Watersaver Tour in San Antonio, plus Inverness extras


Last Saturday I joined Jenny of Rock Rose for a road trip to San Antonio. We rumbled down there in her pickup truck, making a quick detour to a San Marcos stoneyard, where she picked up a half-yard of gravel for her garden. Could there be a more Texas way to road-trip than in a big brown pickup truck with a load of gravel in the back? Jenny may be British-born, but she’s a real Texas gal now.

Jenny and I were in San Antonio for the 2016 Watersaver Landscape Tour, a free event sponsored by San Antonio Water System (SAWS), Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST), and San Antonio River Authority. Our friend Heather of Xericstyle works for SAWS and was running the event with a big smile and plenty of can-do enthusiasm.


All the gardens were located in a single neighborhood: the luxury gated community of Inverness. The developer, we were told, preserves native plants in the green spaces and encourages homeowners to plant water-wise gardens.

We took a shuttle in and out of the neighborhood and walked a well-marked route to visit all 6 gardens. Along the way, we saw a number of pretty yards that weren’t on the tour, and I include a few pics of those at the end of this post.


But first, here are my favorite scenes from the various tour gardens. In this lawn-gone back yard, a red pergola makes an eye-catching focal point and shades a flagstone patio. A swag of succulents along the front beam is what really caught my eye.


I spotted another one snaking up a live oak’s trunk. The plants are growing in a black wire basket filled with soil and moss and attached to the trunk. Jenny vowed to make one of her own, which I look forward to reading about on her blog.


A little online sleuthing turned up the succulent designer in San Antonio who makes these beautiful creations, which she calls succulent vines: Abbey McKenna Succulent Designs.


San Antonio’s winter is a tiny bit warmer than Austin’s, so I’m guessing the owner leaves this outdoors and takes her chances, simply replanting any succulents that don’t make it through. That’s the same approach I have with my succulent wall.


We admired other succulent planters in the garden of Susan Bhatia, a modern xeric garden I visited last summer. This pot of Sticks on Fire euphorbia brightens the garage parking area.


Nearby, a scrim of horsetail adds a lush modern line to the garage wall. (Plant this only where it can be fully root-contained, as here, where it’s hemmed in by the house walls and the concrete driveway.)


‘Kissho Kan’ agave. I love those orange teeth and celery-edged leaves.


Here’s a great solution for a common garden eyesore — those utility bollards and boxes that are so hard to disguise. Susan surrounded hers with a gravel garden planted with bicolor iris and kangaroo paws and accented with contemporary gray pots of agave and other water-thrifty succulents.


Here’s a side view. You can still see the bollards, but the pots attract the eye instead and the irises help screen them. And yet access is preserved for the inevitable utility maintenance visits. I’m doubtful about whether those kangaroo paws will hold up once it gets hot and humid, but they sure look pretty right now.


All around the back yard, a Corten horizontal fence provides security and privacy while still allowing light and breezes. Corten isn’t inexpensive — not by a long shot — but it’ll last forever. To my mind, this is a fence of dreams.


As a complete change of place, how about a formal, French-style side garden at a neighboring house down the street? Cool, shady, and green, this courtyard must make a pretty view for those looking out from inside.

Those were my favorite scenes from the tour gardens. Other interesting vignettes spotted as we walked through the neighborhood included…


…this water-thrifty container, which I may one day replicate at home: red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) and ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense).


Simply beautiful!


At another house, the homeowners planted tufts of society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) instead of a front lawn. The plants were all flowering, to magical effect.


The grid-style planting echoes the lines of the contemporary paver walk.


A side view reveals other plants arranged in rows: dwarf yaupon holly, variegated dianella, and skullcap. All are deer resistant, which seems to be an important issue for Inverness residents — that is, if the amount of electrical fencing around agaves is any indication.

Click here to read Jenny/Rock Rose’s blog post about the tour. Next up: A return visit to Linda Peterson’s stucco-walled garden in San Antonio.

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
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27 Responses

  1. Renee says:

    Those gardens are very nice! Those succulent swags are great, and are such a nice touch. Thanks for sharing this inspiration!

  2. Looks like a great tour.

    Two Texas girls, ridin’ around with a load of gravel in the back of a pickup….sounds about right, to me. :)

  3. We need more people eating venison around the country. ;) I love those succulent ropes. Nothing would survive our winters but they sure are pretty. I especially like the one on the tree. They sort of look natural there.

  4. P.S. I meant to ask what are those big green lumpy things below the red pergola? Are they just some kind of sculpture or are they molded chairs?? They are bright.

  5. peter schaar says:

    I have that same combination of Graptopetalum and red yucca in a container by my front door! I agree, it’s a fantastic combination.

  6. Caroline says:

    I read LOTS of blogs in general, many of those gardening blogs, but still find that you are one of the very few that tends to highlight negativity, whether to a small degree or more blatantly.
    I do enjoy most of your content and PLEASE understand that I say this as a LONGTIME reader….But a reader who has left your blog (more than once) with a sour taste in my mouth. Not just because I disagree with something you’ve said, but more because of ‘how’ you have presented something, even small details. The best I could say is ‘presumptuous’ being the word that comes to mind.
    I hope you appreciate an honest critique from a genuine reader. And also please know that I’ve always come back, just less frequently, hoping it may change.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Wow, Caroline. I feel like I’ve been backhanded. I have no idea what you’re referring to, but of course every reader is entitled to her own opinion of my work. I write honestly (and generally very positively, as that’s my outlook), so don’t expect any changes. If you’re looking for something different, there are lots of wonderful blogs out there, and I’m sure you’ll find something you prefer to spend your time on. —Pam

  7. What a wonderful tour….I am surprised how much I like the red pergola. What creativity they have in their low water need gardens. You are absolutely right about the equisetum horsetail reed, I have a picture you can post of it growing out of a bed and into a lawn of a potential client. It is worse than bamboo when it comes to being invasive. It is perfect they way they have it however! I love that you and Rock Rose were in a pickup truck filled with gravel…..you are my kind of ladies!!! YEE HAW @—-)—

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Laurin, you’ve been busy traveling too lately, yes? I saw your picture with Lucinda Hutson on FB and am so glad you and Shawn had a chance to visit her beautiful garden! —Pam

  8. The red pergola and the corten fence and planters — yum, yum. I enjoyed touring the gardens with you and then with your truck-driving companion. Nice to compare the two posts and to see the gardens through different eyes.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yes, that’s one of the things I enjoy after Garden Bloggers Fling ends each year: comparing posts of all the different bloggers, each of whom sees the gardens from their own unique perspective. —Pam

  9. Melody McMahon says:

    Pam, Abbey McKenna is usually at Festival of Flowers every year selling her beautiful succulent creations. Hopefully you’ll see her when you’ll be there with your new book and letting people know how they too can have gorgeous yards with little or no lawn.
    P.S.
    Some people are just not happy campers! Keep on truck’n!

  10. […] whose dreamy garden I visited last September, invited a few friends over for tea after the San Antonio Watersaver Tour, and I was delighted to be included. Seeing Linda and her beautiful garden again in a different […]

  11. Helene says:

    Thanks for a great tour with so many great ideas! In terms of plants for drought areas we don’t really have the right conditions here in London for many of them, and don’t really need them either, but more and more people over here do away with their lawn or simply don’t water them for the summer – just leave them to recover again in the winter.
    I have been a no-lawn gardener for years and it was fascinating to see all the different solutions in your post, especially all the different garden art. I loved the swags of succulents, I wonder if I can manage to make something similar! I keep my few succulents outdoors all year too here in London so should be fine. Oh, I need to find out how to make these and start collecting many more new, smaller succulents!
    Thanks for the tour!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Hi, Helene. Thanks for visiting all the way from London! I think you probably have a good climate too for a succulent swag. It’s such a creative, unusual way to use succulents in the garden. —Pam

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