Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Plano Water-Wise Landscape Tour Drive-bys

Plano's first Water-Wise Landscape Tour is this Saturday, June 7. Now that the map is posted, people have been driving by to get a look at my landscape. In fact, while I was hard at work getting the garden ready this past weekend, several people came by early because they would be out of town on June 7. Some of them wanted to look around and ask questions, while others remained in their cars and pointed at plants and asked questions. Of course, I obliged.

I sort of understand, because I drove by each of the locations as soon as the map was posted and took a few pictures of each garden landscape from the comfort of my car. (I keep wanting to call this a garden tour. Officially, it is a landscape tour.)

On a side note, I could have been on the news talking about my garden today. While I was at work, reporters for two different channels left messages on my home phone asking me to call them. By the time I got the messages, it was too late. I am embedding the interviews the reporters made with the other homeowners below.

So here is my Memorial Day Drive-by Tour. All of the locations are within a couple of miles of each other, so anyone should be able to tour these landscapes and then head to Dallas for the Dallas Water-Wise Landscape Tour

My first stop was in front of 1420 Sacramento. This is definitely a water-wise and low maintenance landscape.  The front yard is mostly mulch with patches of drought tolerant plants like Artemisia, Autumn Sage, Mexican Feathergrass, and a few others.

I wonder if they plan on filling in some of those empty spaces with more plants? The existing plants probably will not spread too much on their own because the mulch looks pretty thick, which is great for helping to hold moisture in the soil but not so great for allowing plants to spread. Their plant list shows they have a drought tolerant variety of turf grass called "artificial" in the backyard. This should be a hit for people that are interested in a low maintenance green carpet for their property. Personally, I would go for a native grass seed blend like HABITURF if I wanted a low maintenance, drought tolerant lawn. Plastic grass will not last forever and it will eventually end up in the landfills where it will take a long time to break down once covered in soil

 wrote the above captions yesterday. Today's interview with the homeowner answers some of my questions. Here is a link to the text of this piece.

The next stop on my drive-by tour was 1421 Natchez. Of all of the landscapes on the tour, this one is most like mine, if not a little wilder.

Just like my garden, Bluebonnets are going to seed in the parkway. The house is barely visible behind all of the plants.

An arbor welcomes guests up the sidewalk and into the garden. Notice all of the stonework. A stone mailbox was In the previous photo. In this photo stonework lines the inside of the public sidewalk and supports the arbor. Red Yucca adds a dash of color to the landscape.

A better view of the stonework along the sidewalk and a short fence.

A wider shot pulling away from the property.

And one more stone feature in the parkway. I would like to get a better look at this garden some day.
Here is the interview with the gardener and a link to the text story.

3325 Canoncita is the next stop. I have been here before. Not for a garden tour, but for a solar energy tour. They have solar panels on this side of the house and the back side of the house. Large flowerbeds and pathways reduce the lawn and lions guard the sidewalk.

A couple of Desert Willows are in the flowerbed on this side of the house.

The fourth stop on my drive-by tour is another garden that I visited before. The one has been on the Dallas Water-Wise Landscape Tour a couple of times before Dallas limited eligibility for their tour gardens to the Dallas City Limits.
  
This landscape is mostly lawn in the middle with large flowerbeds with native plants on the sides.

This flowerbed runs along the alley on the right side of the house. In the backyard, they have more flowerbeds, a nice little enclosed garden off with an entrance from the house, and, I believe, the backyard is buffalo grass. This garden was featured in the Dallas Morning News a couple of years ago. Click the link for the story and photos.

My next stop was the Environmental Education Center, which is the headquarters for the landscape tour. The address is 4116 W. Plano Parkway. Talks and tours will take place throughout the day. I got out of the car for this stop, but it was a quick walk through the garden because it was raining.

I would not mind having a timber bench like this in my garden.

Motivational rocks and low water landscaping.

The children's play and learn area.

The bird blind was upgraded with a tile mosaic.

The blind was not needed to see an egret wading in the creek/drainage ditch that runs alongside the EEC.

Lots of water-wise plants in the landscape of this LEED certified (Platinum) building.

Click this link for my more detailed post on the Environmental Education Center.

The prairie garden at Prairie Creek Baptist Church is not part of the tour, but worth a look. The address is 3201 W. 15th Street. You can drive all around the church to view the gardens or get our for a closer look.

Blooming wildflowers include Mexican Hat and Mealycup Sage. 

There are also Standing Cypress, Indian Blanket, Horsemint, and Cutleaf Daisy. Here is a link to last year's post on God's Prairie Garden.

Finally, my own garden received the same drive-by treatment.

The bright orange flowers of Butterfly Weed stand out in the garden. Coneflowers, Cutleaf Daisy, and American Basket Flower bloom in the background. 

Come on out on Saturday to see the landscapes. Remember, the first three people to ask me will receive a pad from my "spineless" prickly pear that is ready to plant. 

20 comments:

  1. These are all lovely. Thank you for sharing them for those of us who are too far away to visit. One of my first thoughts on seeing the first property was that it did seem to have a lot of empty space. I'd like to have a conversation with the gardener about that. Horticulturist Linda Chalker-Scott does recommend giving plants ample space if the goal is to create a xeric garden. I read once where gardeners tend to try to use English country gardens as the model for planting density but that model is inappropriate for arid climates. Ironically, some of the plants we exemplify as xeric even tend to be water hogs. I found one of Professor Chalker-Scott's fact sheets on the web for anyone interested in learning more about xeric garden and some common misconceptions. Her work is absolutely brilliant. One of my go-to sources for information.

    http://puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda%20Chalker-Scott/Horticultural%20Myths_files/Myths/Xeriscaping.pdf

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  2. There's a good variety of options on the tour to encourage visitors who want to get started on their own watersaving landscapes. The garden on Natchez looks like a San Antonio garden. While it's good to show the mulch option on tour, in my volunteer work with homeowners just beginning their waterwise landscaping we encourage them to go with a full lush garden as most would be put off the idea if they thought the requirement is a sea of sparsely planted gravel or mulch. More than 20 years of data in San Antonio show that even densely planted areas of native/adapted garden plants use less water than non-native turf lawn which is the goal.

    Your garden looks great and all ready for Saturday. The Prairie Creek Baptist Church garden looks wonderful too and should be recommended as a stop on future tours.

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    1. Austin has a sub tropical climate so outside of drought periods we can easily support dense plantings but people out on the dryland prairies and in places like Arizona might average around 10 inches total. In those areas dense plantings of even xeric plants will require supplemental water to survive. The irony is that planting succulents which people think are xeric actually can draw in more water than conventional landscapes. Succulents -evolved- to tap and store water and newbie gardeners tend to give them far more water than they need. Put too many succulents planted too closely together and the result is a landscape using more water than even turf. Some garden writer described these artificial landscapes as Disneyland gardens: all facade. Well meaning people new to gardening can misunderstand the ecological concepts of arid environments. Events like these are ideal opportunities to help people learn more and to become better land stewards.

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    2. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Shirley and Debra.

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  3. There's definitely a range of offerings and tastes on the tour. I learned something by looking at each of the landscapes, even if it's just what types of elements do not appeal to me. I'd be really curious to see how the landscapes look on drive bys during other seasons. My experience with large mulched areas in San Antonio is that they look good when the mulch and plants are fresh but can look neglected as the mulch settles and fades, especially in the winter and early spring when the perennials have frozen back. Still, I haven't found a better option than mulch for dry shade under oak trees. In those situations, when hardscaping/pathways aren't appropriate, it's easier to maintain mulch during the leaf, acorn and pollen drops than it is to maintain gravel. In sunny situations like yours, the gravel looks good.
    Enjoy your role hosting people on the tour. What an honor!

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    1. Maybe I will do a followup drive by of the gardens in October. I know mine will look much different than it does now. I understand how mulches are preferable to gravel in shady areas. I have a decomposed pathway that runs under the canopy of a neighbor's live oak and I am constantly trying to remove tree debris.

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  4. Those first 4 gardems, plus the environmental ed center and church, remind me much of early xeriscape conversions in arid Albuquerque during the 1990's - organic mulches, flowering herbaceous plants. Though as you say, in DFW, something like Habiturf lawn (and more flowering) can work fine, I bet in even your drier years. The iron fencing in the Natchez garden is distinctive. Sounds like a good tour!

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    1. David, we are still learning about water conserving landscapes here in DFW. Organic mulches and flowering plants are more appropriate here than in Albuquerque since we typically have our wet seasons and clay soils.

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  5. If homeowners are looking for a waterwise garden make-over they are sure to find something to their taste among the large variety of gardens on tour. At the very least they may learn about the kind of plants that take less water. Thanks for taking us on the tour. I enjoyed it very much.

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    1. Thanks Rock rose. There was a good variety and something to be learned in all of the gardens.

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  6. Thanks for the virtual tour since I have to work tomorrow. Did a stealth drive-by this evening, and your yard looks fantastic. Strange to learn we've lived less than a mile apart for years. I hope you are ready for the fame and acclaim that will be coming your way!

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    1. Collagemama, you are welcome to come by for a more thorough tour anytime.

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  7. May I send the photo(s) of the Baptist Church to a church we have in Katy? The Katy church sits on 12 acres of former prairie that they religiously(pardon the pun) mow every week. Not a single wildflower gets to peek from the sea of green without being beheaded. If they could only see these photos, they might think of some new possibilities! You never know!!!
    I also love your environmental center grounds. What a great place to show people how to do it. Great job!
    David/:0)

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  8. It sounds like tour-goers, like garage salers, like to stop by early to see what they can see before the masses arrive. Kind of a drag for the gardener trying to get work done before the tour, but you were kind to answer their questions. I agree that these gardens all give various ideas of low-water landscapes, but I'm most inspired by yours, the Natchez garden, and the Environmental Education Center garden. In fact, the EEC garden could easily be scaled down for a homeowner's garden, with a broad, winding decomposed granite path taking the place of a central lawn and xeric beds surrounding it.

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    1. Pam, I found that some tour goers arrive early and others arrive late. The EEC garden is great for inspiration.

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  9. are there any Plano "weed" ordinances one has to be mindful of when planning a natural, water wise landscape? i would hate to plant native grasses and have the city come by and tell me i am violating the "weed" ordinance if the grass goes above the standard--

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    1. Grass is not allowed to be over 12 inches tall. I think code enforcement works primarily from complaints so you should lessen your chances of having problems if you stay on good terms with your neighbors and keep the garden looking neat. Somebody in Plano wrote me that he was having problems with code enforcement because he was growing vegetables in his front yard. I don't know what his garden looks like, but I got the impression that it was more functional than aesthetic.

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  10. Hello my friend, hope you are well. The spineless cactus pad you gave me a couple of years ago is thriving in a pot by one of my rain barrels! One of these days I'll get around to transplanting it into the ground. Your gardens look lovely as always, the most aesthetically pleasing of those shown, but then, I'm biased.

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    1. Hey stranger. Glad the cactus is doing well. So is the purple one you gave me. It is still in a pot too.

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