Monday, April 30, 2012

Ragna's Garden Part Two: Xeriscape Front Yard

My friend Ragna's Texas style cottage garden back yard was the subject for a recent post and her garden has so many unique features that it could not be covered in one posting.  Many of you have commented about how much you enjoyed seeing her back yard garden, this time I'm showcasing the front yard which is xeriscape, San Antonio style.  

Ragna and her husband Bob replaced their lawn with gravel mulch a few years ago.  After fifteen years of water restrictions and the last two years of drought, more and more San Antonians are going with similar low water use alternatives to the traditional lawn.  I personally find these yards are so much prettier and more inspiring than the dead brown lawns they replace.  That's certainly the case with this inviting front yard.

The yellow flowers of Opuntia santa-rita and the cheery orange of  native Zexmenia greet visitors near the street.

Even though this yard is xeric and low maintenance, there's no question a passionate gardener lives here.  Many plants along the driveway relate to the back yard including the rock rose, larkspur, and artemesia.

Ragna uses containers here because they are easy to rearrange and eliminate the need for digging in our caliche, a hard rocky soil.

Succulents are a great solution for those difficult to plant strawberry jars.

Agave, yucca, and other succulents grouped in front of the dwarf yaupon hedge.

Yellow Aloe Dykia blooming with Macho Mocha Manfreda and yucca are grouped in containers near the front porch.

Salmon pink Puya in a planter by the front walk.


Trifolate Orange is sculptural in a container at the corner, a pretty green plant with twisty stems

A closeup look at the curvy stems

More planting space along the property line.  Bob built a series of planter boxes here to direct excess rain water from the uphill neighbors out to the street.

Ragna loves native plants and has a number of very special ones in her yard.  This Arroyo Sweetwood (Myrospermum sousanum) tree is a deep south Texas and northern Mexico native tree first identified in 1982.  Ragna grew it from a seed given to her 20 years ago by the Director of Horticulture at the San Antonio Zoo when she wrote asking the name of the graceful tree near the Aardvark pen.

A beautiful multi-trunk tree with an upright portion to the left and graceful arching section right.  It is drought tolerant, cold hardy in our climate, fast growing and loves our limestone clay.  This is possibly the largest specimen in a residential yard in the city according to some city landscapers who stopped by one day to admire the tree.

Another look at the graceful, arching trunk.

The bark has pretty color and texture

Vanilla scented flowers.  (The following two photos are from Ragna)

Fascinating seedpod

Another native tree not often seen in a residential yard is velvet pod mimosa (Mimosa dysocarpa).  This beautiful and well-behaved Texas native is not invasive like the more common Asian variety.

It produces delicate pink flowers all summer.

This area was a rose garden until the deer began to invade.  I love this pot with its remnants of a mirror mosaic.  The color guard yucca are recent additions here and work well with the color of the hedge.

Roses, her favorite, this one is 'Don Juan'.

This rose is in a container by the porch with agave and other succulents nearby and along the front walk.  The deer apparently don't like to get too close to the house so this rose is usually safe.

Ragna has so many great ideas for the garden.  When part of the hedge died out she filled the opening with this large Mexican pot and started a vine on it. 

This basket of night blooming cereus is lined with mulch held in place with garden netting.  A natural looking solution that I have used in my own garden this spring.

The personal touches that made the back yard so special are here in the front yard as well.  This faux bois bench from a well-known local artist matches the table in the back yard

The inviting front porch is personalized with collected objects

And this little stash of gardening tools at the ready.

Yes, a passionate gardener definitely lives here.

One more look at the front yard with the Arroyo Sweetwood left and a huge Texas Mountain Laurel right.

Not the last look by any means.  I plan several additional posts in the future to share more of the many native plants and great ideas from Ragna's garden.


  1. I like how you Texans use focal points like agaves and birdbaths, in front of hedges and leafy plants. That must hold up perfectly as your Death Star boils down.

    The many nice views around the corner, and good plants. A rarity here...the best landscapes still have a few struggling gestures to the past to downgrade them. She has done a nice job for us normal folks to show a lush garden.

    The close-up view of that Arroyo Sweetwood I can see it better. Looks like a legume in leaf, flower, etc?

  2. WOW! I love this garden! It is so interesting with great uses of space, wonderful unusual natives and a little fun. I can’t wait to see more!

  3. Beautiful. Definitely more to see here than a basic front yard. Love the Zexmenia and the velvet pod mimosa. I've never seen a velvet pod mimosa before, but it sure is pretty:) I also love that Arroyo Sweetwood. The blooms are very orchid like. Great post. Thanks for the tour.

  4. She has a great garden and the story of the Sweetwood is so cool. I especially love the stash of tools in the cinder blocks! Thanks for sharing her front garden with us.

  5. This is exactly the kind of garden I would love to tour in person. So full of personality and many wonderful plants. Lucky you for knowing such a gardener and lucky us for getting to tag along.

  6. This is indeed a gardener's garden.
    I love that velvet pod mimosa. I don't think I've ever seen one, either.
    She has some good ideas for filling in blank spaces, too.

  7. This is extremely well planned and beautiful. Very little maintenance, I imagine, after it's all set up. Maybe a little pruning and little water but overall....perfection:) Great shots from around her garden. Excellent use of shade plants also!!

  8. WOWZERS! That is a beautiful front garden - loooooove it!

  9. Love the Arroyo Sweetwood growing at an angle. Roses bloom more on horizontal branches. Wonder if that works for trees? Any idea?


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