Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gardening on the Rocks: New Backyard Garden

What did we do with all that top soil delivered back in February?  We created new gardens in the back yard.  The main work went into this 24' diameter garden which we refer to as "the wheel".  The formal name for this style garden is parterre, but this is a Texas style parterre and quite informal so wheel garden it is.


While not exactly reinventing the wheel, this garden has reinvigorated a scruffy spot in the back yard and provided a nice sunny spot for growing native and adapted plants.


It was worse than a blank slate back in 2009 when we had just reclaimed our home from a series of renters and the drought hadn't even kicked in yet.  This area, like everything else both inside and out, needed attention.  The fence was falling apart and the green shown here is mostly weeds.  We temporarily directed our efforts to the front yard and ignored this spot for a while.


This area really began looking bad a year into the drought when the weeds died and the buffalo grass went dormant.  It made a pretty good golf driving range though.


We built a shed and small garden in the corner and replaced the fence we shared with the neighbors.  I planted wildflowers and we set up a temporary wire fence to help protect plants along the fence from deer browsing.  In spring 2011, a few bluebonnets managed to take hold.  My vision of a wildflower and native grass lawn wasn't working out too well just yet

 
By fall of 2011, the drought had obviously taken its toll.  Even the weeds were struggling and thin soil over a rocky slope was not a good place to plant anything.  A new approach was needed.  We decided on a circle garden because terracing across the yard would have been too involved for a DIY project.  The circle allows access from the shed to other parts of the yard and rain runoff goes around it or is used by the garden.

The 48" diameter center circle was laid out and planted in the fall of 2011.  The surrounding wedges were added in the spring of 2012. Leftover fence boards were used to lay out the pathways.  After the boards were in place, we walked through and around the circle changing the boards until the direction of the paths connected comfortably with other points in the yard.  Over to the right a new screen porch fitted with salvaged windows is under construction.


We used rocks from the yard to line the beds and measured every few feet to make sure the beds stayed even.  No point buying rocks when these are free and indigenous to the site.  It's also a nod to the Hill Country tradition of lining paths and flower beds with found rocks.


The wedges were filled with top soil and compost.


This spring the bluebonnets looked great both in and around the circle.


The interior paths were lined with landscape fabric and then filled with gravel salvaged from the front yard.  The plants are kept low to allow a view of the trees and creek from the gate.  Far from being an impediment the circle has created a very pleasant plant and flower-filled transition to the shed.  The gravel path from the deck is most helpful when it rains to keep shoes from getting muddy.


The circle is planted with ornamental grasses, native and drought tolerant perennials, and a few annuals.  While the plantings are not precisely laid out they are tied together with Ruby Crystals grass (Melinus nerviglumis 'Savannah') planted at both ends of each wedge along the spokes of the wheels.  Eventually the spokes will connect paths that lead to other areas of the yard and shed.


Now I look forward to seeing this area and occasionally walk out here just to stand in this garden.


Building this circle garden has made a huge difference in how we view the backyard.


It's so nice to have this garden finished.  We have many more projects planned for the back yard so it will keep getting better from here on.

23 comments:

  1. Nice work, and I love your Texas adaptation on the name.

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  2. I love this idea. Nice job! I love the Mexican bird of Paradise in the middle. As all those plants mature, they'll fill in those spaces nicely. I think you may even have a little bee and hummingbird garden there:) When we moved into our place, we had a similiar situation. Not much going on....and essentially it was a blank slate but it looks nice now. The plants are doing well in the areas. It's an oasis for wildlife as well. Last night I went out to water the plants and smelled something and it moved! Needless to say, I didn't water:) Keep it up! I really like this idea a lot. You have a big backyard so you can create a lot of different themed gardens:)

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    1. I have been following the progress at the Presidio and your gardens are looking good too this year.

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  3. Looks fabulous! Love the idea of the wheel. It is visually nice to look at and works well with the existing landscape. Wonderful job!

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    1. Thank you Steph, as you know the existing landscape around here demands that we work with it!

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  4. This looks amazing Shirley!!!!!!!!!! Texas-style - loooooove!

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  5. Good job.
    It always feels good to get a project done....well, as done as gardening projects get.
    The deer have access here, right? I'm jealous your deer leave things alone that our deer eat....like the Pride of Barbados blooms.
    Hope we all get some rain soon.

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    1. This garden is right in front of trees where the deer often sleep. The herd is currently at the far end of the street but they will work their way back in a few weeks and chow down on those blooms and anything else they like. I enjoy the blooms while they are there and grow anything that will survive the deer and heat with or without blooms.

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  6. Very nice how you used symmetry, then softened it with one unifying grass, and then everything else with less structured plantings. Also glad you kept the Buffalograss nearby, instead of change it all into a grass-less xeriscape etc - at least the grass looks to have come back from the last summer of death and destruction. One thing I discussed with my retired friend in Kerrville was how it is OK to let grass go dormant in droughts - I should post on some of those I saw do that in your area last Sept.

    Can't wait to see it all mature!

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    1. Symmetry is a good word. That's the only symmetrical spot around and why it works.

      The buffalograss has been there for 20 years and has done quite well. We have found it greens right up when the rains return. That's not the case with our neighbor's St. Augustine lawns. While we are not interested in a perfect green lawn, we do intend to keep this area of grass as part of the overall plan.

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  7. I love your circle parterre, Shirley -- I bet it really gives you a reason to go for a stroll in the back yard, plus it looks great from afar too. Have you posted about your Texas style shed? I caught a glimpse in one picture and am intrigued.

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    1. I do enjoy strolling through the garden and it often feels like I'm in a special place.

      The shed is on the list of future posts, I'll move it up and try to show it off soon.

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  8. Shirley,
    This post is what blogs were meant for. It's like a visual diary documenting our personal achievements. And yours embodies that sentiment. Keep being a High Country Gardens poster child.

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    1. Wow Patrick, that is such a great compliment! I do try to write about a variety of topics.

      Your blog is so inspiring I have shared it on my Facebook page today.

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  9. What a fantastic post. I like seeing how people work with the habitat they have. The wheel garden is a perfect design for your area.

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    1. So glad you enjoyed this Mary. Every region has gardening challenges and it is fun to see how we deal with them.

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  10. You may not have reinvented the wheel, but you've definitely reinvented the parterre. Well done.

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  11. I love it! It reminds me of the Medicine Wheel Gardens I read about in a book a long time ago.

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    1. I looked up medicine wheel gardens and there are many similarities. The circle is special and I enjoy walking through it. Thanks for the reference.

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  12. We are likeminded with the wheel idea. I love the way you made the separate gardening areas. That was alot of rock to haul. good exercise I suppose. I have that wheel concept around the fireplace area; just not as neatly as yours. I love that blue plant you put in the middle of the wheel area. Just gorgeous!

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