Imagine finding yourself stepping back in time, surrounded by small adobe homes and extensive gardens – all in modern-day Phoenix.
Imagine finding yourself stepping back in time, surrounded by small adobe homes and extensive gardens – all in modern-day Phoenix.
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.
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.
November is a very busy time in the low-desert garden. Cooler temperatures make this best time of year to add plants and as a result, my phone begins to ring off the hook. Many of my clients have established landscapes that they are looking to do some tweaking to the landscape.
This usually consists of identifying what existing plants still add beauty to the landscape, or background structure, from a design standpoint, and then removing those that don’t. New plants are then added that will compliment the older ones.
One easy tip for creating a newer look to the desert landscape is to clean out river rock washes. While it is labor intensive, the process is quite simple. All you need to do is remove all the rocks, wash them off with water from the hose and put them back.
I must admit that I love working outdoors this time of year when the weather is simply lovely.
Here is a colorful surprise that I discovered while visiting a client last month. ‘Loretta’ is an eye-catching piece of garden art and I love her pink arms. She was purchased in San Francisco and is made up of parts from an old bike.
On another note, my grandson, Eric, decided to put on some ‘face cream’. The only problem? It was diaper cream! I think that all of us probably have a story like this one…
I hope that you are enjoying the fall season – I know that I am.
Have you ever visited a garden filled with more than just trees and plants? Different types of garden art can add welcome interest to outdoor spaces along with a touch of whimsy.
It’s the unexpected element of encountering an unusual planter, wall hanging, or recycled items throughout the garden that can add a touch of whimsy that makes a garden unforgettable.
I was inspired by the creative uses of garden decor on a recent visit to Buffalo, and while the plants may be different than what I grow in my Arizona garden, the look can be easily replicated using desert-adapted plants.
Here is a look at my favorites.
A small bistro table is all set for tea along with moss planters in the shape of a purse and high shoe.
Got a dull expanse of wooden fence? Grab some chalk and draw some flowers – this would also work for a block wall fence too.
Old glass dishes make beautiful flowers, don’t you think?
Got an old portable fire pit? Dress it up by filling it with succulents.
Creating artistic pieces from old silverware is quite popular and I quite like this dragonfly made out of butter knives.
An old mirror not only makes a unique wall hanging, but it also reflects the beauty of the garden in front of it.
Old garden benches paired with old watering cans add a new look to this corner of a garden.
Transform an old tree stump by adding a plant on top and wooden planters below.
‘Head’ planters are a trendy whimsical element, and I love the extra splash of color that these add.
Elephants food (Portulacaria afra) would make an excellent ‘hairstyle’ for a head planter.
The elegant beauty of a rusted steel hummingbird.
Faced with the view of an uninspiring blank wooden fence? Break up the monotony by adding planters across the base and through the middle.
Succulents would look great used this way through the middle with potted lantana at the base.
An antique store kettle finds new life as a planter for purple alyssum.
Cool season annuals such as petunias or pansies would go nicely in here. Succulents are a good choice for a year-round planting.
Metal wall hangings are a great way to decorate vertical spaces.
Another stump makes a suitable resting spot for a couple of birdhouses and a colorful ladder.
A simple, yet elegant way to display the blooms in your garden in small glass jars.
Lantana, roses, Texas sage or yellow bell blossoms would look lovely displayed like this for a party.
Are you feeling inspired? I certainly am. I invite you to stroll through an antique shop, a thrift store, or even the garage sale down the street. You never know what will catch your attention and be used to add artistic flair and whimsy to your garden.
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I enjoy traveling around the country, exploring gardens. Throughout my travels, I am constantly amazed at the unexpected gardens that I stumble upon. Recently, I was in Buffalo, New York for the annual GWA Conference. I arrived a few days early in order to spend time with my BGF (Best Garden Friend), Andrea who came all the way from Australia to attend. We set out from our hotel in the morning to see more of the downtown area of the city.
It was a hot and humid day, but we were not deterred. We passed by a farmers market down the road from our hotel where fresh produce from area farms, was laid out to tempt passersby.
I enjoy seeing fresh seasonal produce but lament that fact that other than fresh fruit, I am limited as to what I can use without a kitchen when I am traveling.
Most farmers markets also feature plants for sale and it’s a great way to see what grows in that area.
After leaving the farmers market with a bag of blueberries, we continued our walk toward the lake side where we encountered a lovely urban community garden. The Learning Garden is located underneath an overpass and adjoins a park.
The garden serves as an outdoor classroom for Erie Community College.
Three of the sides of the garden bounded by a fence, leaving an open gateway for visitors to explore the garden.
Raised beds were filled with a variety of vegetables and herbs along with a few ornamental flowers. Tomatoes are found in almost all of the beds and this garden clearly had an Italian theme with its basil and parsley.
Intermingled with many of the edible crops were whimsical garden signs like this one nestled within a bed of kale.
This sign expresses the joy of gardening for me and I believe for many others as well. As you can see, they aren’t difficult to make and I may enlist the woodworking skills of my husband to make some for my own garden.
Andrea and I took a moment to rest our sore feet while enjoying the scenery of the garden and the busy bees roaming from flower to flower.
The raised beds followed no distinct pattern that I could ascertain – but regardless, they looked great and were obviously thriving. Vegetables were the main focus with flowering annuals such as snapdragons and alyssum adding color.
I want this sign in my vegetable garden – do you think the neighborhood cats can read?
A small greenhouse is located behind massive cucumber vines. My cucumber vines have never looked that good…
I enjoy garden art made from repurposed materials, such as this ‘spoon-fork’ flower – a definite touch of whimsy.
What do you do when you run out of room in your raised beds? Plant vegetables in fabric containers, of course!
In a sunny corner, an unusual pair of wooden chairs sat, facing each other. What a great piece of furniture for those who enjoy good conversation, like we do!
We spent over an hour exploring the garden before leaving. It was a completely unexpected garden discovery and one that I will remember for a long time.
Once we left the garden, we decided to search for a place to eat lunch. Did we select a unique eatery or small cafe for lunch?
I’ve heard great things about Tim Hortons and we don’t have them where I live and they aren’t in Australia, where Andrea lives either, so we decided to eat lunch there to see what all the buzz was about.
Okay, this isn’t the healthiest lunch, but I did get my pretzel bun club sandwich without mayonnaise and it was delicious.
For dessert, we ate their famous cake batter-flavored donut holes – oh my, they were wonderful! It’s probably a good thing that we don’t have one nearby or my waistline would suffer greatly.
I hope you have enjoyed our Buffalo garden travels so far. You can click here to read about our adventures at the test garden filled with colorful annuals. Next up, a garden from the pages of Harry Potter!
**You can follow Andrea’s gardening adventures on her blog.
The popularity of fairy or miniature gardens is evident with whole Pinterest boards dedicated to them as well as nurseries having entire sections filled with fairy garden furniture and accessories.
During a recent visit to California, I visited the J. Woeste Nursery, which had taken a slightly different direction with fairy gardens. Theirs were decidedly drought tolerant and planted with succulents.
Do you have pieces of garden art in your outdoor space?
I have a few pieces and am always on the lookout for unique examples of artwork to use in my garden.
The past few weeks, I saw some great examples while out and about that I would love to share with you.
Do you like to visit California?
I do. I spent the first 20 years of my life in the Golden State before getting married and moving to Arizona.
Since then, California was a frequent destination for visits with my parents, siblings and their families.
But, now since my family all has moved to Arizona, visits were infrequent.
That is, until my daughter was stationed at a Navy Base in CA. We have just finished up a trip visiting with my daughter and our 3-month old grandson.
|Mt. Lemon Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii)|
|Verbena lanai series|
Is your garden looking a bit lackluster and in need of more color than green? While colorful flowering plants can help, it is hard to find a plant that will flower all year long.