Monday, March 27, 2017

Watersaver Landscape Tour 2017 Preview

The San Antonio Watersaver Landscape Tour will be held Saturday April 8th and is free and open to the public.  Six yards in the northwest area of the city have been selected for this year's tour.  For those who live in hill country areas this tour is full of ideas and inspiration for gardening on limestone rock.  Last week I was invited to preview the tour and in this post I'll show a few views of each yard to encourage you to go out on the tour and be inspired to save water in your own gardens.  I'll have future posts after the tour with a more detailed look at each garden for those who can't attend.  For more information check the tour website.

Yard #1 is at 8615 Turning Leaf in Fair Oaks Ranch.  An excellent example of how native plants can be used to create a nicely integrated landscape.  This is a gardener's garden so follow the trail around the yard to see a well designed native plant landscape.  This home is in deer country and the homeowner has decided not to fence in her yard though a few plants are caged to help them get established.  It's possible to coexist with deer when you have mostly native plants.  This is where you'll find me helping out as a docent in the afternoon on tour day.

I'd love to find these grasses growing in the rock in my yard.

Yard #2 at 8346 Settler's Peak in the Village Green neighborhood shows how to manage a front slope down toward the house.

The home is also in deer country and the homeowner has planted different types of lavender among native shrubs and plenty of drought and deer resistant plants.

Yard #3 at 8339 Wine Cup Hill at literally the high point of the tour features a formal front garden enclosed by a stone wall and roses.

This is the front yard only as the back yard goes straight down the hill.  The front courtyard seating takes advantage of the view.

Yard #4 at 7303 Clear Rock has not a blade of turfgrass front or back but plenty of native and adapted plants to explore along the stone trails in the front.

A backyard entertainment area with pool, gazebo, tropical plants, and seating areas to enjoy.

Yard #5 at 310 Santa Domingo in Sonoma Ranch is a steeply sloping yard.  The homeowners designed it and did all the stone work and planting themselves.

It's a front yard only since there's not much of a backyard here.  Massed plantings demonstrate how to make an impact in a large yard.

Yard #6 Just up the hill at 711 Vegas Rio is beautiful all around with a well designed front yard.

In the back yard you'll see an infinity edge pool, outdoor kitchen, putting green, and outdoor living with big screen TV.  This home backs up to a nature preserve so they enjoy a hill country view from the back terrace.

The Watersaver Landscape Tour is sponsored by San Antonio Water System, San Antonio River Authority and Gardening Volunteers of South Texas to encourage you to conserve water in your landscape.

For more information check the website.  Some of the yards are in gated communities and information on access will be available online before the tour or you can start your tour at Yard #1 at 8613 Turning Leaf to receive a handout with details.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Winter Walk-Off 2017

Getting in on Winter Walk-Off 2017 just under the wire.  Winter Walk-Off is hosted by Les at A Tidewater Gardener.  The rules are simple.  Leave your house for a walk and take photos.  You can drive there or ride a bike as long as you don't show your own garden.  Then post and comment on Les' blog A Tidewater Gardener.

This year's walk seems like same thing different year.  Last year my sister-in-law from Dallas joined me on my walk.  This year, just as I was thinking of joining Winter Walk Off, she called to say she was on her way to San Antonio again.  She's a flight attendant and even though she flies a lot it's rare that she gets a San Antonio layover long enough for a walk so this is a special treat.

We begin along the San Antonio River south of downtown just below The Guenther House Restaurant (on the left with green trim) about where we left off last year.

The Guenther House is part of Pioneer Flour Mills and is a museum, restaurant, and gift shop.  Nice for brunch.

At first the walk is similar to other parts of the River Walk.  Lots of concrete mixed with landscaping.

That look quickly gives way to a more natural setting near the Blue Star Arts Complex.

What was for years basically an icky drainage ditch has been restored since 2009 with native plants and features like this stairway flanked by old concrete columns.

Steps across the river are more challenging than they look.

Especially since I stopped to take photos in the middle.

A look down the middle of the river.

Painted Ladies!  We exit the river into Southtown to take a closer look.

"Make Tacos Not War" started here in San Antonio, the artist now lives in New York.

Maybe the old trim was electric pink?

Southtown is becoming more popular as the neighboring King William District we explored last year gets pricier.

Yard art is big in Southtown

It would be fun to know the story of this fanciful architecture.

Dish garden as travelogue.

Take out a pen and change that to "los perros".

And also in English just in case.  Nice fence.

We're moving on.  Never, ever mess with the chihuahua.

River entry points have nicely designed plazas with benches and pedestrian bridges

The faux bois work of local artist Carlos Cortes is featured all along the river.  The San Antonio River Foundation raises private funds for art on the River Walk.

Bike stations located along the route make it easy to enjoy all 15 miles of the trail.

Bike repair stations just in case.

Among the wildlife we spotted this trio of turtle, heron, and cormorant all enjoying a sunny day along the river.

We walked under a railroad trestle which appears to still be in use.

This was cool, it's pretty rare to walk under a wooden railroad trestle on a public walkway.

The terminus of a flood control tunnel which diverts rainwater under downtown to prevent flooding in tourist areas.  I like the retro Deco style of the building which was completed in 1997 though it looks much older.

Cormorants have staked out their fishing spot.

Bikers pay attention here.  This portion of the walkway ends in the water.  If you were zipping along this could be a problem.  But there's a way up to street level.  Debris on the sign shows how high the water has been with all the rain this spring.

Ducklings under mom's watchful eye

Dad's too.  He didn't flinch even though we got close.

Native agarita blooming near the bridge.  This is prickly stuff.

Those gates are debris catchers which can be opened if there's serious flooding.  Most of the time the trash is cleaned out before the water heads about 200 miles south to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico.  The city could have left this looking like a bunch of pipes with grates, but they did this instead.  

The River Walk continues another nine miles though we end this walk at Roosevelt Park across from the old Lone Star Brewery which is undergoing renovation into a mixed use complex similar to The Pearl on the north side.

That's a very different look at my town for the Winter Walk-off for March 2017.  Thanks to Les for hosting again and I look forward to seeing all the other entries.