Friday, April 25, 2008

Xeriscape Tour of my Texas Garden

Xeriscaping, which usually conjures images of cactus and stones, can actually be full of color and gentler looking plants. For those who may be new to the term, Xeriscaping is a means of gardening, typically in the Southwest, that uses drought tolerant plants, mulch and irrigation.

I took pictures of my garden yesterday to show what my garden looks like in April in San Antonio.  They are all green, despite the heat (over 100 degrees in the summer, sometimes for weeks), despite the sun (almost daily), and despite the droughts (which we are in now...only 3" of rain since New Year's and not much since last September.)

I have antique roses (peach) which are called such because they have withstood the test of time. They were found neglected on the sides of the road or on deserted properites, flourishing with blooms.

Salvia greggii(red) is quite drought tolerant. After a few months it gets scraggly looking so I cut it back and it comes right back again.

Summer phlox is so drought tolerant, that all of mine are transplants from my mom's garden in the middle of the summer, and then future divisions spread throughout my gardens over the years. When they are completely spent in the autumn I cut them back and they pop back in the winter. My phlox is not yet blooming, it is still growing, in the front.

My herb garden. I have chocolate mint, orange mint, regular mint, lavendar, lemon basil, lime basil, French thyme, rosemary and more. These are Mediterranean plants that have endured dry growing conditions from ancient times.  It's also green to save gas from driving to the grocery store, buying plastics full of herbs from off the shelf and saves money. As an added bonus, they add more flavor to cooking than dried herbs! Also see all that stone! Those are all the stones I have dug out of the property (dh was in Korea for a year when we bought the house; he hopped on the plane a few hours after we signed the papers and got the key! We had just enough time to drive to our first house, he carried me over the threshhold, then we picked up the kids at my mom's and drove him to the airport.) Anyway, dry creek beds are part of the Xeriscape scenery around here and I didn't have to pay a penny to haul them in. I chose to put it here, because that is where the dripline from our 2 story roof is. We had a lot of rain when we first moved in and there had been a lot of erosion going on. That is no longer a problem!

One of the bushy green plants is a Sky Plant which grows prodigiously every year! It gets purple flowers in the summer and turns to yellow berries in the autumn. The hummingbirds and butterflies love this plant. Well, they love all of the flowers. The pink flowers are more antique roses. My vegetable garden is in a row at the bottom of the hill. This area gets a lot of sunlight. When we first moved here, I had this hill and I knew it would be unsafe to mow. So I took the extra bricks from our house construction that I found in the garage and laid it around the perimeter of the yard. There are now railroad timbers at the bottom of the hill to hold the dirt in. The beauty of this is that it allows for raised bed gardening. This allows one to easily amend the soil (around here it is heavy clay filled with all those rocks (that you saw in the previous picture. Then I layer with mulch (more on that later) to conserve water.

You might even be able to notice some black hoses in the gardens. These are drip hoses. Merely watering by hand is not as efficient as drip irrigation. With drip irrigation, you can allow lots of water to slowly settle deeply into the ground, where you want the roots to grow to obtain moisture. These deep roots will survive drought. Shallow roots from light hand watering results in plants that beg daily for water in the summer. They can become more easily diseased also. In addition, having one's own garden saves gas, less packaging purchased at the store, saves money and tastes better! I have tomatoes, peppers, eggplant (kids can't imagine what I'll do with that), onions, yellow squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash and sugar pumpkins. Maybe even cucumber but I forget.

Mexican Heather likes sun and shade, and looks quite fernlike when full grown. In the autumn I just cut them back and they come back every spring.

Bougainvillea is a favorite of mine for containers. These are extremely heat and drought tolerant! That way I don't have to water my pots as often!

Blue Plumbagohas taken over my garden! (As many other plants have that I have had to tame! I now have a sprained arm!) Those roots are really deep (as many other of these plants.) These and many other of my plants can get over 5 feet high if I let them! My mom can't get over how big my plants get.

Skullcap is another wonderful plant that is drought tolerant and spreads, making an attractive border and garden filler. The more flowers, the less room for weeds!

Lemon Thyme...I love to put between the cracks of my stepping stones. Everyone tries to avoid walking on them but I tell them that is why I put it there! Step on them...and enjoy the delicious lemon scent that wafts through the air! This is some thyme that has endured drought and winter! I set some aside in a garden for cooking purposes!

Our mulch pile from 2005! The children helped me haul that around the yard. After about a week of labor, we headed for SeaWorld (near to our house) to swim and cool off! Mulch is incredibly essential to a "green" garden, to help it stay green. It retains necessary moisture in the soil and an added bonus, inhibits weed growth.; Before I never had enough mulch, and I spent all my time weeding, never getting caught up.I had so much mulch, I laid about 3-5" throughout the gardens. We tend to take 1-2 week summer vacations during the peak of summer heat and drought. My parents check on things while we are gone and they were stunned at how well most of my plants did with very little water. There would be only a plant or two (that was not yet well established) that needed water (and the container plants). My mom gardens too but wanted to know my secret. Drip hoses and mulch.  I don't think she's invested in the drip hoses, but she had to get down on her hands and knees to see how thick the mulch was.  She couldn't believe it. That's a lot of mulch and it is still going strong. It is starting to thin out in places and it is still quite thick in others. One of my necessary garden chores is to redistribute the mulch and replenish. Mom might have discouraged me from doing this at all, but now that she's seen the results, I notice a lot more mulch in her gardens! ;)

Of course it would be even "greener" to make one's own mulch. I would love that. But with our tiny property, there really isn't a place to do it. I would love to buy one of these handy dandy gadgets. I haven't convinced my dh yet. I would like to use it behind the shed, but there are already 5 garbage cans back there...3 of our old ones and 2 of the humongo new ones provided for automated recycling and garbage pick up. We are left with those 3 old garbage cans that the city has not provided us an option to "greenly" get rid of. We have no more use for them and I wonder if dh could hack them down to put in the humongo recycling container. Then maybe we'd have room for a compact easy to use handy dandy mulcher!


  1. I wish mine was as lovely as yours. Some things go nuts here and others just don't do well. And for some reason our plants seem to bloom at different times then anyone else around us. It's wierd. You are so knowledgeable about gardening. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  2. Your garden looks beautiful! I use mulch everywhere too. It is such a huge help with weeds, and it definitely helps conserve water. I tried drip hoses once, but I have several raised beds, so I have to figure out how to modify the hoses with regular hosing in between beds. We also have to repair our spigot.

    Thanks for sharing your garden and gardening tips!


  3. Ya' know I don't give much thought to Earth Day either. I just do the best I can, and leave it at that. Your garden is really pretty though.

  4. MayTheyBeMightyMenApril 28, 2008 at 5:36 PM

    Fabulous post! I loved learning about your garden, and you gave me such great ideas for mine. I need to look into more hardy xeriscaping options. Here, many gardeners say, "Just plant weeds, and that's xeriscaping." I think that's not entirely correct. ;')

    I'll be thinking about this for a long time.

  5. Your garden is lovely! I can't wait to start planting. I will be putting in vegetable and herb gardens this year. The tips you mentioned will be helpful. Thanks!