So it is what it is. It is hot here. Really hot. I get bloody well toasted and roasted most of the year in fact. As a recent transplant from the Great Northwest, I DESPISE the heat, LOVE the rain, and DIG the clouds...yet somehow I happily reside in a small cookie-cutter house in a semi-arid suburb of Austin,Texas where the trees look more like bushes on steroids and the deer are the size of large dogs (apparently not EVERYTHING is bigger in Texas). And I love to grow stuff. LOVE it. My ultimate nefarious plan is to turn my 1/8 of an acre postage stamp yard of bermuda grass into 1/8 of an acre of wildlife habitat and gardening goodness.
Now, as I very quickly discovered, gardening in Austin is a whole other animal than gardening in Seattle. It was so easy back home...good soil, 4 seasons, temperate climate. I didn't know what I had until it was gone. Here, the ground is caliche in one corner, black gumbo in the other, and landscaper's 'red death' special everywhere else. Where did my fabulous humous rich soil go? ....*kicking limestone rock to the wayside and heaving a great sigh*
As I ever so fondly recall, digging a hole in the earth was once an easy task to be completed with a simple shovel in a 5 minute interval. No more. When I first moved in (5 years past) and went to dig my first hole in the ground (solid rock?), my neighbor chuckled at my naivete, offered me the use of a crowbar and inquired if I had a good quality iron pick. I accepted the crowbar, threw the shovel to the wayside, and drove to the local Big Box store to purchase an iron pick. I am not so easily deterred.
Lost and Found
I had been mourning the fact that I could not have rhododendrons, giant flowering dogwoods, and azalias here. I missed my dutch irises, hyacinths, trilliums, tulips and fancy daffodils. I also missed moss. Yes, moss. I love that stuff. I had a whole section of garden devoted to moss and ferns and dicentra. That is so not happening down here. But, SOMETHING must grow here....I just needed to discover exactly what.
I became a bit obsessed. I poured over the net looking for any information about growing things in Central Texas. I visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Zilker Botanical Gardens. I watched Central Texas gardener and asked questions at local nurseries.
And I found that wonderful and beautiful things grow here! Oak, Orchid, and Persimmon trees, a virtual gamut of salvias and herbs, funky cacti and succulents, Wildflowers a-plenty, weird semi-tropicals, and many others. And oh!-citrus! OK, well citrus in a pot...but still citrus! I never could have that back home!
And so it began
A tiny Anacacho Orchid tree started my madness. I put it in that first hole I dug (hacked out?) with the borrowed crowbar and freshly-purchased, heavy-duty (which I promptly bent) iron pick. Feeling accomplished, I followed that with a pomegranate and some coral honeysuckle. Those plants thrived and so I added more. An Eve's Necklace for the north side of the house with silver ponyfoot beneath; Hinkleys columbine, violas, wild petunia, salvia greggi, and agave starts from the neighbor who encourages my sometimes futile gardening attempts.
At this point I decided that as much mono-culture, water sucking lawn as possible was soon to be replaced with native and adapted plants. Out went the lawn on the small west-side strip of my house and in went a desert willow, flame-leaf sumac, Golden Lead Ball Tree, rock roses, texas sage, lantana,and butterfly bush. And a granny smith apple tree because it reminds me of Washington State and the local native nursery guy swore to me it would grow well here (so far, so good!).
I looked about and noticed the trees the landscapers put in were yellow, chlorotic, and well, suffering. Japanese False Oaks don't much like hill-country soils (or lack there-of!) I took pity on them and gave them a quick death by hack-saw. In went a Texas Ash and a Live Oak. Next, out went 1/3 of the front lawn and in went all types of perenials - blackfoot daisy, coppercanyon daisy, various salvias, various skullcap, damianita, Mexican bird of paradise, yellow bells, gold lantana, mexican feather grass, and various cacti.
And so it continues....
I have really enjoyed the wildlife that all the new plantings have attracted - butterflies, birds, toads, anole lizards, and geckos. An added bonus is that all the critters are eating all the nasty bugs so I don't have to pour chemicals all over the place (I despise chemical lawns). I have far less fire ants (the toads love 'em!), Grasshoppers (birdie snacks), and Wolf spiders around (less ants, less spiders). And so five years later, I am still tearing up grass, and replacing it with all kinds of good things. It is my little wildlife garden and I love it. I still have much grass to dig out, back to work, back to work....better put on my wide-brimmed hat, 'cause the sun is killing me!