Come hear my talk at the Wildflower Center on 2/25

On Saturday, February 25, I’ll be speaking at the day-long Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) Spring Symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

My talk is called Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens, and it’s about creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. Get inspired by before-and-after photos of native-plant gardens and and creative design ideas for water-conserving gardens!

The symposium is open to the public. Click here for registration. I’ll be offering signed copies of my books, The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, after my talk ($20 each; tax is included). I hope to see you there!

Here’s the official info from the NPSOT website:

Registration includes entrance to the gardens and a boxed lunch. Pricing will be $55/person, or $50/members of the Society or Wildflower Center. Check-in on the day of the event begins at 8 am and the first speaker will start at 8:45. There will be five presentations:

Reflections on Water. Tom Spencer, best known as the host of Central Texas Gardener, is also director of Texas Living Waters Project. “A general and philosophical reflection on conserving water resources and cultivating a kind of rootedness where we as humans accept our personal responsibility to heal, steward and protect our environment.”

Integrating Native Plants in a High Use, Urban Area. Beth Carroll, project director of The Trail Foundation, will talk about using native plants on the hike-and-bike trails around Lady Bird Lake. “See how one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the U.S. is utilizing native plants in an urban, high-use, naturalized setting; specifically examining the intersection of human users and the needs of a healthy native plant ecosystem in the context of a riparian environment.”

Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens. Pam Penick, Austin-based blogger at Digging and author of Lawn Gone! and The Water-Saving Garden. Pam will have a book signing following her presentation. “A fresh look at creating water-wise home gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty. Get inspired by before-and-after photos of native-plant gardens and Pam’s creative design ideas for water-conserving gardens.”

Texan by Nature. Erin O’Neil Franz, executive director, will present an overview of the Texan By Nature organization. “A united effort of Texas citizens, property owners, and businesses who share a passion for the conservation of sustainable native landscapes, recognizing the tangible benefits of our natural resources for the health and prosperity of our people and land.”

Native Edible Plants: A Taste of Place. Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Wildflower Center. “Research and strong public interest of wild and native edibles are timely today, as it relates to health, history and culture giving humans our sense of place and taste.”

Garden Spark talks kick off with Scott Ogden, and you’re invited!

Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’ve decided to host a series of garden talks by well-known design speakers out of my home, and I’m calling it Garden Spark!

Garden Spark talks are for anyone with an interest in gardening, garden design, and learning from design experts. You won’t find anything else like this in Austin! I know because I’m always looking for garden presentations geared to avid and experienced gardeners, by nationally known designers and authors, and they just don’t come around that often.

Hosting at home will help me keep down expenses and create a fun, intimate experience for a small number of guests (30). To attract excellent speakers I’m paying them a fair speaker fee, raised through ticket sales. If you’re not in the speaking biz, you might not know that speakers are often asked to present for free or for a nominal honorarium. Even if a speaker is hoping to promote a business or a book, it can be hard to justify the enormous amount of prep time for a good talk, which for garden speakers involves not just the talk itself but putting together a slide show of gorgeous photos that required a lot of time and maybe travel money to get. Since many organizations that might want to host great speakers are nonprofits, volunteer-run, or otherwise strapped for funds, bigger-name talks just don’t happen.

I’m hoping to change that with today’s launch of Garden Spark. For the cost of a dinner out or a movie, two drinks, and a popcorn, you can enjoy seeing a great garden speaker in a cozy, personal setting. Just SEND ME AN EMAIL requesting an invitation, and I’ll send you more info and a link to the event page, where you can register and pay conveniently by credit card. Keep in mind, there are only 30 seats — that’s how many I can fit in my living room — so secure your seat early! And please do share the event with your garden-loving friends and any garden clubs or master gardener groups you belong to!


I’m excited to announce that our very first speaker, on February 2nd, will be Austin designer and author Scott Ogden, who’ll present “The Moonlit Garden”:

Update 1/6: ***THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT. If you’d like to hear about future Garden Spark talks, please get on the mailing list. Send me an email and let me know you’d like to be added to the email list.***

In Austin’s hot climate, outdoor activity picks up during evening hours as temperatures cool, and this is true for nature as well as people. Many plants and flowers bloom in the evening, and for this reason romantic gardens for nighttime enjoyment have long been part of landscape traditions around the world, as in ancient Persia, with its jasmine-shrouded, enclosed formal plantings centered on rills of water; classical China, with reflecting pools, moon gates, and naturalistic limestone rockwork; and the English white garden composed of plants with silvery foliage and pale, sweet-scented flowers.

Scott Ogden’s visual presentation, “The Moonlit Garden,” explores how plants with features that shine during evening hours – silvery foliage, pale bark, or white or yellow flowers that can be enjoyed in dim light; glistening, silky textures; dramatic forms; and highly reflective foliage – combine artfully with dark-leaved plants for contrast and with pale native limestone, subtle lighting, and gentle sounds from dripping water to create sensual gardens beautiful day and night.

Scott is a nationally known speaker and designer of public and private gardens around the country, including the award-winning Tropical Mosaic Garden in Naples, Florida, and the refurbished Sibley Horticulture Center at Calloway Gardens in Georgia. Here in Austin, in addition to many beautiful private gardens, his design work includes the innovative xeriscape garden at Rollingwood City Hall. Scott is the author of The Moonlit Garden, Garden Bulbs for the South, and Gardening Success With Difficult Soils and co-author, with his wife, Lauren Springer Ogden, of Plant-Driven Design and Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens.

After the talk, Scott will be selling his books, and I’ll have light refreshments to enjoy while you meet Scott.

What: Garden talk by designer/author Scott Ogden on creating a “moonlit garden”

When: Thursday, February 2nd, 7:30-8:30 pm, with a book-signing until 9 pm

Where: Private home in northwest Austin (zip 78759) — my house, in fact

How to attend: Send me an email for an invitation and a link to the event page

Garden Spark is a nonprofit speaker series on garden design, open by invitation and hosted in my home. Admission goes entirely to compensate our excellent speakers. I keep nothing and am hosting this event for the sole reason that I want to hear great garden speakers in Austin, and I want to share that with fellow avid gardeners.

Please note: Ticket sales are final. If the event doesn’t fill or is cancelled due to any unforeseen reason, full refunds will be given.

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.

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

Rock scrambling at Bull Creek on New Year’s Day


For a New Year’s Day hike, we explored Bull Creek again, doing a bit of scrambling among the boulders on the cliff edge. It was a glorious day, about 74 F degrees and sunny. My daughter struck a few poses above the creek. I call this one The Moonrise Kingdom, after the Wes Anderson movie.


Here’s The Instagram. In the distance, the setting sun lit up the cedar trees and live oaks on the bluff, giving this illusion of spring greens or maybe early fall color.


The creek winds along the bluff, and we surmised that the enormous boulders in the creek were once part of the cliff behind us, and fell off after a millennia of being undercut by the water.


My husband exploring the creek boulders


The cliff is mostly vertical, but native plants have managed to find toeholds in the cracks, like this beautiful Texas nolina, which cascades over the rock face like Rapunzel’s hair. Sadly, invasive nonnatives like ligustrum are colonizing the cliffs too, but we saw evidence that a native-plant group is working to eliminate them: many ligustrum trees have been cut down, and others have been girdled, which will kill them.


Farther along the creek, limestone ledges create mossy grottos. Spring water trickled over some of the ledges like mini-waterfalls.


We found the wagon tracks carved into the limestone creek bed in an earlier era. For more info, see my post about the tracks from late November.


Bull Creek is a special part of Austin. An afternoon visit was a beautiful and peaceful way to start the New Year.

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.

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

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