Fall xeriscape garden at Rollingwood City Hall

November 25, 2019
‘Strawberry Fields’ gomphrena blazes with color amid bold agaves and barrel cactus.

While driving through West Austin on the Open Day garden tour earlier this month, I had a sixth-sense feeling that a garden was calling my name. Oh yes, I thought, remember the xeriscape garden at Rollingwood City Hall? Let’s stop and see how it’s doing. Tucked deep in a neighborhood of elegant homes, the garden designed by Scott Ogden, Lauren Springer Ogden, and Patrick Kirwin eschews lawn to showcase the beauty and diversity of our native Texas plants, including wildflowers in all seasons, as well as many excellent non-native but adapted plants. All are waterwise and deer resistant, since deer visit the tiny city hall as regularly as residents.

On this pleasant fall day (Nov. 2nd), many perennials including Turk’s cap were blooming despite an early freeze just before Halloween.

As always, I was drawn to the bench spiral made of limestone blocks “mortared” with stacked shingles of limestone. ‘Green Gem’ boxwood adds bouncy roundness along the outer ring.

A large live oak shades this area, making the bench spiral an inviting place to sit near the entrance. But even when not in use, it acts as a sculptural element.

It’s such a simple but powerful element. I could see this being used in a backyard for a fire pit seating area. Or a play area for kids.

Out from under the tree, the sun lovers strut their stuff. Here a pomegranate laden with fruit leans close to an agave — likely Agave salmiana.

Native Texas sotol does its sunburst impression alongside non-native aloe in flower. I’m surprised the deer don’t eat the aloe flowers, actually. Maybe deer aren’t as thick here as I’d thought, or else they have very discriminating palates.

Along a curvy gravel path edged with limestone block, grasses, Yucca rostrata, prickly pear, and other dry-tolerant plants thrive in a gravel-mulched bed.

Tiny asters attract a honeybee.

A large Greek myrtle wowed me with its pointillist leaves, naturally rounded form, and…

…berry-like fruit in shades of claret and blueberry. So pretty!

Cenizo (aka barometer plant) was forecasting rain with violet flowers held tight against silver-green leaves.

I like this subtle repetition of rounded shapes: Greek myrtle and spiny yucca and/or sotol spheres in the background.

Connected to gutters from the building’s roof, two large cisterns store rainwater for use in the garden. Aster froths romantically in the foreground.

Annual flowers that tolerate Austin’s heat, like ‘Strawberry Fields’ gomphrena, love to grow in gravelly beds.

Shazam! Red gomphrena pops against the dusty forest-green of Agave salmiana.

A rugged limestone stair leads up a wooded slope to a parking area. In partial shade at the base of the steps shine silver Mediterranean fan palm and Yucca rostrata, surrounded by flowering perennials like the tiny lavender aster.

Grasses mingle here too.

Silver Mediterranean fan palm whorls amid aster and, farther up the slope, feathery-leaved Dioon angustifolium.

A wider views shows ‘Pam’s Pink’ Turk’s cap leaning in.

Dioon angustifolium and asters

On the other side of the steps, star-shaped ‘Green Goblet’ agave (or is that ‘Mr. Ripple’?), Agave lophantha, and a mystery agave make a pretty, spiny combo.

What is that lovely agave, anyway?

The path curves back toward the street, leading past many fabulous xeriscape plants like silver Mediterranean fan palm, Yucca rostrata, golden barrel cactus, agave, cenizo, and grasses.

In the sunny center, a sunken rain garden of ‘Pink Flamingo’ muhlenbergia and other wet/dry-tolerant species awaits the next downpour.

The garden has filled in quite a lot since my last documented visit in autumn 2015. Four years will do that! Whale’s tongue agave has grown into a big, beautiful, blue rose. (And no deer antlering damage, even uncaged. OK, I take it back. Deer are not much of a problem here.)

Grayleaf cotoneaster (Cotoneaster glaucophyllus), a longtime quirky favorite of mine from seeing it used as a dry-shade groundcover in Linda Peterson’s San Antonio garden, grows in the hellstrip. I keep thinking I need to find a place for this in my own garden.

I’m happy to report that the xeriscape garden at Rollingwood City Hall is still looking fabulous four years later. That tells me somebody with gardening know-how is maintaining it on a regular basis. Could it be Scott and Lauren themselves? Whoever it is, kudos!

For my previous posts about Rollingwood City Hall garden, click here:

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