Jackson Broussard: a landscape designer's personal garden

I imagine the work of a landscape designer is a constant give and take in order to find a balance between their own ideas and their clients' wishes. At best, the two parties strike a happy medium—and at worst, they end up making concessions that leave everybody dissatisfied.

That's the reason why I love seeing what garden designers do at home where they're not bound by compromise and can give their creativity free reign.

I had such an opportunity right after the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin when Pam Penick, garden writer extraordinaire and one of the Fling organizers, took a handful of us diehards on a tour of even more gardens. The first one we visited belongs to landscape designer Jackson Broussard.

Hard to believe but these are Bradford pears

It was clear right off the bat that this is no ordinary garden. The walkway to the front door is lined with Bradford pears, shaped perfectly and giving a welcome sense of coolness in the Austin heat.

I couldn't believe these are the same trees I hate so much in Davis where, as city trees, they're neglected, misshapen, and infested with fire blight and mistletoe. I asked Jackson twice: Yes, they are Bradford pears. (Jackson created a ingenious Bradford pear arbor in another garden we visited as part of the Fling.)

Jackson's love of experimentation is evident in architectural details like these blocks on either side of the front walk. They combine surplus materials like bricks, pavers, concrete chunks, and metal plates into three-dimensional mosaics.

They're good places to sit as you chat with neighbors or passers-by, and they work equally well as pedestals for planters or artwork.

I was fascinated by the different materials Jackson incorporated...

...including a couple of Matchbox cars from his childhood!

The patio in front of the house is a surprisingly private space, sheltered from the street by the Bradford pear alley and other greenery.

It's cool, comfy and inviting place to hang out.

The house, coincidentally, is where Jackson grew up. After he bought it from his parents, he fixed it up and rented it out. He lives in a modern two-story addition in the backyard, which you'll see in a bit.

What would a self-respecting Austin garden be with an Agave ovatifolia! I've never seen so many of them in one town!

For me, the most surprising feature of Jackson's place was the driveway. Instead of the bleak concrete expanse that's so common in much of America, Jackson's driveway is a seamless extension of the garden where natives like prairie zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora) are allowed—or even encouraged—to grow. Parallel rows of stone slabs allow cars to share the space.

Instead of leading to a garage, the driveway ends here:

Once a carport, it's now a relaxing place to eat, talk, and chill.

Behind party central the carport is Jackson's private realm:

These two concrete columns are more evidence of Jackson's love of experimentation:

Multiple elevation changes create vertical interest:

Front door:

Seeing the longevity—and, yes, beauty—of these metal watering cans from days gone by makes me wonder when people started to accept plastic as a worthwhile substitute.

The backyard is more spacious than expected. The two-story addition where Jackson lives takes up less square footage than I'd thought, leaving plenty of room for other things, including a lawn for Jackson's dog Daisy Mae:

Instead of taking the lawn all the way over to the fence, Jackson installed a swath of mondo grass, which handles the shade under the oak tree much better than turf would.

Decorative metal cylinders turn landscape lighting into works of art:

The porch was another favorite element of mine:

UK blogger Helen Johnstone of The Patient Garden seems to agree:

Texas without barbecue would be like Bavaria without beer. Jackson not only has a wood-fired grill solid enough to survive any earthquake (if they even have those in Austin)...

...but also a smoker:

Jackson's garden has a retro look that's laid back and full of swag at the same time. Maybe that's why I felt immediately comfortable. There was no awkwardness like there sometimes is in gardens that are overdesigned or crammed with ridiculously expensive furniture that's so intimidating that I'd never consider sitting in it. 

A major unifying design element is rusted metal, my favorite material:

More Agave ovatifolia, not looking the least bit out of place next to boxwood, both potted and in the ground:

The centerpiece of Jackson's backyard is a one-of-a-kind fountain cum miniature goldfish pond. The spout is an old fire-hose nozzle.

Jackson explained that the smaller concrete square you see below is to allow Daisy Mae, his dog, to get up and drink from the pond.

Industrial pipe and more rusted metal on the backside of the fountain/pond:

One final surprise was waiting in the far corner behind Jackson's house: an outdoor shower!

It looks like it sees regular use, too.

Jackson's garden is both contemporary and timeless, brimming with thoughtful design and solid craftsmanship. It's made to be lived in and enjoyed, not admired from a safe distance like something precious and breakable. It's personal, and it's soulful.

As we were leaving, I was wishing we could stay a little while longer. And even now, more than a year after my visit, I still think of it.


Index: 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, Austin, TX

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  1. I wish this garden had been part of the fling tour - or that I'd stayed on another day. The hardscaping touches are wonderful and the planting is just perfect for that climate.

  2. What a special garden. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. What great imagination and creativity is on display in this garden--but the Bradford Pears are kind of a shock !I don't think I've ever seen a single one that looks as good as those. Where's the fire blight ?

  4. This garden was a huge favorite of mine, I feel so lucky to have seen it.

  5. Very cool goldfish pond. I like how it's raised above the patio so it really stands out. Fun to see what imaginative people can do.

  6. I'm thinking the renter in the front house may be part of the reason why this wasn't on the Austin tour -- it's every bit as good as the gardens on the tour. Thanks so much for this look.

  7. Nifty garden. The pedestals are very Piet Mondrian, very cool. Love the driveway that is just enough for the car tires and no more.

    Would not let my dog drink out of a fish pond, though.


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