When we had our pool put in recently the bulldozer shredded a large part of the yard much of it on a hill. I built a flowerbed and was looking for something to be a visual back for the bed.

I wanted a grass that could hold its own and mostly keep weeds out, but I’ve pretty much gone through what’s sold in local nurseries. I’ve had decent success with Big Muhly, but it’s slow growing. I’ve had almost no success with Gulf Muhly despite my absolute love of the plant.

I’ve had some luck with growing Little Bluestem and Switchgrass from Native American Seed, so I decided to give another one of their seeds a try.

Indiangrass is supposed to be one of the main components of a tallgrass prairie. Native to prairie from Canada down through Mexico. It’s between 3-6 feet tall (but more on the 3 feet side). I sowed it on the side of our hill in very disturbed ground last year. The first year was… fine. It was not a particularly interesting pant and I was thinking of other solutions.

This year has been different. It really came into its own as a lovely green grass with a gray tinge to it. And then this week it began blooming. It’s amazing. I’m in love. More of us need to plant this.

I sowed them in November so now is a good time to start planning. In a stand they are dense and struggled with weeds the first year, but now seem to be competing very effectively. You can pickup some for yourself from Native American Seed.


After the hard-freeze and watching “Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf” I decided this would be the year I’d try taking everything down to the ground. Normally, I hem and haw, and cut back the bare minimum.

But this year? I used the string trimmer, lawn mower, and hedge trimmer to take most of it to the ground.

And a couple days later it’s all coming back.

Lantana and Mealy Blue Sage mostly here.

Including Rattlesnake Master!

Rattlesnake Master and Texas Sedge

I’m hoping we’ll get another bloom this year.

Post Freeze Cleanup

We are some of the lucky ones. We had power and water throughout the bitter freeze. But we lost a fair number of plants. I’ve been planting xerically, but not as many local plants as I should. This freeze brought that fact home. I’ve lost several magnificent agaves. Possibly some loquats that came with the house, and a Monterray Oak.

Today I took out one of the Agaves that has been a focal point of our backyard.

To be honest it was a little too close to people.
A pup growing that might replace it.

Gardening is nothing if not change. Although, now I’m considering renting a dumpster to get rid of all these dead plants. This one agave filled up 7 trash cans.

Bluebonnets – my favorite weed control

In xeric gardening the learning process is full of ups and downs. In terms of weed control I’ve:

  • Covered a huge swatch of my yard in weed control fabric. This created a bunch of super-weeds that were nearly impossible to pull out thanks to that fabric keeping them in place.
  • Mulching. It’s fine. But the weeds come back, and when you suppress weed germination you also suppress wildflower germination. So your wildflowers tend to stay more singular plants than glorious meadows.

Which brings me to my favorite Texas weed control – Bluebonnets! I don’t know if you can get them at your local nursery. Barton Springs might have them. If not shoot me an email and I can get you a few.

Bluebonnets start growing around Halloween, and create delightful green mats that slow germination of winter weeds. Then they bloom in early Spring. You pull them out once they’ve seeded and your spring wildflowers start popping up.

Even though they still have a bit of work too them, for me it’s totally worth it. What’s your favorite unconventional weed control?

Fall Native Plant Sale

I have not been doing much plant shopping this year. I actually have been doing no plant shopping since March, but the Ladybird Wildflower Center had scheduled shopping times for their fall plant sale and I jumped on it.

Since adding the pool we’ve suddenly gotten much closer to the flowerbeds that are furthest from our house. And they’re… acceptable. Lantana, giant liriope, and trees share the space with some weeds that have the sense to grow low enough that I don’t see and pull them.

I also recently decided that it was time to start removing some of the boxwoods in my backyard. There were three in this bed that were just… there. I also removed a mostly dead Cherry Laurel that had been dying since the drought of 2011. You could literally see through a crack in the trunk. It finally went.

So I decided that was the flowerbed for the plant sale. I even did a diagram.

The sale had a lot smaller selection than I expected so my salvia arizonica became some mealy blue sage transplanted from elsewhere in the yard, and I added some Heartleaf Rosemallow to the left of the Harvard Penstemon, but otherwise I stayed pretty true to the design.

I even took some before:

And after pictures:

Window Boxes

The shed is part of our yard that I have mostly come to terms with. We painted it about 2 years go. We were mostly happy with it.

Then we had the pool put in. In doing so we had to take down a row of hedges and suddenly it became very prominent when floating around the pool. Julie touched up the windows with white paint and we made plans to build window boxes. We make lots of plans while floating in the pool.

Before. The dirt splashed shed.

I went looking for pre-made window boxes and was stunned by how expensive they are. We weren’t really looking for a $600 project that ended with very traditional looking window boxes. So I ended going with some pre-made deck railing planters and shelf brackets.

Then, because I’m having extreme motivation problems thanks to COVID, they sat there for a couple months. But I got energized during the July 4th weekend and built the shelves. And stained them. And then stained all of my backyard furniture.

Clearly a little too energized.

They are very simple. I just used 4 pieces of 1×4 and cut them with a handsaw to be slightly larger than the windows. Each shelf is 3 pieces of wood. I put shims between them to provide a nice drainage space and then attached the brackets with screws. The stain was left over from the Decorative Wall Panel project. And the lumber was a side-effect of having a theatre company. We always have lumber.

It was a very un-fussy project. And I’m really happy with the outcome!

They look great from the pool. But it’s too bright and hot right now (109 heat index!) to take that picture. In any case, I’m really happy with them. Both of the plants are just volunteers I dug up from my paths. The left are “Laura Bush” Petunias and the right is Moss Verbena.

Any ideas for more mostly shade plants are welcome in the comments. I’m thinking about trying some Drummond Phlox next year.

Plants need more editing

I was weeding on Saturday. It was time to clear out the bluebonnets. While doing so I noticed a barrel cactus I had completely forgotten about. You can (not) see it in the below picture. Which is amazing because it’s pretty dang big.

very, sneaky hiding barrel cactus

But first a related tangent. When Etta was a baby we went to a farmer’s market outside of Bastrop. While there I picked up two tree seedlings and planted them. Fast forward 11 years and as part of putting in a pool we had to remove these two trees. So I took pictures with Etta to show how much they had both grown.

Ok, so now we’re done with that nostalgia. Do you see the yucca on the far right? The really lovely one? During the pool construction it got beat up. Repeatedly rammed with a digger. Soil was worked into pretty much every single one of its leaves. It ended up looking like this:

The dead yucca on the left used to be so full of life.

Yesterday I finally took it out. There were thankfully some pups underneath. One was a good candidate for replacing the original. I also added that invisible barrel cactus from the original bed, and ended up with this.

I try not to make extra work in the garden, but sometimes the results are worth it! I’m also adding a bonus shot of the agave pup I got from Pam Penick’s Moby surrounded by moss verbena. I’m excited to watch this bed change over time.

Buffalo Grass sod is coming in nicely as well.

A New Path

The pool we’ve been putting in is pretty much done. But we can’t swim yet, and everything is still a mess. It’s juxtaposed with all the flowers, birds, and insects enjoying this lovely spring.

We were going to start adding in flowerbeds today. But Julie stopped me and pointed out my vision for brick planter walls wasn’t aligned with her vision for a path to the pool. So we discussed the pool path.

It wasn’t what we planed to get done today, but we both think it looks fantastic. We’re having buffalo grass delivered tomorrow that will fill in most of this area and be in between the pavers.

From the pool deck:

The bricks ides aren’t quite lined up properly, but you can see the yuccas on either side look like we almost intended a path there when we planted them.

And looking towards the house. I really like the green of the yucca with the navy paint.

We’d eventually like a bathroom inside that pink door so this path is pretty important to that vision.

Everything needs a pressure wash, though… ergh. Also if you ever think about buying pre-cast concrete pavers they’re very hard to line up because they’re only vaguely the same size. It’s one of those cases where you have to be exact up until the moment you have to eyeball it to make it look sane.

You may recognize these pavers from the initial xeric conversion of the front yard.

Waste not…

We’ve been having a pool put in our backyard. This is probably one of the biggest things we’ve had done to the yard, but I haven’t been writing about it. The destruction has been a bit much for me. I will probably do a post at the very end when I can talk positively about it again. And the destruction means I’ll be reworking most of the back yard. So in some ways that’s positive.

Anyway. There has been tons of waste generated. Rather than let them haul it off I’ve been collecting it. I may use it for future projects. I have dreams of an outdoor shower.

At the very least I can use it for drainage at the bottom of beds and pots. After picking up leftover pieces of stone:

And they’ve been threatening cleanup this Friday so I’ve been scrambling to pickup all the rocks they’ve exposed in their excavations.

Decorative Wall Panel

We got our house painted recently. The first night they started painting we got a ferocious storm. Somehow it managed to get the paint to run, but only right next to our front door.

We like our brick color and didn’t want to paint all of it so Julie and I designed and built this mid-century panel to cover it. This project turned out pretty much exactly as planned which was really awesome for something so visible.

So what did we do? It’s a piece of pressure treated plywood on the back. the front is 2×2 pressure treated wood boards with about 1 inch of spacing between them. I determined the algebraic formula for this is:

(x * 2) - (x - 1) = y

x = number of 2 x 2s
y= width of panel

Julie drew it out using graph paper. Our numbes matched. We have different problem solving styles, but we are aware that we’re weird.

First we cut out the hole for the light and then stained all of the wood. After it dried we attached the boards from the back with 1.5″ decking screws. Having built too many sets to count we always pay more for decking screws. $2 is worth an extra hour of pre-drilling and stripped screws. Then I pre-drilled holes into the brick with my hammer drill and attached the board with a ratchet. It was a pretty easy project, and really inspired me to try more of the cool wood projects from the 1960s that it was inspired by. I’m thinking perhaps a slatted bench may be next…

(Julie suggested that I should add some after shots of the painting as well. they repaired our rotting beams in the front as well, which I just love)