Visiting the garden of Austin, TX writer and blogger Pam Penick (#gbfling2018)

More from the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, which took place in Austin, Texas from May 4-6, 2018. 

Garden bloggers from North America and Europe are getting ready for the 2019 Garden Bloggers Fling in Denver, CO next week. Because of my daughter's high school graduation I won't be able to join them, but I'll be there in spirit.

Thinking of the 2019 Fling made me realize that there are still several gardens from the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin, TX that I haven't covered yet. No better time to start catching up than now—and no better garden to showcase than the private sanctuary of Pam Penick, one of the original founders of the Garden Bloggers Fling and co-organizer of the 10th anniversary event in Austin.

Pam Penick's award-winning blog is called Digging: cool gardens in a hot climate. She not only chronicles the evolution of her own garden in Austin, TX but also writes about other gardens—public and private— in Austin, Texas, and beyond: The Regional Garden Tours drop-down menu on Digging has listings for 24 U.S. states and eight foreign countries!

In addition, Pam has written numerous articles for magazines such as Country Gardens, Garden Design, and Wildflower as well as two bestselling books published by Ten Speed Press: Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard and The Water-Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water.

North Carolina blogger Daricia McKnight in front of a perfect specimen of Agave ovatifolia

And if that weren't enough, Pam is also the creator of Garden Spark, a series of garden talks she hosts at her home. Garden Spark is now in its third year; if you live in or near Austin, check out the 2019 schedule.

Pam calls her current garden Tecolote Hill. "Tecolote," Spanish for "owl," is a reference to the screech owls that have nested there over the years. Providing habitat for wildlife is important to Pam, as is minimizing water consumption. To ensure a regionally appropriate look, Pam grows plants native to Central Texas and supplements them with low-water plants from similar climates, mostly northern Mexico.

Representative examples of Pam's plant palette: Salvia greggiiHesperaloe parviflora and Agave ovatifolia

Pam's front garden is dominated by Texas live oaks (Quercus fusiformis). They look spectacular and provide much-appreciated shade.

Look closely: the round clumps of what looks like moss is actually an epiphytic bromeliad, Tillandsia recurvata, locally known as ballmoss

This photo gives you a good idea of how tall these oak trees are

Blue accents are found throughout the garden. Not surprisingly, it's Pam's favorite color. The agave in the photos above is Agave salmiana 'Green Goblet'. 

Blue metal heart with Dyckia 'Burgundy Ice'

Succulents including opuntias, yuccas, euphorbias...

...agaves, dasylirions and nolinas mix with grasses and sedges

Specimen plants like this Alphonse Karr bamboo (Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr') and Hesperaloe parviflora grow in "islands" in the gravel-covered area right in front of the entrance to Pam's home

Scrap-metal planters are one of the signature elements of Pam's garden. Here you see three of them.

This deceptively simple combination of Dyckia choristaminea 'Frazzle Dazzle' and foxtail asparagus fern at the front door was my favorite

Planter to the right of the front door featuring Mangave 'Pineapple Express' and metal Ball Weeds from Red Grass Designs. They reminded me of billy balls (Craspedia globosa).

Now we're in the back garden. It, too, benefits from the shade cast by Texas live oaks. Pam is not only a dedicated gardener, she also likes decorative accents:

These octopus planters are made by Diana Moulds of Tentacle Arts in Phoenix, AZ. I have two of her hanging planters and love them.

Upper patio off living room and master bedroom

Circle Pot from Potted with Sedum nussbaumerianum

Cinderblock wall planter (read this post on how Pam made it), a great way to delineate one area from another

The back garden slopes down from the house, resulting in different levels. The upper patio you saw above is connected by stone stairs to the pool level.

Curved seating wall #1

Different angle

Freestanding low stucco walls add visual interest. Two are semicircular seating walls, one is a straight accent wall decorated with a large Austin sign. All are painted in darker but saturated colors which complement the overall garden design.

More scrap-metal planters, these two made of galvanized culvert sections:

Cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) is proof that low-water plants can be lush

Looking towards the house, with fence against my back

Flowering Yucca pallida

Coyote fence (shaggy-cedar posts wired to existing chain-link fence) and several bottle-tree installations, all featuring blue bottles

I fell in love with bottle trees on this trip and have since put up my own (yet to be featured in its own blog post)

Blue stucco wall with Austin sign

Yucca trio

One of the curved seating walls (left)

Different angle

Disappearing fountain and Mexican needle grass (Stipa tenuissima

Stock tank pond

Lady head planter with succulent ringlets

Yucca rostrata...

...and flowering pomegranate

Galvanized metal planters with soft grasses

I have no idea what this represents, but I think it's cool

Tempest in a Teapot windchime from Living Desert Ranch

Now we're in the side garden on the garage side of the house—close to where we started this tour.

Mirrored trellis in the side garden

Metal agave sculpture

Such a simple idea that I may recreate it in my own garden

I'm just waiting to find the perfect Christmas balls

Howdy, folks!

And now we're back to the Agave ovatifolia from the first photo

To find out more about Pam's garden, head on over to Digging.


Index: 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, Austin, TX

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  1. Bravo Gerhard-you captured the essence of Pams' garden perfectly-loved your focus on the wonderful oaks. I was so impressed with the neighborhood developers who honored those trees preserving and building around them. Sense of place was preserved and set the tone for Pam to create a garden that honored the natural landscape while adding some Texas-style culture.

    1. Kathy, thank you for your comment. Yes, Pam definitely honors the natural landscape.

      I was so in awe of those trees, I could have taken many more photos of them.

  2. Well that was great fun! Pam’s garden was definitely one of the top highlights from last year’s Fling, I can’t believe you hadn’t yet written about it. Now I’m looking forward to what other posts you’ve got up your sleeve.

    1. There are more goodies waiting in the wings. I just need to set them loose!

  3. Wow, Gerhard! Thanks so much for a wonderfully detailed and flattering post about my garden. It's fun to see it through your lens, especially with that wide-angle aspect you have going on. So many interesting perspectives!

    What strikes me, seeing these photos a year later, is how many things have changed since you all were here. I lost two large live oaks and a Texas persimmon in the back garden, resulting in a lot more sun. I swapped out the red patio umbrella by the pool for a pale gray-green one (it blends so much better). I relocated the Austin sign and am installing a rusty steel planter in front of the blue wall. And I've rearranged patio furniture and replanted several featured planters. A garden never stops changing! You'll have to come back and see it again sometime.

    Pam/Digging -

    1. Pam, I'm not surprised that you've made changes. I have always considered you a very active gardener who will never say, "now my work is done." I'm 100% like that as well.

      Your garden lens itself perfectly for the wide-angle treatment!

    2. Pam, I'm sorry to see you lost two backyard oaks. Is the owls' nest still there?

    3. Robert, we had to relocate the owl box to a different tree. We had an owl visitor last winter, but they didn't end up nesting this year. Maybe next year.

  4. I love Pam's garden and you did a great job of sharing it!

  5. Wish I could transplant Pam’s garden to Toronto, but you’ve done the next-best thing, Gerhard!

    1. Helen, I know what you mean! Too bad mature oak trees are so hard to transplant!

      My dream garden would consist of bits and pieces inspired by all my favorite gardens.

  6. It was nice to see Pam's garden again through your eyes, Gerhard. You did a thorough job of your review too! I hope you enjoy this year's Fling. I'm going to miss it but look forward to seeing everything through your lens.


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