Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tabula Rasa Down To the Lovely Bones

And it's done: All the old garden beds are weeded, and the new beds are filled with dirt and mulch. Tomorrow the planting begins. Tonight the only photo I got was of the backyard beds, but tomorrow before I start planting I will take the blank slate pics of the front old beds and the new beds. It's so exciting! I have also found a new nursery specializing in native plants and I hope to check them out tomorrow morning. Maybe if I leave early enough I can get up there and back before Jay arrives to fix the stream and do the walkthrough of the yard with me. I would just leave it till next week, but our spring here has been so aggressively early that nurseries having been selling out of the rarer natives and I don't want to let another's weekend's worth of shoppers take away my prime plants. Mine! Mine! Mine!

I just had a second's flashback to when I started this blog and it was all about glass. All glass all the time. A few personal posts might sneak in, but I had the now defunct Stranded In the South blog for those. Now it's all about the garden. I have already written a paragraph and a half without mentioning my excellent pottery class from this morning where I managed to throw a pretty tall--if totally wonky--cylinder, and I trimmed the wonky bowl from last week and put it into the kiln room at the studio for the first firing. I love my Thursday morning pottery class! The only thing that would make it better is if Becky were here taking it too. Becky, I miss you!!! We have got to get back to our craft mornings soon. Of course that predicates getting back to any sort of crafting activity at home. The extent of my knitting lately has been making cotton dishcloths for Dave.

But back to the garden. Some may find it slightly (or more than slightly) disturbing that I just hunted down and read the obituaries of the couple who built this house. But the last owner told me stories when we bought the house of Mary Lea and how she designed the gardens and oversaw every detail of the construction here. Now that the beds have been taken back to a zero state, I can't help but think of her and the joy and anticipation she must have felt planning all the plants, lighting, irrigation, and the stream. Don, from whom we bought the house, passed on her folders to me with their samples of wallpaper and cutouts from magazines of ideas that she liked for the house. One of the cutouts was a picture of a deck very similar to the one that was at the bottom of the yard. When we bought the house there was no view from down there because the cedars from the bird preserve down the hill from us have grown very tall. But 30 years ago I bet they could see downtown from that deck. That's what the picture in the magazine looked like--a beautiful curved deck with a spectacular view from up on a mountain. Like me, Mar Lea was originally a mountain girl (she was from Colorado) who never lost her love of that area.

Though we have made changes to the original design and put our own (okay, my own) stamp on it, the original bones mostly remain the same. We lowered the lowest deck and dropped the middle deck to the ground and replaced it with stone. We took out several of the native cedars that she chose to leave in place, and we removed almost all of the nandina (not a plant choice that I would have expected from a woman who loved and taught herself all about native wildflowers--but who am I to talk, I put in bamboo) but I can still feel her presence in the garden. I am contemplating contacting Mary Lea's daughter who still lives here in Austin or her daughter who lives in Scottsdale but used to live next door in Dan and Zaga's house to see if they might have photos of the yard that they would be willing to share so I could see what it looked like when Mary Lea and Max lived here. I am compiling a book on the grounds and the renovation, and I would love to be able to compare my vision with her original one.

I have never been to a house with such beautiful grounds as this house has. They were let given minimal care for many year before we bought the house (and to be honest, they require someone to be on top of them all the time--I kind of wish we had a fulltime gardener) so it was hard to see their potential, but now that they are completely bare they are breathtaking. With a little more dirt, mulch, new plants throughout, and lighting... Dave is right to say this place is like a botanical gardens. He made a joke this morning about where am I going to put the gift shop. Little does he know...

Thank you Mary Lea.


Bill said...

Does that mean that I don't have to look at Stranded in the South anymore?

Brenda Griffith said...

Now that I think about it in those terms, yes, yes it does. I am no longer stranded in the south. I am where I choose to be and also like.

Bill said...

In all honesty, it's wonderful to read that!

Brenda Griffith said...

Yes, I really never fit in to Atlanta. I am very happy here in Austin. :-)