We have had the pleasure of working on multiple projects for this property over the past few years! It has been great to watch the property change and turn into the native oasis it is today! The most important aspect of this property that the owner wanted to maintain was that all the plantings were native to Central Texas. The back of the property was filled with native plantings around the pool, and the property owner wanted a cohesive look with her beds in the front yard that had become overgrown. We removed the old plants and added in some of the same native plantings that were found in her back yard. Yaupon Holly was added along the property line to provide extra privacy from the neighbors and flowering natives were clustered to make the property more pollinator friendly!
Another request from the owner was that we make the property more inviting during the evenings. We added in some outdoor lighting to highlight the trees, as well as lighting that illuminated the pathway up to the house and around the back of the property. This added a dreamy element to the space, making the property more inviting to guests.
Located in downtown Georgetown, this family transformed their front yard into a wildflower wonderland! They envisioned a welcoming entrance with seating and native landscaping to host both guests and pollinators on their property. They wanted to ditch their grass yard in favor of colorful native plants that would create a charming scene for friends and neighbors alike. They dreamed of a gathering space in their front yard that looked out over their native plantings, so we added a seating area with cafe lights and raised steel planters so that the plantings could be enjoyed while seated. Black star gravel was added for furniture and plant contrast, making them pop against the home and landscaping. This family now has a relaxing area to gather, host friends, and watch the pollinators visit their beautiful wildflowers!=
These homeowners came to us wanting to update their property with new plantings at the street, which matched the existing landscaping of the neighborhood, as well as update the various beds around their foundation. The existing beds throughout the property became overgrown and needed a bit of breathing room to allow space for the new plants to fill in. The old vegetation was ripped out and replaced with both native, and adapted plants.
The wooded area in the backyard was rid of debris, and a drainage system was added using the rocks that were in their previous landscape design. Not only were the materials able to be recycled, they are now used to help prevent continued erosion of the hillside by taking the water from the sloped driveway and giving it a path toward the woods. Limestone was the chosen replacement because it is cohesive with the neighbor’s landscaping and the pre-existing stairs in the backyard. Blocks of limestone were used to line the new beds and build a new fire pit to accessorize the beautiful view!
A well-planned landscape can foster community not only for ourselves, but for our landscape as well.
Natives. Most often looked to for their durability and natural stamina in our climate, but a delicious benefit that can be overlooked is the relationships they nurture with wildlife.
Image from Oak Hill Country Estate
Curating a palette of native plants can invite some of our most beloved guests into our gardens. Tubular, nectar-rich flowers can attract hummingbirds flitting from snack to snack. Flat rocks and a wide arrangement of blooms lure in butterflies for rest and sustenance.
Image from Hyde Park Adaptable Landscape
Tiny tree houses, feeders and soft flowing water appeal to many kinds of birds and Fall is a wonderful time to witness an array of them on their annual migration. These are the guests to our homes that fill us with surprise and wonder.
Image from Barton Springs Cottage Community
The restorative quality of nature is a treat that can be integrated into your landscape. Our choices in design can draw or deter desired wildlife to make a seasonal refuge in our gardens or venture elsewhere. With the right combination of plants and placement, you can become a steward to species that bring you peace and joy.
Image from Boulden Creek Retreat
Another beautiful part of using native and adapted plants is it’s an excellent way to stay connected to our environment. There is an aesthetic to our local plant palette that is unique to our area and it’s creatures.
Everything has a purpose, everything plays into the whole. When crafting a space where plans and plants come together in a unique and complimentary goal we get to experience the seasons through their interactions within our landscape including blooms and wildlife.
The reasons in which plants benefit from rainwater are vast and at times complicated, to the point where one could write a dissertation on the subject. Seemingly, the basics are simple, but if you are the curious type this article may leave you with more questions than answers.
Hopefully, not too many questions.
Nonetheless, here are my top three reasons why plants prefer rainwater, and (some) of the science behind why this is.
Side note: Many people complain about the apparent differences they experience in tap water from city to city and state to state in taste and hardness level. Logically, it follows that if tap water is different from state to state the rainwater is too, even without considering human involvement.Not only does rain water change from place to place, it changes from shower to shower, and season to season in the SAME place (1). So, when you go through my list below just keep this in mind.
1. Rainwater deposits vital nutrients
Rainwater itself is a chemical cocktail that includes particles from local origins as well as particles that are transferred from elsewhere by the wind. To dive into some chemistry for just a moment, technically, “rainwater is a mixed electrolyte that contains varying amounts of major and minor ions” (1). The list of these ions is very long, but some of them are none other than potassium, calcium, nitrogen, magnesium, nitrate, nitrite, and iron (2).
This is partly where we get the term “water hardness” from. Water hardness is describing the amount of dissolved minerals (specifically magnesium and calcium) that are found in water.
Tap water is, generally, more hard than rainwater. In efforts to reduce tap water hardness salts are occasionally added. Salts can be found in many things, including fertilizers. However, with repeated watering from tap water that has been “softened” salt can accumulate in the soil and negatively affect the soil structure and decrease the plant’s ability to take in water through osmosis. On its own, hard water is ok for plants; however, the amount of magnesium and calcium in hard water can begin to exceed what is a useful amount.
Nitrogen, is a vital nutrient for plants and is taken up by plants through nitrogen fixation. Nitrates and Nitrites are limited in our tap water due to concerns with diseases. In addition, chlorine and fluoride are added to tap water, among other things, to give tap water a higher PH. A high PH can reduce the plants ability to take up nutrients in the soil, but more on that later.
2. Rainwater is more acidic.
Pure water or H2O has a PH level of 7.0 which is neutral. Anything higher than that will be more basic, anything lower more acidic. Rainwater, generally, has a PH of about 5.6, so it’s on the acidic side (3).
The reasons behind this can be found by looking up. The natural presence of Carbon Dioxide, Nitric Oxide, and Sulfur Dioxide found in the lowest layer of our atmosphere reacts with water in the air resulting in a more acidic compound. “Acid rain” is the result of industrial activity pumping out these gases at excessive rates and lowering the PH to harmful levels of 3.0 or below (3).
Austin soils are, generally, high on the PH scale due to the high level of limestone. An alkaline soil can be detrimental to plant growth because it doesn’t allow the nutrients to be in their most available state. “Availability” in this case is not referring to the quantity or amount of a specific nutrient found in the soil, but if that nutrient is in a chemical form that is accessible to the plant. The ideal PH range for a soil to receive the most nutrients is if it’s in a slightly acidic or neutral state. Thusly, rain’s more acidic nature helps lower PH, at least temporarily, and gives plants the ability to take in more nutrients than tap water.
3. Rainwater (usually) penetrates deeper and distributes more evenly.
Last but not least, rain is beneficial because it’s free! It falls from the sky over large areas, usually watering your entire yard for the same amount of time at the same rate, if we assume we are dealing with a flat plot of land with no elevation change or obstructions of course. Drip irrigation, while beneficial for saving water, can suffer from leaks, or human error may result in plants not being watered very deeply. When a plant is watered often, but not deeply, the roots are trained to remain at the surface and not search downward for water. If you forget to water, or we suffer from a drought that prevents you from watering, the plant is at risk of dying because the roots won’t be deep enough to collect water below the soil’s surface.
I hope that I’ve answered some of your burning questions on why rain water is preferred over tap water and if nothing else peaked your interest to go and explore the subject more. So, this month as we move into our flood season you can at least stay positive that your plants will enjoy the rain a little more than you will.
(1) Carroll, Dorothy, 1962, Rainwater as a Chemical Agent of Geologic Processes-A Review, United Staes Government Printing Office, Washington, G-2 p.
(2) Hutchinson, G. E., 1957, A treatise on limnology, v. 1, Geography, physics, and chemistry: New York, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1015 p.
A little before and after sample on this beautiful Friday! What a transformation with this now wildlife habitat! Can’t wait to show you more! #beforeandafter #before #after #atx #landscapedesign #landscape #landscapeconstruction #atxlife #wildlife #nature #native #nativeedge #nativeedgelandscape
This fun and young family moved to this South Austin neighborhood to be closer to friends and family. However, their new home’s outdoor entertaining space and lack of landscape felt underwhelming and unwelcoming. The only redeeming feature was their yard backing up to the greenbelt. Our mission was to design a landscape that was not only perfect for their area, but fit their young, fun and busy professional lifestyle.
For the front yard, we complimented the entryway with a mix of modern cut natural stone complemented with water wise plantings. Metal planters, beds of succulents and decomposed granite, as well as other xeriscape features reduced the amount of turf, leaving just enough for their neighborhood movie nights!
In the backyard, we expanded their entertaining space by defining several new spaces; a stone patio for cooking and lounging, a children’s play area with climbing wall and custom dragon made out of recycled tires, and a washer pit where they can host local tournaments. As custom gas fire pit act as a focal point for the various areas, and provides light and heat as the days get shorter. All of this transitions smoothly into the greenbelt. Giving their yard an endless feel.
Designer: Rodney Stoutenger Project date: June 3, 2015
There is so much happening on this project we’ve had to divide it into two parts for ya! Make sure you check out the Front Yard.
Truly, one of Native Edge’s Crown Jewels, this project is one of our all time favorites. When the homeowner moved in, this property’s dated landscape had become a disjointed overgrown mess. The customer’s requirements for this space were to increase the entertainment space, a modern and natural zen feel, better access between the various areas of the yard, and a Art Studio that could double as guest quarters.
We tripped the amount of outdoor entertaining space with three main areas; outdoor living, lounge area, and space for the dogs. A custom gas fire pit comes off the studio area to anchor the entertaining area. The furniture chosen for this section stacks on itself to create a obelisk; when not in use, allows additional square footage for the patio and doubles as an interesting visual.
We brought in our friends at McKinney York Architects to help us design and build this world class studio. For the outdoor shower we designed and built a custom iron shower caddy nick-named “The Butler.” The butler stands at attention, discreetly holding your towels and toiletries while you shower. The studio is anchored by a raised turf area to soften the hardscape, and offer a place for the dogs to lay, while the artist is at work!
Designer: Rodney Stoutenger Project date: May 14, 2015