19 October 2010

design: West Lake Garden

Some good friends of mine live over in West Austin and asked me to help them with a garden design a while ago. They are looking for a garden that is very low maintenance and with a relatively inexpensive installation, since they are not gardeners and probably would not invest much time in trimming and weeding.

The front yard is currently quite literally a blank canvas of grass. The owners and myself would like to introduce some Texas native and adapted plants and herbs, and I'd like to use plants that are familiar in the Edward's Plateau and Austin suburbs (don't want things to be too shocking!). The goal was also to create a design that is modular - something that could be installed in phases and could then grow in phases in the future. For now, the focus is on the entry and on creating a new path to the front sidewalk that doesn't require using the driveway.

I chose to go with a couple of bold graphic designs to draw the eye away from the house a bit. The plants pictured aren't necessarily the ones that I would install, but pretty close. I'd look at plants like Lindheimer's muhly, silver ponyfoot, Texas persimmon, lantana and contained equisetum. But I may also throw in a few herbs and non-natives, like lavender or rosemary.

Here's design Concept A:

And this is a design Concept B, with a concept for "lizard condos," which are basically decorative gabeons filled with native stone that could serve as habitat:

I'm personally attracted to the Concept B because I think the gabeons would be pretty cool. And they could be a design and ecological element that could be replicated and repeated should the garden ever grow larger to fill more of the front lawn space.

I've used a small tree, Texas persimmon, in both designs, but I think that a large shade tree would be really good for this spot too. It would help eventually cover that big sloping roof in the years down the road, which would be good visually and for conserving energy.

The edges, which could be made from cheap and ecologically-relevant limestone, would make lawn maintenance easy in either design, and the chosen plants will do well in the full sun there. This garden has not yet been implemented, but it was fun to play around with design and doing so on a computer (I'd only hand drawn things before). So a big thanks to my friends for letting me ponder the possibilities!


Tim said...

What did you use to draw these?

Pam/Digging said...

Very cool concept, Lee. Those limestone lines do a nice job of directing the eye. I like the lizard condo idea, but I think I prefer the lines of the first design.

One little quibble: The big Agave americanas look great in your foundation planting, but one thing to consider is house maintenance. Looks like they'll have to paint from time to time under their windows, and those agaves could make that a painful experience.

NotSoAngryRedHead said...

Both designs are airy and modern and very nice. I love the nooks for lizards and such because I love the lizards in my yard. I like the snakes, too! I know you're still pondering, so I'm just throwing out a few thoughts/ideas.

A large shade tree where you have the persimmon would start wrecking the driveway in a hurry and potentially have a negative effect on the tree. The only place I can see for a large shade tree in either design is where you've left a plot of grass.

I think the agaves under the windows are smart for protecting against intruders, but some lovely thorny rose bushes, such as those with the Earth Kind certification, would also work really well. The roses could be draped with fabric to protect the painters and the plant when the owners need to touch up.

What about putting a bed next to the sidewalk since those areas tend to be difficult to water, fertilize, and seed? Maybe continue a bed of trailing lantana along the sidewalk and up the walkway for continuity?

Anyway, I'm totally jealous of you. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I like concept A best, and I think the choice of a Texas Persimmon is perfect because this tree won't get so big or dense as to shade out what you have planted around it or to grow over the driveway and drop a lot of leaves. Texas Persimmon also has a great form.

I agree with Pam that the agaves might prove painful if house maintenance were needed. Never-the-less, I like the contrasting blue/grey color of those agaves in that spot. Perhaps you could come up with a different blue/grey plant of the same height? Whatever plant you pick, you probably want to keep it so that the windows are still visible and such that the owners won't have to prune it. Overall, both designs are lovely. Laura

Lee said...

Hey! Thanks for the comments and suggestions. You know, ya'll are totally right about those agaves in front of the windows. Maintenance (painting or screens) would be a complete nightmare! Perhaps I could shift them away to another locale, or plant something equally as structural but smaller, like twist leaf yucca.

Tim, I used a combo of Photoshop and Illustrator for this, which was fun. I should say that this is a "rough draft" style, though it might not look like it. For example, I haven't mocked up any of the level changes between beds that would come with changes in topography, but would also add some dynamism and dimensionality.

Funny, the more I look, the more I'm liking Concept A too. It's possible that the lizard condos would be too stark. But it's an idea I want to keep in my back pocket anyway...

Bob said...

If you want to see gabions used in a garden, you can check my blog back a few posts. I built some for a lady in Georgetown. She wanted exact lines to her's. I built them out of 2"x4" welded wire livestock panels. They were welded together but with the lids loose. The lids were put on after the rock was in place using hog nose rings. They looked pretty good when done.

I like "A" also.

tina said...

i like concept A as well. do to my recent attack of the agave, i agree finding a replacement. i heard the next phase is to paint the house. how about some texas sage? wonderful design. keep thinking low maintenance, drought tolerant, etc... my sister is definitely not a gardener. can't wait to see it come to life.

Lee said...

Bob, those gabeons are great! Here's the link for other readers:

On your blog, I also am so jealous that you saw a coral snake. I keep looking for one. AND, I love your Libby and Bosco grave markers. Our dog that died last year was named Libby, and our neighbor's lab is named Bosco, so it really hit me to see those...

LindaCTG said...

This is so cool! You've got a great eye. I go for A, too. And thanks for the Photoshop/Illustrator info, though I seriously doubt I can master your technique. Or design eye!

Lori said...

I agree with what everyone else has said about maintenance issues with agaves, but I really love how they add a sculptural element. How about substituting Agave Americana with A. weberi? If you take pruners and cut off the sharp tips, they're not nearly as ferociously difficult to navigate around since they're missing the hooks that catch on everything.

P.S. I have more Agave weberi pups than I know what to do with, so just say the word if you'd like any. ;)

Anonymous said...

Lee...we still love ALL the designs you came up with. What about some Texas Sage instead of the agaves? I've always wanted that in our landscaping with the nice purple flowers to add color when they come out. Hopefully we'll get on this sooner than later. You rock!