If you’re a gardener looking for new plant and design ideas (or if you’re just looking for something to do outdoors on one of our few remaining ‘spring’ weekends), put the “Inside Austin Gardens Tour” at the top of  today’s to-do list.

This year’s tour, which runs from 9 am to 4 pm.,  is subtitled “Gardens Eclectic” and is intended to showcase local gardens that are a unique expression of the personalities and interests of the gardeners who created them. After previewing each of the gardens last week with a group of Austin garden bloggers, I can confirm that creative individualism is alive and well in Austin gardens.

All of the gardens make good use of a mix of native and adapted perennials and annuals, but the hardscapes (the  ‘bones’ of the gardens)  say the most about the personalities of the gardeners.

Take, for example, this flaming water rock garden scene from Jerry Naiser’s garden. If it were performance art, I’d call it  ‘Fire Water Steel Rock.’

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I’ve heard of flaming rock bowls, and I’ve heard of flaming water, but this was the first time I’d seen the two concepts combined for a garden feature. It’s certainly one way to add  drama to a backyard suburban garden.

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The water feature in Lori Daul’s garden is not as showy perhaps, but it’s a lovely (and cooling) combination of plumbing, pottery and river rocks that provides soothing sounds and a peaceful place to rest the eyes in this small South Austin garden.

Ken and Robin Howard Moore brought a personal aesthetic and piece of the past to their walkways:

rs mg tour 2Regional brand imprints and burnished shades of red and yellow suggest that these bricks witnessed a long and colorful history before they found a home in the Howard Moore garden.

On Dugie and David Graham’s steep backyard slope, stacked rocks create walls to form a foundation and a frame for sub-level garden rooms and a pond.

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Weathered wood pieces framed in welded steel create a privacy wall and a captivating backdrop for Austin Neal’s garden. (Note to self: In your next life, when you’re a welder, you must remember this.)

And finally, the Travis County AgriLife Extension demonstration garden is a great example of a DIY garden that makes creative and practical use of native plants, local stones, and mulch — LOTS of mulch (which helps feed the soil while providing a tidy backdrop for plants and rocks.)

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Of course, if you go on the tour, you’ll see much more than I’ve pictured here. And it’s only $15 to see all the gardens. The garden addresses, along with a map and more details about the tour are at http://insideaustingardens.org.

You can also pay $5 to see a single garden. If you’re looking for smart and DIY-able ideas to steal for your own garden,  and you’re on a tight schedule, I’d recommend Lori or Austin’s garden.

(The tour is being presented by Travis County Master Gardeners Association and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.)