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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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Monday, July 16, 2007

Three Gardens - Twenty Years

Sometimes I confuse people, especially new readers, by bouncing from past to present, first talking about the house we live in now, then switching to a past garden in either Texas or Illinois. I thought you might like a post with dates and descriptions of the last three places.

The Former Illinois Garden [1987-1999] was a 60' wide X 300' long rectangle on flat land in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. We'd spent years playing in the dirt at other houses by the time we moved there in spring 1987.
We lived at this house for 12 years, long enough to make a large front garden with mixed borders of flowering trees, shrubs, dwarf evergreens, perennials, bulbs, and annuals surrounding an amoeba-shaped central lawn. The photo above is from late summer, and that's the same birdbath you see in current photos! This garden was enclosed by a low fence with roses and vines growing on it, with a 'hot' border along the driveway.
The photo above was taken on an April day in the mid-1990's. By then I'd spent time at Trudi Temple's Hinsdale garden . Her deep, curving borders had a big influence on my style, and Ann Lovejoy gave this style a name: The American Mixed Border. Gardens in the back included a Square Sitting Garden off the patio, vegetable beds, patches of both red raspberries and black raspberries, fruit trees, native woodland borders and shrub borders. There were also lots of lilacs, tulips, peonies, daffodils, iris, daylilies, oriental lilies, clematis and hostas!

The First Austin House, sometimes referred to as our first House in Texas [1999-2004] had just a few saplings and some overgrown foundation junipers in the flat front yard when we moved there in late summer 1999. The sides and back yard were a steep, rocky canyon covered by decks.
I took a few classes in Hill Country Gardening, realizing that Midwest experience was not always useful here. Deer nibbled everything, so we planted a deer-resistant, drought-tolerant landscape in the front. In the photo above there are santolinas, artemesias, Salvias greggii, leucantha and 'Indigo Spires', various lantana, dwarf yaupon, Vitex, Texas Mountain Laurels and Copper Canyon daisies.Gates kept the deer out of the SW-facing Deck Garden in back. We experimented with all kinds of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vines and bulbs, enchanted with the sub-tropical plants that don't grow in Illinois. That's my beloved Loquat in the photo above, still a sapling tree next to the brick column.

Above left is an 'Acoma' Crepe myrtle in 2003, barely surviving and seldom blooming in the container. The lavender at center did fine on the deck, along with the Pineapple sage, Indian Hawthorn, Oleander, Dianthus and oregano. Once we learned that deer eat native wildflowers like Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush, we grew them in pots on the deck, too.
We lived at this first Austin house for 5 years, enjoying the views from the decks. Above are the Lady Banks rose and Confederate Jasmine waving wands of yellow flowers over the deck rail from their container.

At the end of July 2004 we moved to our current Austin Garden in a wooded neighborhood built in the late 1970's.With help from our family, we hauled the one hundred containers [and that birdbath] to this gently sloping, trapezoid-shaped yard with our first-ever privacy fence. It took a couple of years to get the Loquat, Camellia, Cenizo, Indian Hawthorne, Crepe Myrtle, Sweet Olive, Beautyberry, Fig and Boxwood out of containers and into Texas soil. The two 'Acoma' crepe myrtles have been trained into trees and are finally higher than the privacy fence.

We once knew something about Illinois gardening, and then learned something about gardening in rocky, hilly Austin deer country, but we had to relearn gardening once again. Although our present garden is less than two miles from Austin house # one, instead of a blank rectangle of rocky caliche, we're dealing with heavy clay soil inhabited by dozens of existing trees.
We're still learning.


  1. All your gardens are beautiful places, and I love the continuity you established by taking the bird bath with you to each location.

    I can identify most with the Illinois garden, and find myself drawn to it. I love the curved bed.

    Equally impressive is how you were able to learn new types of gardening at each location. You are "the transplantable rose"!

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  2. Annie,
    What an interesting post!

    I remember seeing Trudi Temple's garden on some garden show (Victory Garden maybe?) many years ago. I remember her charming accent, her enthusiasm and the fact that she would dig a hole in her garden and bury things instead of having a compost pile. And I believe she said her husband was a pilot??? Later I saw an article or two about her gardens in some magazines. Isn't it stramge the things we remember?

    I am amazed that you were able to move over 100 containers! Wow! That must have been quite the chore.

  3. It's wonderful to see your former gardens, Annie, and to see how you've learned and evolved as a gardener. It's truly a process rather than a result, isn't it? Although your results are lovely.

  4. Thanks, Annie, for sharing your gardens in Illinois and Texas. I am very much like you in the sense that I had to learn a completely new garden zone - from 7 to 5 is not an easy transition and I'm sure that it wasn't for you either.

    Clay is the worse thing you could get. I'd rather have sandy soil anyday.

  5. I guess I wasn't paying attention - I did not realize you were on your second Texas garden.

    It seems a little like the one I am working on now, whereas your present one may be more like the one I had for the previous 12 years.

    And that first one sounds pretty big. I spent a little time in Chicago long ago, but was not fortunate enough to have any ground to call my own.


  6. Loove it, Annie in Austin!!!

    Thank you for showing us the big pictures with sweeping views and plant interrelationships!

    (And I'm gonna go ahead and say, in general, insofar as the whole garden blogging enterprise is concerned, mark me down as wanting to see more of the big view as opposed to the strictly close-up approach. Two cents.)

    Like Carol, I also want to step into the picture of your Chicago garden! The elements that attract me: the rocks, that spherical shrub (what is it?), the combination of deciduous with evergreen, the clustered spring bulbs, the curve and scale, the fence. I love a good garden fence. That one's even better than a picket fence which is my usual preference for a front yard.

    Did you have a loquat cultivar suitable for containerization, or was that the species? (E. japonicum, I presume--I recall you said you didn't recognize the E. deflexa when I blogged it.)

    And I love the depth of your current backyard garden. From the picture, it looks like you could get some nice, shady seclusion back there.

  7. Thanks for the background...I love seeing the style continuation that adapts to the new environment. I'm sure all you learned in the first two gardens made it easier to learn in the third. And what a great yard...so much space! We have clay soil, too, and all I can say is there is no such thing as too much compost!

  8. Very interesting chronicle of your different gardens. Why would you give up the view of your first Austin house? I would practically kill for such a view. I guess the caliche would be too nasty to deal with even if you could do "borrowed view" landscaping.

    You did a wonderful job landscaping every where you've been.

  9. I think, Annie, you could create a gorgeous garden in Nunavut or in the desert. You're a naturally talented gardener and adaptable. I don't think I could do a segue from say, the oceanside to the prairie provinces. Thank you for sharing your history with us.

  10. I agree with Jodi. You are so talented as shown in every garden - Illinois and Texas. I wonder, each garden you touch is with so much love and care. Did you have a difficult time letting go and moving on?

  11. All your gardens are so beautiful. And how different they all are. I can't imagine the heartache in having to leave behind so many plants, even though it sounds like you brought many with you.

  12. I guess, like Carol, I identify most with the Illinois garden, because when I look at that photo I think, "It must have been wrenching to leave that garden!"

  13. Annie, I loved finding out about your gardening history and seeing them in more detail. They are all stunning gardens - each in their way. You are an incredibly talented gardener!!

  14. I really enjoyed reading this post. Nice to see where you have been -- and, nice to know that I'm not unique in my need to learn how to garden "again" in different soils and climate. I love all of your gardens!

  15. My daughter & I shopped together for that birdbath Carol, so it has to go where we go.

    Zoey, you got it - Trudi was on the Victory Garden, telling how her lawn-loving husband would fly out and she'd enlarge the borders while he was gone.

    A couple of our athlete kids flew in and rented a pickup. They, our Austin son, a Diva friend, Philo and I worked together to move the pots.

    Pam/Digging, if you hear someone chanting "It's not the product, it's the process", it could be me attempting to stay centered.

    Carolyn, it might be harder to go to a colder zone...I'm not sure. Sandy soil is something I never ran into yet.

    Hi Bill - that's the impression I get from your photos, with deer and cedars everywhere. But you seem to be more in the country, whereas our Texas houses have been within the city of Austin.

    Chuck, this present yard is pretty wide but not very deep - still just 1/4 acre. So that photo was looking from one side to the other right after we moved in.

    Maybe we're afraid if we show the big pictures there won't be enough left to blog about!

    The spherical shrub in the Chicago garden was a Thuja 'Little Giant". Front fences over 3 feet were regulated. Philo designed it as a 30" tall 'interrupted flower rail' rather than a genuine fence.

    The loquat's just the regular old Eriobotrya japonica - given to me as a seedling.

    Leslie, not only did I get to work in my own previous gardens, but I've had 6 years of experience in those of the other Divas of the Dirt - now that was a genuine education in Austin gardening!

    That photo must be magical to make our back yard look big.

    Ki, we do sometimes miss the view, but the house was too big for us to handle and it was time to downsize.

    Jodi, blogs from Canada always amaze me with the intense, short gardening season. I don't know if I could do it. And we've always lived in the middle of the continent, loving our visits to the ocean, but never gardening there.

    Mary, as newlyweds we started out by planting a small garden at a student housing unit when my husband was in grad school, so we've had practice at leaving them, but sometimes it was pretty hard to do.

    Meresy, I carried some of the heat-resistant tougher heirlooms here, but it just about killed me to leave some rare plants in Illinois. Some could not survive in Texas, like the peonies, including an heirloom Fernleaf peony and a white Tree peony. And I hated leaving plants that came from places like the long-shuttered Montrose Nursery.

    Kathy, friends in my old Illinois town say the present owners have barely changed anything, so the design was successful, which is a comfort.

    Thank you Christine, for visiting and for commenting.

    Thank you, Kate. I drag Philo into every project and think he's really the one with talent.

    Hello Mimi - maybe that's one of the reasons we love garden blogs... so many of us have been transplanted!

    Thank you,


  16. "We're still learning" - we're still enjoying. Great tour of all three of your gardens Annie.

    Not only are they remarkable but it's an amazing testament to your gardening prowess that not only have you created one beautiful landscape, you've achieved it 3 times.

    Great journey...

  17. Garden Blogs are wonderful. I learn so much, "still learning" and feel a connection to those who have been "transplanted". Very cool.

    Thanks, Annie.

  18. Thanks for that lovely tour around your last 3 gardens Annie. Fortunately we will never know all there is to know about gardening. Just think of how dull that would be. :-D So we have our little adventures by trying out new plants, sometimes with great success and at others less so. We live and learn.

  19. Annie,
    It seems like we live parallel lives, in reverse!!
    I was thrilled to hear from you, thank you!
    I will post pictures of the big fat ears of corn we have, this year!
    (knee high by 4th of July?? Heck! The corn was 6 foot tall by then!!)
    Have a wonderful summer!
    your yankee friend!

  20. Oh wow, Annie... I knew you had mentioned a previous house in Austin, but I hadn't realized that you and Philo have been in your new place only as long as I've been in mine. Your gardens look so... established... already! I aspire to that kind of talent, and hope that I can get there someday. What wonderful gardens you create, no matter where they reside.

  21. Annie, It's so nice to see your various gardens. Especially your western 'burbs one. It looks so pretty -- which suburb were you in? Rosemarie

  22. You and Philo have worked hard over the years and produced some lovely gardens...and acquired a lot of knowledge in the process! It was interesting to read about and see a glimpse of your 3 last gardens. I can't imagine doing all that work and then leaving it to start all over again. It must've been hard!
    That's a lot of containers to look after and transfer.
    I enjoyed seeing what's blooming in your garden and especially love that pink crinum-type lily.
    It was fun learning a little more about you from the meme too Annie :) I'd love to see Moonstruck again. I loved that movie.
    I'm still stalking hummers with the camera!

  23. Heck, Annie, you don't confuse me! I love that you have all that experience from gardening in such varied climates and soil. Speaking of which, you forgot to mention that you not only moved 100 pots, but took your compost with you too! Very nice roundup of pictures of your three gardens.

  24. You are the bomb! Way to adapt to such different surroundings...I agree-you could make a lush garden absolutely anywhere!


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