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Cool, Hip, Modern Austin Xeriscapes

by admin on May 30, 2012

Riding the Balcones Beast

Xeriscaping in Austin
by Bill Rose, Blissful Gardens/Green Dragon Design
Gardening in Central Texas can be quite a challenge, like riding the romping Balcones Beast. Here in Austin we are perched on the Balcones Fault, a demarcation line dividing desert to our west and lush pine woods to the east. The past few years of severe drought have felt like the Chihuahuan Desert was pushing eastward across Austin, threatening our gardens and lawns. Many of us have given up the dream of lush green grass and refocused on conserving water and saving our beautiful tree canopy.
The loss of vegetation from this extended drought has jolted our awareness to the value of xeriscaping—a viable option for landscape design. Many people got an even bigger jolt when they saw their water bills from the City of Austin, or LCRA. Given the dire predictions from meteorologists, the long-range prospects for traditional green lawns and gardens has also dried up.
The simple principles of xeriscape can help you develop landscapes that can thrive on the back of the Balcones Beast. Xeriscaping is all about savings—saving money, saving our precious water supplies, saving beautiful landscapes and saving you time from cutting your dying grass and performing other maintenance. There are two basic principles of xeriscaping:
1. Good Design, and
2. Good Practice.
1. Good Design refers not to your landscape’s aesthetics or beauty, but rather is the focus on it’s sustainability with minimal water or maintenance. A well-designed landscape enhances our property values and adds to the neighborhood’s ambiance. But regardless of how pretty it may be when first installed, a poorly planned landscape quickly loses its curb appeal when the plants and green, green grass start to wither. Well-designed xeriscape gardens are attractive and efficient.
2. Good Design controls the important elements like plant selection, plant grouping according to water requirements and each variety’s sun and shade needs, locating trees to provide shade for the house, utilizing permeable ground covers, and limiting impermeable hardscape elements such as concrete and asphalt.
There is a flawed perception that xeriscape means sticks and stones, or all cactus and prickly things. You need only thumb through the colorful pages of the Grow Green publications provided by the City of Austin (your tax dollars at work) to see the broad array of colorful native and adapted plants that thrive on the back of the Balcones Beast.
3. Good Practice is, quite simply, doing the right things to maintain your well-designed garden. Building the soil by adding compost in beds and around the root balls of large plants and trees, mulching beds and the root zones of trees to insulate plants from the drying heat of summer, and monitoring the need for supplemental watering are the simple and easy xeriscapeing Good Practices.
Call GoodLife Team today at 512.892.9473 for an exclusive offer from our favorite landscaper, Bill Rose. You can find examples of his work on our Pinterest Page. We’ll get you started xeriscaping today!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Carlos June 6, 2012 at 9:32 am

That’s my wife in the video! Audrey was determined to xeriscape our yard several years ago so that we wouldn’t have to mow anymore, but it has turned into something so much more wonderful than we could have imagined.


Rick Stephens June 10, 2012 at 10:54 am

Love the xeriscape examples and the real life benefits mentioned shown in the video. Thanks for promoting water-wise landscaping.


John Cunningham June 17, 2012 at 8:02 am

Here in Phoenix AZ the xeriscape approach is the only thing that makes sense. Really looks great for a front yard. I must admit though that with kids having a backyard with grass is really nice. Does anyone have any solutions for that?


Audrey Maker June 19, 2012 at 9:22 am

Hi John,
There are some drought tolerant grasses and ground covers that can be used like a lawn. In our backyard we have horse herb which is native and very low maintenance. We run around on it all the time and it responds well to being mowed like a lawn.

Your native plants will be different though so you would want to check with your local xeriscaping guidelines.


W.B. August 8, 2012 at 11:06 am

In Austin, I have some areas of the yard that are shaded by trees or buildings (like the house or shed) and the grass there can stay green and relatively lush for weeks, even in the extreme runs of 100+ heat. You can see the line where the shade ends because the grass goes from tall and green to thin and dry and yellow. Our plan is to increase the size of some of the shaded areas to keep the grass there alive for play purposes and xeriscape the non-shaded areas. It’s not as green as doing the whole yard, but the grass is very low maintenance in the shade and we’ll still go more native, low-water with around 2/3 of our lawn which is helpful.


Pride Tompkins June 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm

You should see my wife’s landscape. We have access to alot of water. Can she get a job with you soon, she is killing me. Bill come and see us. Pride


Anand Gunaraja June 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm

That’s my friend Bill Rose and he is a really smart guy. Beautiful video Bill. Thanks for promoting a valuable direction.



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