Monday, February 23, 2009

The Great Outdoors

As the weather warms up, most of us are spending more time outdoors. One of the things we loved about our house when we moved in a year ago was its large lot -- .60 acre. If there'd been much landscaping before, most of it had been removed before we bought the house. We were glad about that, because the only thing worse than putting in new landscaping is having to rip out the old stuff.

In our former home, we felt pretty confident about what plants would work well in that climate, and which ones absolutely would not thrive. Once we got to the Hill Country, we were excited to have more options. What we didn't realize was that the soil varies in different parts of the Hill Country. You can see gorgeous crape myrtles and other flowering plants and bushes in the cities of San Antonio and Austin. But once you get in the more rural areas, the landscape, though pretty, is a bit "scrubbier." Combine the scrub of our area with the extreme drought over the last year, and only those native plants and grasses are surviving right now.

We attempted to plant a few evergreens as foundation plantings last year, but once the drought hit, and water usage was restricted, most of those bushes didn't make it. We are realizing that xeriscaping is the way to go. Xeriscaping is landscaping with plants and grasses that do not require supplemental irrigation. Unfortunately, even xeriscaping requires a bit of water to get the tender vegetation going, and we're not allowed to do any outdoor watering with anything resembling a hose or faucet.

Until the water restrictions are lifted a bit, we're looking at putting in a bit of hardscaping. Hardscaping is masonry work, woodwork and other nonplant elements in a landscape.

You've seen photos of our media room, which started as an attached garage. When that garage was converted to a room, the previous owners built a detached garage with a limestone facade to match the house. The structure is about 10-15 feet from the side/back of the house. Possibly at that same time as well, the former patio was converted into a sun porch.

Now, we use the sun porch, but there are times when we'd like to hang out outside. What we'd like to do is create a walkway and stone patio, taking advantage of the back wall of the garage.

(Pics were taken before we moved in).

We'd like to create a separate patio space with a flagstone floor. Eventually, we'll build a pergola structure to cover the patio, but there's no rush to do that. You see the tree and its limestone planter. The tree will stay, and we're thinking it may have been planted in the planter as opposed to the planter being built around the tree, so while the planter will go, we may have to keep a smaller planter.

The stone floor will go from each corner of the garage and extend to the tree. You can't tell from the pics, but there's a slope between the house and the garage, so we'll create stone steps and a walkway for a seamless transition.

Eventually, we'd like to build an outdoor fireplace, but if we get impatient, we'll go with a stone firepit.

How are you spending your time outdoors this year?


mary said...

Isn't it SO fun to have something to plan? Please keep posting the's all about the journey.

Nola @ the Alamo said...

Look on the bright side, you've now had a lesson in xeriscaping 101. Unfortunately, that's how I've learned many a lesson in the garden, by trial, error, and now water restriction! Good luck, there are lots of natives that do well.

mary said...

We were outside for hours today! I opened our windows at 7 this morning and listened to the birds sing all day. I can't wait to see all of the changes in your backyard. I know it will be wonderful :)

for the love of a house said...

How quickly one forgets...I totally forgot about water restrictions. At the end of our time in Dallas I was a huge fan of native plantings. My yard was a park, but took tons of water. It was planted 13 years ago when restrictions didn't exist. I worry about it still. That Texas heat can be HELL. Maybe 'plan' now and plant in the Fall for optimum survival?
Can't wait to watch your progress!
Snow still on the ground here!!

Mrs. B. Silly said...

Wow, I had no idea you were having such a severe water shortage. I think xeriscaping is something we should all be thinking more about. I love the outdoor fireplaces. Good luck with your transformation.

Louise said...

Oh my goodness, coming from my typical postage stamped sized Az back yard your yard looks ENORMOUS to me! I know you'll make it wonderful, little water or not.

Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

I LOVE your stone fireplace idea!! And it seems so Texas (says the non texan!)Plus....ya don't have to water it!

Jen r. said...

I always find it's so hard to always get the right plants for the right places... I like xeriscaping because am kind of a lazy gardener... ;)

Katie @ said...

Oh gosh, you must be so anxious for the spring weather to keep on coming. I remember water restrictions well. Now I feel like I have to bring an umbrella everywhere all the time in Germany. Hard adjustment.
Looking forward to what you decide.

christy said...

Mine is very similar to your first inspiration pic (as you know) & I love it! Sunday night we had a family dinner at my house & a nice fire in the fire pit. It was just awesome. So much so my sister recommended we have a weekly Sunday dinner at my house. :S

Love sitting around the fire. Can't wait to see what you come up with Sandra, I know it will be awesome!

Erin said...

I wish we could go outdoors right now. I love to eat dinner every night on the deck. It won't be warm enough for that until May here. We are having a snow storm today.

Soov said...

All I'm currently doing is watching you make plans. :D Love your idea for the fireplace!

The watering restrictions these past few years really put a crimp in our landscape and it shows, badly. Definitely no cottage gardening when you can't water! I'm looking forward to seeing what you do. Lantana, Cana Lilies, Iris, Portulaca and tall grasses are our friends!

gina said...

WOW! what a transfermation. Great job! I love the outdoor fireplace and all the landsaping. It is definately a lot of hard work but worth it in the end.

beth said...

Aww, outdoors. Our weather has been warming up a little bit. But only slightly. Yesterday, we took the kids down to our local dam and had lunch and walked around on the trails. The walking was good, but it was still a little cool to sit on the metal benches to have lunch. We are planning on building a pergola for our deck this spring. Our house is new, so we have no mature trees, and we live in the desert, so it gets HOT in the summer. Can't wait to be able to sit comfortably on the deck this year and enjoy those beautiful summer days we have here in the shade! My husband and I are also looking forward to planting some flowering shrubs and putting in an arbor and some climbing roses over the gate. We can't wait to get outside, plant some things, and just plain ole dig in the dirt and feel the warm sun on our winter chilled bodies!

Penny @ The Comforts of Home/Lavender Hill Studio said...

Well, this spring I will plant my veggies....and maybe plant a few more rose bushes... We have most of our hardscape finished.

It looks like you are going to have fun this year!

Lisa said...

Love the fireplace inspiration pictures. Or yeah, even a pit would be nice.

You have such a nice area to work with Sandra. Can't wait to see what you eventually do out there.

aa said...