Driving through southwest Austin’s Travis Country neighborhood last week, on a tip from a regular reader (thanks, Charlene!), I spotted this terraced, lawn-gone garden. The front yard slants like a ski slope right down to the front porch, and I imagine the owners struggled with drainage issues during heavy rains if they started out with a typical lawn. Lawn grass easily absorbs light rains, but during downpours rainwater simply sheets off.
The solution? Terracing to break up the slope in a series of flat areas for planting and absorbing rainfall. Terracing also creates flat areas for paths and patios.
From the street, you enter the gravel garden via a flagstone path that meanders between clumps of flowering salvia and bulbine.
Low-maintenance structural plants like Agave americana var. mediopicta ‘Alba’ (the cream-and-green-striped agave), along with other agaves, aloes, and yuccas, mingle with softly textured Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima).
Holey limestone boulders make interesting accents.
I like how the gardener packed the holes with gritty soil and planted a succulent in one.
Along the left side, a curving retaining wall protects the root zone of existing trees. Just beyond, a dry stream directs water runoff from the neighbor’s lot. On a lower terrace, a small seating area has been carved out, with a chair and table for a relaxing, semi-private spot to enjoy the garden.
I only shoot from the public street or sidewalk when taking photos for my drive-by posts, so I couldn’t capture all the details of this enticing garden. But you can see a little bridge crossing the dry stream on the patio terrace — a charming touch.
The garden even extends into the “hell strip” between the sidewalk and the street, with small agaves and heat-tolerant spreaders like aptenia studding the casual flagstone paving. The plants are a nice way to soften the paving, although I’d be hesitant about putting any spiky plants here, where people may step on them and hurt either themselves or your prize agave.
Aside from that quibble, it’s a beautiful and waterwise garden from top to bottom, and I’m sure the owner enjoys the wildlife attracted to her flowering plants and grasses and the structural beauty of her desert plants — not to mention hardly having to water and never having to mow.
All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.