drought, Pam Penick, Ravenscourt Landscaping & Design LLC, river bed path, Texas native plants, xeric
Just finished and rained in over the weekend. The owners of this custom built home on the edge of a park wanted a low maintenance Austin style garden. Before getting too far into the design we took a long weekend trip to Austin for research. We were fortunate spend time with the Austin author Pam Penick. I used her book Lawn Gone as a resource. We also spent a day at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center and visited several other gardens over the weekend. I will feature Pam’s book and blog on Friday. Austin’s soil and climate are significantly different from Houston’s so we had to make sure we had good drainage and plants that can deal with our rain. In this post we will concentrate on the hardscape and over all install. One Wednesdays garden post I will put a picture of each plant we used and information links.
This home abuts a park on two sides. There is really no place for privacy but there is a nice view across the green so we decided to put a patio on the west side of the house. And plant plants to flank it to give a bit of a nestled feeling. The owners also wanted a way across the yard and over to the side where they wanted a patio.
We first had to eliminate all of the growth in the front yard. Even with the ravages of new construction there were plenty of plants that had taken hold of the rocky and compacted dirt.
With no fences on the property it was a treat to be able to easily move materials to the side yard. We had our flagstone dropped off within feet of where we are installing a patio!
While we remove vegetation we also install the irrigation system. In the image below the plants are stripped and all of the lateral piping is installed. Next we start on the hardscape. All the irrigation is drip tubing since we have no lawn.
String-levels are set up to ensure that we have straight lines and acceptable grades. On the far east side we built a bed using ledge stone.
The borders of the beds were designed to accommodate concrete pads. Because we can not modify their shape we had to ensure that our edging is installed in such a way that the rhythm/spacing of the stones is appealing. We could have done flagstone paths or something more natural but I decided I like the idea of clean lines and very smooth walking surfaces for this home. This also created interesting space that frame the planting area.
The path, from the house to the street, is bisected by a chopped stone. A fun design element that ties the entire property together and creates four big beds instead of two. The house has two entrances. One is to the main residence and the other to a ground floor efficiency. So we needed two entry path that allows direct access from the street.
We also have a pathway that leads directly from path to path. Giving the homeowners easy way to access either door and around the side.
Once the hardscape is in place, and the beds defined, we bring in our soil. With the slope of the property and its tendency to making low lying areas we pay special attention to creating slightly elevated beds to keep the plants from being in a bog.
Stone is a central element in this installation. A couple of focal boulders were placed early. We were actually at the stone yard for another client and saw a palate with the two largest boulders and knew they were perfect for this garden and bought them then and there. Between the concrete pads we install a marble-sized multicolored gravel. The gravel helps keep the even spacing of the pavers as well as tying in the colors of the cement, boulders, garden, and surroundings, into a cohesive package.
Once the plants are installed, the drip tubing is placed. When we have the areas properly irrigated we mulch over the tubing. In the bare areas we will install pea gravel. The river bed is our fun way to create another pathway from the street to the house. It also functions as a wash for excess rainfall.
In the theme of Austin-inspired we imagine areas of stark dryness next to xeric plants. The stones also give us the feel we want. In time this garden will need very little irrigation but it very helpful in keeping maintenance down and nice to have in our long hot summer, especially for plants in pots.
In this west most bed is the red maple that was there when we started. It is shared with Mexican Feather grass, trailing lantana and a Mountain Laurel near the telephone pole.
This flagstone patio overlooks the neighboring parkland. The Maiden grass in the foreground will catch the winds providing a pleasant rustling and serve as a bit of privacy from the park. The Vitex on the other side will provide screening from the street. We slope the patio to encourage drainage away from the house.
When seen from the opposite angle you notice how close the parkland is. It is nice for the clients to have so much open land abutting their gardens.
The pathway, once finished, mimics a dry river bed (modified to allow for easy passage). We placed three flagstone at the curb as an easy method of getting out of a car and not having to step into plants/soil.
A few boulders, and even more big stones, are interspersed with the plants. We enjoy selecting them from the stone yards knowing where they will be going in our installations.
Low, slightly concave, rocks are some of my favorite. I look forward to returning to these stones to see if lichen grows where the rainwater collects.
Our plan is the blue yucca nestled into the other boulder will eventually have leaves growing over the boulder as it towers over it and function as a natural sculpture. I love the contrast of the bluish green with the rust and tan of the boulder. On the other side the roses are surrounding the rock. They, in turn, are framed by the river and chopped stone edges.
The larger rocks are beach rock that have hues of browns, bluish gray and rose. The colors are even more vivid after a rain.
We added a irrigation zone exclusively for pots and planters. You can see the pipe here with several manifolds to add drip line. There is one of these by each entry door too.
I don’t have a color theme with the flowers. I was more interested in the leaves colors. Once rooted in there will be flowers in blues, yellows, orange, purple, pink, red and white, a rainbow of colors. There should be something in bloom from early spring through late fall.
This garden is going to look better and better as it matures. Most of the plants are low growing and will only need a minor trimming to keep them where we want them. We prefer to let the grasses grow naturally and don’t cut them back in early spring. The salvia greggi will need some trimming to help it fill out. The bulbine and trailing lantana is meant to cascade over the hardscape and only trimmed back from main paths. There is a cluster of Blue Chip buddleia in the top left corner and Copper Canyon Daisies in the bottom right corner just past the yucca. They will bring lost of butterflies and bees. The possumhaw hollies will be fun in winter with their leafless branches covered in red berries.
For more photos check out our Houzz project board.
I will post again about this garden so I can share its progress!
This post is in collaboration with Shawn Michael co-owner of Ravenscourt Landscaping & Design LLC
Bug Woman said:
I love the way that you adapt your gardens to the surrounding landscape, Laurin – so many garden designers seem to have a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. I love the idea of the dry river bed, and of course I also love how pollinator friendly the garden will be…
Laurin Lindsey said:
Thank you BW : ) I don’t think I have ever really repeated a design. I like the design to be influenced by the owners, the architecture and the neighboring environment and then I bring my own creative inspiration to connect it all together. And I am always thinking of our friends the birds, butterflies and bees!
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I love your take on the xeric Austin style, Laurin, especially the modern style you used! It looks great already. Thanks for mentioning Lawn Gone! too!
Laurin Lindsey said:
Thank you Pam : )
Pingback: From Weeds to No-Mow Austin Style Garden – Part 2 (The Plants) | Ravenscourt Gardens
Desert Dweller said:
I like the modern and Asian mix on this, as well as the good plant massings. The thin line of stone across the front really makes this pop! I wonder how long the negative space will stay open in Houston?
Laurin Lindsey said:
Hi DD, the open space is a public park that is owned by the neighborhood so it is secure! I had not thought of the design as having Asian elements but I study Japanese and Chinese garden design, which I love. And my husband who is the install side of our company has been studying rock and rock placement. I think because Houston is so flat that we really enjoy elements that add to the topography : )
I like how you mixed the natural lines of the creek and plantings with the straight modern chop block to tie it back to the house.
Those not so common plant choices for Houston and make the garden look very much like Austin.
Laurin Lindsey said:
Thank you Shirley : ) When I design I use a many of these plants in designs. I like to use a mix of natives and acclimated plants because most all my clients want low maintenance and drought/frost tolerant. Many natives fit right in when designing cottage and modern gardens. The red yuccas can be worked in to some fun spaces. We had a 7 year drought and that really changed how people viewed their plant choices. Our rain is back so we will see how that changes things yet again. The hardest thing is our winters have many more hard freezes!
Santiago Washington said:
Fantastic article! Thank you for your ideas. I love adding color to my front garden as this can add aesthetics to my property.