Garden Blogger's Fling, Austin: The Garden of Pam Penick

For those of you familiar with garden blogging, Pam Penick needs no introduction. If you are not familiar with Pam and her amazing blog Digging, go there now. She's been at it since 2006, a relatively long time to be blogging. She resides in Austin, Texas, and was one of the organizers for the recent Garden Blogger's Fling. Not only that, she was one of the original organizers for the very first Fling, which was in Austin in 2008. In addition to regular garden blogging, Pam is a writer of garden books Lawn Gone! and The Water Saving Garden. She is also a contributor to Garden Design magazine. So. Imagine how excited we were to see her garden in person. Come along with me to see our first sunny garden the second full day of the Fling, the jewel box garden of Pam Penick.

This pretty much says it all. Cool aqua swimming pool, cobalt blue backdrop and a fun metal sign. This is, I would say, the centerpiece of Pam's garden. But before we explore the back, let us start in the front where the bus dropped us.

Pam's home and front garden. Everything about her abode is inviting. The warm limestone, the cool greens, the oak trees and her color scheme. We went straight down the side of her home to the back, gate on the left.

Past a perfect Agave ovativolia, of course. A couple of years ago, Pam had a fantastic specimen named Moby. He decided it was time to see the Big Agave in the Sky, so he bloomed and died, but left behind many baby Mobys. You can read her many fun posts about that on her blog.

Sweet details along the way, a bench in the background for a place to stop and enjoy the garden, one of many in this wonderful place.

Down the path, this is looking toward the gate from the back garden.

Yucca rostrata with a furry trunk. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it's good to leave the spent leaves as it protects the trunk of the plant. Pam focuses on plantings that are climate adapted to Austin, opting for hard working plants that look fantastic. She has many agaves, yucca and other succulents as well as trees, shade loving perennials, grasses and garden staples that tie it all together. She knows her plant material and gardens accordingly. The results are a garden that works.

 Moving along, limestone common to this part of the U.S. makes fantastic pathway material.

I believe this is Cupressus arizonica 'Blue Ice', which contributes to a cooling sensation you get in Pam's garden. That color. I planted one myself, I hope it looks this stunning when it matures.

This was the Garden Blogger's Fling, after all! Here are Teresa Speight of Cottage in the Court and Jim Charlier of The Art of Gardening. One of the biggest joys of the Fling was meeting fellow gardeners and garden writers. There is so much talent out there covering a wide range of gardening topics and gardening styles.

Moving into the heart of the back garden you are greeted by this fantastic stock tank pool. Water was a theme in Austin, an element used to its full advantage to relay a sense of coolness in what Pam refers to as The Death Star time of year.

The stonework around the stock tank pond gives a sense of movement.

One thing that really impressed me were the details in the garden, so thoughtfully placed and unexpected. I admit having art in the garden can be a tricky thing. While I love art and worked in fine art galleries (I have an art history degree) for many years, I am very picky about what should blend in with nature in my own garden. Pam, in my humble opinion, has an amazing eye. She knows just where to perfectly place objects she obviously loves, objects that have a sense of history or, at the very least, a story to tell. Many of them are unique hand-made pieces, so are worth seeking out and to me preferable to mass-produced stuff.

 Around the stock tank pond to the perimeter of the garden.

More limestone paths with a spark of cobalt blue, a repeated color in her garden, against a wooden fence. 

 Salvia in that fabulous cobalt color. Possibly Salvia guaranitica.

 Oaks were very common, Texas live oak or Quercus fusiformis (I think). These evergreen beauties can withstand Texas weather extremes and are an important source of shade. I would describe Pam's back garden as a shady one primarily due to the oaks in her garden.

Now for that turquoise pool. It is the centerpiece of the garden, but not the most important element. That would be the plants. This just helps to set them off and offers a very intimate, serene experience.

Metal chairs to match the pool. Cobalt blue again in the table. Repeat colors really tie the whole garden together.

 At the other end of the pool is another seating area. There are several in Pam's garden, perfect to enjoy this intimate space.

Can't you imagine sitting there for a few hours with a good book?

There is still more seating. Up a small stone staircase, an area just off of the house is perfect for viewing the garden.

Repeat colors plus red. These are the colors I love for my own garden. Perhaps that's why I felt so connected with it.

Another seating area with more intimate details:

I love these ceramic pieces. They are unique and add so much character.


 More agaves and details behind the seating.

Octopots. I think Pam bought one of these in Portland at Digs Inside and Out while visiting for the 2014 Garden Blogger's Fling. Am I right?

The view beyond.

One interesting detail are the tillandsias in the oak trees. Pam shared that many Texans blame them for a disease that kills these trees, but they do no such thing. We saw them in many other gardens and were a little amazed to see tillandsias in situ.

Also in the trees, birds. Pam's garden is alive with song and movement. We watched these little guys for several minutes feeding their young.

More details.

Pam's cinder block planter, an inventive and pleasing use of this material.

 Bloom of Hesperaloe parviflora.

Dappled light reaching a shady garden floor.

 One of several contemporary hanging planters. I saw turquoise and orange planters, again with the repeat color scheme.

 Another orange...

Cobalt blue...

And turquoise. Love them all.

 A view of both water features and a pop of red in the umbrella by the pool.

 Scutellaria ovata, skullcap, lines the path around the side of the house back out to the front garden. I really liked the use of this plant in her garden, it looks really healthy and I think is one of those "problem solver" plants for Austinites.

More fabulous limestone. Man, I love the use of rocks in a just adds an extra element, giving a form for the plants and pots to play against. I count Austinites lucky to have such rock to work with. 

A Dasilyrion planted in a rusty container mimics Yucca rostrata in my mind. This very sculptural element in her front garden is quite stylized and fits with the beautiful lines and colors of her home.

Her "lawn" (seriously, read her book Lawn Gone if you are sick of watering all summer). 

Another bit of cobalt blue in a garden heart and another raised bed planter.

Hungry bloggers in the background getting a treat of breakfast tacos . . . they fed us well this Fling. More of Pam's front garden in the foreground.

The incredible woman herself, Pam Penick with a view of yet another fabulous seating area above on a deck.

There was so much more to explore, but alas we had limited time. Pam's garden was a real reward to see, especially after our first rain-drenched day in Austin. Her garden was a little bit as I imagined it would be, but so much more. The feeling one gets while there is so calming, so enjoyable, you want to linger for days (oh, her lucky house guests). You want to explore every nook and cranny that she has very thoughtfully tended to. Pam is no ordinary gardener, she has the rare combination of plant enthusiast, designer, caretaker of the land, educator, writer, and super-creative personality. She's the total package and I for one was honored to be able to visit and say, "I've seen Pam Penick's garden in person!" Thank you, Pam, from the bottom of my heart for opening your garden to us and for all your hard work organizing and executing a fantastic anniversary Garden Blogger's Fling. Well done.

It has soul. It has history and you can read all about it on her blog, which I'm sure many of you already have. I loved the Fling and everything about it, Pam's garden was a major part of it in my heart.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, and happy gardening!


  1. Thanks so much for this detailed look at Pam's garden and for your great insights into what makes it work. You got some nice photos.

    1. Thank you Alison! And you are welcome.

  2. Oh Tamara, this is such a lovely (and very flattering) post about my garden. Thank you for noticing the details and for your kind words about it -- and for coming to the Fling and letting us share our town and gardens with you! It meant so much to me to have you here! Come back again for a visit anytime.

    1. I am thrilled you enjoyed it...but not half as much as we enjoyed experiencing your garden, Pam. I mean every word and I appreciate the invite, be careful what you say..I may take you up on it! :)

  3. I started reading Pam's blog when she was at her previous house. You have done a wonderful job of sharing Pam's beautiful creation in a new way. It's always fun to see how different people "see" and feature a familiar garden. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Barbara! Pam is one to follow, wherever her green thumb takes her. It is fun to see how others perceive another's garden, it's a study in psychology, at the very least. Thank you!

  4. You did a GREAT job of photographing Pam's garden, Tamara. I struggled with the sharp shade-sun contrasts. Next time we both end up at a Fling, I'm going to hit you up for photography tips!

    1. Thank you Kris! You humble me. Those shade contrasts were frustrating - that and wanting to just enjoy the garden and not take photos at all. No tips here, your photography is exquisite.

  5. Well done roomie! I love this post. Like Kris, I've been frustrated at how my photos turned out at so many of the gardens we visited. I appreciate how you caught all of those lovely details about Pam's gardens. It's was my big take-away....finishing touches.

    1. Thank you, Roomie!! The photo frustration is felt, for sure. Rain and then really full sun - **sigh** we all did our best. Thanks for the compliments, Jen - you are too kind. Pam's garden is full of those sweet little touches.


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