October 18, 2022
Gardening is a lot more than plants: it’s an irresistible invitation to flex our creativity physically and mentally. This week on our fall premiere, explore artistic flair with three families.
First, Travis County Master Gardeners Julie Nelson and Kay Angermann brought creative collaboration, muscle-wielding grit, and passion for plants and animals to their new homestead dubbed Katie Bird Farm, named for Kay’s gardening/farming grandmother.
This dynamic duo’s turned rough land into wonderland since 2013 when they bought its almost three acres, then a jungle of overcrowded mountain cedars brushing live oaks.
On move-in week in October 2013, floods washed out the driveway. Quickly, they rallied with a backhoe to scoop up wayward soil and mound it into berms to deflect future gully washers. Since then, they’ve built more berms and populated them with plants that like good drainage. They pair grasses, like native Lindheimer muhly, with native and adapted perennials.
“Everything was done in such an organic way. Julie and I never wrote, drew a plan out, or had a plant list that we wanted,” Kay said.
Rather than pound into rocky substrate, Julie built raised beds to grow vegetables and herbs.
They charm up every spot with unique and personable vintage finds that Kay unearths through her business, Hipbilly Kay.
In their hobby farm (which includes a gregarious rescued donkey duo), happy hens are watched over by Our Lady of Guadalupe, rendered by graffiti stencil and mural artist El Federico.
Julie and Kay have made a lot of changes and faced a few losses since our visit in fall 2019. The saddest was saying goodbye to sweet old dog Howdy, one of their many rescues. We so loved meeting him. He sure did greet us with a “Howdy!”
Next, head to Doug and Ingrid Green’s home west of Lago Vista where they nurture all kinds of wildlife on 28 acres. When we visited in October 2019, I’d never seen so many butterflies and bees in a family garden. Doug reports that this year’s drought took its toll on the wildlife population, but they’re counting more arrivals daily.
Since deer populate the land, too, he dedicated an enclosed sanctuary for flowering plants that deer would graze before pollinators got a meal. On our visit, frothy pale blue Gregg’s mistflower was simply a whirl of wings!
Doug designed it as a 2700 square foot pentagon formed from drill stem pipe. Off duty firefighter Ryan Stark drove posts four feet into the ground with an air hammer, securing them without concrete.
The cattle panel sides support many kinds of vines, including flowering crossvine, grapevines for birds, and summertime annual purple hyacinth bean, its lavender blossoms nestling countless bees.
He provides water and butterfly puddling stations around the property, but inside the sanctuary, he built a pentagon-shaped pond. An original member of the Austin Pond Society, he designed it to accommodate different-sized birds, along with bees, lizards and other small creatures. The gravel fill double duties as a butterfly puddling station.
The garden’s dedicated to his dad Paul Green, a long-term joyful garden mentor as a member of what’s now the The Garden Club of Austin. His barbershop on Red River Street was a favorite for many generations, where his smile always welcomed every garden question.
Doug’s a hobbyist metal worker, too, who designs and welds mild steel into furniture, containers, and garden art. He builds some containers out of cedar while others he modifies from purchased or scavenged vessels.
Finally, we land in Leander where Ana and Julio Lopez mapped out their downsized dream garden in 2018 before the house was even built.
Their history tagged along to this new garden via the many plants that have grown up alongside their children.
Each one contains a story that gets passed along to friends and neighbors through cuttings, divisions, and seeds.
Even pruned branches left by the wayside find their way into Ana and Julio’s creative hearts. To support a generously-fruiting grapevine, Julio framed the back gate with mountain cedar trimmings.
Knowing their love of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of their sons commissioned an El Federico painting that transformed an ordinary gate into a soulful destination.
When Ana hankered for a rose arbor at the front, Julio again enlisted castoff trimmings to anchor a Peggy Martin rose. A native coralbean extends red-blossomed invitations to hummingbirds passing by.
The arbor deserved a special gate, so when Ana and Julio found an old, weathered candidate, they renewed it with elbow grease and love. “We always know about the secret garden and I was dreaming about the gate. . .The neighbors love it and they just pass and say, ‘Oh, I love your gate. It looks like a secret garden. Can I go in?’ And yes, of course, everybody is welcome,” Ana always tells them.
Watch all these inspiring stories!
Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda