Hilltop getaway at Two Coves Garden: Austin Open Day tour

November 21, 2019

The last garden I visited on the Open Day tour sponsored by The Garden Conservancy was designed by B. Jane Gardens, and which B. has continued to maintain for the last three owners. Located off City Park Road, the Two Coves Drive Garden perches atop a hill overlooking downtown Austin.

In that regard it’s reminiscent of Ruthie Burrus’s garden, which I shared in my last post. But whereas Ruthie’s is a gardener’s garden, with a diverse tapestry of plants and an emphasis on flowering perennials, the Two Coves Garden is first and foremost a luxurious retreat with a simplified plant palette and an emphasis on clean-lined, beautifully crafted hardscaping. Take as an example the work-of-art limestone plinth elevating a foo dog, above (one of a pair guarding the entry walk). Softening all that hardscape are low-water native and adapted plants like Gulf muhly, ‘Desert Museum palo verde, and whale’s tongue agave, which are arranged in a contemporary, even minimalist way, much like in B. Jane’s personal garden.

The foo dogs make a fierce first impression along the entry walk.

A dry stream follows the walls of the inner courtyard, funneling away runoff when it rains. A large whale’s tongue agave and neatly pruned border of prickly pear make bold-leaved companions under a late-flowering palo verde.

‘Desert Museum’ palo verde flower

Masses of whale’s tongue agaves zigzag along the dry stream. Texas Black crushed gravel makes a gray mulch for the planting beds, while native river rock “flows” in the dry streambed.

Prickly pear hugs the other side of the dry creek along a limestone wall.

Inside the courtyard, a West Texas look — hello, Marfa — is created with flowering cenizo, Big Bend yucca, and whale’s tongue agave, set against a windowed limestone wall.

But an Asian influence can be detected here and there, as with the foo dogs outside the wall and again at the front door.

The enclosed front yard stretches out in a series of entertaining areas, including a clean-lined swimming pool and outdoor bar and kitchen.

Waterline tile of glazed gray, aqua, and orange reminds me of B. Jane’s own swimming pool tile. I love these pops of color along the pool edge.

In one corner of the pool patio, a shed-roofed dining and grilling pavilion offers shade.

B. styled the table with a pyramid of pomegranates and interesting floral stems in a jar.

Cut leaves of elephant ear and small potted succulents make another pretty grouping. An argiope spider added herself to the arrangement by spinning her web along the wall.

A tray of de-spined prickly pear fruit makes another pretty centerpiece.

It would be easy to entertain here, with so many patio spaces for sitting and still plenty of room to walk around. At the far end of the pool, another shed-roofed pavilion offers bar seating and an outdoor kitchen.

Whale’s tongue agaves and palm

The kitchen/bar pavilion, complete with string lights and a ceiling fan, has a hidden storage area behind the back wall.

B. is so good at styling patio spaces for maximum appeal when they are on public display!

Opposite the kitchen pavilion, tucked off to the side, a limestone fire pit huddles within a semicircular stone seat-wall. Behind another palm, a cedar-post coyote fence (a local term) makes a rustic backdrop.

As a wood fire burned in the pit, I could almost pretend it was a chilly winter day. (It was actually very pleasant outside.)

Along a limestone wall closer to the house, an outdoor shower gives swimmers a place to rinse off.

In a shady corner, a skinny blue pot holds a philodendron, framed by fig ivy and a froth of asparagus fern.

In the more-private side yard, a small patio offers up an outdoor spa experience, with a modern trough-style bathtub fed by a fountain spilling from a privacy-providing limestone wall. Limestone boulders serve as side tables for glass votives, and roses in the bathtub tray add color and romance.

A Buddha head elevated in a bed of asparagus fern along a side wall creates a serene focal point.

A wire gate leads to the long, narrow backyard, which perches on the edge of a canyon.

Lindheimer muhly and artichoke agave make pretty specimen plants along a stone path.

Nicely pruned live oaks surround a small circular lawn in which a free-standing hammock swings. Next to it, the circles continue with a round patio encircled by stone seat walls and furnished with a curvy sofa and fire pit.

A circular sculpture — like a newly honed millstone set on end — fits right in with the other circles.

This space is all about quiet relaxation, in contrast with the more party-focused front yard.

I appreciate that multiple clusters of live oaks were saved here, providing shade and dark, sinuous trunks you look past to enjoy the view.

Off to one side there’s even a view of downtown Austin.

The broad path of smoothly fitted limestone continues along the back of the house.

As it turns the corner, the path becomes more rustic. The rest of the backyard, which slopes steeply away from the house, is planted simply with drought-tolerant grasses, sedges, small native trees, and ‘Katie’ dwarf ruellia (which must be kept under control, as it likes to reseed).

Two large cisterns below the house store rainwater for a non-rainy day.

This ends my coverage of the Austin Open Day garden tour held on November 2nd. For a look back at the hilltop pollinator garden of Ruthie Burrus, click here. You’ll find links back to the other gardens at the end of each post.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

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