Posts

I like quirky things that are unexpected and outside the daily ‘normalness’ in our lives. That is why I have fallen in love with the city of Austin, Texas, which prides itself on being “weird.” Another reason this Texas capital city appeals to me is their beautiful gardens and rich gardening culture, and my friend, Pam Penick’s shady, colorful garden personifies the uniqueness that is found throughout Austin.

Pam Penick (facing front wearing a hat) greeting garden visitors.

On a recent visit to Austin, I took part in the Garden Bloggers Fling, where garden bloggers from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, gather and tour gardens within a particular city. This year’s Fling was held in Austin, and one of the gardens I was most excited to see was Pam’s.

As two long-time bloggers in the Southwest, Pam and I have been friends for several years and I was fortunate to have hosted her in Arizona four years ago, while she was researching for her latest book, “The Water-Saving Garden.” For years, I’ve wanted to visit her garden and now was my chance.

Pam’s garden flourishes underneath the filtered shade of beautiful oak trees. However, the shade does present some challenges in that there aren’t a lot of colorful plants that will flower in shady conditions. But, Pam expertly works around that obstacle, using her unique design style that she describes as mostly contemporary.

Concentrating flowering plants in the few areas that receive bright sun is one way to add needed color to a shady landscape. Here, the bright colors of this autumn sage (Salvia greggii) contrast beautifully with the blue-gray leaves of a whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia). While both of these plants flourish in full sun in this Texas garden, they do best with filtered or afternoon shade in the low desert region.

In the absence of flowering plants, texture is introduced with the use of spiky agave and yucca plants. Elements of color are added using garden art such as these blue balls.

I love blue pots, and I’ve found a kindred spirit in Pam, who has them scattered throughout her landscape.

As you walk through the garden, you need to pay attention as Pam adds lovely detail in unexpected places, like this rusted garden art.

There are garden trends that are unique to specific areas of the country, and I found several of what I call, ‘pocket planters’ hanging on walls. Right at eye-level, it is easy to explore the tiny detail of these small containers.

Walking along the driveway, toward the backyard, the soft shape of bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) adds a beautiful blue backdrop, and in front, a container filled with Dyckia and a blue heart adds interest.

A sage green garden gate led the way into the backyard.

A potting bench sits along the wall in the side garden where four “Moby Jr.” whale’s tongue agave are planted, which come from Pam’s original “Moby” agave – I have one of the babies growing in my front garden.

Masonry blocks are artfully arranged into a low wall and filled with a variety of succulents.

The garden sits on a slope, which provides a lovely view from the upper elevation where a blue painted wall adds a welcome splash of color as well as a touch of whimsy with the “Austin” sign.

The shadows from an oak tree make delightful patterns along the wall while planters add a nice color element.

Gardening in Austin isn’t for wimps. They have to deal with thin soils that lie atop rock, which is quite evident along the back of the garden.

Blue bottle trees are a popular garden ornament throughout the South as well as other areas of the U.S. Here; they serve the same purpose as a flowering vine would.

 

As I got ready to leave, I walked among the deck that overlooked the pool where I am greeted by more examples of Pam’s unique garden style. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen octopus pots anywhere in my garden travels, until now. 

I had a wonderful time exploring this shady oasis and the innovative ways that Pam has introduced colorful elements. I invite you to check out her blog, Digging, which is one of my favorites.

 

 

Some of you who are birdwatchers may have heard of the term ‘life list’, which refers to the list of birds that they hope to see within their lifetime.



While I like birds just fine, I don’t have a ‘life list’ of birds I want to see before I die.

But, I started wondering whether or not anyone had a ‘life list’ of plants that they hope to see in person?

I don’t know about you, but my list would be pretty long.  Of course, I would want to photograph any plant on my ‘life list’ so that I can view it again from time to time.

Yesterday, I spent the entire day with my friend and fellow southwestern-blogger, Pam Penick.  We drove around looking at some great examples of well-designed desert landscapes.

It was during this outing that I spotted a flower that I had wanted a really good photograph of for so long, but it was always just out of reach from my camera.

This particular flower is no stranger to residents of Arizona and I see them all the time in the spring.  However, photographing one close up, was almost impossible without a ladder…

My two youngest kids and I on a recent visit to the Tucson desert.

Yes, I am talking about the beautiful saguaro flower.

The buds of saguaro flowers begin to form at the very top of the cactus.

Heavily cropped photo of a saguaro blossom.

I once got a photo from faraway of the flowers using my best zoom lens (which doesn’t zoom all that close) to capture this picture a few years ago of saguaro flowers growing on an arm. 

But, that wasn’t good enough for me.  I wanted a photo that would show the intricacies of the 3-inch flower.

Well, it may have taken a few years, but yesterday was the day that I was able to get my camera within a few inches from a saguaro flower without having to use a ladder.


It was so wonderful to see this magnificent flower up close.  The white petals are somewhat waxy, like many flowers of cacti and the center is very large.

The blossoms open at night and stay open for only 24 hours and are pollinated by bats, birds and bees.

So, are you wondering how I got up so close to a saguaro flower?


We found these two arms from a saguaro laying on a pallet.  

My guess is that they were going to be transplanted. Unlike other cacti, saguaro do root well from cuttings.  While you can plant a saguaro arm in the soil, it will always look like an ‘arm’.

I was thrilled to have been able to photograph AND touch the blossom of this beautiful flower that is almost always out of reach.

So now I think that I may need to work on creating a ‘life list’ for photographing plants so that I can check off a saguaro blossom.

**My friend Pam and I had a wonderful adventure as viewed some amazing landscapes, which I can’t wait to show you…

I just have to wade through a few hundred photographs first 😉

So, what would plants would you put on your ‘life list’?