A sheep pen turned nation backyard in Blanco

Might 06, 2024

A 12 months in the past I acquired an invite to go to a novel backyard in Blanco, a small city an hour west of Austin within the Texas Hill Nation. As a result of I used to be working nonstop on my ebook, I took a rain verify till this spring. Just lately I drove out with a pal to satisfy the proprietor, James Robinson, and see what he and his spouse, Nancy, have created on their rural property.

James met us outdoors his walled-and-deer-fenced backyard, which is situated close to the highway — a stunning distance from their home. To achieve their home, you proceed alongside their winding driveway maybe a quarter-mile, previous a picturesque previous barn and groves of reside oaks.

It’s not precisely the yard.

However I can see why James and Nancy made their backyard on this spot. Limestone partitions — the roofless construction of a sturdy sheep pen constructed 100 years in the past — enclose the backyard on three sides, offering safety from winter winds, a picturesque backdrop, and a connection to the property’s ranching historical past.

The partitions give a sense of age to the 12-year-old backyard. Additionally they create a house-like nook the place an precise mattress is made up with coverlet and pillows. I requested James if he ever sleeps out right here. “We don’t nap on it,” he stated, “however we do use it when it’s chilly and the hearth pit goes.” He instructed me it’s often lined with a drop fabric, however they make it up for guests. An previous display door leaning towards the wall retains the mattress firm, including a splash of purple echoed by Adirondack chairs and a flowering crossvine.

Flanking the gate into the backyard stand two spent agaves. One nonetheless holds its towering bloom stalk aloft — a remaining burst of progress for a mature agave, which dies after flowering.

The gate opens onto a patio surrounded by agaves, roses, and Jerusalem sage. Classic metallic chairs and a glider, patinaed with inexperienced paint, encircle a metal hearth pit.

Glittering crushed glass subs for gravel paving right here. It jogs my memory of gardens in Austin (like this one and this one) that integrated recycled glass again when Austin provided crushed glass totally free. (It now not does.)

The previous motel-style chairs exude nation allure.

As does a drink desk made out of a rusty camshaft.

A stone rabbit peeks out from a patch of Jerusalem sage.

A giant previous agave that someway survived Snowpocalypse holds courtroom by the hearth pit with leaves like inexperienced flames.

On a picnic desk close to the hearth pit, a yellow-green desk runner…

…turned out to be a built-in planter of succulents and cacti!

A wider view

Within the coronary heart of the backyard stands a light purple shed with corrugated barn doorways on both sides.

Paths meet up with it from all sides.

Its doorways body an axis view to a different gabled construction, a rusty arbor within the distance.

Passing by way of the shed, I finished to admire a whimsical blue chandelier hanging inside.

Hardy bird-of-paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) frames the doorway on the opposite aspect.

Once I posted a photograph of this plant to my Fb web page final week, it blew up with feedback. Everybody wished to know extra about it. The botanical identify is Caesalpinia gilliesii, and its widespread identify is hardy or desert bird-of-paradise. Sure, it’s associated to Satisfaction of Barbardos (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), which has comparable flowers which can be orange and purple, not yellow and purple.

By the best way, there’s additionally a yellow bird-of-paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana), which is native to the Rio Grande Valley — i.e., not reliably winter hardy in Central Texas. Tropical bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is altogether completely different and positively not hardy right here.

In case you’re looking for James’s hardy bird-of-paradise, remember to request it by its botanical identify so that you get the suitable one: Caesalpinia gilliesii. He says Wimberley Gardens instructed him they’d be getting some in quickly.

Caesalpinia gilliesii was already in full bloom after I visited in late April — weeks forward of Satisfaction of Barbados.

Once we reached the shed, James extracted a rolled-up paper from a shelf and unfurled it to point out us the backyard’s unique design, drawn up by Lucy Harrell. Lucy taught an natural gardening and design class that James and Nancy took whereas dwelling in Arlington. “As a part of the category,” says James, “a small panorama plan was included. This was just a little greater than Lucy meant, however she agreed to come back down from Arlington to assist us. We had margaritas and labored on it collectively. She was great. She had an exquisite backyard in Arlington, however she has since moved to Magnolia.”

James speaking with my pal Cat, who accompanied me to Blanco

Cedar arbors march away from the shed alongside a mulched path…

…and echo the triangular gable of the stone wall.

Alongside the best way you cross irises…

…and toothy Wheeler’s sotol.

Trying again

Salvia — mealy blue sage, I feel

Whale’s tongue agave

And poppies

Bees and a hoverfly have been all around the poppies.

Intent on their work

In a bushy patch of pink night primrose, a motorbike decoration nods to James’s love of biking.

A pink rose rambles alongside a weathered cedar fence behind the backyard. The fence is previous — it was right here when James and Nancy acquired the property. James wonders if it may presumably be the identical age because the sheep-pen partitions and the large barn, the place a concrete footing is etched with the date 1926.

Throughout the fenced space, Nancy grows greens like asparagus and chard in elevated inventory tanks.

Rainwater collected from their two barn roofs is used to irrigate the backyard, James instructed me, although many of the backyard has low water wants.

Hesperaloe, roses, and pink night primrose are fairly in pink.

One other framed view

Facet view of the shed with hardy bird-of-paradise, poppies, hesperaloe, agave, and sotol

Again to the hearth pit patio and the bucolic view past

Prickly pear and trellis element

Pink roses have been simply previous peak however nonetheless blushing.

A tiny hoverfly zooms in to research.

After seeing the walled backyard, we drove as much as the home. A meadowy wildflower backyard stretches alongside the inspiration, fronted by a dry creek edged with limestone slabs.

Bluebonnets gone to seed have quickly swallowed up the entrance stroll. Metal pipes planted with hesperaloe make vertical accents.

Round again, a backyard that will get zero irrigation was in bloom with super-tough vegetation like hesperaloe, salvia, sotol, prickly pear, and plains coreopsis.

Hesperaloe bloom spike

Sensible pink flowers perched atop a spiny hedgehog cactus, a blinding sight.

What an pleasant backyard go to with stunning vegetation and nation allure! My due to James for sharing his pretty backyard with me.

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Digging Deeper

Might 11: Tour 4 Austin gardens on 5/11, from 9 am to three pm, on the Inside Austin Gardens Tour. Every backyard “is created and cared for by a Travis County Grasp Gardener and demonstrates lifelike gardening practices that inform and encourage.” Tickets are $25, or free for youngsters 12 and beneath.

Might 18: On Austin Residence’s Nice Open air Tour, held 5/18 from 10 am to three pm, discover “Pinterest-worthy swimming pools and outside kitchens to considerate plantings and trendy city density options.” Tickets are $30.

Might 18: Pop as much as Dallas for the 2024 DCMGA Backyard Tour on 5/18 from 10 am to five pm. Tickets are $18 if bought on-line prior to six pm on 5/17, or $22 after 6 pm on 5/17 or on the occasion. For a sneak peek, click on right here.

June 1-2: Take a self-guided, 2-day tour of ponds and gardens in and round Austin on the annual Austin Pond and Backyard Tour, held 6/1 and 6/2, 9 am to five pm. Tickets are $20 to $25.

Come find out about gardening and design at Backyard Spark! I arrange in-person talks by inspiring designers, panorama architects, authors, and gardeners a number of instances a 12 months in Austin. These are limited-attendance occasions that promote out rapidly, so be part of the Backyard Spark e mail checklist to be notified upfront; merely click on this hyperlink and ask to be added. Season 8 kicks off in fall 2024. Keep tuned for more information!

All materials © 2024 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized replica prohibited.

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