When you use the words “xeriscape” and “South Texas” together, it conjures images of cactus and rock yards. That’s pretty much the xeriscape norm around here. It makes sense – we live in an area highly prone to drought, and even when we’re not in drought, we’re always under water restrictions. Our weather is volatile and extremely hot. For half the year, temps are up in the 90s and 100s, and the direct sun is brutal. It’s not unusual to see news reports of pavement temps being well over 140 in the sun, 120 in the shade. A plant has to be super hardy to live around here. I grew up thinking that green grass in the winter and brown grass in the summer was normal.
Grass and lawns are not good for my part of the world, not to mention that Jason and I really dislike taking care of that kind of thing. And since our house is on a giant slope filled with many long-established trees, we decided that xeriscaping would be our best bet when we cut the lawn into tiers for erosion control. Neither of us like rock yards or cactus, though, which is where our combined joy of research came in really handy!
As it turns out, there are some fantastic resources for San Antonio gardening. Not only could we get some rebates from the city water company for xeriscaping our yard, but there is detailed information on what plants are perfect for our area: native, low-maintenance, low-water, perennial, tolerant of full sun or full shade, tolerant of terrible soil (ha!), non-invasive, etc. We could easily pick out plants from ground cover to full trees (if we needed more), and could see which ones worked best with each other. And after all our online research was done, we could pop down to the nursery only a few miles away and peruse the possibilities. And to make it even easier, the plants we were looking for – which all qualified for the city water discounts – are specially labeled at the nursery.
I’ve always had a bit of a black thumb, as I’ve said before. I can’t really keep any plants alive. I’ve also never really been interested in gardening. I don’t like touching soil, bugs, and especially grass/leaves/plant material. Standing barefoot on grass is a personal nightmare. But research helped. Knowing the names of plants, experiencing them at the nursery, and of course using gloves when we planted them, helped a lot. Also, choosing plants that are low maintenance and native and can grow in whatever soil/sun/shade/water you give them means that you can turn your black thumb into a green thumb with absolutely no effort at all on your part. Ha!
Our yard is now about 2/3rds xeriscaped. We finished the box around the three trees at the bottom of the lawn, and put in erosion-control turfstone by the driveway, and created a rock-garden with creeping herbs next to that. The top of the lawn, which had already been level, got overhauled from scraggly grass to new xeriscaped plant beds. We installed wooden borders along the sidewalk and down the side of the rock wall (to make mowing easier for our neighbors!). We still have to do some drainage work at the bottom of the driveway, and then Tier 3 will begin. I know I said we were going to wait a bit before we continued work in our yard, but with temps hitting 100 this week, we’re anxious to finish asap!
In the meantime, I’m enjoying our little garden, and I’m not a fan of the outdoors! We’ve already seen massive butterflies flitting around, and that’s very unusual around here. I guess when they say these plants attract butterflies, they mean it! Beyond that, we have this lovely, cool front yard that’s a far cry from the traditional rocks-and-cactus image normally expected in south Texas xeriscaping. I can’t wait until the whole yard is this beautiful!