran into Lucinda in Cheryl’s garden, and I can imagine she felt quite at home there. As did I.

Thanks so much, Cheryl, for sharing your “romantically chaotic” garden with Austin.

Tune in tomorrow for a look at Gail Sapp’s garden.

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

26 Responses

  1. Pam, great post – you really captured the heart of Cheryl’s fun and inspirational garden. A couple of side notes: Cheryl said the area where she hung the beer bottle caps in string was her “beer garden” – loved that! Also, you labeled one vine here as Desert Willow Vine; I thought it was called Lavender Trumpet vine, and MSS thought it was called Port St. John Creeper. Are those all the same vine with varying names?

    Thanks, Robin. I hadn’t heard about Cheryl calling that area the beer garden. I love it; she has a great sense of humor. As for the vine, I took a picture of her plant label, and that’s what she called it. I’m not familiar with this particular vine myself, but researching online it does seem to go under various common names. —Pam

  2. Lori says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you took so many pictures! I was kicking myself afterwards for not taking more, because there were so many nifty little touches, but it was really crowded when I was there and I was a little overwhelmed by trying to see everything and not run into anything/anyone. Afterwards my friend couldn’t stop raving about it. My favorite bit was those beer can snakes hanging next to the gate into the backyard. I actually had a dropped jaw moment of “holy crap, that’s so cool!” and I can’t remember the last time that happened. :D

    It would have been fun to run into you on the tour, Lori. We must have been on opposite ends the whole time. —Pam

  3. Pam, what a great tour of a fun garden. You tease me by showing the fence for the vegetable garden and the chicken coop behind it, but no pictures of the actual vegetable garden! Thanks for this tour, I’m looking forward to seeing the other gardens this week.

    Carol, you may be pleased to know that I thought of you when I saw Cheryl’s vegetable garden, which was quite nice. But you know me—I’m just not that into them. So no pics, sorry! —Pam

  4. Frances says:

    Oh my goodness, there are hundreds of ideas percolating from seeing these pics of Cheryl’s wonderful space! I even showed The Financier about the bottle caps and paint lids. So much fun! You must have been writing ideas down, or just taking photos for future inspiration, this could be a book on recycling. Can’t wait to see the rest of the tour, you do these tours so well. :-)

    That will be Cheryl’s book to write, Frances, as she is the master of such things. I did enjoy looking at them though. —Pam

  5. What an enchanting garden, Pam. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Those bottle caps and paint lids are so creative and colorful. Romantic chaos indeed.

  6. Les says:

    What a fun garden. I imagine if you lived surrounded by a garden like this, it would be much harder to grow old.

  7. Sweet Bay says:

    What a wonderful and whimsical garden Cheryl has created! I love all of the color and all of the artwork. Very imaginative and really beautiful.

  8. Diana says:

    Great job capturing the whimsy Cheryl has sprinkled through her magical garden. I loved finding all those wonderful little artsy touches around every corner (and plant!).

  9. Amy Emerick says:

    What a beautiful, creative garden! I was unable to make it to the garden tour, so I was happy to see that you posted Cheryl’s garden. Great photos! -Amy

  10. It was great fun to meet Cheryl and see her garden in person, Pam – and it’s almost as much fun to revisit it and see it through your eyes on this post.

    I didn’t even try to take photos in that bumper-to-bumper traffic, just enjoyed the ingenuity and sense of playfulness, and envied the depth of the lot. I just loved the metal arch with seats in the front garden.

    Glad we crossed paths yesterday!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  11. Scott says:

    Pam , thanks for the tour. Cheryl’s garden art seems to blend seamlessly with her plants, just adding the right touch of whimsy.

  12. Cindy, MCOK says:

    OK, next time I visit Austin, I’m requesting a private tour of Cheryl’s garden! Thanks for all the great pictures of her clever and fanciful ideas … I’m quite taken with the paint cap flowers!

  13. My daughter-in-law and I did the tour Saturday. I think Cheryl’s was our favorite stop. So many colorful touches. You can see her artist background. Lots of great ideas. And, I didn’t get near the number of pictures I thought. Too busy just ‘looking’. Thanks for sharing yours.

  14. Jenny says:

    I can see that I missed some things at the garden. There was so much to take in that I need to go back again for another look. It really was a fun place. Imagine being a child in the garden. I really would like chickens! May favorite feature was that shed. Such stunning colors.

  15. elephant's eye says:

    ‘desert willow vine’ looks like Podranea ricasolina, what we call Zimbabwe creeper (yet another South African)?

    Perhaps so, EE. Some of the Austin bloggers have been debating this vine’s origins on Twitter, but I don’t know much about it except that it is quite aggressive in Austin. —Pam

  16. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What a fun garden. Those paint can lid flowers on the privacy fence is a perfect way to break up the monotony of a big ole wooden fence. Such inspiration all around.

  17. I loved the tour! Thanks for sharing(-: Those paint can lid flowers are a must have as are the bottle caps(-:

  18. chuck b. says:

    Lots of great ideas…I esp. like the blue bottles along the fence and the spikes of rusty bottle caps.

  19. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for such a glowing review Pam, you’re a wonderful writer and photographer and it was an honor having you in my garden! And, bloggers…YES, I’m happy to host the meeting this Spring! Just let me know what all that entails:) It was a beautiful day and reading these comments was like re-living it all! Thank you, Thank YOU!

    Your visit was the icing on the cake of my tour day, Cheryl, and you still had much energy in that final hour of a long day. I don’t know how you do it. As for a spring meet-up, you can bet I or someone else will follow through on that. ;-) —Pam

  20. cheryl says:

    Oh my gosh! I was so fired up after looking at the photos of Cheryl’s garden that I spent all day swirling in creative juices in my own yard. Thanks for the inspiration! (I knew there must be some reason I’d been saving bottle caps for the past few months… now will have to get everyone else to save them for me. ;>) LOVE the “beer garden”..but then, I loved all of her yard!

  21. ryan says:

    I’m interested in that ocotillo. What a great specimen. Asking how fast an ocotillo grows in the Berkeley, I got the answer, “oh, do they grow?” Apparently they put on about an inch a year if you’re really good at growing them. But that ocotillo in the photo looks really good. Usually if something grows in Austin, it seems like it can also grow in the inland Bay Area. They’re one of my favorite plants.

    Many people in Austin might also say, “Oh, do they grow here?” when asked about ocotillos, Ryan. I’ve only seen two in Austin during my time here, both in designers’ gardens (i.e., experimenters), and one of those didn’t make it. I plan to follow up with Cheryl after this winter to see how hers held up.

    See the comment following for more insight about growing ocotillo west of Ft. Worth (drier and colder than Austin). —Pam

  22. Adriana says:

    I planted Ocotillos on the median in Crystal Falls 2+ years ago on high berms. They have come back and bloomed each year! They look like sticks for periods of the year, but lovely and architecturally dramatic even in that state in my opinion. Have seen a few that are in the Leander area survive several years now.

    Thanks for the info, Adriana. I’ve only ever seen two in Austin, and I’m intrigued to hear that you’ve seen a few in Leander (just north of Austin). —Pam

  23. […] chance, I ran into Lucinda in Cheryl’s garden last weekend, and she invited me over for a fall tour. I was delighted to accept and brought along […]

  24. Tristan says:

    I love this garden! One day, I’d like to have a garden like that! Right now, it seems slightly impossible, but I’m making big plans! I love all kinds of garden art and I really enjoy making it! My greenandcrafty blog is about that. Anyway, thanks for posting these pictures! Everything is beautiful!

  25. Rosie Walsh says:

    Dear Pam,

    I’m writing to beg you to send me Cheryl Goveia’s email. My daughter and I adored your pictures, and just this week Laura told me that what she’d love for Christmas is a window treatment using Cheryl’s chicken fabric. She’d look beyond it to watch her great chickens in the side garden. I’m in Sugar Hill, GA, but have a cousin in Austin I could ask to get the fabric for me there.

    I’d appreciate it so much.


    Hi, Rosie, and thanks for reading! That IS cute fabric. I have forwarded your message to Cheryl so that she can contact you herself. Good luck with the curtains. —Pam

  26. What great photos, Pam! Thanks for allowing me to share the ones of the bottlecap snakes on my own blog, in a post about do-it-yourself art.