Garden Designers Roundtable – Journey

“I’m gettin’ bugged driving up and down this same old strip, I gotta finda new place where the kids are hip” – The Beach Boys, 1964.

This past May of 2013, I was searching out a place to relocate. When a garden tour coincided with a friend’s invitation to stay there, I was Austin and San Antonio-bound, just to give it another chance…mine was a 685 mile route, plus other diversions.

so dry, relaxing before packing, cleaning out my old media cabinet of 15 years, taking a long phone call, and an all-day drive the next day. (Albuquerque NM foothills – 11″ rain / year)

dodging a storm that spawned a tornado, my shooting from the dash worked…winter wheat ready to harvest. (S of Sweetwater TX – 22″)
Now, this is what people think of when they think of May, not my parched desert…Blanket Flower, Yarrow, and so on, among patches of oaks and other small trees…as the road curves past the storms. (near Brady TX – 26″)
Clink! To a fruitful week ahead…the storms caught up! (Austin TX – 32″)
Massive cut limestone and Cor-Ten steel made up more than one stairs / path combo on this year’s Gardens on Tour from the Wildflower Center. Since how one walks even to a hidden area was considered in this Sitio design, I can also see discrete plant softening either side, in some future phase of this large property…

I’ve lived in Nebraska, Colorado, Belgium, Alabama, Colorado / Oklahoma, California, Colorado yet again, New Mexico, and now, far-out west Texas. half of that the last two places.

That may be why I see better gardens as those aspiring to a place’s uniqueness and natural attributes.

Apres tour, Pam/Digging invited me to hang out with her and husband David over a beer…after pondering it for about 2 seconds, I followed her there…their front island plantings are filling and spilling nicely…the weather was divine enough to be back home, but here, live oaks greeted me…
Beer, margaritas, Mexican food, donuts, etc, and a guy has to get in some sweat equity the next day. Sunday was time to evaluate the mountain bike trail possibilities, since that was a moving criteria…all that greenery, especially near Barton Creek was a bit odd but nice…Mopac above..and some challenging rocky areas throughout
After work the next day, it was on to north Austin, to meet a friend in his techie world…salud, to figuring out my next move
Heather & Co’s backyard transformation gave a place to enjoy the lunch she had for us…in between looking at more places to live. (San Antonio TX – 31″)
My friend and Texas Forest Service forester took me up to see his family’s future weekend home in the Hill Country…not a shabby setting, as he told me how “I really want to get you down here…” (Sisterdale TX – 33″)
I suggested that garden visits to places like Wimberley, San Antonio or Austin are old-school, recommending Lubbock as something more novel…hey, I tried!
Below Mark’s new place, a gallery forest of Bald Cypress / Taxodium distichum…
After a morning of design work, a break in some showers to test out a trail in far south Austin. No unleashed dog signs though? (Austin – 32″)
A good trail, far greener than my haunts, with rolling terrain and some rocky areas for a workout, requiring some basic technical skills…
…and mud, this much foreign to me, though it didn’t even rain hard
…but seeing Damianita / Chrysactinia mexicana in the wild made up for it
Speaking of Damianita…with all things spiky along the path, including South American Echinopsis terscheckii, and North American Agave americana, Yucca pallida, Nolina nelsonii, Dasylirion quadrangulatum…on this steamy, humid 99F day…in mid-May. (San Antonio TX – 31″)
A stunning Yucca rostrata in full bloom (in contrast to my old one, that skipped 2013 even with hand-watering)…a nice break at the San Antonio Botanic Garden, while apartment hunting
It’s always nice to find an ordinary material used well…at the home of Rock-Oak-Deer in San Antonio, it’s as simple as a Photinia hedge lifted up, gravel to walk on, and a well-placed bench
The empty store fronts on these buildings tell much. Over a week after I began my journey, I had to return home, with few possibilities and many dead ends on my new home search. (Llano TX – 26″)
Plenty of ranch entry gates with nice plantings…something I just don’t see further west…here Yucca rostrata, Y. thompsoniana, Dasylirion spp., Hesperaloe parviflora…and a security camera
Journeying westward, the milky and humid sky remain, as the land and views open up. (nearing Brady TX – 26″)
Another ranch gate, Texas Sage / Leucophyllum frutescens and Red Yucca / Hesperaloe parviflora…a mesquite savanna fenced in, and still-green grasses…the sky less milky (just past Coleman TX – 28″)
High and dry once again…nice planting and colors at McPherson Cellars winery, including Honey Mesquite / Prosopis glandulosa, Threadgrass / Nasella tenuissima, and Parry’s Agave / Agave parryi…in masses (Lubbock TX – 19″)
A nice fountain to provide mental relief from the heat at the home garden of Julie and Jason Hodges, owners of Prairie Workshop
I even visited The Bicycle Garden, to see how back garden work is coming along, including hardscape and color…blue is better than blast furnace; at 102F and wind, there’s no cycling today…
The favorite tree yucca of Albuquerque is calling me to the last half of my drive. Palm or Faxon Yucca / Yucca faxoniana, underplanted with Powis Castle Sage…
Back home, near my favorite place to stock up at Trader Joe’s…the fresh green of thornless ‘Maverick’ Honey Mesquite, Red Yucca, etc. (Albuquerque NM – 8″)

* precipitation amounts listed for each different place are average yearly amounts, and they can vary by the year (source:

That’s but one important journey this landscape architect had to make. So, how do my fellow ladies and knights of the Roundtable see a journey? Right – here and here –

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

12 Replies to “Garden Designers Roundtable – Journey”

  1. You really did see a lot now didn’t you!!!!! I am in love with the Faxon Yucca house and garden…..crisp!
    So lucky I got to meet you on this LONG journey you took :)

    Yes, as always! Great meeting you and seeing Casa Heather…the journey continues, even though I’ve mostly settled…


  2. Happy Be-lated Thanksgiving!
    Also a gorgeous collection of photos! Especially the meadow and the flowering yucca. Getting a serious case of wanderlust…

    Belated T-giving to you! Thanks, trips I made from old house to Austin were great, almost as nice as seeing some favorite people there!


  3. Limestone and Cor-Ten: what a great combo!

    Looking forward to following your new adventure.

    Yes, both durable, and Curt Arnette has a way with hardscape. An adventure so far!


  4. What a journey! Hope the destination — your new home — is exciting, engaging, and transformative!

    Yes, and I’m beat! And me too, so here’s to giving it all I’ve got w/o losing any.


  5. Wow…I never realized that Portland only gets a bit more rain than Austin (I think we’re around 37″ or so annually).

    That is a surprise to many, though PDX gets most in winter w/ cooler temps (and less humidity with heat)!


  6. I’ll echo the thanks already voiced for sharing a bit of your journey so thoughtfully. I am struck how it is the small moments in so many gardens that elevates them from “space” to “surrounding”.

    Good point, in the subtle details or lighting, related to covering space vs. making a special destination!


  7. Empty store fronts.

    Driving to jobs across the Atlanta metro area I feel like I’m driving thru post-apocalyptic USA. Once subdivisions transition their original owners the store fronts are empty or pawn shops, tattoo parlors, resale shops, immigrant food ventures, DUI driving schools, bail bonding, burned out apartment buildings, a lot of food for thought.

    Once saw a tall, elegant woman from Africa on the sidewalk with a scar that could have only come from a machete across her entire face neck….and she walked proud. Will NEVER forget her.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    James Kunstler isn’t far off, right to tattoo parlors taking over old buildings! Yet the rebirth with new “blood” like the woman you mention gives hope. Or the guy I met from Llano with the old building facades, who thought I might move there and live, and go into Austin, San Antonio, etc for work meetings, socializing.


  8. Enjoyed following your journey. Watching for cool ranch gates is a favorite activity on country drives.

    Fun to look back at all your visits to Texas this year. The “well-placed bench” helps discourage deer from jumping the fence.

    I forgot you saying that, a nice diversion. Now to go east of SA/ATX all the way! And that is well-placed that serves more than 1 purpose, even better.


  9. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. I found the average rainfall amounts interesting and quite telling when you look at the native vegetation. BTW, wow, you’ve lived in a lot of places!

    I hoped someone would catch that important part, and I’m planning 1-2 future posts on what scenery and landscapes result. Yes, many!


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