Xeriscaping

When we bought our first house, despite years of hating landscaping and lawn care,  I had my own lawn and felt it was time to become Hank Hill and have the prettiest yard on the block.

That didn’t last long.

Mother Nature, she will always win.

The reality of living in Central Texas is it’s hot and dry. Oh sure, some people manage to have green grassy lawns down here, but they usually have lots of shade plus spend a lot of time and money to irrigate their yard. I’ve had varying amounts of shade, but never enough; I certainly don’t have enough money to budget for heavy watering.

Even if I did have the money to keep my yard flooded, I’ve always felt there was something wrong in doing so. This is the water we need for drinking and basic life needs. Texas has gone through numerous droughts, and the one we’re in now is exceptional and could go down as the worst ever. I just cannot justify watering the yard when water is a finite resource and we need it for more important things. I’d rather have water to drink, and if water is going to go onto vegetation I’d rather the farmers have it.

Alas, I live in the city… I have some semblance of a HOA to deal with… and I admit to not liking erosion nor an ugly house and neighborhood. So, some sort of “yard” is necessary.

I never thought I’d do this… but I’m going to try xeriscaping.

It’s just not aesthetically pleasing to me, because it implies a lot of desert, and I do like the look of plush green. Xeriscaping invokes images of sand, rocks, cactus… not much color, a lot of hard and sharp lines and materials. But it isn’t exclusively this way. For one, a central notion of xeriscaping is to use native plants. I never was a fan of going to Home Depot and getting whatever they sold because they are rarely native and able to handle the environment. But I also wasn’t a huge fan of the way a lot of native plants looked. That has changed and I now find great beauty in the native plants of this area — the key is exposure. So many of the yards and commercial landscapes go for what is common, what is easy to find. But if you look deeper, especially using local nurseries, you can find an amazing depth of plants that look beautiful, give year-round color and interest, attract desirable wildlife, and work in the high heat/sun and low water environment that we live in. For example, some years ago I tore out a bunch of shrubs and planted Barbados Cherry. They’ve thrived, they look gorgeous when flowering and fruiting, attract a lot of birds, provide a lot of color throughout most of the year… and I haven’t seen them anywhere else in Austin (tho I’m sure other people have them).

The key? You cannot start out picking plants you WANT. You have to pick plants that are appropriate. You have to consider size issues, sun exposure, water availability, animals (attract, repel, etc.), and so on. Austin’s Grow Green Guide is quite useful. Once you narrow down to what’s appropriate, then you can choose what you like. The Barbados Cherry were not something I would have picked if given the choice, but they fit best for the particular situation and have turned out to be wonderful.

Another useful thing? Using a good landscaper. We’re using Fertile Ground Organic Gardens. Yes, it’s run by an old friend of mine, but she’s done work for us in the past and it’s always been excellent. I’m using her not because of friendship, but because of solid work and creative design. Look at their website and you’ll see examples of their work.

The thing is… our front yard is always going to suffer. There’s a good portion that gets sun most of the day, and a fair portion that gets sun all day long. Consequently, no turf grass can survive. In drought like we tend to have most years, the grass eventually dies off and all we have is either burnt, dead grass, and then very tolerant weeds grow. It’s ugly. I hate it. And the weeds can’t even grow enough to cover for soil retention. So after debating solutions for the past few years, Wife and I decided… let’s try xeriscaping.

I’ll try to document how it goes, with pictures. Should be interesting. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Xeriscaping

  1. That should be cool! I’ve thought about doing something similer where with the front yard, but I HAVE that plush green yard (ok, its not all grass, got a bunch of clover and other green, but its green!), and I don’t have to work at it (we’re less than a mile from a lake, we stay wet without trying, sorry), and I’m not sure I’m up to managing a bunch more plants (at least for the moment, that may change).

    Can’t wait to see what you do!

    • I’m looking forward to it. another thing I forgot to mention, as to th growing appeal, is that it ultimately means less work. Sure it’s work in the beginning to plant it and then ensure the plants establish, but then afterwards… not much. sure, you still need to keep the plants alive (if there truly is no rain, some irrigation may need to happen), and some maintenance, trimming, etc. still have to happen. But there’s no need for a weekly mow or anything. I like that. 🙂

      I envy your situation…. water… water… water. 🙂

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