Monday, May 21, 2012

Waltz Across Texas

Well, I traversed some of it. It's huge, and that's coming from wide-open New Mexico, the 5th largest US state. For a garden tour! Plus live music and BBQ! Be warned on this post - 1500 miles, 5 days.

I justified this trip to see two landscapes I designed, and one I'm starting. Clovis NM = 3:45 hours E, on the shortest route to Austin TX:

The owners saw no need for my construction observation involvement, so their general contractor did it; some parts per plan (this fine), others not. I must no longer accept clients who might do that. Fall re-visit?

And the last of this architecture at the NM-TX border visitor's center. But no shortage of these plants further SE, actually.

Thompson Yucca / Yucca thompsoniana among badly shaped shrubs.

Texas. W of Lubbock...really flat and real farms. Not pseudo-sustainably flooded lavender fields, free-range organic yaks, or hybrid eco-Volvos. 

And wind generators galore, while getting greener!

Even greener and hillier, nearing Llano.

That's yah-no in NM and laah-no in Texas. Me = 2 hours out + a smile!

11+ hours - made it! And a very kind someone greeted me with a warm barely-baked cookie, the night-before-the-garden-tour dessert. As my other friend Augie looks on, almost done for the night. As I get ready to dig in. 
This was for the Wildflower Center's "Grand Tour of Gardens", in Austin TX; there are descriptions and lists for each garden. We visited each garden out of order, just because!

1st stop / garden #5 - Daphne, knowing this was the first of many photos she couldn't escape, smiled back at me. She drove both of us to each garden.

An effective, cool understory planting shaded by existing oaks of various species. That can't be done under surface-rooted mulberry, [tr]ash, cottonwood, willow, siberian elm, etc. Nope.
Back to real trees - here, that includes Shumard Oak, Texas Red or Spanish Oak, and Escarpment Live Oak:


Nice flagstone color mixing that leads along a cobbled and planted swale. The rear pool area had good deck and railing work, including built-in seating. Hard to pull off in a visual or lifespan manner in full sun, or just about anywhere in the desert. Works here, though.

2nd stop / garden #4 - a more exposed, upland site, some great stone work, accents, and lines punctuate this garden...but what a huge piece of property! Only part of it has been developed, landscape-wise:

The front really grabbed me, and Pam seemed to enjoy it, too!

A rare sighting of Daphne texana 'Sans-Augiei', camera in hand:

Good plant massing, and limestone stepping stones relate back to the site. Don't use boulders not from the geology your project is on...and don't date girls who do, or work for clients who want you to.

The morning chill lifted into a perfect 75-80F range by noon, and hammocks under live oaks such as here are tempting. But we resisted.

The front entry, a good blend of lines, rock, plant accents. Rugged beauty:

3rd stop / garden #6 - this is a habitat garden, or I should say property, with a small landscape footprint and some serious area. Ever gone hiking and still managed to stay near or on your property? That's here.

This photo does little justice to one steep driveway, and I'm used to that with some gnarly driveways in the Abq foothills. Glad neither place gets much snow. 

Their front porch area looked nicely-laid out, plus green and serene. It perhaps lacked a sculpture plant...all it might take is a specimen agave or cactus w/ some dahlberg daisy or four-nerve daisy, in a nice container?
Opposite their front porch, I didn't take a photo of the kind of water feature all too common in Abq. As we proceeded down into the steep, natural area of this site, it was even more evident that front porch's constructed faux-waterfall was unnecessary, but a simple and small fountain viewed from their porch would have been quite effective, tying into the addition of a few structure plants in pots. I liked this garden and open space, though, and the actual human-made garden areas took up a very small footprint compared to conventional gardens, and others on this tour - more on this place in a future post.

"Oh, can't you see that big green tree, with the water running free, and it's waiting there for you and me?....."

Nice flowering vine...I wish I knew the species Scarlet Clematis / Clematis texensis. (thanks, Kaveh M.)

In a number of ways, the juniper - oak savanna and woodland of the Texas Hill Country resembles the wetter E sides of New Mexico's central mountain chain. But theirs' is a greater species diversity, since their climate is warmer and wetter.

Contrary to a chunk of Outside Magazine's readership, the earth's cradle of life is not gray rock on the alpine tundra in NW Wyoming. Try the wet tropics...middle school earth and life sciences verify that.

But I digress. Were not tropical, but in the uplands of sub-humid prairie. The home we started at is up on that ridge:

So serene. Where I mountain bike in summer 10 miles away from home, when it's too hot in Abq, resembles this. Just a different juniper species, but some of the same wildflowers and limestone rock.

At least a 200' elevation drop down to the creek - and that cool, clear water!

4th stop / garden #3 -  into more traditional suburban neighborhoods, with less undulating topography and smaller lot sizes:  

A mix of lawn and planting borders that blend desert region and prairie region plants. I need to study my other photos of it, so more later, to gather my thoughts on it's effectiveness here.

I must always remind myself that lawns in Austin - 28-32" annual average precipitation - are far more appropriate for groundcover than they are in desertic Albuquerque - 6-9" AAP - especially with less thirsty species such as zoysia, bermuda or buffalograss.

Perfect, smaller space and outdoor room. Nice shade ramada, more intricate a design than most in the desert region:

Me by a Quercus [muhlenbergii], of course. Proof I was there: 

5th stop / garden #2 - a rear-lot-only garden, but the designer really pulled this off.  A covered outdoor dining pavillion in the casual Central Texas "Brisket Belt Vernacular", as I think it could be called:
Asymmetrical balance and naturalistic, some lawn plushness and much non-lawn lushness.

Pam spying a potted agave, with Catherine. Imagine that! 

The view in towards the house and the rear patio. The very kind landscape designer's manner of dress even picked up on colors used here! And a burnt-orange pot. Goes with the territory.....

And the view out to preserved open space. Borrowed views are so very important!
Done, as we skipped the Wildflower Austin visit? 

And my tour compadres L to R - Renee, Cat, Pam, Jenny, and Daphne. Nice, smart, like-minded and fun folks to tour with:

In the future, my plan is to post some items on each garden, in more detail compared to this fly-over trip. What I appreciated on this particular garden tour, is that it showed gardens in a variety of scales, costs and settings. This is important for the public, as many are unnecessarily scared off by things like 5/6 of the gardens I saw in the Phoenix garden tour last month.

Though, any of these gardens still cost more than putting down an entire yard of gravel on weed fabric, at least initially.

Pam took us by a landscape architect's home to peek at his garden. Great details throughout, like plant ledges formed by rock bars:

As usual, I also took in some sights solo, and enroute somewhere else. The croissant was really good at La Boite:
I returned again Monday AM, since resistance was futile. But before that, I wound my way up to hike at Wild Basin. 

Nice development entry in hardscape and planting layout...structured naturalistic, all hardy. No token gestures to some place more like Hudson Bay or Yellowknife, like back in "Burque":

This deer might have some great garden visit stories, too:

Almost there...but this simple and attractive plant massing with more hardy plants beckoned my memory card. Red Yucca, Feathergrass, and Gulf Muhley. I gave in:

May the hike begin...arrived for 90 minutes at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. Great information on it here and here. Wilderness means no mountain biking, etc, but here it also means no dogs or horseback riding.

Serious drought-damage is evident on many junipers, grass stands, etc. At least Abq is supposed to look this way:
Like where I often hike, Wild Basin is really close to a busy roadway and population, yet still remote. But much greener, with denser vegetation, compared to Albuquerque's arid, western side of the Sandia Mtns: 

Just a bit greener and denser than the semi-arid, eastern side of the Sandias. Though our East Mountain areas contain no waterfalls like this, at least to my knowledge:

Maybe I hiked for 2 miles, but only 100-150 feet in elevation change? I hiked all but the "Yaupon Trail", since I had to see Pam and David Penick's botanical paradise, then get back for dinner. Fun! 

Many interesting scenes here since my earlier and only other visit to Pam's home, in 9/2010. But this live oak, the lighting, the chairs colors and shapes complimenting the pool's really grabbed me...maybe the shot here?

Monday morning, I observed the crew from Central Texas Gardener at a lush home garden in NW Austin, at least as I would consider it. Linda is on the right, the narrating voice heard on broadcasts - here:

I got some work in, as well as missed a few people I hoped to meet. Though I did talk with a couple via e-mail and phone. But I gained seeing this...more of this and a few other landscapes of interest in the future:

The last evening of my trip, walking and checking out how the 2 trees / each house could have been arranged and used more effectively...less crowding, more widespread shade. At least they were all appropriate native trees! (2) each front yard...

Nice live oaks and split-rail / rock fencing, heading back Tuesday AM, nearing Driftwood and Dripping Springs TX:

What a contrast to last spring - between Fredericksburg and I-10:

Even some bluebonnets stayed in bloom for me. With just enough mild, wet weather, they are just hanging on:

About the western end of the sub-humid prairie and woods of the hill country - near Junction TX:

Some large live oaks mixed in with smaller ones, just W of Sonora TX:

Now, it is definitely drier on semi-arid steppe and mesquite flats, just E of Ozona TX:

Seeing even more dead junipers and thinner plant cover, but still not desert, nearing the Pecos valley W of Ozona TX:

Many of the Texas Sotol plants here on its western range are dead or dying:

Looking familiar in Fort Stockton TX...back in the Chihuahuan Desert. An effective, simple planting of tough Ocotillo, Desert Willow, and Desert Candle. More on this another time:

Really familiar, the overused-in-Albuquerque Desert Willow...but quite the flower for the desert!

I think the 2nd statement is working, at least to the east:

Desert Willow and Desert Candle, both massed. Simple, durable:

The first larger mountains appearing W of Fort Stockton TX. Getting closer to my home, though I wish I could have stayed longer on my trip:

Site inventory and measurements In El Paso. 3-1/2 hours from the house, and very likely a great project to work on. And that cobalt-blue sky of the high desert!

A good end to a great trip. Even though I missed Austin's live music (I was sure I would experience that), and I didn't even get any BBQ (so unlike me)...but that just means I will be back to experience those.

For a while, I didn't even miss the desert. With great weather and company, some work and some recreation, I couldn't ask for more!

Well, maybe I could ask for less driving?


  1. Thank you so much!!!

    This is very informative blog. Again another informative post. Contractor Leads

    1. You're welcome...visit back, as not only will I post in more detail in the future, but I often add a photo or clarify something in the post.

  2. Wow! You crammed a lot into your whirlwind tour.
    I was sorry to miss the garden tour. But, we had grandkids...yes, GRANDkids...graduating from college that day.
    It looks like it was a good tour, this year.
    Thanks for taking us along.

    1. Yes, missing some live music and BBQ will have me back soon to catch those. I waved before I turned towards Dripping Springs! Always a grand tour there, though the next trip will include more drive-by landscapes all over.

  3. I am so sad I missed you this time! Sounds like you had a great time with Daphne, Pam, Cat and The Other Jenny!

    1. There will be more times, hopefully soon since I missed a few "must-dos" this time around. It was a great time - I'm very fortunate.

  4. Nice post David. I wish I could have traveled with you. It looks like my kind of trip. On the other hand, I was in the Grand Canyon over this time, which is a pretty good garden:)

    1. Thanks SC. When I walked up to the others, Pam asked, "why didn't you bring Scott with you?" Never mind me...humph! Stay tuned, as I'll post more on the gardens I saw there. Yes, the Grand Canyon would be a nice alternative trip...hopefully there, soon. Been years.

  5. Wow,that house (the first photo)looks amazing! Also, the windmill shot is awesome! Makes me think of Lubbock!

    1. The first house is really nice...grand. Hopefully, the owners want to work with me to clean up some of the landscape, and get it back in shape. I could do an entire post on all the wind generators, as I've never seen so many, anywhere. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Your mystery vine with the reddish pink flowers is Clematis texensis or a cultivar of that species.

    1. Thanks for the vine ID...very attractive to see that color and flower form down in that creek bottom!

  7. Wow, what a trip! Loved seeing your perspectives, too.

    1. Someone in Las Vegas applies Johnny Cash's song, "I've Been Everywhere, Man", to my travels! Thanks - more coming up - and so nice meeting you.

  8. Wow! You sure packed a lot into that trip. It was nice to see you again and do the tour as a group. As ever enjoyed your perspective on the gardens we visited.

    1. It was definitely worth all the driving, and it helped to have someone drive me from house to house! There was something at each house I liked, and I have ideas for them plus inspiration for my current work.

  9. Thanks for the fun tour, David! I can't believe I've never been to Austin - it's on my travel wish list...Please keep up your "tough love" landscape critiques, they're always an education!

    1. You would really like Austin, once in areas off the main roads. Took me the 2nd trip there to start finding gardens (thanks to Daphne, Pam, Philip, etc), and then I was hooked! They nicely combine prairie, woodland and desert flora, being between all 3.

      Glad to oblige...I try!

  10. Well blogger has ate my comment twice today, not sure what their issue is. I think I said things like "wow" "exhausting" and wish I could have been there. Although I'm sure I sounded much smarter...

    1. I think I had the same problem with a Word Press blog. Arrgh...hope you liked the tour. (and it was nice being with all those cool women as the only guy:) I am certain you sounded muy intelligente!

  11. Holy S%$^8ll$! That is a LOOOOOOOONG post. An awesome post....but long:) I saw it yesterday and said, I need to sit down and have some time here to absorb it all in. First, it looks like a great trip. I've always wanted to do a garden tour but just hven't had the chance yet to do so...perhaps this summer, I'll be able to fit one in.
    2nd. What fun to be around the CTG crew! If it's one thing I have enjoyed in my own life experience, it's being around people who enjoy similiar things. And gardeners and birders have really opened my world up to positive vibes. It has been wonderful....all the creative talent behind such wonderful project/art. I really love Austin. Very green and very lush. Your pics are wonderful and I thank you for the tour. It was a lot of fun. This post must have taken some time to put together with all the uploading....have you used all your memory space?:) Just a joke:) Hope you had a nice day and thank you for sharing your fun adventure.

    1. I said the same thing when I saw 57 photos. Like, "duuude, why not just show a few shots, blow off the each garden thing, and the getting and leaving there thing?" But my ambitious side spoke louder. Glad I didn't crash this PC or get kicked off Blogger!

      Phx Home and Garden 1st wknd in April pretty good,,,must be one that one of your botanic gardens puts on?

      Yes, many positive vibes in the right groups like these you state...those are so necessary. I say the same thing, as Austinites think they are so dry. Yes, until you compare to us!

  12. Austin's tour looks amazing and I'm looking forward to your more detailed looks at individual gardens. That's a city with a real garden culture if you can judge by the number of garden blogs out of there, including Pam's cool one. Definitely like a lush English landscape compared to Albuquerque! From a design standpoint the garden with the menhirs really appeals to the Druid in me, something about the totally unnatural placement of a seriously natural material. Nice tour!

    1. Thanks...more coming up! Austin seems to have horticulture as part of their pop culture...I think that is key. I wonder if Tucson is that way, too? The menhirs and other forms with other rocks really grabbed me eyes once inside that garden's gate.

  13. Wow - quite a trip - you must have horticultural overload! Frustrating when a garden you have designed is constructed and ends up differently - disappointing and can be embarrassing when its quoted as your design! Would love to have seen the group of Hesperaloe closer - its wonderful when left alone to flower but annoyingly is often trimmed!

    1. Horticultural overload, for sure! But more driving overload. Sure was nice to tour with everyone, so hospitable.

      It is disappointing, as well as when a landscape is installed OK but the owner lets it go later. Am now trying to come up with a method to stay on top of things before and during installation, plus the dreaded communication...and communication!

      I'll have to revisit the plans if I had more Hesperaloe, though I think it was the Regal MIst / Muhlenbergia capillaris that was a meandering mass to tie it in. I also had some trees on either side of the drive, so one went through a few trees, then the house appears... Sigh.

  14. Oh now, David, I didn't take you for granted! Though perhaps it was a bit, ahem, tactless for me to say, "Where's Scott?" as soon as I ran into you. Ha! So glad YOU came to Austin and toured with us, and I loved reading your insights here. "Central Texas 'Brisket Belt' Vernacular" -- I'm still smiling over this one. And your comment in one of your comments above that Austinites always think things are so dry here, but compared to you guys...well, right you are again. Hope to see you in October for the Open Days tour.

    1. Sob, sob. Instead of "it's always Marsha, Marsha, Marsha", maybe "it's always Scott, Scott, Scott"?

      Me all have such a nice horticultural / garden community, it was hard to leave But had to get back to all this work, sigh. Glad you enjoyed the terminology and my odd wit.

      Well, those Wild Basin scenes look pretty dry, and I almost felt right at home there! This fall...I just might come out for the Open Days, maybe even in-between this summer? Since I missed some BBQ, somehow, would be nothing like enjoying some as the death star seeks out victims. BBQ and heat / humidity seem companions.

  15. Great tour and insight as usual. Hilarious commentary.

    Enjoyed it mucho.

    1. Awesome, S. Fox. So many funny things out there, or at least I think so... And more to come, and more detail.

  16. What a great trip! Loved seeing the gardens through your lens. My big plant aha was your Clematis texensis sighting. Gorgeous! And I found a reference saying hummingbirds love them, double-bonus. Now I just need a moist bottomland for it...

    No BBQ? And you went through Driftwood, which is not far from BBQ temple Salt Lick. Next time.

    1. Only thing that would have made the trip better was some BBQ and a few more days! I wonder if that clematis might grow in an area below some roof drainage and mulched in, once established. Moist bottomland...yeah, right.

      Thanks for stopping by...Palo Duro Canyon is my next trip, hopefully soon.


Thanks for visiting! I try responding to comments within a few days, though my day job can call. Comments now require word-verification, thanks to evil spammers...