Monday, December 1, 2008

Natural, Native, Sustainable, A Sense of Place

This Thanksgiving holiday we spent time at my brother's home, which is just west of Ft. Worth. They have a beautiful home and property on about 2 acres. The really cool thing about how they've landscaped it is that they've kept much of the native ecosystem intact. This property is in a suburban neighborhood of 1 to 2 acre properties, most of which have the traditional front yard of bermuda or, heaven forbid, St. Augustine grass. Now I have nothing against St. Augustine grass (I have some, actually way too much of it, myself). But the area these homes are located in is suffering from serious water issues and this past year they have been especially dry. Plus, this area is a beautiful ecosystem of hills, creeks, rocks (lots of them), and native plants like yuccas, cacti, and a multitude of different wildflowers.

So when my brother and his wife first moved in and started their "non-landscape", the neighbors were perplexed and some were none too happy. Where was the traditional front yard? Where was the grass and where were the foundation bushes? As you can see in this first photo, there has been some compromise. Buffalo grass was brought in and placed in large drifts from street level up towards the house. The other drifts are plants that were already existing on the property, like Little Bluestem grasses, yuccas, gayfeather, coreopsis, and other wildflowers.

As you get closer to the front porch and house, there are more non-native but well adapted plants. I think this is a key design point - plant what you like but marry it to the sense of place. In this photo you can see the retaining wall they built in front of the porch. It contains old garden roses, salvias, rosemary, artemesia, and other hardy but decorative plants.

There's a parking area/turn-around near the house made of gravel. Stepping stones lead to both the front porch and a "mud room garden". The entrance to the mud room garden has a gate and trellis with a climbing Old Blush rose. In the garden itself are herbs, roses, and flowering plants.

And of course, a little home made rain barrel tops off the mud room garden. All of these pictures were taken just last week but I wish you could see it in springtime. It's a fantastic riot of colorful wildflowers, birds, and butterflies. And most importantly, at least to my mind, it's a sustainable landscape that's well suited to the area.



  1. Jean, What a beautiful house and yard your brother and sister-in-law have. I got your e-mail today and have linked to you:)

  2. What a wonderful oasis they have created. Bet the neighbors are all envious now.

  3. Your brother's garden is lovely and so well suited to the native landscape. I hope he converts his neighbors!

  4. Hi Jean, that is a fantastic property! I love the house and the garden and the uses of native or already growing there things. This is a perfect example of how to do it right!


  5. Hi Jean, I love what they've done! and I hope that the neighbors start to emulate them. We have the same water issues here, and people are starting to respond by reducing lawns and thirsty plants.

  6. Jean, I think you should take some credit for the way our property looks. You introduced us to Texas native plants. Carolyn wouldn't buy any plants without bringing the book on Texas Native Plants to the nursery. That's the book you gave her for Christmas. You are a great gardener!

  7. All - I think the neighbors, at least some of them, are coming around.
    Brian - you all took it much farther than I ever envisioned!

  8. Jean, looking at your great pictures, I think your brother has done an excellent job with his use of native plants in his landscaping projects. Thanks for dropping by my blog and your comments. The Biedenharn family of Monroe, La originated in Vicksburg, MS and were also involved with Coca-Cola bottling later. (That's how they all made so much money!) I love your blog and will add it to my favorite blog list. Hope you and yours will have a happy holiday season. Jon at Mississippi Garden

  9. A wonderful property and philosophy! I wish more folks gardened as they do. Gail


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