Friday, May 13, 2011

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

As promised, here's part 2 of my 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, featuring open houses at six private, waterwise gardens and the LCRA's Redbud Center, plus garden demonstrations and speakers at each site, all for only $10.

Three. The one word I heard most often while previewing Sue Nazar’s garden? Lush. No, the native plants aren’t drunk (unless they’re tipsy from the compost tea and foliar seaweed that Sue applies regularly), but their luxurious layers might lead you to think you were in a tropical paradise instead of dry, rocky Central Texas.
Lush and textured foliage

Just look at the little piece of heaven that Sue’s created out of what many gardeners refer to as The Hellstrip--that patch of weeds between the street and the sidewalk in front of the house. Sue’s front garden is full of drought-tolerant sages, agaves, yuccas, skullcaps, and herbs like rosemary, oregano and mullein—plants that like it dry. It’s so beautiful that she’s inspired her neighbors to convert their hellstrips into mini-gardens as well.
Sue Nazar's heaven strip

The sloped driveway along the side of Sue’s house is lined with compost-rich beds containing plants that prefer a bit more moisture. These beds act as a rain garden to lessen runoff; what doesn’t end up in the beds runs down this dry creek bed to a ravine below. Drip irrigation underneath the beds keeps the plants happy during periods of severe drought.
Garden beds surround a greenbelt runoff

Sue’s back yard is huge and filled with garden paths, decks, a pool, and a small vegetable garden, all just as lushly landscaped as the front yard. I must have taken 100 photographs—way too many to display you here—so you’ll just have to experience it for yourself this Saturday. I’ll tease you a bit more with a shot of one of the many variegated cannas in pots around Sue’s pool,
A varigated ginger in bloom

a bright green garden shed, punctuated with red trim and red ceramic ornaments,
A brightly colored shed

and this peaceful space near the back door leading from the house to the pool. The small vitex tree you see stubbornly growing through the slats of the wood deck resisted all of Sue’s attempts to eliminate it. Ultimately, she decided to let the vitex do its thing, accenting the space with ceramic urns in colors that complement the shades in the stone wall, and a statue of Buddha in a contemplative lotus position. Now that’s what I call Zen.
A contemplative spot

Four. Sheryl Williams’ garden blew me away with its Austin-like audacity. A recent transplant from Oregon, Sheryl quickly realized that USDA Zone 8 Oregon was nothing like USDA Zone 8 Austin. So what’s a Master Gardener to do? Why, kill off every last bit of St. Augustine turf, of course, and install waterwise Texas sedge instead—a native grass that required zero irrigation during 2009, the Year of the Death Star. Varigated liriope adds further interest and texture. A large rainwater collection cistern to the left of the house and a sizable rain barrel on the right provide irrigation to the side and back gardens. The yard is trenched and bermed around the perimeter to prevent flooding, and planted with perennials like blackfoot daisies, salvia and lantana.
Sheryl Williams' lawn of native sedges

Looking at Sheryl’s backyard organic garden, you’d never guess that she lost every last vegetable to Austin’s 48-hour-long hard freeze in February. With courage and aplomb, she replanted the very next day. The result: fresh produce from the garden in May. Just look at these blackberries, some already ripe enough for sampling, mmm. (OK, I didn’t, but I was tempted to. I did eat a snap pea at Sheryl’s urging, though.)

A seating area on a stone and gravel path offers a pleasant spot to enjoy the view. Sheryl’s husband Ed built the raised bed frames (and the compost bins, not pictured) from repurposed fence wood.
Seating near backyard vegetable garden

Hardy shrubs and perennials like cenizo and yarrow grow among the raised vegetable beds.
Vegetables and native perennials

Colorful yard art provides a bit of whimsy in a patch of pink evening primrose.
Pink evening primroses and yard art
This adorable dish of succulents caught my eye as I reluctantly took my leave.
A dish of tiny succulents

But Wait! There’s More! In addition to the four gardens I’ve previewed, there are two additional gardens on the tour, belonging to Master Gardener Joe Posern, and Austin Cactus and Succulent Society President Jeff Pavlat (eeeee!). In addition, the LEED-certified LCRA Redbud Center will be part of the tour. That’s right--six waterwise, neighbor-friendly gardens, the Redbud Center, speakers and demonstrations on a variety of gardening topics at each site throughout the day, all for only ten dollars.

For more previews, check out my post from yesterday featuring the gardens of Rebecca Matthews and Wendy Brennan. The Austin garden blogroll at the sidebar to the right is chock-full of more tour previews. And, visit the official Inside Austin Gardens webpage for oodles of information about all the gardens on the tour, an interactive map, plant lists, and a complete schedule. Come on out Saturday and show these Master Gardeners some love!

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


  1. It was great having you over Caroline - you should have eaten a blackberry!

  2. Thanks for the tour! I wasn't able to go so it was nice to see the gardens!