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The lovely couple who own this charming bungalow recently moved here and have been updating their new home in the Heights. They were just about to add a screen porch when we first met to talk about the back garden. They wanted a more useful back garden space with room for plantings and a patio with a pergola as another place to sit and entertain.  The yard also needed to be child friendly for their your grandchildren. There was talk of a pond but the maintenance and concern of young children falling in nixed that idea. Instead they found a beautiful fountain that we worked into the design. We used thick flagstone set into dirt for the patio and paths that flow from the porch to the patio and gravel driveway.

pergola and flagstone patio and paths

This is the finished installation.

Now to walk you through the project!

Before shot

Before shot; lots of potential as a blank slate.

The giant pecan tree gives plenty of shade along with the two story garage next door to the west. The plants needed to be easy care and shade tolerant, especially next to the house. We used many plants that are traditional southern plants with just the bit of Asian flair. The Heights used to be a pecan grove before it became a little town in the early 1900’s so you see many pecan trees in front and back yards here.

Before shot looking to house from garage.

Before shot looking to house from garage. Note the downspout with the extension as well as the bare sections of lawn. This yard became a bathtub after decent rains.

Moro Blood OrangeThe back corner beside the garage was the perfect place for edibles. We put a couple of orange trees in the design to block the view of the back fence and a raised bed to grow herbs and vegetables. I think the young grandchildren will have fun picking oranges with their grandparents and planting seeds in the raised bed. Growing your own food is a passion of ours and I am so happy to see more and more people asking for edibles in their landscape. We have a Pinterest page about growing your own food that is loaded with great advice and lots of inspirational pictures. These are Moro Blood Oranges: they ripen in early December making them perfect for Christmas gifts. Great eaten fresh or made into orange jalapeno jam that you can share with friends. These trees are fairly compact being 12-15 feet full grown.

Blue gray flagstone.

Blue gray flagstone.

The long gravel driveway takes up half the back yard area. We wanted to have the new landscaping flow into the gravel in a way that felt natural. The clients always have the option of choosing their flagstone color. I offered the suggestion of this lovely Pennsylvania Blue select because I thought it went with the gravel and was a nice cool color in what we wanted to create as a serene space. And from everything I read, gray is the new black. I like the way gray works with green as a neutral but enhancing color. When the cedar posts gray and the flagstone patinas it will be even more calming and cool!


We trenched for the irrigation as we began setting the flagstone.

The couple found this lovely fountain at Statue Makers in Houston. It had been there a while and already had some characture.  I can imagine sticking my feet in this fountain on a hot summer day! The sound of running water has a calming effect and helps you feel cooler. We like to plug water features in early. Not only is it soothing to listen to but we also want to make sure everything is working before all of the trenches are closed. It is also a good time to check the fountain for level. New electrical outlets were installed and an outdoor fan (and maybe even lights) are in the plans!

Fountain nestled into patio.

Fountain nestled into patio. Note that the downspout is tied into below-ground drains. A drain box is hidden beneath the small patio at the back step and two more will go into the gravel path.

I enjoy selecting the boulders that we install on our projects. Knowing that children were going to run the garden I wanted stones that were inviting to climb and play on while not being tipsy. Well, the horizontal stones at least. The vertical stone has more energy and divides the path from the patio. It also acts like a natural sculpture and will cast shadows and get enveloped in plants over time.Setting rocks to add to a bit of a Zen feel.

Setting rocks to add to a bit of a Zen feel.

Building the raised herb and vegetable bed.

Building the raised herb and vegetable bed.

We do enjoy building raised beds and encouraging our clients to grow food. This out of the way space next to the garage was far enough from the house to feel apart, but still visible from most anywhere. This meant that whatever was going to happen back here needed to be attractive. When finished we think it is just that.


Cut off valve for raised bed.

Cut off valve for raised bed.

The raised bed is tied into the ground-level bed’s irrigation. The bypass valve allows the bed to stay dry if it is left fallow. When looking at ball-valves an easy way to remember if the valve is open or not is to imagine the flow of water. If the handle is in-line with the pipe the water can flow through. If the handle is crossing the pipe it is stopping the flow. The raised bed, freshly completed with the drip tubing visible shows the landscape installation from an unconventional perspective. It looks good coming and going.

View from back across the raised bed.

View from back across the raised bed.

The Savannah Holly, below, are already the height of the fence. In about three years they should be quite a bit taller than the enclosure. They make wonderful living screens that attract wildlife with their winter-bearing fruit. They also help as sound barrier to help with the noises that come with living so close to neighboring houses.

A row of Savannah holly.

A row of Savannah holly. Note the make-shift bridge over there irrigation and drainage line using a piece of flagstone. The blue pipes show where drain boxes are located.

The couple had already added a pagoda and the metal screen when we came back for some after photos. The leaves from the tree were dropping like mad and getting the site cleaned up between shots was a challenge. I know some people insist you have to have professional photographs of your work. But that is not always practical or affordable. I think having realistic shots has equal merit. What do you think?

Path to gravel driveway from screen porch.

Path to gravel driveway from screen porch.

The vine on the post is an Evergreen wisteria, Millettia reticulata. They are more tender than the Chinese wisteria and as the name indicates remain green all year. The flowers are a deep purple and it can flower more than once during the year.

Pergola and flagstone patioOne of the great things about a patio where the stone is set into dirt is that the water can still seep down in the spaces between the stones; the gravel we infill with does not hinder the permeability of the patio. This means the large tree will still get plenty of water to its roots.

Pergola and Flagstone patioIt is so nice to come back and see lovely hanging plants and garden art. The plant in the right bottom corner is a Queen Emma crinumn lily, Crinum augustum. We first saw them, and I feel in love with them, at Peakerwood Gardens in Hempstead Texas.

Happy Gardening from Shawn and Laurin!