Back in the Saddle

2011 just about did me in. It was a six-month-long summer from hell, beyond any heat and drought imaginable. I am strongly affected by the weather, and that year drove me to resent where I lived. I didn’t go outside for 5 long months – May through September. Everything in the yard was dying or struggling, including decades-old oaks and elms. I gave up gardening then. Never had I worked so hard for such meager rewards.


Many things bit the dust in 2011.

Subsequently, in 2012, I posted about things other than gardening, and then, finally, nothing at all. I got very busy with a new job venture, and gardening went by the wayside other than maintenance.

Then the maintenance became too much – too hot, too expensive, too much to do every year. In my efforts to create a lovely native landscape, my water bills went up, my mulch bill skyrocketed, and now I had to pay the lawnmowers PLUS trim a bunch of native plants. More work and not enough enjoyment. I had begun to hate my yard.

I decided last summer that the winter projects this year are all intended to make the yard look better with less maintenance. That means less perennials to cut back twice a year. That means more tough evergreens that don’t need to be babied.

Pretty, but too much work to maintain.

Pretty, but too much work to maintain.

To accommodate this, the plants in the front yard Stop Sign bed played “musical chairs” in the fall. Things that were overgrown were either yanked out or moved. I only kept the perennials that I really, really liked.  For me, that short list is Pride of Barbados (one of the reasons I created the bed was so I could grow this), Esperanza, Moy Grande Hibiscus, Lantana and fall Aster.

Everything else now in the bed is either evergreen or a bulb/tuber (Iris, Society Garlic, Creme de Menthe Pittosporum, daylilies, Lambs Ears, Crape Myrtle, Mountain Laurel, Color Guard Yucca, Hardy Ice Plant).   Pics to come later when things start to green up, right now it is just a bunch of sticks.

Secondly, all the front beds were finally – at long last – finished off with limestone edging. The existing black plastic edging that was SUPPOSED to be temporary ended up being there over five years. So glad to see that gone.


BEFORE: The beds don’t have a good transition between the grass, and they are so empty in the winter with the perennials that I was using. They’re gone now, to be replaced soon by low maintenance evergreens.

So much better! Once the new plants are in place, I'll put this bed to rest for a while with some mulch and weekly watering.

AFTER Stage One: So much better already! Once the new plants are in place, I’ll put this bed to rest for a while with some mulch and weekly watering.

Good friend and tough love landscape designer Lori, Gardener of Good and Evil, reminded me to “plant what works”. Somehow I was finally ready to hear the advice: stop trying to create the landscaping of my dreams that doesn’t grow here. I can never have lush, acid-loving plants like hydrangeas, camellias, azaleas, lilac and more. It finally sunk in that I have to observe what can survive in Central Texas harsh environments and put in more of those things. Loropatelum ZhuZhou (more upright and easily pruned to a small tree than other varieties) is one of those, so it was added where I need some height by the front entrance. It grows quickly, so hopefully it will own that spot soon. I’ll soon add Pittosporum, Aralia, Color Guard Yucca and non-invasive Firepower Nandina to populate this bed. It will give me a consistent look, winter and summer, and is very low maintenance. (Yes!) 

There’s so much more to come. I’ll be blogging over the next few months – the re-do to create less maintenance has morphed into a complete makeover, front and back. It’s fun, I’m enjoying it, and hopefully I can continue to enjoy gardening again as I learn to stop trying to push the river.


11 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle

  1. The winter landscape in my garden is so boring. I’ve resolved to green it up with some evergreens. So, what was my first purchase? 6 firepower nandina. I saw them at BSN in all the fire red splendor and just had to have them. Gorgeous plant!

  2. Renewal is always good for the garden. New ideas, new plants a new look. After the past 3 years we are all ready to find the perfect plants for a Texas garden. Looking forward to seeing this new spring look in your garden.

  3. So smart! I am almost in the place that you are now – I’m realizing that maintenance can be a bear! I am so impressed that you are going to redo your landscaping with evergreens, easy perennials and lots of bulbs. It will be beautiful. Love the new edging – I was amazed how that one change made so much visual impact!

  4. Welcome back! Your redo is very inspiring and I really need to do the same. More hardscape, more evergreens, more drought-/frost-tolerant perennials that don’t need an annual whack back, more kicking back on the porch and in the hammock. Life’s too short for endless garden maintenance.

    totally agree, Caroline. After all, isn’t the point of all of this work that we want to be able to enjoy the yard?

  5. Are there perfect plants for Texas beyond the Mountain Laurel, Cenizo Sage and Yaupon, Jenny? Our climate seems to continue to change and the plants have a moving target now to accommodate.

  6. Laura, thanks for dropping by. I hope to document all the changes this year and hopefully maintenance will be lessened.

  7. Ally, They really are cute, aren’t they? I have purchased them yet – I was shocked at the prices for such a normal plant. But they’ll go in soon, I’ve got spots to fill.

  8. I’m glad you’re back, Robin! You are right that lots of flowering perennials, while pretty, can be work to maintain. And Lori offered excellent advice: plant what wants to grow here, not what one wishes would grow.

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