As I turn 70 years old today, I marvel at the total xeriphytic landscape we have constructed in fall and winter of 2011 from which we are now seeing results of our hard work. It is truly a dream garden in every sense. It requires little to no watering, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, very little maintenance, attracts wildlife of all sorts (birds, butterflies, amphibians, mammals, and beneficial insects such as honeybees ). The use of native and adaptive plants provide a riot of color for all seasons, and it is durable and hardy. We have received the City of Austin Green Garden Award, and have been certified by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife as a certified backyard habitat. – very important since we are destroying natural habitat for wildlife at an alarming rate.
We enjoy sitting on our new environmentally friendly composite and stainless steel wired deck which gives us a 180 degree view of it all. We love to see and hear the purple martins who reside in our martin houses in spring, followed by migratory and local birds feeding from our feeder or bathing in our birdbath. Our selection of native plants is also a draw to other types of wildlife. Being environmentally friendly is so easy and rewarding. You just need to decide to do it.
We must get away from our old paradigm and custom that only a green turf grass lawn is acceptable and to be desired in our residential landscape. First of all, a solid area of samo samo green grass is boring. To maintain it means using excessive amounts of our diminishing water supplies, plus chemical fertilizers and pesticides which easily wash into our storm sewers and into previously unpolluted water courses. Then as the grass grows, it’s constant mowing in our hot environment. Lawn mowers are significant sources of CO2 emissions which add to global worming. This all just doesn’t make good or common sense!
A water wise landscape (also referred to as xeriscape) doesn’t mean desert-looking, it means water saving. Additionally it means much less effort required to maintain an aesthetically beautiful garden, while protecting and enhancing our environment. In our case, our front yard xeriscape doesn’t contain a single desert plant but looks like a natural woodland landscape – but with a big difference – use of native and adaptive plants., while reducing lawn area to 25% using native buffalo grass.
OK, I’m not into vegetable gardening. Ours is entirely ornamental. But, veggie gardens can we as water efficient as ornamentals. I’m not really qualified to talk on that subject but know there is a wealth of information available should you choose to use part of your land area for this use. The whole idea is to garden in harmony with our local environmental challenges.
Having lived on many different gardening environments (tropical southern Florida, northern Virginia, east Tennessee, Houston and the Gulf Coast), I have always “gone with the flow” and developed my gardens compatible with the local environment, and have found each geographic area capable of providing beautiful garden options using native and adaptive plants. I have always had hobby greenhouses to grow favorite plants from other climate areas (bromeliads, tropical, etc.), and integrate these plants into my summer garden while protecting them in winter in the greenhouse. Yet, I marvel at what our challenging gardening environment in central Texas can provide us without having to import plants from other areas that won’t thrive or thrive so well, they become invasive.
Another wonderful advantage to a xeriscape is the ability to become really creative and artistic in designing, using a variety of live and inorganic materials, to create a natural look that says “This is central Texas”. It is also easy to alter those designs if you wish to create a different look from time to time. It’s creating something that is anything but boring.
Take a look at our xeriscaped back yard at www.centraltexasgardening.info/xeribackyard.html and see what I am talking about. It’s not a wild scape but uses native plants intentionally as part of an overall garden design. You can also see how we went from a St. Augustine lawn, front, side and back, to a total xeriscaped yard at www.centraltexasgardening.info/xeriscapeproject.html . Yes it took hard work and investment for materials, but the recurring rewards and benefits are so significant, I wish we had done it sooner.
I am a convert and now a strong advocate of xeriscaping. Our large subdivision, Avery Ranch in Austin has adopted HOA approved guidelines and promotes this in conjunction with the City of Austin’s programs to conserve water and promote water-wise landscaping. I have developed a love and appreciation for our local environment and note that this trend is catching on slowly but surely.
We now have our dream garden – never could I have thought that just surrendering to what our local environment allows and provides could create such a beautiful setting in which to live and enjoy. It took me 70 years to learn that lesson.! Now we can truly slow down and smell the roses!