August 2001—New fence and limestone courtyard
This is the front yard, as it appeared in the summer of 2001. The St. Augustine/Bermuda lawn was mostly dead, thanks to a hot, dry summer with no water and an application of Round-Up. The wood-and-wire fence and the courtyard/path went in during the summer. Already they have defined the garden space and made it feel larger than it did when it was open and exposed to the street.
October 2001—Soil has been amended with compost and decomposed granite
In this photo, I’ve planted a few trees and cenizos in the amended soil (a truckload of Hill Country Garden Soil from Natural Gardener—great stuff for native plants). The Mexican bush sage, or salvia leucantha, blooming in the foreground is planted in front of the front porch. By the end of October, I’d finished planting the trees and shrubs in the front garden and had placed a bench and two chairs in separate seating areas.
Another view of initial planting in October
The following spring I did a secondary planting to fill in the holes—mostly smaller flowering plants like blackfoot daisy, zinnias, and coreopsis. I also edged the cedar path to the bench with pieces of limestone. The concrete birdbath—filled with a round stone and green glass, a colorful alternative to water—remained in this location for only one season. As the vitex beside it grew, I moved it to the other, sunnier side of the front garden.
April 2002—Spring growth
April 2002—Guara, bluebonnet, zinnias, vitex, and blackfoot daisies
The garden really filled in over the summer, and by that fall, though holes were still evident, it was very colorful. Below is a photo from the opposite side of the garden: the birdbath has already been moved, and a wrought-iron bench has been added. I soon discovered a flaw in my plan for this side—a complete lack of access to the center of the area. I ended up redoing this area in the spring of 2003, coming up with a plan that incorporated another circle. (Today, as seen from the second story of the house, the front garden is comprised of several circles or arcs: the courtyard’s limestone path, the arced path to the cedar bench, and a semicircular stepping-stone path that now meanders through this side of the garden. The birdbath and two concrete garden orbs reinforce the circular theme.)
October 2002—Mexican bush sage, Mexican oregano, lantana, flowery senna, and zexmenia
October 2002—Other side of front garden, with moonflower vine visible on fence in background
The back yard, like the front, began as an expanse of water-guzzling, boring St. Augustine lawn. As you can see in the photo below, taken in the fall of 2000, your eye travels straight across the lawn to the back fence. Not a pretty picture. This is move-in condition, minus a dying Arizona ash that occupied the rectangular area near the shed in the back left corner (the garage is in the left foreground). The markings indicate where we planned to remove grass in order to install a curvy path and a playscape for the kids.
Fall 2000—Back yard, pre-garden
After we put in the playscape and path that fall, I focused more on the front garden while making plans for the back. By the spring of 2002, when the front garden was starting to look like something, I had added a few beds to the back yard as well.
Late April 2002—Back yard with playscape and granite path
The playscape, surrounded by pea gravel, now occupies half the back yard. The curvy, decomposed-granite path meanders along the garage wall to the playscape and the shed. I put up a cheap, metal trellis and planted a passionflower vine on it. A possumhaw tree is visible through the trellis, and a non-native smoke tree grows in front of the slide. I later moved both trees, which underperformed in these spots.
Late April 2002—Birdhouses, lindheimer muhlies, and cedar elm
The other side of the playscape can be seen in the above photo, along with a bed I added in the fall of 2001, after a visit to my mother’s house in Tulsa; I was inspired by her numerous birdhouses on posts and wanted to put up a few to achieve a visual separation from the playscape, without truly obstructing my view of the children’s activities. In order to hide the fencing that dominated the view in the back yard, I also planted quite a few ornamental trees along the perimeter: Southern wax myrtles, a Texas mountain laurel, and a redbud near the cedar elm; yaupon hollies in the back corner under the tall hackberry; and in the opposite corner near the shed, another wax myrtle and a flameleaf sumac.
After one season of growth, here is how this bed looked in October of 2002. The muhly grasses and the cedar elm have both filled in a lot.
That fall I decided to replicate a container pond I’d seen at the Wildflower Center, which led to the creation of a new bed along the back porch. Below are pictures taken during the digging and planting of this bed. I used a galvanized stock tank for the container pond (see 2nd Year for first pond images).
October 2002—Digging out the bed
October 2002—Planted. Later, when we screened the porch, I eliminated the step-off area and redesigned the bed, which had become overgrown and crowded the porch.