Landscape “architecture” for everybody!

Often people ask me: what IS landscape architecture? So, this week, we’re thrilled to present Ixchel Granada and Aaron Kotwal, Texas A&M University landscape architecture students.

landscape architecture with Tom Spencer, Ixchel Granada and Aaron Kotwal

Enthusiastic, introspective and tremendously farsighted, they’ve got their hands on the future as they tell us how they’re integrating the built and natural environment. Watch now.

Certainly, one thing they face in their career is water retention and flood management. Here’s a simple idea CTG discovered in author Helen Thomson’s garden designed by Patrick Kirwin: a rill cut into lawn (or through garden beds).

rain rainoff control rill in lawn central texas gardener

And then, how do we get from here to there? Last fall, I stepped into two delightful designs on a San Antonio tour presented by the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas. Both allow water to stay on site.

garden path for water retention central texas garden garden path for water retention central texas garden

As landscape architects, Ixchel and Aaron will consider how plants interface with architectural structure and site conditions. On the SA tour, I ran into this simple array of foxtail ferns that complements a semi-shady exterior wall. Gravel allows any runoff to gently sink in.

foxtail ferns foundation planting water retention central texas gardener

Tom Poth’s paths and patio in Austin clearly define spaces and direction while pleasing different plant needs. Again, gravel acts as rainfall retention.

stream-lined patio and paths modern garden central texas gardener

Another practical consideration: hiding things. Here’s a homemade design I spotted on an east Austin tour to wrangle trashy views.

how to hide garbage cans central texas gardener

Speaking of hiding, what about all that stuff we’ve shoved behind the shed? Since I know we are ALL about to embark on the annual shed inside and out cleanup, what about a cute wall with leftover limestone chop blocks to show off our containers?

limestone blocks wall for containers central texas gardener

I bet there are just three gardeners in the country without a stash of cinder blocks. Pick up some stucco mix, swirl in some paint, and bingo: a succulent planter!

stucco cinder block succulent planter central texas gardener

Now, this stucco wall enclosing an outdoor living room is rather glamorous, but gardeners never lack for ingenuity!

outdoor living room stucco wall and fireplace central texas gardener

On a more modest scale, a few lucky finds turn our patios into truly reflective spots to land.

charming patio mirror and recycled table central texas gardener

Living architecture lets us frame our spaces and viewpoints.

live oak framing big tooth maple weeping redbud understory central texas gardener

Structural native Mexican plum, Daphne’s Plant of the Week, is also among the first to bloom in February. Since it only grows to about 25’ tall and wide, it’s great for small gardens or accents.

native tree mexican plum in bloom central texas gardener

Its knobby bark always interests, but I’m on the countdown for mine to break into fragrant white flowers. Within minutes, it’s a beehive of activity. Find out more.

mexican plum flower bee central texas gardener

Over the next several weekends, my wild and crazy garden will get a little more structural as I whack back perennials and later, grasses. This week, John Dromgoole illustrates a few techniques, like for ornamental grasses.

pruning grasses the natural gardener pruning ornamental grasses The Natural Gardener

In sculpting our land, we direct water, give it artistic notice, and personalize our connection. On tour, landscape architect Curt Arnette pulled it all together in this restoration.

limestone walkway contemporary home landscape architect Curt Arnette

To absorb water and allow air down into live oak roots, he designed the driveway with concrete pads grouted with gravel.

driveway with pervious gaps by landscape architect Curt Arnette

The family wanted to match their home’s resourceful design with equally resourceful plants. Curbside, Curt layered low-water plants for drama, including perpetual evergreens and seasonal food for wildlife.

front yard native plant drought tough garden central texas gardener

Architectural shoestring acacia anchors this section of the garden.

shoestring acacia central texas gardener

“Plants are something that draw people out and create an emotional response. And it makes them feel good,” he tells us.

mexican honeysuckle inland sea oats against water rill central texas gardener

Throughout, he terraced the hilly site to allow the family’s engagement.

terracing with steps and limestone blocks central texas gardener firecracker fern on terraced slope central texas gardener

They left a lot of the property to its natural wildlife devices, merely supplementing its diversity.

habitat garden silver ponyfoot and yuccas to natural view central texas gardener

That’s just the “trailer” to this story, so see the whole thing now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda