Sunday: Garden Bloggers Fling ’18

Rejoining my Garden Bloggers Fling tour group on Sunday, that last day seemed laid back. Our bus was in good hands as we went up and over the hills to each stop.

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The McClurg Residence was a heavily-planted garden, using a mix of native and adaptive trees, with plenty of interest from sculptural plants mixed with so much flowering.

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To me the highlight was this arbor made of bent rebar supporting common Pyrus calleryana. Here that pear is used exceptionally, as a shady canopy for sitting at the generous table.

One element to note is the native Diospyros texanum and it’s exfoliating trunks, not to mention the leafy understory.

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These views are the other way, and again the skillful use of focal point plants, such as Nolina nelsonii. Looking closer, there’s even a sculpture of the ubiquitous Grackle bird!

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The Lucinda Hutson Garden came next, with it’s use of colorful hardscape to match her personality! Her originally from El Paso, I recall a couple houses where I lived a few years in Sunset Heights that made festive use of tiles, paint accents, and all manners of handmade ornamentation.

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Color, color, color!

As a designer far more into trees than fleeting flowers, seeing a Ginkgo biloba that was actually not a struggling curiosity, but rather a large and healthy tree with presence, was one of my favorite aspects of Lucinda’s home.

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Back to colorful and handmade accents, this offset brick planter with the pottery shards reminds me of the fiesta version of what archaeological sites reveal in my part of the world.

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Details………….

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Yep! I’ve known both…

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Her office with the timber construction and leathers appeals to my desert need for something more mellow and dark, once I’ve had a year’s supply of vitamin D in 30 minutes of Las Cruces.

Even in Austin’s mellower sunlight, this is a nice contrast to all the color outside.

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Balmy morning – meet the woman, the myth, the legend.

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The Ruthie Burris Garden was after driving over more steep, rolling hills.

But then I stepped out of the bus and eyed a pair of limestone columns framing the driveway, reinforced with Cylindropuntia imbricata. Was I dreaming?

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No. It was real.

To echo what a colleague says about predicting an unproductive client relationship when they want all their creosote bush removed in her former city of Phoenix, the same is true when folks immediately dismiss chollas, desert plants, and all native species that love it where I am.

“You called me, and why?”

While not quite native in Austin’s ecoregion, this south Texas subspecies of cholla is plenty happy here on their green, rolling, and rocky uplands.

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Though the Zoysia lawn (?) and Yucca rostrata are not native (parts of South Korea for the lawn are closer in climate to Austin than is Terlingua for the yucca), the Salvia farinacea, limestone ledge rocks, and preserved Juniperus ashei in the background tell me where I am. They ground this garden most importantly.

The adapted plants simply add forms and textures that are not so easy to find in local flora.

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The understated elegance of the design tells me of those living here. Having talked with Ruthie the designer and briefly with her husband, it made sense.

I told her as an LA myself, that she would never need someone like me except to hang out with to bounce ideas off of. Or something like that. She’s quite capable of implementing her style!

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Of course, I’m biased with the previous and final scenes…

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I’ve wanted to visit Zilker Botanical Garden since my 2nd or 3rd trip to Austin ages ago. But other things barely fit into my time. This time, the bus took me there.

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It’s what I expected, actually. I enjoyed the differences from other gardens I saw. This would have really appealed to my ideals of a garden as a teenager, when I was slowly gaining interest in horticulture, then later design.

It still appeals, just on a different level with more years behind me.

And this funky gate…to think people in the desert often don’t like the desert and especially that evil word spoken in fear, cactus.

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Tait Moring’s Garden captured me too much at the top, that I missed more. But I was out of my zone much of my time in Austin…a valid excuse.

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The crisp lines of his comfortable home, architecture to plant contrasts and restraint, grabbed me at once. But every new area was a different scene.

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Just like the San Francisco Bloggers Fling I went to, more than a few women cooled off in the pool. From meeting some of them, I can imagine conversations ranged from writing to rocket science. Really.

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But I had some kind of mission to accomplish. Like see some great vignettes, and just wander around. Except for my new home and the things I like to do in my medium-sized town, this was good getting away from everything else.

One last vignette at Tait’s home that anyone could do. Well, maybe not some!

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Kirk Walden’s Garden spaces were our last stop, on that steep hill from you-know-where!

But I digress.

I spent time in front, while most seemed to stay out back with the view. But first things first. A cottage effect that reminds me of some montane areas during teenage escapes to the Rocky Mountains, then-30 minutes west of my then-home in the Denver metro area.

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I forgot to take more photos of people taking photos, since it’s always entertaining.

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Oh, it’s the view towards the Colorado River and the green Hill Country. Lime green, deciduous Quercus buckleyi accent the darker greens of evergreens Quercus fusiformis and Juniperus ashei, to name a few.

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The mix of mounded plants here works, most of these not xeric where I live, but they are with 4X my area’s annual rainfall, comparing extremes or means.

The small pops of spikiness with the palm and agaves add to the soft Gaura lindheimeri and a bullet-proof groundcover I and other aficionados of arid-region horticulture use to advantage – Teucrium chamaedrys ‘Prostratum’.

And this attractive understory plant I saw in many shady spots there in gardens.

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I made the mistake early on to not stick with meteorology in college, and I only took 1 geology course. Yet, this rock layering with some moss and algae growth in cracks, then the Trachelospermum spp. on top, conspire to tell the story of ancient and contemporary Austin.

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Unless there are some garden details I post on, this is my last for the ’18 Garden Bloggers Fling. Thanks and endless (but virtual) agaves, cor-ten, and margaritas to the sponsors, garden owners, designers / maintainers, and of course all who put this together.

And virtual queso from New Mexico. We have you on some things!

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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?

Friday: Garden Bloggers Fling ’18

Forgetting the token umbrella in my car, safe inside the parking garage, the 90 percent rain chance was destiny! But that’s okay.

On to the first day of the garden tour.

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The Wildflower Center is where the weather hit the proverbial fan. So many spots there are magical, especially with their sub-humid climate version of juniper savannah, adding in oaks and completed with a heavier atmosphere.

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Spikes of native Yucca treculeana, prairie wildflowers such as Echinacea purpurea and Coreopsis spp., and ponchos for the ensuing rain.

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Wedelia texana, as the lightning and thunder suddenly began to crash.

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Diana’s Garden was very comfortable to enjoy inside her living room, and so gracious. A nice break from the kind of decor I’m around. Though you can’t hold me back from going outside… Her rustic pool pavilion was so appealing, implying Robert Earl Keen playing Gringo Honeymoon as I swim off a BBQ dinner. But my photo looked more like a water-induced blur. So, use your imagination on that area.

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Looks like one of my favorite palms, Butia capitata / Jelly Palm.

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I skipped photos at The Natural Gardener, instead struggling to be comfortable post-cold front wearing shorts and forgetting my long sleeve tees (a packing faux-pas). Over lunch we enjoyed another of John Dromgoole’s inspirational talks, as I have before in other venues.

So laid back and matter-of-fact, he spoke of how things can and did happen, but in a different place and time than I know.

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Rock Rose was more floriferous than ever, and the rain slowed to light but persistent showers.  It hit me that owners Jenny and David might be as Loree as Loree is, at least in some of their multiple spaces with so many potted plants and details pulled together in unity!

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Agave and succulents in the rocky ground or in hanging planters…

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This planter box and bench provide yet another location to pause in all their garden spaces – I forget Jenny’s name for it.

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Here I almost feel like I’m in sub-tropical Asia with variegated Pittosporum and a Trachycarpus palm.

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And now I’m somewhere in Mexico, drying out in my mind!

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Everyone peering at Jenny’s find – an emerging insect!

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On my previous trip to Rock Rose in 2011, I took numerous photos and even did a post or two of it on my former blog, so I didn’t feel too pressured to capture more this visit. I could have taught a college semester course on Rock Rose, alone. I’ll need to re-visit those photos, and possibly post on this blog.

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The Mirador Residence was our bus’ last stop on the Friday tour. The rain lightened to a Seattle-type dripping, which allowed more pics. Like each garden seen that day, it was of a different style

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Ordinary (in Austin) cor-ten and spiky plants here were given an extraordinary treatment. Higher Yucca rostrata low and lower Hesperaloe funifera high.

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Beargrass or Sacahuista / Nolina texana – the real Nolina texana – softening the oxidized edges.

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Plant massing and plant punctuation are used well, whether Yucca and Agave, or Taxodium / Bald Cypress and Muhlenbergia capillaris / Gulf Muhly grasses.

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Green on green. Cream on cream.

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The contrast of wilder plant forms with manicured, clipped Boxwood always gives me enjoyment.  I’ll let you ponder why it works. Hint: search garden design principles, and you’ll see and probably come up with even more principles.

This is the kind of garden that blows out the repressive perceptions of “native plants aren’t tough to the urban environment like invasives”, “there are no lines in nature”, “I don’t like lists”, “nature doesn’t fit into neat categories”, “formality is so passe”, “you need more flowers”, “I don’t like roses, hedges and lawn”, “oh, you’re into ‘design’ “, or the other silliness.

I’ve actually heard that and more from the untrained or unpracticed. We do better.

Having met this garden’s landscape architect, and now the owner, this landscape is one rare, harmonious connection between both parties and to the land.

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Details, details. Forget the devil, there’s greatness in the details!

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Comfortable, minimal, yet warm and peaceful.

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Yes, more rain spots on my camera lens prove I could improve my wet weather photog skill set. Then in moments, the chairs and patio filled in with tour bus companions, so no more pictures for me in that magic spot.

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There’s so much movement and energy in this scene, even under the parting weather front’s moisture blanket.

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Now, imagine this under my desert southwest conditions. Flowers optional, form required for success.

This does that well in Austin, so probably as well where I live, given our .75″ of rain since October. There are only the occasional flowers in my nearby wild areas.

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Almost dried out and feeling more normal, we arrived at the conference hotel downtown, where I quickly found the way to my car.

It was time to visit a colleague working late that Friday with a few coworkers at her office (no surprise), a drink and freshen-up at my lodging while reviewing photos, and then a long-time friend over tapas and [dry] red wine.

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** Disclaimer: differing quantities of photos of each garden are mostly a case of weather and comfort. In no way does that represent more or less favor. As a designer who appreciates most styles, each garden had numerous merits! **