Thursday: Pre-Garden Bloggers Fling ’18

On Wednesday I did the 10 hour drive from Las Cruces to Austin, plus my usual scenic diversions. For months, I knew the importance of arriving a day early for the Garden Blogger’s Fling.


12 miles west of Harper, the sky and this oak savannah and woodland vegetation it nourishes tell much, and it ain’t “semi-arid.” Yet my skin took a couple days for it to soak in!


The plan to kick off my first ATX trip in 3 years: great BBQ for dinner, then a favorite Wednesday night pastime of live music at the Continental Club. The first show starting at 10 pm and the last at midnight.

By 10 I was relaxing back at my home for the next several days; make that Shannon’s home. I caught up on design emails and looking at trip pics. As I got ready for bed, it hit me I was supposed to be taking in one of Austin’s institutions, Jon Dee Graham. And a Shiner Bock or two surrounded by college kids making memories or people my age reliving theirs’. Then the wicked songwriting wit of James McMurtry, and the band’s tireless playing.



Since I would miss all but the last song or two of the first show if I dressed up again and zipped back to South Congress, it wouldn’t be right. One must see both shows, the first opening with his iconic “Tamale House Number 1.”

Sleep was just too tempting. Next time, Austin, “I promise.”


After breakfast tacos at Valentina’s per multiple recommendations, I was off to see a garden with its landscape architect and owner of Ciel, C. L. Williams. “You will arrive at your destination in 37 minutes,” said my phone’s navigator in his English accent.

More driving to Ciel’s Villa del Lago, a hillside home with an outdoor pavilion and grounds that double as an event space.


As a designer, people assume I’m only into one style (naturalistic), while I appreciate good design of many styles.

This is a purposeful garden that requires a bond between an in-the-field LA and their crew of implementers. To simplify, it’s detail in rock work, classical training, integrated maintenance, and a keen eye.



This surprise to me was the small pond encircled by pollarded Platanus mexicana, so leafy, with a few views into it very much purposed. Much purposing and pollarding here!



And the spacious pavilion, towards it and away from it.


This view is only so by Ciel’s planting of Quercus fusiformis x virginiana to hide the boat docks on the lake, below. Shaped, of course.



Screening using Podocarpus gracilor from below…


…and what’s being screened, which would otherwise be visible from the important space below.



Classical design details I learned as a new LA student at OU, a whole 19 years old.

A fellow UGA alum to C.L., I’m picturing Tara Dillard walking with us and echoing all we’re discussing.

And careful spatial definition with the architecture and even mimicking the rounded Juniperus ashei on the hills.



3 varieties of white-flowering roses here, from miniature to large.



More whimsical rock work, sandwiched between natural bedrock strata and stacked rock work. All native limestone to my eyes. Even better with each gaze at my photos.



Back to the entry motor court, with Ciel’s drain grate-cooling fountain combo. Paved in tumbled concrete pavers. Usual used well = excellence.



More manicured shrubs that reflect nearby, juniper-clothed hillsides. This time, Eleagnus pungens, which thrives in my area with drip irrigation. And tough native Ilex vomitoria, and so on.



Then a late lunch of more brisket than even an 18 year old male should consume, plus a good Real Axis IPA, and back to freshen up for the Garden Bloggers Fling kick-off event.



Following a long walk through bustling Austin as too much brisket and humidity weighed me down, our huge group made it to the buffet and meet/greet at Austin’s new central library.

I ate like a rabbit, mostly the salad. Then hearing, “hey Dave, what’s that plant over there?” Which I usually like, even that night.

It was enjoyable getting to know some new people, as well as re-connecting with others from the past or who we only knew online until now. As I like to say, “I needed that!”


Sometimes I was stumped, such as the rooftop Dasylirion with larger leaves and less prominent leaf margin spines than I know. Texting a colleague revealed it was D. wheeleri, though she didn’t design that space.

Which gave us an excuse to meet the following evening.


Some views of booming Austin. Just remember, boom – bust – boom….. Nowhere is immune, even if it takes a while. Even with such a vibrant economy as much of Texas has.

My guess is Austin is as vibrant of a place to a visitor as it is to those who long-ago made it there. Their growing skyline is far more filled in now than my last visit in the summer of 2015.

Don’t forget the heavy sky that so-often sustains what one blogger said, “1 foot in the south or southeast and 1 foot in the southwest.”



Returning home for the night, these signs taunted my paying $24 flat rate to park at nearby garages. The $10 flat rate with a card was not to be with my time window.



Stay tuned for the next day, the first of three day-long Fling garden tours. Oh yeah!

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