Oxblood lily ribbon of red and ruellia reticence


The oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) atop the retaining wall in the back garden are in full, crimson bloom, and that red ribbon makes me so happy when I step out to view it in the warm afternoon light.


This cluster is growing amid the spiny arms of soap aloe (Aloe maculata). Hmm, these will be tricky to divide one day.


Actually most of these bulbs are growing alongside spiny, tough lovelies, like ‘Bright Edge’ yucca. I particularly like this pairing, with the yucca’s yellow stripes echoing the oxblood’s yellow eye.


Lots of lilies!


Though not native to Texas, they are Texas tough. This is one bulb every Southern garden should have. But just so you know, the deer love to eat the ones I’ve tried out front.


If only this praying mantis was big enough to catch a few deer. Hmm, but then it would be big enough to catch me. Nevermind! I’ll stick with the deer.

I have a question for you about the tall ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana) in which it’s hunting. I bought this plant last October and have it in a container on my shady front porch. It bloomed beautifully last fall, but this year, nada. Not one flower. It has pushed up plenty of new growth, so it seems happy enough, but I’m not. I’d love any suggestions you might have.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Fall blooms in front, construction in back


Kicking summer to the curb always feels satisfying in central Texas, especially when fall’s arrival is not just a date on the calendar but marked by cooler, drier air and rain. Between Wednesday night and Friday morning of last week, my garden received at least 8 inches of rain, maybe more. My rain gauge overflowed one torrential night, and our closest weather station reported 10 inches. To put it in perspective, that’s almost one-third of our annual rainfall in less than 48 hours.

I’d like to report that it was a drought-buster, but unfortunately little of that rain fell over our Highland Lakes, which supply Austin and other cities with water.


Still, it was a blessing for Austin’s green canopy and gardens, despite some washouts and flooding. My own garden saw a little of that, but once the rains stopped, having flowed straight to the construction I’m having done in the back yard, it was mostly a matter of mud and mosquitoes. Despite that, any rain is cause for celebration, and the garden immediately lifted its head to say Ahhhh!

This is actually my next-door neighbor’s garden, which I planted for her as a continuation of my own. Hers gets more sun and is therefore more flowery, with a color-explosion of Autumn sage (Salvia greggii), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), and lantana along the driveway.


Here’s my side, with the same Autumn sage and Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), but with the addition of catmint (Nepeta racemosa), possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua), softleaf yucca (Y. recurvifolia), garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), ‘Pink Flamingos’ muhly, bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), and purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’). Everything must be very deer resistant.


The view from my own driveway, with a decomposed-granite path running between the curbside garden and the Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn. My daughter’s old tree swing, made by my husband, still hangs over one side of the path and occasionally tempts one of us to sit for a moment or kick into the air.


A trio of ‘Margaritaville’ yuccas grow amid the sedges, an idea I got from Scott and Lauren Springer Ogden’s garden. The yuccas offer a tempting target each fall for bucks with itchy antlers. I really should get out there and cage or net them for protection through the winter. I just hate the look of it.


We have a big, honking circular driveway that I confess I quite like, despite the fact that it’s a lot of nonpermeable concrete. But the water flows off it into our garden, not into the street, it’s a great play surface for kids (especially when you don’t have a lawn), and I enjoy the large, bermed island bed it encircles, which gives us some street screening.


Softleaf yucca (Yucca recurvifolia) is blooming again. This sucker is getting BIG.


In back, the wall work stalled out for two days last week because of all the rain. But they’re back in force today, and the wall is already taller than when I took this picture.


Not much happening over here yet, although the footing is poured and materials are in place.


Philip of East Side Patch calls this the Normandy phase — the destruction that precedes construction. You must keep the vision of garden-beauty-to-come in your mind at all times or you could never go through with it. The guys are actually doing a terrific job of not tearing up my plants, but it’s still nerve-wracking. I just keep telling myself that it’ll all be worth it.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Dark-fantasy woodland, Asian teahouse and more at Bedrock Gardens, part 2


In my last post I introduced you to Bedrock Gardens, created by Jill Nooney and Bob Munger in Lee, New Hampshire, on a former dairy farm. It’s a place of thoughtful design, beautiful views, eye-catching plant combinations, and fanciful found-object sculpture created by Jill.


Continuing our tour, let’s pause to admire one of Jill’s sculptures, a sinuous, plant-like, blue base cradling a glass globe.


Hex Rock (at left) terminates a long axis view, and when you arrive you see, tucked under the trees, a large stone spiral set in moss. Behind it, a curving line of spinning roof ventilators atop culvert pipes seems to rise from the ground.


I use culvert pipes as vertical planters in my own garden, so I delighted to see them turned into art in Jill’s.


The Spiral Garden looks out on an allee of newly planted Chinese fringetree (Chionanthus retusus). The fringetrees have replaced a mature allee of Korean mountain ash, which Jill cut down when she learned it was invasive. A torii gate in the center draws the eye and invites you in.


Looking left, back toward the espaliered apple fence and arborvitae hedge, you see GrassAcre coming into late-summer glory. Little bluestem, switchgrass, and hakone grass create a soft, abstract picture, with the sculpture SyncoPeaks as focal point.


Looking right, another axis view opens up, leading the eye to the Baxis, a tall pergola in the shape of a double triangle. Stumpy remnants of the destroyed Korean mountain ash trees seem to scuttle like Thing toward this new destination.


Looking back toward the torii gate as the setting sun bathes the garden in golden light


Nearing the Baxis, with tall grasses and pines framing the view


This is a monumental arbor. A few benches offer a place to rest and enjoy the view.


But you might want to watch your back because from here things begin to get a little spooky. This gazebo-like sculpture with bones hanging in the middle sets the tone as you enter a shadowy wood.


Mosquitoes began to harry us as the sun dipped to the horizon, and we saw monster-sized representations as well.


Hurry, before they get us!


Tree men appear. Is that what I think it is?


Jill confirmed that it was. They seem to be having a Bacchanalian orgy with other trees.


Then again, maybe it’s just an arboreal nudist camp.


Stump creatures watch with sinister intent. I was starting to feel like I’d stepped into another world, a Pan’s Labyrinth.


As I emerged from the woods, I wanted to warn this charming metal family — Papa in a beret, Mama in earmuffs — not to go in there. But then again I’d just walked through with my own kids, and we thought it was a hoot.


Sun-like sculptures echo the setting sun behind the pines.


After the eerie Dark Woods, a clearing appears. A mirror-like pond reflects the surrounding trees and is bridged on one end with an elevated walkway reminiscent of a Japanese moon bridge. A red bench in the center overlooks the pond.

Framing the bridge and bench are tall stumps of trees that have been cut off at about 12 feet. I don’t recall what Jill told me about these trees, but I like how she uses everything that happens in her garden, even the tragic things (like the removal of the invasive mountain-ash allee), to create art.


Another peaceful pond-viewing spot


I felt a sense of urgency at this point, as the sun was rapidly sinking, to see everything, so I hurried along the path toward a large metal arch — a sculpture of 3 acrobats leaping across the path.


The acrobats usher you into an Asian-style garden containing a small pond and a teahouse just large enough for a bed. Jill says she and Bob sometimes enjoy sleeping in the garden.


A birch arrow on the ground gleams in the fading light, pointing the way to…what?


I followed.


Steps lead past waterfall-like ledge stone carpeted in pine needles.


As I reached the top I looked up and gasped: a “halo” floats high above a columnar stone sculpted on all sides with serenely smiling faces.


This sculpture is from Cambodia, Jill told me. She and Bob enjoy traveling around the world to visit gardens, and perhaps they bought this home from one of their trips.


The sculpture sits in center of a knoll behind the teahouse, and the halo above creates a tension, a feeling of energy, here.


But Jill’s sense of humor is evident here as well.


The teahouse has a marvelous swoopy, arched roof.


Heading back toward the main gardens, I passed this tall stone table set in a gravel circle: a mushroom in a fairy circle?


A tall, metal arch marks entry into Conetown, a pinetum of about 50 dwarf and standard conifers.


The gateway arch is charming in its own right.


Conifers of all shapes and colors surround a central lawn…


…with variegated grasses, silvery shrubs, and other plants adding different textures to the scene.


Now we’re approaching the back of CopTop, the covered patio that overlooks the Wiggle Waggle, an undulating rill we explored in part 1 of this tour.


Seats made of old farm equipment swivel to take in views in all directions.


The views are excellent indeed: meadowy GrassAcre, the Wiggle Waggle, Conetown, and more.


GrassAcre


A closer look


To the left of CopTop and Conetown, an undulating hedge has echoes of Piet Oudolf.


Ahead, the Wiggle Waggle


Here’s the pergola we spotted in part 1, which I promised I’d show you later. Jill calls it the Landing, and it sits amid a rock garden planted on the slope that leads back up to the barn and house.


Horse-head sculptures created by Jill riff on the neighboring horse pasture.


The pergola has a fine view of the Wiggle Waggle, CopTop, and GrassAcre, with more farm-detritus swivel seating.


In the last light of evening I popped up to the garden around the house and barn, which sit close to the road in the style of most hundred-year-old homes.


On a ledge outcropping lurks…


…a hungry praying mantis made by Jill.


A tiny dancer twirls nearby, her pointed toe an old syrup tap for maple trees.


Birdhouses made of old sap buckets (I think)


A gazebo or arbor made of culvert-pipe columns and glass-globe finials adds permanent color to the garden, which I’m sure is welcome during New Hampshire’s long winters.


This piece looks sort of tribal to me, but its parts are all about farm life.


Jill’s stash of materials and a few works in progress are tucked off to the side of the driveway. I wonder what this is — a Willy Wonka candy-making contraption?


I admired a rainbow assortment of her tuteurs.

Jill and Bob, who at ages 65 and 71 still do all their own maintenance, have begun thinking how they might ensure the garden’s preservation when they’re no longer physically able to take care of it. They founded Friends of Bedrock Gardens as a tax-exempt charity and hope to raise funds that will allow them eventually to convert Bedrock into a public garden, cultural center, and horticultural sanctuary amid the rapid suburbanization of southern New Hampshire. The couple are generous with their garden, opening it monthly for public tours and hosting numerous events and classes. Click here for more information about visiting the garden.

Huge thanks to Jill and Bob for sharing their incredibly creative garden with me and my family. What a treat to be wowed for two solid hours of strolling and exploring. It was a highlight of our New Hampshire vacation.

If you missed part 1 of my tour of Bedrock Gardens, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.