An attunement to the natural setting is the first step in my landscape design process. In the case of a home landscape, the ideal scenario involves the home itself synchronized with the native ecosystem. There are often pleasant vistas, beautiful specimen trees, valuable native plant species, or rock formations to preserve or accentuate.
You may wish to add features such as a deck, patio, pool, dog run, vegetable garden, orchard, evoke a certain mood or theme, or encourage wildlife. In other cases, there may be unsightly views to screen, a desire for more privacy, drainage problems, or the need for a better traffic circulation pattern. If all elements coalesce, a well planned landscape can greatly extend the usable space of the home and add to its value.
My designs evolve in a natural, flowing style, with an emphasis on xeric and deer-resistant plants to make the landscape as care-free as possible. More and more we need relief from the constructed, manufactured environment, but when structures or hard-scape elements come into play, local Hill Country materials such as limestone, granite, cedar, etc., are cost effective and fit well with the surroundings.
I encourage my customers to minimize maintenance-intensive lawn areas, and to use organic methods that avoid toxic chemicals. I also recommend not doing the common thing of totally eliminating cedar trees. Cedar trees (Juniperus ashei) naturally grow alongside oaks, and are vital to a local endangered songbird, the golden-cheeked warbler. Dense stands of cedar can be carefully thinned to allow for the growth of other plants, and in such cases it is best to focus upon retaining the female trees. The berries of the female trees are an important food source for many types of wildlife such as deer, turkeys, squirrels, foxes, and wintering robins and waxwings.
Similarly, what to the untrained eye may appear as “brush” or “weeds” may contain a wealth of native shrubs, prairie plants, or wildflowers. In many cases, a little judicious thinning or pruning may be all that’s needed to find an alluring trail of discovery into our natural environment. Add a path, a bench, a trickling fountain, a sculpture, additional plants of striking form or color, or some of my landscape planters, and you may find yourself already living in paradise!