Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Digging into Pam Penick's Garden (Garden Bloggers' Fling)

After a wet start to the 2018 Garden Bloggers' Fling in Austin, Texas, day #2 dawned sunny and bright.  I don't know if the weather could have been more perfect.  My bus's first stop was Pam Penick's garden.  Pam's blog, Digging, was one of the first I started to read regularly, well before I ever started a blog of my own.  While her climate in Texas is certainly different than mine, we faced some of the same challenges: extended periods of drought, sizzling hot summers, and alkaline soil.  I identify with her interest in drought tolerant plants and her books, Lawn Gone! and The Water Saving Garden, addressed concerns I faced in renovating the established garden I inherited with the house my husband and I purchased in late 2010.  After seeing photos of her garden on-line and in her books, I looked forward to seeing it in person.

Many elements of Pam's garden felt familiar to me when I walked into it.

Pam replaced a conventional lawn with Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa)

The large central bed at the front of her house relies more on green plants than flowers

The wonderful stock tank pond in the back that immediately identifies this as Pam's garden

The sign over the pool announces that we're in Austin!


Touring Pam's garden gave me a greater appreciation for her approach to its design.  I was impressed by the variety of seating areas dotted throughout the property, all in suitably shady settings.

Rustic seating in the side garden

A more contemporary dining set on the back deck

Adirondack style seating next to the pool

Another seating area on the patio featuring blue accents

I can't recall exactly where this seating area was any longer but I remember that it looked like a comfortable place for a chat


I noticed the frequency with which she repeated elements to create themes.

Repetition increased the impact of each element


I noticed how she used red and blue color to lend cohesion to the garden as a whole.

In addition to these decorative elements, red was repeated in the chairs on the deck, the pool umbrella, and the Austin sign next to the pool

Blue color was also used repeatedly.  In addition to the doors and decorative items shown here, it appeared in the bottle tree, an outdoor rug on the patio, and numerous pots


I noticed her use of tables, shelves and even pots to stage plants and collectibles.

I've always admired the Dasylirion longissimum planted in the tall steel pipe planter near her front entry - talk about setting a stage!


Like most gardeners of my acquaintance, Pam has lots of potted plants.  Some on tables, some tucked into corners, and others serving as focal points.  Many of these pots had a personality all their own.



Evidence that she is a proud Texan was also scattered about.

In addition to the Austin sign, I spotted Texas stars here and there throughout the garden.  If you look closely at the (admittedly poor) photo on the right, you'll see steel stars embedded in the gravel path.


The best takeaways from a garden tour are the ideas one brings back to one's own space.  The value of repeating design elements just as one repeats plants was one of these in the case of Pam's garden.

Another was the use of mirrors shown here.  Even though I knew those panels backed the garage, the optical illusion the mirrors created had me double checking to see if I was looking through a window to another garden.  I used small mirrors in my former garden to expand the space and now I'm wondering where I could put some in my current garden.

Here Pam took a relatively small plant, tucked it into a tall planter and topped it with fanciful metal pieces to raise its height still further.  This is another idea I've tucked away in the back of my mind for future use.

I was instantly charmed by this hanging teapot creation.  I'd try something similar except that chimes always "mysteriously" disappear in my garden (courtesy of my husband, who dislikes them in principle).  


Thank you, Pam, for inviting us to parade through your garden!  Thanks as well for all the hard work you, Diana, and Laura put into organizing this 10th anniversary Fling!


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

17 comments:

  1. What an interesting garden with plenty of innovative design ideas.

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  2. Kris, it means so much to me that you took the time to write about my garden and that you saw it in such detail. Thank you for sharing your impressions! I really enjoyed having you and the other bloggers visit my garden. Seeing everyone strolling the paths and relaxing in chairs and on seat walls was a true joy. BTW, the sage green glider you weren't sure about is on the same patio as the octopus planters.

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    1. I'm glad the weather was good so we could get the full value for our tour of your garden, Pam! I only wish I hadn't limited myself to my small point-and-shoot camera on this trip. Thanks for the clarification on the last seating area. I had in mind that it was near the one sitting on the blue rug but, when I saw the steps in the background, they had me questioning my recollection.

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  3. Your view of Pam's non-vegetative elements shows how they can really enhance a garden. I've never used much garden 'decor' but this has my wheels turning. :)

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    1. Wait until you see Lucinda Hutson's garden, Eliza! I've generally restricted my own decorative items but that garden really turned my viewpoint on its head.

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  4. What a carefully observed and insightfully written post! I missed quite a few details you captured.

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    1. I struggled with the shade-sun contrasts when touring Pam's garden and just kept snapping photos in the hope that some of them might be good enough to publish!

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    2. I know what you mean! I expect I'll do quite a bit of tweaking in Photoshop.

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  5. Excellent photos and summary of what makes Pam’s garden so special. I am in awe of your ability to capture so many scenes without bloggers!

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    1. Oh, I think you and Pam have me beat when it comes to working around other bloggers on these tours. I rely on cropping my photos!

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  6. Like Eliza, I've not used decorative elements in my garden very much but Pam's garden and your astute eye show what a useful component it can be. I especially loved the pond in the stock tank.

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    1. The stock tank may be Pam's signature garden feature, Christina. I recognize it every time I see it on-line even before reading the caption.

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  7. A wonderfully comprehensive and insightful post, Kris!

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  8. Hi Kris, there are so many things I like about this garden, but most especially the repetitive use of blue and the pops of red. I recently added a small bottle tree to my own garden and have the same type of blue bottles. The Dasylirion longissimum planted in the tall steel pipe planter is genius. I want to do something like hat!

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    1. If I didn't think my own Dasylirion would have a fit if I dug it up, I'd copy Pam's idea now, Deb - I agree, it's genius.

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