Saturday: Other Gardens

Fitting in even a few diversions on this Austin trip was challenging. So, I chose to skip the Saturday Blogger’s Fling tour and missed 1/3 of it, in hopes others captured it.

Austin’s balmy May weather returned, and I was off to go my own way.

First, East Austin where I was staying, as I rounded up some good coffee before breakfast and my main gardens for that day.

Make sure to click each photo, to sharpen and enlarge it.

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My first trip to Austin was in 2004, and I was enthralled with Big Red Sun’s original nursery while starting to plan my own. I wrote a business plan for it and also the horticulture business to fuel it.

But no dice, as things happened.

Years ago, I walked in when they had a small plant sales area outside and designers inside. I had a good conversation with a colleague.

Always agaves on everything in the ATX…

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A coincidence this resembles Big Red Sun? I think not.

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Those modest houses are getting thought and care, down to hardscape and house color. That’s often ignored or the need mocked in the desert southwest. (scratching my head)

A horticultural culture and people turned onto their place, or not so much?

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Off to ponder such things, fully equipped, as I plot how I’d get back to evening Fling activities. Shoulda’ gotten just one.

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Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum was a peaceful diversion on a trip years ago, somewhere between mountain biking up the trail along Barton Creek, croissants, swimming in Barton Springs Pool, and a friend taking me to a great art museum downtown.

While my test rides and the above didn’t move me to Austin, Umlauf seemed it would be good again.

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Now, the drive out of Austin’s Cinco de Mayo traffic, into serenity, and a large-scale series of garden spaces at a private home. West towards Fitzhugh Road and the edges of exurban Dripping Springs.

Charles of CIEL met me 40 minutes of driving later. 2/3 of that setting the stage of what was to come.

After a series of driveway gates along a pleasant, unassuming drive on gravel far into the property, we parked.

Oddly after just visiting Umlauf, there’s much sculpture in areas of the owners’ property. All handmade: some flora, others fauna yet frozen in time.

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“Treat everyone the same.”

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CL likes how this piece, carefully set into the limestone slab, is on a slight downward tilt. I can see that now.

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After the owners’ daughter met us, CL walked us into the courtyard, designed so the owners would have one place where the space and planting character would remain static all year.

That’s an excellent idea in Austin’s bipolar climate or most anywhere not tropical, even in the mellower deserts of southern and central New Mexico.

One of the CIEL crew was carefully maintaining the waves of different plant forms and textures. The different viewing angles were great!

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“Think long, think wrong.”

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Brahea armata, a native Echeveria spp., Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’, Yucca linearifolia (?), and Maleophora crocea, all used to great advantage.

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There are various ways to frame views and to capture light; oculus, doorway, and window. Here using stone. These activate what would otherwise be a dark, lifeless space.

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I can’t tell where the owners, the garden spaces, and the architecture begin or end.

Outside the courtyard there’s much more, in the live oak savannah of an ecoregion called “Southern Prairie Parkland”. More accurately, this is the upland part of it often called the Texas Hill Country; to me the more humid part of the sprawling Edwards Plateau.

Quercus fusiformis and a slope of Nolina texana

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I always enjoy the occasional column or obelisk with other elements.

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CIEL and the owners clearly see the importance of  their ecoregion and their discrete spot on Barton Creek’s rim.

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“A place to sit, and something great to look at.” – many before me.

That something here is the small valley along Barton Creek, which feeds the places I mentioned earlier in this post.

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Heading back to the pool, and then my car to the city…

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Charles’ use of raised, tilted rock planting highlights is new to me, and much different and more skillful than something smaller-scale using brick or mortared rock in El Paso. More to ponder.

Repetition…

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Looking back up to the house, slabs anchor the cut stone wall and become steps. Serenoa repens from the coastal southeast thrives under the live oak, intermingled with other understory plants.

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Now, it’s different types of cut stone – Leuders limestone – with ledge stone and trailing jasmine. The angles are so well-carried out.

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A garden wall splits adjacent spaces, and more contrast of well-shaped shrubs and wilder plant forms all around.

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Thanks to owners Bill and Mary for sharing their amazing property with me that day, not to mention the occasional water breaks. And to CL for showing me his ongoing work.

He answered my parting question that he doesn’t get burned out.

I even made it back to my place to clean up, then join my old and new garden nerd friends in downtown Austin, on-time for the night’s events.

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Ponder this quote for this post. I use it for some business email signatures, from a famous aviator, author, and student of architecture and engineering:

”A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Do we reach perfection, ever? No. But do we reach for it, anyway?

Before and After the Plant Sale

After I gave the FloraFest lecture at the University of Texas at El Paso two Friday nights ago, they put me up at the campus hotel. That way I would spend part of Saturday helping with their annual plant sale.

And that I did, most of the day.

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I didn’t answer many specific design questions, nor did anyone ask about that 1 plant to buy. You know, a plant that needs no water, flowers all year, won’t attract bees, is evergreen, and has nothing to do with anything else they have. Instead, most people asked me about their entire front or back yard as a coherent space – that’s a first.

My kind of people. I must have advised on and sold 4 gardens, plus various plants.

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I didn’t buy 1 plant. My own landscape plan must come first.

I know, “boo, boo”! I’m setting a good example. And try keeping container plants alive in a shady spot with our wind and single digit humidity, plus some rear-record warmth on top of all that.

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Before showing up, I took a quick look at an in-progress hospital renovation I designed just blocks away. Many plantings are just months old, and we’re awaiting the sculpture tree installation from Seattle’s Koryn Rolstad.

I didn’t ID materials and plants, but you can always ask.

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After the sale, I enjoyed perfect weather walking UTEP’s Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, adjacent to the Centennial Museum.

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Instead of driving home to start unpacking, it was more enjoyable to first check on the growth of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects’ Centennial Plaza.

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All kinds of impromptu and ceremonial activities go on here, where it was once a wasteland of asphalt, vehicles, and lawn on 2:1 slopes. I’ve happened upon quinceanera, wedding and graduation photography, Frisbee throwing, and of course studying, but never dance practice.

Work it!

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Back to hardscape and planting design…

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I’ve had a very busy 3 months involving a move, speaking engagements, travel, and trying to keep up with working out and just living some.

I’ll start posting on my latest travel in pieces, including the Garden Blogger’s Fling in Austin. Though these last few months gave me far more to post about than possible.

Only my need to get settled and design my own garden exceeds my ideas to post!

The Blue Rocks of Picacho

On workout hikes near the house, I go up or around isolated, 4,959 foot Picacho. Since my first time 2 years ago, I’ve noticed the bluish rocks near the bottom and along the arroyo.

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Some dormant Aloysia wrightii makes quite the austere contrast to the blue areas.

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My first visit, I thought someone dumped blue paint into the arroyo from nearby home construction.

Picacho is volcanic in origin based on rocks apparent in many areas, with the bluish rocks appear to be volcanic tufa. The tufa I’ve seen tends to be more tan. I haven’t located any information sources on bluish rock, the geology of Picacho, or even regional information on geology covering Picacho and bluish rocks.

Decide for yourself, as I’ll keep researching.

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1/19/18 weather: 64 / 22 / .00″