November 01, 2022
The mossy green doors of Cynthia Deegan’s milagro-spangled garden gate opened to me again a week or so ago, when she generously invited me and Garden Spark speaker Teri Speight to come on over. What a treat to follow up our visit to Lucinda’s garden with Cynthia’s! They are good friends and soul sisters, each with some sort of fairy wand — and an eye for composing artistic vignettes — that turns their respective gardens into pure magic.
Cynthia lost a big tree out front during Snowpocalypse. Rather than cutting it to the ground and having the stump ground out, she turned its trunk into a vrai-bois (ha!) planter for a hesperaloe and succulents. A green-painted pruning circle shows off a silver Halloween skeleton and tin milagros.
Tucked along the fence that screens the house from the busy road, a St. Francis stands wrapped in a fig-ivy cloak.
I love this detail: a section of cattle panel in the wooden fence that allows a peek-a-boo glimpse into the courtyard garden.
Stepping through the green doors, you enter a shady courtyard garden that’s half fishpond, with a tiered, splashing fountain at one end. The mirror-like surface of the pond’s far end is echoed by framed mirrors that adorn the fence.
An unidentified sedge makes a grassy swath along one curved edge of the pond, pairing with other shade lovers like foxtail fern and purple heart.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall…
Cynthia finds most of her decor by haunting Goodwill and other thrift shops, and then she puts found objects together in creative ways.
My favorite of her garden mirrors
Her courtyard garden is a peaceful oasis tucked along the access road to MoPac in the Tarrytown neighborhood, a gem of a space super-close to town but also hidden away. The garden also adds vital square footage, Cynthia says, to the living space of her small home.
A panel of pressed tin makes a rustic frame for a cow skull transformed into spirit animal with stick antlers and a forehead ornament.
This porch grouping, which color-echoes the front gate, is so appealing.
Cynthia has a thing for animal bones, which appear in decorative vignettes throughout her garden and home.
And now let’s take a look indoors, where Cynthia’s magpie genius for collecting castoff treasures is matched by her artist’s eye for turning them into meaningful displays. Notice the little etched tag that reads “bone collector.” She really is. And hands, hearts, acorns, nests, and a few other motifs as well.
A painted deer skull provides a way to display more beautiful objects. It’s hung on a bookshelf in the entry that sets the stage for the whole house: an artist-collector’s assemblage of bones, books, art, and poetry — hers and others’. You touch and read your way through Cynthia’s house.
Each object contributes to the whole. Cynthia spins magic moments from what others have tossed out.
A shelf along one living room wall glows with strategically placed light and meaningful objects, plus a painting by an artist from Abilene — a city in West Texas where Cynthia and her husband raised their children, operated a garden design business, and made other well-loved gardens.
In the hall, a utility door is transformed by a Lady of Guadalupe painting, a chalked-on Rumi quote, and candlelight.
Stepping out on the back porch, I admired a pretty bouquet of orange marigolds…
…and this scene-stealer: a verdigris bowl of metal hands, holey rocks, corks, and gomphrena flowers.
A new addition hangs on Cynthia’s fence — a painted wheelbarrow trough that she and a friend laughingly dubbed Screaming Jesus. The friend scored it for her place, but recently she moved out of state, and Cynthia inherited SJ.
Her fences are blank canvases that she fills with color and a playful spirit.
Cynthia’s husband, Bobby, adds intriguing stacked-rock sculptures. This is his latest: a snaking stack of limestone boulders and flat slabs that leans against a tree.
At the top, the rocks encircle a metal ring, making an eye.
This is the backyard beer garden, with colorful seating and painted doors to match. These lean against a chain-link fence to create privacy from the neighbor’s yard.
Backyard seating is inviting with patterned pillows and Mexican blankets
Inside a rustic workshop, a light softly illuminates Cynthia’s inspiration board.
Cynthia invited us to see her Airbnb rental unit, located on the 2nd floor of her home with a private backyard entrance — a place that’s absolutely charming and that leans into its location near downtown Austin and all its attractions, including Zilker Park, where the Austin City Limits Music Festival is held each fall.
Bookshelves display fun tequila glasses and bottles along with a tempting assortment of books.
Another shelf holds a Willie Nelson votive and a metal pig with a note that reads, “Choose the joy!”
Anyone looking for a place to stay in Austin for a weekend or a month, I highly recommend Cynthia and Bobby’s place.
You won’t find anyone with greater joie de vivre than Cynthia, pictured here (middle) with me and Teri (right).
Cynthia’s Via Libre Garden, which translates to the punny Freeway Garden (it’s located along MoPac highway), is a home and garden where artistic expression infuses every space. Thank you for the delightful visit, Cynthia!
If you’d like to see more, here are two previous visits to Via Libre:
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Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. You can find this year’s speaker lineup here.
All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.