“Bedding Down”

Every garden design presents its own unique set of challenges, both physically, spatially, aesthetically, emotionally and of course financially.

The designers role is to synthesize emotions, set expectations and ultimately deliver the most creative, appropriate and optimized design scheme within the scope of the project to the best of his or her abilities, and then successfully execute it.

This design process sounds quite straightforward, but in reality, it remains very organic in nature, planned…yes, but organic, as it should be. The most ‘developed’ design, as pretty as it may appear on paper or LCD, mutates as you grit teeth, grab an iced turban (if it is summer), long johns (in winter), and start working into it, armed with a shovel, a strong will,…

…and an ever roaming, critical eye. I always adorn the toy version of Mad Eye Moodie’s roaming eye on initial site consultations, as I survey the area making notes.  Most people interestingly choose to ignore it.

This garden had attempted to make some sense of splitting up the space, it just struggled with the fundamental questions: why? And for what exactly?  The homeowner communicated early on that he wanted a low maintenance, low water needs solution and that he wanted to eliminate his mostly dead and weedy grass…sweet music to my ears.

RIP Zelda

The first port of call in this scheme was an exorcism to purge the space of all preexisting metal and rubber edging (you all know what I think of this) to

(a) stop me tripping over it as I moved through the property and

(b) well, it just makes me feel better.

The plan that I settled on integrates and plays off the existing oak tree, drawing visual attention away from the expansive rectilinear perimeter, focusing it to a formalized, and centrally concentrated planting scheme. Why? Well this has the effect of visually shrinking the space (and cost) associated with heavily planting up the perimeter (not an option in this case).  A simple and sparse planting of loquats and a couple of large corner miscanthus will visually and quietly soften up the perimeter, pulling in the focus to the centralized and more densely planted, arching salvia leucantha and rosemary planting beds. These curved beds enclose the space and create a more intimate environment, helping to direct the eye to the end focal point…two smallish crepe myrtles (different colors) . These myrtles are guarded on both sides with my favorite evergreen, yes, you guessed it, Arizona ‘blue ice’ cypress.

These cypress trees will ultimately end up like nightclub bouncers, bodyguards protecting the star.

Here is a rendering (left) on top of digital photography that was used to convey the scheme looking back toward the house and here is the reality of the design (right) in the midst of implementation, (the bricks have not been bedded yet). With all the metal edging taken up, and a new, more organic flow through the property introduced, the space already feels more natural. The beds will be planted up when the weather is not quite so restless.

Oh give it a rest Jack.

Staying with the weather a moment, I took a walk down to my large stock tank to check on my fish early this morning.

It was a little more extreme out there then I had anticipated.

We are currently hunkered down inside the Patch with an Arctic front whistling through our long-leaf pine walls, and the oven open and set to 350!  It is quite possible we were the cause of the rolling Austin blackouts.  The good news is that my halflings got to witness this week just how brilliant hot water bottles actually are when Texas temperatures dip…one of Britain’s best exports.


A thin layer of ice had formed,

encapsulating this water lily that actually bloomed only last week.

This lone, motionless goldfish looked like the waters had frozen around it.

Moving quickly indoors…remember that hair sap?

Lucky for him his mother is a hairdresser who just said “oh, lets just cut that out”!

His reward for this test of endurance?

“Cargo bay doors are open Captain…

excepting delivery…

Cargo bay lock re-engaged sir”.

A dinner at his favorite ‘sarcophagus’ restaurant. Oh yes, you are in for a real treat if you get a table anywhere around us! Your fine dining experience may indeed be compromised.


I will leave you with a little freezing damage already visible.

My last tiger aloe has turned dark purple, never a good sign,

and my Mexican lime tree is once again looking decidedly ill, I feel another mammoth leaf drop is around the corner.

Cold little hands and fingers have been exploring and prodding their way around this new icy world.

And then this morning?

A Texas winter wonderland!

No school today.

This cannot be a good environment for “tropical” water lilies!

Stay Tuned for:

“Ice Ice Baby”

All material © 2011 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and punishable by late  (and extremely unpleasant) 14th century planet Earth techniques.

Check out this “Rangers” site: http://www.wildliferanger.co.uk/

  • katina February 4, 2011, 8:33 am

    I like your stylized design you have as the opening picture. very tres chic. And I can hardly believe that we have snow. but I do fear what it’s done to the plants…

  • ESP February 4, 2011, 9:04 am

    Thanks Katina.

    I know snow!
    It is the consistent freezing temperatures the last few days that is almost a repeat of last years big chill that will have done the damage. I can already see…sagos, citrus, bamboo, and many others looking decidedly under the weather (ahem).


  • jenny February 4, 2011, 10:03 am

    Your clients must be thrilled to bits with your plans. Something to keep them going through this winter mess. I am assuming that the surface around the beds is decomposed granite. Super job and look forward to seeing more photos of the progress.
    Now to the snow. Saw enough of that with 12 years in Canada. Fun for your children though. If it had just come before the frigid weather. I am afraid I will have lost much…again. I tried to cover some plants but the wind just blew them off and the rain froze everything together. All I can say is that my lemon trees are inside this year. Time to make a pot of soup and then I may venture into the greenhouse to start some seeds.

  • Cheryl February 4, 2011, 10:17 am

    OH! Brrrrrrrrrrr! I really, truely do not miss snow. However, I do miss my snow shovel.. it would be handy for scooping up fallen leaves. Spring will be here soon.. hold that thought. Perhaps you should make some snow turbins and store them away in the freezer for the coming summer…… In the meantime, hot water bottles! Yay!

  • ESP February 4, 2011, 10:17 am

    Hi Jenny, thanks, and yes that would be decomposed granite around the beds. The client stressed extremely low maintenance, this planting scheme should do it, no irrigation required here! I will post some more images as it develops.
    Yes the snow, me too in Scotland! But yes the kids were out in it before the sun was up…okay so was I :-) and my first snowball was a confirmed hit, sliding down her neck, that one I am sure woke up the entire neighborhood! Yes if only we would have had it first to insulate everything from the freezes! I can already see a lot of damage. I did move my lemon tree indoors, which is a good thing as this may the only thing I have alive and green in my garden for the rest of the year :-)

  • ESP February 4, 2011, 10:21 am

    Hi Cheryl.
    What a fantastic idea on the turban front!

  • David C. February 4, 2011, 1:21 pm

    Nice to see the design process with that client, and in 3-D…I am starting to learn SketchUp, in a remote contest w/ Mulch Maven on that! I must document more design processes. And brav-o ridding it of all the steel edging…I thought Abq was bad with using it too much and wrongly, but perhaps even worse in ATX? Anyway, nice transformation and post, as usual. The cold will soon pass, but hopefully not the openness to trial new plants.

  • ESP February 4, 2011, 3:11 pm

    Hi David.

    Like you I am also messing around with SketchUp, and nice that it is free! That makes a welcome change. These images are all 2D, made to look 3D with a fair amount of skewing and skulduggery!

    Yes, got rid of the edging and immediately breathed out a sigh of relief :-) I see this everywhere, even in areas that don’t even need it? But there it is, lurking in the shadows, in wait for its next unsuspecting victim.

    Amazing day in Austin today, cold but blue sky, snow almost gone.

    Thanks David.

  • Christina February 4, 2011, 3:28 pm

    Just love browsing through your website. The pictures are just phenomenal. Not just of the garden, and the pond, but the children are just adorable. There’s nothing in the world like being a gardener……. except, being a parent.
    Thanks for such a beautiful site…..

  • ESP February 4, 2011, 9:51 pm

    Hi Christina.

    Glad you like the ESPatch and it’s pictures!
    I am completely in agreement with you on the gardener / parent front :-)
    Thank you for you nice words, and for popping in and saying Hi.


  • Bob Pool February 4, 2011, 11:29 pm

    I’m glad to see that Ol’ Sap Head got a trimming. After the restaurant pictures, I don’t even want to think of your future food bill.

    The garden plan looks great, very nearly maintenance free. The look with no grass is very nice, easy on the eyes and so much more garden like. It certainly looks like a place people would want to spend time, have parties and such.

  • ESP February 5, 2011, 12:07 am

    Ol’ Sap Head got the Leah works! He really needed the trimming…we all did, even me. I hate to think how much he is going to consume as he gets bigger, our restaurant frequenting will diminish into a “at home” pot of potatoes…very soon!
    Thanks on the design front, and yes, this scheme is / will be almost totally maintenance free, cheers Bob.


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