Secret Gardens

Meet the visionary designers behind these lush gardens and inspiring outdoor spaces.



Ten Eyck Landscape Architects

If you’ve strolled up and down the Pfluger Circle at the Lady Bird Lake Trail, or driven by the Belo Center for New Media on Guadalupe, you have seen and experienced the work of award-winning landscape architect, Christy Ten Eyck. Since opening her firm Ten Eyck Landscape Architects in 2007, she has built an impressive resume landing projects like the San Antonio Children’s Museum and Dallas’ Parkland Hospital.

Although commercial projects take up the majority of Ten Eyck’s time these days, her personal West Austin residence (where she was photographed for this story) showcases her impeccable design eye in the residential space. The half-acre site features a courtyard centered around a brimming concrete water trough in a grove of native Possumhaw trees, and feels like an oasis in the middle of the city.

Growing up, Ten Eyck was interested in marine biology, architecture, and horticulture. “I didn’t know about landscape architecture until my mother forced me to pick something prior to going to college,” she says. “Landscape architecture was the perfect mix of what I wanted to do!” Though she launched her firm in Phoenix in 1997, Ten Eyck eventually moved her office to Austin. She says the breakthrough moment of her career happened when she was awarded the University of Texas at El Paso Campus Transformation Project and the San Antonio Botanical Garden new entry complex project.

Ten Eyck is continually driven by a desire to create meaningful, memorable places that bring nature in to the city. “Many of our urban projects take place in old parking lots or underutilized forgotten areas. There is nothing better than ripping up asphalt,” she says. “That has to be one of my favorite pastimes!”

A Dallas native, Ten Eyck is excited to about working on a new park in her hometown. In Austin, she and her team are hard at work on a new landscape concept for Clark Lyda’s The Commodore Perry Estate Redevelopment including the gardens, outdoor spaces, and restoration of Waller Creek that runs through the property. “After the blood, sweat and tears of construction and working the long hours on these projects, there is nothing better than seeing people enjoying the places we help create,” she says. “It was an absolute thrill to see the construction fence taken down at UTEP and watching the students run onto Centennial Green to experience it for the first time or being at the garden party at the new Texas French Bread outdoor space as it was filled with people having fun. Creating spaces that allow people to experience joy and create memories in a beautiful, authentic setting is the privilege of our profession.”


  • Balance textural hardscape with planting, and if you have to choose in our hot climate, I would lean towards more planting. Think of it like a room—what is the ceiling (branches of a tree or a vine covered arbor)? What is the wall (a hedge or a beautiful wall)?
  • Comfort—shade, comfortable and elegant furniture, beautiful lighting, mosquito control!
  • Engage as many senses as possible—the sound and sight of a mirror of water, the sight and sounds of leaves rustling in the breeze, the fragrance of kidneywood, almond verbena or jasmine, the coolness of shade, the touch of an old fossil or weathered stone.


David Wilson Garden Design

Hopping in the passenger seat of David Wilson’s truck, I didn’t realize I was going to go behind the gates of some of the most impressive homes across the city, all of which Wilson has designed the landscapes for throughout his almost 30 year career as a landscape designer in Austin. First, we stopped at a remodel off Stratford Drive with a modern, but inviting, outdoor entertaining space that overlooked an expansive pool. After that, we took a winding road to a grand home just off Lady Bird Lake with sweeping views of downtown. As we breezed by a perfectly groomed French chateau-style home surrounded by formal gardens, I realized this Waco native, a much sought after landscape designer with kind, hazel eyes, can design much more than just one style. Finally, we headed down the road to Tarrytown where we walked through a lush, modern take on a yard and pool fit for an updated cottage.

Wilson’s love of gardening started at an early age. After his grandmother gave him a few small plants, he took them home and planted them in his parents’ garden. He remembers: “I found having this private space and time to be very rewarding.” Wilson earned an associate’s degree in horticulture and naturally migrated to landscape design and construction. He launched his company, David Wilson Garden Design, with his business partner and Oxford College of Garden Design graduate Marco Rini in 1987. Since then, he has wowed clients with his special ability to dream up various landscape design scenarios far beyond what the homeowners themselves had ever imagined, often just moments after he has stepped on to a property.

It’s impossible for Wilson — whose business has grown organically through word of mouth over the years — to pick a favorite project from his impressive portfolio, but there is one kind of project that excites him most. “My favorite projects tend to be sites that clients have lived on for many years. When I am allowed to step in and renovate a space that has been a part of their daily life and transform it into something new and refreshing, it is really exciting,” he says. “I also love to tackle large construction projects that involve significant grading work. I experience that same elated feeling I felt when playing with a Tonka dump truck that I found in the sandbox.”

With a bounce in his step and an infectious love of the outdoors, I hustled to keep up with Wilson’s quickly moving work boots and couldn’t help but feel disappointed when our off-the-beaten-path tour of Austin’s most fabulous gardens came to an end.


  • Furniture, potted plants, and a viewing space to absorb other vistas in the landscape are essentials. I tend to design outdoor spaces so my client backs to less desirable views, focusing all attention to the most impressive areas.
  • Scent and color are important to have near entertainment areas. Some of my favorites to have nearby are Osmanthus, Sweet Olive, and Iceberg Rose.
  • Shade! Always consider a cool area for guests.


Photography by Nicole Mlakar

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