On my way to Austin see Peckerwood and visit friends, I saw a enormous, beautiful rainbow when I stopped for gas. This mobile phone photo does it no justice whatsoever. A gigantic half circle stretched to nearly touch the ground, with bright colors saturating the drizzling sky and a second partial band alongside it. Thrilled, I leaped from my car to get a better view.
Standing in the light rain, I looked around to see if others had noticed this grand sight and pointed it out to a man walking toward the store. Rainbow!
He began shouting, "I don't believe in rainbows! I do NOT believe in rainbows!" This was a perplexing response to say the least. Must we "believe" to appreciate this ephemeral occasion?
I tried again, pointing it out to a couple other guys pumping gas. Did you see the rainbow? I was clearly excited and it really was worth notice. They nodded and kind of smiled, no big deal.
Ok, perhaps I appeared a bit over zealous or maybe even intoxicated standing in the drizzle taking photos like that double rainbow guy on youtube. Walking slowly backwards to my car, I passed a man at the next pump in a big red truck.
Did you see? I pointed.
"OH THANK YOU," he called out. Finally, a proper acknowledgement!
When I finished filling my tank the fleeting moment was gone. The same man came back to his truck and said again, "Thank you so much for showing me that rainbow."
Years ago when I was living in Brooklyn, working at Wave Hill and considering moving back to Texas, I learned about a garden in my home state that I'd never heard of: Peckerwood. Founder and artist, John G. Fairey named the place after the plantation in Auntie Mame (a film and theatre work with personal family significance for me) and for the woodpeckers that frequent the property.
Everything I knew then about high end gardening, I learned while living in New York City, but here was something artful and interesting in middle of nowhere Texas. Hempstead to be exact. I've been wanting to visit ever since.
They hold just a few open days each year for the public, so this spring I made a plan to drive down and visit my long time friend Rachel, who lives near Austin and accompanied me on the tour.
Perusing Peckerwood's website years ago, I was impressed by the collections of magnolias, palms, agaves and yucca, many gathered on expeditions by the founder. It struck me then as an extremely masculine garden and my opinion remains unchanged having seem it in person.
The plants are generally spiky, woody and evergreen, with the emphasis on green. Composed primarily of overlapping textures, form and shadows, the color palette is mostly monochromatic.
My former boss at Wave Hill, John Emanuel, used to say with disdain that perennial gardens "melt" when winter comes and the plants go dormant. He taught me the value of woody plants that outlive us and keep their strong forms all through the year.
It's plenty obvious that I have a weakness for flowers, but it's certainly easy to grasp the strength of this garden's bold statement which scarcely relies on bloom.
A garden full of flowers has you staring down at the plants the whole time. A garden like this compels you to look up, full of wonder, to see tall trees and other plant shapes framing the sky, providing awareness of your place in the universe and connection to something much larger than yourself.
Here's something you don't see every day on the busy streets of Dallas.
My friend Jane Holahan created this wonderful urban wildflower oasis which is filled with spontaneous delights.
Before I met her as a customer at NHG, her garden was featured in this 2010 DMN article that I remember reading when I first moved back to Dallas.
Larkspur and Poppies will soon fade while Guara and Echinacea are just getting started. What looks like a happy accident, where perhaps nature took it's course, is actually planned, edited, managed and maintained throughout the year.
There is sophistication in the repetition of plants, the mixtures of perennials and self sowing annuals as well as the succession of plantings that provide for more than one season. Jane works diligently on all of this, taking pleasure in the process and she is quite humble about what she has achieved. The results are a refreshing garden style that is rarely seen in our city.
She's digging up a few of her plants for me to integrate into my garden and even sent me home with seeds and a Larkspur bouquet!
Here it is with the Italian Stone Pine behind it, which I also planted with my Dad in the early nineties. During the winter after the oak was put in the ground, an animal stripped the bark around the main trunk and we figured it was dead. Somehow it went ahead and sprouted leaves the following spring and also formed several new sprouts at the base. The top growth was sickly, however, and by time the summer heat set in, the main trunk of the tree was dead. Dad cut that part down, hoping that the lower sprouts would continue growing, possibly in a multi-trunked form.
This oak is semi-evergreen so last winter when it dropped all it's leaves, it was unclear whether or not it would make it through, but sure enough, it has leafed out beautifully this spring. Another symbol of resilience for me, I hope to see this tree live a long healthy life despite the adversity it has suffered.
As it is my general tendency to collect every plant I fall for, I struggle to include repetition in the overall design scheme. In fact, my overall design scheme so far has been to fall in love with a plant or(s) and find a place to fit it in; that or acquire a plant for free and squeeze it in. Therefore, the idea of mass planting is utterly forgotten.
Taking a break from my garden has provided awareness of lessons to be learned elsewhere. I passed this beautiful group of Possumhaw hollies (Ilex decidua) many times on my way to work before I finally pulled over and jumped out of my car one morning to take a few quick photos while they were loaded with berries and positively glowing.