Waterwise outside, oasis inside a walled Sonoma garden


Last August a family road trip took me through Sonoma, California, where I had the pleasure of seeing a garden I was writing about for Garden Design magazine. The owner, Marilyn Coon Stocke, had generously extended an invitation to me and my family, and so we stopped by after a visit to Cornerstone Sonoma and its gardens.


My earlier phone interview with Marilyn had been mainly about the garden inside the courtyard walls, which she’d hired landscape architect Mike Lucas to build to block the wind and provide privacy from the road. But as we approached her garden gate, I was wowed by the waterwise exterior garden. Blazing orange flower spikes of kangaroo paws towered over tuffets of chartreuse lomandra. Both plants hail from Australia and are water thrifty and heat tolerant, allowing Marilyn to focus limited water resources on her interior courtyard garden.

By the parking area, a tumbleweed-like sphere of barbed wire makes a sculptural, Wild West-style accent.


How I wish we could successfully grow kangaroo paws here in Austin! Alas for our sauna-like summers.


Majestic Weber’s agaves punctuate a meadowy front garden of lomandra and tall verbena.


Large cutout windows in the white walls of the courtyard offer peek-a-boo glimpses of the secret garden inside. A barn-door-style shutter can slide closed to keep out the wind.


Eucalyptus and bottlebrush (Callistemon) add more Australian foliage.


Inside the courtyard, a sheltered, green oasis greets you, and a trough-style water feature flanked by an elevated terrace leads to the front door.


A bisecting path frames a view of the trough’s scupper fountain through towering agapanthus blossoms.


The agapanthus flowers were nearly spent by early August but still lovely.


To the right you see steps leading up to the front door, and a row of ‘Livin’ Easy’ rose standards.


The apricot-orange roses echo the orange of the kangaroo paws outside the wall.


Boston ivy traces green-leaved tendrils across the white walls, making a green frame for the window views.


And what a view through this window! I love seeing that big Weber’s agave flexing its muscles amid purple salvia, with a row of eucalyptus trees and golden hills beyond. In the foreground, a firepit and built-in seating offer a reason to stay a while.


Opposite the window, the firepit axis leads straight out of the courtyard and through an allee of ornamental pear trees, which reference the property’s history as a pear orchard.


As a focal point at the end of the allee, a water feature made from a manganese rock crusher — essentially a giant dish — bubbles gently. From here, the garden proper ends, and the path leads to the wilder parts of the property and, eventually, to a borrowed view of a neighbor’s vineyard. Ah, the beautiful Sonoma wine country.

My thanks to Marilyn for the tour of her lovely home and garden! It was a treat to meet her too. If you’d like to read more about her garden, just get your hands on a copy of the Winter 2018 issue of Garden Design and look for my article on page 54.

P.S. Marilyn’s home and garden fortunately escaped damage from the Sonoma wildfires last fall, which I was relieved to hear.

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.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin this May 3rd-6th! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2018 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Chanticleer’s Flower/Vegetable Garden and magical Bell’s Woodland


During our full day at Chanticleer Garden in the Philadelphia area last month, Diana and I left for lunch around 1:30 pm and returned two hours later with full bellies plus a picnic dinner stashed in our bags. On Friday nights in the summer, the garden stays open late — until 8 pm! — and allows visitors to picnic on the grounds. I wouldn’t have missed the chance to photograph the garden in the softer light of evening, and being able to bring in dinner was a bonus. (If you’re considering it too, arrive no later than 4 pm in order to get a parking spot. There are only 120 spots. Once those are filled, people are turned away.)


Re-entering the garden, we headed opposite the Teacup Garden in order to see the sections we hadn’t visited that morning. The Cut Flower Garden, with willowy arches and frothy flowerbeds, soon came into view.


I was more drawn to the Vegetable Garden, with its diagonal lines and lathe tuteurs resembling oversized carrots half-pulled from the soil.


Another view


As in other parts of the garden, Chanticleer provides a plant list in a charming, handcrafted box. (Plant lists are helpfully available online too, although only a few star plants are accompanied by photos, making it challenging at times to find the plant you’re looking for.)


The estate’s old stables now function as a garden shed. Bellflower (Campanula medium ‘Champion Pink’) shows off prettily in front.


A closer look


Pink sweet pea climbs a downspout.


We walked down this path…


…and I gasped in surprise. I missed this fallen-tree bridge — and Bell’s Woodland, which starts here — the last time I visited Chanticleer, back in 2008. (Maybe the bridge is new since then?) It would have been easy to miss this time, as the path is hidden in a back corner and on the quieter side of the garden. But we didn’t, and so began another exploration of delight.


Hanging realistically from a tree branch, a plant-list box in the shape of a hornet’s nest — complete with a few hornets! — sets an almost fairy-tale mood.


You can’t help using a cautious touch as you open it up.


The bridge is a marvel of verisimilitude as well. It’s made to resemble a fallen, partially decayed beech tree, and you enter through vine-draped roots.


The “decayed” portion is open to sunlight and, just as a real fallen tree does, supports the growth of colonizing plants.


Moss, rocks, and a mason bee house are tucked along one side of the “log.”


Delicate flowers spring out of a mossy bed.


More plants growing over the old fallen tree


A wider view shows the planted sides and jagged, “broken” end of the tree bridge.


And here’s how it looks from the outside. Isn’t it wonderful? You feel rabbit-sized as you walk through it.


Chairs are tucked into the woodland garden here and there, inviting you to sit and enjoy the peaceful scene.


I took a seat and discovered a stone representation of an old tree stump — like petrified wood — complete with moss and other colonizing plants inside.


Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) was showy in the shade.


Clematis too, its upper half reaching for the sun.


From the shady woods we emerged into a glade of curving green lawn bisected by a sunken, stone-walled stream: Bell’s Run Creek.


Bridges cross here and there, allowing you to explore both sides of the creek.


A dogwood was blooming at the edge of the woods.


An old waterwheel that once pumped water up to the swimming pool still turns, although it’s no longer in use.


A long view to the waterwheel and dogwood. In the foreground, the stream widens around a weir of stacked stone.


Carnivorous pitcher plants grow in the moist soil.


An oval reflecting pond offers a tranquil spot to pause and take in the view.


Along one side, a stone frog spits water into the pool.


Another beckoning bridge


Sticking to the edge of the garden, I rediscovered several wonderful slate paths and tiny patios.


This spiraling path of slate pieces laid on edge is one of my favorite artistic features at Chanticleer, and it was one of the inspirations for my own sunburst stone path around my stock-tank pond.


Pure magic, a surprise element that invites you into a secret-seeming space


Farther along the path, a stone-and-slate starburst suddenly appears at your feet, giving you a reason to slow down, not hurry on through.


Stars within stars. I love unique paving materials like this. Paths can be art too!


One more — a whorl of slate laid on edge for a tiny patio, with two small benches angled for conversation.


On a pine tree, a skull haloed with barbed wire is one of the few non-functional pieces of art I noticed in the garden, and it has an incongruously Southwestern vibe. Still, I liked it too. How could I not like anything at magical Chanticleer?

Up Next: The dry and hilly Gravel Garden, one of my favorite parts of Chanticleer. For a look back at the white and gold Tennis Court Garden, click here.

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.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Festival of Flowers in San Antonio this Saturday: I’ll be speaking!


Central and south Texas gardening friends, are you going to the Festival of Flowers in San Antonio this Saturday? I am! In fact, I’ll be giving a presentation at 10:30 am 10:45 am about how to make a garden that is both water thrifty and beautiful. With eye-candy photos and my top water-saving techniques and water-evoking design ideas, it’ll be a mix of the practical and the creative! After my talk, I’ll be at the book-signing table with copies of The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone!, so come on over and say hi and maybe pick up an autographed book for yourself or as a gift.


Other speakers are on tap all day, including Dr. Calvin Finch on butterfly gardening, “Skip” Richter on natural pest control, and Ray Elizondo on growing daylilies. In the afternoon, catch an organic-gardening roundtable discussion with four experts including Austin’s own John Dromgoole of The Natural Gardener and KLBJ radio show “Gardening Naturally with John Dromgoole.”


Of course there will be plants and garden goods for sale. If you get there early, you may even receive a FREE xeriscape (drought-tolerant) plant, while supplies last, courtesy of San Antonio Water System, co-host of the Festival of Flowers.

Here are the official details:

Saturday, May 28
9 am to 5 pm
San Antonio (Alzafar) Shrine Auditorium
901 N. Loop 1604 West

(Between US Hwy 281 N. and Blanco Rd.)

Tickets available at the door.
Admission $6 adults
Children under 10 free
Free Parking

Carts and wagons welcome. Come and go with hand-stamp. Free plant and package check-room.
ATM on site. Concessions available all day from Augie’s Barbed Wire Barbeque

I hope to see you there!

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.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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