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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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!

Streetscape Awakens

My house hunt is starting. Per regional custom with posted hours, the open house closed almost 2 hours early, which I drove miles out of my way to see. But now there was time to spare.

Time to visit a recent landscape design – Engler Road streetscapes, taken 3/5/2017:

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Soils at this site are caliche with some gravels on top, which inhibits roots from developing and limits plant choices. Hopefully the medians depressed 12″ will percolate in some extra rain water, to help.

The 20 or so Cercis canadensis var. texensis specified are now taking to dusty New Mexico.

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The gloomy day didn’t help the tan tones including the shrubs in back, allowed to stay – I specified green-leafed Leucophyllum langmaniae instead of the gray L. zygophyllum that we ended up with.

Also doing well are the yuccas and grasses, somehow magically left un-shaped into balls last November when they went dormant. My maintenance plan was followed here but not everywhere in this development.

Got me!

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A few Yucca rostrata punctuate the repetitive mass of Bouteloua gracilis, like the effect one gets driving those restorative stretches of open road around Marfa or Carrizozo.

It just takes a few of these accents, which will soon accent the skyline.

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The yellow leaf margins on the yucca are a detail I often forget about. And the state grass of New Mexico, Blue Grama, is coming alive.

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Many green shoots are responding to the ground and air temperatures warming, even if a few weeks early. With all our mountains  protecting us, my guess is even if we get one of those freak March or April snowstorms and some more freezes (our last frost date averages April 1), few or none will be hard freezes below 28F, when the serious damage occurs.

Maybe.