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Landscape Designs

Garden Styles

From sleek to shabby chic, there’s no wrong way to show off your design aesthetic.

San Antonio Style

Choosing a particular style can help you make more specific choices such as color themes, textures, massing of plants, patio materials and even garden furniture.

In San Antonio, some dominant styles you may see are cottage, mid-century, traditional, Texas Hill Country and Spanish courtyards. Remember the site conditions of your lot; sun, shade, soil,  cannot be easily changed. The style you pick will need to be built within the constraints of the site conditions.

Landscape Style Elements

Cottage

  • Abundant variety of blooming plants in an informal setting
  • Herbs and vegetables planted with the flowers rather than in a separate plot.
  • Minimal or no turf
  • Pathways and patios of flagstone or old brick
  • Picket or wrought iron fences, trellises, birdbaths, gazing balls, garden benches or other decorative items.

Mid-Century

  • Straight lines for beds, patios and walkways
  • Limited plant palette
  • Mass plantings in a repetitive pattern
  • Plants often selected for their architectural qualities.

Traditional

  • Generally dominated by grass, low hedges under windows and possibly a tree or two.
  • Can be converted to a WaterSaver landscape by reducing grass in favor of a low-growing ground cover while maintaining the traditional look.

Texas Hill Country

  • Use of existing limestone outcroppings
  • Minimum use of turf
  • A space for wildflowers
  • Use of plants native to the Hill Country
  • Areas of the property left in its natural condition

Spanish Courtyards

  • Designed as an extension of the living space.
  • Significant paved patios often made of tile, brick or stone set in decorative patterns.
  • Fountain, bird bath or simple basin of water.
  • Container plants.
  • Bed areas often limited requiring careful selection of plants for the limited planting area.

Wildscaping

  • Any design style can do double duty as a wildscape.
  • As you design, keep these elements in mind:
  • Food: Include food sources by selecting plants that provide nectar, pollen, leaves, nuts, berries and seeds all year.
  • Water: Provide a clean, reliable source of water, such as a bird bath.
  • Shelter: For wildlife to hide, rest and nest in your garden. Use vertical layers with flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees.

Designs

Basic Site Condition Considerations

Cottage: Best in sunny landscapes with decent soil.

Mid-Century: Can be adapted to either sun or shade. Soil conditions depend on the plant selection.

Traditional: Generally a mixed sun and shade landscape. Deeper soils are best.

Texas Hill Country: Can be adapted to sun or shade. Choose thin soil plants and keep the native soil undisturbed by construction equipment if you can.

Spanish Courtyards: Sun or shade. There will be significant patio areas so the beds can be augmented with soil if needed. If taking elements from a Spanish theme, deeper soil is best.

Final Note: If you are a determined gardener, you can make all these styles work regardless of your site conditions – it’s just harder. And all can be wildlife friendly.

Glorious Shade

There is nothing better than shade during a hot Texas summer. Keep existing trees and plant a few more for the future.

Cool Shade

In South Texas, shade is a hot commodity in summer. It can be 10 degrees cooler. So if you want shade, keep all your existing shade trees and plant some for the future.

If you have a fully shady lot, your plant palette is very different from a sunny yard. It will be greener and with fewer blooms. Create interest with textures, shades of green and variegated foliage, leaf size and shape. A tropical dry shade garden might be for you. And if it never gets more than four or five hours of sun a day, put the turfgrass away.

Shady Elements

Plants

Look for plants that thrive in the shade. Turfgrass is not one of them. Many shade plants have large leaves in various shades and shapes. Use this variety of leaf shapes to your advantage. For pops for color, invest in a couple of large colorful pots and plant with the few shade-blooming annuals that are available like begonias.

Water

You will need to water new plants to help them get established. The best way to water new plants is with a handheld hose. Use the 3-2-1- method. With good plant selection and all that shade, most established dry shade beds will survive on only rain.

Mulch

Best choice: Leaves from your trees raked and spread into your beds. This is also the easiest and cheapest choice.

Next choice: Organic mulch, usually shredded pine bark mulch. Stay away from cypress mulch. It’s made from cypress cut in the Everglades.

Last choice: Inorganic mulch is generally not encouraged, but in very deep shade and away from the street, it can be a good option for a walkway or service area. You will have less weed growth because it is so dark.

Designs

Planning for Shade

Explore the tropical dry shade world of plants. You may need to spend some extra time designing your garden compared to those with sunny gardens, but the results will be worth it. You’ll have a comfortable garden with lots of interest.

Maintenance Tips

  • Little maintenance is needed if you planted right. Move the leaves from the trees that made the shade into the beds.
  • Some dry tropical plants will “melt” in a freeze. Cut off the damaged leaves before March.

Additional Tips

Take care of your trees. These are the most expensive and hardest to replace elements of your landscape. Look for information on selection, pruning and other topics throughout GardenStyleSA.com.

Sunny Spots

Tough blooming perennials and wildflowers have no trouble toughing out the brutal heat of the summer.

Texas Hot

South Texas is warm most for the year and downright hot in the summer. It’s Texas, yet wild Texas is full of plants that are never watered and make it through all but the longest droughts.

Your landscape can do the same, and unlike the true deserts of the American west, central Texas has a wide variety plants to choose from. You do not have to recreate a desert landscape in San Antonio. In fact, it is best not to as rock landscapes mimicking the desert west add to the heat and are more trouble to maintain than you think.

Sunny Spot Elements

Plants

Select your plants carefully. Your sunny spots can host a variety of tough blooming perennials and wildflowers as well as structural plants you’ll find in the agave, sotol and cactus category.

Water

New plants will need to be watered to get established. The best way to water new plants is with a handheld hose. Use the 3-2-1- method. In a deep heat wave, you’ll need to add a bit of water. Watch your plants for morning wilt. That is a good indication they could use a drink.

Mulch

Best choice: Leaves from your trees raked and spread into your beds. This is also the easiest and cheapest choice.

Next choice: Organic mulch, usually shredded pine bark mulch. Stay away from cypress mulch. It’s made from cypress cut in the Everglades.

Last choice: Inorganic mulch, better known as rock or decomposed granite. If you do use it, use it sparingly and with purpose. It will not improve soil like leaves and organic mulch. It is also harder to maintain, only vigilant cleaning will keep it weed free. Weed block will not prevent weeds.

Designs

Irrigation Requirements

Many sunny yards are in newer neighborhoods in the Hill Country that do not have mature trees after development. Consider these design elements:

  • Use existing limestone outcroppings
  • Minimize use of turf
  • Save a space for wildflowers
  • Use of plants native to the Hill Country
  • Choose plants that do well in thin, alkaline soils.

Maintenance Tips

  • Replenish mulch once or twice a year.
  • Prune back perennials as needed in late winter.

Additional Tips

Don’t use pesticides. A wide variety of plants helps bring protection against pests. “Good” bugs that are attracted to your landscape should easily control the “bad” bugs that are there.

Designs for Wildlife

Invite birds, bees and other beneficial wildlife to share your little corner of Texas.

Wildscaping

A wildscape simply means that your landscape benefits wildlife. As more and more wildlife habitat is converted into suburbs and shopping malls, there is an increased need to create the conditions necessary to support wildlife.

Today many homeowners building at the edge of the city are leaving a portion of their property in a natural state while enhancing other areas of their landscape with an eye towards attracting the birds and butterflies they enjoy. If you don’t have a built-in natural area, wildscapes are easy to create and very low maintenance.

Wildscape Elements

Food

Plant a variety of nectar, seed and berry producing plants to provide a variety of food sources throughout the year.

Water

Provide a clean source of water such as a birdbath or small pond.

Cover

Choose plant in a variety of heights. Think about creating a “wall” of foliage. Low, dry stacked walls are attractive and good cover for the wee ones too.

A Place to Raise Young

Keep dead limbs or snags if they don’t pose a threat to your property so wildlife has a place to hide and raise their young.

Designs

Basic Maintenance

  • Keep water source clean
  • Prune shrubs as needed, usually in late winter
  • Let seed set on reseeding annuals such as wildflowers before removing
  • Keep edges of the landscape neat when adjacent to a neighbors’ more traditional yard.

Irrigation Requirements

Native plants and adapted plants that benefit wildlife thrive in the local climate and soil conditions. Little additional irrigation is needed.

Additional Tips

Don’t use pesticides. A wide variety of plants helps bring protection against pests. “Good” bugs that are attracted to your landscape should easily control the “bad” bugs that are there.