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On a Clear Day: The Hilltop Garden of Ruthie Burrus

Our conveniently provided garden notes had told us that Ruthie Burrus’s hilltop garden is a Certified Wildlife Habitat and Monarch Waystation with a spectacular view of downtown Austin, so before we got there I already expected to like it.

What I didn’t expect was the stunning way pollinators would be provided for. A sparkling mini-prairie / meadow covered the entire hillside along the drive all the way up to the house.

Hot hued wildflowers with cool blue agave — it’s a sight I’ve never seen in North Carolina. With its mix of annuals, perennials, and grasses, I bet there’s something interesting going on there year round. Quite the pollinator happy place, it was one of my favorites of the Fling, too…just hanging out with the butterflies in the sunshine-spangled flowers was pure joy.

I spent more time than I should have on the slope (and sleuthing out a couple of plant IDs) because I ran short of time for photos. Up top, besides the panoramic view, there is a stone garden haus, a children’s play area (with another great view), and a pool. There’s also an environmentally friendly rainwater collection system that allows for watering the garden without using treated city water, and a pizza oven that I’m sure makes for lots of fun times with family and friends.

The drama of the setting and the beautiful plantings make it a wonderful place to entertain which was one of the main goals of the homeowners. And…on a clear day, you can see forever and ever and ever more up there…or at least it seems so.

Click the photos below for larger pictures with captions.

Austin texas panorama
wildflower meadow, opuntia, agave, burrus hilltop garden
burrus hilltop garden children's play space
burrus garden, Austin tx, lake view
rosemary, burrus hilltop garden, Austin, tx
wildflower meadow, burrus hilltop garden
burrus garden, Austin tx, butterfly rudbeckia
Jerusalem sage, burrus hilltop garden, Austin tx
burrus garden, Austin tx,
burrus garden, Austin tx, garden haus
burrus garden succulents
burrus hilltop garden, Austin tx
burrus hilltop garden, Austin, tx
burrus hilltop garden fern water trough
burrus hilltop garden, Austin tx
burrus hilltop garden, Austin, tx
Ruthie Burrus hilltop garden, Austin, TX

A Warm Welcome and a Literary Scoundrel: Pre-Fling Austin

I arrived in Austin a day early for the Garden Bloggers Fling and took a quick look around town. Nearly adjacent to the hotel was a neat little surprise: the house, now a museum, where William Sydney Porter — a.k.a. the (in)famous writer, O. Henry — lived with his family in the 1880s and ’90s.

O. Henry’s life story is truly interesting. He was born and grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, but it appears that he “got to Texas as fast as he could,” a cute refrain I heard several times while I was in Austin. William tried out lots of jobs and at times was a pharmacist, a ranch hand, a cook, a store clerk, a draftsman, a musician, a bank teller and bookkeeper. He was also an embezzler who once convicted was so freaked out by the idea of prison that he left his young family and fled to Honduras (he is credited with coining the phrase “banana republic” while there).

Becoming a fugitive didn’t help William’s situation, but did give him lots of fodder for stories. He began to use the name O. Henry when he eventually did his time at a prison in Ohio, so he could continue to write for magazines and newspapers and remain anonymous.

O. Henry is probably known best for “Gift of the Magi,” and for the surprising “twist” endings to most of his stories. Among his friends he was probably better known for being an “adult beverage enthusiast.” The QR codes in the photos below actually work if you scan the screen of your computer with your phone. Videos will then pop up to tell you more.

milkweed GBF Austin Vicki's Garden

Look at the incredible flowers on this antelope horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula) in Vicki’s front yard garden!

Convinced before noon that Austin is colorful, and maybe also weird, I met up with Janet and we ubered to north Austin for a gathering at fellow blogger Vicki’s house. It was a nice time of reacquainting and just hanging out in the pleasant verdure of Vicki’s artsy backyard garden. Nothing weird (unless you count that antelope horns milkweed!), just pretty plants, delicious treats — almond cake with strawberries and yogurt and a wonderfully fragrant tea, and then a friendly ride back to town.  It was a pleasant easing-in to what would be an intense weekend of non-stop garden touring.

GBF Austin O. Henry House
GBF Austin O. Henry House
GBF Austin O. Henry
GBF Austin O. Henry House
GBF Austin O. Henry House Fabaceae
GBF Austin O. Henry House Porter Family
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
gbf Austin Vicki's garden roses
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
lonicera sempervirens vicki's garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
milkweed GBF Austin Vicki's Garden
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