With record setting high heat, drought, and lake levels getting lower and lower it seems that xeriscaping would be all the rage in Central & South Texas but it’s not. Who started the fad of growing these expansive water hogging St. Augustine (“carpet” grass) lawns anyway? I have yet to know the full history behind this ecological disaster. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is a way out, and it is called xeriscaping. Not “zero scaping ” as it often is miscalled, implying that xeriscapes can’t be beautiful when they can be colorful & artistic when well designed. Xeriscaping is landscaping that is designed for drought and water conservation to protect our water supply and environment. A xeriscaped yard is not only beautiful, but uses less water, requires less maintenance and the native plants and flowers attract & provide habitat for native species of birds, butterflies & other living things.
One of the first steps in a xeriscape landscape plan is to reduce or eliminate the lawngrass. Another alternative is to replace the existing lawn with a grass that needs little water to live like zoysia or buffalograss. I look at many homes and landscapes in the Austin, Texas Metro area. Right now so many lawns are that sickly, depressing shade of yellowish brown. If left on their own, lawn grasses may die and weeds fill in. The next year I see people trying to re-sod with St. Augustine only to start this cycle again.
Learning More about What and How To Plant
Some great ways to learn about xeriscape plants are through the Native Plant Society of Texas, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, and local nurseries. The “big box” store nurseries still carry invasives, and plants that “look pretty” but are not good for conserving water. Some cities such as Leander, Texas and Austin, Texas have recommended plant lists. Leander’s is on the City of Leander website- search for Preferred plant list.doc and the City of Austin has a Grow Green section on their website. Go to the Plant Guide section. There is also a Grow Green booklet free of charge at the City or many Austin area nurseries. The City of Austin also has a Xeriscape Advisory Board to help homeowners design these water-wise gardens. Texas A & M Horticulture has some great information. The Williamson County Extension Office at 3151 Inner Loop Rd. in Georgetown, Texas has local demonstration plots at to see xeriscape plants & grasses growing. There is a map in the Extension Office & plants & trees are labeled & staked. The Wilco Master Gardeners maintain the xeriscaping gardens.
Professional Advice and Installation
You may choose to hire a professional landscape architect or designer to design a custom plan for your yard. The Austin Area has many experienced and knowledgeable professionals with many completed projects on the ground (or should I say “in” the ground! LOL). Many will design the landscape plan, giving you a drawing of where to plant what and a list of desired specimens but allow you to carry out your plan thus saving you money. Or, you may choose to have the entire design implemented completely by professionals while you relax in the air conditioning watching through the window! You avoid heatstroke that way!
Enjoying Your Xeriscape
Now that your own yard is a Texas Hill Country heat lovin’, water shruggin’ paradise, you may want to take a further step and get your home Certified as a Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation or the Texas Parks and Wildlife Texas Wildscapes or Best of Texas Backyard Habitat programs. Get a cool glass of fresh- squeezed lemonade, hibiscus tea or other cold beverage and go hand with your butterflies and birds, relishing in the thought that you are having a share in conserving water and our wonderful state.