An Elegant and Wild Austin Garden: Ruthie Burris

As I dream of warmer months, my mind turns again to the Austin-area gardens of the 2018 Annual Garden Blogger's Fling. This time, we'll visit the gardens of Ruthie Burris whose focus is all about pollinators, native plants and taking advantage of some pretty spectacular views. 

Created in 2012 on two sometimes challenging acres, Ruthie's garden goes from informal wildflower meadow to dream-worthy garden structures (pictured) to slightly more formal gardens closest to her lovely home.

As we exited our tour bus we walked up a fairly steep hill through the wildflower garden that features some impressive agaves. Pictured here is Ratibida columnifera or Mexican hat, a drought tolerant native wildflower to the Southwestern states with an Agave ovatifolia in the background.

Ruthie cites this hillside as being cool in the morning and blazing hot by the afternoon. It showcases native wildflower annuals and perennials in the spring, lantana in the summer and grasses in the fall and winter. This is the bottom of the hillside, working its way up a steep slope to the top of the property where the home and more gardens are situated.

Evening primrose or Oenothera speciosa.

The wildflower meadow in full, glorious bloom in early May towards the top of the hill. In Ruthie's words, "This area features mostly native flowering plants and succulents with some Texas favorites and a few roses mixed in."

Gaillardia pulchella or native wildflower Indian blanket flower.

Ruthie sees the hillside as being one of the biggest challenges. She's faced with erosion, rocky soil, hot sun in the afternoon and also that the wildflower seeds tend to drift towards the bottom of the hill, as they do. 

A butterfly on Hesperaloe parviflora blooms.

Another fantastic Agave ovatifolia.

At the top of the hill along a stone wall, creeping rosemary takes center stage. This was especially impressive to me as I am trying to grow it down the side of a small ledge, but it's proven to be more upright than I had hoped. 

Now we are approaching the home and its surrounding gardens. Large trees with an under-story of wildflowers, salvias, agaves and shrubs. While not as loose as the wildflower meadow it is certainly not a static planting. It feels soft and welcoming.

A fantastic 10,000-gallon cistern that collects rainwater off of rooftops and offers summer water to her garden. She cites that it is wonderful to water her garden with rainwater vs. chemically treated city water. FM and I covet this system, we hope to have something similar one day.

How about this view? That is the Colorado river.

The masonry and stone pizza oven.

Subtle colors and a shady place to lounge. I really love the match of the furniture with the local stone used for the home; it lends such an understated elegance. The pop of color in the succulent planter fits right in, adding a little life.

Also next to the home is what was referred to as "tractor seat" Farfugium japonicum. Hydrangea quercifolia on the left. This must be a place that gets more water than the rest of the garden.

Another lovely view? That's downtown Austin in the background.


More Agave ovatifolia perfection, Phlomis russeliana in the foreground.

Gigantic stone pavers in (what I'm thinking is) their local limestone. Maybe these were on the property already. Oh, to be so fortunate.

Another simple yet fantastic idea. A water feature, nothing complicated, just beautiful.

A corner of the home.

Detail of a concrete (I think) eagle sculpture.

Views out across the river valley with Austin in the distance.

Achillea, likely 'Moonshine'. Anything with umbels, such as these have, are fantastic pollinator plants.

Let's revisit that structure in the first photo. Ruthie calls it her haus, which is part of her Provence garden, a favorite feature of her gardens. She says of it: "My Provence garden, a gravel area anchored by my garden haus, which is made of stone with antique doors, old windows, and recycled roofing material. The plantings include butterfly bush, lemon and lime trees, lantana, bee balm and roses." Pictured here is the side of it.

This is the front. It was a favorite of mine, too.

On the way back down the steep driveway and wildflower meadow.

To board our chariot ready to whisk us off to our next (and my last of the Fling) garden.

Ruthie has gardened since she was a child in East Texas. Her garden in Austin, which is in "Texas hill country," has totally different conditions and requirements that Ruthie had to embrace -- she did so with style and grace.

This Certified Wildlife Habitat and Monarch Waystation is a dreamy, romantic place with million dollar views and a home to match. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of such elegance with a loose style of planting, particularly away from the home in the wildflower area. The entire garden, however, felt welcoming and warm, a great party place and well-designed. Hats off to Ruthie and her very wonderful garden. If you want to see more fantastic photos of Ruthie's garden, I suggest visiting Danger Garden's recent post with a number of stunners.

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


  1. Thank you for the link love! You got so many beautiful photos and angles that I did not. What a garden! And yes, I can see a cistern like hers fitting in wonderfully at Chickadee Gardens.

    1. I loved your post and photos, Loree. I feel the same about your photos and angles! That's the beauty of so many eyes on one place. Yes, please continue to imagine such a cistern at Chickadee Gardens. We need one!

  2. You captured the wildflowers in Ruthie's garden better than any of the other posts I've seen (including my own). This was one of my favorite gardens on the Fling tour but then perhaps I identified with the difficulty of dealing with a sloping terrain. I feel a bolt of envy every time I see that 10,000 gallon cistern. My 3 rain tanks have been full since the month began but they hold only 475 gallons and, as the rain continues here, I can only mourn all that water I'm unable to collect and store.

    1. Well, thank you Kris! That's a very kind compliment. Yes, that terrain - of course you identified with that. It must be a challenge that flat-land gardeners know nothing about. Very challenging, I imagine.

      Oh, that cistern....swoon. Is there a way to add more cisterns for you? It would be fantastic to capture as much as possible. We need to do that for sure here at CG - right now it's raining, but come July, we'll be wishing we had planned ahead.

  3. Can never get enough of this garden! A great attraction of the Fling for non-bloggers is the extremely various vignettes and perspectives that result from having so many keen observers in the same place. (Though of course every report has included the spectacular shot across the pool to distant downtown Austin. That's inevitable given the garden's design, as the view is the big payoff for the long ascent up the driveway.)
    Thanks so much for this dose of sunshine on a sleety, slushy day!

    1. Oh, yes, to have 90 or so pairs of eyes on one garden is sure to yield a bountiful variety of images. That can you not take photos of it? I mean it's magazine-worthy and drool-worthy.

      You are welcome, I needed a shot of sunshine today too. Cheers!

  4. Love, love, love this post, Tamara! Not only beautifully composed images but your descriptions are wonderful too. And yes, wouldn't it be great to have a rain tank like Ruthie's?

    1. That makes me so happy, Pam, that you enjoyed this so much. What a wonderful garden, I'm only sorry I didn't get to meet Ruthie, the woman herself.

      Oh, that rain tank....swoon!

  5. I enjoyed your post. It is fun to see some of the same gardens through the lens of different participants. This garden haus is a stunner.

    1. That haus! It's spectacular. Thank you Lisa! :)

  6. I have never attended any garden fling; that's something to do, in my bucket list. But, I love seeing any garden. So, thank you for this lovely post. You have so nicely described it along with pictures that I could easily imagine everything. Honestly, a million dollar house and garden, literally.

    1. Oh, I hope you get to go to one someday. They are such a hoot - fun with fellow gardeners, and you make some pretty amazing friends. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! It is a million dollar house and garden, to be sure.

  7. Those views.... WOW! Fabulous gardens too. I don't think I've ever seen creeping rosemary look that good - except for maybe in my dreams. Just beautiful!

    1. Those views...**sigh**

      That rosemary - Anna - it was all over the place and looked great. In my dreams too...I have high hopes for mine.


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