16 May 2011

And Now For Something Totally Different

More gardening, but at someone else's house.

This weekend, the Travis County Master Gardeners Association hosted the not-quite-annual Inside Austin Garden Tour. It takes place every eighteen months, alternating between spring and fall gardens. The plants were, for the most part, the drought-tolerant,
Grow Green-approved varieties that I've been learning about (and writing about) for the last year or so, but there were several neat aspects of the tour that I wanted to share.

First, fun pots -- they aren't just for displaying plants on a porch or deck. The master gardeners whose homes were featured on the tour frequently used containers within the gardens themselves to bring a fun color or shape to the area or to give a shorter plant more height. I saw pots holding various plants, but these two happen to have succulents in them:





(If you're wondering about the signs, they identify the plants for tourgoers like myself, who would otherwise have been constantly asking, "What's that?")

Moving from the aesthetic to the pragmatic, this seemed like a nice, easy way to build raised beds. (We're still deciding on a construction method for ours.)



Wait, maybe it's deceptively simple. I see a lot of dig-and-level work involved in getting the first row to lie flat (which, we know from my recent mini-retaining wall project, isn't my forte). But I like the sturdy-yet-changeable quality of this design, not to mention its permanence (unlike wood, which inevitably decays over time), and I could see making some kind of decorative border to jazz it up.

At another house, the owner had taken out a concrete walkway to make room for a large planting area, but instead of sending the concrete to the landfill, he cut it into smaller pieces and used them for a new, modern (and more permeable) walkway and street numbers:





Brilliant reuse. Brilliant.

He also won points with me for this cactus, called "cinnamon bunny ears":



Speaking of cactus, one of the stops on the tour was the home of the Cactus King of the Universe. (Or something like that. The tour brochure listed his title, but I was paying more attention to the actual gardens. President of the Austin Succulent Society?) Anyway, he lives in a fancy part of town, where his ultra-modern house is set way down from the street. He put in this retaining wall and integrated a series of planting beds along the driveway:



He even worked a potted plant into one of the tiers. (See, all the cool kids are doing it.)



There are only two words to describe that wall. Uh. Mazing.

He also opened up his greenhouse for the day. (Oh, did I mention that he likes succulents?)



The greenhouse is full of every cactus imaginable, each painstakingly labeled. My favorites were the teeny-tinies. You can see how small they are by the tags, which are about half an inch wide:









This is a baby Victoria agave (the kind I have in mind to accompany our variegated agave):



It was so tiny that it would have fit in my pocket. The pokeys would have made for an uncomfortable getaway, though.

Another stop on the tour was the Lower Colorado River Authority office, which was surprisingly well landscaped.



The grounds were designed as an educational venue, where visitors can see an assortment of native plantings as well as a series of exhibits about the river, dams, and hydroelectric power:







A fun surprise I discovered on the tour was an assortment of bunnies adorning the various yards. In addition to the one next to the raised bed in the third picture (which I didn't even notice until I was looking back through my pictures), I found these fun little vignettes (among others that didn't photograph well):







I may not know much about gardening, but I'm apparently onto something with my plan to tuck ceramic bunnies (currently hanging out on the oh-so-messy back porch) into little spots in the yard.

All in all, it was a great day. In addition to some pretty amazing gardens, there were short talks on various subjects related to each yard. My favorite was the drip irrigation presentation, which addressed drip systems in general as well as how to tie them into an existing system and even how to make them out of a hose attached to a tap. (We're getting the drip part of our system installed in the next couple of weeks, so this was pretty interesting to me.)

I'm already looking forward to the fall 2012 tour. Oh, and while I'm praising the Travis County Master Gardeners Association, their
Garden Guide for Austin and Vicinity (now in its fourth edition) is fabulous for folks like me in the Austin area who don't know when to prune, mulch, plant, etc. I plan to use its month-by-month instructions as a bible to maximize our yard's potential (or at least counteract its misfortune at being our yard).

1 comment:

  1. It's great to see the tour from another point of view. I got a sneak peek of 4 of the gardens earlier that week and was impressed by many of the same things you liked. But I didn't see the garden with the concrete-block raised bed, which is industrial-cool. I like it!

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