Gardens on Tour 2010: Bridle Path garden

The Bridle Path garden in the Tarrytown neighborhood was my favorite on Gardens on Tour 2010 because it had the best of both worlds: a naturalistic garden for sun and shade in the front, with a charming council-ring style seating area tucked out of sight of the street; and a more formal back garden with gorgeous limestone walls, clean-lined water features, and a sunken gravel courtyard accessible from the home’s interior through French doors and numerous windows.

Huge Franzosini agaves (pictured at top), softened by larkspur, and other screening plants greet you curbside but obscure the main garden above from view. On the right side of the property, a path and this inviting stair of corten steel and decomposed granite leads up a short slope into the heart of the front garden.

Looking ahead you see the home. The owner, Christy Ten Eyck, is also the landscape architect who designed this garden. According to the tour brochure, the front yard used to be an expanse of lawn bisected by a large asphalt driveway. A year ago, the driveway was removed, the sloping lot terraced to harvest rainwater, and the entire front yard replanted with natives and even—surprise!—a vegetable garden.

Looking back toward the street, you see a young garden of yuccas, grasses, and silver ponyfoot. You can also see garden-blogging pals Diana, Daphne, and Robin admiring something along the curb.

Agave and silver ponyfoot (with a little dollar weed mixed in)

On the left side of the front garden, a small sitting area opens up, screened on three sides by small trees and grasses. It’s a charming spot. One of the owners is sitting there with his dog, and he told me that the stone for the table was given to his wife, and they finally found a use for it in this table. An agave is growing in the small planting pocket in the middle.

To the right of the seating area, a good-sized vegetable garden occupies a sunny spot. It was a surprise to see it in the middle of the native-plant garden, particularly given the rather tony Tarrytown address, but it was also delightful. And considering the formal layout and spare design sensibility of the back garden, it really works better to put the veggies out front.

Another view

Excavation of a sunken patio in the back garden provided rock used to terrace the front garden’s slope, which helps reduce runoff and keeps rainwater on-site.

View from the small seating area, looking across the front garden to the walled back garden.

A closer look. Mexican feathergrass, undulating at the slightest breeze, is contained in a raised bed edged with corten steel. Fig ivy cloaks the wall that gives privacy to the back garden.

The feathergrass is mixed with agaves, and the whole is mulched with gravel.

Poured-concrete pavers make a clean-lined walk to the front door.

Another view of the entry, with more corten edging on the raised bed and front stoop.

I don’t often have this much restraint myself, but I admire those who do.

The shady raised bed at the front entry contains squid agave, purple oxalis, and a chartreuse sedum.

Mexican feathergrass makes a lovely backdrop to the squid agaves.

A vignette at the entry. The table is a massive limestone block.

You enter the rear garden through a pair of steel gates set in a fig-ivy-cloaked walled courtyard.

Beautiful gates

I just love this space, the style of the seating, the outdoor fireplace with corten steel-and-gravel hearth.

Austinite Berthold Haas constructed the wall fountain with limestone trough. Click on the link for a look at his own stunning garden, Stone Palms, which I saw on the Open Days tour in October 2008.

Looking left, an shady rectangle of lawn under a live oak is precisely delineated by gravel paths. That’s the architect and homeowner, Christy Ten Eyck, on the left.

The view back toward the fireplace

Along the back portion of the house another vegetable garden is edged in corten steel.

And in another courtyard formed by two wings of the house, a trough-style, negative-edge water feature adds contemporary style. Bamboo muhly grasses and possumhaw hollies soften the space.

Another view

I was so tempted to pull up a chair and just sit and enjoy it for a while.

An arched doorway in the wall, draped with wisteria and framed by oakleaf hydrangeas. This part of the garden was off-limits—probably a storage area.

This garden is masterful in framing views and creating inviting garden rooms out of a large space.

Up tomorrow: the Forest Trail garden. For pics of the Sinclair Avenue garden, which I visited first, click here.

All material © 2006-2010 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

24 Responses

  1. Jane says:

    What a restrained and refined design. I admire the cohesiveness of these beautiful spaces. Although the gardening conditions are very different from those we have in Portland, OR, I can relate to the plant choices made to achieve the gracefully austere effects. Thank you for sharing and commenting so completely!

    My pleasure, Jane! Thanks for your comment. —Pam

  2. This was one of my favorite gardens on the tour also. I felt it was the strongest on design; I was extremely attracted to the strong clean lines. However, I thought it was the weakest on plants. The main thing that I disliked about the planting you capture very well in your photo above “The shady raised bed at the front entry contains squid agave, purple oxalis, and a chartreuse sedum.” The plants were just dotted around and mixed in with each other. That bed would have been more striking if like plants were massed together. Oddly, what looks like the mass of Mexican feathergrass had the same problem: little succulents tucked in between the grasses.

    Overall though, it was an inviting calm, green space. The design really speaks to that other Austin…huge shady live oaks and grass. And the water features were fabulous.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, MSS. But did you really feel this garden was weakest on plants? (The Forest Trail garden is coming to mind.) I actually thought this garden’s plant selection was very nice—restrained, in the contemporary style, but very nice. Remember, this garden was only just planted out last August, as I recall the homeowner telling me. And he said they lost a lot of plants in the winter’s hard freeze, so there are a lot of holes right now. The example you point to—the squid agaves, oxalis, and sedum—will fill in over time, and the oxalis and sedum will intermingle to form a Persian carpet of contrasting color. However, the agaves among the feathergrass did seem a little lost, it’s true.

    Like you, I really enjoyed the “old Austin” look of this garden, which can be a rare style on a native-plant tour. —Pam

  3. David says:

    Very nice.

    Having seen some of Ten Eyck’s gardens in the Sonoran Desert (Phx), she has embraced the much greener, wetter ecoregion in Austin equally well. Even her larger-scale and commercial projects come off as gardens you want to spend time in, not just ground coverings of trite patterns. I agree – she has serious restraint, yet it is not sterile, but rather, contemplative.

    I do not think I know of any LA’s more talented than Ten Eyck.

    Thanks for your perspective on Ten Eyck’s Arizona work, David. I admired one of her desert gardens in a magazine once. I agree—she is very talented. And having met her on this tour, I can add that she is charming in person as well. And she has a really cute dog. —Pam

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    A very modern style garden. I like it but I would want to rip out the grass and have a bunch of stuff there. Ha.. My messy side would be uncomfortable there. A good place to go read a book or meditate.

    Lisa, I’m not sure I could be this restrained either, but I sure love this style when others are able to pull it off. The front garden was much less constrained and could afford a plant-loving gardener room to play. —Pam

  5. A beautiful garden, but I’m especially taken with that negative edge water feature!

    Yes, it was striking, CVF—a fantastic focal point for the back garden and for viewing from inside the house. —Pam

  6. Denise says:

    Fabulous garden, especially the gates! Love the repetition of the simple materials, concrete, steel, stone.

    The hardscaping was magnificent, Denise. I’m glad you enjoyed it too. —Pam

  7. Eliza says:

    Very few things stop me in my tracks like large agaves or violently hued Swiss chard… and this post has both! I love the pond of Mexican feathergrass.

    There were a lot of features that stopped me in my tracks in this garden, Eliza. I spent a lot of time here. —Pam

  8. Jenny says:

    I really like the use of COR TEN( thanks for telling us proper name) and gravel to create the steps. That might have been a good option in our garden, but too late now. Beautiful water features. Did they have the musicians playing when you were there. I thought that was a lovely touch and would have liked to have spent some time sitting and listening but just had to move on. What an eye you have for framing your photographs.

    I’m sorry to have missed the musicians. They weren’t there early in the day. Thanks for the compliment on the photos, Jenny. I could say the same about yours; you got some very nice shots of the gardens. —Pam

  9. […] Along the way, I also ran into garden bloggers Vertie (and her sweet little gardening buddy Jack), Tom, MSS, and Jenny, plus a few readers of Digging who introduced themselves. The weather was perfect by my standards, if a bit chilly to others, and it was great fun to see all the gardens and meet the homeowners and designers. Tune in tomorrow for a look at the envy-inspiring Bridle Path garden. […]

  10. lauren says:

    Hi Pam, I didn’t go on the tour but am enjoying vicariously experiencing it via your blog. This garden has a lot going on that I like, but the thing that I notice and like the best is the use of the rough up-from-the-ground rock around the raised bed. I’ve been thinking more and more about using what is on hand rather than having something trucked in that was purchased and required labor other than my own. It had always looked sort of low rent in my own gardens, but here it is, in a LA’s garden and it looks great.

    Lauren, I agree that it’s great to see green landscaping like this in a high-design garden—using materials at hand rather than trucking in exotic stone or paying extra for fancy cut stone. Like you, I used found rock from my own garden and from Austin Memorial Cemetery to edge the beds in my new garden, and I frowned over it a little at first, wishing I could afford a chopped-limestone edging. But then a light bulb went off in my head, and I realized I was not only saving money but making an ecologically sound decision AND imparting local flavor to my garden. Great gardens have always done this. And it’s not to say you can’t still use imported materials in your garden—I’m not dogmatic about that at all—but why not use free stuff when you can, right? —Pam

  11. Wonderful tour you gave! Great way to spend Mom’s Day weekend, for sure.

    It sure was, Linda. It would be wonderful to have shared it with my mom. Maybe one day. —Pam

  12. This one just kept getting better and better!

    Glad you enjoyed it, Loree. —Pam

  13. Jean says:

    Wow, I can see why you liked that one. There were so many beautiful elements – the oak tree in the front, the iron gates, the fireplace, the trough, etc, etc. I’m so glad you are documenting these gardens for those of us who can’t make the tours.

    I am happy to do so, Jean. I like sharing these tours with others. —Pam

  14. I’m drooling over those steel gates! And I love the stone table, too–I like the way it reminds you of a millstone, and also the way that you don’t see its base at all. Great tour. :)

    Thanks, Kim. I should have peeked underneath the table to see how it was constructed. I’m curious. —Pam

  15. […] see the previous garden at Bridle Path, click here. For a tour of the Reynosa Drive garden, which I posted about before the official tour, […]

  16. Randy says:

    You guys are so fortunate to have so many gardens to tour in your area!

    I take it for granted, but you’re right, we are! —Pam

  17. I love this garden. I especially love the limestone water features and the “courtyard feel” that much of it seems to have. Thanks for showing it to the rest of us through your blog.

    You’re welcome, Susan. Thanks for your comment. —Pam

  18. Layanee says:

    Artful pictures, Pam. As always. Love the flow of this garden.

    I wish you could have toured it with us, Layanee. —Pam

  19. Pam, I can see why you like that garden best. It just looks like you, although your garden has a softer side which I like better. Love her use of Mexican feather grass.~~Dee

    Me too, Dee. Feathergrass is marvelous all massed together like that. —Pam

  20. Kelsey says:

    I am so excited to see this garden. I have drooled over several of Ten Eyck’s designs in Sunset magazine and it is exciting to see what her house looks like. I agree that we can’t judge the plants because of such a harsh winter! I hope you will be able to visit this garden again some time and show us an update. You are such a wonderful place to visit!

    Thanks for your comment, Kelsey. Like you, I was excited to see Ten Eyck’s garden (and home), and it didn’t disappoint. Far from it! —Pam

  21. Melissa says:

    Beautiful pics and designs!!! Looks like Snapdragons blooming in your 1-horned goat :) I love your blog!!

    Thanks for the guess on the goat planter, Melissa. (That’s a picture on my Hwy 45 Garden post, for those who don’t know what Melissa is referencing. Keep following the links, and you’ll get there.) —Pam

  22. Chookie says:

    Now Pam, we KNOW it was the agaves that made you fall in love with the place!

    Your photos help me understand how the garden fits together — thank you!

  23. […] recently featured on the Lady Bird Johnson “Garden’s on Tour” .   Here’s  link to an Austin Blogger who did a feature on the property. I am sure you’ll enjoy seeing the […]

  24. […] Do you prefer a more contemporary look? Try raised beds made of Cor-Ten steel. This one keeps vegetables at a convenient height and location, right by the back door, not hidden away at the back of the garden (landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck’s Austin garden). […]