Lucinda Hutson’s enchanting garden

On Sunday after the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, the out-of-towners who stayed an extra day joined some of the Austin garden bloggers for a personal tour of herbal-cookbook author Lucinda Hutson’s garden. The other Spring Flingers may remember Lucinda from the happy hour at my house on Saturday. I was so glad she had time to join us, although other obligations prevented her from touring with us earlier in the day. Lucinda and I have only just gotten to know each other, but she’s so generous with her time and her delightful home and garden that I feel as if we’ve been friends for a long time. Many thanks to her for opening her enchanting garden to us on Sunday.

The first thing you notice as you pull up to her gabled Rosedale cottage is that it’s purple. And I mean purple. With lavender and coral trim. The second thing you notice is that her garden is an absolute riot of color, texture, and, yes, flavor. Known in Austin for her extravagantly decorated Day of the Dead parties and her herbal expertise, Lucinda grows a variety of herbs right out front, mixed among annuals and perennials like the red abutilon, pictured above, in her cottage garden.

Lucinda pointing out a special plant in her garden

Red poppies contrast festively with the purple house. Lori of The Gardener of Good and Evil takes it all in.

“El Jardin Encantador,” carved into a back gate and painted purple, translates to “The Enchanting Garden.” And it is.

So was the resident cat, lounging against a yellow wall that matched his eyes.

Lucinda is fearless with color. Her narrow back garden is divided into four intimate “rooms,” and she’s painted the back of her house and her garage walls several different colors—yellow, hot pink, and purple—to accent those rooms.

Here’s a photo of her garage, now used, presumably, for storage, since the driveway was long ago transformed into two walled garden rooms—a mermaid grotto with a pond and a raised herb garden with a greenhouse—as well as a passageway to her cantina garden and office.

A tiled image of St. Francis of Assisi graces the garage wall.

Look the other way, and you see a collection of children’s chairs from Mexico hung on a yellow wall. Lucinda says that occasionally she’ll find a cat sitting on one.

MSS of Zanthan Gardens and I posed for Julie Ardery of Human Flower Project (no longer online). You can see by our smiles that all that color and creativity made us happy. (Thanks, Julie, for permission to use your photo.)

Along with bright colors and Mexican folk art, Lucinda decorates her home and garden with a sea theme. Mermaids in particular are found throughout, though I neglected to photograph any.

“La Lucinda Cantina,” reads the wooden sign, “Tequila * Music * Dancing.” A perfect deck for dancing under the stars lies nearby, along with a rustic outdoor shower sheathed with tin and wood. Nailed to the shower’s frame is a wooden sign proclaiming, “No Couples in Shower.”

Evidence of parties past—Lucinda’s bottle tree blooms with tequila and wine bottles. A thick mulch of wine corks lies underneath.

When I saw this carved, wooden Virgin Mary over her office door, I felt like I was back in San Miguel de Allende.

Inside her detached office, which sits at the back of her garden, Lucinda showed us her cookbooks. Her Herb Garden Cookbook is still in print 20 years after publication. Impressive.

The interior of her back door is festooned with tin milagros, or “miracles.” Milagros are inexpensive tin pieces that represent different ailments or people you’re worried about. For example, you’d purchase a tin heart for a heart ailment or a young boy to represent your ill son, then take it to church, say a prayer, and pin it on the figure of a saint, hoping for a miracle cure. Stores like Tesoros in Austin sell milagros, and it’s fascinating to look through the different representations of body parts, property, and family members.

Her mosaic-tiled “stairway to heaven” ascends from the back garden through a sun porch to the kitchen.

After the tour of her garden, Lucinda treated us to punch and Mexican pastries and cookies. Susan Harris of Garden Rant volunteered to serve it up.

The colorful Mexican cookies were almost too pretty to eat.

I tried one of the flaky Mexican pastries instead—yummy. As you can see, the interior of Lucinda’s home carries the garden’s Mexican theme indoors. It’s as enchanting and full of beautiful and playful vignettes as the garden itself.

Lucinda started a website and a blog about a year ago. She says she’s not a computer person and admits to stalling out with the blog, but check out her site for more pics of her garden, info about her cookbooks, and links to recent press she’s received.

All material © 2006-2008 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

27 Responses

  1. Argh! I should have stayed an extra day!! It looks like a beautiful, festive and fun place to visit. I love all the color. It is such a dreary, cold day here where I am, these pictures are a perfect anecdote for me right now.

    You should have, Carol. This is such a different kind of garden—a conglomeration of interior Mexico and Texas. You can’t help being in a good mood after spending time there. —Pam

  2. Oh, Pam, I’m so glad you posted about Lucinda Hutson’s truly enchanting garden. It was impossible to describe it to Philo with words instead of photos! Now he knows why I needed that small plaster saint from Tesoros, as a kind of memento of a special visit to the purple house.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    After seeing her garden, I felt like buying several pieces of Mexican folk art at Tesoros and only just restrained myself. As we discussed, I think you have to go whole hog with that look, as she has, to make it work. But as with your plaster saint, I would still love to have one of the larger milagros to hang in my home. Someday… —Pam

  3. Dawn says:

    That’s an amazingly beautiful garden and home. Someday I’ll have to learn the secret handshake so I get to see the gardens on Day 2 of the Spring Fling. ;-} Looks like you ladies had a special time together. Thanks for sharing the photos.


    Oh no! There was no secret handshake. I thought I’d sent an email to all the Spring Flingers about a week before, asking who was interested in touring around on Sunday. I also asked around on Saturday, but I should have made a general announcement at dinner. Sorry, Dawn. I’d have loved for you to join us. —Pam

  4. Kim says:

    Oh how fun! I just saw Mary Ann/Idaho Gardener’s post about Lucinda’s garden, and was enchanted by the wine cork mulch and the tequila bottle edging–and here I get to see the whole bottle tree, too!

    I adore those beautiful snapdragons of Lucinda’s. And she’s got the abutilon that I have, too! (Only she probably gets to keep hers outside year round, I’m sure. *grin*)

    About that abutilon, I admired it tremendously and am envious that you have it too, Kim. Lucinda told me that it bloomed through the winter for her, but that in the summer it suffers from the heat and looks terrible. See what a difference is wrought by a change in latitude. —Pam

  5. Brianna says:

    Lucinda’s garden looks magical–thanks for sharing your photos and observations. (Like Dawn, I’ll have to learn the secret handshake for next year.)


    I’m so sorry, Brianna. You would have been more than welcome to join us. See my reply to Dawn’s comment above. Sorry about that!

    But remember, ladies, next year the Fling will be hosted elsewhere—the Chicago garden bloggers, we hear, are mulling it over. —Pam

  6. Frances says:

    Total bummer about not staying another day to view that fantastic garden and home. It looks like a fairy tale cottage from the Grimm brothers with a Mexican twist. I love all that color and decoration. Must look for the cookbook, I love cooking with herbs, it was quite a passion when I first started gardening seriously, when all the kids were in school all day. I remember your message about the extra day, but our plans were already set in stone to leave Sunday. In Chicago, the extra day will happen, if offered.

    That extra day (actually, I had two extra days, one before and one after) really did give folks more socializing time and entry into one more lovely garden. But I’m so grateful to everyone who came for the big day on Saturday, and I’m thrilled to have been able to meet you in person, Frances. Your attendance was a leap of faith (courage!) and helped make the Fling such a smashing success. By the way, if you find Lucinda’s herbal cookbook, let us know how the recipes work out for you. —Pam

  7. Diana says:

    Thanks, Pam, for sharing your pictures with us. I feel like I was there, even though I had family obligations and had to turn it down. I love all that color and all the plants spilling about, peppered with Mexican art and artifacts. If anyone wants to plan a group Tesoros run, count me IN. I love all that stuff and have a few small things in my house and garden.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the photo tour, Diana. Yes, I can see that Mexican folk art would work beautifully in your home and garden. It’s funny—after touring Lucinda’s garden that Sunday and having lunch at Central Market, our group did make a Tesoros run. We decided to show the out-of-towners South Congress Avenue, and of course, Tesoros was a mandatory destination. —Pam

  8. Wild Flora says:

    What great photos and what an enchanting garden. As a former Texan, I thoroughly enjoyed her Mexican-folk-art themed garden.

    Isn’t it great? What a delight it must be to live across the street from her and see that sight every day. —Pam

  9. Layanee says:


    How enchanting the house, the garden and the resident black cat! How could the smiles have been absent! I read your last post about your speaking engagement and agree totally with ‘testing the limits’ of comfort. What scary thing will I do today? Hmmm…time will tell!

    Let us know when you find out, Layanee. —Pam

  10. Phillip says:

    Love it. I’ve been thinking about painting my garage/storage building purple for several years. Maybe this year I’ll do it.

    Since you already have a purple wall, you could just get out that can of purple paint and go for it. —Pam

  11. I’m glad you took so many photos. Touring with you makes me lazy because I rely on you to take the pictures and write up the post. I didn’t even bring my camera and then regretted it instantly.

    Of all the places we saw on the Spring Fling weekend, I’d say that Lucinda’s garden is the one that most exemplifies “Austin Style” for me: the mix of Mexican folk-art, tie-dyed hippie, found objects and handmade gifts from friends. It is a collector’s paradise stuffed into a “small is beautiful” cottage.

    For all that I admire it, I also know I would feel unsettled if I stayed long in such a garden. It’s a loud garden, both visually and aurally (music blasts from speakers both inside and outside the house). It is a party garden, an extrovert’s garden. I’m sure it is often filled with people sitting around drinking and laughing. In time, the exuberance of Lucinda’s garden would wear me down. I often flee into my garden for a meditative spot to think. I look to a garden to fulfill my needs for silence and repose. Conversely, I’m sure someone as outgoing and cheerful as Lucinda would find my garden too quiet and dull.

    It is fun to see how a garden reflects the owner’s personality. This one really does.

    You know I like to do photo tours of gardens. But I always want to hear and see your version of a garden excursion too. Different perspectives add so much to our own understanding. —Pam

  12. Cindy says:

    Pam, thanks for sharing the Lucinda experience with us! I hope to see it for myself someday … it looks like a magical place. Mental note to self: visit Tesoros next trip to Austin!

    You’ll have fun at Tesoros, Cindy. But check their website. It’s possible they have a location in Houston. —Pam

  13. Randy Parker says:

    How beautiful! I’m sure you all had a wonderful time.

    We sure did! Thanks for stopping by, Randy. —Pam

  14. kerri says:

    What a fitting way to end a wonderful weekend! Your photos present a great picture, Pam, so that I almost feel like I was there with you all, and reading the comments just adds to that feeling.
    Thanks for sharing ‘the end of the adventure’ with us :)

    You’re welcome, Kerri. What an adventure-filled weekend it was! —Pam

  15. Kim says:

    Oooh… thanks, Pam, that’s great information. Not that my little lakeshore Cleveland suburb has to deal with the stifling heat you all get in Austin, but I was trying to figure out whether I should put it in full blazing sun or a slightly shadier place. I think I’ll aim for the latter!

    I may have to get one too, maybe next fall. Enjoy your abutilon. —Pam

  16. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What a delightful garden Pam. I am so glad you shared it with us. I think it a great idea to use those corks for mulch. So many people try to think of innovative ways to use their corks and I think this is one of the best ways. I would love to see a cat sitting on one of the chairs on the wall too.

    We all wanted to see a cat leap up onto a chair when she told us about it. But the black one did pose prettily along that wall. —Pam

  17. Libby says:

    Great post on Lucinda’s garden. She’s a remarkable woman and her esthetic reflects that. I like the expansion of her garden into her art collection. The two are inseparable.

    I agree. Her home and garden seem to truly reflect her personality. —Pam

  18. Joe says:

    I have seen pictures of the famed “bigtooth maple” but can’t seem to find them anywhere. I see that the local guys are selling other types of maples, but I’d prefer a native plant. Any idea of where I could find one???

    I love your garden pictures.

    Joe, I’ve seen bigtooth maples for sale at the Natural Gardener. Try calling them and Barton Springs Nursery before you drive out there. While bigtooth maples are native to west-central Texas, I’m not sure whether they’re actually native to Austin, if that’s where you’re from. But they do grow here. —Pam

  19. Lori says:

    I loved the energy of Lucinda’s house and garden, and was mentally taking notes of what looked good, since I noticed that everything in the front bed could have been there since, oh, November, which means her garden started rocking out just as mine got incredibly boring for the winter. Next winter I vow to surround myself with some serious color for the winter!

    Good point. I’ll have to do a drive-by of her garden in winter to see what’s going on. —Pam

  20. Lori says:

    And I forgot to mention– the picture of the yellow-eyed cat against the yellow house makes me grin like a lunatic. I read the “encantador” on the gate as “enchanting,” and that cat certainly seems a little magical and spooky surrounded by all of Lucinda’s Day Of The Dead memorabilia.

    Oops, this is what I get for relying on a fast online translation. When I wrote this post, I went to check that “encantador” meant “enchanted,” as I’d assumed, but the Spanish word for “enchanted” is “encantado.” So I went with the first translation I got for “encantador,” which was “charming.” But going back and looking up the translation for “enchanting,” I see that it is indeed “encantador.” Thanks for the prod to doublecheck the translation. Obviously, Spanish is not my strong suit. I’m going to change it in the post. —Pam

  21. Susie Hewitson says:

    How totally enchanting, especially since my husband, Richard and I have known Lucinda and her family for many years and have wonderful memories of our times together in Baja. I was hoping to find a link to Lucinda and would appreciate if you could forward an e-mail address, or send this note to her and we could go from there. I have trying to contact her with no luck.

    Muchas gracias.

    Hi, Suzy. I’ve already forwarded your email to her, but you’ll find contact info on Lucinda’s website too. —Pam

  22. […] 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 […]

  23. Kim says:

    Dearest Lucinda,

    I just adore you. I am one of Elissa’s roommates (I just adore her as well) and she showed me your enchanting purple house with the most fantastical garden. LOVE IT. I really hope I will have the pleasure of meeting you one day.



  24. […] last seen Lucinda’s garden in April 2008, when the plants were small with new spring growth. How different to see her beautiful garden in […]

  25. Ardalina, Indonesia says:

    Woooooooow…. beautiful……

  26. […] for morning sun or dappled shade. I’ve seen a taller variety of ‘Candy Corn’ in Lucinda Hutson’s garden, but she told me she lost hers one hot, droughty […]

  27. […] I’ve posted about Lucinda’s garden twice before. Click on the links for more: Lucinda’s garden in October 2009 (with some Dia de los Muertos decorations) Lucinda’s garden in April 2008 […]