Thursday, June 12, 2014

Water-Wise Tour Retrospect

Plano's first and my garden's first landscape tour was last Saturday. I am not sure anyone knew what to expect. Based on the turn out and response received to my garden, I think the tour went well. At least 243 people passed through my garden during the six hours the tour was open and more continued to stop or drive by for the next couple of hours. Somewhere around 3:20, the doorbell rang and a woman that said she had a late start wanted to ask questions and look around. I was exhausted after being outside in the heat since 7:00 AM and I was hungry. I declined as politely as possible and directed her to this blog. While I was turning her away, another couple walked up. I told them they could look around, but I was going inside because I was tired and hungry.

Here I am speaking about asparagus or drip irrigation or squash bugs or something. I have no clue. It was a crazy day. This photo was taken by my co-worker, Elaine, sometime around 11:30. I started placing plant tags around the garden an hour before the tour officially began and I was still carrying the last handful that I picked up as people started coming into the garden. Up until a few minutes before this photo was taken, I was without my hat, sunglasses and water. I thought I would have had an opportunity to go back inside before this time, but I was answering questions non-stop from the time the first visitor arrived. At one point, I just had to excuse myself and run inside. 


The volunteers and several visitors thanked me for having the plant tags. I thought they would be a good idea since most of my plants would be unknown to most of the visitors. By the way, thanks to the three Live Green in Plano volunteers that helped answer questions. I would have been in trouble without you. 

The next photos were taken as the sun was setting on tour day. I had hoped to get a few pictures while the tour was taking place, but it was just too busy. As I mentioned, visitors had a lot of questions. Often, I would be in the middle of answering one question when someone else would come up and ask another. My apologies if I did not get everyone's questions answered fully. I tried.

I think the most asked question of the day had to be "How old is that cactus?" Everyone was surprised that it is only about six years old. I spoke to a couple of people that said they read the blog, but nobody ever mentioned my comment in a post where I said I would give a cactus pad to the first three people that asked for one. Since no one was asking for them, I started offering them to people that expressed an interest in the cactus. 

Another subject of many questions, comments and photos was the horsetail reed growing in a stock tank in the front yard. There may be more stock tanks showing up in Plano in the future.

There were several plants still in bloom, like this Rock Penstemon which did not begin blooming until the week of the tour. Although I have made a point of including native plants in the garden that will extend the blooming seasons as long as possible, I was concerned that there would not be much blooming by tour date. There was no need for those concerns. The garden was full of blooms. People were surprised to find out that I did all of the design and installation of the garden myself. One woman asked if I had a regular job. I assume she thought it required a lot of time and effort to maintain the garden. The truth is, I do not spend much time on maintenance. Most of the time in the garden is because I am expanding or changing things around.

Remember my storage area in the backyard that was filled with rocks, flagstone, and other landscape materials? Here it is after being cleaned up. I moved the flagstone and hid everything else in plain view. One example is the boulder footstool, front and center.

Another example of hiding in plain view is my plant shelf made of extra concrete edging.

All of my homeless plants that still need to find a place in the soil were clustered in a corner.

I made a dry pond out of the remaining boulders. Can you get more water-wise than a waterless water feature?

I made this sedum planter out of an old metal bird bath. A hole rusted out of the bottom years ago and it was just laying around in my storage area with the rocks. Somebody asked me how often I watered it. The truth was that I only watered it once because I created it the night before. I think she kind of figured that out and teased me a bit.

Here is another view of the sedum planter. The flowering tobacco was an attention getter. The tallest one is about six feet tall and no one had seen this variety before. They were comparing it to the foot tall ones frequently found in the home centers. This variety is Nicotiana sylvestris. It will often return from the roots as a perennial or reseed. It is relatively drought tolerant, even with the large leaves.

The Purple Horsemint was a standout in the back garden. It was in peak bloom. I was concerned that some people would be afraid because the flowers were swarming with bees. As far as I could tell, there were no panic attacks and no stings. People loved the Giant Coneflower too.

Several people were educated in asparagus gardening. They were unfamiliar with its growth habits and harvesting. For anyone else that is interested, you harvest spears as they first poke out of the ground in the spring. Any spears that are not harvested will continue to grow to a height over six feet tall and produce fern-like foliage. Visitors were also introduced to the many things you can make with cattle panel, such as asparagus cages, tomato cages, and arches for vine crops like squash and beans.

I was surprised that there was so much interest in my Wooly Pipevine. The leaves are not especially attractive once they mature and are chewed on by pipevine swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Most of the caterpillars had crawled away to pupate and I had an opportunity to point out the pupa to a few visitors. There was one caterpillar munching away that attracted much attention. One visitor thought I was joking when I called this a pipevine since it was growing on a copper pipe trellis.

I am happy to say the garden came through the tour relatively unscathed and a lot of people learned a little about some unfamiliar plants and a different approach to landscaping.  More people will have an opportunity to see and learn from my garden in the future as I was asked to participate in tours for two gardening clubs. Maybe the landscape standard in Plano is beginning to change.

24 comments:

  1. I had to work on Saturday and missed the tour, but I've been dragging friends over to view your front yard from the sidewalk. Their questions have surprised me. First they ask, "How much did it cost to change from grass?" Second, "Does the city give rebates, incentives, or subsidies to transition to water-wise landscaping?"

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    1. Collagemama, I just saw your preview post of the garden tour. You had an interesting prediction on how it could go. I am sure I would have blushed if it went the way you said. http://collagemamabreakfast.blogspot.com/2014/06/water-wise-rock-star-i-knew-him-when.html
      Let me know if you want to see the garden from a different angle than the sidewalk.
      As for your friend’s questions, I measure the cost of removing the grass in hours, sweat, and, sometimes, blood. Monetarily, it did not cost much, but it did take some time and effort since I did most of the work by hand. Plano does offer some rebates for planting water wise landscapes. The latest information can be found at http://www.plano.gov/2338/The-Great-Update-Rebate

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  2. Fantastic recap, Michael. It's very interesting to hear the homeowner's perspective on a garden tour. You must have been absolutely exhausted when it was over. I am really in awe of how you hid your extra construction materials in plain sight - and so effectively! Are you going to keep the red Adirondack seating area? It looks wonderful as the focal point through the arbor.

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    1. Thanks Pam. I did have other perspective about the tour that I withheld, but all in all, it went well. I am glad I cleaned up my storage area. I don’t think anybody would have realized how it looked a few days earlier unless they saw my pictures on this blog. I should be able to keep this area clean because I am running out of projects and made a new storage space next to my compost pile. The chairs were cheap plastic. I moved them out of the sun so they will last longer and I will move them back out when I need them.

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  3. Michael I think you may start a trend with that waterless pond. Very clever! I'm so glad the tour was a big hit. Judging from the photos, your garden looked great!

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    1. Ally, do you think my waterless pond needs a waterless fish or two?

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  4. Awesome, sounds like it was a worthwhile tour, despite the hecticness. I would have loved to have come if I'd been in the area. I'm jealous of your nicotiana...the deer love it here.

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    1. I would not think deer would care too much for nicotina since the leaves are sticky and smell, Misti. Of course, I have absolutely no experience with the creatures.

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  5. Love your pictures. I'm glad you and your garden came through the tour unscathed. I was surprised by how non-trampled even my lawn looked after the tour in May. I'd heard so many horror stories that I was prepared for the worst.

    Also, love the nicotania. I've tried to plant it before, with no success. Guess I will be trying again! I'm a sucker for anything that fragrant.

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    1. Lori, I took the cyber tour of your garden when it was on CTG a few weeks ago. I tried not to step on anything. Here is the link for anyone that would like to take the tour: http://video.klru.tv/video/2365224354/
      As for horror stories, I did not talk to anyone that had done a tour before. I just concocted my own horror stories. Since I work in the insurance business, the liability exposure was my biggest concern behind damaged plants and property.

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    2. Interesting you mention the liability exposure Michael. We have been asked to put our garden on tour and the first thing that we thought of is the liability issue. It's good to know we're not the only ones who are concerned about inviting the public in to the garden.

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    3. Shirley, I did everything I could think of to eliminate potential problems. Tripping over uneven surfaces was the main concern. I hope you decide to participate in a tour. There is much to be learned from your garden.

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  6. So glad to hear your garden tour was a success. Yes, from experience I know that it is a truly exhausting day but exhilarating at the same time. You and your garden put on quite a show. I may have missed seeing some of those areas before and they are really lovely. You just show how beautiful a garden can be without grass and with native plants. I hope you sat down and had a cool beer at the end of the day.

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    1. Rock rose, after a couple of weeks getting ready for the tour and then the actual tour day, I was pretty exhausted. Yes, there was one corner of the backyard that has not been seen much because it was a storage area. Now it is a sitting area with a dry pond.

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  7. The great reception your garden received from visitors is not surprising and it's good to hear there just might be a new gardening style taking over up there in Plain-o. Your garden looks fantastic and your solutions to all those extra materials is awesome! The color on those orange prickly pear blossoms is beautiful and sedum in the old birdbath looks great.

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    1. Shirley, it will be interesting to see the landscape change that occur in plain-o Plano in the coming years as we acknowledge the reality of limited water supplies. I was glad the cactus was in bloom for the tour. The flowers start out pure yellow and get an orange tinge by the end of their second (and final) day.

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  8. It sounds like your tour was extremely successful! And lots of questions means that lots of people are really interested in what they were seeing...and probably thinking about trying parts of it.

    Your photo of the purple horsemint in the backyard makes me realize that I need to seed some in my garden beds. I've been able to establish a light population in one of our prairie areas, but I think I've missed the best spot for it!

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    1. There does seem to be a lot of interest, Gaia Gardener. I talked to several people that wanted someone to do the work for them. I could not refer them to anyone because I don’t know anyone since I always to my work myself. I was telling people that I started out with one horsemint plant and ended up with all of the ones they saw around the garden. I have to cut the dried seedheads off before the seeds spread, otherwise I will have little horsemint seedlings popping up everywhere, including the pathways.

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  9. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your tour. I have done refuge tours and birding tours that just go on and on. But I find it hard to stop when everyone is having fun. I'm sure all your visitors really enjoyed it.

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    1. I think everybody had a good time, Marilyn. I bet the tour is bigger and better next year.

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  10. It looks like a very successful tour!

    You should list the most answered questions on a hand out or add information signs by those plants. Answering the same questions over & over would be so tiring.

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    1. Jenny, I had planned to have a handout with a link to this blog available, but did not get around to doing one. Maybe next time.

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  11. Well done Michael. I would love to visit sometime, however, my children have moved to Oklahoma City and I no longer visit San Antonio. shucks, maybe someday.

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    1. You are welcome to stop by if you are in the area, as long as I can do the same if I am in Kansas.

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