A Texas Garden with Rooms, Blooms – and Art

Stocker's Entry garden in Austin
Entry to this Texas Garden at the Stocker residence in Austin

A Texas garden may be different from New England gardens, but gardeners all share the desire to create beautiful spaces. I spent a week in Texas visiting my daughter and her family, and joining ninety-two other garden bloggers touring gardens in the Austin area. We visited big public gardens like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the Zilker Botanical Garden.  We also visited unique private gardens.

The garden created by David and Jenny Stocker appeared to be a regular Texas garden as we left our bus. The walkway approach to the house with its smooth pale walls is very Texan. The landscaping consists of gravel, rough stone walls, and a dry creek bed with smooth river stones. Agaves of different sizes are spread across the landscape along with other succulents. This work was designed by Sitio Design, but David and Jenny designed and did almost all the stone work themselves at this approach and throughout all the gardens. They built the dry creek, the dry stone walls, retaining walls and rock gardens. Jenny was as at the house site almost every day during construction to save out ledge stones that would be useful, and David searched out interesting stone to add to the mix.

Jenny had had to adjust to the hot and dry Austin climate which is nothing like her native British climate, but she has found ways to include both garden styles. The garden is distinctive because of its ‘garden rooms.’  I don’t know that Vita Sackville-West invented garden rooms when she created them at her famous Sissinghurst garden, but certainly that phrase has become popular. However, Sackville-West’s rooms were mostly separated from each other by large, tall, dense hedges. The Stockers, for the most part, have used real walls.

The house was built in 2001 with surrounding walls so Jenny could garden in a deer-free space. Jenny thinks of it as an Arts and Crafts Texas style house with distinct rooms. Those rooms are used at different seasons and times of the day depending on whether they need sun or shade, or protection from the famous Texas wind.

One corner in one of the Stocker garden's
A corner of one of the Stocker’s gardens with a door from the house

Our New England houses don’t offer much in the way of small sheltered exterior spaces, but because of the many angles in the Stocker house there are corners that provide wonderful spaces for plants. One corner has two airy and spindly trees in it, one has a leafy tree casually lounging against the wall, one has a well pruned shrub growing up the wall and one corner presents a whole tableau with a graceful tree, a bird bath and feeder, river stones to catch rain from the drain pipe and a varied collection of green plants.

Garden with pavers and flowers
One garden has pavers and flowers cohabitating happily

Stone is certainly a strong theme in the Stocker gardens. There is the ledge stone that was dug up when the house was built providing the material for stone walls, but finished stone is used as well. A whole variety of plants and flowers thrive in the space between square pavers set in gravel. A sheltered round table and chairs sit on a circular arrangement of rough and finished stones, surrounded by low growing plants.

Each of the different rooms has a different appeal, but I loved the English garden set beside the pool. The effect is very meadow-like with native and other low water plants. Many of the plants were familiar to me from my own garden. I was surprised to see columbine, poppies, foxgloves, roses, rudbeckias, nigella and other Massachusetts favorites.

English garden in Austin, Texas
This is the wild English garden

Jenny noted that the climate and thin soil are definite challenges so these are not low maintenance gardens. She does use plants that can adjust to the climate and welcomes self seeding plants, as well as passalongs from friends.

Of course, gardeners do not live by flowers alone. One room includes potted citrus trees and raised beds for vegetables. You will never be bored, or hungry in this garden!

Every Texas garden needs a bit of artful whimsy.

I found the stroll through all the garden rooms a bit dizzying. Each space provided a different delight, pieces of art, handmade hyper-tufa troughs and bowls filled with a varied assortment of succulents. This house with its gardens, its shady patios, and its cooling pool welcomed us all with good will and generosity.  I was surprised when I turned a final corner and found myself back at the front entryway. I wanted to start over and spend all day there. I wanted to fly home instantly and make a sheltered but flowery space where I could have my morning coffee and newspaper, just like the Stockers. I wonder what my husband will say when I tell him how much I loved this garden and ask where he thinks our table for morning coffee could be placed.

The Stocker garden is just one of the 14 gardens I saw. You will be seeing more of the inspired arrangement of plants and social garden spaces over the next few months. If you would like to know more about the Stocker’s garden you can visit Jenny’s Rock Rose blog http://wwwrockrose.blogspot.com/ which I have found entertaining, charming and useful.

Model of the Stocker's Austin house
The cardboard model of the Stocker’s  house explains how they achieved all their garden rooms, many of the interior rooms having a door into a garden.

Between the Rows   May 19, 2018

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Pam/Digging

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen their cardboard model before — very cool to see it laid out in miniature like that! Jenny and David’s garden is truly marvelous and inspiring.

  2. I didn’t see the model, either. That’s helpful in visualizing the space even more. Like you, I truly wish I could have spent more time at this garden. It was magical!

  3. Elizabeth Bedwell

    Hello Pat from southern New Zealand. I wonder if you can tell me what the trees with the pitch black trunks in the background of the first photo are? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them before but like them very much.

  4. Pat

    Elizabeth – The trees with black trunks (at least in the photo) are beautiful, but I am sorry to say I don’t know what they are. There were so many plants that were unfamiliar to me, a New Englander. On the other hand, there were many plants I was very familiar with growing as beautifully in Austin as in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Thanks for visiting.

  5. Pat

    Beth – I overheard David Stocker offering a view of the model to one of the other Flingers, but she wandered off. I buttonholed him later and asked to see it. He was delighted to show it off.

  6. Pat

    Pam – They have the model sitting on their mantelpiece. He said a friend once looked at it and with amusement said it looked like a Mexican village.

  7. Pam/Digging

    To answer Elizabeth’s question about the trees with black trunks, those are native live oaks (probably escarpment live oaks). The trunks are especially dark looking because of the heavy rain that day.

  8. Indie

    I love Jenny’s blog and have often admired her gardens online. How wonderful to be able to see them in person! They look lovely. One of these years I will make it to a fling.

  9. Pat

    Indie – Jenny’s gardens are just wonderful – and so is her blog. I hope you do get to a Fling. There is nothing like it. Fabulous.!

  10. Pat

    Pam – Many thanks f or the explanation. THose trees do/did photograph beautifully.

  11. Kris P

    I missed the cardboard model too. I’m glad you included it in your virtual tour. It is a lovely garden and very impressive in both its scope and design. My only wish is that we could have toured it in dry clothes!

  12. Pat

    Kris – I’m glad people found the photo of the model helpful It certainly helped me! Gardening is so frustrating – We love the rain – except when we are having a party in the garden.

  13. I’ve now read half a dozen — or maybe more — posts about Jenny Stocker’s garden. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t visualize how the garden rooms fit together, until I saw the cardboard model.

    About garden ‘rooms’: garden historians usually credit an Anglo-American, Major Lawrence Johnston, as the first to divide a garden into rooms with different characters, atmospheres and plants. His garden Hidcote is now owned by the National Trust and an overview of its history is at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote/features/history-of-hidcote

  14. Pat

    Pat – I’m so glad I got to see the house model – and got to share it. I’m glad to know I should be giving Major Lawrence Johnston credit for garden rooms, and not Vita. Thank you for that. I did visit Hidcote MANY years ago and had a wonderful time there.

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