Water is a precious commodity. Thus, the most sustainble garden to me is the one that uses almost no supplemental irrigation. But, somehow we have been lead to believe our lawns must stay green and our plants must flower all through the hot, dry summers we have. To do so is only fooling ourselves. Face it, we do not live in the Pacific Northwest or the Atlantic Northeast. We live in the middle of Texas. And it gets really hot.
The first step to creating a waterwise garden is to work on the soil. In the Hill Country, soil is as precious as water. This may require compost, green manures, compost teas, humic acid, molasses and/or mulches. As you work the soil, you should also work on the drainage. But do not let any of the warter runoff of your site. Rain gardens will capture rainwaters so that they can slowly sink over the course of a few hours or half a day. Once the soil and site has been prepared, you must then choose the right plants for the right place. Improper placement or the wrong species will dictate more care and usually more water.
The final point to creating a waterwise garden is to collect rainwater. Rainwater is chemical free and supercharged for plants. It's almost like organic water for plants...and for you.
The sustainble way of building is one that emphasizes the use of local materials and services, uses recycled and salvaged materials and creates an energy efficient development. The more you can obtain and keep on site and the less trucked in the better. These principles can be applied to the landscape.
The best way to embrace sustainble building in Hill Country gardens, is to use native plants, woods and stone. These materials are sustainble because they come from local resources. There is something comforting about withdrawing from the world's abundance and focusing only on the here and now. That is what creates the sense of place...that knowing where you are in the world. The best sustainble developments inevitably embrace, create and enhance the sense of place.
Beyond building materials, garden designs can be sustainable based on placement, orientation, and efficiency and multiple uses at all levels. This is what permaculture is about. The grape arbor that gives you food while providing a shady place to sit and a place for your son to swing is a wonderful way to live sustained.
THE CULTURE OF BEING NATIVE
My work is largely influenced by the native flora and culture of the Texas Hill Country. It is a rough, wild landscape dotted with hidden paradises. I believe in embracing the native because when you do, you inevitably embrace that which makes a place special. To know where you are in the world is a precious commodity, especially in this age of globalization.
The use of non-native objects, designs and plants may occur as part of the process of design. That's okay. Everyone likes to have a bit of this and that from their travels or a home far away. However, I believe the majority of one's space should reflect and embrace the local. Afterall, Texas should look like Texas.
The typical expanse of well manicured lawns is devoid of ife. I love to bring life into the garden with textures, colors, motion, sounds and patterns. But my favorite way of bringing life to a garden is by turning a garden into a wildlife habitat.
I love building little place here and there to attract little critters and planting plants that attract those tiny joys we all love: butterflies and hummingbirds. I believe gardens are not just for humans, but also for the critters. We all share the same planet. When we not only open our gardens to wildlife, but also make the effort to provide their habitat needs, something gentle is coaxed forth from our souls.
There are many that may say, "But I don't want the deer." However, using a few tricks can sustain your garden and the deer. Also, as a gardener, you need to learn some patience. Throw away the urge for instantaneous gratification and watch what the deer do. I have found through watching that the deer only eat my Texas lantana toward the end of summer. By then, my lantana was too big and I was watering it every few days to keep it from wilting. The deer ate it back finally, and now I don't have to water it anymore. So, just relax and don't get so uptight if the deer browse this and that. The point is to develop a garden where it's okay for them to do so.
GEOMETRIES THAT WANDER
Garrett Eckbo, a famed landscape architect, once said that man's movement through space is geometric.
Perhaps that is how we move when we are goal oriented or need to function efficiently within a given space. But there are many times in the garden when we just want to wander and reflect. To support this duality of needs and ideologies, I love to combine geometries with spaces that wander and to accent one with the other.
Gardens can inspire, cause reflection and challenge the intellect. But I believe it is also important for gardens to integrates the playful. To me a garden is truly a child's space full of wonder and beauty. It is for this reason that I love to design gardens and play elements for children, and for the child in us all.