Austin Garden Tours: begin

Touring with the annual Garden Bloggers Fling

Every spring for the past ten years, garden bloggers from across the country and internationally (Canada and England were represented this year) gather in an event to network, support each other, and tour gardens in the host city.  This was my first "Fling," and I was so impressed.  The central Texas bloggers are seriously talented event planners, as our whole 3-1/2 days flowed without a hitch. If there were glitches from the organizers' point of view, I never saw them. The 93 of us felt welcome and well-taken-care-of everywhere we went.

Join me here and over future days, as I sort through hundreds of photos* of some well-loved Austin gardens, and post them here.  
(*I most gluttonously captured!)

 Rooftop garden of the Austin Central Library

Rooftop garden of the Austin Central Library

Our first night was a welcome reception at Austin’s very modern Central Library, opened just this last October.  (Garden blogger Pam Penick wrote wonderful coverage of it here.)  This unique 6-floor beauty has a lot of pride of place. I admire how the architects brought in outdoor ambiance within the indoor spaces (the indoor-outdoor connection may be one of my favorite things).  Looking closely, you realize how much the design takes full advantage of its river views; downtown skyline; its eastern, southern, and western exposures; and its location on Shoal Creek and the very cool Shoal Creek Trail.

We were welcome to peruse two key outdoor spaces: the thoughtful landscaping at street level (adjacent to Shoal Creek), and a wonderful rooftop garden--unusual in that it's part of the sitting space for the library itself.

 Portland blogger Loree Bohl walks along Shoal Creek Trail, with Austin Central Library behind. 

Portland blogger Loree Bohl walks along Shoal Creek Trail, with Austin Central Library behind. 

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Shoal Creek Trail (and downtown sections of the creek) have been newly renovated, and I'm envious of this natural paved corridor right in the middle of town.  (Portland does this kind of thing as well--in fact, Austin reminded me of Portland in many ways.)  The picture above was taken from the pedestrian-friendly Second Street bridge. Note rooftop gardens with their solar panel arbors, on top of the Library.

 Adjacent to Austin Central Library (to the left of this photo) are Shoal Creek Trail and the Second Street bridge.

Adjacent to Austin Central Library (to the left of this photo) are Shoal Creek Trail and the Second Street bridge.

Creek restoration used boulders and slabs of the native stone, laid in sort of shelf formations, approximating creek-eroded rims in the Hill Country. Native plants help hold the banks.

 Second Street bridge at Austin Central Library, over Shoal Creek. 

Second Street bridge at Austin Central Library, over Shoal Creek. 

In other places the stones were laid formally--a nice contrast to neighboring elements.  Honestly, these Hill Country stones just plain look good with plants.  Soft and hard, together. 

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 This blooming yucca shows "soft and hard together," with plants.  Soft Mexican Feather Grass with hard lines of the yucca.

This blooming yucca shows "soft and hard together," with plants.  Soft Mexican Feather Grass with hard lines of the yucca.

Whereas the creek side is the "back yard" of the building (its living spaces and pedestrian entrances), the front of the building faces Cesar Chavez Street.  The boulevard and Lady Bird Lake are on the right in the photo below.

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The street-level patios in front are separated from Cesar Chavez by a berm of native plants, and these blocks are an interpretation of the layered formations of Hill Country limestone. 

 Geometric interpretations of the native, layered stone formations that are everywhere around Austin. It's what the Hill Country is made of.

Geometric interpretations of the native, layered stone formations that are everywhere around Austin. It's what the Hill Country is made of.

Rooftop Garden.  My favorite place in the library was the rooftop garden--a public nook where local folks can check out a book, read it outdoors in the shade of solar-panel arbors, amidst a garden and a penthouse view. 

This space is for the public.  I absolutely love that.

The rooftop's seat walls are formed in the same geometric nod to local limestone formations.  They are not a uniform level, but artistically shaped, like sculpture.  Native plants further the tie-in to the greenspaces all around the city.  It's quite a calming environment.

 Sculptural seat walls, native Muhly grasses, and  Bauhinia lunarioides  (Anacacho orchid tree).

Sculptural seat walls, native Muhly grasses, and Bauhinia lunarioides (Anacacho orchid tree).

I was first introduced to Bauhinia lunarioides (Anacacho orchid tree) by the friendly and very sophisticated plant nerds who were my companions for the next three days. They have such keen awareness of the plants surrounding them and a pleasant camaraderie of sharing. 

 Anacacho orchid tree,  Bauhinia lunarioides --a Texas native.

Anacacho orchid tree, Bauhinia lunarioides--a Texas native.

It was another newbie to this plant--from New York City--who pointed it out to me.  (Thank you, Kevin!) 

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Kevin showed me the plant, we entered into a discussion, and to help me he pulled it up on his phone. (Everyone has conversations on rooftop gardens like this, right?)

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The sun was setting when we walked back to our hotel by way of the riverfront roads.
City Hall caught my eye with its cool architecture and use of open space, stone and plants. The exterior pairs wood, metal and stone (always a good thing)...and does not forget the plants in its thoughtful design. I was intrigued by the horsetail--the bane of my existence at home). Still, I admire this dinosaur-age plant and remain curious about it's beauty (sometimes), how it is used architecturally, and how it is contained!

The forecast for the morning was up to 4" of rain (I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that!). So it was back to the hotel room to prepare my equipment and pack for the day, which proved to be quite epic.


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