MOTHER NATURE SAYS…
Keep your Getaway Landscaping Low Maintenance with Native and Adaptive Native Plants
STORY AND PHOTOS By Linda B. Gay
Whether your getaway world is the salty beach, the Hill Country or the East Texas Piney Woods, you want to design a landscape that survives and thrives with the land and nature alone and requires very little of you except a walk around the garden when you visit.
You can create a low-maintenance space using plants native or adapted to the area. Plant selection should be simple and functional. You do not need a three-tiered design around the home, as this will require more maintenance and water - and you are there to relax and meditate, not work. Native or adapted plants have very specific needs, which are why they are growing in the area. Put some tough, fun plants around the house that offer shade, fragrance, privacy or whimsy.
There is no hard-and-fast rule there must be plants around the house. If you have enough sun, you can use turf all the way to the home and schedule someone else to mow it for you.
COASTAL BEACH LIVING
Sun, sand, wind and salty air are the elements to overcome by utilizing plants that thrive in that situation. Palms provide light shade and a rustling sound in the breeze, bamboo offers a barrier to the outside world, plumeria titillate the senses and hibiscus adds colorful flowers in your tropical retreat.
HILL COUNTRY HIDEAWAY
Intense heat; high-ph, gravelly soil low in organic matter; and minimal rainfall are the climatic conditions for this zone. Salvia greggii is an evergreen flowering shrub that is deer resistant, flowers for months and comes in many colors. Native grasses and reseeding wildflowers such as bluebonnets and Indian Blanket grow, bloom and return yearly without any help from you.
EAST TEXAS PINEY WOODS
Tall pine trees providing summer shade for that cabin in the woods can be all that are needed, except for a nice outside deck area to enjoy nature. The pine trees are the main character of this zone and can be complemented using tough perennial bulbs. Milk and Wine Lilies (Crinum), Naked Ladies (Lycoris) and Rainlilies (sounds like a party!) can thrive and multiply on their own because of their storage tubers.
YES, YOU NEED A BACK-UP PLAN (Drought)
After choosing what plants will be used, the next task is keeping them alive during drought and periods of human absence. Drip irrigation is an aboveground watering system that functions with low pressure and minimal water usage, as compared to underground systems, which are costly and water wasters.
Soaker hoses were the first type of drip irrigation: Flexible, porous garden hoses that seep water slowly through the wall of the hoses and sit on top of the ground. Use a short water hose from the faucet to connect to the soaker hose in the bed. Turn the water on at the faucet to check the pressure after each hose is added. By adding more length, you reduce the pressure and amount of water. You may need several faucets to run several “zones.” The hoses can be covered with mulch or pine needles to hide them.
This was a great concept, but the hoses need to be wrapped around the plants to get water to all sides of the plants, as the water doesn’t travel far from the hose. The second problem is gnawing critters, rabbits, rodents and squirrels who love the water source and will chew the hoses to drink.
Another improvement in drip irrigation is a black, rigid laser pipe to which smaller (spaghetti-sized) emitter tubes are attached. The tubes drip water at the bases of plants, and you get better coverage as you can install two or three drip tubes per plant. This system is more complex and requires figuring PSI (pounds per square inch) and using pressure regulators. This type of irrigation is always improving, so check with the experts to find the easiest and most efficient system that fits your needs.
So plan and plant your retreat to soothe your soul, relax your body and grow in spirit.
Linda Gay is a horticulturist and gardener at The Arbor Gate Nursery in Tomball.