A Texas garden designer invites neighbors-and complete strangers-to share small tokens of friendship through her garden.
Jill believes a garden should be shared. At the Austin, Texas, home she shares with husband Jack, she has created an outdoor scene that offers an unconventional welcome to passersby. Her “Trinket Garden,” named by the children in her Hyde Park neighborhood, not only incorporates family treasures into several structures but also has a special spot for Jill and her guests to exchange inexpensive gifts. She took her inspiration from To Kill a Mockingbird—more specifically, from the character Boo Radley, who befriended his young neighbors by leaving small treasures for them in the hole of a tree. Jill never knows what tokens of friendship she’ll find waiting in her garden, and neither do her guests.
The first sign of welcome is her arched garden entry, inspired by the bell carillon from First English Lutheran Church in Austin. Jill worked with Austin stone designer Berthold Haas to design and construct it from an eclectic mix of materials—and trinkets—including old brick, cut limestone, glass, shells, fossils, statues, marbles, and even Mr. Potato Head. Some of the personal treasures she included were collected by her family, while others were gifts from friends and neighbors. Jill decided to carry this theme out to the street. Just beyond the arch, she started leaving gifts for anyone passing by or visiting her garden. The idea caught on, and now friends—and sometimes total strangers—reciprocate by leaving treasures there for her. Hot Wheels cars, baubles, and plastic dinosaurs—the trinket exchange evolves daily.
Nothing about this garden is predictable, and that includes the tequila bottle tree. Every year, Jill and her family take a long road trip through Mexico, and they always bring tequila back with them. Many of the bottles are handblown. Over the years, she has filled a classic cedar bottle tree behind her garage with tequila bottles from those Mexican vacations. With its combination of shapes and colors, the bottle tree is the perfect way to toast the many friends, old and new, who come to the Trinket Garden looking for treasure—and friendship.
Jill created a garden room to tie together her screened porch and garage. Because her office is above the garage, she wanted
great outdoor space surrounding it. A ramada (planted arbor) provides a natural roof to shade the outdoor room. Simple metal
chairs create a casual seating area on the gravel floor, while groupings of pots give the space color and further define its
edges. Stone-clad pilasters mask the steel posts that support the office. Like the entry archway, the pilasters are imbedded
with treasures both gathered and given: a stone crab, Jack’s golf ball—even a piece of the Berlin wall.
Jill says that sometimes as she’s hard at work in her office, she’ll notice visitors strolling into her garden—some with special requests for her. She’s had people ask to be married here. And once, a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer asked if she could just sit and meditate in the garden because she felt that it was a healing place. Jill welcomed her, of course, as she welcomes everyone.
A metal cross is surrounded by marbles and river stones.
This owl statue finds a peaceful perch among the shells, fossils, and glass in the archway.
A stone face contributed by a neighbor quietly watches over the activities of the Trinket Garden.
This terra-cotta mermaid was salvaged from a broken Mexican pot.
A cantera stone statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe brought back from Mexico graces the top of the archway, nestled inside a limestone grotto.
A Texas horned lizard looks like he’s collected bits of glass, marbles, and buttons. Passersby enjoy adding items to the basin.