Sunday, June 8, 2008

How the Humid Half Lives

Last weekend my husband and I went to visit his family near Houston. They've never actually lived in Houston, but for those who don't know the area, it's an easy answer. They originally lived in Spring but most have moved farther west, which continues to make our drive shorter.

We usually stay with his sister who lives in Magnolia. He's got five sisters, all of whom live within twenty minutes or so of each other (the equivalent of living within five minutes of each other in Austin). Her outdoor pool and patio have become the unofficial family gathering spot, and it's easy to see why.

The amazing part of the pool is that my sister-in-law and her husband (well, mainly my brother-in-law) did the majority of the stonework themselves. My brother-in-law becomes a Zen master as he stares at each rock, trying to figure out where it will fit best.

They also tinted the pool lining so that the water color is a nice calm, and not chemical looking, blue. Every time we go visit they've added some new seating area or outdoor feature. Either the fire pit (seen barely in the distance) . . .

or the dry creek bed to its right were the latest elements.

My sister-in-law is a bit of a plant freak (meant in only the kindest of ways), and she always enjoys showing me her latest additions. I think she does a great job of layering and combining textures. I love how the sweet potato vine trails down the rock toward the pool while the society garlic behind it reaches for the sky.

She's also done a nice job of repeating plants in different locations. Here the potato vines are combined with some horsetail in a tall planter.

One reason she put so many plants at the front edge of the pool is to keep people from diving in where it's too shallow. What a beautiful safety feature.

She couldn't remember the name of this plant, presumably a lily, so anyone knows I'll happily pass it along. (And it will up my ante to be the sisters' favorite sister-in-law, even if I am the only one!) I don't have to tell her that the Internets helped me!

My sister-in-law also loves yard art, which makes it easy to buy presents for her. I bought this dragonfly (and the other seen elsewhere) for her from Barry George, a local Austin artist on the East Austin Studio Tour. I'm not sure what I will do if he ever stops selling them.

My in-laws moved to Magnolia in search of land, and when they first lived there, they had it. They still have it now, but the big box stores have now arrived, and it's no longer the country. But my in-laws and their daughters are doing their part to maintain the original country feel.

That's one of the lambs they raise for FFA. Our dog loves visiting because between the pool and the lambs, it's like doggie Disneyland. We love visiting with her because she comes home very tired.

While many of my sister-in-law's plants grow here in Austin, some are more suited to their more easterly location and remind me of the plants that are common in Alabama, where I grew up, even if most of our hydrangeas were blue, not pink.

This lace cap hydrangea on the side of the house is huge.

I did venture into the shady front yard to take a picture of this hosta, but then I got too hot and headed back to the pool.

Can you blame me?


  1. It's beautiful! What a great job they did on everything the attention to detail really shows.

    Your headline caught me. One of the first things we noticed when we moved to Houston was that that air smelled wet all the time.

  2. Wow, how gorgeous! (And how useful! I'm jealous, this hot sticky weekend.) I'm a fan of these pools that almost look like ponds, rather than the concrete rectangles that I grew up with. It looks so refreshing, and really attractive lined with plants as it is.

  3. Wow, will they adopt me? That is a beautifulgarden/yard/pool...must be just a delight to live there or visit. Gail

  4. What a lovely garden tour of a lovely garden! Although I've never considered a pool in my back yard, your story tempts me. You seem to have married into a family of kindred spirits.

  5. I'll take a nice, sweaty, humid 100 degree day over the dry heat of the desert anytime - and it looks like the plants in yoour sister-in-laws garden will too! Just beautiful!

  6. Your Spring family is so talented with stone - it's all so lovely, Vertie, and I hope they can keep the country feeling.

    I think that's Belamcanda/Blackberry Lily blooming orange with spots. I used to grow it in Illinois, but it didn't look as dramatic next to a blacktop driveway as with water nearby.

    I may steal that Horsetail and Sweet Potato vine combination!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  7. Wow, that's quite impressive! I can see how it's become quite the place to congregate. :)

  8. That is a really beautiful pool. Like Rachel, I love pools that look like real ponds, and your sister-in-law's plantings at the edge help give that impression. So does the creek that extends around the bend behind the waterfall. Very nice!

  9. By the way, your link to Barry George's website isn't working. It looks like you have too many https in there.

    I got to his website, but it didn't have much info. Do you know whether he has a studio that's open to the public?

  10. Next time, we go you're all invited. My husband has such a big family they may not even notice the extras.-)

    Thanks, Annie, for the plant id. I'll be sure to let my sister-in-law know.

    Pam, I don't have any more information on Barry George, although I did fix the link, which has his address. When my sister-in-law was in Austin last summer, I called him, and he had moved to NYC but came back for the East Austin Studio Tour in November. I can only hope he does the same this year. He has some very cool sculptures, including a motion controlled tree, which was a little out of my price range at $2,000+.

  11. That's an absolute oasis. No wonder you (and the dog) like to visit! She's done a beautiful job with her plants and the rock around the pool is zen. Makes me calm just to look at it!

  12. That is just awesome! Tell them they should design gardens for a living. Their eye for detail is just exemplary.

  13. That is so beautiful. I would love to live there. What a wonderful place to visit!!! Thanks for sharing the pictures I really enjoyed them(-:

  14. How is water being kept cleanly?
    It'll be moss-grown immediately in Japan.
    Please see my garden.