Thursday, July 28, 2011

THE GREAT WESTWARD SHIFT: Saying Good-bye to Unsustainable Lawns

Dry landscape options abound for cities like Houston, Texas

Houston gardeners like myself are opting for a different look than the unsustainable St. Augustine lawn.  However, if you get around .50" of rainfall weekly in your area, then you can grow a lawn with very little supplemental watering. That has not been the case for Houston these last two summers.
 This is now the second summer of watering this part of my front lawn. For the past 7 years I've been shifting to plants you'd find further west. Drought and higher summer temperatures are the driving forces behind this decision. Plus, it feels good to have a garden that can take care of itself!
  Note: I'll keep the shadier areas of the lawn since they take much less water.
I really enjoy garden design and landscaping. Here's the original idea I presented to the people at San Jacinto Stone. They recommended Rio Grande Boulders rather than something smaller. The boulders were about $2.00 a piece.
 The red circles represent small boulders. Surrounding these will be gravel. The yellow areas will be coarse sand.  For plants, I'm going to use a very low growing Ruellia and the beautiful silver gray licorice plant in that top photo. Both grow well in full sun. I'm keeping the plantings sparse.
Here's a close up of the textures.
I looped out the area I'm working on with a garden hose. I layed down some sample gravel along with the stones. When finished, they'll be partially sunk into the ground for a natural look.
I'm leaving an path of green between the two areas. All of the grass in the stone area will be removed and replaced with sand.
I'm also going to use larger gravel along the street to stop the sand from washing out. I'll take some of the topsoil and us it for potting soil.
This is the ground hugging Ruellia I'll use along with the silvery licorice plant seen in the top photo. It will have a Japanese rock garden look.
To see the finished project, click below:

 To see an excellent and inspirational Dallas version of lawnless gardening, visit Plano Prairie Garden at 

You might be surprised at how many birds and butterflies suddenly start appearing!
Thanks for stopping by.
David/ :-)


  1. Love the look of the licorice plant. Seems so odd that you need to water in Houston. Very odd years. I like your design, and I agree that we need to do whatever it takes to get low maintenance designed gardens!

  2. I think you should take out the saint aug. and replace with zoysia. Looks like a xeriscape garden to me.

    Dave I've been in san antoinio for a week and visited the botanical gardens. They had 6 demonstration gardens. I will be posting the gardens over the next few weeks. I think you would like the Hill Country Garden or the manicured xeriscape garden.

  3. Question: my son has a pool in San Antonio and I may need some ideas on tropicals such as palms and banana trees as I think I will use those near the pool. and xeriscape in the front yard which I have many ideas for.

  4. The plant in the top photo looks like salvia chionophylla--a beautiful native plant that requires little care and has blue flowers in an average summer. The design looks great, can't wait to see the finished product.

  5. David,thanks for the nice comments, although I think my garden is more perspirational rather than inspirational. Be warned. I thought I was going to leave patches of lawn in my yard, but then I found it took longer to mow and edge around the beds. The next thing I knew, I was removing all of the St. Augustine grass. Now all I have a strip along one side of the property and I have plans to make it smaller when the weather cools.

  6. It's very frustrating - I like the lush, cottage-garden look but there are great bare patches in my garden where plants have shrunk back in the drought - and even weeds have given up their hold. Other years I have watered more. This year, I have not been able to - and it shows.

    Thank you for your comment on my last post (about our trek round England and Scotland). I've replied to comments in a new post


  7. Your design looks awesome! Here in the tropics, lots of people also struggle to have perfect lawns..very often weeds grow up faster & overtake the grass. Carpet grass, which is popular, also dry up in the heat, they look even worse with heavy foot traffic. I like the idea of grass-less lawns/gardens, more people here should consider that concept!


I always appreciate your comments & questions! Happy Gardening from David/ Tropical Texana

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