Thursday, May 12, 2016

Watersaver Landscape Tour April 2016

Water conservation is a must in south Texas, so each year our San Antonio Water System (SAWS) sponsors a tour of watersaving gardens to inspire customers to replace water-guzzling lawns with more drought tolerant plants or hardscape.  The tour was held in the gated community of Inverness on the north side of San Antonio and a bus was provided from a nearby staging area.  Since I was busy volunteering on the tour, I handed off photo duties to Neal for the day so many of the photos below are his.

Our bus dropped us off at the start of the tour route and picked up return passengers near the last of six gardens. The garden at the first house starts off nicely, blending into the neighborhood with a mix of lawn and swath of foliage plants under sculptural oaks.  Very fitting for the tour goal of encouraging lawn replacements.

Quercus fusiformis is such great name for our variety of Live Oak.

We were directed around to the backyard and quite a contrast for it was filled with garden art and lots of interesting potted succulents.  A good example of hardscape and groundcover replacing lawn.

Bright colors are a change from the mostly monochromatic scheme out front.

The swinging hammock purchased online was popular and the owners said their grandchildren enjoyed it as well.

Colorful art was also visible inside through the glassed-in porch windows.

Whimsical touches to match the theme of this garden were evident throughout.

Neon profile on the oak is visible from indoors.

Amusing art pieces.

Double the interest with back to back staghorn ferns.

A swag of succulents decks out the bright red pergola.

These succulent arrangements were show stoppers and Pam Penick at Digging figured out they were created by Abbey McKenna Succulent Designs.  Abbey usually has a booth at Festival of Flowers in May so you can see more of her work.  Before or after Pam's talk and book signing that is!

A fun way to display such a common plant as Sanseveria and a fun way to replace your lawn.

The next garden actually not on the tour was a standout for its array of blooming society garlic.

House 2 demonstrates how just a few plant choices can make a nice no-lawn watersaving garden.  The dry creek is functional during rainstorms.

Maybe not for everyone, but some good principles were employed for a low maintenance landscape.

Another garden not on tour but a nice example of house and landscape.  I think Neal took this photo as a reminder we want to do something similar with a rock out by our driveway.  We have the numbers, just need to get the project done!

Along the way Neal spotted Heather Ginsburg (l) from SAWS.  Heather blogs at Xericstyle though lately she's been writing more at SAWS website Garden Style San Antonio.  Neal mentioned to another SAWS employee that he was waiting to say hello to Heather.  "Everyone knows Heather!" she said.   (I don't know the other names, but I'm sure Heather will supply them when she reads this.)

Home 3 is where I volunteered during the morning shift, you can see a more detailed take of this garden on my blog post from last fall.  My friend Cheryl was stationed near the front gate which meant she got stuck saying "Berkeley Sedge" several hundred times!

To the right of the walk a Pineapple Guava was in bloom.  Back in October I wasn't even sure what the plant was.

A great non-linear entrance

Leuders limestone pavers replace typical concrete sidewalk.

Native trees left in place

The back yard was my station for a few hours.  Those teak benches were attention getting and we had numerous discussions about what appears to be two different sedges.  I concluded that some of the sedge is not Berkeley Sedge but possibly a native Texas Sedge.

The buffalo represents the owner's roots in Manitoba, Canada.

Lush and restful.

If Cheryl said "Berkeley Sedge" numerous times, then I said "Aloe" just as many.  This blooming soap aloe was quite a hit and many folks were skeptical the bronze leaves below it belonged to a Kalanchoe.  I also pointed out many times over that no one buys soap aloe in San Antonio, it's a passalong plant!  The Bay Laurel on the right was also a surprise since so many people do not know you can easily grow your own bay leaves in our climate.

Outside the back gate, another garden not on tour caught our guest photographer's eye.

On to House 5 which I also profiled previously on my blog.  The tour route took us around back first so we'll start there with Horsetail Reed and Sticks on Fire.

Horsetail Reed, newly planted when I was here in October has filled in beautifully.  This is a perfect spot to keep it contained and show off the great lines of this plant.

Artfully hiding utility boxes

Silvery gray on gray, I like this a lot.

Repeating orange accents.

A view over those orange Panton chairs to the pool

Sticks on Fire and Knophia stand out against the gray and rust.

A glass sculpture tree had been added since my last visit.  Underneath is a holding tank for air conditioning condensate used to water plants in the garden.

Nolina nelsonii standing out on this corner reminds me of the newly planted yucca in my own yard. Now I wonder if this is where the idea began to form.

This cutaway of underlying rock gives an idea of what it takes to build a house and garden in our area.

Nice bench in a neighbor's courtyard.

The last house on tour featured a naturalistic landscape with groundcover and foliage plants under the native live oaks.  The goal of the tour is to encourage SAWS customers to remove lawn and save water and this garden is a good example of a simple, natural lawn replacement.

A dry creek channels downpours away from the house and through the garden.

The side courtyard garden was more formal and quite relaxing to tour.

Trimmed hedges provide a contrast to the more natural plantings outside the walls.

My guest photographer missed one house, but it was mostly a swimming pool courtyard with tropical plants so I think you've seen the best of the tour here.


  1. I enjoyed the tour, and it's fun to see the gardens again through your lens. Thanks for the shout-out for my talk at Festival of Flowers too!

    1. A subtle way of working that in! I'll be there for your talk and my volunteer gig begins at noon.

  2. Your guest photographer did a great job! All the gardens offer great examples of what can be done with a landscape while conserving water. Thanks for sharing the tour!

    1. He caught most of what I would have since he reads my blog. He knows what I'd generally like to see.

  3. These gardens are all good examples of how great a landscape can be, without a lawn.

    Thanks for taking us along. Great photos.

  4. There are so many good ways to ditch that water guzzling lawn and many of these ideas are very low maintenance.

  5. Wish I could have gone, but thanks to you, I did...all great ideas. I don't know where to start.

    1. We had so many positive comments from the tour, especially that it does encourage watersaving and getting rid of the lawn.

  6. Thanks for a great tour with so many great ideas! In terms of plants for drought areas we don’t really have the right conditions here in London for many of them, and don’t really need them either, but more and more people here do away with their lawn or simply don’t water them and just let them go brown. The lawns recover in the winter no matter how badly they are treated but they don’t look so well during the summer of course.
    I have been a no-lawn gardener for years and it was fascinating to see all the different solutions in your post, especially all the different garden art. Especially lovely to see the glass sculpture tree, since I have the same one, just one size bigger! It is a solar tree and looks beautiful at night when the lights come on, I am sure this one is solar powered with lights too :-)
    Thanks for the tour!

    1. I thought that tree looked familiar when I spotted it! We have so much sun, solar powered lights are popular here. Less lawn means more room for your beautiful flowers!

  7. It was such an awesome day and so wonderful to spend some time with you Shirley! And of course awesome to see your hubby. The ladies with me are the amazing Celina from Communications and Irma, the best admin on the planet. I'm already looking forward to next year!


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