Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Gardening Penance in Suburbia

Copyright © 2007-2009. Suburban Wildlife Garden. All Rights Reserved.

My neighborhood is connected to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve; a 24,000 acre wildlife refuge.

Photo by Mark Sanders

While I feel a bit guilty living in a subdivision that may impact negatively on this wilderness, I also view my garden as an opportunity to grow more native plants in a lot that was -- and still is -- fairly desolate by wildlife's standards.

My goal is to choose native and adapted plants for my garden that will serve as dependable sources of food and shelter for birds, butterflies and other wild animals in my area. I'm not a purist, so I'd love to do this while still creating a beautiful garden.
I've found a great resource that is free to Austin residents called "Native and Adapted Landscape Plants" that is published by the Texas Cooperative Extension. The nice people at The Natural Gardener offer free copies to Austin residents.

I'm starting with a relatively blank slate. My lot is one of those typical postage-stamp yards with too much house in the middle. The plantings we inherited were a sad hodge-podge.

We added solar lights by the sidewalk and a birdbath we found at Hill Country Water Gardens.

We've removed several of the randomly planted ilex and replaced them with lavender, phlox and bluebonnets.

I hope the sago palms look better under these windows. I'm trying to decide on a small, native ornamental tree to replace the crepe myrtle.
Since the soil is so shallow we've been planting smaller specimens and hoping they will fill out relatively quickly. In the photo below you may be able to see a 'baby' Mexican Bush Sage, Senna and Butterfly Bush behind 3 yellow daisy bushes and a sago. I think it's time to bring in more mulch as well.

One of my favorite new plants is a variegated lantana I found at Hill Country Water Gardens. The butterflies seem to love it, so I'm going to buy a few more to fill out that small bed on our hill.

I found a decorative hanging basket I liked for the front porch. I planted it with purple petunias and variegated vinca minor. I've read that vinca minor is invasion, so I hope it won't be a problem if confined to the basket. The cannas below are just coming up.
Copyright © 2007-2009. Suburban Wildlife Garden. All Rights Reserved.


Lyn Never said...

I was in Austin a couple of weeks ago and caught an episode of Central Texas Gardener on which one of the landscaping experts was giving a big thumbs down to lantana because birds were "planting" the seeds in nature reserves and the lantana was choking out the native plants. I don't know if that's an authoritative view or just the anti-lantana agenda, but it might be something to check on before you plant more.

Dawn said...

Sorry I missed that episode of the show. I just visited the Central Texas Gardener website and did a search for 'lantana'. All their comments online seem to be positive about the plant thus far.

The Native Landscape Plants book I have that was released by the Texas Cooperative Extension lists Texas Lantana as a native. Though I imagine the variegated form I planted is a hybrid of some sort.

Thanks for the warning. I'll definitely check this out further since I don't want to include any invasive plants in my garden.


Annie in Austin said...

Dawn, perhaps the plant lyn never is thinking about has a similar name that starts with the letter 'L', the glossy ligustrum? That's an evergreen type of privet which is on all the lists for invasive seeding by birds. It was mentioned on Central Texas Gardener a few weeks ago.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Dawn said...

Hi Annie!

You may be right. I noticed that several privets are on the Invasive Plants List for our area. Unfortunately, there are still quite a few privets in my neighborhood. It's a shame the nurseries even sell plants on that list. Ah well.