Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Xeriscape Gardening and Central Texas

Wild Dewberry Blooming at Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center
Xeriscape gardening and Central Texas. The two go hand and hand and are virtually synonymous in this semi-arid climate. Xeriscape is gardening with very little water, or, "dry gardening". Managing water is a mandate in this region with its frequent droughts and Heat Zone 9 temperature range of 90 degrees or higher for more than half the year.

The soil in the "chaparral" is often rock-bound and alkaline with little organic matter and poor water-retention ability. Tons of rocks have to be removed, compost and/or fertilizer added generously and frequent watering applied in order to get any non-native plants to grow. Special irrigation techniques and systems also have to be installed to meet the watering needs of most of the vegetation. Gardening often ends up being something of an onerous chore rather than a pleasure.

I myself prefer to take the easier route of xeriscape gardening and use drought tolerant, heat resistant native plants whenever possible. From lantana to echinacea, salvia, evergreen sumac and cenisa, the many native flowering and non-flowering shrubs and ground covers are the choice plants for any serious landscaping or gardening effort. Appropriate irrigation methods such as infrequent but deep watering and drip irrigation are the most effective in this area.

And what's really great about xeriscape is that it's both eco-friendly and low maintenance, requiring less fertilizer, weed killers or pesticides than ordinary gardening. That adds up to lots of time to just go out there, relax and enjoy your garden.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Central Texas In the Boom

Old County Courthouse in Downtown San Marcos TX
Right now Central Texas is in the midst of "booming and blooming". The small towns that had dotted this region, very much like the old Western movie ghost towns, are today rapidly becoming respectable mid-sized cities. My own hometown of Kyle just a few years ago boasted a population of about 2,000. Dairy Queen, Fushak's Barbecue and family-run grocery stores were the town's biggest attractions.

But ever since the town took to "booming," new urban-style restaurants are moving in, mostly Oriental and Mexican. They make the town look ethnically diverse. Then they added a major new shopping center and a brand new huge entertainment complex. Now it's official; the town is on the way to becoming a modern urban environment. I kind of like it because it reminds me of the process of development that I observed in Houston while I was growing up there during the 70's and 80's. During that time, the city was also in the middle of  "booming" tied in with petroleum, big business and NASA.

Outdoor recreation is also in the boom in Central Texas, and hiking, biking and barbecuing are the favorite outdoor pastimes. The myriad of parks that populate this region are the choice spots for adventure on the weekends. The married with kids like to hit playgrounds alongside a river or lake so they can take a dip if they want. They often bring older family members who like to toss horseshoes or beanbags while the others sit around the picnic tables and "shoot the breeze," sharing updates about relatives or friends of the family. Favorite activities include basketball, volleyball or tubing down the river.

The other really big attraction in Central Texas, as everyone well knows,  is the wildflower population. Each and every spring, except in extreme drought, the territory explodes in a riot of colorful wild blossoms. They have a tendency to bloom their living hearts out until August finally hits and the landscape returns to being dry, bare and brown.

Nature, the Great Outdoors, and any and all of the crafts of nature are special interests of mine and that is exactly what I will be blogging about on this site. I also feel I must warn you that I have composed a collection of poetry called "Wildflower Sunrise", about life in Central Texas and the rural/urban dichotomy endemic to this area. I will be including snippets of it. And since I am a photographer in addition to being a writer, I will be throwing in links to my photography portfolio at WordPress and links to my website shop at Zazzle where you can browse and buy some of my specially designed tshirts, totes, mugs, plates and assorted other home decor products.

Canyon and Chaparral 


Stone littered terrain strips of khaki and sage
Wrinkled cardboard pale debris caliche and shale
Blushing pink dome on top spectral fires beckon
(A.K.A. Enchanted Rock famous lucky lovers spot.)

Scraggy mesquite wild corkscrews gold sunfllowers
Scrub juniper scarves of violet Salvia and flaming
Sumac hiding away in shallow canyons and hollows.

Winding waterways limestone clean and gleaming
Mineral springs tshirts family gatherings riverside
Cypresses shading play pools: wildflower bursting
On the scene brief spring showers summer eons
In drought sudden flash flooding aquifer recharging
(Dusty days hang rough sandpaper on the tongue.)

(Excerpt from Wildflower Sunrise)