The Runcible Garden

We built the house in Travis Country in 1999, and it has – regrettably – a rather vague wiff of “McMansion” about it.  We’ve done our best to add as much ‘charm’ as possible, but of course, ‘charm’ is in the eye of the beholder.  The upper story of the house has been painted blue, with a white limestone facade at the bottom.  The front door is red – a nod to my youth in Great Britain.  So far, we haven’t been mistaken for an Elizabeth Arden day spa.

I’m not really colour-averse, so I went very bold with the exterior, choosing a deep blue.  It may be the only blue house in the neighborhood, but much better than the boring builder’s putty colours that were available.  Filling some of the odd asymetrical gaps where windows should have gone with ecclectic objects helps give character, too, I think.

I didn’t have much experience with landscape design when we built, so I provided for the ubiquitous two-foot border along the fence line that I’d fill in later.  We did get a cedar elm (ulmus crassifolia) in the backyard and a Magnolia in the front that turned out to be great placements.  As far as hardscapes, we had a small deck attached to the back door, but I knew I wanted more.

The house is situated on the Barton Creek Greenbelt – nothing behind us but several miles of open space.  A trail runs right behind the house that’s used by dog walkers, runners, and cyclists.  It’s really nice to be able to just step out your back gate on to this:

In 2008, we engaged Perfect Lawns to do some pretty significant landscaping updates.  Probably 80 percent of the work wasn’t visible; it was correcting drainage issues with the site.  The original owners of the house next door had installed a ‘dry river bed’ in the back yard that was the worst possible thing for the natural drainage.  Even after a heavy dew, our backyard was like a swamp.  (Luckily, the first thing the next owners did was take out that god-awful eyesore.)  The remaing changes to the landscaping mainly involved hardscape (a brick patio off the deck; limestone edging around the borders) and more diversified plantings (faerie roses; Japanese Maple; agapanthus; etc.)  (The agapanthus looked great on paper, but it only bloomed for maybe three weeks out of the year – not enough ‘bang-for-your-buck’ in my view.)

When I interviewed with our designer, Amy, I told her I was looking for “1940’s backyard meets Provence.”  An odd combination, I realize, but I think she did a great job in giving us a basic plan that got us where we wanted to go.

We just finished replacing the deck two weeks ago (improper installation, the bane of my existence), so I think I’m ready to do some ‘reveal photos’ à la “What Not to Wear.”  (Regarding the deck – we used The Austin Deck Company.  I can’t say enough good things about them.)

First and foremost, it was Annabelle’s backyard


(Annabelle as a puppy…hard to believe she ever had black fur *sigh*)


(Sunning herself – expecting a treat for posing for the photo.)


(Always on duty – probably chasing a rat or snake – yikes!)

So now for the rest of the reveal…


(Front of the house – hopefully more artful than the GoogleMaps photo…)


(The flower bed in front of the dining room.)


(New deck and brick patio – the ‘1940’s backyard’ element brought to life by the metal lawn furniture, just as I remember my great grandparents’ backyard in San Antonio.)


(A close up of the deck railing material – we went with bull wire instead or wrought iron – a better match with the cedar deck and brick patio, I think.)


(The arbor over the gate, leading to the greenbelt.)


(A heavily shaded area on the east side of the yard underneath our neighbor’s huge ol’ Live Oak.  This area is landscaped to remind us of our trip to China in 2007.)


(Another reminder of China – a bamboo gate leading to the side yard where I hide all our junk.)


(Hard to tell from this photo, but a bed shaped like a Norman window.  This section of the garden (west side) reminds me of gothic Churches and castles growing up in England and our trip to Ireland in 2009.)


(Probably my favorite picture of the backyard – the north-side gate on the greenbelt.)

Well, this is the main page for the Runcible Garden.  Future posts will point out specific design ideas and those that just happened to be wild-ass guesses that turned out to be not so hideous.

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