August 08, 2023

A week ago I had the pleasure of visiting a lovely garden in Alpine, located in far West Texas, 400 miles west of Austin. Owner Susan Wallens showed me around and told me how the garden came to be.

Susan’s husband, Mike, is the vicar of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marfa and serves four other churches in the Big Bend Region. A few years ago they hired designer Michael Eason (author of Wildflowers of Texas) to turn the expansive backyard behind their home into a garden for spiritual healing and outreach in the community.

The heart of the garden is a labyrinth of precisely laid out Mexican feathergrass spiraling around a loquat leaf oak (Quercus rysophylla) planted high in the center. It’s a wow moment, soft and beautiful and waving with tawny native grasses. I asked if the feathergrass, which likes to seed itself around, was hard to keep in line. But Susan’s gardener, Ben, told me it’s not too difficult.

Father Mike meets parishioners for counseling in a detached office behind their home.

The garden, Susan told me, was designed to be a place of solace and healing for visitors, with flowering plants that attract birds and butterflies, the labyrinth for clearing one’s mind, and a large arbor for outdoor gatherings.

Sunflowers readying their feast of seeds for birds

The other main focal point of the garden is a long, U-shaped arbor made of steel pipe and fencing mesh, which wraps around a half-sunken stock-tank pond and spacious gravel patio.

Can’t you imagine happy gatherings here under the stars on a cool desert evening?

Michael chose several species of vines to clamber up the arbor and, eventually, provide a tunnel of shade.

Clematis seedhead

A potted prickly pear makes a simple focal point at the end of one sightline.

The pond must be quite the oasis for birds, bees, and other wildlife in this beautiful desert garden. And what better reason to create a garden than to share its healing properties with others. Thank you, Susan and Mike, for sharing it with me!

Up next: A visit to artist Julie Speed’s studio and patio garden in Marfa. For a look back at masses of flowering sotols in Marfa, click here.

I welcome your comments. Please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post. And hey, did someone forward this email to you, and you want to subscribe? Click here to get Digging delivered directly to your inbox!

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Digging Deeper

Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance; simply click this link and ask to be added. The Season 7 lineup can be found here.

All material (C) 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

The post A healing garden in West Texas appeared first on Digging.

Father Mike and Susan Wallens turned their expansive Alpine, Texas, backyard into a garden for spiritual healing and outreach in the community…. Read More
The post A healing garden in West Texas appeared first on Digging.Read MoreDigging

August 08, 2023

A week ago I had the pleasure of visiting a lovely garden in Alpine, located in far West Texas, 400 miles west of Austin. Owner Susan Wallens showed me around and told me how the garden came to be.

Susan’s husband, Mike, is the vicar of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marfa and serves four other churches in the Big Bend Region. A few years ago they hired designer Michael Eason (author of Wildflowers of Texas) to turn the expansive backyard behind their home into a garden for spiritual healing and outreach in the community.

The heart of the garden is a labyrinth of precisely laid out Mexican feathergrass spiraling around a loquat leaf oak (Quercus rysophylla) planted high in the center. It’s a wow moment, soft and beautiful and waving with tawny native grasses. I asked if the feathergrass, which likes to seed itself around, was hard to keep in line. But Susan’s gardener, Ben, told me it’s not too difficult.

Father Mike meets parishioners for counseling in a detached office behind their home.

The garden, Susan told me, was designed to be a place of solace and healing for visitors, with flowering plants that attract birds and butterflies, the labyrinth for clearing one’s mind, and a large arbor for outdoor gatherings.

Sunflowers readying their feast of seeds for birds

The other main focal point of the garden is a long, U-shaped arbor made of steel pipe and fencing mesh, which wraps around a half-sunken stock-tank pond and spacious gravel patio.

Can’t you imagine happy gatherings here under the stars on a cool desert evening?

Michael chose several species of vines to clamber up the arbor and, eventually, provide a tunnel of shade.

Clematis seedhead

A potted prickly pear makes a simple focal point at the end of one sightline.

The pond must be quite the oasis for birds, bees, and other wildlife in this beautiful desert garden. And what better reason to create a garden than to share its healing properties with others. Thank you, Susan and Mike, for sharing it with me!

Up next: A visit to artist Julie Speed’s studio and patio garden in Marfa. For a look back at masses of flowering sotols in Marfa, click here.

I welcome your comments. Please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post. And hey, did someone forward this email to you, and you want to subscribe? Click here to get Digging delivered directly to your inbox!

__________________________

Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance; simply click this link and ask to be added. The Season 7 lineup can be found here.

All material (C) 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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