Garden Blogger's Fling, Austin: Mirador Garden

Continuing with Austin-area gardens and the 2018 Garden Blogger's Fling, we see our first private garden. In the hills above Austin, we visited the Mirador garden, a showpiece of landscape architecture married with exceptional low-water plants. I felt as if I'd walked into the pages of Garden Design magazine. 
Designed by Curt Arnette of Sitio Design and installed in 2013, the garden is primarily low-water plants appropriate for this part of the world. The owner has lived in Austin for 35 years where her interest in gardening has gradually grown. Her travels to Australia, Europe and Rwanda influence her design choices and make for an eclectic and functional garden space.

Oh yes, this was that day . . . the rain day. As we got off of the bus, still wet from our earlier adventures, we realized this, too, would be a gray and sopping experience but we were up for it. How often do you get to see amazing private gardens in Austin, Texas? We buckled up, got those cameras out and did our best to stay dry.

The walk up to the house is an open landscape surrounded by hills and punctuated by heat-loving Yucca rostrata, wildflowers, shrubs and Agave salmiana. It is quite impressive with a massive corten steel retaining wall hinting at the architecture and garden design to come while still maintaining a wild feel. The curve of that wall, however, will soon make way for straight, contemporary lines in the gardens closer to the house.

As you approach the house, the wild morphs into formality. This simple treatment of grasses and trees is an interesting way to landscape a large area. Repeating elements has a pleasing, calming effect and this particular choice of plants keeps the feel natural.

Yucca rostrata in a group portrait.

Straight lines throughout the garden reign in simple plantings.

More straight lines and formal clipped hedges in a rain garden area. The corten planters, as they are so tall, I am sure lend to good drainage for the very heat-loving choice of plant material in them while the hedge is sited in an area that receives rain runoff. The owner cites runoff as being a challenge, so they installed some French drains as well as diverting water in creative ways.

More drainage solutions.

There are some massive Agave ovativolia or whale's tongue agave in this garden. I had some serious agave envy going on.

The vegetable bed is extraordinary. Another use for corten steel is raised beds. The owner commissioned these tomato cages, made with steel. No floppy tomatoes here, my friends. She enjoys picking fresh veggies with her grandchildren from these beds. Who wouldn't? There are also beds with flowers for cutting, although most of my photos of them are quite sopping.

A sunken vegetable garden, complete with a cistern for collecting rain water. Many gardens in Austin have these, and for good reason. I'm sure it's scorching there even as I write this. Precious water is so worthy of collecting. Facilities Manager and I are looking for some kind of cistern for our garden, but cisterns can be quite expensive. This is impressive.

Water features also made repeat appearances in Austin. The sound of moving water is pleasing and cooling both audibly and visually. It is a great device to use in gardens if possible. Plus, wildlife appreciates regular, fresh water.

Moving around from the side of the house to the back garden, the contemporary theme continues. Straight lines paired with loose plantings of wildflowers native to Texas, shrubs, groundcovers and agaves are visually stunning.  

More corten steel edging and lots of warm-colored gravel kept it all upbeat for this rain-soaked visitor. Massive amounts of incredible hardscape materials around every corner, but then softened with choice plant material, is kind of the Mirador equivalent of formal walls in old English gardens paired with loose, blowsy flowers spilling over that wall. The softness of plants tames the hard edges, while the hard edges contain the wildness of the plants.

Yucca rostrata, silver ponyfoot or Dichondra argentea (a Texas native plant), steps and a lawn. The way the garden is divided into different levels makes each area seem somewhat formal. If it were all on a slope, it would not retain the designed, contemporary feel in my opinion.

Here is her fig arbor, inspired by travels to New Zealand. 

Textures. These three were repeated throughout.

Fantastic rain chain, another nod to managing storm water in an elegant fashion. And that house. Wow. The corten edge you see on the left is a swimming pool.

This is the hot tub. Not a bad view.

The surrounding hills are an extension of this garden.

Charming little moments throughout.

Out back there is a very wild feel, which was quite appealing to me.

Up around the other side of the home, you discover another water diversion system in the form of a creek bed, which you can see in action.

One last little nook to explore, this also on the side of the house. Lovely place to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening.

This garden blew my socks off. It was perfectly designed with lust-worthy plantings of so many of my favorites. Even though it is amazing, you can tell it was definitely designed. Is that a good thing? Does it matter? It depends on whom you ask. To me, a D.I.Y.'er, I was overwhelmed at the amazing landscape architecture that I could never achieve in my own garden, primarily due to cost. But even if I had the money, would I build corten steel raised beds? I don't know. I'll likely never know. I have what I have and I garden as I garden. It can be a dangerous thing comparing one's own garden and talents to another, especially when professional vs. amateur is at play. I will conclude by saying that while I completely appreciate the sexy nature of this unbelievable garden, I am happy to come home to the land I have. At the end of the day it's all relative. I completely enjoy what I have and appreciate the partnership and collaboration my Facilities Manager and I share. I also wish to thank the owners for opening this amazing garden for us all to enjoy. Thank you very much.

Stay tuned for next week's look at the garden of an English gardener transplanted to Austin as we continue our Austin Garden Blogger's Fling posts.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting. We love hearing from you! Happy gardening!


  1. "It can be a dangerous thing comparing one's own garden and talents to another, especially when professional vs. amateur is at play." Boy did you hit the Fling challenge right on the head, Chickadee! Mirador IS a breathtaking garden, but hopefully you know your own also inspires a great deal of envy.

    1. Thank you Vicki, for reading and for your comments. So many Austin gardens are blow-your-socks-off, and it's a lot of fun to see them.

      Your words humble me, I know Facilities Manager and I are VERY lucky to have what we have. :)

  2. It was great seeing this garden through your eyes. You noticed a lot of hardscape details I missed. I loved what you said about comparing your own garden to others, esp. when the "other" is in a completely different league financially and/or design-wise. I often fall into this trap even though I know it's completely pointless and a waste of time and energy.

    1. Aaah, it was a treat seeing it from yours too, Gerhard, on your blog. You saw a lot of details I missed. That's the beauty of many blog posts about the same garden on the same day.

      We do seem to do that, don't we - being hard on ourselves for what we have or don't have, instead of appreciating the beauty all around us. We are all very lucky people in this wonderful world of ours, it can be a challenge for me to remember that sometimes.

  3. You got great photos despite the rain. Mirador was my bus's last stop and, sodden as I was, I'm afraid I was dragging at that point. As for the corten steel, it's attractive but, when used on this scale, lends formality to the garden and formal garden spaces aren't my cup of tea. Not that I'd turn down corten steel walls on my back slope - if someone else paid for and installed them.

    1. Ah, yes, I remember that dragged down feel at the end of the day.

      That's the beauty of gardens - they are as individual as we are, a good thing indeed. If a corten steel wall was offered to me, I'd snag it too ;)

  4. You can be quite proud of your garden. It takes time and lots of money to make a garden DIY or not. I think these kinds of gardens are gorgeous but I don't want to live with one. I like my thoughts and ideas all over my space. I wouldn't mind a suggestion but really DIY is best to me.

    1. Lisa, thank you so much. A garden can take much time and money, but I don't really add all of that up (I'm afraid to!). I just do a little bit each day because it brings such joy.

      It's a joy, as you point out, to see little touches and thoughts throughout one's space that remind you of the person who gave you that plant, or where you found that amazing rock on the corner of that bed, or whatever. DIY is the building of it in layers, over time, little by little in my mind. I agree.

    2. I like your comparison of Mirador's corten walls to English gardens' stone walls, with spilling foliage softening both -- totally different styles, of course, but a nice observation! As you point out, Mirador is definitely a high-end garden, but one with heart and soul thanks to the passionate gardener who lives there. I'm glad you enjoyed the visit!

    3. I enjoyed it VERY much, Pam. It does have a lot of heart and soul, such a wonderful place indeed. Her passion comes through in every nook and cranny.

  5. Beautiful coverage. I loved this garden and would have liked to spend a whole afternoon exploring and enjoy it the various spaces.

    1. Indeed, Danger. I agree, what a magnificent garden it is. We were kind of rushed in a lot of gardens, but that's what happens when 90 plus people are bussed around to so many wonderful places in a day. Never enough time.

    2. Anonymous6:26 PM PDT

      Great reportage,accompanied by reflections on appreciating our own efforts within whatever parameters define us. I love this garden. I love your garden. I love my garden. All different, all wonderful in their own way.

    3. Thank you, Rickii! I too love all these gardens, make no mistake. All different in wonderful ways, yes. I suppose these super cool corten elements which I love I just can't afford, but I still admire them all.

  6. Creek beds are a great way to present a creek bed and also take care of drainage issues. We have one on the side of our house that looks like it is connected to pondless waterfall. I love the curves too. Adds interest. Hard work, but it will pay off in the end.

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