Sunday, April 20, 2008

Inside Austin Tour: The Bakatsas Garden

The solar panels are just visible in the photo's upper left.

Off of Southwest Parkway, Mary and Clark Bakatsa have built a certified wildlife habitat that combines flowers, vegetables, and fruits in a French-inspired, Austin-green garden. From the minute you enter their cul-de-sac, you know their house and yard are different. I think it's the large solar panels on the roof that initially give it away.

The second clue is the herbs growing out front. The Bakatsas grow them there primarily for the wildlife they feed.

In the backyard, they have a pool, which I wouldn't normally think of as green, but I heard that it was non-chlorine pool. I haven't verified that but I would love to learn more.

Seeing all the art in the Bakatsas backyard made me realize I need to add more fun to my garden. I think these lizards look like lemmings.

I also loved this ball of twigs. It offered great textural contrast to the stone patio.

This blue pot adds another nice accent.

The upper portion of the backyard is the star of the yard. Unfortunately, I didn't get a good shot of the espaliered apple trees that would have been to the right of the photo below.

Here are some of the larkspurs that served as the unofficial symbol of the tour. Onions are in front of them.

I was very surprised at how many plants were growing well in the shade. The herbs out front were in the shade. Mary somehow had roses blooming in the shade. And the chard below the table is growing in pretty heavy shade now.

Skip Richter was also on the pre-tour, and he said something I had never heard: if you are growing vegetables for the fruit, like potatoes or tomatoes, then the plants needed full sun. If you are growing them for their leaves, like lettuce or Swiss chard, then they would grow in part sun to shade. (I don't know how they would germinate in the shade. Maybe you have to transfer some starters into the shady areas?)

The final piece of art that caught my eye was the compost tumbler. (I bet you thought it was the sculpture.:-)) Mary uses to finish off her compost. She has several larger areas in the back of the yard where the compost does most of its, well, decomposing.

I think Mary's garden is a great example of what you can do in a suburban development, provided of course you don't have the serious deed restrictions that some people do. Just another reason I love living in Hyde Park.


  1. I thought this was the most amazing garden given the surroundings. A no-lawn suburban garden--who'd have thunk it? Not only did it get by any restrictive covenants, the neighbors nominated it "best yard".

    An amazing edible garden.

  2. After the Stocker garden, this is the only other one we made it to, but I was really impressed by it. I talked to the husband, who told me about the stonework and the olive trees.

    He did an amazing amount of work researching olive trees in Italy and matching the climate over there to ours. After he'd selected several varieties most likely to fare well in our climate, he traveled to California, if I heard him correctly, to purchase the trees. Certain adjustments had to be made, as they didn't have all the selections he'd wanted. But he came back with three or four different varieties. They suffered significant freeze damage a few years ago, he told me, and one still struggles, but the rest are now producing olives.

    I absolutely coveted his beautiful pool. The sign said it was a saltwater-chlorine pool, with salt providing most of the cleansing but a small infusion of chlorine doing the rest.

  3. This was my second-favorite garden on the tour, after the Stocker garden (we made it to 5 gardens). I loved how the pool took the place of a lawn as far as a restful space for the eye. It kept the yard from looking cluttered despite the huge diversity of plants in such a small space.

    I was also inspired by how everything planted was multifunctional, and I loved the huge fig tree to the left of the pool. And the pool itself looked so inviting-- I wanted to jump in!

    Thanks for posting pictures-- I'd pretty much drained my camera battery dry by that point. :)