May 19, 2018

15 Things I Discovered in Austin

austin

The Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin was full of fun, forbs, and friends. Bloggers from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. gathered for the annual event in early May.

This was my third Fling, so I'm a relative newbie, although I knew what to expect from the busy pace of touring public and private gardens with fellow plant-lovers.

I also made a few discoveries (and rediscoveries), including:

1. Austin is green. I mean, in the sense that it is lush and full of green foliage and many beautiful trees. I expected it to be drier and closer to a desert-edge type of landscape. I was told that things get dry during the hot summer, but the landscape was certainly verdant in early May.

2. Mobile smartphones take decent photos. This is particularly useful during a rainstorm. Our first full day, Austin received several inches of rain and many of us tucked away our cameras and defaulted to smartphones for photography. Also, at the first event near the downtown library, all I had with me was my smartphone. The photos--both landscapes and semi-macros--turned out better than I expected: not frame-worthy, but fine for online posting.

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View from the top of the Austin Central Library

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Another scene looking out from the libraray

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Pineapple Guava flower (Acca sellowiana) in the rain

3. Poppies like Austin. I realize they're common in many gardens around the world, but they were prevalent and thriving in most of the Austin gardens we toured. The blooms and the seedheads offered color and structural interest--often in unexpected places. They spoke to me.

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poppies 6

poppies 12

poppies 7

poppies 4

poppies 13

4. A fault line runs down the middle of Austin. To the west, gardeners must deal with limestone outcroppings, often with very little soil on top. To the east, the soil tends to be clay-loam, so a little easier for gardening, although the high pH can make it challenging for growing acid-loving plants.

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Balcones Fault at the Zilker Botanical Garden

5. Austin borders the Hill Country, hence some of the views from Austin-area gardens are spectacular.

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View from the Kirk Walden garden

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View from the Mirador garden

6. Austin feels familiar and comfortable. I can't really explain why. Some people say Austin has a similar vibe to Madison but on a bigger scale. I guess that's true, but it's more than that. Austin is friendly and fun and easy to explore. I perceived it to be like a cross between Madison, New Orleans, and San Diego. Well, that's really simplifying it without really explaining it--Austin has its own vibe. But it feels comfortable.

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View from the Ruthie Burrus garden

7. Stock tanks are great gardening vessels. Not much more to say about that. They were everywhere, and used in some pretty creative ways.

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Plant displays at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Pam Penick's creative stock tank pond and sunburst patio

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Jenny Stocker's nifty pond/rain garden

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Another creative Jenny Stocker pond

8. Praying mantis babies are cute, and they move fast! At Jenny Stocker's garden some mantises hatched in front of our eyes. Jenny patiently held the egg case and the mantises while we photographed the event.

praying mantis

9. Blue rocks and marbles create a sense of water and hydration. I mean, I guess I knew this, but it was great to see it in practice in several gardens.

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Blue rocks being "poured" at the Colleen Jamison garden

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Blue marbles in a "pool" of succulents; also at the Colleen Jamison garden

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Blue rock flowing through tiles at B. Jane Gardens

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Blue rock in pot echoing blue rock mulch; also at B. Jane Gardens

10. Austin gardeners know how to do rain gardens, ponds, and other water-management features. They were beautiful, functional, and structurally interesting.

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Rain garden with various rock sizes at Jenny Stocker's garden

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Rain drain system at the Mirador garden

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Modern pond feature at the Mirador garden

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Rain garden at the Kirk Walden garden

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Rain garden with fountain at the Colleen Jamison garden

11. Roses framed by Bamboo; who knew? This combination caught me by surprise at the B. Jane Gardens. It was lovely.

roses and bamboo

12. Broken dinnerware creates colorful garden flair. Lucinda Hutson's magical garden was chock full of fun, but the plates as decorations provided particular inspiration.

plates 1

plates 2

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13. Wine corks as mulch--great idea! Another fun touch at Lucinda's garden. I really like this idea, and I hope to incorporate it somewhere.

wine cork mulch

14. 'Magenta Spreen' Lambsquarter (Chenopodium giganteum) functions as a delightful ornamental in pots; plus it's edible. Lucinda incorporated many edibles in pots--they looked lovely and tasty. I realized this would be a fun plant to try as an alternative to coleus and other colorful foliage.

lambsquarter

15. Loquats are tasty, but don't eat the seeds. Somewhere during our tour, we ran across a huge Loquat tree and were able to sample the fruit. I'd never tasted it before. It was sweet and delicious; I don't know how to describe it. But I was told to spit out the seeds, and later learned they contain toxins that release cyanide when digested.

loquat

And there's so much more to say and show, but too much for one post. This was a very fun Fling! I'm sure I'll have more posts about it in the future. For more coverage, check out fellow bloggers' posts at the official Fling website. Thanks to the planners: Pam, Diana, Laura, Sheryl, and Jennifer; and to all the friendly, welcoming Austin bloggers and gardeners!

42 comments:

  1. What lovely reflections on the trip! And I loved your pictures! THanks for sharing,

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    1. Thank you, Natalie. It was a wonderful experience, and I'm so glad we were able to meet each other. Enjoy your summer in Michigan!

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  2. What a wonderful post, Beth! Some great observations & it really does capture the feel of this years Fling. Wish I had seen the mantis hatching - that would have been something...you certainly were in the right place at the right time for that one!

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    1. Thanks, Margaret. Yes, it was awesome to see the mantis hatching and then moving around. I had never seen that before. :)

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  3. I love your post, Beth! It's so interesting to me to see what commonalities of Austin gardens our visitors picked up on. Thanks for coming!

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    1. Thank you, Pam. It is fascinating to find out what we all picked up on. And often I'm amazed at the things others saw that I didn't see or notice. The Flings are fun and great learning experiences in so many ways. Thanks for hosting!

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  4. I can't wait to read more about your trip Beth. It looks like you had a good time. So much to see and I know you took lots of photos. Please do share.

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    1. It was a great experience, Lisa. I've enjoyed all three Flings I've attended. Each one is special in its own way. I did take way too many photos, but it's fun to review and reflect. :)

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  5. All great takeaways from the Austin Fling, Beth! I was also surprised at how green it was, which like DC was a shock when compared to the "gold" landscapes of Southern California. The panoramic views in many locations were wonderful and I remain envious of those huge rain collections tanks, which make my 3 look downright pitiful.

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    1. Interesting that you bring up SoCal, Kris. I thought Austin would be more like that--also a fascinating and beautiful landscape, but so different. I agree: The panoramic views at some of the gardens blew me away. I didn't expect them to be so grand, for some reason. :)

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  6. I think you learnt quite a lot about Austin in the short time you were here and it was fun to read what you picked up on. Ranchers may have been using stock tanks for year and then suddenly they became the favorite of the gardener whether as a neat and tidy pond or to collect water. It certainly is easier than digging a big hole! e loved having you here.

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    1. Rose: It was a joy to meet you and tour your garden. And the entire Fling was so special. The stock tanks are great! I've seen some folks up here use them, too. Someday maybe I'll incorporate some into my garden in some way. Your examples were so inspirational!

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  7. So many beautiful things to see. Wonderful photos. Greetings Maria from Divagar Sobre Tudo um Pouco

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    1. Thank you, Maria! It was a wonderful experience!

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  8. Wonderful overview of our wonderful time in Austin Beth. Loved the plates in Lucinda's garden and the corks. May be adding both ideas to my garden.

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    1. Thanks, Janet. I loved those plates, too. I have quite a few of my grandma's colorfully patterned plates that have chips, and I'm going to try to incorporate them into the garden. :)

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  9. What a beautiful, wonderful series of photos!
    I love all the different ways of adding water to the gardens
    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, Lea! The focus on water was incredible. I can tell they don't take it for granted like we often do here in the Midwest--particularly in a community like Madison that's surrounded by lakes. It kind of puts us to shame.

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  10. I agree with this all! The green was especially shocking to me, so many trees!!! Good to see you again, although we didn’t get to talk much. I was kind of in a daze. Hope you’re plannng to come to Denver.

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    1. Yes, I don't know why I had such a different perception, but it was truly lush. It was great to see you, too, Loree. Yes, I am planning to attend the Denver Fling. We'll have to make a point to have a discussion then. :)

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  11. This is one of the best Fling posts I've ever read. You really gave us some things to think about and be inspired by, along with great photos. The garden tour pix are always fun but get to be confusing after a while. This was great. And your photos were spot on, esp. the one of the blue poppy pods against the leaves (the first one).

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    1. Oh gosh, thanks Linda. I tend to try to capture what I learned, what I purely enjoyed, and what I might be able to incorporate in my own garden. I'm not sure I'll get around to covering all the gardens or all the days, but this was one way to reflect on what a great experience it was.

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  12. So glad you enjoyed your trip to Austin. It's nice--and instructive--to see someone's view of the place I've lived for so long. Great photos--funny that the poppies in the gardens you visited were still blooming, mine had finshed quite some time ago!

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    1. Thanks, Tina. It was a great time, and I loved Austin. I want to go back sometime! Yes, the Poppies--both the flowers and the seedheads--were exceptionally beautiful!

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  13. Beth, what a great piece about this year’s Fling and thoughts about Austin and the gardens that we visited there. I’m still reflecting on the changes that I saw (from the Austin I grew up in) and the experiences in the diverse gardens that we visited.

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    1. Hey Lisa: It was wonderful to chat with you again at this Fling, and to hear your story about your mom. The gardens were truly inspirational--in so many ways!

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  14. Wonderful post Beth . . .
    Thanks for Austin views . . . cell phone pics worked fine.
    For me, I would find the best part of a tour like this would be visiting different parts of the country, seeing new plant varieties and getting gardening ideas.
    I like the rock rain beds . . . I wonder . . . I might try . . .
    And the wine corks . . . I need to find a place to add them as mulch!
    I enjoyed this . . . was the rain normal for May in Texas/Austin . . .

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    1. Thank you, Lynne. Yes, yes, yes! The adventures of discovering new places and new plants...and new ways of gardening. We're kindred spirits. ;-) Re: the Austin rain in May...I'm not sure. I think when they do get rain, it often pours like this. So, the rain gardens and rain management are essential to prevent run-off. I'm finding that's more and more a factor here, too, are you?

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  15. Reading your post I realize I missed so many things! How did I miss the blue stones? And the rain drain system at the Mirador garden? And the mini stock tank at Jenny's garden? There was so much to see in all the gardens I guess I just got caught up in certain areas and missed others. I suppose that is the beauty of a great garden. One can go back and see new things on every visit.

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    1. It's always interesting to learn what fellow bloggers notice/report on. It makes it more fun that we all see things slightly differently. I agree: I'd love to go back to all of these gardens!

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  16. What a great post have enjoyed reading through and looking at your lovely photos. Would love to re-create the rock bed in our garden. Grew up right next to a river, miss it so much when the sun is shining.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thank you, Amanda! Yes, the rock beds and rain gardens were impressive. And it was neat to see them working during the rainstorm. Beautiful stuff!

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  17. Ruthie has a most magnificently pruned tree! (That is a skill I wish I had, or could learn to do better)
    What is it?

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    1. Yes, indeed. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't ask what type of tree that was. From the shape of it, I'm wondering if it's an Acacia or a Redbud. Hmmm...I'll let you know if I find out.

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  18. Great post Beth. Sorry to miss the Fling this year. It looked wonderful. I love the assortment of rain gardens.

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    1. Thanks! I wish you could have made it, too. I'd love to have met you in person. Austin is wonderful!

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  19. So sad that I missed this year's Fling. Sounds like it was full of great gardens and interesting ideas (corks as mulch!). I think you're right about smartphone cameras.

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  20. Thanks for sharing your insights, Beth.

    Those panoramic views from some of the gardens look fantastic!

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  21. Thank you for describing Austin so well, the fling sounds wonderful and such interesting gardens. And fabulous photos by the way, were they all taken with your smartphone?

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  22. Hi,
    Great photos. I really like the creative style of the stock tanks. The blue rocks are a neat idea as well. Thank you for sharing.
    Carla

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  23. Lots of great discoveries. The blue marbles in a pool of "floating" succulents has me thinking of where I could recreate that idea. Looking forward to seeing the fling gardens through your lens.

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  24. Wow this was fascinating...so much to see and I am a bit sad I missed it but glad you shared so much. I have read much about the Hill Country and it is one spot I hope to visit someday, along with Austin and San Antonio.

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