Sun & Shade Design in Deer Country |Diana Kirby |Central Texas Gardener


One of the things that makes me happy in my
garden is that I’m able to have different styles, different vignettes. The side garden is a woodland garden, because
it’s shady. The back garden around the pool is bright
and hot, and so I have tropical plants there. The front bed is, what I like to call, sort
of South West Texas cottage. – [Diana Kirby’s garden has changed a lot
since she and husband Jeff Eller bought their house in 2003, when daughter Kallie was an
infant. – It was so pristine and everything was beautiful
and there were no weeds, and we bought the house and I realized that was just a fresh
layer of mulch and there were in fact weeds, and so I was gonna get to use my gardening
skills. The backyard didn’t exist at that time. There was a swimming pool, but all of the
backyard was scrub and stumps and rocks. One of our challenges here is that we’re at
the top of a hill, and so we get a lot of wind, sometimes strong winds. We had to consider that when we were building
the beds along the pool, because I didn’t want to be out there with the net trying to
fish a bunch of delicate blooms out of the pool. We also have deer outside the fence, and we
have rabbits and squirrels, and other little critters that come visit us, and then we have
drainage issues. The water from several properties over just
drains all the way close to our house, so we’ve had to put in a number of dry creeks. And we just cleared the scrub and started
fresh, and we put in some lawn and we created some beds. And, our daughter was six months old, so we
put in a Playscape, knowing that shortly, she’d be climbing in there. It just slowly developed from there, and over
time beds got bigger. A vegetable garden came along. – Although the yard’s fenced against deer,
Diana corralled her vegetables from the family’s energetic dogs. – We got a greenhouse, which was great because
I love tropical plants, and that gave me a place to put them in the winter. – Diana borders it with seasonally-blooming
perennials and annuals that feed pollinators. Gardens are never static, though. We grow and change along with them, and so
do our children. – My husband Jeff said to me one day, “You
know, we probably should take down the Playscape. “Our daughter’s 15. “She’s not going to use it anymore, and we
don’t need it.” My first reaction was, “Well, why would we
do that? “We might sell the house to someone that has
kids.” Then I thought about it a little further and
realized if I take out the Playscape, I have a new space in which to garden. I thought, I could build a garden that left
the gravel as the pathway and then build a little rose garden, a parterre, and have a
couple of roses out there, where I’m not able to have them outside of the fence because
of the deer. Then I thought, well, I’d like a little seating
in there, so I put a bench up against the fence. Then I thought how lovely it would be to look
out there and see the reflection back from a mirror hanging on the fence. My original plan was to have a multi-basin
fountain in the center used as a planter, but the first time I went out there and sat
in the bench, I realized that that would obstruct my view. So I opted instead for a bird bath that I
had here, and put that in the center, and now I can sit out there and look at the garden
from a completely different vantage point. I wanted a new path to go out to the rose
garden, but I was having trouble with the old path. It was just stepping stones with decomposed
granite. It was hard to keep edged. The weeds loved the granite, and they were
in there all the time. It was a lot of work. So, I decided to mortar in that path, leaving
holes for plants, blooms, flowers, whatever I wanted to put in there, and then we added
a second path. Now I have beautiful blooms along my path
still, but I don’t have the backbreaking work of trying to dig weeds out of the decomposed
granite. Originally along the pool beds, I was keeping
things simple. And over time, I decided I wanted to play
some more in those beds, and so I added in some beautiful hot pink hibiscus and some
Pride of Barbados and a few other things to soften it a little bit, keeping the color,
keeping the drama, but having a little bit softer feel. – Since family and friends often head out
back to gather round, Diana furnished and accented for amiable comfort. She sprinkles in charm to unite indoor and
outdoor living rooms on the patio nook. – The addition of the fountain that Jeff built
for me was great, because now that is really my favorite place to sit because I have the
water running. Sometimes we have frogs that crawl in behind
the rocks of the fountain and spend their summers there. It’s just a delightful space to look out and
see the rest of the garden from. The cabana is a functional space for us. We can sit here and watch TV. My family comes over and we eat dinner here
at the table. It gives me a place to put plants that really
like shade, because most of my garden is pretty warm and hot, and this is a nice place for
succulents and Bromeliads and Epiphyllum that like to be in a lot of light, but don’t really
want that direct sun. I have an obsession with pots, I’ll admit
it. You’ll find in the garden it’s turquoise,
it’s a lime green and maybe some orange, and I try to stick to that color pallet, and then
mix the plants in with that. – [Air conditioners make Texas summers bearable,
but Diana disguised the utilitarian bulk with Austin artisan Bob Pool’s metal surround that
doesn’t impede airflow. – The gate, I fell in love with at an antique
shop in Johnson City. We were driving through, coming home from
camp with our daughter, and I found this beautiful door, but it really wasn’t a door. I think it was just created to be something
ornamental, and it ended up in our truck and came home with us. So the first work that I did in the woodland
garden was to take care of the drainage problem. We dug a swale and put river rock in there,
and we put some flagstones. It soon became very apparent that when we
had the heavy rainfall that we sometimes get, that it wasn’t going to contain it enough,
so we had to go back to the drawing board and add on to it. We put a French drain in. It’s a mostly shady, and so I call it the
woodland garden. It just has a really lovely light that filters
in and touches the plants just right and makes them sparkle. I did something a little different in the
space in the front along the walkway to the front door. Most of my garden beds, you’ll find, are hot
pops of color, kind of confetti color. The path along the front of the house I wanted
to be more muted and a little more monochromatic. So, I’ve used repetition a lot with the plants
and the colors and have focused on things that are in the burgundy lavender family. Then, some of the shrubs are variegated. Because that space is shaded, to add light
into those beds. I’ve also worked really hard to put a lot
of texture in there, a multi-dimensional feel in there with the layers and the textures. But out in the front, it was so flat and so
hot and so dry. So we brought in a lot of rock and we built
this layered bed, and then I filled it with those hot confetti pops of color that I like,
with a mix of some sculptural things like the agaves and the yuccas, and then some soft
things, because one of the things that I try very hard to do when I’m designing is to consider
the vignette in terms of how plants look relative to one another. There are so many plants here that are pollinator-friendly. The hummingbirds and the butterflies and the
caterpillars and the bees, they love this garden, and I love watching them. – Through all Diana’s garden changes over
the years, the biggest change has been in her perceptions of what it’s all about. – You have to find that balance between what
works for you as a gardener and brings you joy. But then there might be something else that
just feels like a chore, and I’ve just reached the point where I’m really working hard to
find that balance so that gardening is a pleasure and it brings me peace.

Comments

  1. Great video discussing how a yard changes as family grows. Loved how the dog was lying there totally relaxed as she talked about the energetic dog. A big laugh. Thank you, Central Texas Gardener for all your vids. So helpful.

  2. I’m in Waco. I love your gardens. The Hill Country is one of our favorite place to go. Tfs. New subbie! 💕💐

  3. Your garden Diana is stunning and i think you are my garden soul sister ! lol ….Can you say plant addddiction!!!! hehheheh (O: just lovely <3

  4. Umm….what the hell was that swimming at the bottom of the pool at 4:30 …looked like a stingray, very creepy.

  5. Beautiful! I’m so jealous! My gardens are beautiful, but in south central PA it is a short season, so I can’t say I find it peaceful. For me it seems like nature is closing doors on seasons faster than I can get the work done and then, poof, it’s gone. I do reserve my evenings for touring the gardens and rocking on the porch beside our koi pond with a glass of iced tea and my hubby.

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