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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Wildflowers, water features, and flying pigs add charm to no-lawn garden in Cedar Park

June 10, 2021

Whenever I see a no-lawn, front-yard garden in suburbia, I know a daring and enthusiastic gardener lives there. Such is the case with Cedar Park homeowner Frances Fortanely, whose garden I had the pleasure of seeing last week. Pulling up to the curb, I was greeted by a lushly planted, inviting garden of flowering salvias, native wildflowers, grasses, and silvery groundcovers.

Having gotten rid of the front lawn, Frances chooses mostly low-profile plants near the entry, including sedges, silver ponyfoot, and Mexican feathergrass, which she allows to reseed as a low-water groundcover.

A contemporary stone walk from the public sidewalk to the front door meets up with and expands the tiny, curved, builder-grade walk that came with the house. How much more inviting it is, compared with what the builder provided, right? A limbed-up Mexican sycamore stands tall amid the ground-hugging plants, offering bright shade and a chance to admire its smooth white trunk.

Silvery green lamb’s ears combine with yucca, yarrow, and heartleaf skullcap in a pretty matrix.

Along the front walk, a pot-style disappearing fountain spills water over its rim (the water percolates through the gravel paving and into a hidden reservoir, from which it’s pumped back into the pot), making pleasant music. On the other side, a stepping-stone path leads to a small patio with two white chairs.

Tucked into the feathergrass, a cute blue pig greets you…

…as do several other winged porkers, including one whose hide consists of glued-on Topo Chico bottle caps — a creative addition Frances did herself.

A sage-green pot at the front door draws your eye with a mix of cactus, succulents, and blue fescue.

The front walk grows less formal as it leads diagonally to the back gate, with more cactus and succulent planters along the way.

A white-edged agave shelters a weathered gnome in one pot.

Along the fence by the gate, a long stock tank showcases gomphrena, purple heart, salvia, and more. A yucca in a black urn adds a spiky accent.

Before we explore the back, let’s take the stepping-stone path that leads to the front-yard patio. Heartleaf skullcap blooms in the foreground. Farther along, the plants grow bigger, including fine-textured ornamental grasses and shaggy Texas mountain laurels. There were large agaves here before the February freeze, and some are recovering.

Native wildflowers have free reign at the sunny end of the front garden, visually blending with the field just beyond Frances’s property line.

Mexican hats bloom with abandon after all the recent rain.

I love this little patio Frances carved out near the wildflowers.

Stepping through the gate into the back garden, you see an expansive gravel patio shaded by a heritage live oak. Several seating areas offer lounging space in the shade. Beyond the tree, a swimming pool with a blue-tiled waterfall wall adds more water music.

The tree is protected and set off with a large, circular seat wall made of limestone blocks. Within the circle, native sedges and inland sea oats make a green, naturalistic groundcover. As Frances points out, both are heavy re-seeders, and she’s often pulling volunteer plants out of her gravel.

Pretty pots of succulents adorn the wall.

Alongside the pool, a gas fire feature can be turned on to brighten chilly evenings.

Near the back door, Frances grows herbs in two stock tanks set at an angle against a fence swathed in crossvine.

Basil grows lushly in one, with golden sweet potato vine spilling over the edge.

In the other, flowering dill mingles with sweet potato vine in a dazzingly golden echo.

Flowering dill fireworks

Frances loves water features and has several. Another one appears near the back door — viewable from inside, I imagine. Crisp-edged limestone blocks make a contemporary pond, with water spilling into it via a metal pipe that emerges from bamboo. A Buddha sculpture sits cross-legged on the edge, cradling a pink crystal and wearing a necklace of red beads.

A Zen moment — just one of many eye-catching features in Frances’s lovely, no-lawn garden. Thanks for letting me share it here at Digging, Frances!

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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Want to learn how to grow vegetables in Central Texas? Attend a free webinar on June 15 hosted by the Travis County Master Gardeners Assoc. My friend Sheryl Williams is teaching it, and she says “We’ll cover the whole process from planning to harvesting, with plenty of war stories from my own garden.” Sign up here.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark! Hungry to learn about garden design from the experts? I’m hosting a series of talks by inspiring garden designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. Talks will resume this fall. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2021 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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