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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Evolution of a Veranda

The word veranda didn’t come to mind when we first saw our house in 2004. We were focused on interior dimensions, gardening space, and price. The long front porch with two center steps and a ramp at one end was just another part of the house. Once the house was ours, however, I began to ponder the word, savoring the possibilities.

Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines a veranda as a large open porch, usually roofed and partly enclosed, as by a railing, often extending across the front and sides of a house. Did our space pass this test? The porch extends thirty-seven feet across most of the front of the house, with open sides, wooden columns and black metal railings on the front edge. The whole thing has an overhanging roof, shading the house from the Western sun. I began calling our porch The Veranda.

It sure didn’t feel like a veranda at first. The pierced metal ramp was handy when the movers rolled the piano to the door, but rain or water transformed shoes into skates. Visitors slipped and our family grew wary. After I flew off the slick surface twice, landing hard on the drive, Philo sawed off the ramp & then contemplated angles, as he designed and constructed new steps.

We added a wooden bench, a plant stand and two metal chairs from the deck of the previous house. Furniture and doodads made the porch feel more like a room, but greenery was essential to my idea of a veranda.

Philo attached metal hooks for hanging baskets; they’re stuffed with pansies in winter and they produce a veil of ornamental potato vines in summer. A parlor palm and houseplants spend most of the year out on the porch while the center steps are flanked by two large hypertufa pots filled with purple oxalis.

On many gardening sites, new owners describe how they transformed their older houses, removing old hedges to 'open up the view' to the porch. Abundant flowers replace the hedges, Smith & Hawken add pizzazz to the scene, and the happy owner stands on his new stage, while neighbors marvel at the improvement.

I like to read these stories, and am glad their homes have become the right setting for their lives.

But as someone who has spent years envisioning a Southern garden, I could not chop down my mature boxwoods . I rather enjoy hedges, shade, mystery, privacy and a feeling of enclosure. Rather than banishing our shrubs, we encouraged the boxwood hedge to grow slightly taller, clipping it level with the railing.

Now, after working in the yard I can lounge on the bench, waving hello and conversing with my neighbors, but my muddy knees & battered shoes aren’t on display. Instead of taking center stage, we prefer the Box Seats.

Life can be a little more civilized when you have a Veranda - a place to sit and sip, to read or talk, a place that’s not exactly inside, yet not quite outside.


  1. What a great spot to sit and admire your gardening efforts or read the newspaper on a nice fall day.

  2. I wish I had a larger covered area off of the front yard. I think I'd prefer a bit more of a closed-in feeling, as well. It looks very Southern.

  3. I miss the wrap-around porch on my first house. It was my favorite place for breakfast in the warm weather.

  4. Wow. That looks great. You know Japanese houses are designed with a narrow porch just like that for enjoying breezes during their typically muggy summer days. I'd love a space like yours.

  5. That is a lovely garden place. I like how you described the process you went through to make it your own space.

  6. What a nice veranda! Us Charlestonians appreciate a good verando (although I don't have one, unfortunately). I totally agree with your description of garden space: "I rather enjoy hedges, shade, mystery, privacy and a feeling of enclosure". I love when gardens turn into rooms.

  7. The second shot of your veranda reminds me of St. Augustine Florida. The narrow layout, sense of enclosure and black shutters give it a Spanish courtyard kind of feel.

  8. That's a beautiful veranda~ I love the cozy enclosed feeling!

  9. Based on Webster's, most of the "porches" in our neighborhood also qualify as verandas. It describes them perfectly.

    Almost every house in this neighborhood has, at originally had, a porch/veranda across the full width of the front of the house. Most also continued partially onto one side of the house. We call them wrap-around porches, and the realtors do also.

    Many of these have been lost when they got bricked over, or completely chopped off. Some of them are barely recognizable. Our porch was enclosed with brick and french and double-hung sash windows. However, it was done early in the life of the house, and the craftmanship is quite beautiful.

    We have that "porch culture" you describe. In the summer, when the skitters aren't too bad, folks are hanging out, saying hi, reading, eating, and so on. It's a great way to walk around and connect.

    You can see many examples of this in my flickr photo set, Houses at Risk.

  10. Beautiful veranda, Annie! I want one of my own someday--and a sleeping porch. That always sounded terribly romantic to me, to sleep out on the sleeping porch during the summer. :)

    We do have a porch culture here, though... lots of porch-sitting folk around in this old suburb.

  11. What a great porch!
    I don't even have room for a porch
    on the front of my house. :(
    If I ever get my dream house
    I'll certainly have one.

  12. I'm glad you like my Veranda - even though it's not the wide, wraparound kind. The front yard is just lawn and trees right now, but the trees are large, short-lived Arizona ashes. We'll have to deal with the loss of shade one of these days, and come up with a new front design for sun. But I'm in no hurry!


  13. I envy your veranda! Lovely, Annie, and I totally agree with the privacy feeling. I like porch sitting also but don't want to be "on display" so a bit of the overgrown helps out my poor slab of a front porch. I can sit in a rocker almost totally obscured but still see the world going by.


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