Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Preview of the "Inside Austin Gardens" Tour (Part 1 of 2)

I was honored to be invited on a preview of the Inside Austin Gardens tour, hosted by the Travis County Master Gardeners Association in cooperation with the Travis County Agrilife Extension Service. The tour is this Saturday, May 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, and a mere ten clams gets you into six gardens plus the LCRA's Redbud Center. For the budget-conscious, five bucks gets you into one garden--but I ask you, how on earth could you choose just one?

This is just a snippet, a taste, a mere soup├žon of the glorious garden delights that await those that embark on this tour. You simply must see these gardens in person, as photographs do not do them justice. A Master Gardener designed each of the four gardens on the preview, each of which features waterwise gardening techniques and neighborly cooperation. Here's a peek at two gardens, with two more to follow tomorrow.

One. Rebecca Matthews' garden welcomes visitors down a gravel path under an arched wrought-iron arbor. A small front lawn is hidden within, shared with her neighbor, and surrounded by beds chock-full of cacti, yuccas, herbs and native perennials.
Rebecca Matthews' garden

In the back yard, Rebecca removed loads of dead Bermuda grass, Asian jasmine and English ivy to create a garden filled with shade-loving, drought-tolerant plants: salvias, ornamental grasses, and flowering perennials.

Interspersed throughout the garden are little vignettes:
garden rooms (one with a chandelier!)
An outdoor room with chandelier

casual seating areas,
One of many seating areas

and a pond, a testament to Rebecca's perseverance against the raccoons which have tried to dismantle it on multiple occasions. (The rocks are now mortared rather than dry-laid.) The garden is wildlife-friendly; I spotted houses for owls, bees, butterflies and birds, as well as seed and nectar feeders.
Rebecca's raccoon-proof pond

Rebecca's garden uses color fearlessly and effectively, and yard art, garden ornaments, and found items decorate each space.
A colorful back porch seating area

Gravel paths tie the various sections of the garden together, creating a space that encourages visitors to wander and explore.
The back yard

Two. Wendy Brennan's garden was designed by Master Gardener Link Davidson, who lives right next door. An eye-grabbing red iron sculpture marks the garden entrance, accented by plantings of Texas sage, giant lamb's ear, cannas and cacti. (Actually, the sculpture is an old hydraulic press--a bit of "found art".)
Wendy Brennan's garden

Link's property slopes down towards Wendy's, so a creek bed edged with xeric plants channels runoff between the two.
A view of a dry creek bed

Near the home's front entrance, a small wrought-iron cafe set adorns a small deck under a pair of shade sails. To the right, five rusted tanks provide visual interest ("like Grecian urns," says Link). The stone path to the left of the patio is actually the former concrete driveway, which Link cut into large rectangular shapes and rearranged.
Seating areas

Who knew that the edge of cut concrete had such an interesting texture?
The cut edge of driveway concrete

Further back, a series of fence panels made of steel posts and painted air-conditioning screens marks off another small deck with seating for two.
A/C screen panels make a nice fence

The overall effect of this design is funky but chic, with modern, clean lines and a generous sprinkle of subtle Austin weirdness.
A front yard patio

Tomorrow, I'll show you a bit of Sue Nazar's and Sheryl Williams' gardens. Visit the Inside Austin Gardens tour home page for information on the other gardens on the tour, an interactive map, plant lists, and a schedule of educational sessions and demonstrations to be held at each garden site on Saturday.

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


  1. Caroline, you did a great job of capturing the personalities of these gardens. It was great to see you.

  2. Nice images, Caroline. You got several perspectives and garden features that I completely missed.