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Beneficial Classic & Contemporary Design: Garden Conservancy Austin 2019

So, what does “drought tolerant” really mean?

Daphne tells us: “Plants that are ‘drought tolerant’ are able to withstand prolonged periods without rainfall or supplemental irrigation. But to do so, they may go into dormancy, similar to how they do in winter.” Trees drop leaves prematurely, or they brown or color up early, as they’re doing right now.

Get her complete answer and when to move citrus plants.

Native Lindheimer muhly, an ornamental clumping grass, was recently awarded Texas Superstar status for its performance across the state on a wide spectrum of climates and soils.

This deer-resistant grass—acclaimed for its showy foliage and fall blooms—is considered “drought tolerant,” according to Dr. Brent Pemberton of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, but requires irrigation when temperatures are elevated and rainfall is scarce.

At the same time, it’s a rain garden plant that helps stormwater infiltrate the soil, as does pink-hued Gulf muhly and low growing sedges. Find out more!

Looking for ideas with drought-tolerant, deer-resistant plants or stormwater control, rainwater collection, and outdoor living?

John Hart Asher from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center joins Designer Casey Boyter and Patrick MacRae from The Garden Conservancy to preview Austin’s Open Days November 2 tour that gathers designs from classic to contemporary.

Watch their tour preview now!

On tour with the “Berger Street” Open Days garden: Tucked into east Austin, Rita Little-Byrd and Keith Byrd’s diminutive house built in 1925 hasn’t changed its footprint; it just upped its romance and habitat highway.

Over 10 years, Keith worked on both home and garden, and built the cedar and metal post fence.

He remodeled a 1952 Royal Spartanette and shipping container in back for office and storage space.

When he and Rita decided to hold their wedding at home, Keith called on long-time friend Billy Spencer of Spencer Landscape Company to add the “icing on the cake.”

Shademaker Studio landscape architect Shaney Clemmons pulled together their ideas for welcoming outdoor living with contemporary flair and easy-care plants for wildlife.

Since an active, gregarious dog lives here, too, there’s lots of running room in back on zoysia grass and fence line patrol zones. All plants are non-toxic.

In the no-lawn front, Billy brought an elderly American ash to health for now, already underplanted with shade-loving crinum lilies, turk’s cap, and liriope.

Keith had spruced up the charming old fence. Billy moved a resident climbing rose to the brighter spot to greet the neighbors with flowers once again.

Keith framed the old, romantic arbor with a grapevine.

Shaney patterned Mexican adobe brick pathways for a low-glare, warm welcome and mud-free traffic from driveway to house and to the side yard.


The biggest change was Shaney’s front porch design with wide steps, perfect for sitting and chatting with this friendly neighborhood.



For a soothing, uncluttered entrance, they massed soft Berkeley sedge with Turk’s caps and other dappled-shade lovers.

In the narrow side yard, Keith’s stockpile of reclaimed bricks now wend a path against clusters of bamboo muhly and inland seaoats. Clustering plants makes a small space seem larger, more cohesive, and easier on maintenance.

The existing loquat tree invites wildlife with fall flowers and spring fruit. Rita and Keith gladly share the bounty with squirrels, birds, and butterflies.

A bevy of butterflies sailed around us, feeding on brick-warmed fallen fruits, including Question Mark and Red Admiral.

This Question Mark took a quick break.

The sunnier backyard supports Rita and Keith’s flowering native and adapted plants for wildlife. Spring-blooming anacacho orchid (Bauhinia lunarioides) frames the back porch.


Since the house is tiny, Keith extended their living room outside. He installed and renovated the Royal Spartanette and shipping container for office and storage space. Billy and Shaney polished it up with a limestone-edged frame and pea gravel floor that anchors the table/fire pit and chairs without any sinking.


Keith had already built the rock walls to gently frame the patio room.

He left room behind for a grilling or gardening work space, out of sight behind the shipping container. A planted a narrow leafy wall of progressively flowering shrubs and perennials to shield the fence.

Billy and Shaney designed a light-filled ceiling anchored rolled netting to posts of reclaimed oil pipe. Young evergreen star jasmine and Clematis armandii will shade the patio in a few years, scenting late spring with white flowers.

Rita and Keith’s wedding is October 19, 2019 (and looks like perfect weather!). But for them, every day’s a celebration with a daily guest list of wildlife.




Watch their story now!

And thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

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