Sunday, August 5, 2018

What I Learned: Garden Art Done Austin-Style

It continues to be hot (shocker!) so instead of doing lots of work in the garden, i went back and looked at Austin pictures for inspiration. There are a few exciting projects happening in the garden, however - now if i could just remember to take pictures!

One thing i don't have a lot of is garden art. No particular reason, although the fact that I buy too many plants is probably one. I'm also not sure what i like, or what looks good, or what will hold up in our sun/heat/cold/wind. I also tend towards minimalist tendencies (well, except for plants), so "extra stuff" was never high on my list.

However, just like with plants, and everything else, the gardens we saw during the Austin Fling had all kinds of inspiration for garden art. Here are some of the ones that caught my eye, from the small:
this cute metal lizard (?) in Diana's garden
To the large:
the labyrinth at The Natural Gardener
And the cute - in this case bushes with some decorations to make them look like caterpillars!
Also at The Natural Gardener!
At Mirador, the garden art was more sculptural and very much blended with the rest of the design.
although it was blocking the gate - on purpose?
Austin had lots of metal lizards - this one in Pam's garden:
I like how it blends into the rock
Pam's garden had lots of cute garden art that really fit in with everything else in her gorgeous garden
a carnivorous plant i might be able to keep alive!

Ditto on the fish!
Some of the art looked like it was part of the plants, like these metal stalks on an agave:
not the world's best picture of Pam's garden...
In Hutto, there were more small sculptures:
and a bottle edging - there were a lot of bottles (trees, bushes, edges) in the Fling
The back gate at Zilker had metal cacti!
The whole gate was gorgeous! 
While at Lucinda Hutson's garden, there were all kinds of metal agave, in different colors:
these were great - they really fit in her garden, but i can see them work in lots of places
A lot of Austin gardens had beautiful rock work. At Kirk Walden's garden, there was also a sculpture near the top pool/spa:
it looked like a dinosaur to me? Fitting with all that rock!
We saw a lot of bottle trees in different gardens - this one from Donna Fowler's garden was among the most colorful:
especially with that blue sky and lime-green trees behind it!
I will admit that while i admire explosions of color like that, I think i can see more subdued art fitting better in my own garden, like this crocodile out of Tait Moring's garden:
hiding in the gravel - i could do this with DG?
Or this combination of spheres and stepping stones in Jenny Stocker's garden. She recently did a post showing how to make these spheres:
i like how they are nestled into the plants
She also had this cute frog statue hanging off the edge of a rock wall:
cute, and looking great on that awesome Texas/Austin rock!
She also had this little "theater", which made the plants themselves look like art:
so neat! And a great focal point on the wall...

Thoughts on how to apply this lesson to my garden:
  • While i admire some of the very colorful art, i'm not sure that's my style. Over and over again in Austin, my eye was caught by art that blended into the gardens. 
  • All the metal (rusted metal, in particular) sculpture was really nice. And maybe the rusted color would keep it from getting too hot in the desert sun? I know i would really like glass, but i don't like setting the garden on fire, so that's probably out...
  • I liked all the spheres - maybe i could get some more for the garden, including glazed ones that match the mostly-blue pots I've been using? I have some small ones scattered around the garden already, but i think the hillside would be a great place to add some bigger ones. 
  • I should look into more "vertical" garden art - like bloom stalks, or other things to add some height, especially when the yuccas/hesperaloes aren't blooming.  
  • I'm very tempted to find a place on a wall to hang a cacti theater like Jenny's - maybe that can be the thing to fill up the wall by the AC and make that part of the garden nicer?
  • Speaking of that part of the garden (that would be the south side) - I wonder if i could add cacti to the fence like at Zilker... it would be fitting! I probably can't get an exact color match though, so I'll have to see if it still works against the blue gate. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

What I learned: Excellent Color Echos & Palettes

It. Is. Hot. So hot, in fact, that i had ants trying to get into my freezer to cool off. Sigh. While i figure out how to make them go away, here's another thing I noticed during the Austin Fling.

(also - crazy fires are back in California... hope everyone is doing alright and safe!)

One thing i noticed in Austin was how good some gardeners were at using color palettes, and color echos. Whether a small vignette, or a big, whole garden look, there were so many great ways that people used color to tie things together.

Here were some of the small vignettes i noticed:

this perfect match of pot & abutilon in Pam's garden
the way these dykia play off the heart (also Pam's garden)
this combo of mirror, pot and flower pomegrate hiding in Colleen's garden
this combo of water feature, pot and plant in colleen's garden as well
Colleen's garden in particular had all these little combinations of color vignettes, that i only really noticed when i wandered around the second time. The picture below isn't great, but the purple combo of bench, water and flowers really stood out in person. 
and just around the corner was red - so well done!

In Lucinda's garden, all the colors were represented. But just like in Coleen's garden, she expertly brought colors together in different parts of her garden to make them stand out. 

like this beautiful family of purples and silvers on one of the structures
 At the Margie McClurg garden, this color combo of pot/fountain and japanese maple showed the same "almost same color" approach in plants.
so pretty!
As you might expect, B. Jane's garden used a beautiful all-garden color palette - which was announced by the floating balls on the pool!
This looks like a Gray Malin photograph!
The garden furniture matched, of course!
this little grouping was off in the shade.
The studio door, and Euphoria tirucallit 'Sticks on Fire'continued all the right colors.
how does one match paint to plants that perfectly?
Even the accessories - like the pot on the outdoor stove - matched!
a level of color coordination i will never achieve. 
Thoughts on how to apply this lesson to my garden:
  • Matching plants to the color of my pots might be hard (since my pots are all deep blue), but some good combos should be possible. Maybe more blue-silvery pots to go with some of the blue-silver foliage?
  • I can definitely be more 'on purpose' with flower colors - maybe more yellow flowers under the palo verde? 
  • I like how Colleen (and others) allowed gardens to flow from one color combo to the next - that might work really well in the large bed on the north side (from yellow to purple to TBD to white (?) to yellow?)
  • I should probably consider being more deliberate with the colors i bring into the garden - although it's always hard not to buy every plant i like... Maybe thinking about where to put plants so even the odd colors (like a random pink?) stand out, rather than clash...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Finally, Cousin Itt comes to visit!

Taking a short break from looking at Austin pictures, I finally found a plant i'd been looking for! Before our heat got completely insane, i finally found a plant i'd been looking for (locally) for over 2 years - acacia cognata Cousin Itt. I fell in plant-lust with it after seeing it in botanical gardens and blogs, and even figured out the "perfect" spot for it in my garden. And then I couldn't find it anywhere...

I wanted it to replace a pink muhly grass that was in too much shade to bloom well, next to the dry creek bed. Since it looked horrible, and i couldn't find Cousin Itt, i eventually planted a purple cordyline instead. Amazingly enough, it didn't die!
mostly-happy cordyline
I realize that picture doesn't make that spot look particularly shady, but after about 2pm, the sun moves behind the wall on the right side, so it mostly gets morning sun. And in my garden, that counts as "shade".

And then a few weeks ago, i was "just looking" at one of the nurseries, and i found:
Cousin Itt! Fancy seeing you here!
So obviously i bought it. And i did think about whether there were other spots to plant it, but the most likely spot (the hill side) seemed like guaranteed death. So with some quick shovel work, the cordyline was evicted, and Cousin Itt put in where i wanted it 2 years ago.
In place - the green will go much better with the grasses that are further down the creek bed
Supposedly, acacia cognata can take 'full sun' (probably not this full sun), and have low water needs, so that should work. Cold hardiness is a bit of a gamble, but i have several other acacia's that seem to be surviving fairly well, so fingers crossed.

The poor cordyline didn't get tossed - there was a spot in the front garden where something else had died, so it got moved:
The cordyline in its new spot - this might be too much sun for the purple leaves...
You can see that it's now in closer proximity to other plants - i think it should be able to outgrow the neighbors vertically, assuming it survives. Ironically, it's closest neighbor is now acacia redolens. This poor cordyline really needs to compete with all members of acacia for space!

Friday, July 13, 2018

What I Learned - Planting Without Beds

It's not quite as ridiculously hot anymore, and last weekend, there was a big clean up in the garden, so it looks very neat right now. While I bask in the fact that all the weeds (well, most of them) are gone, here is the next lesson i learned at the Fling. Pictures of the cleaned up garden will be coming soon - hopefully before the weeds move in again!

The next thing i noticed when looking back at my pictures of the Austin Fling is almost the opposite of the clean and orderly mulch & gravel I mentioned before - plants growing every which way they wants.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wild Flower Center, there were desert-y plants spilling out of their bed:

And poppies blooming where they wanted
At Mirador, even though most of the garden was more structured, there were still exuberant plants going where they wanted
Manfreda in the vegetable garden
i think this is russelia equisetiformis - growing in the corner of the stairs
I think that part of the reason this worked so well was the consistency that the gravel mulch gave everything. I noticed a similar thing in Jenny Stocker's garden:
Aloe in the gravel
Wider shots of Jenny's garden show that "english cottage-y" style she has perfected. While it looks like plants are just growing everywhere, there's obviously a lot of thought that goes into which ones stay where. And some great structure with those walls.
repetition with color, form and plants everywhere
Three areas in particular in Jenny's garden caught my eye as great examples of 'garden beds without beds' - this first one features a big opuntia. In my garden, opuntia can sometimes look messy because it gets so overgrown.
here, the combination of room to grow, and other plants make it fit in beautifully
This next piece was in one of the "hallways" between garden rooms - plants were sitting in the gravel walkway.
it's obviously well maintained, but still very free

The last picture is of Jenny's fish - here in a sea of mexican feather grass. I would have been so tempted to add a border/edge right there in the front, but this is so much better. It looks like the fish could just swim off into the gravel.
and again, the same gravel as everywhere else. 
Thoughts on how to apply this lesson to my garden:
  • This is a bit cheating, since this is a style that i already have a lot of in my garden!
  • Like with the poppies that plant themselves in the DG - but i think i should apply some more of Jenny's editing (especially of the actual weeds!) to make it look a lot nicer. 
  • Plants spilling out of beds is something that happens naturally in my garden, since i never seem to think about how big the plant gets. 
  • I should remember that even if a plant plants itself, i should still take care of it & prune it back when needed. I have oceans of mexican feather grass. Since the older plants don't look as good, i should remove some of them. 
  • While all these gardens have plants outside of beds, they don't have weeds. I should weed more to make sure the pretty plants stand out from the self seeding weeds! 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Palo Verde & Wind & Gophers, oh my!

It's ridiculously hot today, so let's go back a few weekends and look at my palo verde... so i remember when i was (semi-) smart and got that taken care of before this heat wave!

I have two Palo Verde (both cercidium hybrid 'Desert Museum') in my garden. Palo Verde's are not totally uncommon here, although Gerhard's updates on his trees were a big part of why I tracked down 'Desert Museum' in particular.

One of the trees is a major part of the front garden. However, when it was first planted, and even later (the picture below is from last year, about 2 years after it was planted), it always looked unbalanced, with a very skinny trunk, and a huge canopy.

even here (from May 2017) you can see it leaning
 So it wasn't really very surprising to come home from a trip about 2 months ago and find this:
tree fell over!
The thing that was weird was that there was no ground disturbance (like roots coming out) or break in the trunk. Nor did the tree seem to mind that it had fallen over, it went right on blooming. I called my landscaper to see if they could fix it - after a quick inspection, they thought they could pull it up with guide wires.

However, a week later, i came home to:
no tree!

No tree at all! While the wind was the biggest reason it fell over, it turns out that gophers had done a number on the roots. That combined with the skinny trunk/large canopy meant the poor tree really couldn't be stabilized. With the tree removed, the front garden looked "wrong" - there was no vertical interest point left. So, after some back and forth (i wanted to try Mariosousa willardiana, my landscaper preferred to not have to find yet another weird tree for me) there's now a new 'Desert Museum': 
new tree!
It's more of a multi-trunk look, which should help with the wind, and at about 6ft tall, a bit short, but it will grow fast enough. Once it gets taller, and i can see how it grows, i'll probably remove some of the lower branches. It also has no wires or other supports, so hopefully it will grow to better withstand the wind. I can wait to see how it looks this time next year!

And the stupid gophers are dead. I'm sure they'll be back, but c'est la vie...

Saturday, June 30, 2018

What I learned: The Power of Consistent Mulch!

Oddly, one thing i really noticed during the Austin Fling is probably "Garden Design 101". But somehow, the ability of humble mulch, applied consistently, to make the garden look even better, really struck me during all the garden tours.

One place i noticed it was in  Diana Kirby's garden - where it made the spring beds look finished, even in the rain:
and i assume helped to keep the rain from washing soil away
this was in the front garden - so neat!
Stone mulch also featured in a lot of gardens - here again in Diana's:
and it's the same size/color gravel everywhere - such a beautiful backdrop
At the Natural Gardener, it was pine needles that were mulching the guitar garden. So clean!
and fun to walk on!
Mirador was a poster child for consistent gravel mulch - so gorgeous!
the same gravel was used for walkways and mulching the planting beds
even in the less formal parts of the garden, the same gravel was used. 
so clean!
In the back garden, consistent ground cover was used in a similar way
In Pam Penick's garden, the look was a bit more loose, but still orderly, and a clean background to all her beautiful plants. I may have poked in a few places to see how deep the gravel was as well.
clean mulch & gravel
she also used consistent ground covers as mulch in some of her beds. I imagine this combination below looks really amazing in the summer.
Pam's limestone paths/rocks were gorgeous back drops as well
At B. Jane's garden, the mulch went a step further and was the same in both the planting beds and the containers.
why did i never think of this?
Lucinda Hutson's very colorful garden had equally colorful (but consistent!) mulch:
pottery shards
Tait Moring may not be impressed that I picked this picture, out of the 200 or so I took in his garden, to post here, but it's so neat! Also, i want to know where everyone in Austin gets such large quantities of very similar gravel...
so orderly!
Thoughts on how to apply this lesson to my garden:
  • I'm not sure i want the same mulch in the beds as the hardscape (that would be DG). But certainly consistent cedar mulch is something i can do in the not-cacti beds. 
  • For the cacti/succulent/agave areas, rocks would be better. I'm not sure i can approach Mirador levels of consistency there. I like the more natural, desert-y look of different sizes of gravel. 
  • For the gravel paths, or large expanses of the dry stream & pond look, I can be a bit more consistent. And use a deeper layer. 
  • I could use the same DG as my outdoor container mulch - that would make a lot of sense. 
  • If i can get some of the ground covers from the back garden to grow in other areas, that might help with consistency as well.