Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mayfield Park

Last weekend, I attended the Trowel and Error Gardening Symposium at Mayfield Park. (Trowel & Error -- don't you just love that name?) I went mostly because some of my favorite Austin gardeners were speaking and organizing the event. Renee Studebaker spoke on container gardening; Meredith O'Reilly spoke on gardening for wildlife, Cher Groody spoke on antique roses, and Linda Lehmusvirta worked behind the scenes. I learned something new from each speaker, AND, I won a huge American Beautyberry in the raffle!
'Trowel & Error' Garden Symposium

I didn't know anything about Mayfield Park or the symposium before Saturday, so I have Renee, Meredith, Cher and Linda to thank for introducing me. Trowel & Error is put on by Friends of the Parks of Austin, a non-profit volunteer group, and is their one-and-only fundraising event for Mayfield Park each year. The symposium always includes speakers on gardening topics, a plant sale, a raffle, and yummy baked goodies. If you're cash-poor, you can attend for free, but a $5 donation is suggested. I wish I had taken more photos of the tables of plants and baked goods, the volunteers conducting the plant sale, and the girls, dressed in their Sunday finest, selling raffle tickets -- but as usual, I arrived late, after Renee's presentation had started. (I am so not a morning person.)

Between speakers, I wandered around the gardens. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Mayfield Park was donated to the city of Austin after the passing of its matriarch, Mary Mayfield Gutsch. The cottage is rather humble, but the gardens are magnificent.
One of many ponds

In the few hours I was there, I only saw a fraction of the 2-acre estate. I never made it to the 23-acre nature preserve that surrounds it -- that's a field trip for another day, or three.

Mayfield Park is known for its extensive gardens,
Garden walk

its multiple ponds,

its stonework, its palm trees,
The dovecote

and its peacocks. Yes, peacocks!
Peacock at Mayfield Park

These peacocks are descendants of those gifted to the Mayfield-Gutsches in the 1930s.


Of all the ponds, one of the most delightful was this small cast iron frog pond.
Antique cast iron pond

The edge of the pond was adorned with cast iron turtles and frogs, oh! Couldn't you just die from the cute?
Detail on cast iron pond

Several of the ponds had water lilies in bloom, as did this one.
Water lily

Volunteers tend each garden plot, as indicated by small signs. This plot is tended by the Violet Crown Garden Club, organized in 1924. The stones around each garden were collected on site.
Garden plot tended by volunteers

The stonework, including the walls around the estate and the dovecote in this picture, are made of local limestone.
Gardens near pigeon cote

The Bell Trail Arch leads out to the nature preserve.
Bell trail arch

Learn more about Mayfield Park at its community park website. A one-page synopsis of the estate's history (with a link to the 500-page document it's based upon) can be found here.

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. What a great capture with the peacock in full display through the arch! I've never made it to the Trowel & Error Symposium, but I've been to Mayfield Park numerous times, especially when my kids were young.

    So what was Meredith using for her props, since a slide show was not feasible? I see big posters?

  2. That's a great name, Trowel and Error! Why didn't I think of that?!

    I love the photo of the peacock with it's plumage spread that you framed between the stone archway. Very nice!

  3. Meredith used a dry erase board, large posters, demonstration plants and handouts. And she had reference books for attendees to look through after her talk.

    The peacocks were amazing. I've never been that close to one. The last photo was taken after a five-minute interaction of one male (pictured) with another smaller, younger male, which involved an elaborate shaking-out of plumage and a slow spinning display of his regal finery.

  4. What a wonderful time you must have had mingling with other gardeners, learning more, and enjoying the gardens too. (And winning a raffle!!) Love the peacock!

  5. Caroline, I had no idea this park was a garden! Despite the fact that we share a name, I've never been to this park. Now I must go see those gardens and ponds. Thanks.

  6. Good for you Caroline. Wish I had more time to do things like this. I have visited Mayfield several times- once when Rachel gave us a camera class. Winning the raffle was a bonus. Beautyberries are gorgeous.

  7. This looks like a place I need to visit. Beautiful photos.

    Congrats on the Beautyberry.

  8. Caroline, what beautiful pictures and tour of Mayfield! I'll pass along to Karen. It was so great to see you there. I learned so much too.

  9. Mayfield Park is one of our favorite Austin places, Caroline - I think we went there in fall of 2000 and saw Oxblood lilies for the first time. Your photos are terrific! We took visitors to Mayfield last week but the peacock was up in the tree. Great post!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose