Design with character.

January 13, 2013

Every house has each own character, and tells us something about the people that live in it. Same applies to landscaping. Every front garden represents us in spirit and style, whether on purpose or by neglect.

2112 pembrokeA mature, nicely shaped pomegranate tree needs space , but can serve as an alternative to the more traditional yaupon holly and the bright pomegranate fruit serves as Christmas ornaments. The tree is semi evergreen and looks quite festive at this time of year. Not to mention the delicious pomegranate fruit that you can pick right in your own garden.

When landscaping your garden, take your house into account. If you have a light painted brick house, think of darker, contrasting colors. Purples and reds stand out nicely and help to define the landscape and add a multidimensional element to the space. If your house is dark colored, pair different shades of green with it, and think texture and layers. Fig ivy can be trained to accentuate architectural features of the house. It is both very graceful and lush look.

We are so used to having most shrubs hedged or conformed to the allotted space. Unfortunately by doing so we often create rigid straight lines and add a ‘boxy’ feeling to the space that is usually already full of straight lines and hard angles. By allowing shrubs to grow more naturally, while still contained and well behaved, we can achieve the more formal look that belongs in the front garden, without the harshness of conventional hedge.

Ornamental trees, such as Japanese maples, yaupon hollies, redbuds and many more, add the height to counter balance the height of the house and create a focal point. If Landscape (14)you have large mature tree on your property, especially multi trunked, consider softening and accentuating it with ferns to create luscious, almost tropical look.

And finally, take a look at your front garden from afar – it allows us to gain a new perspective and look at something familiar with a fresh eye.

There is not enough awareness when it comes to invasive plants. We tend not to see the harm in planting an invasive plant precisely because it seems so harmless. How can a plant hurt anything?

An “invasive species” is defined as ‘an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental hard or harm to human health.’ (Executive Order 13112). 

Scabiosa

Scabiosa

An invasive species spreads, establishes its presence and takes over an ecosystem. It does not co-exist, it overtakes, chokes out the native species and diminishes biodiversity. It is devastating to the native ecosystems and costly to control.  Did you know? “Invasive species are a significant threat to almost half of the native species currently listed as federally endangered.”  Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Why should we care? Because native plants and habitats are important to our identity, sense of place and survival. To preserve ecosystems and biodiversity which are vital to our planet’s health.

Information about invasive species is spread out and often confusing. It is important to know the invasives for your particular region. Some website list them by state, some go as far as listing them by county. Below are some useful links to invasives in Texas.

Trees of Texas – Aggressive Invaders

Invasive Plants of Texas

Texas Invasive Species

Eco Alerts by Region

Central Texas Invasive Plants

Invasive Plants in Southern Forests

Some of the invasives are sold by nurseries and many buyers are unaware of the plant’s nature. Purple loosestrife and nandina are two fairly well known examples. Sterile varieties of some invasive species are available and can be used safely in the landscape. Some of the invasives might be a surprise to you – vitex and Brazilian vervain in Cross

Purple Loosestrife. Photo by Greencolander.

Purple Loosestrife. Photo by Greencolander.

Timbers and Prairies region (which includes Fort Worth) and scabiosa in Blackland Prairies region (which includes Dallas and Waco) are among a few that I was not aware of until recently.

Growers and sellers should be aware that they can be fined $500 per banned plant, so it is crucial to educate and raise awareness. It is also important to note that the plants on the banned list are defined broadly as species, and sterile varieties are not excluded as of yet. Read more about Texas cracking down on invasives.