pricklypearsatx(z8)August 23, 2010

Is it possible for a no grass front yard to look decent?

I wonder if I'm doing something wrong "design wise"?

Several years ago, I removed the grass in my front yard due to water restrictions here in San Antonio, Texas.

However, the only plants that have been able to survive next to my front sidewalk (AKA curb area-reflective heat) are Texas native plants such as cactus, yucca, salvia, lantana, and cenizo (Texas ranger -leuchophyullum)

(I've had short term success with a few others, such as rosemary and bulbine. I lost an attractive rosemary hedge to heavy rains one year. I lost my bulbines to a freeze this past winter... I've tried all sorts of others...)

The area next to the curb is awful and unlike grass, my eyes don't flow through this type of native vegetation. It looks too busy.

Additionally, plants that look overgrown in the summer, look too bare in the winter..

I don't know what would look worse, this or burnt Bermuda grass. However, I've spent so much $$$$ putting in and taking out plants.... not to mention the water required to get plants established.

Does anyone else have this same problem??

Just curious...

Here is the spot in summer


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Here's my two cents from California where I have a few acres of xeriscape plantings. It's difficult to transition from an easy-on-the-eyes lawn that seems to flow to the rugged look of native plantings. I would recommend that you model your yard on someplace that you absolutely love, perhaps from a book or botanical garden in your zone. Also consider what the ground cover will be between the plants; mulch, gravel, rocks, etc as this even material can really dress up some unruly looking plantings when they are "off season". Looking at your pix, I would try to create some sort of geometry or flowing lines along your garden space and maybe also plant less greenery with a sense of deliberate scattering.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 9:57PM
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nmgirl(8 S.NM)

Looks too busy to me too. It also looks crowded and planted in straight lines. I'll admit it's hard to see much detail from the small pictures. I don't feel "flow" or sense of space in the plantings. What was your original design like? It sounds like you have a nice variety of plants, perhaps this winter when they're dormant you could lift and reset a few? Well, maybe not lift the prickly pear. ; ) Is that a small tree or a yucca stalk I see next to it?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 11:10PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I would use more wandering jew, Euphorbia rigida, nolina texan , nolina lindheimeri, salvia madrensis (shade lover), salvia gregii, salvi chamaedryodes, and mexican oregano. I cover my bulbine on the big freezes. I also grow Aloe maculata, aloe peglarai, aloe aristada. I covered them with frost cloth and 5 gal pots stuffed in leaves. I also grow Flame acanthus, kninophia, salvia chiquita and lots of agaves, big and small. Maybe some yellow lantana, nepeta walkers low gives a long show of color. Artimesia powels castle is a good silver leafed low maintance plant. Silver ponies foot is a good xeric ground cover..Santolina gives a nice xeric low shrub for the hell strip.Mexican primrose.

yes it is a different look.and it takes a while for things to grow in. Use some much, either bark or rocks to minimize the bare dirt look. It also helps hold in the water. There is a lot of work on the front end and things will look better and better.

I think it ALREADY looks better than burnt bermuda. Hang in there. and look around at other plantings. I think you are well on your way.I think that the fact that your yard changes with the seasons is great.Flow with it and pick up some cheap anuals to stick in there if it really bothers you. I find that oxalis (wood sorel) will work nicely where the wandering jew is. Growing in the late winter early spring and dying off when the wandering jew starts. Watch out oxalis can spread. So will Mexican primrose.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 11:16PM
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Salviakeeper & nmgirl: I'm not very good at putting voids between plants. That has been the hardest part of this endeavor. Plants spaced out with mulch look good in other people's yards, but when I try it in mine, it looks weird.
Thanks for the suggestion. Now, how do I deal with how I percieve voids/mulched space?

nmgirl: I used to have leucophyullum "green cloud" in this spot, then I went with salvia greggi. I think the leucophyullum had more substance.

Wantonomara: I like the idea of the oxalis under the wandering jew. Great idea! I like green santolina, but are we too humid in San Antonio/Austin?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 12:17AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Santolina grows great in Austin (my town). Are you on clay or limestone cr@p? I forgot to mention lavender if you are on limestone soils. Yes., Some wood sorrel came in and infected my lot in down town Austin, and it did beautifully with the wandering jew but it did go where it was not wanted. I grew to accept it. It would get rust and die off above ground just as it got warm and humid and the wandering jew was taking off. Nice looking rocks make the void work. Especially if there is a change in level. Also a well placed pot will fill the void but move it off when stuff under it starts to come up.silver ponies foot will fill the void too till it freezes.

I do have a tendency to throw it all in and then different things come up and entertain me.

OHH, a great xeric low void filler that has interest all year is sedum palmerii. It is hardy to 0 degrees, drought hardy, takes shade and sun, blooms well and proliferates. Grows from cuttings amazingly easy. I can send you a box full and you will have a good start on a bank in no time. blooms in february.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 10:21PM
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My soil is 1 foot of clay fill over caliche...

I decided to go back to my old beds, which were cenizo. They have some smaller green varieties now. I had taken the cenizo out several years ago, because I wanted to get away from the "rock garden look". But I think the cenizo had more substance.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 12:34AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

The Lin Lowery variety of cenizo is a lowish and very floriferous.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 5:49PM
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I saw this low growing leucophyllum hedge at UTSA last summer and it looked a lot like rosemary. (I don't know if it is Lynn Lowery or what)

I couldn't resist taking a pic. Doesn't it look like rosemary?

Leucophyllums are life savers in difficult places and I'm glad that they have come out with smaller varieties in green.

Lynn Lowery is going to be a "Texas Superstar" in 2012.

About how tall/wide will Lynn Lowery get?

Is it about the size of these in the picture?


    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 3:19PM
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I second wantonamara on most of what she said. Also, if you've got clay over caliche, make sure you scoop a healthy amount of humus material into the hole you dig each time you plant. This is a great way to improve the soil over time without tearing everything up or killing yourself digging it in. If you have the energy, dig the hole a little bigger than you normally would, that way you are improving the area a little faster. Lavender will hate wet clay.

Also, my favorite mulch is pecan shell. It works like rock, but doesn't turn my soil rocky and degrades over time. It looks better than bark as it degrades and kind of works into the dirt. I had a dumptruck of it delivered and love it.

You seem to enjoy looking at plants. I like to sit near an area I want to plant and stare at it and daydream for awhile. Then I get ideas for what would look good, like in a painting. Like wantonamara said, pretty containers can fill in nicely.

I love agastache, but that might require some soil ammending. I think it would work great with just a little tilling and humus. Also, what about bulbs for spring? There are some gorgeous Iris that might work, some of them re-blooming. Nepata and Artimesia are easy. Also, yarrow (moonshine yarrow will grow anywhere) and aster can be nice, colorful, easy fill-ins.

Just for fun, you could stick a pole bird feeder in the middle and fill it with birdseed.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 4:52PM
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P.S. as far as design, I agree it is much better than bermuda grass and an excellent start. My opinion is that it is left-heavy (maybe move a big plant toward the right side?) and could use some warm tones (oranges, yellows, etc...). Plants are costly, so moving them around or dividing them is a good idea. Your rosemary ("Irene" I think?) wouldn't like very cold temps, but more likely your problem may have been the clay. They can be fussy in cold, wet clay.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 7:45PM
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Thanks everyone:

I agree 100 percent with Humster. It is very "left heavy". (The left side began as a small area next to the driveway way back in 1996, but the adjacent grass wasn't removed until 2006...so that's why)

I also like the idea of pecan shell mulch...

After thinking long and hard, I liked the idea of an "evergreen grass". So, I decided on Texas Nolina.
( Couldn't find any in San Antonio, so I had to order it)

Although I have good luck with "cool season annuals" in this spot, they leave a "summer gap" and with our water restrictions forget it...

I also can't find Lin Lowery cenizos around here either grhhh, grhhh, grhhh.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 1:36PM
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