Tuesday, December 21, 2010


My inlaws moved to Texas a few months back and of course watered their lawn as good home owners are to do (especially good home owners who live in a neighborhood where the home owners association looks down on those that allow their grass to go dormant in August).

But they have a problem with their yard. The back yard is completely shady (in the summer, in the winter it's okay since the trees lose their leaves). When they first moved down, they were watering the yard 3 times a week, and unfortunately, that meant that the back area was kept pretty wet most of the time. Much like how Mayflowers bring pilgrims, we all know what wet, muggy conditions bring: Mosquitoes.

They had an exterminator come out and spray, they went out and sprayed, they bug-bombed and did other non-eco-friendly things. After asking us multiple times what exactly we did to deal with the mosquitoes; and after us telling them multiple times that the only way we've found to deal with it is to not water the areas we have mosquitoes, or more specifically, STOP WATERING THE GRASS, they finally cut back to watering the back yard shady area once a week.

Now then, the grass they have is buffalo. Which does not grow in shade (also it shouldn't need to be watered 3 x a week, but that's neither here nor there). So obviously now their back yard is a large dirt patch. They don't like having a dirt patch for a yard. My mother in law has decided that after Christmas they will put in a limestone paver patio area just outside their sun room. But she wanted to re-sod the rest of the yard with grass. I think I managed to convince her that she shouldn't plant grass and she should really plant some plants to fill in the space instead.

The problem with this plan? She says she's not good at design--she can't see things or create things the way that some people can (I'm looking at all of you landscape designers out there). The problem is, neither can I. Normally, I tell people to utilize the services of some fellow garden bloggers who do garden design for a living (like Pam, Philip, and Jenny and I'm sure there are many others out there who I can't think of right now) when they have an entire yard that needs to be redone. In this case, however, I know that the recommended plants and the amount needed of them that are shade tolerant and deer resistant are more than likely going to cost enough to cause my mother in law to have a small coronary, and I like to keep the amount of cardiac events that my in laws have to a minimum. So instead I told her about the City of Austin's Grow Green program which came out with some pre-canned designs for various types of gardens. The problem is that they have a Shade Garden plan, a Deer Resistant Garden plan and a Classic Garden plan. You notice that there's not a Shade Tolerant, Deer Resistant, Classic Garden plan.

So, I have now somehow managed to volunteer myself to help her with designing, and quite possibly implementing, her garden. This will be fun? frustrating? will go massively wrong because of our combined ineptitude? Currently I'm predicting all three of those F's.

But stay tuned, I have a feeling I'll be blogging about this every once in a while.


NotSoAngryRedHead said...

If you need a lot of groundcover, you can search and purchase here: http://classygroundcovers.com/page----wizard . You can plug in Zone 8, drought tolerant, deer resistant, and full shade, and you will get a list of plants you can purchase.

I haven't purchased from them myself, but they have great reviews on Dave's Garden. I have liriope in the back under an oak, and it's growing very well despite neglect. It's also filling in as I thought it would.

Best of luck!

bond said...

Sweet! I think it will turn out great! Just get her to accept that it won't look done for several years if you are going to take it slow.

Pam/Digging said...

Thanks for referring people to me! I appreciate that! Those City of Austin plans that you mentioned are great for specific situations or to give you ideas to get started. There are a number of good ground covers for dry shade that work in my deer-infested front garden. Maybe they'll work for your mother-in-law too: foxtail fern, river fern, giant liriope, 'Sparkler' sedge, and Texas sedge (BSN carries flats of the latter). Taller deer-resistant plants for dry shade are cast-iron plant, inland sea oats, and Turk's cap.

And by the way, good job on convincing her to stop over-irrigating buffalo grass and spraying pesticides. She'll have a much prettier yard and spend less time and money on it once you've converted it to appropriate ground covers.

Bob said...

Shouls she decide to get a professional to do it let me know. I know some one that's good and he specializes in Sun City.

The Whimsical Gardener said...

Wonderful that you've persuaded them to be more water/earth friendly! Sounds like you're being patient, supportive and teaching them how to survive the gardener's life here in Austin!

ESP said...

Thanks for the mention and link, and you probably already know what I think of grass in the Austin area (oh, and HOA's! come to think of it) but I will reserve that one for a future rant. Great that you are moving away from the green stuff!

Good luck with the design and install, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with.