Rambling wanders and broad-sweep views converge in shady hideaways on land that Sid Tieg has shaped since the late nineties.
Now with husband Larry Evans, it's become her outdoor laboratory that guides her design.
I came to Austin in 1997 from the desert, from Tucson, Arizona, and I decided that I wanted to build a house and so I bought this property and when I did, it was just a prairie.
First on her design drawing board: managing stormwater runoff from uphill.
At the back of the property, she's formalized a drainage ditch.
Closer up, rocky swales act as dry creek beds to direct water flow away from the house.
The Corps of Engineer did the main water gully, but the other two in the backyard – there are three – were done by me.
Basically they were designed as I watched the water during the rain to see where it naturally went.
As each step was done, the next step became obvious.
And so what I decided to do was to build more berms and protect the downside of that gully so that the water was pushed away from the house and and kept its bounds, and then I knew that I had to plant the berms.
Rising above the swales, mounded earth berms cradle plants in uplifting dimension.
I love the rocks, but I don't think I want to look at the rocks from my inside as much.
And since iIm using the rocks for grass, it's the space holder that most people would put grass in.
Then I put an edge around it so that you can contain your eye if you don't want to look at the rocks.
One of the berms was way back in the back of the yard and I thought, "I'm not going to want to water all of this yard, this yard is just too big".
And so I decided that since I had come from the desert, that would be a perfect place to put cactus, so the soil I put there was more what the soil required to grow cactus would be.
I planted my cactus garden back there.
I planted the berms, and I thought, "Now, what's next?" And after I thought about it, I thought, "Well the next thing would be I would like to have a sidewalk that gets me around the yard.
" Shelf rock she had originally bought for a pond that never happened was just the ticket.
I started right here at the porch and decided to build it out and around.
That's a lot of work and it didn't get all done it once.
Raphael has been with me for a long time and he would bring the rock and put it down.
We would do about 20 feet every year, 20-30 feet every year, so it took a very long time to do the sidewalks.
That was a big direction in gardening because once I got the sidewalks in, then I wanted to have flower beds around the sidewalks.
And so as I built the 20-foot sidewalk, I also started developing a flower bed so I'd have something to look at while I was walking there.
And so I did do a lot of soil change.
I have five feet of clay in this yard, and that's ok for some things and not so great for others, so I did a lot of soil amending.
I brought in a lot of good compost.
I do a lot of Texas native hardwood mulch and as that disintegrates, it creates good soil.
So by adding mulch on top of mulch over the years, I've continued to grow my soil.
I'm a plant lover.
I love all kinds of plants.
So really a lot of the design part as far as plantings are concerned came because I'm just curious.
And for several years there would be one of this one of that.
– Then, she realized the power of mass plantings and repetitions.
I've decided that there are a few plants that I like to spread out throughout the yard to add a little bit of continuity.
I found that if you put the same plant in different places, your eye comes to it and it kind of makes a unified area even though you have the separate spaces.
I do that with plumbago.
I have plumbago all over.
I do it with Esperanza.
I do it with pride of Barbados.
I do it with roses.
You know, just some things i scatter from one room to another.
– When she discovered miniature re-blooming drift roses, cautiously, she tried one.
Its performance over years convinced her to gradually add more.
– And I like the way the red goes out into the yard so you see the salvia, the roses, and then you go way out into the berm and you see the roses back there, the red roses, so it draws your eye which is what I really like.
The fact that when you're inside and you look out, your eye goes all the way to the back because you see something that's familiar and your eye rests on it.
I have bicolor iris all over my yard and that's one of those plants that holds down the other plantings around it, that gives you some grounding.
It's an upright plant, and I'm not crazy about most grasses, I'm not a grass lover, but the bicolor iris gives me that shape.
And it has beautiful flowers in the spring.
And we're very fortunate here that we have a yard that goes from the house up, so it actually presents a beautiful situation for planting small plants and then larger plants and then larger plants.
– One break from the view is a row of crape myrtle trees when one suddenly popped up from a neighbor's tree, and she moved it.
And so I had a place that when you looked out of the bedroom, you kind of looked all the way to the backyard, and I didn't like that idea, so I thought, "I'm going to put that tree right between my view of of the back fence and the bedroom.
Now I have like seven or eight beautiful crepe myrtles.
– When a neighbor's little gem magnolia seeded in the drainage ditch, she moved it to a close-up spot to scent the garden every spring.
Then, a mystery plant appeared at the base of the tree.
Something grew up and it looked like grass, and I thought, "I wonder what this is".
And about year six or seven it turned into a palm tree.
Syd got another surprise one Christmas when she bought a tiny pine tree and planted it outside.
– And as it got bigger, I finally was able to identify it as an Italian stone pine.
And eventually, I believe they get to be 70 feet tall, something like that.
– Just across the dry creek bed shady hollows enclose brightly adorned hideaways.
Then Syd found just the right artwork to signify each venue A lover of cactus, she turned a patio into a gallery that she and Larry once imagined for a spa.
They swapped that idea for something to enjoy every day.
– The cactus little plants don't really like full sun, so eventually we decided that we'd put a part shade tarp across it so that it gets about sixty to seventy percent sun and then the ones that don't like sun at all, especially afternoon sun, we plant on one side of the little area and the ones that like a lot of afternoon sun, we'd plant on the other side.
Thanks to cactus fountains they found in Tucson, birds, lizards, and toads claim it as their daily spa.
Syd and Larry's garden reflects all seasons in its changing patterns.
With his camera, Larry documents its annual history in a calendar.
The real starting point for Syd's gardens began long ago.
– When I was a tiny little girl, we were a military family.
We moved every year, but my dad always had a garden, and I've always had an interest in being outdoors and a strong curiosity about plants and animals and how they interact.
I had this big piece of property, I had to do something with it, and so it became my laboratory.
That's kind of how it all came about.