Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I was searching the internet for "Plano xeriscape" and saw a picture of my front garden and mailbox that I did not recognize. I clicked on the photo and, surprise, surprise, it turned out to be a video from a local news broadcast from September 5, 2013. 

The reporter interviewed a woman that lives one street over from me after the Texas Legislature passed a law requiring HOAs to allow drought tolerant landscaping. Video clips of my front garden appear throughout the interview.

That is my garden from 0:43-0:44, 0:54-0:57, 1:03-1:12 and 1:37-1:40. There were some nice shots of my mailbox and an exhaust vent on the roof too.

I never knew this happened. I wonder if they interviewed my neighbor and, as the reporter and camera crew were driving away, they saw my garden and the reporter screamed "Stop the van! A real little house on the prairie! Now, that's what I'm talkin' about!" 

Maybe she rang the doorbell, hoping to interview me. Who knows? That could have been my stepping stone to my own TV gardening show or at least a video on YouTube.

Sadly, I did not answer the door when destiny called because I was away at work. Sigh. I could have been a star.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Speaking of Garden Tours...

On May 18, I attended the 13th annual White Rock East Garden Tour & Artisans. This tour showcases gardens and work of artisans in the Forest Hills, Little Forest Hills, and Casa Linda Estates neighborhoods in East Dallas near White Rock Lake and the Dallas Arboretum. The nine gardens (three in each neighborhood) are within a few blocks of each other so it is easy to make several stops without putting many miles on the car. 

Starting the tour in Forest Hills, a dinosaur in front of to the Comini Garden on Whittier Ave seems a little upset that visitors have disturbed her gardening. So be it. This garden was certainly the most popular and interesting on the tour, even though plants were not the focus of the garden.

Stock tanks and water features were everywhere in this garden. There were so many stock tanks, you would think you were in Austin. This was the first time I have seen stacked stock tanks. Water pours out of the wall through an air conditioning duct boot and into a small stock tank set upon a larger stock tank. Water from the smaller, slightly tilted stock tank overflows into the larger tank.

A boardwalk guides visitors around the front yard.

While an anole takes it all in stride.

Another stock tank in the front yard. This one has water flowing through an old-style hand pump.

The boardwalk widens to make room for a small seating area with a fire pit.

 The boardwalk guides visitors around to the backyard and alongside an in ground pond.

A little further into the backyard is a partially submerged stock tank which is somewhat disguised by corrugated metal and flagstones. Another piece of corrugated metal is used to create a waterfall effect.

Here is the water feature from  a different angle. In the background is the covered patio for a small structure called the Lake House.

The Lake House is complete with a bed, rocking chair and assorted fishing gear. Old bed springs on the wall are used to display fishing lures. Someone may have suffered some misery here. I did not notice the hand coming out from under the bed until I was reviewing pictures at home.

A second structure in the backyard is called the Camp House. The Camp House has a camping and hunting theme.

If you have a Lake House and a Camp House, you also need an Outhouse and this is the name of the third structure in the backyard. The Outhouse has a working toilet, sink, and shower.

As I was getting ready to leave the garden, I passed by this stock tank combo with a large metal elk standing nearby and two decoy ducks in the upper tank. There were several other water features at this garden that I did not photograph, including additional stock tanks and a swimming pool. The homeowner allowed visitors to step into sections of her home for a look around. It reminded me of a cowboy museum of sorts.

The next stop was the Blanchard Garden on San Fernando Way. Yuccas, agaves, palms, and a few other shrubs grew in the beds near the entrance. Around in the backyard was a swimming pool and lots of lawn. What interested me most in this photo was the metal roof.

Even more interesting to me was the fence. It was made with horizontal planks attached to PostMaster fence posts. I would certainly consider a fence like this if I had not put in a new fence a couple of years ago.

This is a view of the fence from the inside. 

On to the Little Forest Hills neighborhood. This is the Kimberlin Garden on Santa Clara. A cedar post arbor spans the width of the sidewalk near the street. 

In the backyard, another cedar arbor divides the backyard into two distinct areas. A rose garden is on the house side. Sorry, no photos. Too many people.

On the back side of the arbor is a sitting area with a fire pit.

On the way to the next garden on Groveland, I walked by this garden. It was on the tour last year and you can read Shirley's account of the garden at Rock-Oak-Deer. This house is currently on the market for $450,000. It is an interesting house and garden, but a bit pricey for a 1,550 square foot house. Open house this weekend.

The house next door has a large gravel driveway around the house with a few plantings near the house and street. It is a little stark, but definitely low maintenance. Shirley had a picture of this landscape in her post as well. I have no photos to share of the garden on Groveland that was actually on the tour.

The last stop is in the Casa Linda Estates. The Mason Garden on San Saba is on a large, sloping creek lot. I thought these flagstone steps leading toward the creek were nice.

Here is a shot showing visitors crossing the creek.

After leaving the Mason Garden, I walked next door because this garden caught my eye while driving down the street and I wanted a better look. It is a long way from the street to the house. Visitors must walk down these steps.

And then they cross a bridge before climbing stone steps to get to the house. The garden has several rock terraces to help level out the grade. For a moment, I considered how I would landscape this property if it was mine.

And those are the highlights of the 2014 tour from my perspective. 

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.

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.