Gorgeous Design Flood Control |Natalie and Bob Bennett|Central Texas Gardener


– [Narrator] Naomi and Bob Bennett elevated
their imagination in a rocky hilltop West Austin garden where spiritual design started
with practical problems. – We had a red bud tree die, and we had a
big rainstorm, and there was a runoff that we couldn’t control. So I suggested we have a small pond in the
front yard and we invited Peter Fleury of Oasis Gardens to come look at a solution. However, he’s a dreamer along with my husband
and so this small project became an all-inclusive one that took up the entire front yard and
backyard, that really started with one redbud tree dying. – [Narrator] To control erosion and flooding,
Peter Fleury threaded a dry creek bed across the front. At the front door, he bridged waterfalls and
small ponds with a new flagstone sidewalk. A yoga teacher, Naomi wanted to harmonize
the union of body, mind and spirit with Texas land challenges and memories of Japan. – The reason you go over the bridge is because
you’re entering another dimension. You’re going from the outside world to our
world inside. And so that is a design that’s in the hard
scape. You don’t realize that there was an effect
happening, that you’re leaving the outside street world, ordinary place and you’re coming
into this environment that’s special, that’s different, that has an ambiance. And so you do that with bridges and portals,
but it’s all unspoken. – [Narrator] One portal they changed was the
front door entrance, opening up its facade. They lined the interior roof with cedar culled
from the backyard. – Since I’m interested in astrology, I specifically
asked for the urn to be at the top of that waterfall. I think we’re entering the age of Aquarius
and the representation of that is an urn that pours out water from into the air. The Kuan Yin statues, she’s the goddess of
the Lotus. – But once that got put in I looked at it
and I said, oh, it’s beautiful, but what’s it doing here? It looks so out of place. We didn’t want anything formal. But what we came up with as a philosophy was
where the Texas Hill Country meets the Orient. – [Naomi] We rediverted the walkway to create
that harmony and to change the pathway. So it had a feng shui feel. – [Narrator] They clustered small native and
exotic trees, like Japanese maple, with hardy perennials, bulbs, and wildflowers. Perpetual structure carries the transitory
late spring garden into a summer and fall blooming palette. For a low-growing, evergreen grassy element,
they chose Berkley sedge. – It doesn’t spread like grass. It just stays in little tufts. And we did throw out some bluebonnet seed
because of that. And then everything else just shows up as
volunteers. – [Naomi] We realized over time that we didn’t
have a front lawn, what we have is a meadow, so we treat it like a meadow. – [Narrator] In back, they never had lawn. What’s now a 75 foot waterfall, ponds, and
living areas was once a gradually eroding ravine and invasive plants. – We used to have a zip line and the kids,
the boys would zip line across that ravine because that was the natural runoff of the
hillside that was back there. – The house above us is 15, 20 feet above
our property. And so they had just put big rocks there to
stabilize that ground so that they didn’t fall off. We just thought, hey, that’d be a cool place
to put something. – In fact, where you see the organic garden
it was so steep that I couldn’t walk down it, I would slide down. Even the stone bench is really a retaining
wall. – [Narrator] To turn an eroding eyesore they
couldn’t navigate except by zip line into a wondrous waterfall destination, Peter built
retaining walls, terraced with planting ledges and sitting areas. It took 15 truckloads of Texas limestone boulders. – And so what we already had in natural rock
was interlaced with what we added into it. So that’s why it feels so natural because
it’s from the local limestone quarries. That ravine wound up being the stream. The water is pumped up the hill up to the
top, and it recycles. But to build it, he had to start at the bottom,
and go up to the middle and stop, and then he had to start at the top and work himself
way down to the middle, and then from the middle then he could back off from that. – [Bob] The middle is where we have kind of
a secondary pond. Everything else is a cascade until you get
to the middle, which what we call the heart of the waterfall and then from there it continues
cascading and there’s actually 23 cascades from the top to the koi pond. – [Naomi] 2005 was a year of nothing but hard
scape. And then we spent 2006 and 2007 basically
planting. – [Narrator] Bob hauled home lots of plants
from Austin nurseries and from Dan Hosage’s Madrone Nursery in San Marcos. Then they met Scott Ogden of Plant Driven
Design. – He brings in a level of knowledge that we
hadn’t acquired yet. So he elevated it from ordinary to magnificent. We already had good bones. We already had the hard scape, we already
had the oak trees. And so since he believes in the plant driven
design, he just took that concept and lifted up to another level that we hadn’t gotten
to. – [Narrator] Plants of all origins made the
grade for performance and drought, humidity and freezing weather. – [Naomi] We have layers, and layers of flowers
and blooms that come throughout the season. – [Bob] When we come out here it evokes a
feeling, an experience of serenity and peace. You can see it from every room in our house. That experience of serenity and calmness comes
in through osmosis. When we’re not even thinking about it because
it effects the quality of our life on it every single day. The more time you spend here, the more we
get to appreciate it, and it gets to inform and affect us. – [Narrator] To irrigate plants and fill the
ponds, they installed rainwater collection. – And so we converted all of our gutters into
accesses to basically divert them into water tanks. So we have two tanks that are at this level
and two underneath the deck. And then there’s piping that connects all
of them. And we did wind up putting a deer proofing
perimeter around the property. Because to only allow deer resistant plants
wasn’t going to work. – [Narrator] They used mountain cedar cut
from the ravine. After stripping the bark, they stained and
shaped the limbs as fences and portals. – [Naomi] No one can actually see the fencing,
but in the organic garden we wanted to emphasize that. And we used the cedar again because it was
already a running theme. We thought it would be unusual, and different. – [Narrator] Near the house, a deck adjoining
an outdoor kitchen overlooks the hot tub and stone bench. They can pick a grand view from any perspective. One overlook is from their hilltop tugboat,
inspired by spare parts of a little girl’s doll house. – [Naomi] And the kids absolutely loved it. – But the story of that, ’cause there’s always
a story, is that this was at the end of the real bad recession in Texas, and people were
out of work, and things were bad. And there was a gentleman that went door to
door and was looking for work, and knocked on our door and said, “I’m a carpenter, do
you have anything you need “to have done?” And we said, can you build a boat? – [Naomi] Since the boys have grown up now
it’s a party boat. – [Narrator] Alongside the house, an intimate
retreat invites quiet meditation. Fragrant roses clamber over a fern-adorned
grotto waterfall. Not only a privacy screen from the neighbors,
its reinforced walls prevent mudslides. And, it’s a restful view from indoors. – [Bob] It calls to us, and we call to it.

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