If I've got my story straight, John and the garden's owner, Coleson, had originally bonded over their unusual homes (don't worry, we'll see Coleson's home later in this post) and then, as it happens, they got to talking about plants. This island bed was in need of a make-over and the time was right, they got to work...
Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, I wonder if this plant came as a cutting from John's plant?
The main feature of this planting is the limestone crevice garden, as such it faces the house and driveway.
While my eye was immediately drawn to the barrel cactus at the top—and the similarly golden spikes just below the barrel—there are a lot of other interesting plants tucked in those crevices.
A moment to appreciate the barrel...
…and then a look at some of the smaller plants.
Spiky planting pockets.
Of course, there are agaves...oh and palms too!
I have no idea what they are, other than fabulous.
Done admiring the island, our gaze shifted to the far corner of the property and what Pam and I had first spotted as we drove by, those tall metal planters and their spiky contents: dasylirion on the street-side.
Opuntia on the next row in...
...and an interesting collection in the shorter planters even further in...
Looking out, beyond, I couldn't help but admire the toasted skeleton of an opuntia that must have been grand, once upon a time. I assume this was a causality of the February '21 Freeze that Austinites and their plants endured. If you look close there is some green...
There were a few agaves over here as well, fighting off the encroaching foliage of Caesalpinia pulcherrima (I think ?).
I love this combo, soft and spiky. We know who will when this battle...
Now, we finally turn to look towards the house and it's unusual holey-rock (limestone) wall.
I first saw skulls. Hundreds of skulls. Kinda creepy, right? But thankfully not.
Opposite the oblong island is this row of potted citrus that Coleson adopted from John.
Moving towards the front walkway... Yucca rostrata!
Pretty fabulous, am I right? Those slightly curved trunks are just a touch more exotic than my boring old straight trunked Y. rostrata.
An then there's this, another crevice garden—this one in the bend between the home and the garage.
Another combined effort of John and Coleson, John however was quick to point out the labor of actually setting the stones was all Coleson...
From front door, looking out across the plantings...
...and a couple of close-ups...
After this front garden tour, Coleson generously took us into his home to share the views out into the the garden, pointing out how the Yucca rostrata placement was carefully considered for how it blocked the windows (privacy) as well as provided an indoor view. We continued through the house—there were a few WOW moments—onto the back patio, and around the side of the house. I didn't take any photos inside, or on the back deck, because it seemed like a very personal space and I wanted to respect that.
On the far side of the house though I was taken with these square cement planters.
An idea I might steal as a short retaining wall next to our driveway.
Finally, while editing photos for this post, I became curious about what that island planting looked like before John and Coleson worked their magic on it. Thanks to Google maps I went back in time and have six iterations to share with you. This fist version, tiny agaves and opuntia adrift in a sea of shimmering rock, dates to May of 2009. Note the tightly clipped hedge and sea of lawn...
It's April 2011 now and changes are happening. The fabulous offset rectangular entry steps are being poured and either a large agave from the previous planting was allowed to stay, or a new one was being moved in, hard to tell.
More agaves! Always a good choice. The uni-brow hedge is gone now and replaced by individual plants, October 2013.
January 2015 and things look either drought-stressed or dormant. Are you curious about that black blob on the front porch? I was. Page up and you can see it was a large potted Strelitzia reginae, the orange blooming bird of paradise, presumably wrapped against winter cold.
May of 2016. The strelitzia on the porch lives on, and one of the agaves sends up its bloom stalk.
The last photo I have to share is from July of 2019. There's still a lot of lawn, and it looks like the island is mostly Caesalpinia pulcherrima (I think). Solar panels have moved in on the roof though, a smart move in a sunny place like Austin, as is removing all that lawn—and of course the addition of fabulous plants and the crevice garden(s).
Thanks again to Coleson for his incredible hospitality, and John for paving the way into this amazing property. Over the weekend I listened to Jennifer Jewel's November interview of Christopher Woodward, Director of London's Garden Museum, and he repeated a phrase I've said many times, something along the lines of "gardeners are just good people". Yes they are, very generous and kind people.
Update 1/18/22: check out Pam Penick's post on this garden, you won't regret it! A Texas-style crevice garden—and neighborly collaboration—brings midcentury Austin home to vibrant life
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