Overcoming common drainage and hardscape problems yielded beautiful outdoor spaces in this Austin garden.
1 of 6Photo: Ryann Ford
Take It Up a Notch
Sometimes a boring driveway, a rotten wall, a humdrum walk, and an ugly pool and garage can actually be good problems to have—because fixing them can lead to something so much better. Such is the case with the home and garden of Yvonne Tocquigny and Tom Fornoff in the Tarrytown neighborhood of Austin, Texas. Visiting here means experiencing a series of lush, welcoming, and neat-as-a-pin garden rooms. Notice something missing? Not a blade of grass appears anywhere. Having grown up with a large lawn to cut each week, Yvonne determined that her mowing days were permanently behind her. Tough, drought-tolerant plants and pea gravel take the turf's place. Your tour begins as soon as you exit your car out front.
2 of 6Photo: Ryann Ford
The Front Parking Area
Yvonne and Tom had the great fortune of having landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck living just down the street. She convinced them to take a jackhammer to their semicircular concrete driveway and replace it with compacted pea gravel to give it a softer and more natural look. Letting plants such as variegated flax lily and 'Silver Falls' dichondra spill over edges and creep along the ground softens the architecture even more.
3 of 6Photo: Ryann Ford
The Entry Courtyard
A rotten wall on the front of the house made it impossible to open the front window. After replacing the wall, Christine added a steel barrier to keep soil away from it. A French drain next to the house and pea gravel spread on unplanted areas improved drainage. Now you walk through the front gate and step onto limestone pavers on your way to the front door. Look left to discover a concrete trough filled with water supplied by a copper spout. Look to the right and you're drawn to a limestone bench that's nestled amid oakleaf hydrangea, yaupon holly, and the grasslike tufts of Berkeley sedge.
4 of 6Photo: Ryann Ford
The Side Yard Hallway
To improve a side yard that consisted of little more than a red tile walk set into monkey grass, Yvonne and Tom turned to San Marcos garden designer Patrick Kirwin. Patrick designed a limestone path set into gravel that leads to a doorway in an arbor covered with Confederate jasmine. As with the parking area out front, the opening in the distance provides just a hint of the secret room that's just out of sight.
5 of 6Photo: Ryann Ford
The Rear Courtyard
In place of the pool, Patrick designed four raised planting beds with a fish pond and fountain in the center. He added a slatted arbor to the front of the guesthouse for shade during hot weather. Another slatted arbor shades a sitting area at one end of the courtyard. Pots of seasonal flowers by the table and chairs add a spot of color to a palette of mostly greens, browns, and grays. A lattice fence helps screen the neighbor's house from view. The new courtyard is a perfect spot for dining and cocktail parties when the weather is nice. "We consider it an extension of our house," says Yvonne.
6 of 6Photo: Ryann Ford
First, let's talk about what isn't growing—grass. No lawn means less watering and lower maintenance.
Evergreen Confederate jasmine envelops a lattice frame attached to the back of the main house. Its lush greenery keeps the hardscape from being too dominating. It also cools the house and courtyard by shading the wall. And let's not forget the flowers. "When that jasmine blooms in spring, you can smell the perfumed air all the way out to the street," Yvonne says.
Other plants include yellow flag irises, boxwood topiaries, daisies, water lilies, and ferns.