Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Inside Austin Gardens Tour

When: Saturday, May 14, 2011, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Cost: single entry $5 OR $10 pass for entry into all gardens
Event occurs rain or shine

This year, the tour focuses on water-wise gardening.
The Inside Austin Gardens Tour 2011 will include gardens that feature rain-water collection systems, drip irrigation, xeric and native plant selections, rain gardens, shade gardens, and water-conserving practices. As in years past, the event will include gardening demonstrations and education sessions at each location.
I got a sneak peek of some the gardens this week and was blown away by the variability of water conservation ideas.  I am looking forward to not only seeing the gardens I didn't get a peek at but also having the opportunity or taking a second look at the gardens to figure out what I can incorporate into my own garden.  Sometimes I look at my yard and get overwhelmed and think that I have such a long way to go.  These gardens show that I can do this- it just takes some planning, hard work and time.

Here are my thoughts on the gardens I toured.

3712 Holt Drive
Mounded lush beds greet you and guide you either to the front door or to the gate that takes you into the backyard.  Bringing in soil and mounding it to create spaces and good drainage is something that I really need to take to heart.  I'm on clay and it's just a bunch of muck when (if) it rains.  There were also many bug related items throughout the garden.  I particularly loved that the owner had a shallow dish filled with pebbles and rocks that can be used by insects for a drink of water.

The backyard seems like a bunch of little rooms to me with seating areas sprinkled about.  There is no grass which would be fantastic- no watering or mowing- but maybe not practical right now for me with the boy around. It does inspire me that I can create a beautiful backyard with much less grass.  I love the dry creekbed with tumbled glass and the mason bee boxes to encourage native pollinators.
3303 Doolin Drive
I have been fortunate enough to watch the progression of this yard.  It began as a large area of St. Augustine grass with bamboo that tended to creep forward more each year.  It's now what I consider zen- I can imagine plopping on the large flat rocks and meditating in the mornings.  I love the dry creekbed that helps direct water to flow down the hill into a rain garden area.  The really amazing thing to me- besides the attention to detail- is that everything was done by hand including moving the cut pieces of sidewalk around to create a new walkway, retaining walls and decorative house number display.

4603 Palisade Drive

One thing comes to mind with this garden (other than my own personal jealousy)- LUSH!  This has the most beautiful hell strip I've ever seen.  I was scheming last night when I got home figuring out when and how I should rip the grass out of my own hell strip to fill with plants.  Walking through the first part of this garden I was amazed at how large and thriving the plants were, a sad comparison to the same or similar specimens that I have at home.

 2303 Spring Wagon Lane

This a is very clever idea that I plan on incorporating soon.  The owner said they get about a bucket of water per day from the AC condensate and they use it water plants in the front yard.  The rain water collection system at this house is also something I aspire to; it's huge!

They have removed grass from the front yard and replaced with Texas sedge for an effect that is visually stunning.  I loved the way that the sedge was little tufts that moved gracefully in the breeze.  There are also berms around the area to stop, keep and direct water to where it is needed.  The backyard is an productive garden with raised beds and berms to grow fruits and vegetables.

I plan on heading to the tour this Saturday, so maybe I'll see you at one of the gardens!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why an entomologist?

People often ask why I became an entomologist. I've always been fascinated with insects and other arthropods so I guess it was maybe inevitable. How can you look and truly see the insect world and not be blown away by the beauty and complexity that you see there? This video captures pollinators- look at the wonder of the natural world. Enjoy.