Let’s see what our pals in the front yard have been up to

I love reading fellow Austin-based blogs like Digging and The Grackle, and comparing their landscaping blooms to ours. It’s nice to see that other gardeners share our same struggles, and if they don’t, they can offer us some gardening guidance. It’s been especially nice now that we actually have some front yard landscaping to tend to. Earlier this summer my garden guru came to help us install a new garden in our front yard. I know Austin summers are not the best time of year to put in new landscaping, but that’s the time we had available and you gotta do what you gotta do. So I’m pleased to see, despite the odds, two months later there is a respectable amount of growth and development in our front yard garden.

The front yard as seen from the driveway.

Roses and echinacea coneflower have been blooming all summer.

Roses and yucca are an unconventional but really fun landscaping combination.

Pride of Barbados is blooming like crazy all over Central Texas.

I fell in love with desert globemallow after a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I’m pretty jazzed about having two plants of our own in bloom.

Autumn joy sedum is doing its thing.

Gomphrena fireworks…because everyday at the doodle house is a celebration.

The succulent planter, thank heaven, is always lush even in the harshest of summers.

Echinacea is forever smiling.

I’m happy we’ve had few flora casualties this summer, and now that September is just around the corner, I’m eager to see what glorious surprises fall will bring.


More ideas from my garden coach

Heath and I have been spending a lot of time in Denton lately, which for us means spending a lot of time in my mom’s garden. It’s not a bad place to be. Over the past few weeks, her front yard has really started to burst with color.

A view of the front yard from my mother’s walkway.

 

The charismatic front porch.

Looking out toward the street. (While I’m taking photos, good old mom is hard at work mowing.) 

Onion

A foot path through the flora.

Flower bed detail

Very Alice in Wonderland

Her terracotta terrace.

Absolutely the prettiest tomato cage I’ve ever seen.

After telling my mom I liked her sun dial, she immediately went out and bought me one. I guess I need to start aiming a little higher if that’s how she’s gonna play it.

The garden lining the driveway.

She is so creative with her use of color and texture. I can’t wait for her to come makeover our space. Happy gardening!


Garden Guru

Seeing as how spring is in full force, the trees have budded and beautiful blooms are taking over the city, Heath and I have really started to kick gardening into high gear. After all, we don’t have much time until our current pleasant weather patterns of moderate temperatures and weekend showers turns into 100-degree heat and harsh drought the Texas summers are famous for. Better get that garden in top condition ASAP.

And while I like to scour the net for design inspiration for both the indoors and out, my favorite source for backyard ideas to emulate is my mom’s garden. The woman has not only got a green thumb, but a remarkable sense of space, color and texture. She is gifted in creating colorful bursts of life in unexpected places and pairing native plants together in exuberant bouquets that stimulate the senses. What’s more, is she creates outdoor rooms and social spaces in areas that, before she gets to them, seemed void of any real function or purpose. She’s a force to be reckoned with when it comes to gardening, and every visit home reveals some fantastic new discovery in landscape design.

Not only does she practice fastidious attention to detail and preparation on her garden, but she has set her sights on ours as well. Over the past few weeks she has spent hours upon hours crafting a master landscaping plan for the gardens at the doodle house. And yesterday, we began work on phase one. I foresee big and beautiful changes in our garden future…inspired by our favorite garden guru.


Surprise! Special art for a special occasion.

This Sunday, Heath and I will celebrate 5 years of couple-dom. Not 5 years of marriage, but 5 years of deciding that we kinda like each other. It deserves a nod, for sure. I’ve spent more time with Heath than I have spent living in any house, attending any school or working at any job. So dang it, I want to celebrate!

To tell Heath, “Thanks for putting up with me for this long” I wanted to surprise him with something special. On a recent visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, I got a little carried away pretending to be a photographer, but Heath fell in love with three of the photos I took. He tolerated me obnoxiously snapping photos of every tiny thing over the past few years, so I wanted to do something special with these nature photos he said he was particularly drawn to.

I headed over to Canvas Pop to have the images blown up and printed on heavy-duty canvas. The graphic designers there did a terrific job cropping and creating the prints, and Heath was Über excited when he opened them. I selfishly have had the final word on what art we get and where we place it in the house, so I gave Heath free range when it came to deciding where to display his new goodies. He decided the dining room was the ideal spot to showcase his favorite photos, and I agreed. It definitely gives the dining room some oomph.

I’m so thrilled Heath liked the prints. The photos remind us of the natural beauty of Austin—our city, a place we’ve explored together from our first days as a couple, and of a wonderful spring day spent walking through the Wildflower Center just appreciating nature. Heath’s even started picking out other photos he wants to have printed to add to the display, so it looks like this gamble paid off. I’m lucky to have such a sweet and supportive mate who loves me and my silly little hobbies.

Happy 5 years, Heath. I love you tremendously!


Love Thy Neighbor

Enough with this internet googling business.

When I need ideas for landscaping and home design why am I not drawing more inspiration from the other homes in my neighborhood? After all, most are from roughly the same time period (1950s-1960s), the neighbors are all dealing with the same soil and vegetation issues, and I would assume our budgets for creating a gorgeous front garden and entryway are probably in the same neighborhood (literally). So armed with Heath, the doodles and my Nikon, I decided to capture some of my favorite neighborhood images to stash away in my idea bank.

Idea One— The colorful front door.
Nothing says both “welcome” and “I like to party” quite like a splash of vivid color right at the doorway to the home.

Lime green door peeking out from behind the blue bonnets

I adore this turquoise color and will most definitely be painting our door a similar shade.

Not only a red door, but matching accents too. Job well done, neighbors.

Idea Two—The natural privacy fence.
Obviously building a fence or some other permanent structure is one way to create separation between you and your neighbor, but getting creative with plants is appealing as well (and probably cheaper). The only drawback is it takes patience for the plants to grow to appropriate privacy height…and patience is not one of my virtues. Still, I can admire the patience of others and appreciate what they have done to create privacy with plants.

Stare at the street? No thanks. I'd rather create a beautiful view of bushy greenery to gaze at from my side windows.

I like the idea of having an evergreen vine to separate you from your neighbor's car. Cost effective and very attractive.

Idea Three— The unconventional details.
I’ve already implemented this in my backyard with wine bottles and a repurposed pallet, but having an unconventional element in the front garden has it’s bonuses, too. It generates interest and sets your house apart from some of the others in the hood.

I don't necessarily picture us having bowling balls in the garden, but it's still an interesting concept.

Artichokes in the front yard. Super neato.

It's a small architectural detail, but the tiny structural slant and mini windows on the front porch brick is incredibly appealing to me. It's a little detail that makes a huge impact on this house's curb appeal. It's not every day you see slanted walls, but I'm smitten.

Idea Four—The curbside garden.
In the past, I tended to think of frontyard landscaping and gardens as existing closer to the house, hiding the foundation and framing the structure. But dozens of our neighbors have built their gardens all the way out to the street and I love it. It’s less lawn to deal with and its visually appealing too.

One of the deciding factors that led us to choose our house over others we were looking at, was the neighborhood. The streets are wide and wonderfully walkable. The trees are towering and mature, and each house has its own unique features. We adore our hood and hope to draw dozens of more inspirations from it in the future.

Yep. The doodle house is right at home here.


DIY Weekend Project: Galvanized Planter

This weekend was one for lots of little projects, but my favorite may have been creating a planter for an empty galvanized tank we have long been ignoring.

Sad, empty tank

For a while we debated whether to turn our tank into a fish pond water feature or to use it as a colorful entry planter. Some of these inspiration photos really pushed me over the edge when it came to deciding its fate.

Both options were appealing and had their pros and cons, but at the end of the day, a planter seemed more low maintenance. So we we went to work to make it happen.

Step 1: Fill the bottom with styrofoam packing peanuts. This helps with drainage. 

Step 2: Layer with peat moss and potting soil.  A lot of potting soil. We underestimated just how much at first, but those tanks don’t mess around and can hold a healthy amount. We ended up needing to make a few return trips to Home Depot for more. I think we ended up using something like 5 bags. 

Step 3: Once the soil is in, choose your plants and stage your area to figure out where everything will live before you get to digging.

Picking out the plant placement.

We knew we wanted a variety of texture, height and color in the planter to keep things interesting, and we knew we needed things that could do well in the heat and sun. Our final selections included:
– Heat tolerant pink geraniums (for color)
– Fortnight lily (for height)
– Ice plant (For drooping over the side and giving it a waterfall-ish look. We have had incredible luck with our ice plants, it’s one of the few that seems impossible to kill, even in Texas heat.)
– Sedum (for ground cover)

Step 4: Put them in the planter and you’re done! I love the end result.

Cost breakdown–

The whole project took less than an hour to put together, including travel time to and from the Home Depot to get materials, and it cost less than $100 to implement.  I’m embarrassed we let it sit empty for so long. Now we have a beautiful planter that makes a huge statement to our backyard visitors. I can’t wait to see how it changes and grows over time.


A little formality never hurt anyone.

I like a little formality outdoors. It’s odd, for sure. Especially when you consider that the rest of my house and design tastes are anything but fancy pantsy formal. Nevertheless. That’s the design I keep going back to as we continue to build our garden plan.

Straight edges and lots of symmetry in the vegetable garden.

Maybe I like it because formal gardens remind me of the garden where we got married…

The patio at Laguna Gloria is all about clean lines and symmetry.

Or maybe I just like socking it to nature. “Haha, plants! You will grow how I tell you to grow!” But whatever the reason, when it comes to my yard, I am prone to design outdoor spaces that appear clean and controlled but still creative and colorful.

The contrast of being in a natural space but retaining a sense of order is extremely appealing, and, for me, the straight edges and streamlined design help the different colors and contrasting textures appear more vivid.

I am not exactly sure how we will navigate our yard so that it appears formal and orderly, what with chickens and labradoodles romping around everywhere, but it’s certainly a challenge that has my wheels turning.