On Earth as it is in Austin


Some of us here at GardenRant confess to falling into a mopey, nostalgic funk over our bucolic college days in Austin, Texas, especially late at night after the fog has rolled in and the nearest Shiner Bock is a plane trip away.  But even a fourth-generation Texan has to go see the ocean eventually, and, well, that turned out to be pretty cool, too.

Austin_garden_tour Thanks to Pam at Digging:  Diary of an Austin Gardener for submitting this rant on garden tours and for reminding us that some things–like garden tours that focus on tony, million-dollar homes–are the same everywhere.  She writes:

My sister-in-law and I went on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s garden tour—Gardens on Tour 2006—today. Two of the gardens were particularly spectacular: one that the homeowners had designed and installed themselves (photo above), and one that complemented an over-the-top, fanciful, Mayan-inspired mansion, complete with personal observatory, rooftop temple, and solar calendar made from massive limestone columns (very Indiana Jones!). While the latter was most fun to explore and marvel over, the first was our favorite garden by far. Rather than a single garden, it was divided into seven distinct walled gardens, each intimate, beautiful, and natural yet structural. The husband’s hand-stacked stone walls and paths throughout the garden were the perfect foil to the wife’s colorful native wildflowers. The photo above shows one of the couple’s gorgeous garden rooms.

While we enjoyed ourselves on the tour, and the two gardens I mentioned were worth the price of the tour alone, I confess to being disappointed that the other gardens played second fiddle to the architecture of the homes and the lake views . One exception was an unusually striking garden designed by Big Red Sun, but all in all the “gardens” were more about hardscaping, stonework, and showing off spectacular views than about making your own view with a garden. Only tony West Austin gardens were featured, most of them had been designed by professionals and are maintained by a team of professionals, and they didn’t reflect their owners’ tastes or personality. I would like to see a tour that focuses on the garden, not the million-dollar home it complements, or the million-dollar view.

And thanks, Pam, for the never-ending stream of fantastic photographs on your blog, which remind me of the land I love.


  1. You may have a point there, Susan. Although you did eke a funny picture and post out of it.

    Amy, I suspected you were the one with Texas roots. I’m glad to know you enjoy my photos of your old stomping grounds.

    You’re right, Austin is a great town. But it sure is hot right now. “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”—man, that sounds good! Don’t worry, I’ll be bragging on Austin again in October, but until then I’ll be inside or in a pool. Shiner in hand, of course.

    To clarify my original post, the garden tour I wrote about occurred on May 13th. While it was sponsored by the LBJ Wildflower Center (and the Center’s own fabulous gardens were included on the tour), the other gardens, including the one I photographed, were all private residences.

  2. Pam: I hope you don’t mind, but I stole your photo – that’s exactly the patio I want someday.

    It seems as if every new house in our neck of the woods has the exact same garden. If it’s sunny, they’re filled with ever-blooming shrub roses, Stella D’Oro daylilies, barberries and spirea. If they’re in the shade, hostas and more hostas, with a few ferns for contrast. No variety and no personality.

  3. Talbin, I certainly don’t mind your using my photo for patio inspiration. That’s why I took it—I was inspired by it too. As long as you aren’t republishing it on your blog or elsewhere as your photo, no problem.

    It is a great patio. I notice that you garden much farther north than Austin. What do you plan to grow amid your patio stones to get that look?

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